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Mexico leader defends reforms amid protests

President Enrique Pena Nieto touts country's "grand transformation", as teachers riled by new rules stage demonstration.

Last Modified: 03 Sep 2013 07:12
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Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has defended his sweeping reform agenda, urging his countrymen to back the changes after protests against his planned energy and education overhauls.

On Monday Pena Nieto used his first state of the union address to tout the "grand transformation" of Mexico that his administration has pushed since he took office nine months ago.

"We knew beforehand that getting the grand transformation of Mexico would be complex because we have to defeat inertia and resistance," Pena Nieto said from his presidential residence of Los Pinos before an audience of officials, military officers and politicians.

"I urge everyone to be part of a Mexico that is not afraid of transformation," said Pena Nieto, who was originally due to address the nation on Sunday but changed the date due to the protests.

As he spoke, thousands of teachers who oppose mandatory evaluations, maintained a base camp in Mexico City's Zocalo Square from where they have launched protests in the past two weeks. 

The protests followed the implementation of new rules that will require teachers to undergo mandatory testing to get jobs and promotions.

The Senate must now pass the bill, part of a reform stripping the powers of unions over education.

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