Napoleon Gomez, leader of the Mexican mineworkers union, has spoken at the ITUC Congress on the oppression and violence he and workers have faced at the hands of Grupo Mexico and the Mexican Government.
Speech by Napoleon Gomez, Mexican mineworkers union leader, to the 2nd Congress of the ITUC, 24 June 2010
Dear brothers and sisters – companeros y companeras.
ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder and Confederation President Sharan Burrow, Confederation executive members - and international delegates here today - representing over 150 nations and territories around the world – I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to speak at your second congress – an historic event where you will set new policies and directions to confront the global economic crisis on behalf of working people around the world.
This city Vancouver, British Columbia has been my home for the past four years.
As many of you know I have been living in exile in Canada because I cannot currently return to my native country of Mexico. I have received death threats and so too have members of my family.
Our conflict began in February 2006 after a coal mine explosion killed 65 miners in the state of Coahuila. After I accused the Mexican Government and the Pasta de Conchos mine’s owner, the multinational Grupo Mexico, of industrial homicide, we began to receive those threats.
Since April 2006 I have been protected and assisted by the United Steelworkers international union – support for which our union and my family are very grateful.
I am the secretary general of the National Union of Mine, Steel, Metal, and Allied Workers of Mexico – we call ourselves Los Mineros.
We are Mexico’s largest industrial union – with a proud 75-year history of struggle and progress. We are also Mexico’s largest independent private sector union.
Today our union is under constant attack by the fascist government of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, which is terrorizing our membership and our communities.
On the 6 of June over 3,000 federal and state police, backed by armed helicopters, illegally invaded the Grupo Mexico copper mine and installations in the community of Cananea, in the state of Sonora.
The police used the cover of night and tear gas and munitions to forceably remove Los Mineros section 65 members from the installations. They attacked our members and members of their families – women and children.
They invaded and occupied the Los Mineros section 65 union hall with tear gas. The police lit a fire in a nearby vacant building to intimidate and terrorize the town.
Calderon’s men seriously injured three in the attack. They illegally detained five others and went on a wild search for other section 65 leaders and members.
On the very same day, in the state of Coahuila, Calderon’s federal police joined state police with more than 20 carloads of armed police to forcibly remove the widows and mothers of buried miners killed in the Pasta de Conchos disaster of February 2006. This happened after 2:00 am in the morning.
During this act of terroristic cowardice, the government arrested and detained peaceful citizens and sealed the mine from further investigation.
Brothers and sisters – the 6 of June, 2010 is a day that will forever live in infamy in Mexican history.
The financial press around the world said that the Los Mineros section 65 strike – which began in July 2007 - has been broken.
Brothers and sisters this is a lie.
This is not true.
Our members remain on legal strike today, despite the occupation of the Mexican police in Cananea and their strong presence in the state of Sonora.
Brothers and sisters, our members in Cananea remain united and are fighting back against Calderon’s attempt to replace Los Mineros with non-union contractors.
Our members stand strongly united against this aggression.
Not one Los Mineros section 65 member has crossed the picket line.
All section 65 members remain unified to defend their rights and defend their legal collective bargaining agreement which the Mexican government cannot extinguish by manipulating labour law.
Brothers and sisters our members are not accepting the Mexican government and Grupo Mexico’s attempts to buy silence in the town and surrounding communities of Cananea – by showering communities with public spending projects – projects being announced by the Mexican government to pacify the public at the same time they have closed the hospital in Cananea and have eliminated other basic services to the public.
This is shameful, this is a disgrace.
To assist our struggle, the global labour movement has responded.
Last week and this week the National Union of Mineworkers of South Africa and the COSATU central labour body have been protesting against the fascist government of Mexico during the World Cup of football in South Africa – not to disrupt the World Cup tournament - but to send a message to the citizens of the world that the invasion and occupation of Cananea must end.
The federal and state police forces in Mexico must leave the mine and the town of Cananea immediately.
The repression must end.
The Los Mineros union thanks our South African brothers and sisters for this extraordinary and very high profile demonstration of international support and solidarity – which sends a message to the world that the Mexican government must respect workers, respect its own people and respect the laws of Mexico.
The Mexican government must cease its corrupt abuses of power.
The Mexican government must respect the ILO conventions of freedom of association and freedom of collective bargaining.
The Mexican government must prosecute those who have killed our members, who have injured our members, kidnapped and tortured our members and who have violated the women and children of our communities.
The Mexican government must protect the democratic rights of its citizens.
The Mexican government must cease to be a fascist front for the corporate interests of Mexican billionaire German Larrea and other wealthy industrialists.
The Mexican government must release the bank accounts of Los Mineros and the bank accounts of Los Mineros leaders – frozen since 2006.
And the Mexican government must release Los Mineros national executive member Juan Linares – who has been held as a political prisoner in a Mexico City jail since December 2008 when he returned to Mexico from a visit to this city, Vancouver.
Linares remains imprisoned despite 2 prominent court orders. He is being held on unclear charges, without bail provisions.
I want to thank the United Steelworkers international union and its affiliate global union federations – the International Metal Workers Federation and the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine workers.
IMF and ICEM affiliates – from Australia, North America, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia, have been front and centre in assisting our struggle.
Just last week both global unions held a conference in Toronto, Canada, before this country hosts the upcoming G8 and G20 conferences.
Los Mineros are very honoured to receive the increasing support of both the IMF and ICEM – leading affiliates of the ITUC.
And just this past week, the United Steelworkers international union and Los Mineros – both affiliates of the IMF and ICEM - jointly declared a process to create a unified North American organization aimed at forming a unified body of workers in Mexico, the United States and the Caribbean.
The steelworkers and our union, Los Mineros, are putting solidarity into practice, building on a strategic alliance we first embarked on in 2005.
Mexican President Calderon is getting more desperate and more aggressive in his efforts to destroy our union.
During Calderon’s visit with US President Barack Obama on in mid-May – just one month ago – Calderon’s partner in crime – Mexican labour minister Javier Lozano was obliged to meet with AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka and United Steelworkers international president Leo Gerard in Washington to discuss the issue of Los Mineros.
Lozano agreed that the AFL-CIO would work with independent unions in Mexico to create dialogue and that the united steelworkers would work with Los Mineros and the Mexican government to bring about dialogue and reconciliation.
Then on 22 May, one of Los Mineros’ great leaders, Mario Garcia, was kidnapped, beaten and terrorized by the PFP – the Preventative Federal Police – in the southern port city of Lazaro de Cardenas de Michoacan – a city where in 2006 military helicopters and the Mexican army murdered two Los Mineros members in broad daylight.
Mario Garcia was blindfolded and driven through the streets of Lazaro Cardenas in darkness. One hundred of our union members were detained, blindfolded and forced to kneel while the police fired live bullets past their ears and around their feet. Their personal belongings were taken from them.
This happened just days after Calderon met with Obama and Lozano met with Trumka and Gerard.
And only five days after Javier Lozano met with the Canadian labour congress and the United Steelworkers in Ottawa, Canada, the invasion of Cananea took place.
Brothers and sisters – our proud union – Los Mineros – requires the solidarity, strength and combatativeness of the global trade union movement.
When international governments will not renounce fascism – we must!
When military aid from the United States, provided to fight the so-called ‘war on drugs” in Mexico is diverted to attack Mexican workers and families in Cananea and Pasta de Conchos – we must raise our voices and take action!
We must renounce this violence and repression.
Fascism is one again rearing its ugly head in our global community. We must unite to renounce and condemn its spread and stop this new fascism dead in its tracks in Cananea and Pasta de Conchos.
We must remember history. It is the workers of the world who have always sacrificed to stop facism.
When we take the lead – whether that be in Johannesburg, Melbourne, Lima, London, Washington, Mexico City, or Vancouver – governments will receive our message.
None of us here today, from Mexico or from any other country in the world, can deny that free and independent trade unionism is under attack in Mexico. None of us can turn our back on this reality.
We must defeat fascism. We must defeat violence and terror.
Together we will win in Cananea and send a message to the world that workers united, will never be defeated!
An injury to one is an injury to all.
We will continue our struggle until we achieve final victory!
Thank you brothers and sisters of the ITUC – Los Mineros de Mexico les enviamos nuestros mas sinceros y profundos agradecimentos!
!venceremos hasta la victoria del pueblo Mexicano en Cananea y contra el fascismo en el mundo!
Thank you. Thank you very much!