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Members of Mexican Teachers Union Protest Education, Labor Reforms

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March 6, 2013

Teachers sit on the side of a road during a protest march in Mexico City March 5, 2013.  (Reuters/Bernardo Montoya)

MEXICO CITY - Thousands of members of the CNTE teachers union took to the streets of Mexico City and other cities to protest government plans to reform the educational system and labor regulations.

Protesters from Chiapas, Michoacan, Oaxaca and Guerrero states, as well as Mexico City, marched from the capital's main plaza to the Los Pinos presidential residence, where a 10-member committee handed officials a petition listing the teachers' demands.

The teachers, whose numbers were estimated at between 5,000 and 8,000 by different sources, want to have negotiations with the government and oppose the appointment of Juan Diaz de la Torre to succeed Elba Esther Gordillo as president of the SNTE teachers union.

The 68-year-old Gordillo, longtime president of the 1.2-million-strong SNTE, was arrested on Feb. 26 along with three close associates for allegedly using union funds to pay personal expenses.

Gordillo, once described by scholar M. Delal Baer as "Jimmy Hoffa in a dress," allegedly embezzled $157 million in union funds.

The former union boss was expelled from the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, in 2006 for helping create the New Alliance Party, or PANAL, which tried unsuccessfully to form a coalition with Enrique Peña Nieto, who won last year's presidential election.

The protesters want all of Gordillo's associates investigated.

The CNTE is a labor organization that controls the SNTE locals in Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero and Michoacan, promoting its own independent agenda.

The CNTE was founded in 1979 to oppose the policies of national union leaders and uses protests as its main weapon.

Teachers in Michoacan, Oaxaca, Guerrero and Chiapas, meanwhile, blocked streets Tuesday in the respective state capitals to protest the education system reforms implemented by Peña Nieto.

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