Human and Labor Rights Must Be Protected before Mexican Government Given Blank Check to Allegedly Fight Drug War
November 13th, 2007: PITTSBURGH–(BUSINESS WIRE)–News from USW: The United Steelworkers union announced today that it opposes handing Mexico what amounts to a blank check for $500 million for border enforcement of drug trafficking because it’s likely the American tax dollars will instead end up further undermining human and labor rights in Mexico.
USW International President Leo W. Gerard notified the chairmen of Congressional committees and subcommittees handling the Bush Administration’s request for the money that, at the very least, hearings should be conducted before votes are taken so human rights activists and trade unionists may testify to the violations that have occurred under the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon and his predecessor.
“Without fundamental institutional reforms in Mexico, and concrete commitments on the part of the Mexican government to cease its violations of labor and human rights, we believe that the money requested by the Administration will serve to reinforce a pattern of impunity,” Mr. Gerard wrote in his letter to the Congressional leaders.
The letter outlines violations of human and labor rights documented by organizations such as Human Rights Watch. These include soldiers in Coahuila state beating municipal policemen and sexually abusing 14 women and the refusal of the government to hold any company official responsible for the deaths of 65 miners in the explosion at the Pasta de Conchos mine in February 2006.
Gerard noted that giving such an administration access to an unrestricted $500 million for law enforcement would make matters worse. “Indeed, the repression of labor unions and human rights organizations will likely lead even more Mexicans to conclude that their only future lies in migration to the U.S.,” he wrote.
The Bush Administration’s request for the $500 million, called the “Merida Initiative” or “Plan Mexico” is attached to the emergency request for supplemental funding for Iraq.
Mr. Gerard urged the lawmakers, as an alternative, to research methods for using the money to encourage economic development based on respect for human and labor rights in Mexico.
The USW is the largest industrial union in North America with 850,000 members in the U.S. and Canada.