Violence flared Saturday in a labor dispute at a Guerrero mine, leaving two striking workers dead.
Armed civilians calling themselves the Tonalapa community police killed the workers, who are among about 800 employees of the Canadian-owned El Limón-Guajes mine who went on strike three weeks ago.
The workers are affiliated with the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) as a result of a deal with the mine’s owner, Torex Gold Resources. But they are demanding the right to join the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Allied Workers, known as Los Mineros.
Their demands also include improved working conditions and an annual bonus.
The strike and Saturday’s murders have drawn international attention, particularly from the United Steelworkers (USW), which said the killings underscore the repression of labor rights.
“The root of these brutal murders is the widespread repression of labour rights in Mexico,” said USW Canada national director Ken Neumann, who urged the Canadian government to intervene with Mexican authorities and for the company to recognize the basic rights of Mexican workers to prevent further violence.
He described the CTM, whose former leader stashed away millions of dollars in foreign tax havens, as a “protection union” that doesn’t legitimately represent workers. Neumann said the Canadian government should intervene with Mexican authorities to push for Torex Gold to recognize the workers’ rights.
He cited the Canadian government’s claims that it wants to see labor standards in a new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that improve wages and working conditions for Mexican workers. “As NAFTA renegotiations shift to Mexico this week, this is an opportune moment for the Canadian government to back up its words with meaningful action,” Neumann said.
Governor Héctor Astudillo yesterday expressed his concern over strike and its impact on the state’s economy. While lamenting the workers’ situation, he said there are more than just 800 people affected because “over 10,000 people” have an indirect economic relationship with the mine and its activities.
A conflict such as this chases away investment, the governor said.
Since the conflict is labor-related it is outside the jurisdiction of his administration, he said, but nonetheless, “it is doing too much damage.”
The El Limón-Guajes mine is located near the town of Real de Limón and is part of Torex’s Morelos Gold Property, in the Guerrero Gold Belt.