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Teachers' protest camp on a Michoacán rail line. Teachers' protest camp on a Michoacán rail line.

Talks lead to removal of teachers’ 59-day rail blockade

Agreements were reached with the CNTE teachers' union but no details were released

Teachers who had been blocking train tracks in Michoacán for 59 days agreed to end their protests on Monday after the federal government committed to sitting down with them to discuss their demands.

Teachers affiliated with the dissident CNTE union, who have been protesting to demand the payment of late salaries, bonuses and scholarships as well as the automatic allocation of jobs to graduates, lifted blockades in the municipalities of Uruapan, Pátzcuaro and Morelia after Interior Minister Olga Sánchez agreed to meet with them.

At a meeting on Monday afternoon, the interior minister told a group of disgruntled teachers led by local CNTE leader Benjamín Hernández that in a democratic country there is space to discuss differences and work together toward solutions.

Accompanied by Michoacán Governor Silvano Aureloes, Deputy Interior Minister Rabindranath Salazar and education officials, Sánchez said the government is working so that nobody has to “take violent actions or actions at the margins of the law in order to be heard.”

“One of our priorities is always to listen to the people. Our obligation is to govern with the people, for the people and by the people” she said.

Interior Minister Sánchez
Interior Minister Sánchez: ‘Looking for respect and social peace.’

“Our presence here today is clear evidence that we are doing that. … The government’s new policy to attend to conflicts is based at all times on the use of reason, and nothing by the use of force,” Sánchez said.

“… I’m confident that the dialogue that we’re beginning today will lead us to reaching agreements and above all maintaining conditions of respect and social peace.”

The interior minister said on Twitter Monday night that agreements had been reached with the teachers who maintained the blockades but she didn’t reveal their exact nature.

“In an act of confidence toward the government of Mexico, via mediation of the Interior Ministry, the train tracks in Michoacán were freed,” Sánchez wrote. “At a meeting we established agreements with the teachers and Governor Silvano Aureoles to strengthen the rule of law and guarantee investment.”

Aureoles also acknowledged the agreements on Twitter, writing that his government hoped that they would be complied with by all parties and that the tracks – which he said were of strategic importance for economic development in Michoacán and the nation as a whole – would remain unblocked.

The newspaper Milenio reported that freight trains will begin traveling in Michoacán on Thursday after rail authorities conduct safety checks of the sections that were blocked.

It said that more than 4,500 containers were stranded at the port in Lázaro Cárdenas, one of Mexico’s most important maritime facilities.

The almost two-month-long blockades have cost industry billions of pesos. Oscar del Cueto, CEO of rail operator Kansas City Southern de México, said in late October that the company he leads had incurred losses of 300 million pesos (US $15 million) and that industry had lost an estimated 5 billion pesos (US $249.5 million).

Given that the blockades continued for another month, those losses could reasonably be doubled.

Source: Milenio (sp) 

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