Steelworkers Hail Liberation of Mexican Union Leader After Two Years as Political Prisoner

BURNABY, B.C., Feb. 25 /CNW/ - Mexican union leader Juan Linares is receiving a hero's welcome following his liberation from two years of political imprisonment by his government.

A prominent leader of Los Mineros (the National Union of Mining, Metallurgical, Steel and Allied Workers of Mexico) Linares was imprisoned as part of the Mexican government's brutal repression of labour and human rights activists.

About 50 Los Mineros members greeted Linares on Thursday as he left Mexico City's Reclusorio de Norte prison. He was immediately taken to a secure location while awaiting a reunion with his family.

Linares, whose union has a formal alliance with the United Steelworkers, was imprisoned in December 2008, after returning to Mexico from attending the B.C. Federation of Labour convention in Vancouver.

"Juan Linares' release as a political prisoner is a victory for the campaign by our union and the international labour movement to push for his liberation and complete vindication," said Stephen Hunt, the United Steelworkers (USW) Western Canada director.

Linares is a key member of the Los Mineros union's national executive, led by secretary general Napoleon Gomez. With the support of the United Steelworkers, Gomez has lived in Canada for more than four years, after fleeing death threats in Mexico.

Linares and Gomez have been persecuted and threatened by Mexico's government despite the fact that Mexican courts dismissed false charges against them over the handling of union funds.

"The illegal imprisonment of Juan Linares and the forced exile of Napoleon Gomez symbolize the violent, unacceptable repression of labour and human rights in Mexico," said Ken Neumann, the USW's National Director for Canada.

"The release of Juan Linares must be the beginning of the end of the Mexican government's violations of basic freedoms and rights," Neumann said.

Linares' release follows demonstrations in Canada and 40 other countries last week supporting Los Mineros members and other independent trade unions in Mexico.

"Juan Linares' release is a great triumph for justice and a step forward in our struggle for labour and human rights in Mexico," Napoleon Gomez said.

"On behalf of Juan and his family, we thank the United Steelworkers and the Canadian and international labour movements for their solidarity and support."

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information:

Ken Neumann, USW, 416-544-5950
Stephen Hunt, USW, 604-683-1117
Napoleon Gomez, Los Mineros, 604-683-1117

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