Teachers in Mexico break windows, torch offices to protest anti-union reforms

Some educators are teaching a not-so-gentle lesson to President Enrique Peña Nieto about his ambitious government reforms.

Alejandrino Gonzalez/AP
A teacher gives the thumb down sign as he holds a photograph of Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto outside of the office of the Secretary of Educations after they attacked the building causing significant damage in Chilpancingo, Mexico, Wednesday.

Mexican teachers and teachers-in-training once again abandoned lesson plans to protest education reform in the southwestern state of Guerrero this week.

The individuals charged with educating Guerrero's children, and helping build a brighter future for a country lauded for its economic promise, have been on strike since a federal education reform bill was introduced almost two months ago.

The bill is part of a wider reform agenda by President Enrique Peña Nieto which aims to feed economic opportunity and growth in Mexico. Other initiatives discussed include boosting competition in the telecommunications industry and increasing bank lending rates.

But in yet another sign that President Enrique Peña Nieto is facing pushback on his ambitious reform plan, this week scores of educators took to the streets armed with sticks and spray paint. They broke windows, threw papers and plants out of buildings, vandalized furniture and office equipment, and set fire to political offices, according to Mexican news outlets.

“Teach and learn … vandalism,” read today’s front page of Mexican newspaper Reforma, with photos splashed above the fold showing a political party office in Guerrero engulfed in flames, and a highway road block using a “kidnapped” 18-wheeler from state-owned oil company PEMEX in the neighboring state Michoacán, which is also experiencing teacher protests.

Earlier this year President Peña Nieto passed far-reaching education reform that aims to diminish the tight grasp of Mexico’s powerful teachers union and reverse common practices like teachers receiving pay despite not showing up to work. According to The Christian Science Monitor:

The reform strips the education union – arguably the most powerful in Latin America – of its influence over the hiring of teachers. It provides for a system of merit-based pay and promotions, subjects Mexico’s estimated 1 million teachers to evaluations, and requires exams of those entering the profession. All with greater oversight by the federal government.

In Guerrero state, educators upped protests after state legislators failed to incorporate the 200,000-member education union’s demands to water down the federal legislation at the state level on Tuesday.

The mayor of Chilpancingo, where the vandalism took place yesterday afternoon, told Mexican newspaper Milenio that he’s requested federal assistance. The governor of Guerrero announced via Twitter that arrest warrants had been issued for the head of the state Education Workers Union, Minervino Moran, and another union leader, for “masterminding” the destruction of property, reports the Associated Press.

Guerrero, home of the well-known beach destination Acapulco, has repeatedly made headlines this year for violence and the uptick in vigilante militias and self-defense groups.

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