Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mexican Government Threatens to Open Mine by Force

Judy Ancel
Published 03/04/2010 - 10:38 p.m. CDT
Judy Ancel
A hundred and four years ago in the Mexican State of Sonora copper miners for American owned Cananea Consolidated Copper Company went on strike. They were protesting deplorable conditions, inequality between the 5,360 Mexican miners who earned 3.5 pesos a day and the 2,200 American workers who got five pesos for the same work. The strike was greeted with violent repression by the company which summoned an American posse, led by Arizona Rangers. The striking miners reacted by lynching two Americans who had fired on the strikers. Strike leaders were then arrested and imprisoned.
The Cananea strike gets the credit in Mexico for starting the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Photojournalist David Bacon writes, “The 1906 battle not only heralded revolution to come, but was the first strike organized on both sides of the border, by the first real cross-border activists,” the Flores Magon brothers who had organized in communities of Mexican railroad workers in East Los Angeles and St. Louis. The Flores Magon brothers supported the Industrial Workers of the World, which organized low-wage workers without regard to color or immigrant status. After the Cananea strike, the brothers spent years on the run, not only from federales of dictator Porfirio Diaz, but from U.S. authorities. They were eventually sent to Leavenworth, where Ricardo Flores Magon died.
The Cananea mine was owned by U.S. based Anaconda until 1971 when Mexico nationalized it. Then, under the neoliberal “reforms” of Carlos Salinas in 1991, it was privatized again, sold to Grupo Mexico, which was owned by the soon-to-be-billionaire Larrea family and to ASARCO (American Smelting & Refining). GMexico has also partnered with Union Pacific Railway to buy an expanding number of rail lines throughout Mexico. In 1999, GM bought out Asraco, making itself the world’s leading copper company in terms of reserves and a world class producer of copper, zinc, silver, gold and molybdenum. At Cananea, Grupo Mexico made significant investments, but it also began massive outsourcing and downsizing of personnel, provoking several strikes.
Today the miners at Cananea are on strike again. Again there’s violence, and again leaders are being hunted down by the authorities. The strike began in 2006 after President Fox removed the head of the mineworkers union Napoleon Gomez Urrutia who is now in exile in Canada. He had made the mistake of protesting mine safety because of a disaster which killed 65 miners at a coal mine. The Cananea strikers have occupied the mine since July, 2007, protesting primarily the deadly conditions.
The repression and hardship in Cananea has been severe. Workers who were some of the highest paid in Mexico, are now living on handouts, and GMexico and the authorities have shut down the hospital and other social services. Again there is strong international solidarity, primarily from the United Steelworkers Union, but also from a global campaign for justice.
Just two weeks ago, a Mexican court declared the strike illegal and gave Grupo Mexico the right to fire all the workers, essentially busting the union. The miners dug in and are defending the entrance. Juan Alvidrez, who has worked there for twenty years told Reuters, "We are prepared to give our lives [for this struggle].”
The Cross Border Network is in touch with Maria Rosa Guayante, wife of a miner and head of the Cananea Women’s Committee. She wrote last week to say that they hear the army is coming to open the mine and that the wives and children are at the mine entrance with their husbands.
She asked people to write letters to President Felipe Calderon. She said what they are doing is against the constitution.
Send letters to
Felipe Calderón Hinojosafelipe.calderon@presidencia.gob.mxPresident of MexicoLos PinosMexico D.F.
Send copies to:Maria Rosa Guyantemrosa_gg@hotmail.com

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