The two top officials of Local 22 of the militant CNTE teachers union were arrested over the weekend on charges that include the theft of school textbooks and “operating with ill-gotten resources”
MEXICO CITY – Striking teachers mounted protests and roadblocks on Monday in Mexico City and in the Mexican south in response to the arrests of leaders of the opposition to the sweeping education overhaul enacted by President Enrique Peña Nieto.
The two top officials of Local 22 of the militant CNTE teachers union, Ruben Nuñez and Francisco Villalobos, were arrested over the weekend on charges that include the theft of school textbooks and “operating with ill-gotten resources.”
The union says the detentions are politically motivated, as does Mexico’s most prominent leftist politician, former Mexico City mayor and two-time presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
CNTE members blocked roads Monday in the suburbs of Oaxaca, capital of the likenamed southern state.
They also gathered in front of the headquarters of the state education department and at the city’s international airport, where they seized a police vehicle.
Riot police confronted the teachers and demanded the return of the vehicle. The militants eventually complied and allowed traffic to resume.
In neighboring Chiapas state, where a strike called by the CNTE has shut down 18,000 schools, union members blocked all the roads leading into the state capital, Tuxtla Gutierrez, to demand the release of the jailed labor leaders.
Some 10,000 teachers plan to set out Wednesday from Chiapas for Mexico City to join other CNTE members in asking the government to open a dialogue.
Parents, grassroots groups and elements of the Catholic Church say they will continue demonstrating in support of the teachers until the government agrees to talks.
Here in the capital, teachers rallied in front of the federal Attorney General’s office to demand the release of the union leaders.
Seven CNTE officials are in custody and 24 others are being sought by authorities on charges they illegally obtained 132 million pesos ($7.1 million), prosecutor Gilberto Higuera told Radio Formula on Monday.
The decision to arrest Nuñez and Villalobos was “arbitrary and dictatorial,” Lopez Obrador said Sunday, adding that his Morena party “backs the struggle of the teachers under any circumstances.”
The CNTE contends that the teacher evaluation process introduced by the Peña Nieto reforms is punitive and fails to account for regional differences in educational methods and in the availability of resources, especially in poor rural areas