Monday, July 26, 2010

WNU #1041: Mexican Electrical Workers End Hunger Strike

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1041, July 25, 2010

1. Mexico: Electrical Workers End Hunger Strike
2. Puerto Rico: Marchers Protest Repression
3. Links to alternative sources on: CELAC, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. For a subscription, write to . It is archived at

*1. Mexico: Electrical Workers End Hunger Strike
After 90 days, a mass hunger strike by laid-off electrical workers in the center of Mexico City came to an end on July 23 following a preliminary agreement between federal governance secretary José Francisco Blake Mora and the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) the night before. Although dozens of workers and supporters had taken part in the strike at various times, only 11 men and three women remained at the end. Most were taken to the Centro Médico Nacional Siglo XXI, a hospital run by the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), but Cayetano Cabrera Esteva, the only striker to last out the full 90 days, refused to accept care from a government facility and was being treated by a private medical service.

The IMSS reported that the 13 strikers at the hospital were in stable condition and might be released on July 24, except for Miguel Ángel Ibarra, who had endured 85 days of the liquids-only fast. As of July 24 there was no report on Cabrera’s health. On July 22 governance under secretary Roberto Gil Zuarth had noted the danger that in the cases of Ibarra and Cabrera the hunger strike might have a “fatal dénouement.”

The action, held at an encampment in the Mexican capital’s huge Zócalo plaza, began on Apr. 25 to protest President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s sudden liquidation of the government-owned Central Light and Power Company (LFC) in October 2009 and the government’s denial of recognition to the union’s leadership. More than 17,000 of the 44,000 laid-off LFC workers rejected the government’s offer of a severance package, choosing to fight the layoffs with lawsuits and protests. The Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) ruled on July 5 that Calderón’s closing of the LFC was constitutional, but the justices also upheld the SME’s right to represent retired and laid-off workers [see Updates #1034, 1040].

The agreement came late on July 22 after six hours of negotiations between Governance Secretary Blake and SME leaders, including General Secretary Martín Esparza Flores. In exchange for ending the hunger strike, the union regained recognition from the government and won a verbal agreement to resume talks starting July 26 on a solution to the conflict. (La Jornada (Mexico) 7/24/10, ___, ___; La Opinión (Los Angeles) 7/23/10 from EFE; La Crónica de Hoy (Mexico City) 7/24/10)

The union is seeking jobs for the workers who didn’t accept the severance offer. SME leaders told the media they have given various proposals to Blake, including one for a new company to provide fiber-optic telecommunication services to the Mexico City area. Labor Secretary Javier Lozano Alarcón, however, has indicated that he wouldn’t consider plans for alternative companies. On July 24 Esparza expressed his confidence in the “climate” with Blake despite Lozano’s comments.

Congress members from both the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) suggested that the labor secretary—like President Calderón, a hardliner from the center-right National Action Party (PAN)—was trying to sabotage the agreement. (LJ 7/25/10, ___ )

Calderón named Blake governance secretary on July 15, replacing Fernando Gómez Mont, who took over in November 2008 after the previous secretary, Juan Camilo Mouriño, died in a plane crash. In addition to handling domestic security—including the current “war on drugs”--the governance secretary manages political negotiations. (Businessweek 7/15/10 from Bloomberg)

*2. Puerto Rico: Marchers Protest Repression
Thousands of people marched in front of the Puerto Rican police headquarters on Franklin D. Roosevelt Avenue in San Juan’s Hato Rey neighborhood on July 18 to demand the removal of police chief José Figueroa Sancha and his second-in-command, José Rosa Carrasquillo, and the disbanding of the Tactical Operations Unit. The marchers started at three different points in the city, including a campus of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR); students from the UPR’s 11 campuses defeated a proposed austerity plan with a two-month strike this spring. Some organizers said more than 5,000 people participated in the march, while police sources put the number at 3,000.

Groups from different sectors of society, including the Puerto Rican Bar Association, organized the march--under the slogan "Stop the repression and the violation of human rights”--as a response to police violence at the Capitol building on June 30 against hundreds of students and their supporters trying to enter a session of the Legislature that was to vote on unpopular budget cuts and a measure to end student assemblies [see Update #1039]. Two people were arrested and a number were injured in the June 30 incident. (El Nuevo Día (San Juan) blog 7/18/10; EFE 7/18/10 via; Primera Hora (Guaynabo) 7/18/10)

*3. Links to alternative sources on: CELAC, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti

Latin America Pushes Forward with Regional Body to Rival the OAS

Dubious Progress in Bolivia-U.S. Reconciliation

Bolivia and Ecuador: The State against the Indigenous People

Peru Tries to Expel Critic of Development Policy

Colombian campesinos crash Bogotá bicentennial bash

Against the New McCarthyism: A NACLA Statement on Hollman Morris (Colombia)

Venezuela Cuts Ties With Colombia; Orders Diplomats to Leave the Country

International and Local Support as Venezuela Severes Diplomatic Relations with Colombia

Indigenous Yukpa Protest Outside Venezuelan Supreme Court

Ortega: Colombia grants oil contracts in Nicaraguan waters

How Honduras’s Military Coup Gave Birth to Feminist Resistance

Honduras, Iran, and the Propaganda Model

Merida Initiative funds mired in red tape: GAO report

Mexican Elections: Oaxaca and Territory in Play

The Soon-to-be Life and Death Story of the Mexican Electricians' Union’s Fight for Survival

Canadian Mining Crimes in Mexico

"We've Lost the Battle, but We Haven't Lost the War:" Haiti Six Months After the Earthquake

A guide for American journalists: How to report on Haiti when you visit again six months from now

IMF Cancels Haiti’s $268 Million Debt

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