A long-running miners' strike in Cananea, Sonora continues despite strikers being repressed by police and military and a judge declaring it illegal. In Taxco, Guerrero however, the bosses respond to striking miners by closing down the site permanently.
The 1100 workers in Cananea have been out since 31 July, demanding improved hygiene and security, and show no signs of abating, despite the picket line being attacked by a combined force of 800 police (including the hated Policía federativa preventativa [PFP] who crushed the Oaxaca revolt in 2006) and military after a judge declared the strike "nonexistent" (ie illegal) last month.
Following the assault, the miners' union (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Mineros, Metalúrgicos y Similares - SNTMMS) reported 40 injured, five of which needed hospital treatment. Also, more worryingly, the union reported five "disappearances" on top of five arrests. A national appeal for solidarity saw almost 15,000 miners in 85 sites in nine states down tools for the day in protest at the state violence.
Most strikes in Mexico are contested legally by the employer, with legal technicalities often being used as a means of criminalising strikers. Despite the police and military's presence, the strikers reoccupied the building against the wishes of Tolano Lizárraga, the local SNTMMS leader, who instead legally contested the judge's ruling.
In the last couple of days, another judge has granted the strikers "amparo", meaning the strike can continue until the union's appeal is heard by the Junta Federal de Conciliación y Arbitraje, the local labour arbitration panel. In response, strikers demanded the removal of the 100 PFP who illegally remain onsite.
The events in Cananea, on the border with the US, have a strange symmetry. In 1906, the town was gripped by another miners' strike, which ended in tragedy when Arizona Rangers (effectively hoods hired by the state to combat its enemies) from over the border massacred 23 strikers. More recently in 2006, in the Pacific port of Lázaro-Cárdenas, Michoacán, the police opened fire on another striking steelworkers, also with SNTMMS, killing two.
Eager to avoid further destabilising a country which has seen much social upheaval and revolutionary sentiment in recent years, as well as an almost continuous flow of miners' strikes, the state apparatuses are now emphasising negotiation and compromise ahead of force in the Cananea dispute. Libcom will keep you updated.
In Taxco, Guerrero however, company bosses at Minera México employed a rather old-fashioned strikebreaking technique: closing down the silver mine literally the day after strikers - also from SNTMMS - had won legal recognition. A company spokesman claimed that the reserves, in a town internationally renowned for its silver ore, had "run out", but the timing of the lockout seems to suggest other motivations. The local SNTMMS claim to have evidence of the continued existence of metal ready for exploitation in the site, and termed the company's actions as "revenge" for the 350-strong strike.