Mexican Trade Unionist Juan Linares Released from Jail

28 February 2011 ICEM InBrief

Juan Linares Montufar was released from jail last Thursday, 24 February, in what trade unionists around the world are calling a victory for international solidarity against the repressive Mexican government. The release comes one week after trade unions around the world conducted a week-long “Global Days of Action” for trade union rights in Mexico.

Linares outwitted a coordinated and nefarious grouping of employers/government/yellow unions in accepting their offer of a pardon in exchange for his turning on his union, the ICEM affiliate, National Union of Mine, Metal, and Steel Workers (SNTMMSSRM), only to announce details of the illegal offer and continued staunch allegiance to his union as soon as the pardon was made official.

Linares was a political prisoner, held illegally since 3 December 2008 and without bond since his arrest. The sham charges against him all relate to the transfer of funds from a Trust created by SNTMMSSRM. His detention is one part of the campaign of trade union intimidation and repression by the Mexican government.

Juan Linares is the President of the Oversight and Justice Council of the SNTMMSSRM, also known as Los Mineros, and a key member of the union’s leadership. He was greeted on his release at 02h00 on 24 February by over 100 Los Mineros members outside the jail.

The transfer of the trust funds was perfectly legal under Mexican law, as well as being a protected exercise of trade union autonomy under ILO Convention 87. Two state charges against Linares were dismissed during his time incarcerated, but a federal charge against him was dragged out while the courts denied him bail.

Linares was held at the Reclusorio Norte prison in Mexico City. He received regular visits from his family, other Mineros leaders, and international trade union delegations. He said to all these visitors, “I could walk out of this jail tomorrow if I were willing to betray my union. But I will never do that.”

But it was this long-standing offer of freedom with personal payment of millions of pesos that gave Linares his route to freedom. The deal offered to Linares stipulated that he change his chosen defence lawyer, leave the ranks of Los Mineros for a yellow union of miners, and attack Los Mineros leadership. On Linares’ acceptance of these terms, the yellow union complainants appeared before a judge and withdrew their accusations.

Linares said following his release that his pardon could not be revoked, as stipulated under Article 93 of the Mexican Federal Penal Code, and the pardon was irreversibly ratified. In addressing the court, Linares said that neither he nor Napoleón Gómez Urrutia had committed any crime, that the complainants of the case were representatives of the company Grupo México, that during his illegal detainment he was pressured and offered the pardon deal, and that the transfer of bribe money would be made through a contract employing Linares as a “labour peace broker.”

The pardon deal that Linares signed had no legal foundation, especially as it was reached through intimidation and bribery, and was thus discarded. The ICEM salutes Juan Linares for his dignified victory and loyalty to his fellow Mineros.

This ICEM release is also available on the ICEM Web-site (

Mexico Days of Action Occur Worldwide in Over 40 Countries
28 February 2011 ICEM InBrief

In a powerful display of international solidarity, the “Global Days of Action for Trade Union Rights in Mexico,” 14-19 February, were marked by events in over 40 countries, on five continents, including 17 cities in the US and Canada.

The International Textile, Garment, & Leather Workers Federation (ITGLWF) called for fundamental rights in the Mexican garment sector, where “protection contracts” deny workers of their basic labour rights, as is the case throughout Mexico.

In Mexico, the independent labour movement conducted over 27 actions throughout the country, including visits to embassies of 23 countries, a march and demonstration in Mexico City from the Angel of Independence to the offices of Grupo México, seminars, and a protest rally at the Monument of the Revolution. Each day of action was marked inside Mexico. The leaders of Los Mineros and the SME signed a pact of national unity.

Mexico City

An agreement was reached with the US embassy in Mexico City to begin regular discussions on the complaints presented, in particular the cases of Los Mineros and SME.

Toronto, Canada

In Canada, high-level trade union delegations met with Mexican ambassadors and consuls in four cities, while pickets continued outside. The Vancouver action was marked by speeches from Los Mineros General Secretary Napoleón Gómez, SME General Secretary Martin Esparanza, and Jorge Castillo Magaña, Assistant General Secretary of the Telefonistas union.

Washington DC, USA

In the US, rallies, meetings with ambassadors and consuls, and pickets, sent the clear message to the Mexican Calderón government that pressure is building inside the country’s largest trading partner that labour rights abuses must end.

Geneva, Switzerland

In Switzerland, the office of the Ambassador to the United Nations was targeted by a rally, while ICEM General Secretary Manfred Warda, IMF Assistant General Secretary Fernando Lopes, and UNI SCORE Director Adriana Rosenzvaig met with the ambassador to convey the demands of the action. Ambassadors around the world expressed some concern, but generally denied wrongdoing by the Mexican government. Many made promises to follow-up on the demands. The dialogue and pressure will continue.

100 unionists rallied on the lawn in front of Parliament House in Canberra, where a high-level, cross-sector delegation met with the Mexican Ambassador, and a large rally was organised in front of Parliament House in Canberra.

Some of the other events around the world during the Global Days of Action included:

Mexico Embassy, Tokyo: meeting with the Japan Councils of the four GUFs, along with JTUC-RENGO

Sweden: IF Metall met with the Mexican Ambassador in Stokholm

Letters and press releases in Turkey

Meetings and letters in Spain with Mexican Ambassador, Spanish Government, European Parliament.

A joint rally in Bangkok, Thailand, Ministry of Labour, as well as letters to the Mexican Ambassador.

A picket was conducted in front of the Mexican Embassy in Moscow, in temperatures of -25°C, demands were transferred to the Ambassador

In Brussels, the Mexican embassy was picketed, with a union delegation meeting the Ambassador, a meeting was conducted with the EU-Mexico Joint Parliamentary Committee

The Mexican Embassy in Peru was picketed

Picket of the Mexican Embassy in Indonesia

Picket of the Mexican Embassy in New Zealand

Letters were sent from affiliated trade unions from Poland to Puerto Rico, from Norway and Germany to Bangladesh, and many others.

Join the LabourStart campaign and join thousands of protestors in writing to Calderón. 3,000 messages were sent via the campaign in the first week, and the numbers are growing every day.

The actions took place around the fifth anniversary of the Pasta de Conchos mine explosion, where the continued failure to exhume and recover the bodies of 63 of the 65 miners who died there, or to take responsibility for the “industrial homicide” of those workers, and properly compensate their families continues to anger the international labour movement.

The action in support of the democratic and independent trade unions in Mexico was initiated by unions from around the world affiliated to the ICEM, International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF), International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), UNI Global Union, and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

This ICEM release is also available on the ICEM Web-site

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