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Mexican Trade Unionist Juan Linares Released from Jail

28 February, 2011

Juan Linares Montufar was released from jail last Thursday, 24 February, in what trade unionists around the world are calling a victory for international solidarity against the repressive Mexican government. The release comes one week after trade unions around the world conducted a week-long "Global Days of Action" for trade union rights in Mexico.

Linares outwitted a coordinated and nefarious grouping of employers/government/yellow unions in accepting their offer of a pardon in exchange for his turning on his union, the ICEM affiliate, National Union of Mine, Metal, and Steel Workers (SNTMMSSRM), only to announce details of the illegal offer and continued staunch allegiance to his union as soon as the pardon was made official.

Linares was a political prisoner, held illegally since 3 December 2008 and without bond since his arrest. The sham charges against him all relate to the transfer of funds from a Trust created by SNTMMSSRM. His detention is one part of the campaign of trade union intimidation and repression by the Mexican government.

Juan Linares is the President of the Oversight and Justice Council of the SNTMMSSRM, also known as Los Mineros, and a key member of the union’s leadership. He was greeted on his release at 02h00 on 24 February by over 100 Los Mineros members outside the jail.

The transfer of the trust funds was perfectly legal under Mexican law, as well as being a protected exercise of trade union autonomy under ILO Convention 87. Two state charges against Linares were dismissed during his time incarcerated, but a federal charge against him was dragged out while the courts denied him bail.

Linares was held at the Reclusorio Norte prison in Mexico City. He received regular visits from his family, other Mineros leaders, and international trade union delegations. He said to all these visitors, “I could walk out of this jail tomorrow if I were willing to betray my union. But I will never do that.”

Napoleón Gómez

But it was this long-standing offer of freedom with personal payment of millions of pesos that gave Linares his route to freedom. The deal offered to Linares stipulated that he change his chosen defence lawyer, leave the ranks of Los Mineros for a yellow union of miners, and attack Los Mineros leadership. On Linares’ acceptance of these terms, the yellow union complainants appeared before a judge and withdrew their accusations.

Linares said following his release that his pardon could not be revoked, as stipulated under Article 93 of the Mexican Federal Penal Code, and the pardon was irreversibly ratified. In addressing the court, Linares said that neither he nor Napoleón Gómez Urrutia had committed any crime, that the complainants of the case were representatives of the company Grupo México, that during his illegal detainment he was pressured and offered the pardon deal, and that the transfer of bribe money would be made through a contract employing Linares as a “labour peace broker.”

The pardon deal that Linares signed had no legal foundation, especially as it was reached through intimidation and bribery, and was thus discarded. The ICEM salutes Juan Linares for his dignified victory and loyalty to his fellow Mineros.