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Mexico fires 291 teachers, hinting at tougher line on reform

MEXICO CITY — Mexico's government said today it would dismiss 291 teachers who failed to comply with its education reform, hinting at a more confrontational approach to thousands of dissidents who have spent months resisting the landmark measure.

Education reform was the first of the major bills passed by President Enrique Pena Nieto after he took office in December 2012 in a bid to improve teaching standards in Latin America's second largest economy, which experts blame for holding back growth.

Pena Nieto has described the reform as the one that would have the biggest impact on the country's future.

However, the constitutional reform, which imposes more stringent rules on teachers and subjects them to evaluations, has been beset by problems, with violent demonstrations by militant teachers repeatedly sowing chaos in the southwest.

The government did an abrupt U-turn on the evaluations at the end of May, suspending them ahead of mid-term elections on June 7 that were blighted by protests against the reform. Once the elections had passed, it reinstated them.

Publishing results of evaluations carried out between Aug. 22 and Oct. 3, the education ministry said that nearly all the teachers due to be vetted had submitted to the process.

However, 291 teachers or educational staff who failed to do so without good reason would be dismissed, it said.

It was one of the biggest single layoffs announced by the government since protests began against the law.

On Wednesday, the ministry, which was taken over by Pena Nieto's chief of staff at the end of August, said it would dock a day's wage from more than 85,000 teachers who went on strike on Oct. 12 to protest against the education reform. 

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