The Approval of the Education Reform, Teachers’ protests and NSA Spying of Enrique Peña Nieto – Weekly News Summary: September 6

coffee-by-flikr-user-samrevel1The 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 the press largely covered the approval of the Education Reform in the midst of the teachers’ protests. Mexico’s Senate overwhelmingly passed a reform of the notoriously dysfunctional public school system early Wednesday, handing President Enrique Pena Nieto an important victory in his push to remake some of his country’s worst-run institutions.

The New York Times noted that despite being considered a major step toward instituting evaluations of public schoolteachers and ending their practice of buying and inheriting their posts, analysts allege violent protests by teachers had led Congress to include provisions in the new legislation that might undermine the overhaul. The pressure resulted in concessions that “diluted key aspects” of the original plan like the provision that mandatory evaluations would remain confidential.

The Washington Post noted that Teachers angry over the passage of the reform partially blocked the main approach to Mexico City’s airport Thursday, forcing many passengers to leave their cars and rush through the streets on foot to catch flights. The blockage caused traffic to back up for miles on one of the city’s main highways, increasing simmering public anger.

On another issue, according to secret files leaked by intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spied on Peña Nieto’s e-mails during his presidential campaign last year. According to CNN, Mexico summoned the U.S. ambassador last Monday as a result.

Time magazine reported that some diplomats see the espionage as Washington’s panicked response to Latin America’s increasing independence from U.S. hegemony in the Americas. In Peña Nieto’s case, Mexicans know that Washington was bothered by his campaign pledge to dial down the militarized intensity of Mexico’s U.S.-backed drug war, which raised U.S. fears that he’d go soft on drug mafias.

President Pena Nieto told the BBC  he had spoken to President Obama on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Russia and indicated that the U.S. president has promised to investigate the allegations. Peña Nieto also said if the claims were true, Mr. Obama had pledged to impose suitable penalties.

What Mexican columnists had to say…

This week’s columnists centered in the first State of the Union address by President Enrique Peña Nieto. Leo Zuckerman had mixed feelings over the address. He acclaimed the President for his strong reformist commitment and believes Peña Nieto will be very pragmatic when trying to pass major legislative reforms, by using the “Pacto por Mexico” when useful, and strategic alliances with particular parties when not. He criticized the President however, for blaming the international context for the poor performance of the Mexican economy.

Maria Amparo Casar was more critical and noted a lack of triumphalism in the President’s speech. From her view, the President offered a speech that was centered in the hope of what the “structural reforms” will provide. But in a context where there aren’t any achievements to inform, she believes it would have been better to hear the government’s short term plans for increasing the welfare of the population.

On another note, both Ciro Gomez Leyva and Jorge Castañeda were optimistic over the outcome of the Education Reform and the teacher’s protests in Mexico City. Both believe the protests will be deactivated now that the Reform has passed. If true, Gomez Leyva believes it will be a major success for the City’s Mayor Miguel Angel Manzera. Castañeda believes the Federal Government should recognize that the outcome was a result of a compromised solution. Trying to make the public believe the new reform is perfect and revolutionary makes the Federal Government seem naïve and childish.

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