Head of Mexico's teachers' union jailed
By Olga R. Rodriguez, APMEXICO CITY -- One of Mexico's biggest political kingfish sits in a women's prison in the capital, accused of embezzling millions in funds from her teachers' union to pay for property, private planes, plastic surgery and her Neiman Marcus bill.
February 28, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
Elba Esther Gordillo, 68, leader of the 1.5-million-member National Union of Education Workers, was arrested late Tuesday afternoon as she landed at the Toluca airport near Mexico City on a private flight from San Diego. Assistant Attorney General Alfredo Castillo told the Televisa network that she was taken off the plane and flown by authorities to Mexico City.
Upon arrival in Mexico's capital, she asked to see a doctor then was taken in a caravan of Federal Police and Marine vehicles to Santa Martha Acatitla prison, Televisa reported.
The fall of one of the country's most storied and divisive characters — unthinkable just months ago — comes with the return to power of Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party, which previously ruled for 71 years and once helped Gordillo consolidate her power. She was arrested one day after President Enrique Pena Nieto signed into law a comprehensive education reform designed to dismantle a system she controlled.
Union members had been marching in the streets against the reform in recent weeks, and the fiery Gordillo, who rose from schoolteacher to a maker of presidents, vowed to keep fighting.
“I want to die with the epitaph: Here lies a warrior. She died like a warrior,” Gordillo said in a speech on her 68th birthday earlier this month.
She has not spoken or appeared publicly since her arrest.
In a press conference minutes after her detention, Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said Gordillo is accused of embezzling 2 billion pesos (about US$160 million) from union funds. Prosecutors said they had detected nearly US$3 million in purchases at Neiman Marcus using union funds, as well as US$17,000 in U.S. plastic surgery bills and the purchase of a million-dollar home in San Diego.
This May 12, 2003 file photo shows Elba Esther Gordillo, former secretary-general of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, speaking at a news conference with foreign ...