Teacher protests in Mexico escalate as tear gas and water cannon used
Police yesterday clashed with teachers protesting in the main square of Mexico City.
Using tear gas and water cannons, police attempted to clear Zocalo Square where teachers have been camped out in protest for the past three weeks over educational reforms introduced by current president, Enrique Pena Nieto.
Those camped in Zocalo Square were given a deadline to leave the square by Friday as authorities want the square clear for the Independence Day celebrations on Sunday.
The bulk of protesters had left peacefully before the Friday deadline. However, a few remained and police entered the square shortly after the deadline.
Protesters threw missiles at the police who were supported by armoured vehicles and helicopters.
Police destroyed temporary shelters erected by the protesters and also put out fires started by the teachers. A number of arrests were also made.
Police have been accused of using excessive force. One teacher, called Alejandro, told Sky News: “With a lot of viciousness they grabbed me and [put me] on the ground, holding my feet. They caused injury on my septum and hit my body.”
There have been suggestions that some of the demonstrators were radical anti-government activists not associated with the teachers.
The reforms to the education system that the government have introduced include performance-related tests for teachers, which could lead to dismissal if failed.
Over the last two months there have been over 15 marches held by police across the capital.
Last week, thousands of union members attempted to disrupt the passing of the education bill by protesting outside the Senate.
Teacher’s unions, who currently have control over teaching jobs, are accused of corruption, which has seen poorly trained teachers being promoted over those who are better qualified.
Despite spending a fifth of its budget on education, Mexico continues to have one of the poorest performing education systems amongst member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Teachers point to social inequality as the cause of Mexico’s education issues rather than poor teaching.