This past Friday, over 1,500 teachers protested President Vicente Fox's visit to Ciudad Juárez in defense of their social security. Recently discovered federal proposals call for the privatization of state workers' social security program, the State Workers Security and Social Service Institute (INSTTEE, Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de los Trabajadores del Estado) and raising the retirement age. An independent teachers union, the National Coordination of Educational Workers (CNTE, Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación), has pledged to create "a front of national resistance" against the proposed reforms. The attempted privatization of social security is the most recent round in a long-time effort by the Mexican state—whether in the hands of Salinas and Zedillo's long-ruling Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI) or current President Vicente Fox's right-wing National Action Party (PAN)—to impose extremely unpopular neo-liberal reforms.
The protest was extremely militant. The teachers first gathered at the Chihuahua state government building. From there, a car caravan made its way to the prestigious Misiones de Los Lagos country club, where Fox was to meet with local government and corporate leaders. When Fox arrived on the road to the country club, the mass of teachers followed Fox's caravan into the country club, moving past several security barriers onto the club's private property.
Fox met with a delegation of teachers and claimed the patently false: "I am not misleading the people," stating that there were no such plans to privatize the social security program. As Fox's delegation tried to exit the country club, many of the teachers moved to block its exit, surrounding Fox's Suburban and climbing atop police cars. The event received much attention throughout Mexico and was exploited by the PAN to smear the rising left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), accusing them of provoking attacks on the President.
Teachers chanted "Fox, entiende, la INSTTEE no se vende! [Fox, listen! INSTEE is not for sale!], "El maestro luchando, también esta ensañando!" [A teacher fighting is also teaching!] and "Fox, eschucha, estamos en la lucha! [Listen Fox! We're in the struggle!]. (Author's note: They lose their rhythm in English...)
Tomorrow (Monday October 25th) protests against the proposed reform will take place statewide. CNTE union leaders accused leaders of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE, Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación) and the Federation of State Workers Unions (Federación de Sindicatos de Trabajadores al Servicio del Estado) of "charissmo," the term designating the majority of Mexican unions that have been co-opted by the PRI and business leaders.
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