Friday, June 14, 2024

Teachers threaten to escalate protests over naming of indigenous education director

National Guardsmen and state police are protecting train tracks in Michoacán after teachers belonging to the militant CNTE teachers union threatened to block the tracks near Uruapan on Monday.

The teachers, who are demanding that indigenous educator Joaquín Lázaro Márquez be appointed director of indigenous education, were urged to meet in Caltzontzin — on the outskirts of Uruapan — at 10 a.m. on Monday to burn vehicles and block the tracks, the newspaper Milenio reported.

They also planned to block the port of Lázaro Cárdenas and take over bus terminals in Zitácuaro and Morelia, the newspaper said.

Also on Monday, teacher college students staged their own protest by hijacking at least five buses on the Morelia-Pátzcuaro highway, using them as blockades to halt traffic for two hours.

Lázaro Márquez warned that the situation could deteriorate quickly. “If there is no favorable response, it’s going to get ugly … it’s going to get very ugly and I wouldn’t want that to happen,” he said, warning that if the government imposes its own choice for director Uruapan could turn into “a war zone.”

A state police officer is loaded into an ambulance after the confrontation on February 1.
A state police officer is loaded into an ambulance after the confrontation on February 1. Twitter @SSeguridad_Mich

Lázaro said he had won the right to the post. “Since 1994 we’ve seen the amount of … corruption that existed when the directors of education were directly appointed. Then one day we decided that we would choose. Among several candidates we voted for the [one with the] best project, and in this case mine won,” he said.

Lázaro is held in high esteem in the indigenous community of Michoacán having dedicated 32 years to indigenous education, the newspaper reported. He is currently working on a project to translate the Bible from Spanish to Purépecha.

He said knowledge of Purépecha was a prerequisite for any director of indigenous education.

The teachers have also been demanding the payment of wages, consultation before any changes to pensions and jobs to be automatically awarded to teachers who have completed their training, a perennial demand by teaching students and the dissident CNTE union.

Governor Alfredo Ramírez Bedolla had appointed lawyer David Robles to be director of indigenous education, but he resigned after last week’s protests. Subsequent negotiations with the protesters broke down.

About 400 protesters from the radical wing of the CNTE union, Poder de Base (Power Base), attempted to block the tracks on February 1. At least 11 police and National Guardsmen were hurt, two of whom were seriously injured.

Blockades are a common tactic for dissatisfied teachers and teachers-to-be in Michoacán and other states: members of the CNTE blocked tracks for 91 days last year, costing businesses an estimated 50 million pesos per day (US $2.5 million at the exchange rate at the time).

With reports from Milenio and Mi Morelia 

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