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LatinNews Daily - 22 June 2016

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Mexico gov’t cedes and agrees to hold dialogue with CNTE

Development: On 21 June Mexico’s interior ministry (Segob) announced that the federal government had agreed to establish dialogue with representatives of the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE) teachers’ union, who have been protesting against the 2012-2013 education reform.

Significance: The announcement came in the wake of the violent CNTE protests registered over the weekend in the southern state of Oaxaca, in which ten people died according to the latest Segob reports. The decision represents a significant softening of stance by the federal government led by President Enrique Peña Nieto, which in the last four years has been clear that the implementation of the reform is not up for discussion and that the CNTE has to accept it. Yet the weekend protests were the deadliest since the CNTE first launched its anti-reform protest campaign back in 2012 and they have produced general concern and indignation about the heavy handed nature of the repression by the state and federal security forces. The offer of dialogue is clearly an attempt to ease these tensions. But the government is seeking to tread a fine line, insisting that while it is prepared to listen to the protesters, the content of the reform itself is not open to discussion.

  • An official Segob statement said that in the wake of the recent deaths the government agreed to sit down with the protesting teachers to try to find “solutions that allow for a return to peace in all of the country’s regions”. Announcing that this dialogue would be chaired Segob head Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, the ministry called for an initial meeting to take place at the Segob headquarters today (22 May), so that the government can “listen to the demands and reasons” of the CNTE.
  • The announcement came after the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner (OHCHR) in Mexico yesterday called for an investigation into the deaths reported in Asunción Nochixtlán, Oaxaca, where at least seven people were shot dead in unclear circumstances during the clashes. The OHCHR also called for the government to engage in dialogue with the protesters. This prompted President Peña Nieto to order the federal attorney general’s office (PGR) to launch an exhaustive investigation into the incidents at Nochixtlán. Peña Nieto also called on the authorities to “adopt all the necessary measures to solve the conflict” with the CNTE.
  • However, in a press conference yesterday Education Minister Aurelio Nuño explained that changes to education policy would not be discussed at the dialogue table. “Tomorrow’s dialogue aims to ease tensions in Oaxaca, it will political. No education policy issues will be addressed”, Nuño said. Nuño, who has adopted a tough stance against the CNTE since becoming minister in August last year, added that regardless of the dialogue, the “education reform process will continue, it will not stop”.

Looking Ahead: Nuño’s remarks and the CNTE’s intransigence in demanding the repeal of the reform make it difficult to see how today’s meeting and the dialogue can be successful.