Teacher Union Boss Busted South of the Border — used union funds for plastic surgery, San Diego Mansion….

Looks like Mexico also has Big Labor Kingpins as well.  From Forbes’ Kenneth Rapoza:

Elba Esther Gordillo. Mexican Teahers' union Kingpin..(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Elba Esther Gordillo. Mexican Teahers’ union Kingpin..(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Elba Esther Gordillo, head of the National Education Workers’ Union in Mexico, was arrested Tuesday night for alleging stealing as much as 2.6 million pesos from the union’s coffers for personal shopping sprees in the United States. And with Gordillo nabbed, the market is now expecting new leadership to tackle reforms in the public sector.

Gordillo was viewed as a “kingmaker among politicians”, The New York Times reported on Wednesday, for her ability to deliver votes and suppress enemies. Her surprise arrest by the Attorney General’s office in Mexico City surprised a country that has gotten used to seeing public figures escape scrutiny despite allegations of abuses of public funds.

Gordillo has been one of the most powerful Mexican political figures in the past 20 years. Her arrest comes hours after the promulgation of the landmark education law that will increase the accountability of teachers in the country. The message sent by new President Enrique Pena Nieto is to limit the de facto powers that have blocked the passage of some structural reform in the education system.

Gordillo’s arrest sends a positive signal with respect to at least some changes in the policy field, in particular the energy sector. Investors are waiting on the government to approve an increase in the allowance of private sector investment in the state-dominated energy sector before the summer’s out. One of the most notorious opponents of energy reform has been the unions at the state owned oil company Pemex. Their leadership is as controversial as the teacher’s union.

“In the wake of Gordillo’s arrest, the Pemex union leadership may well think twice about blocking the passage of energy reform,” says Benito Berber, a Mexico strategist for Nomura Securities. “The arrest of Gordillo is a bold move by President Pena Nieto. It will be seen as extremely positive for the country,” he says. “The president’s popularity will surely increase as a result of it.”

And from theStar.com (from AP’s Olga R. Rodriguez):

In a press conference minutes after her detention, Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said Gordillo is accused of embezzling 2 billion pesos (about $160 million) from union funds. Prosecutors said they had detected nearly $3 million in purchases at Neiman Marcus using union funds, as well as $17,000 in U.S. plastic surgery bills and the purchase of a million-dollar home in San Diego.

“We are looking at a case in which the funds of education workers have been illegally misused, for the benefit of several people, among them Elba Esther Gordillo,” Murillo said.

Gordillo displayed her opulence openly with designer clothes and bags, bodyguards, expensive cars and properties including a penthouse apartment in Mexico City’s exclusive Polanco neighbourhood. She has been widely lampooned for her many plastic surgeries and depicted in political cartoons as ghoulish. Meanwhile, Mexico’s teachers are poorly paid and public education has long been considered sub-par.