Mexico Teachers Riot During Strikes, Destroy Offices

Striking teachers protesting the changes brought about by the comprehensive education reform measures recently adopted in Mexico have stepped up the level of violence by attacking political party offices. The attacks have so far been limited to four offices around Mexico’s Guerrero state, where dozens of teachers broke windows, spray-painted slogans and destroyed computers and office furniture.

They also set fire to the buildings but it doesn’t appear as if anyone else was harmed.

According to a spokesman for the striking members of the Guerrero state’s Education Workers Union, the industrial action and the subsequent attacks were all in response to the Guerrero government’s adoption of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s education reform plan. The new law requires teachers to prove competence before they are appointed to their jobs and takes away power to hire and fire from the hands of the country’s powerful teachers unions.

The 20,000-member group went on strike in Guerrero state, where the resort city of Acapulco is located, shortly after Pena Nieto signed into law the sweeping education reform two months ago. Its members have since staged increasingly disruptive protests, including blocking the main highway connecting Mexico City to Acapulco.
Guerrero Gov. Angel Aguirre said in a tweet that prosecutors had issued arrest warrants for Moran and another union leader because they were the “masterminds of the acts of vandalism that took place today.”

Television footage showed teachers trashing each of the buildings without the intervention of authorities.

Aguirre explained that police and other law enforcement authorities did not intervene because they were focused on keeping the government palace and legislature building free from harm.

The education reform measure is the first major legislative move by the Pena Nieto administration. During the campaign he pledged to curtail the power of the teachers unions, saying that allowing them to continue to exert this much control was hurting Mexico’s students.

The national education law was seen as Pena Nieto’s first major legislative victory after taking office Dec. 1. The constitutional amendment eliminates Mexico’s decades-old practice of allowing the buying and selling of teaching jobs, and replaces it with a standardized national teaching test. That’s heresy to a radical splinter union of elementary and high school teachers in Guerrero, one of the country’s poorest and worst-educated states. The teachers claim the test is a plot to fire them all as a step toward privatizing education, although there is little evidence the government plans that.