Mexico: Cananea strikers take message to Capitol Hill

A delegation of striking miners from Grupo Mexico’s Cananea copper mine in Sonora, Mexico, and of leaders from the US-based United Steelworkers (USW) visited the Capitol in Washington, DC on Feb. 13, to ask the US Congress to withhold a $1.4 billion funding package for Mexico’s security forces proposed by the administration of US president George W. Bush (“Plan Mexico“) until it has held public hearings to investigate the use of the police and military against the strikers on Jan. 11. “Mexico cannot be allowed to violate workers’ human rights with impunity under the pretense of securing borders and combating narco-trafficking,” USW president Leo Gerard said, noting that USW members in Arizona struck Grupo Mexico-owned copper mines for four months in 2005 over the company’s “refusal to bargain in good faith.” (AFL-CIO Weblog, Feb. 13)

Government repression of the Cananea strike was also an issue in a small demonstration against Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa when he met with immigrants in Chicago’s “La Villita” neighborhood on Feb. 12 as part of his first official visit to the US. Salvador Aguilar, from the USW, was one of about 50 Mexican immigrants who stood in the snow more than an hour outside a school where Calderón was holding meetings. “[W]e want him to practice what he preaches in Mexico and stop using the army and the police to destroy unions,” Aguilar said. Other protesters called on Calderón to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and not to privatize the state-owned oil monopoly Petroleos de Mexico (PEMEX). (La Jornada, Feb. 13)

On Feb. 14 the union in the Cananea strike, the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers of the Mexican Republic, won a legal victory when Mexican federal labor judge Maximo Torres made permanent a temporary injunction declaring the six-month old strike legal. But the Labor Secretariat indicated that it would appeal and that soldiers and police agents would continue to occupy the mine. (LJ, Feb. 15)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 17

See our last posts on Mexico and the labor struggle.