Mexican Border Agents Arrest Steelworkers Union Leader

Union Condemns Retaliation for Defense of Cananea Miners at Grupo Mexico

On January 26 United Steel Workers sub-director and international representative Manny Armenta was arrested by Mexican customs agents while on his way to meet with attorneys for the Mexican mineworkers’ union, Minero. The USW has been supporting the mineworkers in Cananea, Sonora, who have waged a nearly four-year strike against Grupo Mexico at one of the world's largets copper mines, about thirty miles south of the international border.

At about 2 p.m. (MST), a customs officer stopped Armenta’s car, which is leased by the union, accusing him of driving a stolen vehicle. Armenta presented documentation to no avail. After searching the vehicle with dogs, the officer attempted to extort a “fine” of 185,000 pesos (about $15,000). When Armenta refused to pay he was arrested, detained overnight, and released early Tuesday, Jan. 25 after posting a bond of 80,000 pesos (about $7,750). Amenta’s car was impounded and it has not been returned. Armenta’s wallet was taken from him in the arrest, but later returned, minus $700 in cash.

On January 17-18, Mexican mineworker leaders joined USW copper miners who met with officials of Asarco - a copper producer also owned by Grupo Mexico - at a “sound-off” event in Tucson. The USW contract with Asarco expires in June. Armenta is a lead negotiator at Asarco. Gerard said, “By arresting Manny, the Mexican government is trying to intimidate the USW copper miners from exercising our right to collective bargaining and showing solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Mexico.”

Commenting that Armenta was arrested on the same day the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Mexico in support of that country’s law enforcement actions on illegal drug activity, Gerard said: “I hope the U.S. State Department will put as much energy into seeking justice for Manny and for the rights of workers at Cananea as they have in praising the Mexican government.” read more>>>

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