The "teachers" and "students" are back in the news again.
You may recall when we last left them in corrupts absolutely, we discussed how the tragic death of 43 young protesters had highlighted governmental corruption in Mexico, as well as how rural teacher colleges, the source of the 43 protesters, had little to do with promoting education in Mexico -- due to their obsession with perpetuating their brand of continuing revolution.
The current central government had proposed rather mild reforms that would make teachers responsible for their work. Out of that, 43 protesters died.
Actually, that was not our last contact with the "teachers" and "students." In land of contrasts, I told you that a similar combination of protesters had seized three toll booths on the highway in Morelia, and forced us to "donate" our time to contemplate social justice while we waited. The stalled Mexicans accepted it -- maybe as just another example of their government's inability to deal with questions of order.
They are now back. CNTE, a radical teacher's union that competes with the government-sanctioned union, is back in the news. It was the leading force of the protests objecting to the government's reform. Especially, in Mexico City.
Next Friday, CNTE is leading a march in Morelia, the capital of Michoacan state, with the stated purpose of stopping the country's scheduled elections on 7 June. And, if the government will not comply, their call for a boycott will turn into blockades to prevent ballots from being delivered to polling stations, and to keep voters from getting to the polls. In support of that end, teachers will walk off the job next Monday, leaving students without instruction -- if the students even notice.
The stated reasons for the boycott are a bit muddled. Of course, they want the government to withdraw the education reforms. CNTE is fully aware that it does not have the support of the people. Even though, voters hold negative opinions of the four major parties (three of which supported the education reforms), polls show that the three parties CNTE hates most are far ahead in the elections.
In other words, because they cannot win democratically, they have chosen to act undemocratically.
But their second reason for the boycott is absolutely brilliant in its Machiavellian garb. Based on the debates between the candidates for governor, CNTE has concluded the candidates have "no substantive proposals, no government program, and no idea how they will govern Michoacan."
George Wallace in 1968 could not have said it better. "There's not a dime's worth of difference between the Democrats and the Republicans."
CNTE is certainly not the only group that fails to see much choice in Mexican elections. (For someone who grew up in a two-party system, Mexico's multi-party system gives the appearances of a cornucopia of ideological choices.)
One of the government's 2014 election reforms allows independent candidates (those who lack a party nomination) to run for office. One of the pioneers in that movement was Jorge Castañeda (much lauded in these pages), who was prohibited from running for president in 2006 as an independent.
It appears the reform may bear fruit sooner than most people expected. Jaime Rodríguez is a recent deserter from Mexico's largest party -- PRI. He is currently running for governor of Nuevo León -- the wealthiest state in Mexico's north.
The polls have him in a dead heat with the PRI candidate. If he wins, his lack of a political affiliation could end up affecting even the presidential election in three years. Depending on how voters react to a governor with no political party to assist him with its agenda -- an agenda that he has made noticeably vague.
Voters in The States have had their affairs with independent gubernatorial candidates. Though Jesse Ventura and Lowell Weicker were hardly poster boys for the best in the system.
If CNTE really thought the Mexican people were incensed with the education reforms, they could have followed the example of Jaime Rodríguez by running an independent candidate for governor. There are many reasons why they didn't. But not being able to win was certainly one.
And, as Jorge Castañeda pointed out in Utopia Unarmed, the fear of losing elections is a primary reason why the Left in Latin America has been wary of free elections. CNTE may simply be operating in its true nature by sponsoring the boycott.
I am an optimist. Even with these setbacks, I believe Mexico's political systems are improving bit by bit. After all, the country has had less than two decades of free elections to prove to itself that the process can work.
I wish them well. If only because, I hope to soon be one of them.