A leading source for news and analysis about Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican border.


Monday, Aug. 1, 2011

'What do you want to be when you grow up?
A teachers union aviator

Columnist says non-working educators were paid $2.4 million in first quarter

What do you want to be when you grow up? A teachers union aviator. That was the headline on Rafael Olivera Avila's column on Monday, in which he outlines how many teachers union officials are being paid for jobs they are not performing. In Mexico, an aviator is an employee who gets paid but does not show up for work. Olivera Avila said one teachers union official, Mirna García López, secretary general of the union's Section 15 in Hidalgo state, is being paid for being a principal at two elementary schools, for teaching at a junior high school in addition to being assigned to a work center on a teachers union commission.

He also said there was one educator that had three positions in the education system, which he said would involve having to work 70 hours.

He calculated that in Baja California there area 470 "non-workers, with 1,552 positions, who cost taxpayers in the first three months of this year 28.7 million pesos ($2.44 million).
Column, El Mexicano.

Former first lady Marta Sahagún calls Gordillo her friend

Former first lady Marta Sahagún said she is friends with teachers union leader Elba Esther Gordillo, who is on the board of the Fox Center, a kind of presidential library on the grounds of former President Vicente Fox's ranch in San Cristobal near León in Guanujuato state.
President Felipe Calderón recently said a deal made with Gordillo in which she got to name various top Mexican officials occurred as a result of actions in the Fox administration. Sahagún said she would not address that issue: "That's politics," she said.
Previous mention of Calderón placing onus on Fox administration.

Story, El Mexicano. Jump page.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Los Angeles Times profiles Gordillo, sees her going with PRI in 2012

     Tracy Wilkinson of the Los Angeles Times writes a profile of teachers union leader Elba Esther Gordillo and how it appears she is now switching her backing from President Felipe Calderón's National Action Party to the party she long loyally served, the Institutional Revolutionary Party. One possible quibble with the story: Wilkinson writes that Gordillo "commands the patronage of more than 1.5 million teachers, and in election years, that means more than 1.5 million votes." As Wilkson later points out, many teachers are out of sorts with her, and Gordillo's vote-garnering totals may be much less than that. In a close election, however, like in 2006, she may be able to deliver just enough votes — or divert just enough votes from another party — to provide the margin of victory. And it could be that Gordillo's organization could provide more than 1.5 million votes through its ability to get out the vote of non-educators: See theory of Carlos Ornelas in story below.
Los Angeles Times story.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ebrard distances self from Gordillo

     Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard of the Democratic Revolution Party distanced himself from teachers union leader Elba Esther Gordillo, who told the Spanish newspaper El País that he was her favorite candidate for president next year.
Story, El Mexicano.
Previous mention of Ebrard-Gordillo link.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gordillo met with Creel in San Diego;
she criticizes his criticism of her

Creel says he met with her at behest of former Tijuana Mayor Kiko Vega

     Teachers union Elba Esther Gordillo, reacting to criticism of her by National Action Party presidential hopeful Santiago Creel, claimed he had invited her to have coffee with him at the home of former Tijuana Mayor Francisco "Kiko" Vega in San Diego. Creel, however, said he met with her only because Vega said Gordillo wanted to meet with him. Gordillo owns a home at Coronado Cays. Creel said Vega, a federal deputy, proposed the meeting after finding out that Creel would be staying at his own place in San Diego at the time.

     In an interview with Salvador Camarena on W Radio, Gordillo had asked: "Why did he invite me to meet, to tell me he did not want an alliance with me?"

     Creel, defeated for the 2006 PAN presidential nomination by Felipe Calderón, took leave from the Senate this week to run again. Long the PAN front-runner in the polls, last week he was overtaken by PAN Chamber of Deputies leader Josefina Vázquez Mota. The Mitofsky poll put her at 33.4% and Creel at 33%.
Story from Reforma. Creel's response.
Previous mention of Kiko Vega and PAN presidential race.
Previous mention of Kiko Vega and Tijuana's arch and clock.


Columnist says ISSSTE did not buy drugs
from pharmaceutical companies at wholesale prices

     Columnist Francisco Rodríguez writes that the ISSSTE has made pharmaceutical company owners rich and the public poorer by not buying at wholesale prices. His column. Teachers union leader Elba Esther Gordillo denounced irregularities in the ISSSTE two weeks ago.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Columnist says Gordillo is shopping for a 2012 winner

     Excélsior columnist Leo Zuckermann writes in his Monday column that teachers union leader Elba Esther Gordillo is shopping for a 2012 presidential winner with her recent statement that she helped President Felipe Calderón win election and in exchange got her allies placed in important government posts. He writes:

     "It appears that the maestra has gone out shopping. Not on a shopping trip to the most exclusive stores in San Diego, as Guadalupe Loaeza has written about. No, this shopping is political: she is looking who to back in 2012. It could the PRI of her pal Humberto Moreira (who just won the governor's race in Coahuila state and whose brother is president of the PRI) and of the popular candidate (Mexico state Gov. Enrique) Peña Nieto. It could be the left of her friend (and Mexico City Mayor) Marcelo Ebrard, one of the operatives who helped Gordillo take over the SNTE (teachers union) when President Salinas threw Carlos Jongitud out the window. It could even be the PAN candidate, to continue the alliance with the president, if Calderón is able to get his party to nominate one of his pals after all. With this 'revelation,' the maestra is saying: 'Look this is what I got out of the current president. Gentlemen, I am listening to offers.' "

Zuckermann's column

A cartoon showing Gordillo with a devil's tail with PAN and PRD logos on the tail

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Calderón says he did not give Gordillo political booty;
Panal leader asks why Yunes took more than four years
to denounce the teachers union leader

     Presidente Felipe Calderón, in an interview with León Krauze, said positions that followers of teachers union leader Elba Esther Gordillo were given in his government were not political booty. He said that he only respected an agreement or negotiation made by his predecessor, Vicente Fox, in exchange for structural changes such as those made in the pension law of the Institute for Social Security and Services for State Workers (ISSSTE).

     He lamented charges of corruption within the ISSSTE, but said the agency has been audited time and again. He said he worked with Gordillo because she wanted to improve the nation's education system, and said most people do not seem to be aware of the education reforms that have taken place under his administration.
Story, El Universal.

panal logoMeantime, Luis Castro Obregón, who head's Gordillo's New Alliance Party, or Panal, wondered why it took more than four years for former ISSSTE head Miguel Ángel Yunes to denounce Gordillo's alleged demand that ISSSTE finance Panal to the tune of 20 million pesos a month.
Stories, Frontera. Previous story. The week before, Gordillo had accused Yunes, whom she had gotten appointed to his position, of mismanagement of ISSSTE funds.

Sergio Sarmiento's column points out that the enormous power of union leaders in Mexico tends to benefit union leaders, and not workers. He said Elba Esther Gordillo is not the problem: he said if Mexico wants to get at the root of the problem, it must modify Article 28 of the Constitution and eliminate unions' exemption from monopoly laws. "Every worker should have the right to decide whether he or she wants to join a union. The workers must be able to vote whether or not they want a union in their company," he wrote. He said Mexico's Congress also needs to change the country's laws so that the union rank-and-file can have a free and fair vote to elect their leadership and have access to the unions' books.

UPDATE, JULY 14: Gordillo seemed to make Sarmiento's point for him in an interview with Salvador Camarena on W Radio. Gordillo responded to an article by former Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda that she gets $100 million a year from teachers union dues by saying that the finances of the union are private, and not public. "It's a private organization. What I am asking for is an audit of a public organization, the ISSTE. The union's dues are private."

     She added that for the union's finances to be made available, there would have to be a consensus within the organization. "I think it is going to have to be done, that it has to be done. I am convinved that we have to do it, but not under pressure, but because the workers want it," she said. Story from Reforma.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Former Mexican social security institute official says
teachers union leader asked him to finance her party
in meeting at Loews Coronado Bay hotel in 2007

Writers discuss Elba Esther Gordillo in issue of Educación 2001 magazine

elba esther gordillo mug     The former head of the Institute for Social Security and Services for State Workers said teachers union leader Elba Esther Gordillo (left) asked him to use institute money to finance her New Alliance Party's activities. Miguel Ángel Yunes said the request was made at the Loews Coronado Bay hotel, near a home Gordillo owns in Coronado Cays in San Diego County.

miguel angel yunes mug     Yunes said she asked for 20 million pesos a month, which at the exchange rate of 11 to the dollar in in February 2007, would have been about $1.8 million a month. (The exchange rate is around 11.7 today). He said he refused the request.

     "Elba Esther wanted to corrupt the ISSSTE and I did not let her," Yunes (right) was quoted as saying in an article in Reforma. The former National Action Party candidate for governor of Veracruz state said she also wanted to take control of ISSSTE, the Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de los Trabajadores del Estado, through having associates named to top posts.

     Gordillo called Yunes's accusations "foolhardy, frivolous and defamatory." Reforma's story, in Frontera.

     Some analysts had thought that Gordillo went public last week with a statement that she had engaged in horse trading with Felipe Calderón in the 2006 presidential race in order to immunize herself from a lawsuit or other accusations from the administration. In a June 29 press conference in Mexico City, she said that as part of the deal, Yunes went to the ISSSTE, Roberto Campa was hired at the National System of Public Security and Francisco Yáñez went to the National Lottery.
Reforma's story in the June 30 Frontera. She accused Yunes last week of mismanagement of ISSSTE funds. The ISSSTE previously had been under the thumb of the teachers union; the man who long was the de facto teachers union leader, Carlos Jongitud, directed ISSSTE from 1976-1979. He and Gordillo long had a close relationship.

dona perpetua book coverOn Monday, the national head of the PRI, former Coahuila Gov. Humberto Moreira Valdés, said he would seek a coalition agreement with New Alliance for 2012. He said Gordillo, whom he has known for 22 years, "is my friend." Moreira was a teacher and Moreira's brother Carlos has long been a teachers union leader in Coahuila state; their brother Rubén, who also served in the teaching profession, was just elected governor on July 3. In fact, according to the book "Doña Perpetua," in 2007 Carlos Moreira proposed, at a teachers union council meeting in Tijuana, that Gordillo be allowed to serve as president of the union without time limit.

     On Tuesday, Senate President Manlio Fabio Beltrones said society in general, and not Gordillo, should be wooed by the PRI. Beltrones would like to win the PRI nomination, but faces an uphill battle against Mexico state Gov. Enrique Peña Nieto. Proceso's story, El Mexicano. jump page. Beltrones has long not been a fan of Gordillo. On Friday, July 8, former PRI presidential candidate Sen. Francisco Labastida said the PRI does not need Gordillo's New Alliance Party and said getting a trustworthy agreement with her would be a "mere illusion". Story. jump page.

     Gordillo long was a member of the PRI but had major conflict with Roberto Madrazo, who used the leadership of the party to win the PRI nomination for the 2006 presidential race and prevent her from succeeding him as party leader. But Madrazo's campaign, in part due to Gordillo's blocking actions, never got off the ground, and he finished a distant third behind Calderón of the National Action Party and former Mexico City Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Democratic Revolution Party. Calderón beat López Obrador by a razor-thin margin and many believe his victory was due to Gordillo. She was expelled from the PRI after the 2006 election. She formed the New Alliance Party, also known as Panal (Partido Nueva Alianza), in 2005.

     While Gordillo may have swung the election for Calderón, many analysts say she has not kept her end of the bargain with the PAN, picking and choosing what education policies to support, sometimes changing her mind about policies after publicly supporting them. Then again, she reportedly sought four Cabinet posts for her followers following the election, but did not get them.

     educacion 2001 magazine june 2011 coverThe magazine Educación 2001 devoted much of its June issue to Gordillo, asking writers to respond to the question, "What does Elba Esther Gordillo want?"

     Alejandro Canales of the Autonomous National University of Mexico wrote that when Gordillo was asked recently whether she agreed with Moreira that current Education Minister Alonso Lujambio should resign, she replied: "Those who have been listening to me that there has not been a national education policy for many sexenios (six year presidential terms), it is now confirmed. The two, the previous and the current (education minister), are preoccupied with the presidential succession and are candidates. That is all.... I am immersed in the issue of education." Former education minister Josefina Vásquez Mota, who heads the PAN faction in the Chamber of Deputies, has been running for the PAN presidential nomination, as has Lujambio. Lujambio has gotten in hot water lately because he has been using Education Ministry money to boost his national profile. Peña Nieto has done much the same thing with Mexico state money, but for a governor to do it is one matter and for a federal Cabinet member to do it apparently another. Reforma's story, June 14 Frontera. Vásquez Mota now has passed Santiago Creel in a Mitofsky poll to become the preferred presidential candidate for the PAN.

     Canales points out that Gordillo is having her union's Fifth Congress meet from May 2011 to May 2012, two months before the presidential election. The congress that met around the time of the 2006 presidential elections met for two months, after the vote took place. Carlos Ornelas of the Autonomous Metropolitan University Xochimilco campus wrote in Educación 2011 that he suspects an attempt to influence presidential politics is behind the timing of the Fifth Congress. In a section of his article headed "La miel del Panal" (the honey of Panal, which also means honeycomb), Ornelas says Panal has been able to use public monies to pay teachers to mobilize the vote. "These mobilizing teachers are not declared as such, nor do they appear in the education payroll as political operatives, but rather are in positions such as being teaching experts assigned to non-existent schools (or, if the schools are in operation, the teachers never show up) or as assistants to zone supervisors. It is an impressive army, disciplined, with certain influence in neighborhoods and rural communities."

     Ornelas wrote that what Gordillo wants to do is to win the 2012 elections in alliance with Peña Nieto. He wrote: "The deal is obvious, in November of last year, when Gov. Peña Nieto inaugurated the new local of Section 36 of the SNTE (the teachers union, or National Education Workers Union) in Ecatepec (in Mexico state), she showed off her most flowery oratory to praise the future candidate, although in Mexico City she has put the structure of the Panal at the service of (Mayor) Marcelo Ebrard. If there are any doubts, the Señora Gordillo keeps two candles burning." Ebrard wants to run as president under the banner of the Democratic Revolution Party.

     Ornelas quotes Luis Hernández Navarro as saying, "Part of the electoral army of Panal is made up of teachers who want to be principals, new teachers who need a teaching position and teachers who seek favors from the union. In exchange for getting what they want, they must go to campaign events, find possible voters house by house, persuade them and get a photocopy of their voting credential." Ornelas concluded: "All the politicians know this, and that is why she is so sought after."

     Carlos Muñoz Izquierdo of the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City writes that pacts with Gordillo may help win elections, but don't help the government enact education policy. He said Gordillo did accept the Enlace nationwide achievement tests that began to be used in 2006. He also said she backed, on May 15, 2008, the Alliance for Education Quality, or la Alianza por la Calidad de la Educación (ACE). It called for teacher positions to be assigned as a result of competition and that the value of seniority be reduced and that of competency raised. Muñoz writes: "Nevertheless, in reality, ACE turned into a dead letter.... This was caused by, among other things, that the Alliance provoked rebellion in various sections of the SNTE and from various state governors (who, as a consequence of the promises made by Gordillo, would lose control of newly created teacher positions as well as those brought about by teacher retirements or deaths."

     Muñoz writes that the political support the government sought from teachers had been gradually falling and had just about completely disappeared. He said a political pact with Gordillo, while helping Gordillo, "is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the best way to improve the quality of education. This type of action only serves, from what we have seen, to elevate the expectations of the government, leaving intact the enormous problems that afflict national education."

     An editorial in the magazine by Julio César Gómez Torres starts off by citing a poll published in Reforma on May 15 that said 80% of teachers think Gordillo should the teachers union and that 64% think her influence does harm to the teaching profession. The union, the largest in Latin America, has a million and a half members. He writes, "Gordillo's political capital is a corporativist capital that has nothing or almost nothing to do with what teachers need as professionals, other than the salary increases that, of course, no one rejects." He then asks, "If the teachers don't accept Elba Esther as their leader, how is it that she remains there?"

The Partido Nueva Alianza is also known as Panal, which means honeycomb in Spanish, but people make jokes about it using the term pañal, which means diaper.

The teachers union is having its Fifth Congress, or Quinto Congreso. Ornelas's article had a section titled "No hay quinto malo," a bullfighting term that translates as "The fifth one can't be bad" and also translated as "if at first you don't succeed, try again" or "the fifth one is the charm."