Mexico: 71 unions demand probe of 2007 murder

Leaders of 71 unions in 18 countries have signed a letter to Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa expressing “grave concern for the lack of progress in the investigation” of the April 2007 murder of an organizer for the Ohio-based Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in Monterrey, in the northern state of Nuevo León. After holding a press conference in Mexico City on Sept. 8, FLOC president Baldemar Velasquez delivered the letter to the Mexican president’s official residence, Los Pinos.

FLOC organizer Santiago Rafael Cruz was tied up and beaten to death in the union’s Monterrey office, where he worked educating and organizing farm laborers who were to be employed in the US under the H-2A visa temporary worker program. The FLOC won an unprecedented victory in 2004 when a North Carolina employers’ association signed a contract protecting the rights of guest workers in these programs. A year later, FLOC opened the Monterrey office to advise the workers on their labor rights even before they left for the US, and to protect them from corrupt recruiters demanding exorbitant fees.

One suspect in Cruz’s murder is in jail, but Nuevo León prosecutors failed to move against three other suspects. According to FLOC attorney Leonel Rivero Rodriguez, the state authorities have said at various times that Cruz was killed in a dispute over a woman, in a “drunken fight,” or because he himself was engaged in human trafficking. “I think if the investigation deepened, [the state authorities] were evidently going to touch sensitive issues within the government,” Rodriguez told the Toledo Blade. The unionists’ letter to President Calderón calls for the federal government to take over the investigation. (Toledo Blade, Ohio, Sept. 8; La Jornada, Mexico, Sept. 10; FLOC website, accessed Sept. 11)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 11.

See our last posts on Mexico and the labor struggle.