Teachers in 'mega' protest march tie up Mexico City
REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- Another day, another demo. In a megalopolis known for its traffic-twisting protest marches and political rallies, Thursday's did not disappoint.
Tens of thousands of teachers tromped through city streets, converging on Mexico City's downtown Zocalo, or plaza, from three directions (link in Spanish).
Their beef? They oppose new rules that require them to be regularly evaluated to judge their competency.
This in a country where teachers often inherit their jobs from relatives and routinely fail entrance exams. Under government pressure, however, the super-powerful teachers union that preserves such perks reluctantly agreed to the evaluations as a way to improve the abysmal quality of education in Mexico.
But at least one faction of the profession was having none of it and staged Thursday's self-proclaimed "mega march" to make the point. "A teacher, silenced. Never!" read one of the banners they carried. The city's principal Reforma Boulevard had to be closed for several hours, and downtown traffic was at a standstill for periods.
A study by security officials once estimated that there are an average of five protest marches a day in Mexico City, as The Times' Marla Dickerson reported a few years ago.
"Marches are so commonplace that radio reporters include them in traffic reports," she wrote. "Businesses have fled regular parade routes, fed up with vandalism and falling sales. Traffic gridlock has sapped productivity, worsened the city's already lousy air and hurt the pocketbooks of poorer city dwellers who don't get paid if they can't get to work."
There are other costs, too. For Thursday's demo city officials said they deployed more than 17,000 police officers (link in Spanish).
-- Tracy Wilkinson
Photo: Mexico City police block a street in the Polanco district March 15, 2012, as demonstrators converge nearby. Credit: Tracy Wilkinson / Los Angeles Times.