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Mon Apr 17, 2017, 03:05 AM

Amid police attacks and stalled wage talks, Argentine educators set up school in front of Congress

Representatives from Argentina's largest teachers' unions gathered in Buenos Aires' Congressional Plaza last week to protest both the federal government's refusal to enter into collective bargaining talks and over recent incidents involving police violence against educators and students.

While Argentina's teachers' unions have staged numerous protests against the right-wing Mauricio Macri administration or his chief surrogate, Buenos Aires Province Governor María Eugenia Vidal, over the last two months, this protest made headlines for its novel approach: the raising of a mock school building facing Congress.

Leading the ceremony were Sonia Alesso of the Federation of Argentine Educators (CTERA); Roberto Baradel of the Buenos Aires Province Teachers' Union (SUTEBA); Eduardo López of the Union of Education Workers (UTE); Hugo Yasky of the CTA (the second largest labor federation in Argentina); and David Edwards of Education International.

The structure, assembled with metal poles and a canvas shell painted to resemble the hundreds of mission-style schools built during the populist Juan Perón administration in the 1940s and '50s, was inaugurated on Wednesday. It's also a nod to the White Tent Protest held by teachers' unions between 1997 and 1999 against cuts to education imposed at the time by the market-friendly Carlos Menem administration.

"Don't waste taxpayer money spying on us and sending provocateurs," Alesso said during the ceremony, referring to Macri. "We've sought dialogue for two months now; follow the law and let us protest in peace."

Education International's David Edwards, visiting from the U.S., called on teachers to not give up. "I know you'll win, and that you'll get a decent agreement."

Law and orders

The move comes just after a teachers' union protest at the same site was violently quelled on the night of April 9 by municipal police. City officials justified the action, which resulted in two teachers being detained without charges and numerous injuries, by describing the demonstration as "unauthorized."

CTERA union officials, however, disproved the claim by producing a letter dated April 7 informing authorities of the upcoming protest, and approved by the city the same day. "This was done on Macri's orders," CTA union official Francisco Nenna said. "We know this because city officials (led by a Macri ally) themselves said so."

Another close Macri ally, Jujuy Province Governor Gerardo Morales, came under fire on April 13 for illegally ordering provincial police to break up a previously authorized meeting of faculty and students at the University of Jujuy. Two students were detained - including student body leader Joaquín Quispe, who was held overnight without charges and beaten.

Talks refused

The nation's six teachers' unions, which together represent over 500,000 teachers, are demanding wage hikes of 30% for 2017. The demand comes after inflation doubled to 45% within a year after President Macri was narrowly elected in a November 2015 runoff.

Inflation so far this year, running at 35%, is twice the 17% hike in the federal education budget signed by Macri for FY2017.

While a number of provinces have reached agreements with their teachers' unions, classes in most of Argentina have been delayed for five weeks as talks remain deadlocked with numerous governors and the federal government refuses to intervene.

The Macri administration, which held successful collective bargaining talks last year resulting in a 35% raise, has rejected holding them this year.

The "Itinerant Public School," as its organizers call it, meanwhile continues to host seminars on educational policy, films, cultural events dramatizing the dispute, and even classes. Some 27,000 people visited the site in its first three days, many of them for screenings of a documentary on slain teachers' union organizer Carlos Fuentealba.

UTE leader Eduardo López explained that the structure will be dismantled on April 19, in accordance with city permits, and will then be taken on the road.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=es&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.clarin.com%2Fsociedad%2Fgremio-docente-inauguro-escuela-itinerante-fuertes-discursos-denuncias-gobierno_0_H1yv1bhae.html&edit-text=

And: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.eldestapeweb.com%2Fpor-que-es-ilegal-que-ingrese-la-policia-las-universidades-nacionales-n27783

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