News, features, and commentary from the biggest city in the Americas, Mexico City.
By Fritz Schtickelmeyer
(TOLUCA) — First came the fall of the Berlin Wall … then the Soviet Union.
Now, an event of similar magnitude is occurring in Mexico.
With the arrest of teachers’ union boss Elba Esther Gordillo — the all-powerful head of the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de Educación (SNTE) — Tuesday night here in Toluca, we can’t help but notice that there’s a similar sense of excitement in the air in the country today.
It’s as if a giant weight has been lifted from the country, an impenetrable cloud of darkness that had enveloped the country for the past 24 years.
Ms. Gordillo has been locked up. Let’s hope she does not escape.
Corruption, money laundering, diversion of public funds, being involved in organized crime … these are the charges being made against Gordillo.
The common refrain we hear today, in coffee shops, in the street, and at the barber shop, regarding the arrest of Ms. Gordillo is this — it’s about time!
We give credit to President Enrique Peña Nieto and his Attorney General, Jesús Murillo Karam, head of the Procuraduría General de la República (PGR), for having the courage to take down this “woman” (and we use that term loosely).
No other politician in the past 20 years has had the guts to go after her. They’ve all cowered before her presence, like frightened children.
She has ruled over the teachers union with an iron fist, and held the nation (and politicians) hostage any time she felt like it. Under her rule, teaching jobs were “sold”. She and her other top union cronies decided who was to be hired and fired, educational qualifications be damned.
She’s had a steadfast opposition to government reforms requiring teachers to be subject to qualification exams. What? Make sure teachers are actually qualified to teach? Not in Elba Esther Gordillo’s world!
Now seriously, is that any way for an educational system to be run in any civilized country?
Whenever something bothered her, the response was predictable — she’s simply order her teachers to the streets in protest.
So, just how much money has found its way into her pockets and bank accounts?
Who knows. Even the Attorney General says they were only able to trace some 10 percent of the 200 million dollars that seemed to have disappeared from the SNTE’s accounts.
Gordillo is said to have dozens of homes. With the resources of the 1.5-million member teachers union at her disposal, apparently even the sky wasn’t her limit.
Is there a better example of the notion that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”, than Elba Esther Gordillo? We think not.
Meanwhile, former Secretary of the Hacienda under President Felipe Calderon (and current senator), Ernesto Cordero, is saying that he did not see any financial irregularities in the accounts of the SNTE.
Seriously? Could a politician of Cordero’s stature be that naive, or does he think the public is really that stupid? Either way, thank God he never became the PAN’s candidate for President. God forbid he should have become President.
Meanwhile, let’s hope the arrest of the union kingpin leads to real reform in the country’s public education system, something Mexico badly needs.
No longer can Elba Esther Gordillo hold the country hostage to her every whim.
The Berlin Wall is gone, the Soviet Union is gone, and now — let’s hope — Elba Esther Gordillo is gone too.
Suddenly, the cloud of doom has lifted, and the future of education in Mexico just got a lot brighter.