(Article changed on September 9, 2013 at 00:56)
(Article changed on September 8, 2013 at 17:55)
Mexico City / Ciudad de Mexico, 12:01am, 8 September 2013
Teachers face Federal Troops by Prensa / La Jornada
Amid historically high rain and flooding, hundreds of thousands of supporters of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, "AMLO," gather tonight for the first major demonstrations since those following Mexico's 2012 Presidential elections.
2006 and 2012's elections were held by many to be fraudulent, tainted by electronic fraud and ballot tampering in 2006, and by vote-buying, intimidation and ballot fraud in 2012, among other means.
2012 brought the Party of the Institutional Revolution, the "PRI," back into official power-- keen observers, question how much power they ever lost. The PRI has held single-party rule over Mexico since 1929, with the possible exception of the 2000-2012, in a style that can be characterized by its authoritarianism, centralized economic planning, corruption, and use of military force.
Having returned to official power in Los Pinos, Mexico's equivalent of the White House, just over a year ago, the PRI has proposed a wide-ranging series of reforms in its "Pacto por Mexico,' or "Pact for Mexico." While reform is needed, many of these proposed reforms are ill-planned, or destined to fail because of corruption or incompetence.
In the past week, Mexico's 'Camara' (Congress) debated a wide-ranging series of educational reforms. According to members of the teachers' unions, no one in their membership was consulted regarding the reforms-- rather, members of corporations who will benefit by privatization schemes.
The plan includes severe cutbacks in the public education system, and the possibility of removing the right to public education in this country.
At the same time, it is important to note that large parts of the education system seem to be floundering, incapable of demonstrating their ability to impart real skills, especially in science, math and engineering. Leaders of the teachers' unions I have spoken to, seem immune to these criticisms.
The teachers' unions were out on the streets of Mexico's capital area, the Federal District ("Distrito Federal', or "D.F.", pronounced dee-effe) in the past weeks. They faced heavy deployments of the Federal Army, at levels not seen in the past decade. Mexico's Congress was literally surrounded by flanks of stormtroopers, as were many other structures.
Approximately eight weeks ago, I saw thirty protesters in front of the Ministry of Education, met by over three-hundred Federal troops in at least eight personnel carriers, accompanied by three 40mm heavy guns. Whatever the merits of the sides, it seems clear that the newly-returned-to-power PRI, is again willing to assert itself with arms in the streets.
How able this new incarnation of the old regime will be, to control those troops, remains unclear. In 1968, Federal forces under executive orders massacred between 300 and 1500 students in this city's Tlatelolco square.
In the current moment, command of the army may be precarious. The previous Presidency formed elite army units, outside the existing command, answerable only to special "military tribunals." Rumours and evidence of use of these and other forces for political oppression, abound.