March 1, 2013
The Mexico Institute’s “Weekly News Summary,” released every Friday afternoon summarizes the week’s most prominent Mexico headlines published in the English-language press, as well as the most engaging opinion pieces by Mexican columnists.
What the English-language press had to say…
This week, Elba Esther Gordillo, the powerful leader of the SNTE, Mexico’s teachers’ union was arrested for allegedly embezzling over $150 million in union funds to support her lavish lifestyle. The arrest shocked the nation and came only a day after President Enrique Peña Nieto signed into law a new education reform package. Many interpreted the move as an attempt by the Peña Nieto administration to reassert state authority over special interests, and as a warning to other industries (e.g. telecommunications and energy) that reform is on the way. NYT columnist Thomas Friedman gave much to talk about following two very optimistic pieces. He suggested Mexico will become a dominant economic power in the 21st century, and praised Mexico’s young ‘just do it’ generation of innovators and entrepreneurs. Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya mirrored Mr. Friedman’s optimism by suggesting a reinvigorated energy sector will transform Mexico into the world’s “new Middle East.” Meanwhile, north of the border, looming automatic budget cuts prompted ICE to release several hundred low-risk immigrants from deportation centers across the country.
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March 1, 2013
BBC News, 2/28/2013
Juan Diaz de la Torre was appointed at an extraordinary congress of the SNTE, the most powerful union in the country. The BBC’s Will Grant in Mexico City says that his selection in effect strips Ms Gordillo of her title of president-for-life. She will now have to face the charges without SNTE backing.
The woman known as “La Maestra” or “the teacher” reportedly spent millions at a US department store, on plastic surgery, property and a private plane. She had led the SNTE since 1989. Her arrest came a day after the enactment of major educational reforms designed to change Mexico’s union-dominated system, under which teaching positions could be inherited, and which had led to posts being sold.
March 1, 2013
World Politics Review, 2/28/2013
Elba Esther Gordillo, the leader of the most powerful teachers union in Mexico, was arrested earlier this week on suspicion of embezzling millions in union funds for personal expenses, including paying for private property and plastic surgery.
The arrest of the Gordillo, known throughout Mexico simply as “La Maestra,” or “The Teacher” and previously seen as being above the law, came a day after Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a sweeping educational reform that the union she led had opposed. …
February 28, 2013
Los Angeles Times, 2/27/2013
The reversal of fortune could not have been more striking. And for many Mexicans, the images, broadcast live on national television Wednesday, could not have been more unexpected.
Here, once again, was Elba Esther Gordillo, the powerful boss of Mexico’s massive, sclerotic teachers union. But instead of the image Mexicans were used to — Gordillo standing in front of adoring followers, defiantly speechifying, dressed to the nines — her famous face was now barely visible through the bars of a Mexico City jail.
February 28, 2013
The Wall Street Journal, 2/27/2013
The arrest on corruption charges of the head of Mexico’s teachers union was widely seen Wednesday as a double win for President Enrique Peña Nieto, striking a blow against a controversial political figure and reasserting state authority over special interests. Elba Esther Gordillo, one of the country’s most powerful political figures of the past two decades, appeared in a televised courtroom inside a grim Mexico City prison to hear charges of money laundering and organized crime read out against her.
The government alleges Ms. Gordillo, arrested Tuesday, embezzled as much as $160 million from the coffers of the public teachers’ union. The somber-looking union leader declined to speak to the court, except to say it was a matter for her lawyers. Her lawyers didn’t speak in court, nor could they be reached for comment.
February 26, 2013
BBC News, 2/26/2013
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has enacted a major reform of the education system that includes new standards for hiring teachers. Under the changes, a census is to establish the exact number of schools, teachers and pupils in the country.
The reforms appear set to weaken the powerful teachers’ union, led by Elba Esther Gordillo, which has largely controlled access to the profession. The union has argued that reforms could lead to massive lay-offs. Critics also say the changes could signal the start of the privatisation of education in Mexico. But Mr Pena Nieto said the reform would maintain the free and secular nature of education.
February 15, 2013
The Economist, 2/14/2013
LAST summer Enrique Peña Nieto’s determined face stared down from election posters, promising Mexicans: “You know I will deliver.” Just over 38% of voters were convinced, enough to hand him the presidency. Since his inauguration on December 1st he has indeed delivered several new policies and reforms—just not the ones voters and pundits expected.
During the campaign Mr Peña’s aides in the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) said that before Christmas of 2012 there would be a fiscal reform to increase the government’s meagre tax revenues. That would be swiftly followed by a shake-up of the energy industry to give a competitive nudge to Pemex, the state-run oil and gas monopoly, at whose headquarters a suspected gas explosion killed 38 people on January 31st. Mr Peña’s critics retorted that he was a puppet of special interests, such as the teachers’ union and powerful broadcasters.
January 28, 2013
Al Jazeera, 1/26/2013
Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico’s president, is expected to sign a sweeping education reform bill into law next week. This will see the government taking control of public schools from the powerful teachers’ union who have vowed to oppose the move. The President says the goal is to make Mexico more competitive as the country’s schools perform poorly by international standards.
December 23, 2012
Enrique Peña Nieto
Wall Street Journal, 12/21/2012
Mexico’s Congress on Friday passed a sweeping overhaul to the country’s dysfunctional educational system, marking a major victory for new President Enrique Peña Nieto but setting up a protracted conflict with the powerful teachers’ union. The bill, which passed 360-51, changes Mexico’s Constitution to give the government, rather than the union, control over the hiring and firing of teachers, tackling a system where only union members can become teachers and where teachers hold guaranteed lifelong posts without ever being tested or measured for their performance. Among other things, the bill creates a new independent body to periodically evaluate teachers, who could potentially be fired if they don’t meet required standards. It also seeks to lengthen the school day to six to eight hours from a current average of just four—about half that of South Korea and Finland.
December 21, 2012
Economist, 12/22/2012 Print Edition
Enrique Peña Nieto
HE ONLY took office on December 1st, but Mexico’s new president is setting a furious pace. Having laid out sweeping changes to education and set up a new anti-corruption commission, Enrique Peña Nieto went on to unveil potentially far-reaching reforms of public security. He has thus taken aim at two of the country’s most notorious de facto powers: organised crime, and the mighty teachers’ union. His predecessor, Felipe Calderón, began by declaring war on drug mafias, calling out the army to restore order. The murder rate doubled in five years, though the gangs were weakened. Mr Peña, who has promised to halve the murder rate by 2018, is taking a different approach.