Weekly News Summary: March 1st

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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.

What Mexican columnists had to say…

The news story that received the most attention this week was Elba Esther Gordillo’s arrest. After 23 years as president of the SNTE, Elba was accused of embezzlement and corruption. This event has concerned PAN leaders because SNTE’s former leader stole the largest portion of the union funds during Calderon’s presidential term.

While many wonder why previous administrations failed to detain the teachers’ union leader, Jorge Fernández Menéndez assures that the arrest rests in a political decision and cost benefits while  Leo Zuckerman concludes that the heads of Mexico’s political parties, including President Peña Nieto, got tired of SNTE ex leader’s arrogance, pride, lack of moderation, and unbearable attitude. The truth is that Gordillo’s arrest is an example of a political revenge against a woman who refused to leave her power and accept the new educational reform.  Her capture also foreshadows the detention of other corrupted officials and the dismantlement of institutions that negatively affect Mexico’s civil society.

Even though Gordillo is now gone, it is important to watch out for emerging SNTE leaders, the union’s ratified support towards Elba, Senator Monica Arriola’s stance towards her mother’s detention and the PAN’s coalition with Nueva Alianza. Will a new almighty leader take over SNTE or will it be decentralized? What if Juan Diaz de la Torre, SNTE’s new president and secretary general becomes the new Elba Esther Gordillo?

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