MAC: Mines and Communities

Napoleón to return home as Mexican mineworkers' leader

Published by MAC on 2012-05-08
Source: Statement, Dow Jones

But he faces a domestic "Waterloo"

The leader of Mexico's largest miners' union is to return home, after six years voluntary exile in Canada.

Napoleon Gomez had been accused of pilfering millions of dollars from the union's own funds, following a campaign allegedly engineered by Grupo Mexico.

But the charges against him have now been rejected by Mexico's Supreme Court.

Nonetheless, Gomez and his supporters still have a fight ahead.

Reportedly, a dissident group of workers now threatens to challenge his leadership, and the government may try delaying tactics.

Previous story on MAC: Mexico seeks extradition of exiled miners' leader, while communities close mine in Oaxaca (2009)

Grupo Mexico: Workers' campaign crosses borders (2009)


Mexican courts recognise Napoleón Gómez as general secretary of miners' union

By Valeska Solis

International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) statement

3 May 2012

The Supreme Court rules in favour of the union. The government must now officially recognise Napoleón Gómez as general secretary.

Napoleón Gómez Urrutia - heading home
Napoleón Gómez Urrutia - heading home.
Source: La politica es la politica

MEXICO: On May 2 2012, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Mexican Miners' and Metalworkers' Union (SNTMMSSRM) and its leader and general secretary, Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, in response to the union's appeal on behalf of its leader.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare must now recognize Napoleón Gómez Urrutia as the union's legitimately chosen general secretary and issue the corresponding formal recognition papers (toma de nota).

Fernando Lopes, IMF Assistant General Secretary and Jorge Almeida, Regional Secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean were present when the court announced its ruling, as were Lorraine Clewer of the AFL-CIO, Benjamin Davis of the USW and doctors Carlos del Buen and Oscar Alzaga.

The union appointed Napoleón Gómez as general secretary in May 2008, but the Ministry of Labour refused to recognize the validity of his election, alleging violations of union rules.

Gómez Urrutia went into exile in Canada and the National Prosecutor's Office requested the federal courts to issue a warrant for his arrest on suspicion of the criminal use of illegally obtained funds of $55 million. The final arrest warrant outstanding for the miners' leader was cancelled at the end of April this year.

The IMF congratulates all Mexican miners on this victory, said Jorge Almeida.

Mexico Mining Union Wins Battle To Choose Its Leader

Dow Jones Newswires

3 May 2012

MEXICO CITY - The longtime leader of a key Mexican mining union is planning his return to Mexico following years of self-exile in Canada, after winning a series of court cases against the government, including a recent Supreme Court case and a criminal complaint, lawyers for the labor group said Thursday.

The leader of the National Union of Miners and Metal Workers, Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, "has one foot in Mexico and one hand on his luggage," said Marco del Toro, a lawyer working for the union. Del Toro said Gomez has suffered a six-year persecution by the government for his defense of mining workers against politically powerful mining companies.

The miners' union run by Gomez is best known for its strike against copper mine and railways operator Grupo Mexico SAB that shut down the nation's biggest copper mine at Cananea near the U.S. border for three years.

Police removed the striking workers in the summer of 2010. Since then, Grupo Mexico has signed a contract with a different union and has been rapidly ramping up new operations at the mining complex with the goal of doubling output in coming years.

Officials for Grupo Mexico, which has two smaller mines still closed by the union, had no comment.

Miners' union lawyer Carlos de Buen said the Wednesday ruling by the Supreme Court would allow Gomez to be formally reinstated as the union's general secretary, which he called a critical win for the miners and other unions fighting government intervention in their internal affairs.

The Supreme Court ruled in a 3-1 vote that the Labor Ministry can't deny its recognition of an elected union leader based on "eligibility factors," and that only the union can decide whether a member is eligible to lead the group. The Labor Ministry said it accepted the high-court ruling and would "adjust its ruling based on those criteria."

The Supreme Court ruling, and Gomez's possible return to Mexico, could rekindle conflicts in the mining sector, and within the miners union itself.

A dissident group claiming to represent a majority of the union members said in a statement Thursday that it will file a complaint against the Supreme Court with the Organization of American States, insisting that Gomez's election wasn't legitimate.

Lawyers said the last of a series of arrest warrants against Gomez was recently struck down by a Mexican court, but that the government is likely to appeal, delaying his return for a time.

Federal prosecutors have alleged that Gomez misappropriated $55 million in union funds, charges he has repeatedly denied. Union lawyers said Thursday that all of the $55 million has been properly accounted for, including funds frozen by the Mexican government.

Napoleon Gómez Urrutia heading back to Mexico from exile in Canada

4 May 2012

The leader of Mexico's National Union of Miners and Metal Workers, Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, is heading back to Mexico after a six-year self-imposed exile in Canada.

Mr. Gomez fled to Canada to avoid criminal prosecution. Specifically, Mexican prosecutors alleged that Gomez misappropriated $55 million in union funds.

However, Mexico's Supreme Court has now ruled that there are no legal grounds for refusing to acknowledge Mr. Gomez as leader of the country's powerful miner's union.

In a 3-1 vote, the Supreme Court ruled against Mexico's Labour Ministry, saying that only the union can decide whether a member is eligible to lead.

The main thrust of the accusations against Mr. Gómez was that he had illegally wound-up a miner's trust, keeping funds for himself that were intended to be disbursed to miners after a mine was sold.

Union lawyers have indicated that all funds have been properly accounted for, including those frozen by the Mexican government.

Gómez has lived in exile in Vancouver, Canada, since 2006. He has received the support of the AFL-CIO, which has argued that the Mexican government was on a witch hunt, not only going after Gómez but also attacking the "Los Mineros" union itself, freezing its bank accounts and declaring all strikes to be illegal.

The union boss had accused the former PAN administration of Vicente Fox with "industrial homicide" after a mine explosion that killed 65 miners on February 19, 2006.

All in all, Gómez has beaten back eleven criminal charges against him.

Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister, spoke recently in Cartegena, Colombia, on the importance of mining to Canadian business in Latin America. For such a pro-business government to offer refuge to the leader of a Mexican mining union was a strong indication that Canada had serious concerns regarding political interference in Mexico.

Los Mineros is best known for its strike against Grupo Mexico, which operates copper mines and railways.

Things got ugly in 2010 when federal troops were sent in to break a strike at Grupo Mexico's Cananea copper mine, the nation's biggest, which has a long and bloody history of labour unrest.

The mine, which is near the U.S. border, had been shut down for months, but after police removed the striking workers Grupo Mexico signed a contract with a different union. Since then, the company has been gearing up in hopes of doubling output.

The union has kept two smaller mines closed. Officials for Grupo Mexico had no comment on the Supreme Court ruling, but they likely won't be pleased.

Mr. Gómez Urrutia's lawyer, Carlos de Buen, said on the Wednesday, May 2nd, that his client could now be formally reinstated as the union's general secretary.

The Labour Ministry, which now clearly has no right to interfere with a union's decision, told Dow Jones News that it would "adjust its ruling based on those criteria."

We can expect some turmoil upon Mr. Gómez's return. A dissident group issued a statement on Thursday, May 3rd, asserting that Gomez's election was illegitimate, and claiming that it would file a complaint against the Supreme Court with the Organization of American States.

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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