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Painting of FAT supporters with signs for socialjustice & free unions in colorful town
Detail of poster for artistic exchange & the FAT's 13th convention
Artist Beatriz Aurora

Mexican Labor News & Analysis

March , 2013, Vol. 18, No. 3


Introduction to this issue:

Dear Readers,

Because this is a lengthy issue we have divided it into three parts. The first section contains information related to the Days of Action in solidarity with the independent trade unions and includes both the Declaration of the Tri-National Solidarity Alliance (TNSA) and a report on actions around the world. We also encourage you to take action in support of the workers at PKC if you haven't already done so.

The second section contains an overview of the impact of NAFTA and labor news from the past month, the most notable being the arrest of Elba Esther Gordillo. We have also included extensive articles from Dan LaBotz and David Bacon analyzing the government's action in light of the history of the union, the effort to privatize education, and the message it is intended to send to any who would cross Peña Nieto.

The final special section focuses on women in honor of international women's day. We lead off with some good news for a change: the reinstatement of UNTyPP's Silvia Ramos Luna!

In solidarity,
Robin Alexander


Contents for this issue:

Tri-National Solidarity Alliance (TNSA) Declaration

Through the Tri-National Solidarity Alliance (TNSA) we maintain our commitment to the struggles of workers in Canada, the United States and Mexico, strengthening our bond of solidarity in order to confront the attacks of government and capital by reaching beyond our own borders.

In Mexico, we experience a systematic and serious violation of human and labor rights, leaving workers in an on-going state of defenselessness. The Mexican Congress has approved reforms of the labor legislation that are in clear violation of the constitutional rights of Mexicans and of the conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO). Meanwhile, institutions such as the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, act in ways that run counter to the protection of the fundamental rights of workers. We therefor condemn these offensive acts by the entities charged with administering justice and the Mexican government for their crimes against freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the right to strike, and the right to decent work.

We repudiate the decision of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, which, in an arbitrary manner reversed the appeal that had been granted to the workers of the Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME) that they should be reinstated. In Mexico, the objective of approving reforms to labor legislation vía fast track, reflects obedience to the mandates of the transnational corporations and the international financial institutions, in that:

* It strengthens Protection Unionism that benefits employers
* It establishes as a norm the appearance of labor relations standards
* It legalizes outsourcing
* It imposes a blatant and unilateral labor flexibility in labor relations
* It eliminates job security and increases informal, temporary, and unstable working conditions, particularly impacting the elderly, young workers, and women.

For these reasons, numerous Mexican labor organizations have promoted the filing of millions of appeals in order to denounce the unconstitutionality and the violation of international norms that characterizes the current Federal Labor Law and to halt its damaging impact on the working population.

Although the global crisis was not caused by working people, it has been used as a pretext for widespread violations of labor rights around the world. In Mexico, the United States and Canada, the violation of freedom of association and collective bargaining has escalated and the financial crisis has been used to ratchet down wages, benefits and working conditions, attack public sector workers and public services, and interfere with collective bargaining rights and the collection of union dues. In this month of February, from the 19 (18 (RA) to 24, the primary Global Union Federations including Industriall Global Unión, UNI Global Unión, the International Workers of Transport Federation, the International Trade Union Confederation, the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas, and the unions that compose the Tri-National Solidarity Alliance (TNSA) are, together with other organizations, undertaking various actions internationally under the banner of a campaign called Global Days of Action with Mexico.

Within the trade union movement, throughout the world there is a profound indignation for the persistent and continued application of policies of a neo-liberal stripe in Mexico. These policies are characteristic of authoritarian regimes with their eagerness to strip away the rights acquired by workers. The government of President Enrique Peña Nieto maintains the continuity of the governmental policy of lack of respect for labor rights in conflicts involving the violation of freedom of association (Honda, Mineros, SME, UNTYPP, Vidriera Potosí, PKC, Excelon Resources), the right to strike (Sandak), the right to have work (Mexicana de Aviación, SME), and the right to meaningful collective bargaining (Atento, Continental). The current labor policy violates the norms and directives of the ILO as well as diverse international covenants regarding human rights to which the government of Mexico is signatory. We will maintain a common front with Mexican trade unions before all of the international entities they may turn to in demanding the solution to their just and legitimate claims.

We therefor demand:

* Repeal the employer reforms to the Federal Labor Law
* Eliminate employer protection contracts and the corporativist control of the Mexican State over the working class.
* Replace the Labor Conciliation and Arbitration Boards.
* Recover the purchasing power of wages
* A solution to the demands in the following labor struggles:
• Reinstate the fired SME workers
• Immediate freedom for those who have been jailed fighting for social justice
• Recover the bodies of the Pasta de Conchos miners
• Resolve the strikes in the Cananea, Taxco and Sombrerete mines
• Revive Mexicana de Aviación and reopen Calzado Sandak.
• Recognize the union at Honda.
• Recognize the collective bargaining agreement at Continental , UNTYPP y ATENTO.

The organizations that sign this declaration confirm our unity and solidarity in the face of the escalating labor violations against the working class and voice our rejection of all attempts and initiatives that may harm the workers of Mexico, the United States, and Canada.


American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations, AFL-CIO
Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera
Canadian Auto Workers' union, CAW - Canada
Canadian Office and Profession Employees union, COPE 378
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
Centre international de solidarité ouvrière
Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, CEP/SCEP Canada
Common Frontiers
Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada,
Confédération des syndicats nationaux, CSN
Cross Border Network
IndustriALL Global Union
International Brotherhood of Teamsters, IBT
Maquila Solidarity Network/Red de Solidaridad de la Maquila
National Lawyers Guild y Labor & Employment Committee
Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research, PODER
Public Service Alliance of Canada, PSAC
Transport Workers Union, TWU
US Labor Education in the Americas Project, USLEAP
Union Network International (UNI) Americas
United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE)
United Steelworkers/ Syndicat des Métallos
Utility Workers Union of America, UWUA
Federación Internacional de Trabajadores del Transporte (ITF)
Confederación Sindical de las Américas (CSA)


Sindicato mexicano de Electricistas (SME)
Unión Nacional de Trabajadores (UNT)
Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Minero Metalúrgicos y Similares de la República Mexicana (SNTMMSRM)
Asociación Nacional de Abogados Democráticos (ANAD)
El Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s, CFO
El Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales, ProDESC

Back to March , 2013 Table of Contents

Labor, Worker Rights Activists Condemn Attacks on Workers' Rights in Mexico

This article was compiled and edited by Robin Alexander from material posted on the IndustriALL and USLEAP web sites, an article by Dean Hubbard, and from various reports and interviews regarding actions coordinated by the Tri-National Solidarity Alliance (TNSA). For more information about particular struggles, check out the backgrounder at

Unions and worker rights supporters took action around the world as part of a week of action running from February 18 to 24, 2013. The Days of Action in solidarity with the independent trade unions in Mexico focused on the need to roll back regressive labor law changes that were approved in the fall of 2012, to support workers at key conflicts, and to end the persecution, arrests and criminalization of struggles of democratic trade unions and the workers they represent.

Another key demand was that the Mexican government take action in accordance with the International Labor Organization recommendations to address the pervasive protection contract system that is used by employers, company-friendly “unions,” and the government to avoid representation by democratic unions and to deny workers their basic rights.

In the United States where comprehensive immigration reform is under consideration, unions also called on the Mexican government to reaffirm its commitment to protect the rights of immigrant workers in the United States while also ensuring that the rights of all workers are also rigorously protected and enforced in Mexico.
This effort was coordinated worldwide by the Global Union Federations (GUFS) and in North America by the Tri-National Solidarity Alliance (TNSA).

GUFS Put Out a Call Worldwide

All the Global Unions and the International Trade Union Confederation supported the 2013 Days of Action. IndustriALL took a major lead in coordinating actions throughout the world and in providing posters, a model letter to send to embassies and consulates, and background materials. They also created a short video featuring Benedicto Martínez (FAT), Napoleon Gómez Urrutia (Los Mineros) and Martín Esparza (SME), which provided an opportunity to hear directly from Mexican union leaders.

Following the week of action, IndustriALL posted reports from dozens of countries around the world. For example, UNI Global Union reported that more than 200 people participated in rallies in Montevideo, Buenos Aires, and members of the ITUC, gathered in Sao Paulo, Brazil for a meeting of the TUCA, demonstrated together at the Mexican Consulate in São Paulo. The 800,000 member CNM-CUT delivered a letter to Mexican ambassador Alejandro De la Peña Navarrete and to PKC, in solidarity with the Los Mineros’ attempt to organize there.

As described by IndustriALL’s Suzanna Miller, in addition to what they called the Global Campaign, IndustriALL took an important further step to involve their affiliates. She explained that they wanted “to inform workers belonging to specific industrial sectors/transnational corporations about the concrete conflicts and difficulties that the Mexican workers were facing every day in the same TNCs. The idea was to develop and encourage solidarity directly from workers to workers/unions to unions.” They asked unions that they had been working with in Mexico to identify key struggles along with several key demands. The ongoing conflicts in Mexico that were highlighted included Bata/Sandak (FAT); Continental Tires (STGTM); PKC (Los Mineros); Honda (Stuhm); and SME.

According to Miller: “Then we asked our sectoral networks to write to the Company and to the Government of Mexico to demand respect for the workers’ rights and resolution of the conflict, depending on the case. For example, we asked the Rubber/Tire Network to write to Continental in Germany protesting against the exclusion of the SNTGTM from the Sectoral collective agreement which was in negotiations and to the Mexican government denouncing the arbitrary decision of the Labour Court to exclude SNTGTM from the agreement. We asked all the Electricity unions in the IndustriALL electrical unions/energy network to support SME’s demand to reinstate the 16,599 workers, release the 10 political prisoners and write to the Mexican government to denounce the unfair ruling of the Supreme Court, etc. As Los Mineros defined that their major focus (apart from Pasta de Conchos) was to reinstate the PKC dismissed workers, a specific campaign was developed with LabourStart and some 10,000 letters were sent to the PKC CEO in Finland!! And the Auto sector networks are pressing the major Auto buyers to investigate the violations committed by PKC – a supplier – demanding that the contracts be re-discussed. Both Gerdau and Tenaris networks leafleted in all the unionised plants worldwide about the protection contracts in these companies in Mexico! In cases like BATA/SANDAK several video messages from International Executive Committee Members of IndustriALL from affiliated unions in Australia, Japan, Spain, Bangladesh and Argentina and from affiliates in the Shoe-Garment sector were posted on our website and Solidarity letters were sent from workers to workers/unions to unions.”

Miller concluded: “The idea was to facilitate this relation between workers and unions and we know that now that the contacts have been made, this relationship continues and can develop to be a solidarity campaign on a longer term basis.”

Solidarity Throughout North America

Meanwhile, the Tri-National Solidarity Alliance (TNSA), composed of unions and worker rights organizations from Mexico, Canada and the U.S., coordinated its largest effort so far, reporting actions in Mexico City, several cities in Canada and Quebec and seventeen US cities. US Leap provided information on its web site for actions that varied from protests to delivering letters to consular offices and embassies.

Activities were organized in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Portland, Raleigh, Seattle, Tucson, and Washington, DC., with many organizations assuming responsibility for the various locations.


Canadian unions, led by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), met with the Mexican Embassy in Ottawa to express grave concerns about Mexico’s ongoing and flagrant violations of international labor rights and standards. The delegation presented Embassy Officials with the ITUC’s 2012 report on Mexican trade union rights violations and a letter to the Mexican President, calling on the Mexican Government to deliver on the common demands of the international days of action. In addition, the delegation raised the failure of the Mexican Government to properly investigate the CLC complaint against Canadian-based Excellon Resources under the OECD corporate responsibility guidelines.

On February 22, a USW delegation in Toronto met with Consul General Mauricio Toussaint and his staff. The USW described their view and that of the Canadian labor movement concerning the repression in Mexico of democratic trade union rights and the particular attacks on Los Mineros.

Trade unions in Vancouver, including Los Mineros, USW, COPE 378, CUPE and CEP, held an action at the Mexican Consulate. A high level trade union delegation met Mexico's Consul General in Vancouver, Angel Villalobos, and the exiled General Secretary of Los Mineros, Napoleon Gómez Urrutia, addressed a rally in front of the Consulate.

Gómez Urrutia also participated by teleconference in a dinner conference organized by the Centre Internationational de Solidarité Ouvrière (CISO) in Montreal, Quebec. CISO, a coalition effort of Quebecois trade unions engaged in international solidarity efforts, reported that Gómez Urrutia, spoke in French “which was greatly appreciated and seen as a sign of respect and solidarity with the Québec union movement.”

A delegation from CISO, CSN, CSQ, FIQ and FTQ, Quebecois trade unions representing 1,150,000 workers, delivered their grave concerns in a visit to the Consul General of Mexico in Montréal, Mr. Porfirio Martínez Morales.


The Mexican days of action started solemnly on the evening of February 18 with a silent march shutting down traffic from the Monumento de la Revolución to the Angel de la Independencia in mourning for the 65 miners killed in the Pasta de Conchos criminal industrial homicide. The 65 symbolic coffins were placed at the monument and the mineworkers from all sections and locals held an overnight vigil gathering. SME, UNTTYP, Continental Tires Workers, FAT, CAW, CSN, USW, UE and IndustriALL Global Union participated in solidarity with Los Mineros. Following the march, various union leaders including IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Fernando Lopes addressed the gathering, conveying a message of solidarity from its 50 million members. Los Mineros maintained an encampment throughout the night.

The following morning, the Tri-National Solidarity Alliance convened a large press conference at the headquarters of the Asociación Sindical de Pilotos Aviadores de México (ASPA), with the full participation of Mexico's democratic trade unions and an impressive international delegation from TNSA. Representatives from the US, Canada and Mexico spoke as well as from UNI. ITF, and IndustriALL Global Union.

Capitán Carlos Manuel Díaz Chávez Morineau, General Secretary of ASPA and Co-President of the National Union of Workers (UNT) opened the session, declaring: “The Tri-National Solidarity Alliance (TNSA) continues to make a tremendous effort to make the struggles in our countries known and has had great success over these years.

“International solidarity in this globalized world plays an important role in the defense of the rights of workers in our countries and in making people aware of their struggles, and this space of labor coordination is, until now the most useful means we have found to articulate our demands in the North American region. Faced with the multinational action of capital, multinational action by workers is necessary!”

UE’s Director of Organization Bob Kingsley denounced the systematic violation of internationally recognized labor rights across all industrial sectors and regions of Mexico, the repression and persecution of trade union leaders and activists, and the continued use of protection contracts that benefit employers at the workers’ expense. He declared: “It is time for Mexican authorities to act on the recommendations of the International Labor Organization’s Committee on the Freedom of Association to examine – and ultimately end – problem of protection contracts.”

He also condemned the “recent corporate friendly rewrite of Mexican labor law. Among the worst of many bad elements in this regressive reform is the elimination of job security guarantees and the encouragement of more temporary and precarious work. My union has broad experience with the plethora or problems arising from precarious employment in the US. Poverty wages. Unsafe conditions. Uncertain futures. The undermining of health and retirement security. This is a wrong path in both of our countries. It hurts workers. It helps only bosses. It breeds exploitation.”

He demanding that the government of Enrique Pena Nieto respect freedom of association, respect labor rights, and act on the need for decent work for all Mexicans. “And we put governments in both of our countries on notice,” he concluded, “that we are prepared to fight for these rights – and to keep on fighting – until justice is won.”

Doug Olthuis, head of the Canadian USW delegation in Mexico reported that during the International Week of Action in support of independent Mexican unions a delegation of eight trade union leaders and activists from the United Steelworkers (USW), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), and the Communication Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) participated in a fact-finding and solidarity tour to learn first-hand about the impacts of Canadian mining companies (Excellon Resources and Fortuna Silver) on the rights of communities and workers in the Mexican states of Durango and Oaxaca.

The delegation met with community representatives, union leaders, and workers who had been sacked by Excellon Resources for supporting Local 309 of Los Mineros. He reported that the delegation found the first-hand accounts of workers and community members of rights violations credible and were angered and appalled by the lack of respect shown to them by these companies. The concluded by saying that the delegation was also inspired by the courage and solidarity shown by workers and communities as they continue to fight for their rights.

That afternoon the delegation from the CSN met with the representative from Québec in Mexico. They found her to be interested and receptive and, in what they termed a very productive meeting, they were able to provide her with extensive information both about the independent trade union movement and the violation of labor rights by the Mexican government and transnational corporations.

The day concluded with a rousing event at the headquarters of the SME where speakers called for
• Repeal of the labor law reform
• An end to protection contracts and corporativist control by the Mexican state
• Replacement of the Labor Arbitration and Conciliation Boards; and
• Restoration of purchasing power and a settlement of continuing labor conflicts.

To view to entire program at the SME, see

On the morning of February 20, thousands of workers from SME gathered before the Supreme Court to demand a reversal of the order revoking the favorable decision by the appellate court specializing in labor matters (Segundo Tribunal Colegiado en Materia de Trabajo).

In the afternoon, SME marched to the Secretariat of the Interior where a commission composed of the union’s central committee met with the authorities. A point of agreement presented by the PRD and supported by the PRI exhorts the executive branch to find a solution to the conflict that has left 16,599 workers without employment.

On February 21-22 the SME and telephone workers organized delegations which presented the declaration of the Tri-National Solidarity Alliance in meetings at the embassies of Canada, France, Japan, Spain, Norway, South Africa, Germany, Brazil, India Argentina and the US, calling on those governments to send a message to the Mexican government regarding trade union rights. See the video here. The TNSA declaration was also published in La Jornada. (The English version appears above).

United States

The AFL-CIO organized a large rally in Washington DC involving a range of unions including UAW, AFL-CIO, AFT, CWA, NALC and AFGE. The action outside the Mexican Embassy was filled with boisterous chants calling for an end to protection contracts. A senior trade union delegation conveyed the international demands of the campaign in a meeting with Embassy staff while the chanting continued outside. The AFL-CIO also reached out to its affiliates which organized actions in Houston, Miami, Portland, Seattle and Los Angeles. In LA, a trade union delegation composed of representatives from the USW, UE and AFL-CIO met the Mexican Consul General, David Figueroa Ortega, and lodged the campaign's demands. The vivid example of violations of trade union rights at PKC in Ciudad Acuña was detailed by the trade unionists as one illustrative example of the widespread problems throughout Mexico.

The USW took the lead in Chicago, where a major snowstorm the previous day did not deter some 75 demonstrators who mobilized outside the Mexican Consulate with banners and a symbolic miner's coffin.
Meanwhile, in Tucson, Arizona, USW Local 937 led a demonstration outside the Mexican Consulate, together with trade unionists from PALF, IATSE, CWA and IAM. The demonstrators there observed a moment of silence for the Pasta de Conchos victims. And in Indianapolis USW District 7 organized a rally in front of the Mexican Consulate.

UE Regional President Peter Knowlton requested a meeting in Boston with the Mexican Consul Carlos G. Obrador Garrido Cuesta for a labor delegation that also included Russ Davis, Executive Director MA Jobs with Justice and Sonny Eddleston, MA Steelworkers (USW). They reported that they presented the General Consul with the Days of Action demands and a letter to the President of Mexico expressing support for labor rights in Mexico and criticism of the recent labor law reforms “that restricted workers rights and mimic what companies do in the US (and other countries), especially regarding ‘precarious’ or contract or temp workers.” They also conveyed their support for justice and dignity for the Los Mineros miners and their families. According to Knowlton, “As has become the custom at these meetings, we discussed the lack of labor and immigrant rights in the US and the need for their support of these rights here in the US and in Mexico. We cautioned the General Consul on their government’s desire to take the US free trade path of free markets, privatization, and greed at the expense of social policies and benefits which help all the people, not just those at the top.”

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, a UE delegation met with consular staff and reported that they were “welcoming and positive” and that they would make a report to the Consul General.

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) spearheaded a solidarity event in New York City that brought activists from LCLAA, NLG, UAW, Laborers, 1199 SEIU, UFT, UFCW, Painters, TWU, CWA, Cornell Global Labor Institute, Middle Church, Asociación Tepayac, and others together in a rally in front of the Mexican consulate. A delegation met with Cónsul Alonso Martínez and his staff and delivered a joint letter and a copy of the 2012 Resolution of the International Tribunal on Union Freedom of Association in Mexico.

Sonia Ivany, the President of New York City LCLAA, acknowledged that the United States has many problems with the way it is treating workers, especially workers from Mexico. But she pointed out that with a global economy and serious talk about comprehensive immigration reform, what happens to workers in Mexico affects workers here, and what happens to workers in the United States impacts Mexico.

NLG’s Dean Hubbard raised the overall problem of the attacks on independent unions and their supporters in Mexico, as well as the specific cases of the cover-up of the deaths of 65 miners in the Pasta de Conchos disaster, the forced exile of Los Mineros’ leader Napoleon Gómez Urrutia in Canada, the continued refusal to reinstate 16,599 members of SME who were fired at gunpoint in 2009, and the specific issues of anti-worker labor law "reform" and protection contracts.

Joel Magallan, the Executive Director of Asociación Tepeyac, pointed out that the so-called labor law reform was passed in the waning days of the administration of former President Calderon, and suggested that the new President, Enrique Peña Nieto, should revisit this ill-advised legislation.

Martínez and the consulate staff agreed to convey the concerns to the President of the Republic and to the Ambassador in Washington DC, and to respond point by point in writing to the specific issues raised by the activists.

The NLG also took the lead in organizing an action in Denver, Colorado, where a coalition of local labor activists from the Denver Area Labor Federation, CWA, Mail Handlers Union, Jobs with Justice and NLG conducted a picket and then delivered a joint letter during a meeting with the Mexican Vice-Consul.

Austin tán Cerca collected signatures on a letter that they delivered to the Mexican consulate along with the Texas Fair Trade Coalition, Central Labor Council, Austin pro Justicia MX and community members.

In Kansas City, representatives from the Cross-Border Network, USW, CWA and Jobs with Justice met with the new Mexican Consul, Alicia Kerber, in Kansas City. They delivered a letter and spent over an hour discussing both the situation in Mexico and up-coming immigration reform in the United States.

And in New Orleans, members of the National Guestworkers Alliance (NGA) delivered a letter to the Mexican consul.

The UAW took the lead in Detroit, where they screened a short film about the PKC campaign in Ciudad Acuña at Solidarity House in Detroit. Following the film, a dozen participants a letter from President King to the Mexican Consulate. According to Pete DeMay, “We were almost immediately received and the official who we spoke with was very courteous and seemed to take our concerns seriously. We have a strong relationship with the consulate and deal with them frequently on immigration issues.”

Ni un paso atras

As we go to press, IndustriALL is still receiving reports from around the world. However, they estimate that actions took place in around 50 countries, an impressive message of solidarity and protest. As expressed by Fernando Lopes: “it is clear that when workers around the world are demonstrating that they are supportive of our Mexican comrades that means that we can win together: hasta la victoria, ni un paso atrás.”

The assessment from Mexican unions was also enthusiastic. Writing on behalf of the Mexican TNSA unions, Jorge Robles declared: “The experience of the Tri-National Solidarity Alliance (Mexico) is more important than one can imagine. In the Mexican context the difficulty imposed on the exercise of freedom of association and the restrictions on internal democracy within our unions by our labor legislation are well known. But TNSA-Mexico has been able to bring together the principal independent labor organizations within a framework of unity of action and it has become the most collegial and committed of the processes we have been developing in Mexico.

“We have much left to do: improve our international coordination and initiate, from Mexico, campaigns in solidarity with the working class of Canada and the United States, as well as to define appropriate actions in solidarity with struggles here in our own country.
“May this Alliance enjoy health and a long life! And the best of it is that this is all up to us!”

Back to March , 2013 Table of Contents

PKC Leader Addresses Women of Steel

Ana María Mendez Pacheco, a leader of Los Mineros Sección 307, received rousing applause and a standing ovation from a packed hall of Women of Steel when she spoke of her struggle to win the right to bargain a contract at PKC Group's wire harness assembly plant in Ciudad Acuña. Fired and escorted out of the plant by security just days before the December holidays and after 18 years of exemplary service - for standing up for her right to demand authentic union representation - Ana María and 9 of her compañeros ended their hunger strike protest in January after the local authorities agreed to give them a date for a new election.

The previous election, held in October 2012, had been deeply fraudulent but Los Mineros still won 2511 votes - more than a third of the bargaining unit and a huge victory given the company and media campaign against them and the presence of thugs from the CTM union. In order to squash any resistance after the election, the company fired all Los Mineros affiliated election observers along with Ana Maria and the entire committee of the Sección. Speaking on a panel of sisters from South Africa, Liberia, Austria, France and the UK, Ana María told the room of eight hundred women leaders that the fight is not over.

She began to organize, she said, because she only made US$1 / hour, with no possibility of raises. After 18 years she was still earning the same in real terms as when she started, and she and her family suffered as a consequence. Facing harassment and discrimination on the job, she found a home in the union, working to bring more women into its ranks, standing strong with her sisters and brothers on the leadership committee to develop a strategy to displace the protection union. Fired but not deterred, Sección 307 will go on to win this struggle.

Sign the Labourstart Petition for Reinstatement and a Fair Election!

You can support Ana María, Sección 307 of Los Mineros and the workers of PKC by signing the LabourStart petition for reinstatement and a fair election:

Back to March , 2013 Table of Contents

NAFTA at 20: The New Spin

Manuel Perez-Rocha and Javier Rojo

Originally published in Foreign Policy in Action at

Only a few years ago, analysts were warning that Mexico was at risk of becoming a “failed state.” These days, the Mexican government appears to be doing a much better PR job.

Despite the devastating and ongoing drug war, the story now goes that Mexico is poised to become a “middle-class” society. As establishment apostle Thomas Friedman put it in the New York Times, Mexico is now one of “the more dominant economic powers in the 21st century.”

But this spin is based on superficial assumptions. The small signs of economic recovery in Mexico are grounded largely on the return of maquiladora factories from China, where wages have been increasing as Mexican wages have stagnated. Under-cutting China on labor costs is hardly something to celebrate. This trend is nothing but the return of the same “free-trade” model that has failed the Mexican people for 20 years.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was ratified in 1993 and went into effect in 1994, was touted as the cure for Mexico’s economic “backwardness.” Promoters argued that the trilateral trade agreement would dig Mexico out of its economic rut and modernize it along the lines of its mighty neighbor, the United States.

The story went like this:

NAFTA was going to bring new U.S. technology and capital to complement Mexico’s surplus labor. This in turn would lead Mexico to industrialize and increase productivity, thereby making the country more competitive abroad. The spike in productivity and competiveness would automatically cause wages in Mexico to increase. The higher wages would expand economic opportunities in Mexico, slowing migration to the United States.

In the words of the former President Bill Clinton, NAFTA was going to “promote more growth, more equality and better preservation of the environment and a greater possibility of world peace.” Mexico’s president at the time, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, echoed Clinton’s sentiments during a commencement address at MIT: “NAFTA is a job-creating agreement," he said. "It is an environment improvement agreement.” More importantly, Salinas boasted, “it is a wage-increasing agreement.”

As the 20th anniversary of NAFTA approaches, however, the verdict is indisputable: NAFTA failed to spur meaningful and inclusive economic growth in Mexico, pull Mexicans out of unemployment and underemployment, or reduce poverty. By all accounts, it has done just the opposite.

The Verdict Is in

Official statistics show that from 2006 to 2010, more than 12 million people joined the ranks of the impoverished in Mexico, causing the poverty level to jump to 51.3 percent of the population. According to the United Nations, in the past decade Mexico saw the slowest reduction in poverty in all of Latin America.

Rampant poverty in Mexico is a product of IMF and World Bank-led neoliberal policies—such as anti-inflationary policies that have kept wages stagnant—of which “free-trade” pacts like NAFTA are part and parcel. Another factor is the systematic failure to create good jobs in the formal sectors of the economy. During Felipe Calderon’s presidency, the share of the Mexican labor force relying on informal work—such as selling chewing gum and other low-cost products on the street—grew to nearly 50 percent.

Even the wages in the manufacturing sector, which NAFTA cheerleaders argued would benefit the most from trade liberalization, have remained extremely low. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mexican manufacturing workers made an average hourly wage of only $4.53 in 2011, compared to $26.87 for their U.S. counterparts. Between 1997 and 2011, the U.S.-Mexico manufacturing wage gap narrowed only slightly, with Mexican wages rising from 13 to 17 percent of the level earned by American workers. In Brazil, by contrast, manufacturing wages are almost double Mexico’s, and in Argentina almost triple.

Mexico’s stagnant wages are celebrated by free traders as an opportunity for U.S. businesses interested in outsourcing. According to one report by the McKinsey management consulting firm, “for a company motivated primarily by cost, Mexico holds the most attractive position among the Latin American countries we studied. … Mexico’s advantages start with low labor costs.”

But even as the damning evidence against NAFTA continues to roll in, entrenched advocates of the trade agreement have been busy crafting new arguments. In his recent book, Mexico: A Middle Class Society, NAFTA negotiator Luis De la Calle and his co-author argue that the trade agreement has given rise to a growing Mexican middle class by providing consumers with higher quality, U.S- made goods. The authors proclaim that “NAFTA has dramatically reduced the costs of goods for Mexican families at the same time that the quality and variety of goods and services in the country grew.”

Most of the economic indicators included in the book conveniently fail to account for the 2008-2009 financial crisis, which hit Mexico worse than almost any other Latin American country. The result has been skyrocketing inequality. As the Guardian reported last December, “ever more Mexican families have acquired the trappings of middle-class life such as cars, fridges, and washing machines, but about half of the population still lives in poverty.”

The indicators of consumption that suggest the rise of Mexico’s middle class also exclude the dramatic increase in food prices in recent years, which has condemned millions of Mexicans to hunger. Twenty-eight million Mexicans are facing “food poverty,” meaning they lack access to sufficient nutritious food. According to official statistics, more than 50,000 people died of malnutrition between 2006 and 2011. That’s almost as many as have died in Mexico's drug war, which dramatically escalated under Calderon and has continued under President Enrique Peña Nieto.

The food crisis has coincided with the “Walmartization” of the country. In 1994 there were only 14 Walmart retail stores in all of Mexico. Now there are more than 1,724 retail and wholesale stores. This is almost half the number of U.S. Walmarts, and far more than any other country outside the United States. The proliferation of Walmart and other U.S. big-box stores in Mexico since NAFTA came into effect has ushered in a new era of consumerism—in part through an aggressive expansion built on political bribes and the destruction of ancient Aztec ruins.

The arguments developed prior to the signing of NAFTA focused primarily on the claim that the trade agreement would make Mexico a nation of producers and exporters. These initial promises failed to deliver. Throughout the NAFTA years, the bulk of Mexico’s manufacturing “exports” have come from transnational car and technology companies. Not surprisingly, Mexico’s intra-industry trade with the United Sates is the highest of any Latin American country. Yet the percentage of Mexican companies that are actually exporters is vanishingly small, and imports of food into Mexico have surged.

Same Snake Oil, Different Pitch

Because their initial promises utterly failed to deliver, the NAFTA pushers are now hyping “consumer benefits” to justify new trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. One of the most extreme examples of this spin is an article in The Washington Post that celebrates a “growing middle class” in Mexico that is “buying more U.S. goods than ever, while turning Mexico into a more democratic, dynamic and prosperous American ally.” Devoid of all logic, it goes on to say that “Mexico's growth as a manufacturing hub is boosted by low wages.” How can low wages make people more prosperous?

The Post also boasts that in “Mexico’s Costco stores, staples such as tortilla chips and chipotle salsa are trucked in from factories in California and Texas that produce for both sides of the border.” Is this something to celebrate? The influx of traditional Mexican food staples, starting with maize, and goods from the United States has displaced and dislocated millions of Mexican small-scale farmers, producers, and small businesses. And not only that, Mexicans’ increasing consumption of processed foods and beverages from the United States has made the country the second-most obese in the world.

In essence, NAFTA advocates have been reduced to saying: “so maybe NAFTA didn’t help Mexico reduce poverty or increase wages. But hey! At least it gave it Walmart, Costcos, and sweat shops.”

The bankruptcy of NAFTA’s promises is only compounded by the poverty of this consolation.

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President Peña Nieto on a Roll

By Dan La Botz

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is definitely on a roll. For Peña Nieto, the Institutional Revolutionary Party which he heads, and the business class that he represents, things could hardly be going better.

Even before becoming president, the former administration of Felipe Calderón of the even more conservative National Action Party (PAN) passed the Labor Law Reform sought by business organizations since the 1980s.

Then, Peña Nieto and his party passed the Education Reform Law through the Congress and saw it ratified by the states. While the word “reform” is used in connection with both of these laws, we should understand that there is nothing progressive about these laws in any sense. Both are intended to strengthen the hand of the state and the employers and to weaken that of labor.

Shortly after passing the Education Reform Law, Peña Nieto’s Attorney General arrested and jailed the President of the Mexican Teachers Union on charges of embezzlement, not only ignominiously ending her long corrupt career, but also warning other unions not to cross the government.

Now, Peña Nieto is pushing through Congress a law to reform telecommunications aimed at breaking up the monopolies of Televisa, TV Azteca, Telmex and Telcel. This move takes some of the wind out of the sails of Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his Morena Party which have criticized the role of the media in controlling Mexican politics, and it is bound to be popular with the public.

Taking a page form López Obrador, Peña Nieto has also proposed for pension for those over 65 years’ old. It was López Obrador who won great popularity by giving pensions to Mexico City’s older citizens when he was mayor.

On the political front, things couldn’t look brighter. The left-of-center Party of the Democratic Revolution finds itself divided over whether or not to support the Pact for Mexico proposed by Peña Nieto at the beginning of his term. Some in the PRD opportunistically want to support the measure, while others just as opportunistically want to oppose it.

At the same time, the National Action Party (PAN) which went down to defeat in the presidential elections because of the Calderón administration’s disastrous six years of economic stagnation, drug war violence in extremis (60,000 killed and 20,000 disappeared), just held a convention that voted for the direct election of the PAN leadership. This surprising vote represents a repudiation of all factions of the old leadership and will lead in the short term to civil war within the party, now that no one is in charge.

While the dissident teachers of the National Coordinating Committee recently held a demonstration for union democracy and against the Education Reform Act, they are about the only ones at the base of Mexican society with any politically conscious forces opposing that reform.

Enrique Peña Nieto is on a roll, and it’s a steamroller that he’s riding.

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Teachers March Against Ed Reform and for Democratic Union

More than 7,000 teachers marched through Mexico City on March 15 to the national legislature to oppose the educational reform law that recently passed both the Mexican Congress and the states and to demand the democratization of their union. The dissident teachers also demanded that there be no repression against their movement. The Mexican government recently arrested and jailed the head of the union, Elba Esther Gordillo, for embezzlement but at a rapidly called special convention a new president was elected, and rank-and-file teachers feel that their voices were not heard. (See article below.)

The march was organized by the National Democratic Coordinating Committee (la CNTE) of the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE), a rank-and-file group which for 35 years has fought to democratize the teachers union. La CNTE members have filed more than 100,000 individual appeals against the educational reform law.

Under pressure from this group, which has succeeded in winning control of some state teachers organizations in the south and west of Mexico, the Ministry of the Interior (Gobernación) has arranged for discussions between the Secretary of Education and the head of the Institute of Social Security of State Employees (ISSSTE), on the one hand, and the CNTE on the other.

The dissident teachers are also demanding a more thorough investigation of the corruption in their union that brought down Gordillo, expressing their suspicion that corruption went beyond her and involved others in her organization.

The demonstration itself represented a response to the statement by Secretary of Education Emilio Chuayffet Chemor that teachers who participate in public protests, work stoppages, or other demonstrations should be charged under the law and punished. His words had apparently not stopped these teachers from acting.

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Teachers' Union Leader Gordillo Jailed for Embezzlement: a Signal to Other Unions

By Dan La Botz

In a major event that will have a serious impact on Mexican politics and labor unions, Elba Esther Gordillo, who for more than twenty-five years has led the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE), was arrested on Feb. 26 on the charge of embezzling over US$200 millions of dollars in union funds which she reportedly deposited in banks in Europe and spent on real estate and other items. Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam charged Gordillo with money laundering, saying she used the union funds to pay for airplanes, pilot training, her plastic surgeries, and purchases of luxury goods in the United States.

On March 12, the Attorney General added new charges of embezzlement of six billion pesos or more than US$500 million dollars in union funds, at the same time the Secretary of Finance prepared to bring charges of tax evasion. On March 7 the Attorney General froze all of the union’s bank accounts, but subsequently opened those accounts “necessary for its survival.” The Mexican courts have rejected arguments urging the release of Gordillo pending trial.

Two days after her arrest, at a special convention, the SNTE elected an insider, Juan Díaz de la Torre, to be the new union president of the union’s 1.6 million members. The hurried election of Díaz de la Torre suggests that the union has little interest in fighting for Gordillo.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of Public Education, Emilio Chuayffet Chemor, began the annual contract negotiations with the SNTE which are usually completed by May 15.

The attorney general said the initial arrest was based on information provided by the Financial Intelligence division of the Mexican Treasury Department. In the last three years, she reportedly spent more than US$2.2 million at Neiman Marcus stores alone. President Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) reportedly followed the attorney general’s investigation and arrest of Gordillo closely, and justified the arrest by saying that the government was protecting union members' funds.

A Threat to Both Official and Independent Unions

The arrest of Gordillo follows President Peña Nieto’s success in pushing through the Mexican Congress and the state governments an educational reform intended to weaken the Mexican Teachers Union. Gordillo and her union opposed the reforms, but proved incapable of stopping them from passing. The arrest of Gordillo by the PRI government is a signal by the President and his party that they will not tolerate opposition to their program from the labor unions or any other sector of society. Other corrupt union leaders—and there are many—have been put on notice that they had best not oppose Peña Nieto and the PRI or they will pay the price. Gordillo's arrest is particularly aimed at intimidating Romero Deschamps, the head of the notoriously corrupt Mexican Petroleum Workers Union, who has opposed Peña Nieto's plans to privatize the Mexican Petroleum Company.

Deschamps, who is a PRI legislator in the Congress, has much to fear, not only because of his own history but also because of the way the government has dealt with his predecessors. When Carlos Salinas de Gortari of the PRI became president in 1988, he moved quickly to intimidate the Petroleum Workers and the Miners Union. On January 10, 1989, only a few days after taking office, Salinas sent police and army units to attack the Petroleum workers' union headquarters with bazookas, blowing the doors off and arresting the union’s leader Joaquín Hernández Galicia, known as “La Quina,” on charges of illegal possession of weapons. Salinas then chose Sebastian Guzman Cabrera to head the oil workers union and he, in turn, was succeeded by Deschamps in 1993.

Independent union leaders have also been put on notice. Presidents Vicente Fox (2000-2006) and Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), both of the National Action Party (PAN), brought charges of embezzlement of union funds against Napoleón Gómez Urrutia of the Mexican Miners and Metal Workers Union (SMMRM, often referred to as Los Mineros). The Fox administration brought the charges against Gómez Urrutia after he accused the government of “industrial homicide” in the mine disaster at Pasta de Conchos on Feb. 19, 2006, that left 65 miners dead. More important, however, may have been Gómez Urrutia’s attempt to take over the leadership of the Congress of Labor (CT), the umbrella organization of Mexico’s “official” unions which generally subordinate themselves to government policies and employer interests and his opposition in 2005 to an attempt at labor law reform. When he took office in December of 2006, Calderón and his administration continued the attempt to persecute the miners’ leader and to weaken the union.

The struggle revolved principally around Local 65 of the huge and historic Cananea mine in the northern state of Sonora. After many labor conflicts and altercations with government authorities, finally on June 6, 2010, Federal police stormed the mine, violently removing miners, their family members and supporters. Despite the Calderón government’s violent attempts to suppress the miners, Gómez Urrutia continues to lead the mine workers from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, while the miners continue to use job actions and strikes to win the best contracts in Mexico in mines and steel plants.

On the legal front, the Second Chamber of the Mexican Supreme Court ruled 3-1 that the Mexican Labor Secretary had acted illegally when he withdrew legal recognition from Gómez Urrutia as General Secretary of Los Mineros, in 2008. Gómez Urrutia and the miners received strong support both nationally and internationally. Investigations by the international labor movement found the government’s charges to be false. Last spring, another Mexican court threw out the last of eleven criminal cases against Gómez Urrutia, who has lived in Canada with support from the United Steel Workers since 2006.

What these various cases show is that the both the PRI and the PAN have been prepared to use the state to attempt to break the power of unions that stand in the way of their policies and their plans. Many other cases could be mentioned where the state uses its knowledge of union corruption or other illegal acts to bring charges against union officials, and then holds those charges over the union officers’ heads as a way of forcing them to adhere to the ruling party’s political line. In other cases, evidence and charges can be fabricated to bring a union to heel. What is happening now against Gordillo represents just one example, though a very important case, in the long history of state manipulation of Mexican unions.

Both the UNT and SME declined to defend Gordillo against charges of corruption. According to La Jornada, Humberto Montes de Oca, Secretary of External Relations for the Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME), noted that one should not put “in the same basket” the jailing of Gordillo and the on-going attack on independent unions which have been persecuted for challenging government policies. He added that if the detention is intended to send a message that nobody should oppose the government, it will not work with the SME, that they will not be intimidated and will continue their struggle in defense of their rights. He also stated that the incarceration of Gordillo should not serve to legitimize the education reform which was imposed in an arbitrary way without consultation with the teachers and in violation of their rights.

Perpetual Leader

Only last October Gordillo, who has led the union since 1989, was once again reelected to be its chief. In a union where her political machine controlled virtually every office, she received 3,205 votes in her favor with no opposing candidates, at a closely controlled convention with 3,287 delegates in attendance. While there are entire states where rank-and-file teachers have taken control and where tens of thousands regularly march and demonstrate to oppose her policies, the union opposition is regularly shut out of the national conventions.

Gordillo’s domination of the union goes back more than a quarter of a century. When, in 1989, teachers throughout Mexico rebelled against their union’s then dictatorial leader Carlos Jonguitud Barrios, President Carlos Salinas de Gortari intervened, and with no legal basis for doing so, appointed Elba Esther Gordillo to head el SNTE. Gordillo, taking up the rhetoric of the rebellious teachers, promised that the union “would never again be controlled by such a dictatorial political boss” as Jonguitud. Yet today, at age 67, Gordillo has become just such a boss. She is one of Mexico’s sempiternal leaders who once in power hold on until either they die or another president comes along to remove and replace them.

Gordillo’s evolution should not be surprising. She began her union career as a loyal member of the Revolutionary Vanguard caucus headed by Jonguitud Barrios, a corrupt and violent bureaucrat who colluded with the Secretary of Public Education (SEP) to suppress critical voices and dissident. Barrios was, of course, loyal to the PRI, the party that had ruled Mexico from 1929 until 2000. His union served as the most important component of the PRI’s electoral machine, able to mobilize its one million members to turn out and vote. He was accused, though never convicted, of having opposition teachers murdered.

Never part of the union opposition movement, not even during the democratic upsurge of 1988-89, Gordillo had remained loyal to the Revolutionary Vanguard machine. She never spoke out against Jonguitud, never joined the dissidents, and did not become the union’s leader through a democratic political process, but was rather appointed by recently elected President Salinas, with the understanding that she would head off the democratic rank-and-file rebellion in the union and keep the union structure and the PRI’s political machine intact. She proved more than up to the job.

How She Built Her Political Machine

Gordillo used all of the resources of the Mexican state to reconstruct a political machine in the union. Like her predecessor, she colluded with the SEP. That provided her with economic resources: lots of money, jobs for her loyalists, and the power to discipline dissidents by having them fired. Hundreds of SEP ghost employees (they’re called “aviators” in Mexico) worked for Gordillo’s union machine rather than in the schools teaching children. Advancement in the workplace, in an educational career, and in the union depended on Gordillo’s approval. Several of those who served in union leadership positions were her relatives and in-laws.

Gordillo also worked closely with the Institutional Revolutionary Party which she had joined in 1970, during a period when the one-party-state was engaged in violent repression of the country’s labor and social movements. She became a leader of one of the PRI’s most important labor unions, served the PRI as Secretary of Organization of the National Executive Council (1986—1987), General Secretary of the Council of National Popular Organizations (1997—2002), and General Secretary of the National Executive Council, the second highest office in the party.

As a PRI Congresswoman, she headed up the PRI delegation in the lower house until the early 2000s, when Gordillo clashed with the PRI leadership. She then turned in the direction of the National Action Party (PAN), becoming a supporter of PAN presidents Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón. In 2005, when she was on the outs with the PRI, her union also created its own political party, the New Alliance Party (PANAL), as one way to exert political pressure on the other parties. When Calderón’s fortunes began to decline, Gordillo veered back in the direction of the PRI, becoming a tacit supporter of Enrique Peña Nieto who was recently elected president.

Beating Back Dissent

Though her union’s constitution has a clause, typical of Mexican unions, prohibiting reelection, it has been ignored. However, she has not ruled the union without opposition. During her 24 years in office, she has been constantly opposed by the National Coordinating Committee (la CNTE), an independent, democratic, and militant opposition within the union, as well as by other opposition groups. The dissidents generally control the union in the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, and some Mexico City locals, and more recently in Michoacán, as well as having a significant presence in several other states. Yet despite the opposition’s remarkable organization and mass mobilizations of tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of teachers in protest marches, strikes, and mass occupations of state capitals and often of the Secretariat of Education and surrounding streets in Mexico City, they have been unable to build a majority movement that could unseat her.

Gordillo has used her tremendous political power to beat back the opposition. She and her loyalists control virtually all of the top offices in the national union and fill all of the union staff positions. When it comes time for national meetings or conventions, the location is usually changed at the last moment to make it difficult for the dissidents to attend or protest. Sometimes, as in the national convention that only recently reelected her, the convention site is changed to a remote resort location such as Playa del Carmen in the state of Quintana Roo on the Yucatan Peninsula, far from the dissidents in Mexico City or the states of central, western and southeastern Mexico. Those few dissident teachers who do show up are kept away from the event by the state police and private guards. The convention delegates, virtually all Gordillo loyalists, have been rewarded each year with expensive toys: one year with Hummer automobiles and last year with a computer for every delegate.

Speaking to the most recent convention, Gordillo told the delegates, “Friends, there is no doubt about it. This union is a democratic, pluralistic union, a strong union, the strongest in Mexico and throughout Latin America.” With the Mexican Congress debating a reform of the country’s Federal Labor Law, including proposals to make unions more transparent, she announced that the convention had approved new statutes that would create an oversight committee and establish full transparency. “We have nothing to hide,” she said. She promised the convention that if they worked hard they could have everything done by Saturday and rest on Sunday at the beach.

Despite the union constitution’s prohibition of reelection, or to bypass it, Gordillo has until now held the position of “president for life.” At the last convention, Gordillo created a new leadership body called the Supreme General Council that stands above the union’s other leadership bodies. The new leadership Council was reduced from 12 to 8 members, and she gave up her old title of “eternal leader” to become the union’s general secretary, the top officer. The national executive committee has 43 officers, all of whom are her loyalists. At the same time, the terms of all union positions were increased from four to six years. She justified these changes saying, “We’re going for a horizontal union, completely horizontal.”

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US-Style School Reform Goes South

By David Bacon

This article originally appeared at The Nation, April 1, 2013 edition

Just weeks after taking office, Mexico's new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, ordered the arrest of the country's most powerful union leader, Elba Esther Gordillo. The move garnered international headlines and was widely cast as a sign that the government was serious about cracking down on corruption. But virtually no one in Mexico believes that was the real reason for her arrest.

The timing alone suggests a different interpretation. Gordillo, president of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE), was charged with embezzlement and removed from office in late February-shortly after the Mexican Congress gave its final approval to an education reform program that is hated by most of the country's teachers.

Gordillo was a longtime ally of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the party not only of Peña Nieto but of the disgraced former president of Mexico, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who imposed her as the union's president in 1989, after forcing her predecessor to resign. Although Gordillo was forced out of the party several years ago in a power struggle, she remained one of the most powerful politicians in Mexico.

An anti-democratic union leader, Gordillo may prove to be guilty of the charges leveled against her. But what placed her in the cross-hairs of Mexico's corporate elite was more likely her inability to keep teachers under control as the country moves forward with its latest neoliberal reform-this time of its schools.

One leader of the progressive opposition within the SNTE, Juan Ortega Madrigal, warned that Peña Nieto "is totally wrong if he believes that he can silence the voices of 500,000 teachers by decree," adding that they would not "abandon the defense of public education." Teachers backed up that sentiment with a two-day national strike. Rubén Núñez Ginez, the head of Oaxaca's teachers union, said they would not permit a law to take effect that attacks public education and the rights of teachers.

Since the fall, teachers have been demonstrating and striking against the PRI's proposal, which would tie their jobs to standardized tests and remove the voice of the union in hiring. But the corporate offensive to gain control of the country's schools was launched long before Peña Nieto took office.

Just months after Waiting for Superman hit US movie screens in 2010, ¡De Panzazo! premiered in Mexico City. Both are movies produced by neoliberal education reformers who believe teachers and unions are responsible for the failings of the education system. And their near-simultaneous release and ideological resemblance was no coincidence: in Mexico City, ¡De Panzazo! was screened not in a movie theater, but in the twenty-fourth-floor offices of the World Bank. "One can see similarities to the U.S. documentary, Waiting for Superman," an article on the bank's website noted, especially "in its suggestion that teachers' unions bear a significant responsibility [for the failings of public schools.]"

Luis Hernández Navarro, opinion editor of the Mexico City daily La Jornada, saw the similarities too. "Both have two central elements in common," he wrote. "They criticize public education in their countries, and they're financed and backed by important people in the business world."

A network of large corporations and banks extends throughout Latin America, financed and guided in part from the United States, pushing the same formula: standardized tests, linking teachers' jobs and pay to test results, and bending the curriculum to employers' needs while eliminating social critique. The medicine doesn't go down easily, however. In both countries, grassroots opposition-from parents and teachers-has been rising. In Seattle, teachers at Garfield High have refused to give the tests. In Michoacan, in central Mexico, sixteen teachers went to jail because they also refused.

* * *

Today, the most powerful organized resistance comes from the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. Here, teachers have proposed education reform that gives more voice to teachers, students and parents, allows them to work creatively together, and enhances critical thinking. Because of political changes in Oaxaca, they have the power not just to propose ideas like these but also to implement them.

Explains Oaxacan teacher Pedro Javier Torres, "We have enough schools, although not all completely adequate. The problem is the quality of the education-the same problem as in the United States. How do we offer a student a quality school? What kind of teacher do we want, and who will determine this?"

Teachers have an answer to this question, but so does Mexico's corporate elite. "In Search of Business Sustainability," a report by the Intelligence Unit of the British magazine The Economist, documents growing corporate involvement in Mexican education. Coca-Cola and Ford have built model schools. The Televisa Foundation organizes seminars for teachers and administrators. Industrialists for Basic Education (which includes the food giant Bimbo) pushes changes in curriculum and teaching standards.

By far the most influential corporate education reform lobby is Mexicanos Primero, supported by the country's wealthiest corporations and individuals, like Carlos Hank and Carlos Slim. Hernández Navarro calls it "a shadowy organization that promotes the interests of the corporate right wing in education."

The president of Mexicanos Primero, Claudio González Guajardo, is the co-founder of the Televisa Foundation. Televisa, one of Mexico's two television networks, was key to electing its last three presidents. In August, newly elected President Peña Nieto appointed González to head his transition team on education. At a dinner a month later, González told him that "Mexicans elected you, not the [teachers] union," and urged him to "end the power of the union over hiring, promotion, pay and benefits for teachers."

Founded in 2005, Mexicanos Primero advocates standardized tests and merit pay for teachers based on test results. These principles were incorporated into the Alliance for Quality Education (ACE), negotiated in 2008 between the union's Gordillo and then-President Felipe Calderón. In 2009, the government began administering a national standardized test for students, called ENLACE. Advocates of the corporate education reform agenda point to the poor results by Mexican students on the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), which is given by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an association of wealthy developed nations. In 2009, 50 percent of 15-year-olds scored a level 2 or below (on a scale of 0 to 5) in math or science.

According to many teachers, however, PISA and ENLACE don't take context into account. Hernández Navarro says these tests imitate those mandated by No Child Left Behind, the Bush-era law mandating standardized testing in the United States. "But schools by themselves can't overcome the divides of socioeconomic inequality," he says. The reports by Mexicanos Primero "invent a crisis in order to make up myths about educational disaster and present Mexican teachers as privileged and irresponsible." Likewise, a study by Susana López Guerra of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional in Querétaro and Marcelo Flores Chávez of the Colegio de Bachilleres of Querétaro argues that PISA evaluates "socioeconomic condition, rather than actual intelligence, the difference in reading and writing abilities, or some other knowledge." The "assumption," López says, "is that social classes do not exist, nor is there socioeconomic and cultural inequality between developed and developing countries."

"In Mexico, there is a great difference between communities," Torres says. "Some schools function very well because they have resources and the attention of the families. Others don't. That doesn't justify bad conditions, but to think that the only ones responsible are the teachers is just not true." Eduardo Bravo Esqueda, formerly of the National Institute for the Physical Infrastructure of Schools, notes that "students study for six hours a dayŠwhere the temperature rises to 104 in the summer or where they freeze in the winter." According to Hernández Navarro, over 26,000 of the 223,144 basic education schools have no water, and many have no functional bathrooms or lighting. Nevertheless, Mexico's testing system has begun to tie teachers' jobs to the test results. "If they don't achieve the educational goals, that's when the firings begin," Torres says.

In "Advances in the Reform of Basic Education in Mexico," the OECD called for putting teacher-training schools (called "normal schools") on probation while opening the door to private ones. It also urged incoming President Peña Nieto to fire teachers whose students perform poorly on standardized tests and exclude them from teaching. Similar measures are also advocated by a Washington think tank, the Partnership for Educational Revitalization in the Americas, a project of the Inter-American Dialogue.

PREAL's Alexandra Solano justified the testing regime by arguing that "even small percentages of ineffective teachers can impact the economic chances of students and nations." She cited a controversial study by the Hoover Institution's Eric Hanushek, which asserts that a bad teacher will cost a US student $400,000 in lifetime earnings. Hanushek, Solano claimed, "found that replacing the least effective 5-7% of teachers with average teachers in the U.S. could increase its annual growth rate by 1% of the GDP [about $150 billion]." New York University's Diane Ravitch, however, has cast doubt on Hanushek's findings: "There's a difference between trying to show that teachers differ in their abilities and saying that firing people based on a criterion that nobody supports will produce huge results in the real world...Other nations have improved the teaching profession by strengthening it, not by annual firings."

PREAL, "the strongest private voice on education in Latin America," supports the goals of Mexicanos Primero. Its director, Jeff Puryear, a former Ford Foundation officer, spoke at the ¡De Panzazo! screening. In addition to funding from the World Bank, PREAL received grants from the US Agency for International Development of more than $6 million from 2001 to 2006, and nearly $12 million from 2007 to 2012.

Puryear says that "PREAL has done very little in Mexico," and cites a conference on teacher effectiveness, and studies on standards and assessment, and on teacher incentives and evaluation. According to USAID staffer Raphael Cook, PREAL has provided funds to local partner organizations in other countries in the region, including Businessmen for Education in Colombia, the Business Foundation for Educational Development in El Salvador and the Private Sector Council for Education Assistance in Panama. The Honduran Council of Private Business was also listed as a partner organization on the PREAL website.

The Inter-American Development Bank helped create a similar group, the Latin American Network of Civil Society Organizations for Education, which includes Businesses for Education in Guatemala and Peru, and Mexicanos Primero in Mexico. They all allege a crisis in education, "shifting attention from the origin of economic and sociocultural problems to the school environment, thereby abandoning the actual search justice," according to Susana Lopez. Education itself, she says, "is transformed from a human right into a commodity, which can be bought and sold in the 'education marketplace.'"

Mexican teachers resist this idea and demonstrated for months when the ACE was introduced in 2008. This February, thousands of teachers filled Mexico City's streets, protesting Peña Nieto's education program. They were organized by the rank-and-file caucus, the National Coordination of Education Workers (CNTE), which for decades has battled the leaders of Mexico's teachers union-including Gordillo.

The CNTE took aim at the alliance between the government, the national leadership of their union and corporate education reformers. While still president of the SNTE, Gordillo and Mexicanos Primero's González shared a platform at a 2011 conference called "Competitiveness and Education." There, González called CNTE strikes in Michoacan and Oaxaca "a crime against youth." He called the normal schools "a swarm of politics and shouting" and demanded that the government replace them with private institutions. That fall, police killed three students from the Ayotzinga Normal School in Guerrero after the students there blocked a highway.

* * *

In response to the ACE and ENLACE testing agenda, Oaxaca's progressive teachers' union, Seccion 22, formulated its own vision: the Plan for the Transformation of Education in Oaxaca (PTEO). The plan covers conditions for students, evaluation, teacher training and salary questions, among other things. But its most important principle is diversity. Oaxaca's indigenous population speaks sixteen different languages. "Education must be grounded in the context of each of our towns," explains Tranquilino Lavariega Cruz, coordinator of the Center for the Study of Educational Development in Sección 22. A teacher "has to see the cultural richness in these communities, in the people who live there." A standard third-grade lesson on maps, for instance, asks the student to calculate the distance from the drugstore to the hospital. "If you give this exercise to a child who doesn't know what a hospital or drugstore is, it has no educational value," he points out. "We're not saying that all knowledge is contextual-a five is a five no matter where you live. Certain elements of the curriculum are universal, but others can have their own context."

Another principle is equality. "Schools in the heart of the city should be equal to those in marginalized communities," Lavariega asserts. To achieve this, the PTEO process forms collectives, first among teachers and other school staff and then including parents, students and community leaders. "Communities should be able to generate their own educational process," he explains. The school collective decides on an educational project, implements it and holds everyone accountable.

Collectivity and accountability work, the Oaxacan teachers believe, while standardized testing doesn't. Oaxaca is the one state where such tests have not been given. Lavariega charges that in the testing regime, "the teacher gives items to the student, which the student gives back. The test checks it. They're treating education like a product." And stakes are high, as tests become "the reference point in a process that can lead to firing a teacher, or cause a school to lose its certification and be closed. Taking its place is a private institution."

The PTEO proposes that teachers and students keep diaries and maintain portfolios of their work. "While we don't totally discard conventional tests, we should also have interviews and surveys," says Torres, who represents secondary school teachers in a union committee overseeing the PTEO. "Teachers and families should sit down together and analyze what they find in the diaries and portfolios. Teachers can ask each other, 'How did you explain a certain idea? How well did it work?'"

Oaxacan teachers envision evaluating teachers through their interaction with each other and with parents. "A good teacher is aware of the variation in the ways that children learn," says Javier Rendón, a coordinator with the Oaxaca State Institute for Public Education, which administers the state's schools. "We have to give each child what he or she needs, and it's not the same. The focus of evaluation should be getting information that helps us change and improve the quality of education. The problem with the standardized test is its focus on competition."

The training system in the normal schools also needs to be changed, teachers believe. "The development of a critical capacity is the key element," Lavariega says. "We want a training program that sees a teacher as a source of social change, someone who has roots in a community."

In Mexico, rural teachers historically have been as much social activists as educators. Nevertheless, for many years teacher training was not professionalized. It was only in 1997 that normal schools began granting the equivalent of a bachelor's degree. "The professionalization of teachers really began then," Torres says. "Now, it's not enough just to graduate-you need a master's degree, and courses to keep you up to date."

In Oaxaca, a teacher who graduates from a normal school and passes a teaching exam is guaranteed a job-the only state where this promise still exists. However, critics claim that a teacher can pass on his or her job to a son or daughter. "We still have teachers who were trained in a very different world," Torres explains. "These teachers, who are now retiring, say they should still have the right to give their job to their children. There aren't a lot of jobs in Oaxaca, and this practice wouldn't exist if there were greater job opportunities. But it has created many problems. Today, the majority of teachers are professionals, but sometimes a teacher may not be very well prepared or may not have been trained in a normal school."

The Oaxacan teachers have battled successive state administrations for years. In 2006, a Sección 22 strike became a virtual insurrection, and the national government sent in heavily armed police to suppress the rebellion. In its wake, the left-wing Democratic Revolutionary Party and the right-wing National Action Party organized an unwieldy coalition and defeated the PRI in the 2010 state election for the first time. Heavily supported by Sección 22, former Oaxaca City Mayor Gabino Cué became governor, opening the door for the PTEO.

In 2012, however, the PRI regained the national presidency. In Mexico, the federal government controls education policy and funding. "The PTEO has to be evaluated by the federal government," says Rendon. "A great deal of our resources comes from them, so if we don't agree with their policy, it gets very complicated. Hopefully, we'll be able to find points in common."

"It is a very viable proposal," he adds. "We still have to work on it, but it's a dynamic process. We're asking teachers to develop their abilities to form collectives and help them actually change the school. All that takes training. And any change in the system requires money. Oaxaca already has a big problem financing its schools, especially the infrastructure, to say nothing of training and salaries."

When Cué came into office, he signed an initial agreement with Sección 22 to begin implementing the PTEO, which began in 280 schools last May and June. Each had to set up a collective, analyze the needs of students and the community, and come up with an education plan.

In February, however, just before Gordillo's arrest, Claudio González went to Oaxaca and warned Governor Cué that he had to "break the hijacking of education by Sección 22"; he also called the teachers "tyrants." That was too much even for the state's school director, Manuel Iturribarría Bolaños, who accused González of having come to the state to provoke a fight. Teachers picketed the Mexicanos Primero press conference, and González fled back to Mexico City.

Meanwhile, teachers still have to deal with day-to-day problems. "I teach biology at the Escuela Secondaria General José María Bradomín, in a poor community at the edge of the city," Torres explains. "To convince students to take an interest, I use music and computers. We leave the classroom and look at leaves on the trees. People who teach in a traditional way ask what I think I'm doing. They want a very ordered room with everyone in their assigned seat. I want my students to learn to work together."

Oaxaca today is one of the main states sending migrant workers to the U.S., and migration has risen sharply in the last twenty-five years. While the reform debate goes on, Oaxacan students still leave school every year and head north. Rendon coordinates programs to track them as they migrate with their parents in search of work. One sends Oaxacan teachers to the United States to help those students. Another brings California and Oregon teachers to Oaxaca, to better understand the culture of these migrant children.

That's a more complicated picture than the one presented by ¡De Panzazo! and Mexicanos Primero, promoted by USAID and the OECD. "Today our challenges are very difficult, because we're living in a globalized world," Torres concludes. "We can't be separate from it. We can't just tell a student, 'You succeeded because you went to school.' The child must be prepared for life. The challenge for me is to give students in school the tools they can use to resolve their life problems once they leave it."

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National Action Proposes Ending Public Workers Dues Check-off

The National Action Party (PAN), historically Mexico’s party of big business, has proposed ending automatic union dues deductions from public workers’ paychecks arguing that paying union dues should be an individual, voluntary act. The bill was put forward by former Secretary of Labor Javier Lozano.

The PAN Senators introduced a bill that would make it illegal to withhold from workers’ wages money for unions, cooperatives, or savings plans.

The bill would also allow unions members to resign from the union, something which is now virtually impossible, and make it illegal to pay workers doing union business in the workplace to be paid by the union, The bill also calls for public employee union to meet the same standard of transparency as recently established in a law for private sector unions.

Elba Esther Gordillo’s alleged embezzlement of union funds clearly provided the occasion for the PAN to raise this proposal which would have far-reaching impact on public employees’ unions. If Mexico’s large public employee unions with millions of members were to lose the right to have union dues deducted, their power would diminish dramatically and rapidly.

"This [bill] favors freedom of association, beginning with the right to join a union and pay dues and other contributions in a free and conscious way. Government service workers should be adequately represented by a transparent union and aware of how the union spends its money,” said Lozano.

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Telephone Union Seeks Protection from New Telcom Law

Francisco Hernández Juárez, head of the Mexican Telephone Workers Union (STRM), met with the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) representatives last week to ask them to introduce a clause in the proposed telecommunications law that would protect telephone workers. Hernández Juárez was also schedule to meet with leaders of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the National Action Party (PAN). He is basically seeking some sort of successor clause so that if Mexican Telephone (TELMEX) came under new ownership, his members would be protected.

The Mexican Congress is currently debating a law intended to end the oligopoly in the telecommunications industry, including both the television and telephone industries. The new law would end the Televisa and Azteca television duopoly and also the virtual Mexican Telephone (TELMEX) monopoly of landlines, as well as ending the quasi-monopoly of TELCEL, the cellphone company.

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Silvia Ramos Luna of UNTyPP Wins Reinstatement!


On March 8, Silvia Ramos Luna wrote “In addition to sending greeting, I want to let you know that yesterday, on March 7, I was reinstated again at my workplace, the "Miguel Hidalgo" refinery in Tula de Allende, Hidalgo. I return with the determination to continue to build the union project that we initiated 19 years ago and which has succeeded after many years of struggle in gaining a union registration and the right to recognition of the union’s officers that accompanies it.

“In these times in which there is an attempt to return to labor conditions that existed at the beginning of the past century, it has become indispensable to have organizations that permit us to defend our rights and jobs, to prevent unjust or denigrating labor conditions and to promote the development of our places of work. To advance in the organization and strengthening of our union is not just a question of conviction but of survival.”

Various previous articles in MLNA refer to UNTyPP, including our June 2011 issue which describes this case.

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Celebration of International Women's Day


In Mexico, International Women’s Day has been long recognized as a day for celebrating women and their struggle for equality, and all political leaders and some corporate executives issue statements recognizing women’s contributions.

• Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) recognized women with a twitter message, calling them “the pillars of the family and society and of the transition to the future.”

• The Mexican House of Representatives recognized women with an exhibition of paintings of indigenous women from states throughout Mexico.

• The Mexico City government, led by the Party of the Democratic Revolution, acting with the Women’s Institute organized a fair for women in the Zócalo, the national plaza where government and non-governmental women’s organizations displayed materials, gave talks, and held discussions.

• The Nissan corporation in Mexico celebrated international women’s day by recognized the importance of diversity in the company’s success.

• At the Autonomous University of Chiapas, forums were organized on the 60th anniversary of women’s suffrage on the question of “Gender and Justice.”

• Similarly, the Autonomous University of Tlaxcala held forums on the ‘Imagined Future of Young Women” and “Gender and Equity.”
Many other Mexican governmental agencies and universities, as well as women’s groups throughout the country also celebrated and recognized women. Yet the victory of winning the institutionalization of Women’s Day does not necessarily reflect victory over the problems that women face.

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Working Women: the Statistics


Women make up a large part of the Mexican working class, but generally receive lower pay than men, according to the Mexican Institute of Statistics. Mexican men’s wages average $31.40 (US$2.52) pesos per hour, while women’s wage average $30.30 (US$2.43).

The country’s 112.4 million people include 57.5 million women and 54.9 million men; that is more than half the population (51.7 percent) are women. Mexico is a young country where half the population is under 26 and women’s average age is 26, while men’s is 25.

Some 42.5 percent of women form part of the economically active population, and 96 percent of those also do housework. Only 57.2 percent of working men do any housework.

Among women who work, 64.8 percent are wage laborers, 25.8 percent are self-employed, usually in tiny businesses, and 9.4 percent of women work for no pay.

Working women are generally concentrated in the service sector: 31.7 percent in sales work; 27.4 percent in personal services; and 14.4 percent in office work. At all educational levels, men earn more than women.

Women have higher overall unemployment rates than men; woman at 9.1 percent and men at 8.1 percent. However, at age thirty the unemployment rates equalize, at age 40 men have a higher unemployment rate, and at age 60 men’s unemployment rate is 6.2 percent higher than women’s.

Women are the heads of 25.5 percent of all households and the average size of those households is 3.2 persons.

In the last six federal administrations, presidential cabinet choices were mostly men, with women amounting to only 7.5 percent of all designations. Mexico has 32 entities (31 states and a Federal District) but in the last 30 years, only five women have headed such an entity, four as governors and one as mayor of the Federal District.
See the Mexican Institute of Statistics and Geography’s complete annual report on women.

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Domestic Workers in Mexico: Highly Exploited, Underpaid


Mexico’s upper and middle classes can never have enough maids. The number of domestic workers in Mexico has almost doubled since 1995, from one million then to 1.9 million in 2010, according to the Mexican Institute of Statistics and Geography. Of those, 89.5 percent are women, mostly between 20 and 49 years of age, the others being mostly male chauffeurs and gardeners.

Domestic workers who typically work six days a week, 12 hours a day, and can be considered to be on call 24 hours a day. They generally earn low wages, and part of their wage is often paid in kind, through housing and food. Twenty five percent do not even earn the minimum wage. Male domestic workers are generally paid more than female domestic employees. Domestic workers make 49 percent less than other workers, such as cleaning workers, who do similar work.

Domestic workers’ rights are generally ignored and they have little legal recourse to deal with their problems. Some 91 percent of domestic workers, men and women, lack medical care, 83.6 percent get no vacations, and 73 percent do not receive the Christmas bonus that most workers receive and are entitled to by law.

Of the 1.7 million female maids, some 76 percent of domestic workers are single, have no partner, or are separated or divorced. Twenty one percent are daughters who help to support their families, while 29 percent are the sole support of their own families.

A study by Sonia M. Frías, a researcher with the Regional Center for Multidisciplinary Studies of the National Autonomous University found that 11.28 percent of working women had suffered discrimination because of pregnancy and about 3.0 percent had been sexually harassed.
[There is a
history of the Mexican Domestic Workers Union, 1920-1950 by Mary Goldsmith Corelly.]

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Unionization Among Mexican Women Workers


While union representation in Mexico has declined in general over the last forty years, including unionization among women, many women are union members, particularly in the public sector.

The National Union of Social Security Workers (SNTSS) represents more than half a million workers in the national public health system, many of whom are women. Similarly, the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE) represents 1.6 million teachers and other education workers, a majority of whom are women. Mexico’s public universities also employ tens of thousands of women who have union. The Federal District and state and city governments also employ women who are represented by public employees’ unions.

The private sector has fewer unionized women workers, but the airline industry has many female employees who are represented by the Flight Attendants Union (ASSA).

While there are hundreds of thousands of women in the unions, women often find that they do not have much of a voice in the union and find it hard to get unions to understand their concerns and take up their issues. (See the articles listed below.)

The Authentic Labor Front (FAT), a federation of labor unions and cooperatives, organizes working women in various industries. FAT has a union commission dedicated to the organization of working women and to advancing them within the union.

[See the studies in Spanish below on women in unions in Mexico:
Inés González Nicolás, “Participación sindical de las trabajadoras en México” at:
Patricia Ravelo Blancas and Sergio Gpe. Sánchez Díaz, “Las mujeres en los sindicatos en México: Los dilemas del género y clase” at:
“Las mujeres en los sindicatos mexicanos,” IEESAMX, at; ]

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Mexican Women: Highest Level of Sexual Violence, Trafficking


Mexican women experience among the highest levels of crimes of sexual violence and human trafficking in the world, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Some 800,000 Mexican women and girls are victims of sexual exploitation, while 38,000 women have been killed in recent years, according to María José Gómez González. of the UNFPA. Mexico is also one of the biggest traffickers in women in girls, since many of those 800,000 are exported for sexual exploitation to the United States or Europe.

At the same time, the Mexican National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) reports that 46 percent of Mexican women 15 years or older have suffered some sort of violent incident in their current or last conjugal relationship. Raúl Plascencia Villanueva of the CNDH said that 42.4 percent reported emotional aggression and 24.5 percent had experienced aggression in an attempt to control the money they contributed to the home and how to spend it. Some 7.3 percent had been intimidated or forced to have sexual relations without their consent.

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Juárez Rights Activist Seeks Asylum in US

Mexico Week In Review: 02.25-03.03


Mexican human rights activist Karla Castañeda Alvarado applied for political asylum in the US on Feb. 13 after secretly leaving her home in Ciudad Juárez in the northern state of Chihuahua with four of her children. US authorities have granted her six months to provide documentation to justify her application. The Committee of Mothers and Relatives of Disappeared Young Women, in which Castañeda was active, said it was better for her to seek asylum, noting the example of activist Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, who was shot dead by an unidentified man on Dec. 16, 2010, as she was protesting in front of the main government office in the state capital, also named Chihuahua.

Castañeda started her political activity after her daughter Cinthia Jacobeth, then 13 years old, disappeared in Juárez on Oct. 24, 2008. This January Castañeda was part of a 400-km walk by members of the Committee of Mothers to the state capital to present a petition to Gov. César Duarte Jáquez. The governor left for the southeastern state of Chiapas--to participate in the launching of a "National Crusade Against Hunger"--before the activists arrived. Duarte finally met with the committee in Juárez on Feb. 2 and agreed to some of their proposals for fighting the disappearances. However, after the meeting Castañeda was subjected to harassment by the authorities. Municipal police agents raided her home on Feb. 4; unidentified men attempted to enter her yard at about 3 am on Feb. 6; and state police and agents from the prosecutors' office went to her house on Feb. 9 and told her mother-in-law that Castañeda was getting "too deep" in the search for her daughter.

Human rights organizations say some 200 women, most of them young, have disappeared in Juárez since 1993, in addition to several hundred women known or presumed to have been murdered. The number of disappeared may be higher, since some families probably don't report the disappearances for fear of reprisals.

Source: Weekly News Update on the Americas - Issue #1165: 02/24

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SHORTS: 26,121 disappeared; Comandante Moisés; and statistics on mexican immigrants to US

Human Rights Watch Report Condemns Disappearances; Gov't Admits 26,121 Missing

1. Human Rights Watch issued a report which condemned the Calderón administration for disappearances during the government crackdown on drug cartels as well as for failing to investigate the disappearances. It reported that security forces were connected with the disappearances of at least 149 people during Calderon's tenure. A few days later, subsecretary for legal affairs and human rights, Lia Limón under President Enrique Peña Nieto, held a press conference in which she stated that 26,121 people were reported missing between December 2006 and November 2012, although not all disappearances were connected with drug violence.

EZLN Introduces Subcomandante Moisés

2. The EZLN has introduced Subcomandante Moisés through its essay THEM AND US. All 6 parts are translated into English on the blog of the chiapas support committee blog on zapatistas & mexico In Part VI, Marcos announces that the EZLN has a new Subcomandante: Moisés, who has been a lieutenant colonel in the EZLN’s military arm for the past approximately 10 years. Moisés is widely believed to be the successor to Marcos and this promotion and appointment would seem to confirm it. From the Zapatista News Summary for February 2013 Posted: March 4, 2013 at

12 Million Mexicans Undocumented in US; 45 Percent Women

3. Ana Alicia Peña López, an investigator from UNAM has found that of 40 milliones workers of Mexican origin in the United States, 12 million are undocumented and 45 percent are women.

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RESOURCES: Press clips

Seguimiento prensa CORTO FEB13

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Back to Table of Contents of Mexican Labor News & Analysis articles.

Archived MLNA issues.


Arturo Silva Doray


"The relationship that we've had with international organizations
-- thanks to ties with UE   --  is hugely important.

"After each international meeting, we feel more and more encouraged by the knowledge that we're backed by outside organizations as strong as the UE."

-- Arturo Silva Doray
General secretary of municipal workers union in Juarez, Mexico
& of Federation of Municipal Workers for Chihuahua, Mexico



For more Information

For information about submission of articles and all queries contact editor Dan La Botz at the following e-mail address: or call (513) 861-8722. The mailing address is: Dan La Botz, Mexican Labor News and Analysis, 3503 Middleton Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45220.

Can you reprint these articles?

Most MLNA articles may be reprinted by other electronic or print media. If the article includes a byline, republication requires the author's approval. For permission, please contact the author directly. If there is no byline, republication is authorized if the reproduction includes the following paragraph:

"This article was published by Mexican Labor News and Analysis, a monthly collaboration of the Mexico City-based Authentic Labor Front (FAT) and the Pittsburgh-based United Electrical Workers (UE)."


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