|Detail of poster for artistic exchange & the FAT's 13th convention|
|Artist Beatriz Aurora|
Mexican Labor News & Analysis
July , 2012, Vol. 17, No. 7
Introduction to this issue:
NOTE TO READERS: HISTORIC MOMENT IN MEXICO
We are at an historic moment in Mexico, both because of the campaign being waged by Andrés Manuel López Obrador to overturn the elections, but even more because of the rise of the #I Am 132 student movement that has inspired a mass movement to resist what it sees as the “imposition” of Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) by the election authorities. While Mexican Labor News and Analysis, has for seventeen years focused primarily on workers, labor unions and labor politics, when development such as this occur, we must cover them because they have a profound impact on the national political scene and therefore on workers and the labor unions.
We have therefore made the anti-“imposition” movement our lead story and have translated two documents, one from Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s campaign and the other the “Manifesto” of the #I Am 132 movement. The document from the López Obrador campaign gives us an inside look at the organization of a political movement. The student manifesto, the first part written in an inspiring poetic style and the second part a political program focused primarily on democratizing the media, shows us how young people are attempting to understand what happening and to build a movement of opposition.
We also, of course, cover developments in the labor movement, with a victory by STIMAHCS/FAT, an overview by Kent Patterson and an article about Canadian miners and Mexican farmers by David Bacon, and more.
- Dan La Botz, editor.
Contents for this issue:
- Mexican Movement Fights "Imposition" of PRI's Enrique Peña Nieto
- Documents of the Movement in Translation: Manifesto the #I am 132 to the People of Mexico
- Documents of the Movement in Translation: National Plan for the Defense of Democracy and Dignity of Mexico
- FAT Affiliate Wins Second Election at DMI
- Outlook Dim for Mexican Workers: Unemploment, Rights Denied
- Mine Explosion Takes Lives of Seven Miners in Coahuila
- Rights Observers Find "Climate of Intimidation" in Mineworker Representation Election
- Mexican Farmers Up Against Canadian Mining Goliaths
- Special Report:: The Massacre of Miners Continues
- LABOR SHORTS: SME Protestors Beaten; Flex–N–Gate Workers Form Democratic Union; CAT Recognized by International Peace Brigades
Mexican Movement Fights "Imposition" of PRI's Enrique Peña Nieto
By Dan La Botz
The Mexican presidential election that took place on July 2 is over—but it is not done.
Tens of thousands of Mexicans have been marching every week for almost a month in Mexico City and other cities throughout the country against what they call the “imposition” by Mexican election authorities of Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) as president of Mexico.
Inspired by the #I am 132 student movement and forming part of the newly organized National Front Against Imposition, on July 27 some ten thousand people initiated a 24-hour symbolic siege of the Mexico City broadcast center of Televisa, the institution they see as representing the economic elite’s control of the political process.
Many spent the night in tents, some wearing the Guy Fawkes masks inspired by the film “V for Vendetta” that were so popular during in the Occupy movements encampments in the United States. At the same time, hackers supporting the movement succeeded in infiltrating the Televisa system and sending Televisa twitter messages against Peña Nieto.
Meanwhile in the Federal Electoral Tribunal (TEPF) and in the Congress there are proposals to investigate election vote buying, to void the election because of fraud, and to install an interim president until a new election can be held.
While initially it was students who protested against Peña Nieto, beginning before the election, since then they have been joined by Mexicans from all walks of life, among them school teachers, electrical workers, the urban poor and peasants. The students’ carnivalesque demonstrations have been completely different than the marches and rallies of political parties and labor union that are usually carefully managed, highly disciplined and usually serious affairs.
This is a youth movement, with all of its creativity and energy, and now with its older allies, attempting to stir the conscience of the nation, speaking out against a man and a party that its adherents see as representing everything that is wrong with Mexico, and seeing in this election an opportunity to change the course of the country.
While they, like others, object to the alleged election fraud, they also object to what they see as an authoritarian party that will continue the neoliberal economic programs of the last 25 years.
Everything Is up in the Air
While it is also almost a month since Mexican election authorities announced that Peña had received 38.21 percent of the votes, a plurality that should have made him the victor in the national elections held on July 2, still everything appears to remain up in the air.
• The election authorities have not yet certified the election and formally declared Peña Nieto to be president-elect.
• Opposition candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the left-of-center Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), who came in second with 31.59 percent of the vote, alleges that there is enough evidence to show that the PRI spent more money than allowed, bought votes with gift cards, and in other ways committed fraud. He is demanding that the Federal Electoral Tribunal void the election and that the Congress install an interim president until a new election can be held. There are no provisions in the Constitution for an interim president as the result of a fraudulent election.
• The Permanent Commission of the Mexican Congress has discussed the possibility of a revision of the Constitution to create a mechanism by which Congress would choose an interim president, though some have suggested that the President of the Supreme Court would become interim president.
• The PRD and the conservative National Action Party (PAN), whose candidate Josefina Vásquez Mota won 25 percent of the vote, have called for Congressional investigations into the alleged vote buying. The PAN, however, is not seeking to overturn the election.
• Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Mexicans, inspired by the #I am 132 student movement, have marched every Sunday since the election through the boulevards of Mexico City and the avenues of dozens of other cities throughout the country to oppose the “imposition” of Enrique Peña Nieto and the PRI on the Mexican people.
Students Take the Lead
The #I am 132 student movement (http://www.facebook.com/marchaYoSoy132) has been the leader of the mass movement which has grown up in opposition to the “imposition” of Peña Nieto. #I am 132 defines itself as an autonomous, peaceful, social and political student movement, completely independent of political parties, candidates and electoral organizations. The PRI claims that López Obrador controls or manipulates the movement, a charge that its leaders deny. Many of those active in the movement no doubt are supporters of López Obrador, but they do not carry his signs, wear his t-shirts, and hardly mention his name, the struggle they say is about democracy.
National Convention Against Imposition
Arguing that “we cannot do it alone,” the students brought together hundreds of popular organizations, including unions, community organizations, and peasant groups in a National Convention Against Imposition held in mid-July. The meeting was attended by 115 delegates from 17 states who came representing hundreds of organizations and gave birth to the National Front Against Imposition (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Frente-Nacional-Contra-la-Imposici%C3%B3n-Oficial/319059098188430) which organized the latest protest of ten thousand at Televisa.
The Front takes the position that Enrique Peña Nieto should not be president. “He should not be president, not only because of the corrupt regime that he represents and because of his collusion with and subordination to Televsia, but also because of the threat that he represents for our country: privatization of petroleum, increases in taxes, labor law reform that will legalize the exploitation of works and the privatization of the health sector and pensions.”
The Convention boldly laid out a timetable of further protests through October:
• September 1 - A National Day of Struggle against the Imposition, including a march from the Federal Electoral Tribunal (TEPJF) to the House of Representatives to demonstrate against Felipe Calderón’s presentation of his Sixth State of the Union Address.
• September 6 – which is the day by which the TEPJF must certify the election - another National Day of Struggle to include the taking of public places, blocking of highways, the taking over of toll booths and opening of toll gates.
• September 15-16 – Mexico’s National Independence Day – the occupation of the public plazas of the country with the cry: “Long Live Mexico without the PRI!”
• October 2 – a national student strike accompanied by marches.
• Finally, a possible encirclement of the Congress to prevent Enrique Peña Nieto from taking office.
Protesters a Minority
This is of course a minority movement. Two-thirds of the country voted for the conservative National Action Party or the Institutional Revolutionary Party with its history of authoritarianism and corruption. While tens of thousands are marching, tens of millions either supported Peña Nieto or accept the election results, even if they believe fraud may have been involved. The question is whether or the not students and their allies can stir the inert millions on the left who tend to agree with them into action. They only have a few months to do so and they are fighting the government, the parties, and the media.
Documents of the Movement in Translation: Manifesto the #I am 132 to the People of Mexico
[The Spanish original can be found at: http://agoraglobal.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/manifiesto-del-yosoy132-al-pueblo-de-mexico/. Translation by Dan La Botz.]
To the Peoples of Mexico:
When we arrived the world was there and we were a hungry people with centuries of oppression. We were a discontented mass, we were election frauds without revolution, we were Chiapas and 500 years without a name risen up in arms, we were the Aguas Blancas [massacre] and the assassinated people of the land, we were the crisis and the foreign debt, hands without work, we were the strike, and the crushed barricades, Atenco and Oaxaca, women raped and murdered, victims of repression. We were slave labor, migrant families, bodies hung from bridges, martyrs (prey) of State terrorism, money changing hands in a campaign, murder as the free market.
We were not wanted, but we were the inevitable consequence of a past and a present plagued by truths that had been imposed.
We are not, but rather we have been. We are the result of death and indignation.
We take upon ourselves the dignity of the defamed and take up their struggle as our own. We said that we were not just numbers, and that we would not be just numbers, the silent servants of statistics and polls.
We said that to be #I Am 132 means to stand up to the insult and to emphatically refuse to bow one’s head. It means to refuse to accept the representation that is imposed on us as a reality.
#I Am 132 is a student and social, political, non-partisan, peaceful, autonomous, anti-neoliberal movement, independent of parties, candidates and organizations that represent an electoral program; a democratic movement where decision making emanates from its local and general assemblies, that has gone beyond electoral situations and will continue organizing itself and struggling to profoundly transform Mexico, as a counterweight to any political decision that violates the rights and interests of our people.
We took the road and collided with monuments that to us are walls or limits, we find the wall of an economic system that is presented as inevitable, as an absolute duty to our lives. Its bricks are the poverty of more than half of all Mexican people and the obscene wealth of a few, where the wealth of the ten richest people in the country is equal to the income of the poorest 40 million, an abandoned field that only produces misery and migrants; the lack of opportunities that pushes the dispossessed into organized crime, the sale of collective property for the benefit of the few, the favoring of megaprojects over environmental and community rights. On this wall the great powers placed, boldly, to captivate our aspirations, its opulence, the promise of progress, the dream of something of one’s own that always remains beyond us.
The wall of disinformation, where a minority controls public opinion and the truth is reduced to one more item of consumption, focusing on polls and advertising spots, on the soap operas’ vacuous characters, in a sad and cynical caricature of reality. It is on this wall that they put up our opportunity to vote, as if there really were an election, and it hadn’t already been decided beforehand by the biggest investor.
The wall that protects the companies that poison our food and sicken our children; that turns health into a luxury item for the benefit of corporations and foreign laboratories; that abandon the sick and the needy, the pregnant, the maimed, the handicapped, the suffering, the recently born and the elderly women to satiate the anonymous avarice of the stock market profits.
We see the great wall put up to stop people who want to struggle by systematically isolating them. A budding hope forced to shout into the void. From the glorious days of the Division of the North [of Pancho Villa] and the Liberating Army of the South [of Emiliano Zapata] to the petitions of the mothers whose daughters were murdered in the City of Juárez and in the State of Mexico, from the great mobilization of the students in 1929 and of their brothers in 1968, 1971 and 1999. A people whose actions and struggle were fossilized and placed in a museum and whose significance was put aside so that nobody would ask, so that no one would know. Generations of Mexicans with legitimate demands whose only aspiration was to construct a worthy and free nation, without inequalities, [found themselves facing the wall] that had been erected to oppose the right of each individual to exist, each one contemptuously ignored, as the lust for looting continued by those who want their will to be ours.
It is twelve years since many of the Mexican people gave their greatest longings to a man and he [Vicente Fox] committed one of the greatest crimes against the nation: he ignored and trampled on their hope. He, they, a system that believes that we can’t look over the walled city that they have wanted to impose on us.
We walked a while and ran into the cold structure, it is dark ignorance, where they decide which of the factory workers will have a chance to go to school, where public education is the education of the soap opera, where the goal of teaching is not real career training but rather the production of cheap labor for the multinational corporations. They put here, as if it were a gift, the modernization of education and the logic of the survival of the fittest, the standardized exams, the teacher who has become a poorly paid worker as the student’s model for accomplishment.
And finally, if we still have faces and hands, a checkpoint blocks our way, the steel and concrete walls, stone walls and bullets, the walls where they killed your sister, enforced disappearances, the collateral damage that blurs the faces, the walls of fear and heads hung up, of powerlessness, where dead children are presented as gang leaders, where there is no voice to protest, much less the will to desert. The wall of correct strategy, where you were shot so that you could be protected from crime and from its horror.
We have walked, run into these walls, and looked for a way out, but when we see them all connected, we find ourselves face to face with an edifice, with a structure that sustains a society designed for the benefit of the few. Where up on top their businesses function perfectly and where down below we are all crushed. An abandoned building, where the hinges and doors creak, made up to look young. We don’t want old building, we don’t want buildings dilapidated by corruption, we don’t want walls that crush us. We the youth, men and women, want virgin buildings.
We have taken the path of struggle and decided to go forward and never turn back. With our fists we will tear down the walls, our cries will resound in its deaf ears and shake the foundations of its structure. We who have taken to the streets, by making people aware, politicizing and organizing them, with the power of cohesion and unity, we will fight, fight to bring down their pillars, and above all to build genuine democracy in Mexico and our own future, and this is the program of struggle that we propose:
Democratization and transformation of the media, of information and of its dissemination. We believe that only through the socialization of the media and through the model of public media, will we be able to achieve a real opening of the media and be able to ensure the right to information and freedom of expression.
Change in the education system, in science and in technology. We seek a system of education that is free, scientific, multicultural, democratic, humanist, popular, critical, reflective, and which has high academic standards, guaranteed by the State at all levels and as a Constitutional obligation.
Change in the neoliberal economic model. Experience and history have convinced us that the market is not a panacea that can solve the problems of society and government. Society should play a fundamental role in resolving the economic problems the country endures. That is why we will fight for a human, just, sovereign, sustainable and peaceful economy.
Change in the model of national security. In order to restore peace, it is imperative to withdraw the armed forces from their role as police; as well as to stop the criminalization, repression and harassment of social protest and the population in general. We demand the clarification of the murders, such as those of social activist Carlos Sinuhé Cuevas and delcare that we stand for: Stopping the killing of women and hate crimes! At the same time, we support autonomous community safety programs and organization against mega-projects.
Political transformation and connection with social movements. In order to promote and strengthen participatory democracy in the making of decisions, the construction of public policies, and the support of autonomous and self-managed projects we propose the enrichment and creation of district, municipal, communal, local and neighborhood assemblies. All of this in order to construct popular, citizen power to oversee government agencies and to implement on the part of society mechanisms for meeting its demands. We embrace the voice of social organizations and movements, connecting ourselves in solidarity in the search of alliances that are based on respect for autonomy, the construction of a horizontal relationship, and we recognize ourselves with humility as one of many social actors expressing social discontent.
Health. We will struggle for the complete fulfillment of the right to health consecrated constitutionally in Article 4 and in general observation 14 of the Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) of the United Nations. We oppose the neoliberal health care scheme adopted in recent decades by the Mexican state and we declare ourselves in favor of a multidimensional and interdisciplinary health care system.
If we want an authentic democracy, the democratization of the media is absolutely necessary. Among all of the defects of our poor democracy, the concentration and manipulation of information is an inheritance of the old (pre-2000) regime that has persisted despite the supposed change.
Throughout almost the entire twentieth century, the PRI co-opted the unions, businesses and social movements, corrupting their leaders and integrating them into their patronage system.
Under the PRI regime, businesses ingratiated themselves with the state in order to obtain privileges and thus the state extended its power over all aspects of public life in Mexico, political, economic and social. The control of the dissemination of information and the means of communication were fundamental for controlling opposition currents and social movements.
The collusion between Televisa and the PRI existed for more than 60 years. Emilio Azcárraga Vidaurreta, the grandfather of the current president of Televisa, founded Channel 2 in 1951, six years after the creation of the PRI. Azcárraga Vidaurreta, with the help of the government, managed to bring channels 2, 4 and 5 together under one company, Telesistema Mexicano, consolidating the television monopoly of the epoch, and broadcasting only what the PRI wanted, distorting information, and ignoring social movements that questioned government policies.
The most notorious manipulation was in 1968, the year that the student movement was attacked, minimized, and censored by the television monopoly that at that time produced 28 soap operas, among them one cynically entitled “People without Hope..” On October 2, the day of the Tlatelolco massacre, Jacobo Zabludowski principal news story was that it was a “sunny day.”
Who? Who? No one. The following day, no one.
In the morning, the plaza had been swept; the newspaper
reported the weather.
And on television, on the radio, and in the movie theaters
there were no program changes,
no interruptions to bring a special news update, no
minute of silence at the banquet.
(Well the banquet went on.)
One of the blackest pages in the history of world communication, violating the human right to information, appeared during this alliance between the Azcárraga family and the power. Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, desperate to keep the population in the dark about what had happened, permitted the creation of two more channels: 8 and 13.
In 1972, at the initiative de Luis Echeverría, channels 2, 4, 5 y 8 merged, taking the name Televisa, under the direction of the son of Azcárraga Vidaurreta: Emilio Azcárraga Milmo, alias “the Tiger,” who proclaimed himself a “soldier of he PRI and of the president,” and who said that he make “television for the fucked over because Mexico was a country of people who were fucked over.”
In 1993, Salinas de Gortari gave to Ricardo Salinas Pliego the Imevisión television network with channels 7 y 13. In 2002, Salinas Pliego, took over the installations of Channel 40 by force, an event known Chiquihuitazo. Vicent Fox, who was then president, upon being asked about the responsibility of the government in these illegal actions, made his cynical remark, “And why me?” Fox, who after decades inaugurated the supposed transition to democracy, knelt down before the real powers of the country, whose most visible face was the media that disseminated information. “And why me?” said the brave man who promised to drag the PRI out of Los Pinos [the Mexican presidential residence] by its ankles. “And why me?” said the leader of the useful vote, he of the great promises.
Shortly before finishing his term in 2006, Fox did a favor for the television duopoly, approving a seven-minute discussion in Congress of the “Televisa Law” which allowed the use by the consortium of the radio-electrical spectrum without any charge or regulation, depriving the Mexican people of a public good that belongs to them. Two months later, the media monopoly encouraged the brutal repression suffered by the residents of San Salvador Atenco, orchestrated by the federal government and the then Governor of the State of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, in which our friend Alexis Benhumea was killed. All information on rape, murder, insults and outrages was concealed by the various media.
The real power is concentrated in these media. Of the ten richest men in Mexico, five are on the boards of the television. Ricardo Salinas Pliego is the second richest man in Mexico and nearly doubled his fortune last year alone. Grupo Salinas has companies like Elektra, Salinas y Rocha, Banco Azteca, TV Azteca, and Italika, among others.
Pedro Aspe, who was Secretary of the Treasury under President Salinas and said that poverty in Mexico was a “great myth” is on the Board of Directors of Televisa, along with four of the 10 richest men in Mexico with interests in all sectors of the economy.
Alberto Bailleres is the third richest man in Mexico and owns Palacio de Hierro. Penoles owns the second largest mining country, and shares of FEMSA, which controls the Oxxo’s, the brewery Cuauhtemoc-Moctezuma and Coca-Cola Mexico.
Larrea, the fourth richest man in Mexico, is the owner of mines like Cananea and Pasta de Conchos. In 2006, because there were not adequate safety measures at the Pasta de Conchos mine, 65 miners were killed and, six years after the incident, only two bodies have been recovered.
Roberto Hernández, the second largest shareholder of Televisa, is the ninth richest man in Mexico. This character benefited from the privatization of banks during the presidency of Salinas and later from the bank bailout that began during Zedillo’s presidency. Finally, having broken Banamex, a century old bank in Mexico, he sold it to the American-owned Citibank, earning huge profits without paying taxes.
Emilio Azcarraga Jean, the president of Televisa and scion of the dynasty that always benefited from its relationship with power, is the sixth richest man in Mexico and owns football clubs as well as having interests in various banks. Now his family monopoly is allied with Iusacell through its supposed competitor, TV Azteca.
Televisa and TV Azteca are the most visible face and the principal instrument of the oligarchy that governs this country. They are companies that produce and disseminate manipulated information, confused and falsified, to so that what passes for public opinion is agreeable to the economic and political regime in order to impose rulers who carry out the neoliberal projects of the large capitalists both national and international.
Since 2005, Jenaro Villamil writing in Proceso magazine denounced the media strategies promoted by Enrique Peña Nieto, the new representative of the real powers and of the neoliberal economic project, used to forge a process of imposition which they planned to carry out this year. This was corroborated last month [June 2012] when the English newspaper The Guardian revealed that a secret Televisa unit sold a promotional strategy to the PRI candidate, based on “favorable coverage” in its principal news slot and principal entertainment programs, as well as the dissemination of videos by email accounts, Facebook and YouTube. The newspaper claimed to have examined the documents which formalized the sale made by Televisa to the PRI candidates, as well as a list of payments that Televisa charged Peña Nieto in exchange for constructing a national image of the Governor of the State of Mexico from 2005 to 2011, by way of promotional videos and the deployment of tactics designed to sink his opponents.
So, on Election Day profoundly anti-democratic practices prevailed, such as state violence, the buying of votes, coercion of voters, media manipulation, rigged political polling, and other illicit practices that altered the essence of free, informed, reasoned and critical suffrage. These facts were never made public; rather, on the contrary, the president and the electoral institutions shamelessly qualified the election as transparent, exemplary and peaceful.
These facts clearly show that the process of imposition of Peña Nieto as president has its origins back in 2005, and that companies like Televisa had played a determinative role in the imposition.
We warned that in the event that the imposition was carried out it would restore the old regime that practiced state violence, repression, authoritarianism, generalized corruption, cover-ups, opacity in public decision making, coercion of elections and more undemocratic practices. Enrique Peña Nieto should not be president, not only because of the corrupt regime that he represents and for his collusion with and subordination to Televisa, but also for the threats that loom over our country: the privatization of petroleum for the benefit of U.S. transnationals, the raising of taxes on the people, labor reform that legalizes brutal exploitation of workers and the loss of indispensible labor rights, finally, the privatization of the health sector and of workers’ pensions, all will be promoted and supported by the media, such as that against which we are protesting today.
Given this danger, we call for the unity and organization of the social forces around our point of agreement: the transformation of the actual Mexican state. We know that we students alone cannot bring that about, and that is why we call upon all social movements, civil and political organizations, as well as the people in general to join the democratic project of social transformation and national reconstruction by way of active participation, discussion, coming to agreements, organizing activities and joining in the actions that we will carry out as agreed upon in the National Convention Against the Imposition.
People of Mexico: Today we have much to do! Organizing ourselves will be the first step. From our cause, our indigenous community, our cornfield, our plaza, our jungle, our beliefs, we invite the adherence to our manifesto and actions, that from your lands, your organizations and histories that we hope to make hours, we can enter together into contact, we can join in mutual trust, to fight and transform our Mexico.
We were silence, we were pain, we were oppression.
They wanted to take everything and the only thing we lost was fear.
Now we will no longer be a voice that has been silenced. We came here with our bodies that cry out: Enough!!!
Documents of the Movement in Translation: National Plan for the Defense of Democracy and Dignity of Mexico
In late July, Andrés Manuel López Obrador put forward to his supporters this plan, in outline form, for building a national movement and for strengthening the legal case for rejecting the Mexican election of July 1, 2012. This document allows us to see how the López Obrador organization is actually organizing the political movement. The original Spanish can be found at: http://lopezobrador.org.mx/2012/07/19/plan-nacional/. Translation by Dan La Botz.
This plan will be carried out on the basis of two premises:
*The presidency of Mexico cannot be bought
*The future of Mexico is not for sale
1. To inform the people of Mexico about the way in which the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) operated to get votes and to justify the supposed victory of Enrique Peña Nieto as candidate for the presidency of Mexico.
2. To achieve, with the participation of citizens, the gathering of information about vote-buying and other violations of the Constitution, in particular, of Article 41 that establishes that elections should be free and authentic.
3. To turn over to the Electoral Tribune of the Federal Judiciary (TRIFE), within the legal time limits, more than sufficient evidence to strengthen the hearing on the challenge demanding that the presidential election be declared invalid.
4. To make citizens aware that if they permit the imposition of Peña Nieto as a result of buying the presidency, the future of Mexico will be one of corruption, pain and frustration.
I. To inform and make people aware of the way in which the PRI attempted to buy the Presidency of the Republic, and the cost that we Mexicans will have to pay in terms of poverty, lack of safety, violence and greater authoritarianism.
Specifically, to make known by all means possible the ways in which the PRI bought 5 million votes and to disseminate the evidence that support the judgment of invalidity (Soriana cards, Monex, illegal use of state government budgets, illicit financing and money laundering).
This action will be linked to a consciousness raising campaign about the defense of democracy that will include the following themes:
- The manipulation of the means of communication and
- The dangers of permitting anti-democracy [sic]
Messages will be disseminated on radio and television (during the official party broadcasting times), as well as articles, leaflets, slogans, cartoons, signs, banners, spectacles, and wall painting.
Messages will also be distributed through social networks.
Citizens’ brigades will be organized to inform and raise consciousness, house by house and in the streets and public squares.
This weekend slogans and basic information will be made available for dissemination in social networks. Next Monday, the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) will be given the first message that will be transmitted on radio and television during official party broadcast times, and that will go up on the internet the same day.
This consciousness raising and publicity work will be coordinated by: César Yáñez, José Antonio Casillas y Adrián Rodríguez.
II. Informative assemblies and the installation of tables in public squares to gather more evidence from citizens.
Using our constitutional rights and strictly adhering to the principle of non-violence, we will carry out in the public plazas of the country informative assemblies and we will install modules for the exhibition of testimonies about the violations committed in the presidential election and, at the same time, we will collect more evidence brought forward by the citizens.
Signatures will also be collected to support the invalidity of the presidential election.
This action will be carried out between July 29 and August 5 in the principal public plazas of the country. Sunday, July 29, 142 assemblies will be organized and on Sunday, August 5, there will be 32 assemblies in the state capitals. Find attached the program and schedule of the assemblies.
Those responsible for this action will be: Octavio Romero Oropeza, Gabriel García y Alejandro Esquer.
III. Invitation to intellectuals, artists, scientists, youth and citizens in general to participate in the creative activities in defense of democracy and dignity in Mexico.
Studies on the nature of the election of 2012.
- Call for the following essays:
a) The election and the stolen vote.
b) The increase in electoral participation and the PRI vote.
c) Who voted for Peña Nieto.
d) Money in the presidential eleciton.
e) Polls as instruments of political propaganda (legality, costs, effects and results).
f) The role of the means of communication in the presidential election.
g) Legal bases for the invalidity of the presidential election.
Call for the best documentary on the presidential election of 2012.
Artistic and cultural expressions dealing with the election of 2012
- Musical events
Today we are going to make known the announcements for the competitions for Essay, Documentary, and Artistic and Cultural Festival. Find the calls attached.
In coordinating these activities the following will participate: Jesús Ramírez, Emiliano Calderón, Javier Jiménez Espriú, Héctor Díaz Polanco, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Argel Gómez, Daniel Tovar, Elena Poniatowska, Epigmenio Ibarra, Paloma Saiz, Héctor Vasconcelos, Rafael Barajas y Pedro Miguel.
We have issued a call for participation in this Plan for the Defense of Democracy and Dignity in Mexico to militants and sympathizers of the Progressive movement, Party of the Democratic Revolution – PRD; Workers Party – PT; and Citizens Movement, and we especially invite all Mexicans, including those who are not active in any party, but are partisans of legality, democracy, and justice and want a new country.
The violation of Constitutional Article 41, which establishes that elections shall be free and authentic, places Mexicans at a crossroads. One must decide between accepting the imposition of Enrique Peña Nieto, knowing that it is illegal and implies a further degradation in all areas of public life, or fight in peaceful ways to demand the nullification of the presidential election and, in that way, to begin a new life based on legality and the restoration of the Republic on the basis of authentic democracy.
FAT Affiliate Wins Second Election at DMI
By Robin Alexander
As reported in the February,2012 issue of Mexican Labor News and Analysis, last January STIMAHCS, the metalworkers union affiliated with the Frente Auténtico del Trabajo (FAT), finally settled a first contract with DMI, formerly Metaldyne, and started the process of developing a working relationship with the company and relations with their sister local, UE 715, in Edon Ohio.
However, just when the workers and their union thought they could finally focus on problems in the plant, a corrupt, official union (these are often referred to as Charro unions in Mexico) that they had beaten reemerged to threaten their hard won victory.
A Long and Rocky Road
It had taken two years and multiple legal proceedings to finally get to an election on October 8, 2010. As explained by STIMAHCS General secretary and national FAT officer Benedicto Martínez, “During the entire time, the charro union manipulated the legal process by having other unions present petitions in order to delay the proceedings, while the company continued to fire workers it viewed as allied with our movement.” Following an extraordinary election victory, it took additional proceedings and another year before the company finally recognized STIMAHCS.
Among the unions that had intervened to delay the legal process was the National Union of the Sector of Metal, Automotive, Similar and Allied Workers. On April 22, 2010, it had presented a petition that was denied by the labor board. The union filed an appeal and won, and ultimately a court ordered that the petition be reinstated -- although now against STIMAHCS, since it had been certified in February of 2011 by the authorities as having won the election the previous October.
Election Takes Place with Two Days' Notice
On July 4 STIMAHCS, the company, and the charro union were called before the labor board for a hearing to determine the date for a new election. All three parties agreed that there should be a quick election. The Federal Arbitration and Conciliation Board then ordered that the election take place two days later on July 6 at 4:30 p.m. at the plant.
Martínez described the election as follows: “The three of us who were to represent STIMAHCS in the election arrived early on July 6 in order to avoid a confrontation with thugs in front of the plant. This strategy served us well, as later in the day there were a lot of goons who at times attempted to block the front gate, although they were prevented from doing so by the local police who had been sent by the municipality.
“Starting around 3:00 in the afternoon, brothers and sisters who supported us began to arrive. Some of them who were not well known were able to hang out near the thugs without being detected, as the area is extremely busy because of the proximity to the metro exit and the bus stop. In that way, with the miracle of cell phones, from quite early we were able to obtain information about what was going on outside of the plant.
“By 4:15, when the labor authorities arrived to hold the election, there had been no incidents. This reassured us that if everything went as we had calculated with the workers, the results would be legally certified, because one of my concerns was that even if the charros didn’t show up in sufficient numbers to win, if they thought they were going to lose they would try to prevent the election from taking place in order to gain more time.
“At 4:30 the three charro representatives entered with a very overbearing attitude. The attorney for the company had already arrived, so the parties began the election by formally entering their appearances.
“All went smoothly until the charros discovered that the company had hired someone to videotape the proceeding. They created a row, attempted to physically injure the videographer and called outside to the thugs by phone to break down the gate and to raise hell. Those who were outside kicked the gate, but it did not lead to anything further.”
The election continued and in the end the vote was 58 for STIMAHCS, 4 for the charros and 1 voided. Although there are now 184 workers in the plant, only those who were eligible to vote in the prior election and who still worked for the company – 101 workers -- had a right to vote.
When asked why more than one third of the workers failed to vote, Martínez explained: “The charro union had been very insistent that the election take place on Friday July 6, and it was not until afterwards that we realized that this was the final day of the school semester and many parents were likely to miss work that day to accompany their children to school. It is a tradition throughout Mexico that when children complete a period of study – whether it is pre-school, grade school, high school or university -- on that day the schools organize events where graduation documents are presented to the children. This is an important day for many parents who often organize family gathering to celebrate. One theory is that the charro union was counting on the absence of a lot of workers that day. However, even with the absence of 38, the vote in our favor was decisive.”
Martínez added: “Juan, Hilario, José and others played a really important role and it is important to mention that the company did not interfere and did everything it could, so that the election would take place without problems.” For a company to behave in a neutral manner is unusual in Mexico, where company complicity with corrupt unions is rampant.
In commenting on the election, José Pérez San Luis, the new local’s Secretary of Education said, “We are really happy with the outcome of the election and hope that in light of such a clear victory the charros will finally leave us in peace!”
Outlook Dim for Mexican Workers: Unemploment, Rights Denied
By Kent Patterson
This article was originally published by Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies of the New Mexico State University at Las Cruces, New Mexico.
In a speech in early July praising Nissan’s decision to open a second plant in Aguascalientes, Mexican President Felipe Calderon responded to critics who’ve flailed away at the soon-to-be ex-chief executive for falling far short of being the “jobs president” he promised to be during the 2006 election campaign.
Saying that two million formal jobs had been created since 2007, Calderon added that the job record was the “second highest period of formal employment generation” in his country’s recorded history. Further, the Mexican leader argued that had it not been for the inconvenient problem of the post-2008 economic crisis, Mexico would have undergone its biggest employment surge ever.
Experts Less Impressed
Although recent job gains have been registered in sectors like the auto industry, some observers and analysts are far less impressed by the employment trends.
In its 2012 Employment Outlook, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) noted that Mexico’s official unemployment rate of 5.1 percent in the first quarter of 2012 was lower than the 5.8 percent registered at the height of the crisis in the third quarter of 2009, yet the latest jobless numbers are still more than one percent higher than they were prior to the crisis.
Importantly, young people experience unemployment at about twice the rate of the overall average, according to the OECD. Other issues, including the “high incidence of informal employment,” remain troubling concerns, the international organization contended.
The Underground Economy
Numbering in the millions, the legions of informal workers who sell everything from gum to flowers to maps are not enrolled in the social security system, don´t pay taxes and don’t enjoy benefits like sick days. Across Mexico, informal workers cram the sidewalks, jam the beaches and ham it up on the buses and metro systems. All to eat another day.
Receiving some play in the Mexican media, the OECD report also reveals that the average amount of time Mexican workers annually spent on their job grew from 2,242 hours in 2010 to 2,250 in 2011.
As for income, real salary growth in Mexico came in at 0.8 percent last year, lagging behind Chile at 2.5 percent and Brazil at 1.4 percent, the OECD reported.
In an interview with Frontera NorteSur, representatives of a leading Mexican labor advocacy organization also questioned the direction of employment trends and spotlighted the continued lack of basic rights possessed by many-if not most-workers. Felipe Burgueño, Guadalajara staff member of the Center for Labor Reflection and Action (Cereal), said the increased use of outsourcing and temp workers characterizes many new jobs. “There is a lot of unemployment and more and more abuses like temporary contracts, as employers take advantage of the situation,” Burgueño said.
According to the labor rights activist, a production model based on precarious employment circumstances, low wages, and the absence of free union association is unlikely to change with the coming political transition. “People still don’t realize the gravity of these problems,” Burgeuño added.
As an illustration of the problems confronting Mexican labor, Cereal staffer Sagrario Gutiérrez spoke at some length about the electronics giant Foxconn and its two industrial sites in and around Ciudad Juárez, including the huge complex at San-Jerónimo/Santa Teresa on the border of Chihuahua and New Mexico.
On a recent visit to the border city, Gutierrez heard Foxconn workers complain about robberies on transport buses, successive temporary contracts, lack of union representation and retaliation for organizing or discussing better job assignments and pay.
“When (Foxconn) finds out that workers are organizing around any problem they have, they disperse them,” Gutierrez said. “They fire them or send them to different work areas and shifts.”
Electronics Industry Code of Conduct
A member of the Electronics Industry Code of Conduct, Foxconn has written policies against retaliation and in support of free association.
According to the Taiwan-based firm’s website, audits are performed to ensure compliance with company and industry standards.
Foxconn pledges to “uphold the human rights of workers, and to treat them with dignity and respect as understood by the international community and appropriate laws and regulations…”
But in Ciudad Juárez, labor rights are also compromised by the so-called narco war and the overall climate of violence that makes workers afraid to take a stand, Gutierrez said, adding that the city’s non-governmental organizations have largely withdrawn from direct organizing of factory workers because of threats and real fears of violence.
Gutierrez said Foxconn workers in Ciudad Juárez start making 78 pesos each day, or approximately six U.S. dollars, and then advance to 98 pesos after three months on the job. The pay is increased to 105-110 pesos after six months, she said. In comparison, electronic workers in Guadalajara average 116 pesos a day, even though the cost of living is higher in Ciudad Juárez, according to Cereal staff members.
The Rising Cost of Living
The rising cost of living is a critical issue for Mexican workers. Cited in the daily La Jornada, the most recent study from the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Center for Multidisciplinary Analysis reported that the number of low-income workers increased during the last two years, with about half the country’s labor force, or about 21,300,000 workers, now earning in the neighborhood of ten dollars a day.
Many working families have “stopped buying with the same frequency and quantity various products, including meat, milk, eggs and other basics,” the authors of the report wrote.
Languishing in the Mexican Congress, a controversial labor reform is likely to be among the first matters tackled by the new crop of legislators when they convene in September, according to Cereal’s Felipe Burgueño. For the labor advocacy group, the right of free union representation is unmet in Mexico.
CTM Likely to Gain under the PRI
An ominous sign, Burgueño said, was the recent closure of the independent Worker Action Center in Puebla State, after staff suffered death threats and kidnapping.
Burgueño predicted the political transition will likely reinforce the power of the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) and other unions affiliated with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), reaffirming the old corporatist model in which the demands of workers are subservient to the government agenda. “They will ratify their priorities,” Burgueño said, “and their control over workers’ unions.”
For its part, the OECD urged Mexico to enact “measures to promote access to more jobs and better conditions for under-represented groups,” as well as to increase incentives for enrolling more workers in the social security system. Additionally, the OECD called for strengthening the enforcement capacities of labor inspectors and tax collectors.
Mine Explosion Takes Lives of Seven Miners in Coahuila
Seven coal miners were killed when methane gas exploded on July 25 in a coal mine in the mining town of La Florida in the municipality of Múzquiz, Coahuila. While, according to the Secretary of Labor, the mine had been closed because it lacked an emergency exit, still the mine continued to operate without having corrected the problem. Some 145 coal miners have died in various mining operations in the last six years.
The Deburques mine, belongs to the Compañía Minera El Progreso, while the mineral rights belong to Federico Quintanilla Riojas who as a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) served as mayor of the town of El Progreso in the mining area where the accident occurred. The company had been cited and fined for safety violations in the past.
The miners who lost their lives were Pedro Ervey, 39; Héctor Alcalá Ramírez, 33; Daniel Ramírez Almanza, 26; Omar Ramírez Almanza, 20; Guillermo González Medina, 22; César Javier Jiménez Camacho, 24; and Fidencio Sánchez Arellano, 32.
Rights Observers Find "Climate of Intimidation" in Mineworker Representation Election
An international team of human rights observers from major labor unions and non-governmental organizations found a “climate of intimidation” and other irregular practices during a union representation election for miners at the La Platosa Mine in Bermejillo, Durango, according to a preliminary report issued in early July. A full report will be forthcoming.
The 129 miners at La Platosa in Bermejillo had an opportunity to vote for three different unions: 1) the National Mining and Metallurgic Union “Don Napoleón Gómez Sada” (SNTMMDNGS) which received 46 votes; 2) the National Union of Miners and Metal Workers (SNTMMRM) which received 45 votes; and 3) “President Adolfo López Mateos” Union of Workers and Employees in Commerce and General which received 32 votes. There were, in addition, six challenged ballots. The SNTMMRM, which received the second highest number of votes is an independent and militant union which management -- colluding with other unions -- appeared to be working to defeat.
The international observer team, which included members from the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center, United Steel Workers (USW), United Auto Workers (UAW), IndustriALL Global Union, Project on Organizing, Development, Education and Research (PODER), Project on Economic, Social, and Cultural rights (ProDESC), and the Labor Justice Center of El Paso. Observers interviewed representatives of SNTMMDNGS and SNTMMRM but could find no one to speak for the Adolfo López Mateos union, nor were they able to interview the mine’s general manager Pablo Gurrola. The international observers were not permitted in the voting area.
On the basis of information they gathered from participants in the process,“the election process was marred by serious irregularities that cast doubt on the official results.” The most important of those irregularities were threats and intimidation from management and from the SNMTMMDNGS union. Some SNMTMMDNGS members carried clubs. In addition, there was “a large contingent of municipal, state and Federal police outside the mine entrance, all carrying automatic rifles.”
Other issues included: holding the election on company property rather than at a neutral location; union propaganda from the Adolfo López Mateos union posted in the company security office at the main gate. The SNMTMMDNGS logo appeared on the ballot in color, while the logos of the other unions were in black and white. Workers reported that some workers had not been permitted to vote while confidential employees were permitted to do so.
Mexican Farmers Up Against Canadian Mining Goliaths
By David Bacon
This article was originally published in Truthout Report, at: http://truth-out.org/news/item/10501-canadian-mining-goliaths-devastate-mexican-indigenous-communities-and-environment It is based on research for a new book coming from Beacon Press next year, The Right to Stay Home, which examines the movements in Mexico opposing displacement and forced migration. Thanks to David Bacon for permission to publish this article. – ed.
OAXACA, MEXICO (7/20/12) - For over two decades in many parts of Mexico, large corporations–mostly foreign-owned but usually with wealthy Mexican partners—have developed huge projects in rural areas. Called mega-projects, the mines and resource extraction efforts take advantage of economic reforms and trade treaties like the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Emphasizing foreign investment, even at the cost of environmental destruction and the displacement of people, has been the development policy of Mexican administrations since the 1970s. When the National Action Party defeated the old governing Party of the Institutional Revolution in 2000, this economic development model did not change. In fact, the PAN simply took over the administration of this development policy, and even accelerated it, while in the Mexican Chamber of Deputies the two parties cooperated to advance its goals.
But while these projects enjoy official patronage at the top, they almost invariably incite local opposition over threatened or actual environmental disaster. Environmental destruction, along with accompanying economic changes, cause the dispacement of people. Families in communities affected by the impacts are uprooted, and often begin to migrate. Nevertheless, the projects enjoy official support, and are defended against rising protests from poor farmers and townspeople by the Federal government.
This economic model could have changed in Mexico's national elections at the beginning of July, had a party won that was committed instead to providing poor and indigenous communities with jobs and social services, to raising rural income, and to protecting labor and social rights. This was the program put forward by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the candidate of the leftwing Democratic Revolutionary Party.
The PRD did not win, however. Instead, the Mexican election campaign looked increasingly like those in the U.S., in which the two conservative parties, the PRI and PAN, were fueled by enormous corporate contributions. Heavy television coverage by two captive corporate networks excluded the left entirely, while “impartial polls” announced the inevitability of the PRI's return. And in the end, a wave of old-fashioned vote-buying backed up the media circus.
The return of the PRI to power does not change Mexico's social reality, especially not its corporate-dominated development policy. The cost of this policy has become most obvious, and the conflicts over it the sharpest, in rural communities faced with huge industrial mining projects. Under a new PRI administration, these conflicts will almost certainly spread, particularly given the party's history of using force against popular movements.
In Oaxaca and southern Mexico, growing anti-mining movements give a preview of what's on the horizon. Sharp conflicts have already broken out over mines in Oaxaca, where in one community indigenous leaders have been assassinated and the town deeply divided since the mine began operation. The companies and their defenders promise jobs and economic development. But affected communities charge that far more people lose jobs and their livelihoods because of their negative environmental and economic consequences.
In Oaxaca, Vancouver-based Fortuna Silver, Inc. began drilling exploration holes in a previously mined area of San José del Progreso. San Jose is a small town in the municipality of Ocotlán, an hour south of the state's capital. Its 1200 residents speak Zapotec, an indigenous language that was already centuries old when the Europeans colonized Mexico.
Fortuna Silver began exploration in 2006, and five years later its mine went into full production. According to Flavio Sosa Villavicencio, a state deputy from the Party of Labor (PT), the company told him that in 2012 Fortuna expected to produce 1.7 million ounces of silver and 15,000 ounces of gold. Sosa Villavicencio said annual profits from the mine would reach 468 million pesos, or $39 million.
San José del Progreso lies in a valley filled with small indigenous towns, many of which have already lost more than half their inhabitants to migration. In an environment of economic desperation, money from the mine has a big impact.
Bernardo Vásquez, an opponent of the mine and director of the Coalition of People United in the Ocotlán Valley (COPOVU) explained to Canadian journalist Dawn Paley that some residents enjoyed the benefits, while the mine opponents organized demonstrations to protest. The town became divided, and Vásquez said the division extended into the schools, the health center, and to the municipal offices.
In 2009, 300 people blockaded the mine for over a month. Twice that number of police eventually descended on the demonstrators with dogs, guns, tear gas and a helicopter. People were beaten, and two dozen arrested. In another confrontation a year later the mayor was killed. Then, in January 2012 a group of opponents confronted a work crew laying water pipes, accusing them of building a water system for the mine. Police were called again, and this time they shot and killed Bernardo Méndez, one of the leaders of COPOVU. After that, the town's mayor fled, and the municipal offices were closed.
COPOVU leader Bernardo Vásquez, an agronomist, said he'd been threatened at least a dozen times by members of an armed group in the town, and the state Human Rights Commission issued an order of protection for him. However, while he was returning home on the evening of March 15, 2012, gunmen stopped his pickup truck and murdered him. His brother Andrés and Rosalinda Canseco were both wounded and hospitalized.
COPOVU representatives Jorge Sánchez and Eustasio Vásquez said the killing was the work of “guardias blancas,” or paramilitaries, supported by the company. “We've seen them give money to people in the community who are against us, and create a group called ‘Protecting Our Rights.’ These are people who now have new cars, when before they had nothing. They are the guardias blancas who kill and threaten.” Fortuna denied responsibility. The company's CEO Jorge Ganoza told Canadian media, “We, as a company, and our team in Oaxaca, are saddened by these senseless and continued acts of violence in the town of San José, related to a long-standing political struggle for local power. It is in no way related to our activities nor involves company personnel.”
Community and social organizations throughout Oaxaca condemned the assassination. Servicios para una Educación Alternativa A.C. (Services for an Alternative Education, EDUCA) said the violence was a consequence of the government's development policy. “Oaxaca has been converted into an arena for experimentation with the imposition of mega projects at any cost,” it stated. “The multimillion profits of the big mining companies, and the human and social costs, will be paid as always by those ‘conflict-loving Indians,’ as they insultingly call those who defend their communities.”
The murder of Bernardo Vásquez was also condemned by the leaders of another Oaxacan town resisting mining projects, Capulalpam de Méndez in the Zapotec Sierra Juárez region. In March 2012, its municipal leaders demanded an end to the mining activity in the area of the Natividad mine, and the cancellation of all the concessions given to its owners, another Canadian company called Continuum Resources. Between 2004 and 2006 Continuum Resources was given mining concessions for 50,000 hectares in the Sierra, most covering communal lands.
The mine had a huge environmental impact. The Natividad mine opened in 2002. Just four years later, in 2006, water problems grew so bad around the mine that the Federal Prosecutor for Environmental Protection ordered all work at the mine to stop. Community leaders accused the mine of having damaged the aquifers on which they depend, and that 13 springs disappeared. “A community without water has no life on which future generations can depend,” a communal statement declared.
Water in the local river runs yellow, and has a terrible smell, according to Capulalpam residents. The current Communal Welfare secretary, Javier García Juárez, says that in 2011 some of the dams holding water with toxic residue from earlier mine operations collapsed. Tons of waste contaminated communal land belonging to the town, and trees in the local forest were stained grey with the chemicals that had been used to separate gold and silver from the ore extracted from the mine.
That impact was particularly devastating for Capulalpam, which was declared "a magical town" by the Federal government's Secretary of Tourism. In the Sierra Juárez there are over 200 species of orchid, including some that are in danger of extinction. People still sight jaguars, while monkeys, parrots and toucans are common, along with pumas, white-tailed deer and the dwarf magpie.
Despite this biodiversity, in 2011 another mining company, Minera Teocuitla, arrived in the community accompanied by agents of the Agrarian Reform Department. Minera Teocuitla is a subsidiary of Sundance Minerals, whose business model involves developing mines next to other mining projects, even closed ones. The company proposed an exploration project called Geranio, directly north of the Natividad mine. Mine and government representatives demanded a meeting with community residents to authorize a new exploration contract.
On April 10, 2011, however, the Zapotec community's general assembly announced it would not support the project. “The community of Capulalpam, exercising our rights as an indigenous and farming municipality, refuses permission to the companies Natividad, Minera Teocuitla, Continuum Resources, Arco Exploration or companies using any other name to carry out exploration or exploitation of minerals in our land.”
In Veracruz, a Canadian corporation, Goldcorp Resources, initiated exploration in the mid-2000s for two huge open pit excavations halfway between the state capital Xalapa and the Gulf coast. The company, with headquarters in Vancouver, and its Mexican subsidiary, Minera Cardel SA de CV, were virtually given a concession of 20,000 hectares by the Federal government.
Edgar González Gaudiano published an analysis of the mine in the local newspaper La Jornada Veracruz, in which he estimated that the mine would produce 100,000 ounces of gold a year, with a value of about $1660 an ounce at 2012 prices, or $166 million. Goldcorp would operate two huge open pits. The ore would be treated with cyanide, a strong poison, to leach out the metal. Cyanide bonds with the gold, essentially dissolving it. Later the gold is separated out, leaving a large amount of cyanide-laced wastewater. That runoff is held in huge open-air ponds.
Gold mining with cyanide is a very dangerous process, yet more than 90% of all gold extracted worldwide relies on its use. In Romania in January 2000 a dam on one such pond broke, and about 100,000 cubic meters of toxic wastewater and mud poured into the Danube River. The plume of cyanide traveled downstream, through Hungary and the former Yugoslavia, to the Black Sea, killing everything it touched. It was called the worst environmental catastrophe since the nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl.
At Caballo Blanco, each ton of ore would produce half an ounce of gold, so mountains of cyanide-treated tailings would quickly rise around the pit and the wastewater ponds. According to the Diario de Xalapa, another local newspaper, leaching out the gold would require 1.12 million cubic meters of water per year, depleting the aquifer on which rural farming communities depend.
An even greater danger might come from Mexico's only nuclear power plant, Laguna Verde, less than ten miles away. The ore would be broken loose from the earth by virtually continuous explosions, using up to five tons of explosives a day. This section of Veracruz is geologically part of a volcanic region that includes some of Mexico's most famous dormant volcanoes, including Orizaba, less than a hundred miles away, and the Cofre de Perote, which is even closer.
People from the towns closest to the mine, Actopán and Alto Lucero, said they'd been threatened to get them to sell their land to Goldcorp. Beatriz Tórrez Beristán, an activist with the Veracruz Assembly and Initiative in Defense of the Environment (LA VIDA, or LIFE, in its Spanish acronym) reported to La Jornada Veracruz that in a public hearing on the project “they told us they were afraid, that they'd been intimidated and felt forced to sell their land. There is definitely intimidation here, and they're criminalizing social and environmental protest.”
Goldcorp promised jobs, and said the environment would be restored after the gold and metals had been extracted. “But we know that this can't be,” Torres told reporter Fernando Carmona. “It's impossible to restore an ecosystem that has been so damaged. You can cut down a tree and plant another, but you'll never restore the complex ecological chain, with its many trees, birds and water.”
In February 2012, a Pact for a Veracruz Free of Toxic Mining was signed at a statewide assembly of environmental activists, who committed themselves to distributing accurate information about the exploitation of natural resources, alerting communities about potential threats, initiating legal actions, and organizing peaceful demonstrations. Other groups opposed to the mine include REMA (Red Mexicana de Afectados por la Minería/ Mexican Network of Communities Affected by Mining) and RMALC (Red Mexicana de Acción frente al Libre Comercio/ Mexican Action Network on Free Trade) also organized opposition to Caballo Blanco.
Environmental damage from the mine is potentially so great that on February 28 Governor Javier Duarte de Ocho announced he was opposed to its operation. But municipalities and states don't make the basic economic decisions in Mexico. That power is in the hands of the Federal government. And on March 13, 2012, Goldcorp announced it had received its first environmental impact report from the Federal Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat), a major step towards operating the mine.
Federal acquiescence to Goldcorp reflects the policy of Mexico's four past administrations of virtually giving away the country's mineral wealth. In 1992 Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari modified the country's mining law. This was the same year that he also changed Mexico's land reform law to allow the sale of former communal (ejido) lands. Both were changes intended to allow foreign corporations to invest in huge projects in Mexico, and to protect those investments. A year later, just before the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect, the ceiling on the amount of foreign investment that could be allowed in “strategic’ industries (like mining) was eliminated.
Changes continued under Salinas' successors, with both the PRI's Ernesto Zedillo and the PAN's Vicente Fox increasing the number of mining concessions given to foreign corporations like Goldcorp, and to huge Mexican mining cartels like Grupo Mexico. Taxes on mining operations were eliminated. Companies only had to make a symbolic payment for each hectar of land granted in their concessions.
According to Carlos Fernández-Vega, whose business column “Mexico SA” (or “Mexico, Inc.”) runs in the leftwing Mexico City daily La Jornada, the amount of land given in concessions reached 25 million hectares at the end of Fox' presidency in 2006, and then more than doubled, to 51 million in just the first four years of his successor Felipe Calderón. “In the two PAN administrations about 26 percent of the national territory was given to mining consortiums for their sole benefit,” he charges. In 2010, Fernández Vega explains, Calderón granted 4 million hectares in concessions, in exchange for which the Mexican government received US$20 million. The foreign and domestic corporations given the concessions made US$15 billion that year (a 50% increase from the previous year). Those earnings were 750 times what they paid for the concessions.
Fernández Vega based his column on a study by Mexican academics Francisco López Bárcenas and Mayra Montserrat Eslava Galicia of the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM) in Xochimilco, called “Minerals or Life.” The Mexican Constitution, with its roots in the Revolution of 1910-20 and the nationalist government of Lázaro Cárdenas of the late 1930s, puts forward goals for mining and other economic activity. They include, Barcenas López and Eslava Galicia state, “using natural resources for social benefit, creating an equitable distribution of public wealth, encouraging conservation, and achieving a balanced development for the country leading to improved conditions of life for the Mexican people. The new mining law, however, says any potential resource must be utilized, which gives the exploitation of resources preference over all other considerations.
“Concession holders can demand that land occupied by a town be vacated, so that they can carry out their activities,” the two academics write. “If land is used for growing food, that has to end so that a mine can be developed there. Forests or wilderness are at the same risk. This legal requirement also applies to indigenous people. Their land, used for rituals or sacred purposes which contribute to maintaining their identity, can be leveled or destroyed. This provision violates International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169 that protects indigenous rights.”
Language in the mining law now “prohibits states and municipalities from imposing fees on mining activity, and therefore deprives them of any income from those activities that might benefit them,” the study concludes, even prohibiting them from charging fees for permits for the use of land or roads.
The mines promise jobs, but they produce very few, Oaxacan activists charge, while their social and environmental cost is high. Mining, which receives enormous support from the Federal government, employs only 0.29% of Oaxaca's working population, according to “Migration and Poverty in Oaxaca,” a study by Ana Marguerita Alvarado Juárez at the Autonomous University Benito Juárez of Oaxaca. Even the Mexican Secretary of Labor says the average daily wage for miners in Mexico is 150 pesos ($12.50). Low mining wages reflect the increased use of contract labor, in which workers employed by temp agencies have replaced thousands of people who formerly worked directly for the mining companies.
On the other hand, farming, which sustains over half of Oaxacan families, gets very little government support, and small farmers receive practically none of it. The mining projects benefit, therefore, not the residents of local communities, but the shareholders of large corporations who exercise enormous influence on the Federal government.
Aldo González, a leader of the Union of Organizations of the Sierra Juárez of Oaxaca (UNOSJO) points out that the mega development projects promoted by the Federal government, instead of creating employment and raising living standards, undermine them because they are “designed from outside, and imposed on indigenous territories and intended to benefit investors instead of communities.” As a result, he says, “they have been met with protests by people and communities whose land and water has been taken.” Leaders of the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations contend that this kind of economic development not only doesn't stop the displacement of communities, but in fact accelerates it.
González and FIOB leaders predict even greater efforts throughout rural communities in Oaxaca and the rest of Mexico to find alternatives to development based on mines and corporate mega projects. With a Federal government committed to pushing those projects forward, however, even sharper conflicts are inevitable.
Special Report:: The Massacre of Miners Continues
By Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico http://frontera.nmsu.edu/
July 30, 2012
In February 2006, as the presidential election campaign unfolded in Mexico, an explosion at a Grupo Mexico coal mine in the northern border state of Coahuila ominously presaged what would turn out to be a tumultuous year in the country’s history. Although relatives of the Pasta de Conchos miners demanded the recovery of the bodies of loved ones who died in the methane gas blast, the remains of 63 of the 65 men who perished stayed trapped underground.
Now, more than six years later and at a time when Mexico is undergoing yet another conflict-ridden presidential transition, miners keep prematurely joining their brothers in the tombs of coal-rich Coahuila. Last week, sadness gripped the town of Palau, as thousands of people buried seven miners who were killed in a July 25 methane gas explosion in a nearby coal pit located in the municipality of Muzquiz.
“Palau is in mourning,” said Amalia Gutierrez Romo, neighbor of two miners killed on July 25. “We ask the authorities to pay more attention to our region. We don't have other sources of employment and safety in the mines is increasingly lacking,” Gutierrez was quoted. “Our husbands, sons and fathers all go to work every day with the blessing of God, but we don’t know if they will return home.”
The miners killed included Cesar Javier Medina, Guillermo Gonzalez Medina, Hector Alcala Martinez, Pedro Ruben Alcala Ramirez, Daniel Ivan Ramirez, Omar Efrain Ramirez Rivera, and Fidencio Sanchez Arellano. All the men were in their twenties or thirties. Sanchez Arellano died almost two years to the day when his brother, Ramon Sanchez Arellano, lost his life in a coal pit.
In contrast to mines like Grupo Mexico’s old Pasta de Conchos facility, Coahuila’s coal pits are holes from 150 to 450 feet in depth in which miners descend via steel tanks; once underground, the workers are forced to crawl and bend over for long periods of time because of the build of the low, narrow tunnels. According to the Jesuit-affiliated labor rights group Cereal, at least 297 coal pits operate in Coahuila.
Typically, the extracted coal is sold to the Federal Electricity Commission. Multiple sources report that the pits routinely lack ventilation, oxygen, maps, gas-detection devices and rescue equipment
Reportedly owned by Federico Quintanilla Riojas, former mayor of the town of Progreso (2006-2009) for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which is set to regain the presidency next December, the Muzquiz pit had been inspected 16 times by the federal Labor Secretariat and ordered closed for not having an emergency exit.
PRI Coahuila Governor Ruben Moreira Valdez, who was attending the 435th anniversary of the founding of the state capital of Saltillo when the July 25 disaster occurred, quickly visited funeral-shrouded Palau and pledged the full support of 14 state social programs to financially assist the miners’ survivors.
“This is a tragedy that has our entire state in mourning,” Moreira said, “and a motive of reflection for the authorities of all levels of government to do things so this is not repeated.”
Separately, Federico Quintanilla, son of the pit owner, promised that each family would be compensated between $12-15,000 for the death of a loved one, and that the families would receive weekly payments until they are enrolled in the social security system. Lack of social security coverage for workers is reportedly a common practice in the Coahuila coal industry.
The Muzquiz disaster prompted longtime industry critics to once again denounce widespread labor law and safety violations.
Coahuila Bishop Raul Vera, for instance, dismissed the Labor Secretariat’s citation preceding the Muzquiz deaths as an “absurd” one since not a single coal pit has an emergency exit. “The workers suffer a terrible situation. Their working conditions are those of infamy,” Vera said. “Coal exploitation is done in the most primitive form in those places.”
In May 2011, 14 miners died in an explosion at a pit belonging to the Binsa company. Earlier this year, survivors of the dead miners protested that the federal government had not lived up to promises to adequately compensate them for the loss of breadwinners. The relatives also complained that the pit owner, Melchor Gonzalez Velez, had not been detained for homicide.
“My husband always came back dizzy, saying there was a lot of gas,” said Maria de Jesus Estrada, widow of a Binsa miner. Despite the dangers, the relatively high pay of the coal pits encourages miners to keep risking their lives underground, said Laura Elizabeth Sifuentes, another widow of a Binsa miner. According to Sifuentes, a week of back-breaking work in the coal pits can net about $150 in comparison with the $60 earned in a foreign assembly plant.
Added to the toll of the 65 workers killed in the 2006 Pasta de Conchos disaster, press accounts variously report from 75 to 146 miners killed in subsequent accidents. In another incident this year, 56-year-old Raymundo Zavala Espinoza was killed when a coal pit flooded on May 20.
Death in dark and dank places has been a grim reality for generations of Coahuila miners. In San Felipe El Hondo, 141 workers were killed in a famous 1902 mine explosion. Two years ago, Mexican labor and human rights organizations filed a complaint over the Pasta de Conchos affair with the Washington. D.C.-based Intern-American Commission on Human Rights.
The Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Human Rights Center (Prodh), one of the submitters of the petition, noted that Pasta de Conchos wasn’t an isolated case. Government and business complicity, the Prodh wrote, results in the denial of “dignified work in accordance with the full respect for the human rights of the workers.”
Only weeks before this month’s Muzquiz explosion, the Calderón administration requested a two-month extension from the Inter-American Commission in order to respond to the complaint pursued on behalf of the widows and orphans of Pasta de Conchos miners.
Labor activists have denounced the widespread practice of child labor in the coal pits. In a recent letter to Mexico’s Foreign Ministry, Cereal and the Pasta de Conchos Family Organization (OFPC) asserted that almost 20 percent of the coal pits employ minors. The estimate was based on 2010 Labor Secretariat inspections that discovered teenagers working underground.
In the letter to Foreign Ministry official Juan Manuel Gómez Robledo, the two groups said that the height of still-developing young people makes them ideal workers, in the eyes of unscrupulous employers, for the cramped quarters of the coal pits.
“Due to the low cost of their labor and because of their short stature, (juveniles) are a good option for the coal pit operators,” the letter stated.
OFPC activist Cristina Auerbach contrasted federal inaction on the child labor issue with Mexico’s ratification of International Labor Organization Convention 182, an agreement which bans the most dangerous forms of child labor. A 14-year-old worker, Fernando Lara, lost an arm in the 2011 Binsa explosion.
For Cereal and the OFPC, the continued employment of child miners constitutes “human trafficking” and “simulated slavery,” both of which are allegedly ignored by the authorities.
Bishop Vera argued that claiming young people have no other option than working in the coal pits is akin to declaring that youth must work in the ranks of organized crime because of the lack of job alternatives. “Why do we have to give deadly jobs?” the religious leader asked.
In the wake of the Muzquiz tragedy, some demanded that the coal pits be shut down.
“There are no more pretexts to keep the coal pits,” the OFPC’s Cristina Auerbach said. “It’s a deadly activity that can’t be justified by the creation of jobs, not even in the regional economy, as they have said for years. If this type of mining continues, it means that the miners are nothing more than collateral damage in the production of coal.”
Coahuila Governor Rubén Moreira discounted mine closures, but demanded tougher legislation governing the coal pits, increased inspections and the enrollment of workers in the social security system. “There is a way of exploiting the coal with a greater margin of safety,” he maintained.
Two days prior to the July 25 explosion, Moreira delivered a speech in which he laid out a renewed push for investment in Coahuila’s energy sector, including gas and coal. As part of a business development strategy, Moreira mentioned that a technical school is being constructed in the border city of Piedras Negras.
“Our future is very promising, but it is going to have great challenges of infrastructure, of development,” Moreira said in Saltillo. “Let’s prepare a forum where we will discuss and publicize the energy potential of our state. We need to make it transparent, open it up, so that we attract investment after the publicity we give it.”
Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission has initiated an investigation into the Muzquiz incident. On a separate front, the Economy Ministry has commenced proceedings that could result in the cancellation of the coal pit concession.
Proceso/Apro, July 25, 26 and 27, 2012. Articles by Arturo Rodriguez Garcia and editorial staff. El Universal, July 25, 2012. Article by Hilda Fernandez. Zocalo.com.mx., July 23, 25 and 27, 2012. Articles by Edith Mendoza, Elvia Salime Zamora and El Universal. Vanguardia.com.mx, June 21, 2012.
Cimacnoticias.com., May 4, 2012. Article by Guadalupe Cruz Jaimes. La Jornada, February 18, 2012; March 4, 2012: May 19, 2012; July 26, 27 and 28, 2012. Articles by Leopoldo Ramos, Carolina Gomez Mena and Jaime Martinez Veloz.
LABOR SHORTS: SME Protestors Beaten; Flex–N–Gate Workers Form Democratic Union; CAT Recognized by International Peace Brigades
SME Protesters Beaten
SME members were beaten on June 26 as they protested outside the Secretaría de Gobernación (interior ministry) to demand that the government implement the agreement signed last September, prioritizing the release of their political prisoners. International allies denounced the attack in a statement that was read at a march later that day. Among the support received via the Tri-National Solidarity Alliance from GUFs, unions and NGOs in Canada and the USA were IndustriALL, UNI Americas, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Teamsters, UE, CEP, UFCW Canada, CUPE, UWUA, USW, FLOC, MSN, US LEAP, and the NLG Labor and Employment Committee.
The SME was extremely appreciative of the support it received and reported that everyone who was injured is doing fine, although the same can't be said of the negotiations. A few links to the press coverage follow: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2012/06/28/politica/019n1pol, http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2012/06/27/politica/020n1pol
Flex–N–Gate Workers Form Democratic Union
On June 24, more than 300 workers created a new independent union, the Sindicato Independiente de los Trabajadores de la Industria de Autopartes de Flex–N–Gate (SITIAFNG). An excellent short video about the campaign is available at: https://vimeo.com/45599891 (password:puebla7)
CAT Recognized by International Peace Brigades
Blanca Velázquez Díaz, and the CAT were recognized by the International Peace Brigades as one of 18 of the most important human rights defenders in the country. Javier Puga Martínez, La Jornada de Oriente, 2012-07-10
1) The Frente Auténtico del Trabajo has a new website which can be viewed at: http://www.fatmexico.org.mx/
2) Volume 26 of Democracia y Libertad Sindical is now available on line in Spanish at: http://www.democraciaylibertadsindical.org.mx/
3) Mexico City: A union dismantled, with gruesome results: President Calderon's seizure of a state-owned electric company has led to a surge of on-the-job deaths and injuries by Simeon Tegel, July 20, 2012 Global Post at http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/mexico/120719/mexico-city-union-dismantled-gruesome-results?page=full
4) USA’s Prison Industrial Complex Moves South of the Border by Nasim Chatha appears on the Alliance for Global Justice’ web site at http://afgj.org/usa%E2%80%99s-prison-industrial-complex-moves-south-of-the-border
5) For Mexicans, It Was the Economy, Stupid, By MARK WEISBROT, New York Times, July 2, 2012 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/03/opinion/for-mexicans-it-was-the-economy-stupid.html?_r=2&smid=tw-share
6) Special Report: Mexico’s Hot Political Summer by Kent Patterson, FNS News, July 10, 2012 http://fnsnews.nmsu.edu/2012/07/10/mexico%E2%80%99s-hot-political-summer/