Mexican government uses reign of terror to protect Grupo México's interests

08.06.2010

In almost simultaneous raids on Grupo México mines in Cananea and Pasta de Conchos, Mexican government uses State and Federal forces to retake mines in blatant disrespect for the rights of Mexican Miners' Union, striking workers and grieving widows.

MEXICO: Hours after the Mexican government attacked striking workers at a Grupo México mine in Cananea, at 2.15 am in the morning on Monday June 6 20 patrol cars of the State forces in Coahuila escorted Grupo México back into the number eight mine at the Pasta de Conchos mine, enabling the company to retake possession of the mine.

Sixty-five miners were trapped underground on February 19, 2006 when a methane explosion occurred in the number eight shaft of the Pasta de Conchos mine owned by Grupo México. Many of the miners that died were members of the Mexican Miners' and Metalworkers' Union (SNTMMSRM).

This tragic event precipitated and coincided with a series of actions that included the illegal removal of Napoleon Gómez as the union's general secretary after he called the incident an act of "industrial homicide".

Only two bodies have been recovered from the Pasta de Conchos mine and the widows and families of the deceased have continued a vigil at the mine calling for the recovery of the buried miners and justice for the appalling health and safety conditions that led to the disaster.

Despite the Federal government suspending all work at the mine since the incident, it has at the same time now given Grupo México permission to recommence exploration and operations at the coal mine. The families who appeared at the entrance to the mine within minutes of the arrival of the State police were refused information, entry or to take photographs.

Cananea 

Meanwhile, the latest reports from Cananea in Mexico, where the miners have been on strike since July 2007 over massive health and safety violations in the notoriously dangerous Grupo Mexico-owned copper mine, indicate that Federal police have retaken the mine.

At about 10 p.m. on Sunday night, a force of approximately 2,000 Federal Police entered the town of Cananea. Some 400 police approached the mine gates and fired tear gas at the union members who were defending them.  At some point a fire was set in the administrative building adjacent to the gate.

The police then fired tear gas into the union office, forcing the workers inside to flee through a side door. The union office is now under government control.

There were reports of two union members wounded and possibly killed, although no names have been reported. The Mexican Miners' Union reported that three workers had gunshot or projectile wounds, others had been beaten or were suffering effects of the tear gas.

Federal warrants were issued for union leaders including Sergio Tolano Lizárraga, General Secretary of Minerso Section 65, Juan Gutiérrez Ballesteros, Sonora delegate of the National Executive Committee, and Jacinto Martínez, a member of the local executive committee. Last night Tolano won an injunction against his arrest warrant.

Federal police arrested five Mineros: Rodolfo Valdez Serrano, Everardo Ochoa Ballesteros, Luis Alonso Borbón Pérez, Luis Alonso Torres y Marcelo Lara López.

On Monday, the Governor of Sonora, the Executive President of Grupo México, and Labor Secretary Javier Lozano held a press conference to announce a $5 billion infrastructure project in Cananea.  The company also offered a payout to striking workers in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement (approximately six times the legally required amount) provided the workers accept the money by Friday June 11. The union has said workers will refuse the severance offer as their strike is still legally existent.

Today, June 8, IMF and ICEM have both sent letters to President Calderon, urging the Mexican government to immediately stop the use of force against workers who are legally and rightfully defending their rights.