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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

October , 2014, Vol. 19, No. 10


Shock, Horror, Anger at Killing of 5, Disappearance of 43 Students; Marches, Protests, Strikes, Gov’t, Party Buildings Burned

By Dan La Botz

Throughout Mexico there is continued shock, horror, indignation, and anger at the police killing of 5 and wounding of 17 other students, and above all at the disappearance of 43 students on the night of September 26 and the early morning of September 27. For almost a month now protests – both peaceful and violent – involving tens of thousands have rippled across Mexico, as students, teachers, and other citizens demand that the missing students be returned alive, although some evidence suggests they may already be dead. While tens of thousands of Mexicans have died in the drug wars since 2006 – as many as 60,000, and perhaps another 20,000 have gone missing – there is particular horror and revulsion at the murder and disappearance of these young people from humble backgrounds, children of peasants, who were students at the Ayotzinapa rural teachers’ college.

The controversy over the disappearance of the students has taken place just as the Mexican government’s National Human Rights Commission issued a report on October 21 stating that Mexican soldiers had executed at least 12 and probably 15 of the 22 people who were killed in June in the town of Tlatlaya in the State of Mexico. Two of those killed were minors; several had been tortured. Raul Plascencia, president of the Commission called it, “one of the worst incidents of human rights abuses ever committed.” So far, no military officer or soldier has been indicted for the murders.

The Guerrero students’ killings and disappearances have become a full-blown political crisis for the Mexican government, but above all for Guerrero Governor Ángel Heladio Aguirre Rivero of the left-of-center Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). While President Enrique Peña Nieto and opposition leaders such as Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas have called the return of the missing students the country’s most important issue, to many it seems as if there is no response. Guerrero Governor Aguirre Rivero remains in office, no police officers or others have been indicted, and the identities of dozens of bodies found in mass graves in the area have yet to be identified. Government agencies and police have produced conflicting and confusing reports that give the impression that they are intentionally misleading and covering up evidence. There is widespread cynicism about the failure of the government and the political parties, the lack of transparency at all levels, the complicity of the authorities with organized crime, and the impunity of the police.

On October 22, Mexico’s Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam told the media that Iguala’s mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez and his wife María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa, the head of the municipal police had ordered the attack on the students. But the full story behind the attacks and the role of all of those involved has yet to be clarified.

The Police Shooting of the Students

The events began in the month of September when students had engaged in political protests, claiming that students of urban campuses were being preferred over rural graduates. According to Carlos Pérez, a student eye-witness who survived the massacre, on September 26 a group of students had gone to the city of Iguala to raise money for their studies and when they were done had seized three buses to take them back to the school. Student commandeering of buses had been going on for some time in Iguala and the students had an understanding with the bus companies that drivers would not be harmed and buses would not be damaged. As they were driving out of the city, they passed the spot where María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa, the wife of the mayor of Iguala and president of the agency for the Integral Development of the Family was giving her report.

To their surprise, the police gave chase and then succeeded in blocking and stopping the buses. When the students stepped off the buses, asking to be allowed to leave, the police “response was to open fire against us immediately,” said Pérez. Some of the wounded shouted at the police that they were from Ayotzinapa, hoping that by identifying themselves as students the police would stop. Ambulances began to arrive to take away the wounded, as students began to use their cell phones to call for support from other organizations or friends. But then a group of men dressed as civilians arrived and began to fire at the students, causing more casualties. One of the wounded was union leader Alfredo Ramírez García of the Sole Union of Workers of the Bachelors College.

Earlier Complaints Against the Mayor

Guerrero, one of Mexico’s poorest states, has a long history of conflict and violence involving criminal gangs, the police, and radical insurgent groups. As in many regions of rural Mexico, political power is often in the hands of local leaders who reach a modus vivendi with the political and economic powers-that-be and with drug dealers and even guerrilla groups. The mayor of Iguala, José Luis Abarca Velázquez, who appears to be the figure at the center of the killings, is just such a person.

Abarca had a reputation for repression long before the recent events. Arturo Hernández Cordona, a founder and leader of the Emiliano Zapata Peasant Union (UCEZ) and member of the PRD, had appealed to authorities for protection from Abarca whom he believed planned to kill him and other leaders of the union. On May 30, Hernández Cordona and his comrades Féxli Rafael Bandera Román, Ángel Román Ramírez, Héctor Arroyo Delgado, Efráin Amantes Luna, Gregoria Dante Cervantes, Nicolás Mendoza Villa and Jimmy Castrejon were kidnapped and three of their bodies were found executed in the town of Tepecoacuilco. The others managed to escape. Mendoza Villa who was an eyewitness to their murder said that it was mayor Abarca who had personally fired a pistol into the face of Hernández Cordona. An autopsy revealed that the man had been tortured. More than twenty others had also faced violence from the mayor according to reports to the National Network of Civilian Organizations of Human Rights for All.

The recent shooting is not the first attack on students in a commandeered public bus. On November 15, 2012, a gang of armed men attacked a bus carrying three students, the bus driver and his wife. The students were returning from Atoyac where they had taken a group to participate in a protest march regarding the students who had been assassinated on the Highway of the Son in December 2011. When they reached Tierra Colorada, a black Ram SUV with darkened windows opened fire, forcing the driver to stop. The men threatened to burn the students alive for commandeering the buses of the Estrella Blanca Company, though after threatening them they were let go.

Looking for the Missing Students

To return to the recent events, following the September 26-27 shootings in Iguala, the students went looking for their friends in jails and hospitals, finding some being treated for their wounds, but unable to locate 43 of their colleagues. The police and civilians began a search and on October 4 found human remains in a common grave containing an undetermined number of cadavers. By October 9 four other graves containing human remains had been found, and by October 16 the number of such clandestine graves sites had risen to 17. The Mexican Attorney General, Jesús Murillo Kram, announced on October 15 that experts from his office had determined that none of the 28 bodies found in the first 5 of 14 graves being examined were the Ayotzinapa students.

Murillo Kram also announced that 46 people had been arrested in conjunction with the investigation of the shooting and disappearance of the students: 22 police officers from Iguala, 14 police officers from the town of Cocula, and ten civilians who were gangsters, members of the Guerreros Unidos gang. Warrants for the arrest of Mayor José Luis Abarca and police chief Felipe Flores Velázquez had also been issued. There was also an investigation into María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa, the wife of Abarca for her alleged role in the disappearance of the students.

While Murillo Kram had ruled out the possibility that the common graves that had been discovered contained the remains of the students, Raúl Plascencia Villa Nueva, president of the Mexican government’s National Commission of Human Rights, suggested on October 22 that indeed the secret graves might contain the students’ remains. The exhumation and examination of the human remains found in the many mass graves in the area continues under the direction of local police.

Alejandro Solalinde, a Catholic priest and human rights activists, told the media on October 18 that sources in the community had told him that government agents had been responsible for the students’ kidnapping and that several of them who were wounded had been burned alive. They were taken off in police vans, not carried away by criminals. He also said that the Ayotzinapa students were a “stone in the shoe” of the government because they refused to accept the neoliberal model of education that it was promoting.

The Political Controversy

The Mexican government and particularly the governor of Guerrero, Aguirre Rivero, have been excoriated by human rights groups, by the church, and by international organizations as calls for the removal of the governor have been ignored. The Senators of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the party of President Peña Nieto, and of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), have argued that Aguirre Rivero should be removed from office and some have suggested that the State of Guerrero should be put in trusteeship by the federal government. The leaders of the left-of-center Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) voted to reject the call for the removal of the government and both the PRD and the PRI denied that the state was “ungovernable,” the legal requirement for a trusteeship. The continued presence of Aguirre Rivero in the governor’s palace, however, clearly represents a threat to the PRD’s continued claim on representing Mexico’s working people and the poor. The Catholic Bishops of Guerrero called upon the government authorities to make a great effort to clean up the state’s institutions.

The Organization of American States (OAS) has demanded that the Mexican government clarify these events which in the words of President José Miguel Insulza “sadden all America” (meaning all of the nations of North and South America). Legislators from 33 Latin American countries have called upon the Mexican government to end the impunity and punish those responsible for the events in Iguala. A group of academics and intellectuals from 60 countries and 500 universities and research centers from around the world have called for the immediate resignation of Governor Aguirre Rivero and his Attorney General Iñaki Blanco Cabrera and all the police and military who were involved in the crime.

Waves of Protest

Students and teachers have understandably led the protests against the events in Iguala. The State Coordinating Committee of the Education Workers (Ceteg) in Guerrero, other teachers, students, and family members burned the Government Palace in Chilpancingo, the state capital, and the headquarters of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), and the Iguala city hall. Marches, principally by students, occurred in 25 states. Students called for 48-hour strikes at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and at the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM), both in Mexico City. The two universities together have hundreds of thousands of students and many thousands participated in the protests. There have also been strikes in 40 other universities throughout the country.

In Guerrero, the National Coordinating Committee of the Mexican Teachers Union (la CNTE), the students of 17 rural teachers colleges throughout the country, and the Peasant Organization of the Southern Sierra (OCSS), among other groups, plan to seize the 81 city governments throughout the state as well as highway tool gates until the 43 students are presented alive. Ceteg and peasant organizations have already seized several town halls.

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AFT on Mass Grave in Mexico That Might Contain Teacher-trainee Students

AFT Press Release

WASHINGTON—Statement by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on the mass grave discovered in Mexico that could bear the bodies of missing students who were studying to be teachers:

“The discovery of mutilated bodies in a mass grave in Mexico is a horror beyond imagination that shakes one’s faith in humanity. The identities of the bodies are unclear, but 43 college students were reported missing in the area after a violent confrontation with police, which included police opening fire on the students’ buses. The teacher trainees were taking part in a protest against job discrimination against rural teachers.

“The entire situation is as tragic as it is unconscionable and erodes the very tenets of democracy and civil society. The Mexican government must commit to eliminating corruption and violence wherever it exists and bring to justice the perpetrators of this atrocity.”

Follow AFT President Randi Weingarten:

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New Report Exposes Mexican Dirty War

From FNSNews, Source: Frontera NorteSur: 10/15

After more than two years of painstaking work, a revealing report on the Mexican government's dirty war against opponents in the state of Guerrero decades ago will be delivered Wednesday, October 15, 2014, even as new human rights and political crises engulf the Pacific coast state.

Authored by the official Guerrero Truth Commission (Comverdad), the report will be presented to government officials at a session in the tense state capital of Chilpancingo.

Based on archival research as well as hundreds of interviews with Dirty War survivors and victims' relatives, the report names politicians and members of government security forces responsible for extrajudicial murder, torture, forced disappearance, rape, and scorched earth campaigns that displaced entire communities.

The findings document the cases of more than 200 of the estimated 600 individuals in Guerrero forcibly disappeared during a government counter-insurgency campaign against leftist rebels, rural residents and political dissidents during the late 1960s and 1970s. The ultimate fates of the missing have never been fully explained.

But Pilar Noriega, Mexican attorney and Comverdad commissioner, said research by commission staff showed that government prisoners were registered at places like Military Camp No.1 in Mexico City before they vanished.

"This is a fact," Noriega told FNS.

Established by the Guerrero State Congress in 2012 after years of campaigning by Dirty War survivors, Comverdad was given a two-year mandate to compile a historical record of human rights abuses between 1969 to 1979 and issue recommendations for further action by the authorities.

Although the Guerrero project uniquely centered on a single state, Comverdad's report is not the first one sanctioned by the Mexican government to examine the Dirty War.

A 2001 report by the National Commission for Human Rights detailed human rights abuses on a nationwide basis during the Dirty War, as did a 2006 report by a now-defunct federal special prosecutor's office that, despite some legal attempts, failed to hold accountable government officials who were linked to human rights atrocities like former President Luis Echeverria.

Noriega, however, said the work of the Guerrero Truth Commission broke new ground-sometimes literally.

For example, Comverdad's investigations allowed staff and support personnel to recover the remains earlier this year of two guerrillas from the Poor Peoples Party who were slain in combat with the Mexican army in 1974. The Mexican army had ordered local residents of the mountainous zone where the clash occurred to bury the two men in secret graves, where they laid for almost 40 years.

Given Mexico's geographic proximity to the United States as well as the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's intense activities south of the border, FNS asked Noriega about Washington's role in Guerrero during the Dirty War. She said Comverdad did not locate documents in Mexican government archives that indicated a direct U.S. role, but records made it clear that Washington was closely "following the matter" of Guerrero.

"If Washington intervened directly, at least the documents we had access to in the (Mexican) National Archive did not show that," Noriega said. Kate Doyle, longtime director of the Mexico Project of the National Security Archive (NSA), a non-profit research organization based in Washington, D.C., concurred with Noriega's take on Washington's participation in the Mexican Dirty War.

Doyle, whose organization has obtained CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency documents via the Freedom of Information Act on the situation in Guerrero, especially from 1971 to 1974, told FNS that the U.S. gathered intelligence and sometimes provided it.

Unlike Mexican government propagandists of the time who cast Poor Peoples Party leader Lucio Cabanas as a brigand, CIA analysts regarded the school teacher-turned-guerrilla commander as an important leader with a mass following, according to Doyle. But following the mold of U.S. policy before and afterward, the administration of President Richard Nixon backed the Mexican counterinsurgency campaign, despite being aware of human rights abuses in full swing.

Washington supported "implicitly and explicitly anything Mexico did to maintain stability," Doyle said in a phone interview.

Conducting its investigation and preparing a final report was no easy task for the budget-strapped Comverdad. According to Noriega, commission staff received "surprise" visits from federal police officers; the windows in one Comverdad office were broken; and false stories were spread that the commission was dripping with millions of pesos.

Moreover, some commissioners were threatened, with Noriega and another commissioner forced to spend a night in the boondocks after they were assaulted by attackers on a highway last January.

Comverdad had no budget for the last six months of its term, and never got full access to key documents possessed the federal attorney general's office that could have been utilized in the commission's final report, Noriega said.

By law, Comverdad will cease to exist on October 15 after its report is given in Chilpancingo. Now, it will be up for other officials to act on the information. "We aren't a prosecutorial body," Noriega stressed. "The evidence we have will be given to the (legal) authorities."

The reparation of damages to victims' families will be among the recommendations Comverdad makes to state officials; historical events of the Dirty War and the personalities behind them are planned for inclusion in future textbooks distributed in Guerrero's schools, Noriega said.

The outgoing commissioner added that officials from the Pena Nieto administration made public commitments to address the human rights debt at a session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, D.C. last March.

Ironically, the Guerrero Truth Commission report on the Dirty War goes public when a new one is scarring the landscape, according to many human rights activists and observers.

The most dramatic-and bloody-example of the contemporary dirty war happened the evening of September 26 and the morning of September 27 in Iguala, Guerrero, when municipal policemen and civilian gunmen gunned down six people and forcibly disappeared 43 male students from the Raul Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers College of Ayotzinapa, Guerrero-Lucio Cabanas' alma matter.

More than 30 policemen and others have been reportedly detained for crimes related to the Iguala Massacre, but the students are still missing. In this connection, the authorities are checking the identities of numerous human remains found in clandestine graves near Iguala.

If anything, the crisis over the Iguala Massacre is deepening. This week alone, hundreds of enraged Mexican students and teachers trashed and torched government offices, occupied banks and shut down businesses in Chilpancingo, as other protesters blockaded highways south of Acapulco.

Students in Michoacán seized buses from private companies for a protest caravan to Guerrero, while a second one departed Oaxaca to provide support for the Atoytzinapa students.

Besides the safe return of the students, many protesters demand the ouster of Guerrero Governor Angel Aguirre who, ironically, first served as governor in 1996 after Ruben Figueroa Alcocer was forced to resign because of the massacre of 17 unarmed farmers by state policemen at Aguas Blancas.

In Mexico City, thousands of students of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, National Pedagogical University, Autonomous Metropolitan University, Autonomous University of Chapingo, National School of Anthropolgy and History, the Autonomous University of Mexico City, and the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico are staging strikes and protests in solidarity with the Ayotzinapa students, according to the latest press reports from Mexico.

The university uprisings occur even as a massive student strike continues at the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico City.
Internationally, the Iguala Massacre and other human rights abuses have elicited sharp rebukes from the IACHR, the United Nations, Amnesty International, and members of the European Parliament.

As Mexico prepares for key Congressional elections in 2015, the new human rights crisis has transformed into the worst political one for the barely two-year-old administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto. Mexican political analyst Raymundo Riva Palacio captured the sentiment across the pundits' spectrum in a column this week he penned about the perennial crises of Mexican presidents.

"Some emerged from the tempests successful, while others sunk and took the country down with them," Riva Palacio wrote. "But in all cases, the crisis defined the presidency and their administrations. Now it's Enrique Pena Nieto's turn."

Will the Iguala Massacre and other ongoing events divert attention away from the Guerrero Truth Commission report?

"I think this is precisely the moment the report should come out-the obvious necessity of the government addressing not only a security crisis in Guerrero but a democracy crisis," the NSA's Kate Doyle contended.

"I can't think of a better time for the Guerrero Truth Commission to reflect on this brutal, violent past in Mexico. The horror that's happening today is something that has been ongoing in Guerrero and other parts of Mexico for decades and must be stopped."

In contrast to Latin American countries like Guatemala and Argentina, where Cold War era dirty wars were followed up by truth commissions and even the prosecution and jailing of some officials responsible for grave human rights violations, Mexico never engaged in a historical accounting of its own dirty war, according to Doyle.

Doyle cautioned that truth commissions are not human rights panaceas, but can be "one path" in a broader societal quest for justice.

For Pilar Noriega, contemporary atrocities like the Iguala Massacre have long, tangled roots in the 1970s Dirty War. "This is the product of impunity from that era," Noriega said. "It is the product of not having clarity about that epoch."

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Letter from Mexico #1 Tribunal Takes Up Mexico's Migrant "Hell"

David Bacon

We also encourage readers to check out "LETTER FROM MEXICO #2 A Hero of Tlatelolco", which appears in NACLA Reports, web edition at
This second letter contains many of Bacon's wonderful photographs.

MEXICO CITY (10/8/14) -- Just before judges heard testimony on migration at the Permanent People's Tribunal in Mexico City last week, the Mexican government announced a new measure that might have been deliberately intended to show why activists brought the Tribunal to Mexico to begin with, three years ago. Interior (Gobernacion) Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong told the press that the speed of trains known by migrants as "La Bestia" (The Beast) would be doubled.

Photos of "La Bestia" have become famous around the world, showing young migrants crowded on top of boxcars, riding the rails from the Guatemala border to near the U.S. It's a slow train, but many boys and girls have lost arms and legs trying to get on or off, and wind up living in limbo in the Casas de Migrantes -- the hostels run by the Catholic Church and other migrant rights activists throughout Mexico. Osorio Chong said Mexico would require the companies operating the trains - a partnership between mining giant Grupo Mexico and the U.S. corporation Kansas City Southern - to hike their speed to make it harder for the migrants.

In the Tribunal, young people, giving only their first names out of fear, said they'd see many more severed limbs and deaths as a result, but that it wouldn't stop people from coming. Armed gangs regularly rob the migrants, they charged, and young people get beaten and raped. If they're willing to face this, they'll try to get on the trains no matter how fast they go. "Mexico is a hell for migrants already," fumed Father Pedro Pantoja, who organized the Casa de Migrantes in Saltillo.

Outrage wasn't limited to the Tribunal hearings. Former Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, now the head of one of Mexico's left parties, the Movement for National Renovation, asked, "How can the government keep them from freely moving through Mexico, when they're trying to stay alive, and find work so their families survive?" If Osorio Chong really wanted to reduce migration, he told La Jornada, Mexico's leftwing daily, "he'd support the farmers, so that people have work and don't have to leave to seek life on the other side of the border."

While the Tribunal hearings offered an insight into the way the Mexican left sees migration to the U.S. and Canada, the Tribunal itself is an international institution based in Rome. It was first organized by the British philosopher Bertrand Russell to investigate U.S. war crimes during the Vietnam War. Since then it has held hearings about the violations of human rights during the "dirty wars" under the military dictatorships in Latin America, as well as in the Philippines, El Salvador, Afghanistan, East Timor, Zaire and Guatemala.

In 2011 the Tribunal announced it would hold hearings in Mexico on a wide spectrum of issues, including attacks on unions, farmers, the environment and women. Of them, the hearings on migration have been the most extensive, including three pre-hearings in Mexico, three in the U.S., and a weeklong debate at the national autonomous university (UNAM). Bishop Raul Vera declared at their start, "We are experiencing the breakdown of the social order and the militarization of the fight against drugs [and] actions imposed by a state whose leaders are full of ambition, where it is not political proposals that count, but business and theft."

For many Mexican migrant rights activists, the most serious violations are committed against migrants passing through Mexico. In August of 2010 seventy-two people were found massacred outside San Fernando, a small town in northern Mexico. All were migrants passing through Mexico, and had been kidnapped and murdered. The following April 193 bodies of migrants were discovered in 47 graves. Many were Central Americans, but others were Mexicans. In May of 2012 another 49 graves were found.

While the perpetrators of these crimes were, according to Tribunal testimony, members of drug cartels and their paramilitaries, the accusation submitted to the judges charged the Mexican government was ultimately responsible. Not only did the government fail to protect migrants, knowing that they were being kidnapped regularly for extortion, but it did not recognize their right to migrate at all, treating them instead as criminals. "All these acts are the predictable and preventable result of its policies and actions," emphasized Mexican academic Camilo Perez at the hearing's start.

He urged the judges to use the massacre in San Fernando as a lens through which to examine the causes of migration and the reasons for the vulnerability of migrants. "Government policies actually depend on migration at the same time it criminalizes migrants," he cautioned. "The responsibility is structural, not just the actions of individuals."

Raul Ramirez Baena testified before the Mexico City hearing by Skype from Mexicali, the capital of Baja California, just across the border from California's Imperial Valley. Ramirez Baena, Baja's former human rights prosecutor, argued that U.S. border enforcement policies were also linked to violence against migrants south of the border.

"U.S. border enforcement really got going when NAFTA took effect in 1994," he explained, "and national security became a major justification, even extending U.S. authorities' reach to Guatemala. At the same time, it established a policy of deportation, which made the problems of poverty and gangs here worse. Then Mexican government militarized the Mexican side, using the war on drugs as a pretext. The killings and kidnappings in northern Mexico are a consequence of this joint policy."

There was something very Mexican about focusing on the situation of Central American migrants passing through Mexico. In one way it highlights a generosity of spirit - "their situation is worse than ours" - and responds to the extreme brutality of kidnapping and murder. But it also reflects the way Mexicans, especially on the left, have looked at the migration of their own countrymen. Historically, many leftwing activists saw those who left for the U.S. as people who had abandoned the struggle for social change at home. In addition, they sometimes argued, migration relieved the social pressure of poverty on the Mexican government.

Yet at the same time, Mexican political activists have not only come to the U.S. (sometimes fleeing repression themselves), but they've become increasingly outraged by the treatment Mexicans get there. And the increase in migration has been phenomenal. Today there is no town in Mexico so isolated that people haven't left for the U.S., and to which dollars now flow from those working in the north. The most important achievement of the Tribunal, therefore, was not just assigning responsibility for the violence, but digging into the reasons and responsibility for the migration itself.

According to the conceptual framework established at the beginning of the hearing by Ana Alicia Peña Lopez, an economist at UNAM, "Mexicans and Central Americans are forced to leave home because of their precarious economic and social conditions. These are the product of neoliberal reforms, especially the free trade treaties implemented in Mexico and the rest of this region."

Peña Lopez listed several changes in migration in the free trade era -- most important, its massive size. In 1990 4.4 million Mexican migrants were living in the U.S. At the beginning of the economic crisis in 2007 it was 11.9 million and in 2013 it was still 11.8 million. In other words, jobs in the U.S. might have been harder to find, but people didn't go home because the conditions causing them to leave hadn't changed. Money sent home by Mexicans reached $27 billion by 2007, even during the crisis.

But, she also noted, migrants now include women, young people, indigenous people and even children. "Employers take advantage of this to lower their labor costs," she charged. "Criminalizing migrants hasn't simply led to the violation of their rights, but has made their labor even cheaper. And Mexico pushed this process, through reforms that lower wages and make jobs less secure, that drive rural communities off the land to enable mining and energy projects, and that put basic services like health and education out of the reach of more and more people."

The Tribunal's report on migration will be presented to another set of judges in November, where it will be included with those on other human rights issues. The tribunal has no power to bring legal charges against the Mexican, U.S. or Canadian governments over human rights crimes. But it can focus international attention on violations, and create a climate in which progressive jurists can try to use their own legal systems.

Throughout Latin America, in the wake of military dictatorships and civil wars, truth commissions were established to counter the culture of impunity - that governments can jail and murder people with no consequences for those who give the orders. Mexico has never had such a commission, nor has the U.S. or Canada. The Tribunal hearings certainly found evidence and witnesses that testify to widespread abuses, and provide an argument for further proceedings with more formal consequences.

But to Andres Barreda, another UNAM economist involved in setting up the hearings, the ultimate goal is also to ask Mexicans themselves what direction they choose for their country. "Trade agreements and economic reforms have undermined Mexico's national sovereignty, and led to its economic and political subjugation to the United States," he says. "Mexico has a right to a national economic system that protects sovereignty and autonomy, and therefore places the needs of its people before the profits of corporations and an economic elite. Unless we face this, we can't resolve the situation of migrants, whether our own or those passing through Mexico."

David Bacon was one of the judges in the PPT hearing in Mexico City.

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Poly Students Win Victory; Pres. Removes Director, Gives in on Program Changes

Mexico’s Secretary of the Interior (Gobernación), Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, the second highest official in the government, announced in early October that President Enrique Peña Nieto was accepting the resignation of the director of the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN), Yoloxóchitl Bustamante Díez, as well as cancelling all of the recent policy changes she had instituted. The announcement represented a near total victory for the students who had engaged in a series of strikes and protests.

After responding to the students’ list of ten demands, agreeing to some and leaving others open for discussion, Osorio Chong told the students, “We reiterate: there will be no academic, administrative, or legal reprisals or any other type of reprisal against members of the [IPN] community. This government has maintained, maintains, and will maintain, an open and permanent dialogue with you.”

He also promised to maintain funding for higher education in science and technology and to end the practice to giving life-time pensions to former IPN general directors.

[His responses to the students’ ten demands can be found here.]

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5 Years since Gov't Attacked Electrical Workers, Struggle Goes On

Five years ago this October, President Felipe Calderón ordered the seizure of the Light and Power Company facilities, the liquidation of the company, and the termination of the entire workforce of more than 40,000, most of them member of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME). “Five years since that illegal decree, here we are in struggle, head on, in resistance,” said Martín Esparza, the union’s general secretary.

Since October 10-11, 2009, some 30,000 electrical workers accepted their termination and severance pay and moved on, but 16,599 have continued to fight for their jobs. Several hundred have retired and some have died. Esparza told La Jornada, “There have been divorces, family disintegration, and suicides.”

Still, the struggle has continued as the union organized innumerable protests, marches, hunger strikes, and acts of civil disobedience, as well as taking their case to the courts and to the legislature.

Ezparza said that an agreement for the SME members’ return to work is “practically ironed out,” and he called upon Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his administration to move forward and sign and implement the agreement. He did not explain the details of the agreement but it appeared to be based on private companies hiring the former Light and Power workers.

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Miners Union Leader Denies That Monclova Steel Mill Has Left Union

Napleón Gómez Urrutia, head of the Mexican Miners and Metal Workers Union (SNTMMRM) denies that Local 288 in Monclova, Coahuila has decided to leave his union and join another, the National Mining Alliance. He charged that Alonso Ancira Elizondo, director of the AHMSA steel company had attempted to impose a company union on the workers using thugs to threaten and attack them.

Workers at the mill told the media that they had been threatened and beaten by thugs led by men associated with the National Mining Alliance. The workers said that they were well aware that the Alliance was a company union and vowed to continue their association with the Mexican Miners and Metal Workers.

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Mexico’s Corrupt Unions – El Universal Series Continues

Mexico’s “official” unions are known for their corrupt and violent labor bureaucracy, and if there were any doubt, reporters Silber Meza and Zorayda Gallegos have continued their series on corrupt union leaders in El Universal, a Mexico City daily newspaper. The most recent pieces deal with Rafael Riva Palacio, head of the workers of Infonavit, a worker housing program, described in an article entitled, “The Union Leader who Earns as if he Were president,” and Manuel Vallejo Barragán, head of the National Union of Social Security Workers (SNTSS) analyzed in the article “The IMSS Union: History of Nepotism.”

Riva Palacio, head of the Infonavit union for the last 37 years, earns US$7,761 per month or $93,132 per year, many times the wage of an average union member. He and the entire union leadership, in addition to their base pay, also receive an annual bonus, a monthly equity quota, a monthly compensatory payment, and variable compensation. All of these together amount to the leaders’ $93,132 compensation. The 30 member executive committee is permitted to double-dip, holding down more than one job. In addition, union officials receive generous transportation allowances and have the use of the union’s fleet of cars.

Manuel Vallejo Barragán of the Social Security Workers Union (SNTSS) has put his seven sons on the union payroll at a cost of US$125,443. One son is the union treasurer. The union has transferred millions of pesos to the Vallejo Barragan family without any accounting.


The articles in the series so far can be found at:

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Former Teachers Union Leader Asks for House Arrest

Elba Esther Gordillo Morales, the former head of the Mexican Teachers Union, who was arrested and jailed for swindling her union out of $156.8 million which she put in Swiss bank accounts and spent on luxuries, has asked to be released from prison and put instead under house arrest. She argues that she remains innocent until proven guilty, that Mexican law entitles her to dignity in her old age, and for reasons of health. Her appeal was based on both Mexican law and various international treaties that Mexico has signed.

She was moved on October 3 from the Tepepan women’s prison to a private clinic near Mexico City to undergo diagnostic procedures.
Gordillo, who is 69 years old, becomes eligible for house arrest at age 70 under Mexican law.

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SOCIAL STATISTICS: Economy Up, Purchases and Unemployment Down, Poverty and malnutrition Alarming

U.S. Bank Says "Mexico Is Back" -

“Mexico’s economy is back,” according to Bill Adams, senior international economist at PNC in Pittsburgh, who wrote in a note to clients, “The real estate market dislocation of 2012-2013 is behind us, North American manufacturing is performing well, and Mexico’s unemployment rate fell in the latest September release.”

Mexico Unemployment Fell

Mexico’s unemployment rate in September fell to 5.1 percent from 5.8 a month before. This may be based on a move from informal to formal employment, according to a Wall Street Journal blog.

Purchases of Domestic Goods and Services Falls

Mexicans are spending less money on Mexican products and services for their homes and more on imports, according to a recent study by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI).

Poverty and Malnutrition "Alarming" Say Barzón and Oxfam

El Barzón, the debtors’ organization, and Oxam Mexico, part of Oxfam, the world confederation of justice organizations, report on World Food Day (October 16) that poverty and malnutrition have reached “alarming” proportions in Mexico.

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UP-COMING EVENTS: Austin Tan Cerca Hosts 11th annual Women and Fair Trade Festival

Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera invites you to our 11th annual Women and Fair Trade Festival, an Austin marketplace with eight artisan producers from women’s cooperatives all over the world.

We gather in Austin to celebrate cultural exchange, solidarity, fair trade, live music and poetry with vendors and members of our community.

November 22 & 23, 2014 10am - 6pm at “The Old School,” 1604 East 11th Street, 78702

Enjoy live music and the CantoMundo Latina Poetry Reading while you shop!!

More event info is available on the ATC web site.

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RESOURCES: Covering up for Walmart

Covering up for Walmart

"Covering Up for Walmart: The Mexico Scandal" by David L. Wilson appears on the site of the War Resisters League at:

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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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