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May 8, 2015

Mexican rights violations hurt Canada

Reuel S. Amdur

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Mexico is the go-to place for car manufacturers. Volkswagen, BMW, Nissan, Mercedes. Even General Motors, after Canadian taxpayers footed the bill of billions on the bailout. The Harper government sold our shares in GM recently, at a loss of billions, to help Finance Minister Joe Oliver supposedly balance the budget.

Even Magna opened a plant in Mexico.  And it is not just automotive.  Grohe, German manufacturer of faucets and showers, closed its Canadian operation to move to Mexico.  Jantzen sportswear is in Mexico.  Mexico is now even making hockey sticks.  Why?

Mexico’s labor costs are much lower. 

Carleton University Professor Laura Macdonald says that Mexican wages are even lower than those in China.  They are low because most Mexican unions are government-run. 

Independent unions are bitterly persecuted.  One independent, Los Mineros, has been successful in getting wage increases for its members.  Its president, Napoléon Gómez, is in exile in Vancouver for the last nine years, in the face of death threats and the danger of arrest on trumped-up charges. 

 But Mexico’s poor human rights record goes far beyond its anti-union practices.

As Isidoro Vicario Aguilar, Coordinator of the Legal Department of the Tlachinollan Centre for Human Rights, explained to the Charger on April 27, “The government criminalizes union rights along with social and cultural rights and efforts of people to defend their land.” 

He was in Canada as part of a delegation to meet the next day with the Parliamentary Subcommittee for International Human Rights.  The other two members of the delegation were Jorge Luis Clemente Balbuena, a student, and Hilda Legideño Vargas.  She is the mother of one of 43 students arrested by police and eventually handed over to Guerreros Unidos, a criminal gang.

Students were taken into custody while riding on buses from Ayotzinapa teachers college, on their way to Iguala, where they were to protest the preferential hiring of new teachers from schools in the big cities.  It has been alleged that the mayor of Iguala and his wife arranged the abduction to prevent the students from interrupting a speech she was to give. 

The disappearance and probable death of the students has created a major upheaval on the political scene.  A number of police have been arrested.  The governor of Guerrero has stepped down. 

Guerrero and Iguala were ruled by the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), Mexico’s social democratic party.  Following the disappearances and the massive protests over them, both across Mexico and internationally, PRD leader Chauhtémoc Cárdenas, resigned, and the party itself now faces a crisis of respect.

Vicario Aguilar tied this case in with the issue of disappearances in Mexico in general.  “Between 2007 and now, over 26,000 people have disappeared.”  Police and political figures have been linked to cases where people have been tortured and killed.  His contention is supported by the connection of the mayor and his wife to his case.  Both have been arrested, as have a number of the police.

He pointed to the Inter-American Human Rights Court as one place to which people can go for vindication.  Thus, in 2002, soldiers raped two indigenous women, and the Human Rights Court implicated the government.  Similarly in the case back in the 1970’s when Rosendo Ravia was abducted by soldiers.  Vicario Aguilar was quick to add that it is not just Guerrero that is marked by human rights violations.  The problems are nation-wide.  He mentioned Chiapas and Oaxaca as places particularly affected by suppression of human rights.

Mexico is a cauldron of illegality and denial of human rights.  The consequences reach up here to Canada because union repression and suppression of wages serve as a magnet to draw Canadian factories.

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