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25 April 2006 @ 10:27 pm
The Workers' Uprising in Mexico  

Two striking miners were killed by police in Mexico on April 20 and another was crushed to death, igniting outrage in the country where five states have been witnessing work stoppages at different mines for the past three months.

The conflict began on January 19 when an explosion occured in a carbon mine in northern Mexico called Pasta de Conchos. The accident took the lives of 65 miners who were working in unsafe conditions and the presence of methane gas made rescue attempts impossible. For more than a week, the mainstream media kept track of the developing drama while showing images of crying family members and exhausted rescue team members.

After two weeks of keeping the family members’ hopes at bay, the federal government announced it was stopping rescue efforts. Soon thereafter broke the news that the government knew since the beginning that a rescue was impossible and the miners were dead.

The mourning family members were soon joined by other organized miners and their unions. The Minister of Labor, Francisco Salazar, removed the National Miner’s Union leader, Napoleon Urrutia at the behest of two mining companies and distributed information about Urrutia’s corrupt ways. Many factions refused to recognize the replacement leader, Elias Morelos.

Soon after, miners strikes erupted in five states including Michoacan on Mexico’s central pacific coast.

On Monday April 17, Mexican President Vicente Fox attempted to negotiate with union leaders to put an end to the strike at the company Sicartsa, which had been occupied by 500 striking miners for more than two weeks in the port city of Lazaro Cardenas in Michoacan. Once the union refused to meet the president’s demands of handing over the company compound, federal police invaded on April 20.

On this day for several hours, around 500 federal police agents and 300 state and special operations forces clashed with the strikers who received back-up from nearby workers. Word spread quick in Lazaro Cardenas about what was occuring in Sicartsa and thousands took to the streets to support their neighbors and loved ones.

Exchanging rocks and molotovs with tear gas and live weapon fire, the miners held onto the Sicartsa compound. Dozens of cars were burned along with some administrative offices of the company. The battle left two workers dead, one trampled, 40 injured and two in critical condition.

Analisis Peña

By flexing its brutal force the federal government attempted to resolve a difficult matter the old way when the president’s word was unquestioned and obeyed even by unions, which were appropiated long ago by the Mexican political system.

Once again Fox and his cabinet have shown their inability to negotiate and poor undersanding of social problems and movements. The usual strategy unfolded where the federal police acted as the main repressive force reenforced by local agents, who take the blame if violence gets out of hand.

It’s important to point out who was directly responsible for the tragedy that occured in Sicartsa. We know that at the higher levels of government, the president and the minister of labor are accountable but who was in charge of the police that day? Why were the police using live ammunition? Which policemen fired?

The moment is very delicate. The presidential elections are less than three months away. The National Action Party of Fox is losing a lot of credit due to his mismanagement of social and economic affairs. The present crisis with the miners of Sicartsa will only worsen the party’s and the government’s public standing.

The future of miners’ livelihoods looks bleak with little improvement. The present moment hasn’t been used to make serious demands on behalf of the workers or unions. Instead the power of their movement has been used to settle problems between union leaders and the federal government.