For months, education workers in the province of Jujuy, Argentina, have been mobilising for decent wages and to defend public education amidst the regressive reforms of the provincial government. Peaceful demonstrations held by education workers and civil society groups supporting them are being violently repressed by security forces.
People have been seriously injured. A 17-year-old boy lost an eye after being hit with rubber bullets fired by local police and many demonstrators have been arbitrarily arrested and taken away in unmarked vehicles. The provincial police have also entered people’s homes and arrested them without warrants. The CTERA education workers’ confederation, affiliated to Education International, condemns this violent and arbitrary repression of demonstrators by the police and public authorities.
Jujuy is a province of Argentina in the far northwest of the country, on the border with Chile and Bolivia. It is rich in natural and mineral resources, particularly lithium. The local population comprises various communities of indigenous peoples who have resisted oppression and discrimination throughout history, especially in the defence of their ancestral lands. Poverty rates in Jujuy are nonetheless high, and its people have long suffered at the hands of authoritarian and repressive governments linked to the neoliberal right.
Jujuy’s current governor, Gerardo Morales, has been holding Milagro Sala – leader of the Tupac Amaru social organisation and a member of the Mercosur parliament, PARLASUR – in prison since 2016, on the basis of irregular and politicised legal proceedings.
He has also violently repressed social protests and promoted constitutional reform that limits citizens’ rights. His political ambitions have led him to run for the presidency of the country in the upcoming elections on 22 October 2023.
Governor Morales tried to restrict the right to strike and to dismiss the workers taking part in the protests but had to back down under social pressure. He is nonetheless pressing ahead with a constitutional reform that poses a threat to human rights, the environment, and national sovereignty. Education International expresses its solidarity with the education workers of Jujuy and is calling for respect for their demands and their right to freedom of association.
The repression of social and trade union protests by the government of Jujuy has been denounced by the CTA, the CGT and CTA-A union confederations, as well as by international human rights organisations such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch.
The IACHR has urged the state to respect the right to freedom of expression, to cease the use of force and to re-establish dialogue with indigenous peoples. The organisation has nonetheless reported that, since Saturday 17 June, excessive force, tear gas, and rubber bullets have been used to break up non-violent demonstrations, leaving many injured.
During the recent International Labour Conference of the ILO (Geneva, June 2023), Roberto Baradel, deputy general secretary of the CTERA (Education Workers’ Confederation of Argentina) and international secretary of the CTA-T workers’ union, filed a complaint with the tripartite agency regarding the Jujuy government’s violations of human, labour, and trade union rights and the ILO Conventions ratified by Argentina.
Hugo Yasky, President of the Regional Committee of Education International Latin America and President of the Human Rights Committee of Argentina’s National Chamber of Deputies, has denounced that the constitutional reform promoted by Morales violates ILO Convention 169, which establishes the obligation to consult indigenous peoples concerning legislative changes. The constitutional reform seeks to remove the limit on the governor’s re-election and modify the electoral system. The opposition coalition Juntos por el Cambio has dismissed the IACHR’s message and congratulated Morales for his firmness.
The conflict in Jujuy not only affects the people of Jujuy but has national and international ramifications. Morales’ constitutional reform is a bid to impose an authoritarian and neoliberal model that benefits large corporations to the detriment of the most vulnerable groups in society. Among them are education workers, who are demanding better working conditions and salaries, and social leaders such as Milagro Sala, who has been imprisoned on political grounds for over five years.
Education International, which represents more than 32 million teachers worldwide, expresses its solidarity with the education workers and the people of Jujuy, calls for respect for human rights, the release of Milagro Sala, and an end to the repression and political persecution in Jujuy. Education International also calls on the international community to remain vigilant and mobilised in response to this grave situation that represents a threat to democracy and the rule of law in Argentina.