Ei-iE

Argentina: Nation-wide teacher strike against police violence

published 11 April 2007 updated 11 April 2007

EI strongly condemned the recent use of violence by the police in Argentina to disperse a peaceful demonstration. The violence resulted in the death of a teacher.

Subsequently, teachers led massive marches throughout Argentina on 10 April to demand justice for Carlos Fuentealba, a 42-year-old public educator who died last week, after a policeman shot him at close range (3-7 metres) in the head with a tear gas canister. EI's member organisation Confederación de Trabajadores de la Educación de la República Argentina (CTERA) and the national trade union centre, Central de Trabajodores Argentina (CTA), held a 24-hour strike on 9 April, while the other public workers' unions held a 2-hour work stoppage.

Teacher killed by police during demonstration

Carlos Fuentealba, a 42-year-old teacher, was killed during a teacher demonstration for pay increase on 4 April. A police officer from the Neuquén provincial force shot a tear gas grenade at close range at him, while he was seated in the back seat of a car. Over twenty other teachers and union representatives have been hurt in the repression that day. Teachers in the province Neuquén had been protesting for one month, claiming the increase of the basic teacher wage to meet up with the rising cost of living. The security forces interrupted the march of teachers as they were to block one of the main roads of the province. The death of Fuentealba is not an isolated example of the use of violence by the police to quell teacher protests. The day before, on 3 April, the police in Salta violently dispersed teachers who were waiting for the decision of the provincial parliament about wage increase.

Tens of thousands of teachers mourned his death

Teachers in white work smocks led the protest marches in Buenos Aires, carrying letters which spelled out "Nunca Mas" or "Never again". As many as 7 000 people gathered on the Plaza de Mayo to protest against the use of violence by the police. In Neuquén, some 27 000 people marched on the provincial government house, painting its doors and windows black. But the march itself was peaceful and silent, as tens of thousands of teachers mourned the death of their colleague.

Basic teacher salary barely above the poverty line

After a lengthy negotiation process with CTERA, the government finally raised the basic teacher wage to 1040 pesos, or US$334, in February. Although this has been an improvement from the previous sum of US$270 (below poverty line), the basic teacher salary can barely support a family of four. Furthermore, the cost of living and transportation varies greatly in different provinces. The inflation rate of nearly 10% in 2006 made the increase almost insignificant. This prompted teachers from eight provinces to demand more goverment action to improve the wage conditions of teachers.

EI wrote a protest letter to the governors of both Neuquén and Salta provinces, and to the President, denouncing the use of violence. CTERA will file a complaint to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Below is the content of EI's letter dated 9 April 2007, in Spanish:

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San José, Costa Rica, 09 de abril de 2007.

Señor Presidente de la República Argentina Lic. Néstor Carlos Kirchner

Atención: Señor Jorge Sobisch Gobernador Neuquén, Argentina

Señor Juan Carlos Romero Gobernador Salta, Argentina

Señor Presidente:

La Internacional de la Educación, Federación Sindical Mundial que representa a más de 30 millones de docentes y trabajadoras y trabajadores en educación en 166 países, a través de 348 organizaciones sindicales afiliadas, desea manifestar nuestra preocupación y el más vehemente repudio, por las acciones represivas de la policía, en contra de las y los docentes argentinos, en las provincias de Salta y Neuquén, agredidos mientras exigían, el pasado 4 de abril, el cumplimiento del incremento salarial, aprobado a nivel nacional en febrero del año en curso.

La Internacional de la Educación apoya las demandas de justa remuneración, reivindicadas por nuestras afiliadas, la Confederación de Trabajadores de la Educación de la República Argentina (CTERA) y la Confederación de Educadores Argentinos (CEA), así como de todos los gremios docentes, provinciales y municipales que las conforman, que forzados por la inexistencia de respuestas, se han visto obligados a manifestarse en las calles, y han sido sometidos por medio de la violencia y la brutalidad.

Señor presidente, le solicitamos que interponga sus buenos oficios, para que la muerte del profesor Carlos Fuentealba, acaecida durante dicha manifestación no quede impune, y que la mano de la justicia llegue pronta y cumplida, alcanzando a la persona o personas culpables de este crimen.

La comunidad educativa internacional ha estado pendiente de la lucha del magisterio argentino por una educación pública gratuita y de calidad y seguiremos apoyando las acciones de CTERA y CEA para el mejoramiento del sistema educativo nacional y de las condiciones laborales y salariales de los docentes argentinos.

Quedando a la espera de contar con sus buenos oficios, le saluda

Atentamente, Combertty Rodríguez García Coordinador Regional Principal Internacional de la Educación para América Latina