Thousands of teachers marched in the streets of Chihuahua yesterday to demand the payment of overdue salaries and benefits.
But the state governor charged the actions were politically motivated and orchestrated by the federal government.
Organized by the Section 42 of the SNTE teachers’ union, the protests took place in several municipalities but the bulk of the 6,500 members who participated turned out in the state capital.
The union says that more than 12,000 teachers are owed unpaid wages and benefits, dating back more than a year in some cases.
“Today we came out to the streets in what is not a political demonstration but a blunt measure by the state’s teaching profession and its union representation in the face of the reprehensible conduct of Education Secretary Pablo Cuarón and his colleagues,” said union leader Ever Avitia Estrada.
“Hundreds of colleagues have been without pay for six to eight months or even up to more than one year and today Cuarón Galindo announces that they’ll receive their pay on May 15 when the initial commitment was February 28, then March 15 and 30,” he added.
Hundreds of demonstrators stormed the offices of government departments, including the secretariats of Education and Finance in the state capital and other regional offices.
The SNTE union has long been allied with the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
In response, the Chihuahua government rejected the charge that thousands of teachers have been unpaid, claiming that only 179 of 14,329 teachers who work in the state’s schools — 1.2% of the total — are owed wages. A further 131 cases are under review, it said.
Governor Javier Corral Jurado described the job action as part of an attack the federal government is waging against his administration on several fronts.
The National Action Party (PAN) governor has already clashed with the Enrique Peña Nieto-led PRI government this year, the former accusing the latter of withholding funds promised to the state in retaliation for an investigation into corruption allegedly committed by its members during the administration of former governor César Duarte.
A week-long protest march from the northern border state to the capital was subsequently held to pressure the government to hasten Duarte’s extradition from the United States and highlight the state government’s revenue battle with federal authorities.
Corral said that Cuarón Galindo is looking into the union’s actions with the aim of putting them in context with the the current political situation in the state.
He also expressed his disappointment that the protests had caused the suspension of classes, affecting more than 170,000 students.
“The most deplorable thing is the impact that thousands of students will suffer by losing valuable [teaching and learning] time,” the governor said.
“Hopefully someday, politics will take notice of that and realize that [the education of] children shouldn’t be played with.”
Source: Milenio (sp)