Charges Dropped Against Mexican Union Leader

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has welcomed news that Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, President and General Secretary of the National Mine and Metal Workers Union, Los Mineros, has finally had all criminal charges against him dropped by a court in Mexico.

Deputy Secretary Mick Doleman with ACTU President Ged Kearney after a Canberra protest in 2011 calling for Gomez's freedom

In a unanimous decision issued in open court on 28 August, the Fourth Collegiate Tribunal for Criminal Matters of the First Circuit in the Federal District ruled that the government’s criminal charge against Gómez, based on the dissolution of a union trust fund in 2005, was baseless and unconstitutional. 

This is the eleventh time that the Mexican government charged Gómez with the same offense and the eleventh time that the appellate courts have ruled in his favour. The Mexican Attorney General’s office announced that it would respect the decision, which cannot be appealed.

Mr. Gómez, 70, is a hero to many in the global labor movement, having won workers big wage increases, and been a thorn in the side of one of Mexico's most powerful mining firms and its allies in the former ruling conservative party.

Since his leaving Mexico in 2006, shortly after authorities opened an investigation of him, he has lived in Vancouver and continued to run his union, clashing repeatedly with Mexico's biggest mining company, Grupo Mexico.

The Canadian government ignored requests for his extradition by the Mexican government and Interpol.

MUA Deputy National Secretary Mick Doleman said all of the unions involved in the Mining and Maritime Initiative had long supported Napoleón and the Mexican miners in their dispute with Grupo Mexico.

“Having been forced into exile for eight long years, it is fantastic news that Napoleón’s trumped-up charges have finally been dismissed,” Mr Doleman said.

“However the same enemies of the union are still there and are a force to be reckoned with so Napoleón must stay vigilant.

“The Mexican Government needs to ensure the safety and security of Napoleón and his family.”

IndustriALL Global Union General Secretary Jyrki Raina also welcomed the decision.

“Despite pressure from anti-union companies the Mexican courts have finally dropped the last criminal charge against Napoleón Gómez,” Mr Raina said.

“It is time to start preparations for Napoleón's return from his eight-year exile in Canada - there is so much trade union work to be done in Mexico.

“This is a triumph for the relentless international trade union solidarity campaign and we look forward welcoming Gómez at our next Executive in December.”

Mr Gómez’s lawyer, Marco del Toro, said his client would continued to lead Los Mineros and successfully bargain collective agreements improving the working conditions of the union members.

"Napoleón is already preparing his return to Mexico," Mr del Toro said.