Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona
Manny Armenta, a United Steelworkers (USW) lead negotiator for miners in Sonora, Mexico and Tucson, was harassed and arrested on bogus charges in Mexico this week.
Armenta’s arrest looks suspiciously like union-busting, since it occurred a week after he led a “sound-off” event with Mexican and Arizonan miners at the Asarco Mine in Tucson. The Asarco Mine is owned by Grupo Mexico, the same multi-national corporation that employs the Mexican miners. Here’s the story from the USW.
The United Steelworkers (USW) today condemned the arrest of one of its international representatives by Mexican customs officers on Monday, [January 24, 2011].
Manny Armenta, a USW sub-district director in Albuquerque, NM, was arrested while on his way to meet with attorneys for the Mexican mineworkers’ union called Los Mineros. The USW has been supporting the mineworkers who have waged a nearly four-year strike against Grupo Mexico with a copper mine property at Cananea in Mexico’s northern state of Sonora.
At about 2 p.m. (MST), a customs officer stopped Armenta’s car, which is leased by the union, accusing him of driving a stolen vehicle. Armenta presented documentation to no avail. After searching the vehicle with dogs, the officer attempted to extort a “fine” of 185,000 pesos (about $15,000). When Armenta refused to pay he was arrested, detained overnight, and released early Tuesday, Jan. 25 after posting a bond of 80,000 pesos (about $7,750).
Amenta’s car was impounded and it has not been returned. Armenta’s wallet was taken from him in the arrest, but later returned, minus $700 in cash.
USW President Leo W. Gerard declared in a statement, “This outrageous treatment by Mexican federal authorities shows the extent of the government’s corruption.” He adds: “We demand that these bogus charges be dropped with the immediate return of the union property along with what belongs to Manny”
He said, “It is ironic that although Mexican courts have issued 20 warrants for Germán Larrea – the owner of Grupo Mexico – the government has never been able to arrest him. Yet they can arrest Manny because he is in Mexico helping the mineworkers defend their rights.”
On January 17-18, Mexican mineworker leaders joined USW copper miners who met with officials of Asarco – a copper producer also owned by Grupo Mexico – at a “sound-off” event in Tucson. The USW contract with Asarco expires in June. Armenta is a lead negotiator at Asarco.
Gerard said, “By arresting Manny, the Mexican government is trying to intimidate the USW copper miners from exercising our right to collective bargaining and showing solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Mexico.”
Commenting that Armenta was arrested on the same day the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Mexico in support of that country’s law enforcement actions on illegal drug activity, Gerard said: “I hope the U.S. State Department will put as much energy into seeking justice for Manny and for the rights of workers at Cananea as they have in praising the Mexican government.”
The USW said that they would file a formal complaint with the U.S. State Department.
For more on the USW and Los Mineros in Mexico: http://www.usw.org/.