Foto: Alessandro Maradei
Foto: Alessandro Maradei

Uruguay: Trade unions denounce espionage of teachers and students

published 9 February 2023 updated 20 March 2024

Fenapes, an education union affiliated to Education International, has denounced the practice of spying on union members and school pupils, as revealed by an investigative journalism report.

Fenapes, together with Uruguayan trade union centre PIT-CNT, has requested urgent meetings with the heads of the INAU [Uruguayan Institute for Children and Adolescents], the ANEP [National Board of Public Education], the Human Rights Commission of the Chamber of Deputies and the Court Prosecutor, to voice their concern over these serious incidents.

These practices have been described by Fenapes as another example of the long list of abuses and persecution suffered at the hands of the government by workers and civil society activists, especially those linked to public education. The persecution of minors is deemed to be a violation of individual rights and a threat to the rule of law.

This is not the first time the union has had to denounce the government for acts of persecution and attacks on the right to education, trade union rights, and academic freedom, among other human and labour rights abuses.

Fenapes vice president, Marcela Da Col, has expressed her concern about the conspicuous silence about these abuses by some legislators who have, until now, been very active and vocal on social media against action taken by education unions.

The case has led to the investigation of several senior police officers for irregularities and offences, including the deputy police directors. The leadership appointed by the current government has been removed, including the director of the National Police, Diego Fernández, and deputy executive director, Jorge Berriel. Six senior police officers are being investigated in total, but the identities of two of them have not yet been revealed.

The PIT-CNT executive secretariat has expressed its total condemnation of these practices and has announced that it will be on constant alert in light of these incidents and has not ruled out further action. The fact that surveillance operations are being encouraged within educational establishments is particularly disconcerting.

Education International recognises the seriousness of the complaints and wholeheartedly supports the Uruguayan trade union organisations in their quest for justice. The Education International Latin America Regional Committee has published a statement on the matter and is actively engaged in bringing it to the attention of international authorities in charge of protecting human rights.