The News
The News
Tuesday 09 of August 2022

Standoff Is On: EPN vs. CNTE

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto,photo: Cuartoscuro
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto,photo: Cuartoscuro
Peña Nieto used harsh words to chastise the "work stoppage" in Chiapas and Oaxaca

Both sides of the Mexico’s education conflict stated their stances Monday as the 2016-2017 school year kicked off across the country.

In the city of Toluca, President Enrique Peña Nieto visited his old elementary school, where he graduated from sixth grade. He was accompanied by Education Secretary Aurelio Nuño and the National Education Workers Union (SNTE) leader Juan Díaz de la Torre.

“All teachers opposing the Education Reform need to go back to classes. Education comes first, dialogue comes later. That will be the premise that the government of the Republic will follow from now on,” he said.

In the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) union managed to bring the start of the school year to a complete halt by outright refusing to do their jobs, much to the dismay of thousands of parents who did show up to schools hoping that the CNTE protesters, who demand that President Peña Nieto’s Education Reform be repealed, would end their strike.

“Not one step back” was the general motto in both Chiapas and Oaxaca, meaning, of course, that they will be taking their movement to the hilt.

Peña Nieto used harsh words to chastise the “work stoppage” in the two states and was less severe when referring to other CNTE union education controlled states like Guerrero and Michoacán. “Do not hold students hostage with your demands,” he said to the dissident teachers and went on to defend the Education Reform now being implemented and which has been accepted by the majority of teachers who are under the aegis of SNTE.

“The Education Reform is very clear: its objective is to insure quality in education and to guarantee children and teenagers a future that is more promising, with increased opportunities. This is what we cannot deprive them of; we can’t take them hostage for any cause or demand,” he said.

Education Secretary Aurelio Nuño also asked the CNTE dissidents to go back to classes and said that those who “break the law by not working” will be replaced by teachers who have already presented and approved their teaching competence exams. SNTE leader Juan Díaz de la Torre was by his side nodding, implying that those teachers would be supplied by SNTE, a union the CNTE dissidents consider corrupt and sold out to the government.

The “national work stoppage” that proved successful in Chiapas and Oaxaca also had little echo in the rest of the nation.

In Mexico City, where the CNTE has some presence, Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera said that, out of the city’s 4,200 schools, only 11 had been shut down by the dissidents.

“It is a relevant deed that the city has 97 percent of schools open and working today,” he said. As for the rest of the nation, the school year began as scheduled.

In a rare move, Chamber of Deputies President Jesús Zambrano, a member of the left-wing Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and highly respected leader as well as former guerrilla warrior, decried the work stoppages and the acts of vandalism that CNTE teachers have staged on a daily basis through the summer.

He called upon them to follow “the institutional path” and added that modifying the Education Reform to suit their demands is only possible through legislating in Congress, “otherwise we will be facing a scenario that may have fatal consequences and that would be a lose-lose situation for all.”

This statement was in reference to using police or even military forces to repress the road blockades that have proven to be extremely damaging to business at large, a demand several business organizations have demanded from President Peña Nieto.

Just how far will the CNTE union teachers go? At least in Chiapas and Oaxaca they have made their case that they are willing to go to the bitter end to double down the Peña Nieto administration. And that was and is their stance.

But physical confrontation is not wanted by anyone except apparently the dissident teachers and the idea that the use of police force to bring them into the fold will not be a pretty sight.

Yet, in the views of many otherwise peace loving Mexicans, the Peña Nieto administration — if confronted by more road blockades — has no other recourse than the use of force to end their commerce-disrupting uncivil activities.

This is an issue that must be followed one day at a time and whatever happens this week will define the course to follow, at least in the two CNTE strongholds, the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca. The rest of Mexico is following suit, providing children and teenagers with the education they need to make Mexico a greater nation.