Elba Esther pleads "innocent" and shuns education reform

Earlier this month, a judge dismissed charges of money laundering and organized crime against Gordillo
Elba Esther pleads "innocent" and shuns education reform
The former CNTE leader indirectly accused the federal government of “spending more on propaganda than investing in an effective program to improve education in the country.” - Photo: Gustavo Graf/REUTERS
21/08/2018
15:46
Newsroom & Agencies
Mexico City
Teresa Moreno, Mariluz Roldán (EL UNIVERSAL) & Reuters
-A +A

The former leader of Mexico’s influential teachers union (CNTE) made a combative comeback to public life on Monday, at the Presidente Intercontinental Hotel in the Polanco neighborhood of Mexico City, after being let off corruption charges, by attacking the outgoing government in a speech and claiming its education reform had failed.

Long accused by critics of corruption, Elba Esther Gordillo was a powerful force in Mexican politics before her arrest in 2013, a day after President Enrique Peña Nieto signed into law a major education reform that she had opposed.

Earlier this month, a judge dismissed charges of money laundering and organized crime against Gordillo.

In a defiant speech to a hall packed with supporters, Gordillo described herself as the innocent victim of a political witch-hunt, and blasted Peña Nieto’s attempt to shake up the education system.

“I have won my freedom again, and the education reform has been brought down,” Gordillo told the news conference.

Peña Nieto faced resistance from teachers in implementing the reform, and his successor, President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador, pledged to scrap the legislation in the campaign leading up to his landslide victory on July 1.

The former CNTE leader indirectly accused the federal government of “spending more on propaganda than investing in an effective program to improve education in the country.” She added that the teachers’ union had been stigmatized by the media and government propaganda: “We have been unjustly held responsible for Mexico’s complex situation regarding education considering that most teachers work as hard as they can with the insufficient tools that the government provides.”
 

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Elba Esther might go back to jail

She has a pending investigation against her for money laundering
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Gordillo’s grandson, René Fujiwara, left the teachers’ union’s PANAL political party early this year to support López Obrador’s bid for the presidency.

Making her first public appearance since her arrest, Gordillo said she had been the target of “political persecution” that was used to tarnish the union.

At a news conference with López Obrador later on Monday, Peña Nieto dismissed the notion Gordillo had been targeted for political ends.

López Obrador, who following her arrest in 2013 had called Gordillo and Peña Nieto “equally corrupt”, said little on her case save that the judge’s decision should be respected.

Repeating his promise to “cancel” the education reform, López Obrador said the 73-year-old Gordillo would not serve in his government.

Hundreds of members of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE), one of the largest in Latin America with over 1.5 million members, crowded into one of the salons of the hotel in Mexico City where Gordillo delivered her speech.

“My loyalty and my place has always been, and always will be, alongside the teachers of Mexico, and the defense of public education,” Gordillo said.

Gordillo led the teachers union for years and belonged to Peña Nieto’s long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, until breaking with the party over a decade ago.

Mexico ranks last in education standards among the 35 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), even though the Ministry of Public Education receives far more than other countries in terms of public budget. This has often been deemed the result of corruption among its higher spheres.
 

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Elba Esther's victory exposes Peña Nieto's weak government

Criminals and former governors could use the same legal resources to have charges against them dismissed
Elba Esther's victory exposes Peña Nieto's weak government Elba Esther's victory exposes Peña Nieto's weak government

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