oaxaca roadblock A familiar sight.

Teacher blockades paralyze Oaxaca city

Evaluations stir up the years-long conflict between teachers and government

Oaxaca city residents were once again held hostage by teachers after several road blockades brought traffic to a standstill yesterday.

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Education reform — and specifically teacher evaluation — was once again at the heart of the mobilization by members of the CNTE union, but this time the protest arose after internal dissent within Oaxaca local Section 22.

The last of 3,699 teachers hired over several years by the union local itself, about 1,500 people, are scheduled for evaluations this weekend in Puebla, the last step they must take before being fully accepted into Oaxaca’s education system.

It was Section 22 leader Eloy Hernández López who negotiated the process, something of a departure for a union that has been dead-set against government-led testing of teachers’ competence. But he is now facing opposition from union member who accuse him of acquiescing before the federal government and accepting the evaluations.

Yesterday’s blockades were the dissenting teachers’ response. They took to the streets in the state capital, hijacking several public transit buses and setting up roadblocks at many of the main intersections, wreaking transit havoc for about eight hours.

As usual, the protesters issued a list of demands, which in this case included the payment of the salaries of the teachers in question and their immediate hiring, bypassing the evaluation process.

As far as the government is concerned, if the teachers fail to attend their evaluations they will lose their only opportunity to teach.

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The director of the Oaxaca education institute, IEEPO, told the newspaper Milenio that the disgruntled teachers were “a minority.”

Germán Cervantes Ayala said over 2,000 employees have already been brought into the system in two earlier evaluations, and now enjoy formal teaching positions.

The protesters could well have been a minority, but their numbers were enough to paralyze the city’s traffic for hours.

Despite warnings to motorists about the protests, traffic was soon snarled by the sheer number of vehicles on the streets.

Traffic went from complicated to chaotic, and then complete gridlock.

Heavy trucks, attempting to cut through side streets, ended up getting stuck under trees or while turning on narrow streets.

Not even pedestrians were spared as the gridlock was so tight at points that there was no space between vehicles for them to pass.

The chaos subsided after about eight hours and traffic returned to normal — until the next protest.

Source: Milenio (sp), El Imparcial (sp)

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