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Powerful head of Mexico teachers union is arrested

Elba Esther Gordillo, seen in a 2003 photo, has been arrested on accusations that she misused teachers union funds.
(Jose Luis Magnan / Associated Press)

MEXICO CITY -- Elba Esther Gordillo, one of the most powerful women in Mexico and head of the country’s massive and controversial teachers union, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of misusing more than $156 million in union funds, Mexican officials said.

Gordillo was arrested at the Toluca airport Tuesday along with three other people, authorities said.

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In a news conference late Tuesday, federal prosecutors described a complicated web of bank transactions, alleging that funds had been diverted from union accounts to personal bank accounts.

Gordillo, an outsized personality with lavish tastes who goes by the nickname “The Teacher,” has run the Mexican teachers union for more than 20 years and has earned a reputation for being a fierce political power player.

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She has also been dogged by accusations of corruption that have never been proved.

Gordillo and her union, the National Syndicate of Education Workers, or SNTE, opposed a recently approved educational reform package backed by new Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

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