Sunday, June 16, 2024

Teachers’ union boss who was charged with embezzling US $200mn is back

There were high expectations for a federal offensive against corruption in 2013 when authorities arrested the powerful head of Latin America’s biggest trade union.

The case against Elba Esther Gordillo was “solid,” said the attorney general at the time.

Last August, the former president of the SNTE union was freed from jail after a court deemed that evidence of money laundering and organized crime was insufficient.

The “solid” case now appears to have been a sham to portray the new government of Enrique Peña Nieto as being tough on corruption.

Yesterday, Gordillo, widely known as “La Maestra” (The Teacher),  announced a return to public life: she will seek to regain the presidency of the SNTE, a post she held for 24 years until her arrest.

An outspoken figure in the teachers’ union and Mexican politics for half a century, the 74-year-old criticized teachers during a meeting in Cholula, Puebla, yesterday for not having taken a position on the new government’s education reform.

“It is not the reform we hoped for,” she said, describing it as old wine in a new bottle.

Today, faced with new protests by the CNTE, President López Obrador threatened to abandon his government’s plans to rewrite the previous government’s education reforms and leave things as they are.

He has promised teachers since the election campaign that he would abolish the reforms. But the CNTE union has not been convinced that the changes will go far enough to meet their demands and their protests in Mexico City have succeeded in shutting down the lower house of Congress for several days in the past month.

Should Gordillo win election for president of the SNTE, the president might have to face a combined opposition of more than one million teachers.

But her election is not guaranteed. She was not popular among Mexicans at the time of her arrest for her flamboyant and luxurious lifestyle.

The 2013 charges against her included the embezzlement of US $200 million from the union to buy real estate, a private jet, luxury goods, designer clothes, art and plastic surgery.

The real estate was reported to number 10 properties, including a $4-million house in California.

Source: El Universal (sp), ADN Político (sp)

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