Mexico: Piedras Negras police strike to protest militarization

Disaffected members of the Piedras Negras police force in the Mexican border state of Coahuila returned to work April 22, after staging an overnight work stoppage. Some 50 officers assigned to the graveyard shift conducted the protest to express opposition to the new policies of a retired colonel, Arturo Navarro López, who assumed command of the police department two weeks ago.

Dissident officers refused to work in protest of humiliating and abusive policies imposed by the new police chief, according to news accounts. Family members of some officers also supported the protest; an unidentified relative of a police officer complained to a local newspaper prior to the protest about a beating allegedly inflicted by Mexican soldiers.

As a result of the brief police strike, Piedras Negras was left without regular law enforcement coverage the evening of April 21 and the early morning of April 22. Army and state police patrols filled the void left by disenchanted municipal officers.

One version of the dispute reported that officers were afraid they were going to be fired because of weight issues or positive results of pending drug test results. Details of the conflict, however, remained sketchy.

The border “blue flu” provoked reactions from government officials and everyday citizens. After the work stoppage ended, Piedras Negras Mayor Raul Vela pledged to consider the officers’ demands. Coahuila Governor Humberto Moreira condemned the strike as the wrong way to express grievances, adding the officers were giving a bad example to the citizenry.

The sister city of Eagle Pass, Texas, Piedras Negras is located in an historic coal-producing region that later attracted export assembly plants known as maquiladoras. In recent years, Piedras Negras has been the scene of narco-violence allegedly involving members of the Zetas crime organization. Piedras Negras is among a growing number of Mexican municipalities that are turning responsibility for civilian law enforcement over to men with military backgrounds.

From Frontera NorteSur, April 22

See our last post on Mexico’s narco wars.