The News
Monday 15 of April 2024

Reap What Was Sown


Protesters from the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) teachers' union hold a rope as they march against President Enrique Peña Nieto's education reform in Mexico City,photo: Reuters/Edgard Garrido
Protesters from the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) teachers' union hold a rope as they march against President Enrique Peña Nieto's education reform in Mexico City,photo: Reuters/Edgard Garrido
You just can't come in and shove reforms down people's throats

When President Enrique Peña Nieto arrived in power on Dec. 1, 2012, he immediately set off to establish a political agreement with opposition parties, and in less than a week he announced the “Pact for Mexico.”

The objective of the president was to pass different legal bill packages called “reforms.” The most outstanding was the Energy Reform followed by the Education Reform.

The noisiest one during the first months of 2013 was indeed the Energy Reform. A sizable part of the voters demanded that before Congress passed the bill there be a referendum during the 2015 elections. The president refused to have a referendum.

Reality had it then that Mexicans were entangled with the opinions for and against the Energy Reform. The Education Reform was approved by majority in both houses of Congress without much debate. In fact, a referendum for the Education Reform was not even mentioned at the time.

Also, at the time, the two unions that make up the approximate total of 1,200,000 teachers in the Public Education Secretariat’s (SEP) budget did not openly oppose the Education Reform nor did they demand changes much the less that it be repealed.

But for over a year the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE); which has control of the teachers in the states (from south to east) of Michoacán, Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas; declared an open insurgency against the Peña Nieto administration and the Education Reform, which has pushed the president up against the wall.

And just until last week the National Education Workers Union (SNTE), which controls the rest of the 32 states and has over one million members, met with SEP Secretary Aurelio Nuño to revise the Education Reform and its implementation style. They too are extremely unhappy with it.

The political participation styles of the CNTE and SNTE (known in Spanish as La Coordinadora and El Sindicato, to differentiate as initials are similar) are extremely different.

La Coordinadora has launched an all-out war against the Education Reform hoping for a violent reaction from the Peña Nieto administration in order to increase their bellicosity and possibly have the grass roots movement for guerrilla style warfare to topple the current system.

El Sindicato, on the other hand, did not take to the streets. In fact, they have been closely watching the constant aggressions on the population by La Coordinadora and opted for the traditional and civilized way of negotiations directly with Secretary Nuño.

After three meetings starting a week ago on Friday, on Wednesday Secretary Nuño yielded to revise the point made by El Sindicato and promised that he will present a document revising the questionable parts of the Education Reform point-by-point and the way they affect the bulk of education workers.

(Incidentally, as a reaction to “the treason” of El Sindicato’s politically correct move, a group of masked “teachers” in Acapulco looted and set fire to the offices SNTE has in the city. Employees and all teachers on assignment, were mauled and pushed out of the building and had their cell phones stolen. The SNTE teachers called police but the police never arrived.)

At the same time La Coordinadora leaders — those not in prison — are holding now permanent meetings at the Interior Secretariat (not at SEP) in which the Peña Nieto administration hopes to meet some of their radical demands and send them back where they belong: in the classrooms.

But the root of the problem was that the nation got very much distracted with the Energy Reform and neither of the two unions participated in the drafting of the Education Reform, mostly written by technocrats who wanted to make President Peña Nieto look good at legislating.

But the lesson to be learned now for future presidents is that you just can’t come in and shove reforms down people’s throats. And that if you do, the political price to pay is very high.

Summer vacations begin today for the students nationwide, but not for the unions or the federal government, which will surely continue to have a hot sweaty summer in dealing with the relentless La Coordinadora CNTE rebels.