Teachers in Argentina struck for 24 hours last week in protest against the sacking of 3000 education workers. As teachers and other public sector workers tried to enter the Ministry of Education to stage a peaceful occupation in protest, one of their leaders was filmed being beaten by a police officer.
The protestors encircled the ministry of education in a symbolic 'hug', holding signs in defence of the right to education. Union leaders say that since right wing president Mauricio Macri came to power, as well as the 3000 sackings, 130,000 teachers have been unable to finish their training update programme, with the government telling them that they must fund it out of their own pockets.
Workers in every sector are becoming poorer as Macri's 'Let's Change' government seeks to punish workers for the country's economic crisis, while protecting the interests of 'businesses, farmers and bankers' according to one union leader.
Argentina has one of the oldest public and secular school systems in Latin America, which is why its adult literacy rate is second only to Cuba's and higher than that of the US. Yet the kind of policies pursued by Macri, first as Mayor of Buenos Aires and now as President mean that this is being progressively run down, while private education thrives. The present dispute highlights the lack of spending on public schools.
Macri is a millionaire business man, who in Buenos Aires pursued pro rich and pro privatisation policies, which led to many sustained struggles by teachers and students in the town. Macri has been implicated in the off-shore tax evasion scandal, leaked in the so-called Panama papers.