“Disappeared” Mexican oil workers —one year later

Families are desperate a year after five workers and three pensioners from the Mexican state oil company Pemex disappeared, with federal authorities claiming no progress in the case. Mexico’s opposition is pointing at the security forces. “No one seems to care about this case, least of all the Prosecutor General’s Office, if in fact it was soldiers who took them,” said Sen. Rosario Ibarra (Labor Party-PT), who chairs the Senate Human Rights Commission.

Ibarra, the head of the Committee for the Defence of those Imprisoned, Persecuted, Disappeared and Exiled for Political Reasons (Eureka Committee), has fought for 30 years for the safe return of hundreds of “disappeared”—including her son, a suspected guerrilla fighter. The Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) mentioned two of the disappeared workers in a January communiqué, saying they were victims of a new “dirty war.”

The eight disappeared workers were detained by armed men between May 16 and 20, 2007. All had been employed at the Cadereyta refinery, in Nuevo León. Among the eight are Hilario Vega, a former Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) congressman and general secretary of the oil workers union at Cadereyta, and his brother David Vega, a commissioner for the union.

David and four others left a union meeting on the night of May 16, but never arrived home. The next day, Hilario received a call from his brother’s captors, and followed their instructions to find him. He has not been seen since. The others were abducted on May 20. The union made no public comment on the disappearances.

“We are desperate, and we are disappointed in the authorities, because we don’t have a single fact or clue about what happened to my brothers,” Salomón Vega, who works at the Cadereyta refinery, told IPS. “It’s been a year since their disappearance, and there has been no news at all.”

He denied that the disappeared were involved in the struggle against the privatization of Pemex. “They were trade unionists and worked for the interests of the workers, that’s all,” he said. He also denied they were involved with left organizations. “Our family has supported the PRI,” he said.

The idea that the men were disappeared by the armed forces was put forward by newspapers in Nuevo León. Some 2,500 troops and 500 federal police have been deployed in Nuevo León since February 2007 on drug war duty. In 2006 and 2007, 163 people were killed in the state in drug-related violence.

Hermén Macías, editor-in-chief of the Cadereyta weekly Lo Nuestro, told the national daily El Universal the Vega brothers were notorious for the corruption networks they established in the refinery’s union. Macías accused the Vegas brothers of attempting to murder him in 2004 for publishing articles exposing the graft.

On April 28, a court in Monterrey issued a warrant for the arrest of José Izaguirre, who replaced Hilario Vega as acting secretary general of the Cadereyta union, for allegedly selling jobs at the refinery. (Diego Cevallos for IPS via Upside Down World, May 22)

See our last posts on Mexico’s drug war, the labor struggle and the oil struggle.