By Nancy Caouette
MEXICO CITY (AA) – Thousands of teachers protesting corporate education reform marched in the southern states of Chiapas and Guerrero Thursday, burning and occupying government buildings.
Striking teachers, from the CNTE union which has approximately 100,000 members in mostly poor rural areas, occupied four state education office buildings and detained two state police officers in Chiapas.
“There is a contingent of police officers in the facilities. We are trying not to fall into provocations, but if they attack us, we will defend us. We won’t let them continue repressing us,” a CNTE leader, Manuel de Jesus Mendoza Vazquez, told local media.
In the Guerrero state capital of Chilpancingo, another teachers' union, CETEG, broke windows and destroyed furniture and equipment in an office of the state ministry of education before setting fire to the building.
The CNTE called an indefinite strike May 15 and the union has held actions in seven states.
Teachers are challenging a law passed in 2013 that seeks to reform the school system by implementing, amongst other measures, a mandatory test teachers must pass in order to keep their jobs.
CNTE members, who have labeled as ‘’radical’’ by the Mexican government, argue that evaluations do not measure teaching abilities and do not take into account the special challenges of teaching in rural and indigenous areas.
Striking teachers, who last month set up a massive camp in Mexico City, want to meet with President Enrique Pena Nieto to establish a dialogue with authorities.
The Mexican senate agreed Wednesday to meet with 15 CNTE leaders after a massive protest planned in Mexico City was repelled by anti-riot police officers.
“We came here to obtain response but we don’t have it yet,” said Alejandro Gomez, a union leader, after meeting with senators.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Public Education, Aurelio Nuno Mayer, said Thursday that the government will stay firm in the face of protests.
“We are open to the dialogue, but we won’t go back on this reform that will transform Mexico,” he said during a news conference, adding that 4,500 teachers have been fired after having four consecutive absences from class.