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Mexican teachers keep on protesting against the education reform

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In Mexico, teachers keep on protesting against the education reform, which was introduced by the government at the beginning of 2013. Over the last month, the tension between the government and the CNTE (Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación) has increased, leading to the “Nochixtlán massacre” on the 19th of June, in which 8 civilians were killed.

The education reform was approved by Enrique Peña Nieto’s government in order to enhance the quality of the Mexican education system. In particular, the government wants to remove the corruption, and the lack of transparency in the selection process of the educators. One of the measures stated by the reform is a selection of the teachers based on merit, in addition to a periodic assessment of their preparation. This point of the reform has been criticized by a great number of educators, especially in the southern States of Mexico: Oaxaca, Guerrero and Chiapas. These areas of the country are inhabited by a majority of indigenous. The teachers argue that the criteria for the assessment process are not appropriate for the specific characteristics of these areas of Mexico. They suspect that the evaluation process is a way to dismiss them. The teachers affirm that their role in that poor areas of the country is irreplaceable as they speak Spanish as well as the indigenous languages. In that remote areas of Mexico, the educators establish an important connection with the children, teaching them Spanish, as well as with their parents, communicating effectively with them in the local languages. Furthermore, it may be difficult to convince teachers residing in other parts of the country to move to such isolated areas, where sometimes there is no electricity or telephone connection.

For these reasons, the teachers, represented by the CNTE, organized long lasting strikes and they blocked the circulation of vehicles in the main streets. The population of the areas affected by the protests has sometimes backed the teachers, even though the government declared that Mexicans support the education reform.

The episode occurred on the 19th of June in Nochixtlán (Oaxaca), should be mentioned for its seriousness. The police cleared out the block of a street organized by the CNTE. The government declared that the police had to open fire in response to the violence used by the demonstrators. However, the inhabitants of the town said that the police started shooting at them, so they tried to protect themselves through rudimentary weapons, such as stones. Nevertheless, the balance of the clash has been the death of 8 civilians (even though the inhabitants of the town affirm they are 11) and 3 police officers injured. The United Nations asked the Mexican government to investigate on what happened in Nochixtlán.

After the episode of Nochixtlán, the government decided to change strategy proposing to the CNTE to restart the negotiations. On the 5th of July the government representatives and the CNTE met in Mexico City in order to explain their proposals for the solution to the conflict. They scheduled a new meeting  for the 11th of July, few day before the start of school holidays on the 15th of July.

The teachers are willing to negotiate, but they firmly claim the abolition of the education reform. Moreover, they affirm that if the government use violence, they will respond by all means available. It is important to bear in mind that in the south of Mexico there are armed groups related to the indigenous population, such as the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

Argentina turns right

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The first six months of Macri’s presidency marked a turning point in Argentina’s history. After 12 years of a Peronist government ruled by the Kirchner spouses, Argentina changed its route in internal policy as well as in international relations. Mauricio Macri won the presidential elections on the 22nd of November in 2015, and he immediately started to implement a series of reforms in contrast with the policies adopted by his predecessors.

Firstly, Macri’s government adopted a series of measures in order to reduce public spending on social welfare. These measures consist in the increase in public transport fees, energy and petrol prices, in addition to the layoff of part of the public employees. The Argentine population is not satisfied about these measures. On the other hand, it is important to point out that the government approved tax cuts for businesses, in order to stimulate the growth in export of wheat, corn, meat and minerals. One of the latest proposals of the government was the reform of the electoral system, in order to introduce the electronic voting. The declared intention of President Macri is to promote a modernization of the country as well as bolstering the economic recovery. Moreover, the new President reached a landmark agreement with foreign creditors of the country. The government accepted to pay its debts so that Argentina will be able to regain trust in international markets. In addition to that, the government is seeking to attract foreign investments in the country.

Undoubtedly, the agreement with the foreign creditors had a positive impact on the relations between Argentina and the United States, as well as Europe. In fact, these countries tightened its bonds with Argentina, and this led to an official visit of President Obama in Argentina, after 20 years of difficult relations between the two countries. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and President François Hollande also visited the new Argentine President. Argentina’s new position on the world’s stage led to a weakening in its relations with the previous allies: particularly Venezuela and Russia. One of the main challenges proposed by Macri in foreign policy it is to strengthen Mercosur and to promote free trade in Latin America, as well as opening new commercial routes in the Pacific area.

It is important to mention the cold relations between Macri’s government and the Holy See, even though it is not something new if compared with the previous Argentine government. On the 9th of June, the association Scholas Ocurrentes, a pontifical foundation that opened schools in Argentina and other countries, refused, under Pope’s instructions, a 16 million pesos donation from President Macri. Pope Francis argued that the foundation should be careful in order to avoid corruption. Macri’s offer was considered by the Pope as a strategy to improve his relations with the Holy See. The public response of Bergoglio was that “Argentine government has to cope with many people’s needs, so that the managers of the foundation do not have the right to ask the government for anything”. The Casa Rosada was surprised about this response, mainly because the foundation asked the government for that quantity of money. Macri underlined that the support to Scholas Ocurrentes was a policy in line with the previous government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. The real message of Pope Francis seems to be that Macri’s government should change its strategy to gain Vatican’s trust as well as its attitude towards lower social classes.

Argentina’s political change is part of a more general phenomenon affecting Latin America. Many of the socialist governments that had great success at beginning of the 21st century, are now suffering from a reduced popularity. However, Argentina’s government will not be able to ignore the legacy of Kirchner’s era, which mainly consists in the social achievements obtained by Argentines over the last decade.

 

by Elena Saroni

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