Mexico passes 'education reform'; demos continue

The Chamber of Deputies of the Mexican Congress voted 390-69 on Sept. 2 in favor of the Professional Teaching Service Law, legislation that requires teachers to be evaluated periodically, although it allows two retests for teachers who fail the evaluation. This is the third in a series of "educational reforms" being pushed by President Enrique Peña Nieto. The Senate completed the approval process the next day by voting 102-22 for the law. In both chambers the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) was split; five of the party's 22 senators backed the law. (Europa Press, Sept. 2; La Jornada, Mexico, Sept. 4)

Mexico: thousands march against 'energy reform'

In the first street demonstration that former center-left presidential candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano has led since 2000, thousands of Mexicans marched in Mexico City on Aug. 31 to show their opposition to President Enrique Peña Nieto's plan for opening up the state-owned oil and electric companies, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and the Federal Energy Commission (CFE), to greater participation by foreign and Mexican private companies. The marchers set off from the Angel of Independence, a traditional starting point for Mexico City demonstrations, but they stopped short of the usual destination, the Zócalo plaza, which dissident teachers are occupying as part of a series of protests that have tied up various parts of the capital since Aug. 21. The education workers are protesting President Peña’s plans for teacher evaluations.

Mexico: delays in Shabazz murder inquiry protested

In an Aug. 10 press release the Citizens Committee for the Defense of the Naturalized and of Afro-Mexicans (CCDNAM) charged that the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) had failed to carry out an adequate investigation into the beating death of US rights activist Malcolm Latif Sabazz the night of May 8-9. "It’s shameful that after three months there is no punishment of those responsible for this crime," the CCDNAM’s president, Haitian-born Mexican activist Wilner Metelus, said. "Those who assassinated our brother Malcolm Latif remain free from justice, with the complicity of the authorities."

Mexico: teachers start new strike against 'reform'

Some 2.3 million students in the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Michoacán missed classes on Aug. 19, the first day of the 2013-14 school year, as thousands of teachers in the two states started an open-ended strike in the latest protest against US-style changes to the education system. The job action kicked off a week of demonstrations focusing on an Aug. 21-23 extraordinary session of the Congress that was to consider legislation proposed by Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto to make teacher evaluations mandatory. The protest movement was led by the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), a large dissident group in the National Education Workers Union (SNTE), with the support of several SNTE regional sections, including Oaxaca's Section 22 and Michoacán's Section 18.

Mexico: activists protest GMO corn with giant banner

Four activists from the Mexican branch of the international environmental organization Greenpeace climbed the Estela de Luz monument in downtown Mexico City on May 16 to protest efforts by multinational companies to increase the commercial use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the country's corn crops. The protesters unfurled a 70-meter banner reading "No GMO" and showing an ear of corn with a time bomb. Near the monument Greenpeace spokesperson Aleira Lara told reporters that transgenic corn is a time bomb for the Mexican countryside, since it endangers the 59 native strains of corn. The activists continued the protest for four hours and then left in a van; the Mexico City police made no effort to arrest them.

Mexico: Malcolm X grandson murdered in DF bar

According to Mexican authorities, Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of assassinated US rights activist Malcolm X and educator Betty Shabazz, was found badly beaten on a sidewalk in Mexico City the night of May 8. Federal District (DF, Mexico City) emergency services took him to a hospital, where he died early in the morning of May 9. A Mexican friend, Miguel Suárez, said he and Shabazz had been invited into The Palace, a bar in the Plaza Garibaldi neighborhood. Later they were presented with a $1,200 bill for music, alcohol and the company of the women they had been drinking with. When they refused to pay, Suárez was separated from Shabazz and eventually escaped; apparently Shabazz was beaten to death.

Mexico: dissident teachers march against "reform"

Thousands of teachers from the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), the largest dissident group in Mexico's 1.5 million-member National Education Workers Union (SNTE), marched in Mexico City on March 5 to protest a series of "educational reforms" that President Enrique Peña Nieto signed into law on Feb. 25. The teachers were also demanding the resignation of the new SNTE president, Juan Diaz de la Torre, who they say was appointed in a backroom deal after the Feb. 26 arrest of former president Elba Esther Gordillo Morales on charges of embezzling $157 million from union funds. According to the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) police, some 7,000 protesters joined the march from the central Zócalo plaza to the Los Pinos presidential palace, where a 10-member delegation presented officials with a petition.

Mexico: at least 37 dead in Pemex explosion

As of Feb. 2 rescue workers had found the bodies of 34 people killed in an explosion the afternoon of Jan. 31 at the Mexico City headquarters of Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), the giant state-owned oil monopoly, according to government officials. At least 101 other people were injured in the massive blast, which damaged part of the B2 administrative building, next to the company's main building, a 52-story tower that dominates the city's skyline. Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto declared three days of national mourning, which coincided with a long holiday weekend; the Constitution Day holiday falls on the first Monday of February.

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