Protesting teachers besiege Mexican Congress

Members of the National Coordination of Education Workers (CNTE) block the entrance of the Chamber of Deputies building on March 20, 2019, in Mexico City, Mexico. EPA-EFE / Mario Guzman

MEXICO CITY.- The lower house of Mexico’s Congress suspended a session scheduled for Wednesday after members of the militant CNTE teachers blocked the entrances to the chamber.

Lower house speaker Mario Delgado said on Twitter that the legislators were beginning to debate an education bill, but the session was suspended moments afterwards «because the necessary conditions did not exist.»

Moments later, the coordinator of lawmakers from the governing leftist Morena party, Porfirio Muñoz, announced that the plenary session would be postponed until 11 am on Thursday.

According to Delgado, who issued another tweet minutes later, legislators were dialoguing with leaders of the CNTE, who are demanding the cancellation of the educational reform enacted in 2013 by then-President Enrique Peña Nieto.

On Dec. 12, the government of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced the revocation of the educational reform.

However, a few days ago the CNTE expressed its dissatisfaction with Lopez Obrador’s government, claiming that instead of repealing the reform it was only going to make cosmetic changes to the program.

On Wednesday, the spokesman of Section 22 of the CNTE, Wilbert Santiago, told Milenio Television that they will meet with legislators to express their disagreement about the reform.

He also said that, in addition to the demonstration in the capital, the teachers of this union, who reside mostly in the southern state of Oaxaca, will remain on strike for two days.

Dolores Padierna, the deputy speaker of the lower house, reported that an agreement had been reached with the CNTE teacher representatives to allow all the people who were in the legislative precinct to leave.

The CNTE developed its confrontational tactics in opposition to Peña Nieto’s educational overhaul, which teachers saw as an attempt to make them scapegoats for the shortcomings of chronically underfunded schools.

CNTE members, who are concentrated in Mexico’s poorest states, objected in particular to hiring, continued employment and promotions being conditioned upon educators’ performance in compulsory evaluations.

Public Education Secretary Esteban Moctezuma has said that while teacher evaluations will continue, they will be conducted as part of ongoing training programs.

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