Terror, deception and blackmail by Mexican government undermine international
efforts to bring end to mineworkers conflicts, say United Steelworkers

PITTSBURGH and TORONTO, June 10 /CNW/ - United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo Gerard and USW National Director for Canada Ken Neumann charge that a recent series of terrorist actions conducted by the Government of Mexico has undermined international efforts to bring an end to the more than four-year conflict between the Mexican government and the National Union of Mining, Metallurgical, Steel and Allied Workers of Mexico (Los Mineros).

Responding to the 6 June, 2010 invasion of the Grupo Mexico copper mine and facilities in Cananea, Sonora by over 2,000 federal and state police officers, backed by armed helicopters, the grave injuries of Los Mineros members Filiberto Salazar Anselmo and Rafael Angel Covarrubias Garcia, and the forceful eviction of Los Mineros Section 65 members who have been on legal strike since July 2007, Gerard says that the government of Mexican president Felipe Calderon has launched a "reign of terror" against working people.

In addition to the seriously injured individuals, there were at least three people (including one youth) hit by bullets or projectiles. Others were beaten and suffered the effects of tear gas. Police arrested five union members (Rodolfo Valdez Serrano, Everardo Ochoa Ballesteros, Luis Alonso Borbón Pérez, Luis Alonso Torres and Marcelo Lara López) and have search warrants out for various union leaders.

The police used tear gas and force to clear out the Los Mineros Section 65 union hall in Cananea and occupy the premises.

On the same day 20 car loads of state police stormed and overran a small group of miners and widows occupying the entrance to the Pasta de Conchos coal mine in Coahuila state - the site of a February 2006 explosion which killed 65 miners employed by Grupo Mexico's Industrial Minera. Five widows and two mothers of the dead miners were arrested and the mine was sealed from further entry.

In another recent event, Neumann notes that Los Mineros Section 271 special delegate Mario Garcia, who was an international guest at the USW's recent National Policy Conference in Toronto, Canada, on the 27-28 April, was "kidnapped, terrorized, and beaten" by Mexico's Federal Preventative Police (FPP) on 23 May 2010, in the industrial port city of Lazaro de Cardenas. Garcia's eye was ruptured and he was dumped in the street from an armed police vehicle. Nine others were hospitalized. Some 100 Los Mineros members were blindfolded and forced to kneel while being terrorized by the FPP with live firearms and death threats.

These events have taken place despite high-level meetings between the American and Canadian Labour representatives and Mexican government officials earlier this month.

Mexican Labour Minister Javier Lozano visited Gerard, and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in Washington during Calderon's visit with US President Barack Obama in May. Mr. Lozano also met with Canadian Labour Congress Secretary-Treasurer Hassan Yusuf and USW Western Canada Director Stephen Hunt in Ottawa on 26 May to discuss methods of working together to help bring a peaceful resolve to Grupo Mexico's and the Mexican government's conflicts with Los Mineros.

"We had a clear understanding, based on good faith agreements, with Lozano and the Calderon government that the AFL-CIO and the CLC would open a dialogue with independent unions in Mexico and that the Steelworkers would work with Los Mineros and the Mexican government directly to bring about dialogue and reconciliation."

Gerard, who met Mexican President Felipe Calderon at a state dinner hosted by US President Barack Obama on 19 May, initiated the meetings.

"Our union has been ready and willing to play a constructive role in bringing about a peaceful settlement to these issues," says Neumann. "But the Mexican government has deceived all parties with this series of horrific actions."

A representative of Lozano's office, Sub-Secretary of Labour Alvaro Castro, met with AFL-CIO representative Ben Davis and Los Mineros legal counsel Marco del Toro on 1 June to indicate that the Mexican government was willing to release Los Mineros leader Juan Linares from a Mexico City jail in exchange for an end to the union's strike in Cananea. This occurred just five days before the police invasion of Cananea.

Linares has been imprisoned since December 2008. Despite two court orders demanding his release, the Mexican government holds him on unclear charges, without bail.

"This was an act of blackmail pure and simple," says Gerard. "It clearly shows that the Mexican government is rife with corruption and deception and has no regard for Mexican workers, us or its own laws."

The USW and Los Mineros, who have initiated discussions towards an international merger, signed a Strategic Alliance in 2005. Both unions have cooperated and exchanged information on issues involving collective bargaining, international trade and occupational health and safety.

The USW has assisted Los Mineros secretary-general Napoleon Gomez, who is currently living in Canada. The Mexican government has conducted a more than four-year campaign of repression against Gomez and Los Mineros by fabricating false charges against Gomez and seizing the union's bank accounts.

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information: For further information: Leo Gerard, USW International President, 412-562-2400; Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada, 416-487-1571; Stephen Hunt, USW District 3 Director, 604-683-1117; Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, bgallagher@usw.ca

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