Teachers in Colima blocked a highway in the state capital on both Saturday and Monday to demand the payment of their salaries after the outgoing Governor José Ignacio Peralta said last Thursday that no money was available.
The protesters used tractor-trailers, cars and other vehicles to obstruct traffic for more than three hours on both days on Colima-Guadalajara highway.
The local head of the SNTE teacher’s union, Heriberto Valladares Ochoa, said the money for salaries for the second half of July was used instead to pay off bank debt. “Insensitively, [Governor Peralta] preferred to take the resources already budgeted by Congress for our pay to deal with the liabilities with the banks,” he said.
The governor said last Thursday that the state was too short of funds to pay salaries for state workers and pensions, affecting 8,000 people. “We are not in a financial position to to pay the second half of July,” he said, and argued that the insolvency was due to the Covid-19 pandemic rather than financial mismanagement. He added that the pandemic had necessitated the use of 1 billion pesos (about US $50 million) for short term loans.
“I know the repercussions this generates, people have payment commitments … but we have explored each and every possible option,” he said. He added that federal law left him with no choice but to pay off the loans before the end of his mandate.
The state Congress has summoned Peralta and former state finance minister Carlos Arturo Noriega to appear before Congress on Wednesday to explain the hole in the public purse.
Peralta’s mandate ends on October 31. For the first time in more than 70 years, Colima elected a governor from a party other than the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in the June 6 election. Morena candidate Indira Vizcaíno Silva will assume the post.