2014, Chronicle of Truth

The following article was written by Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, and originally published in Spanish on December 11th, 2014 in La Jornada, Mexico City’s leading daily newspaper, considered by many scholars as one of the last remaining independent newspapers in the Americas.

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2014 has been one of the most prolific years in terms of advances and achievements made by the

National Miners Union, which I am honoured to lead. The conditions faced by this great mining

trade union, and I as its leader, over the previous nine years of hard work and effort have

undergone appreciable change over these past twelve months, albeit change that is not yet

definitive and complete. Notably, the sick persecution that we’ve been subjected to has started to

subside since the current Mexican government came to power, and this has been the standout

change of recent months.

 

Two events in 2014 stood out above others. The good level of communication established with

mining, steel and metalwork companies, the great majority of which maintain positive working

relations with the National Miners Union, has been strengthened, and the notion that the right

path to follow is one of respect for the interests and rights of workers gained further ground. In

return, trade unionists also began to take a more objective view of the problems currently faced

by such companies.

 

On November 7th of this year the third Annual Meeting between the National Miners Union and

over 40 companies took place in the city of Vancouver, Canada, which reinforced in every sense

what we have jointly come to dub ‘the spirit of Vancouver’. This spirit is based on mutual

respect between companies and the union, enabling us to tackle the challenges of productivity,

create decent jobs and ensure the greatest efficiency for both parties in the production process, in

recognition of the dignity of workers.

 

This event made it clear to the whole nation and to the government that rather than confrontation,

the Miners Union is looking to promote amicable collaboration between both parties, while

always taking into account the work and freedom of employees. It was yet another call to the

government to move beyond the mining dispute once and for all, a dispute which is based on the

unlawful and perverse political, judicial and industrial persecution that we miners have endured

over recent years, with dignity and a constructive attitude. This very attitude is behind the fact

that the annual increases in revenue from our sector are the highest in the country at 14% overall,

compared to other working sectors, where growth is stunted at between 3.5 and 4%.

 

This allows current members of the government to see that those who are supporting progress in

this country are also the ones practising what I have called 21st century free trade unionism. The

message is clear: public authorities should act in a reciprocal way by bringing an end to the

mining dispute, which is the reason for my voluntary exile in Canada and which affects working

relations and prevents us from properly coordinating efforts between the organised working

classes, the government and private companies, and by putting in place the conditions required to

bring our life as a trade union back to normal, allowing us to set progressive development

targets.

 

Added to this far from small matter in 2014 was the fact that our legal defence team succeeded in

getting the false and unconstitutional charges against me completely revoked in a court of law.

These charges had been the foundation of an aggressive campaign waged by several companies,

complicit with the PAN (National Action Party) governments of Vicente Fox and Felipe

Calderón, in complete breach of the rule of law and a number of existing laws, including the

Constitution of the United Mexican States, as well as the 87th Convention of the International

Labour Organisation (ILO), since the accusations have now been proven to be fallacious and

defamatory.

 

Added to these key moments in 2014 were the unlawful obstacles put in place by the Mexican

government, intended to bring about my extradition. Not only did the Canadian authorities have

no truck with the bungled claims behind the extradition, they initially granted me permanent

residency, followed this year by Canadian nationality, which in practice rendered those baseless

attempts at extradition null and void. This was accompanied by the cancelling of the Interpol red

notice, which was finally withdrawn by the international police organisation this year once and

for all, after it was concluded to have been based on an unlawful campaign of political

persecution against me.

 

The first steps were taken on the road to dismissing these false and fictional charges when

various foreign governments refused to accept or recognise Mexico’s absurd campaign to

criminalise my struggle as the free and democratic trade union leader, elected by national mining

and steel workers. It was this that allowed me to attend the meeting of the worldwide National

Executive Committee of the IndustriALL Global Union in December 2013, which was held in

Geneva, Switzerland. This week, from 8th – 10th December 2014 I was also able to take an active

role in the International Executive Council Conference of the United Steelworkers union, held in

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

 

I spent over two years writing my book The Collapse of Dignity, in which I tell the story of my

personal struggle and that of the miners against this unjust political persecution, and I also

present my vision and hope for a better future for the working classes, its organisations, and

society. With the book’s publication in English in 2013, followed by Spanish in 2014 and finally

in French, I’ve been able to give my account of the truth of these events, which has led it being

named a bestseller by both the New York Times and USA Today.

 

The publication of The Collapse of Dignity in these three languages has undoubtedly had a part

to play in the easing – albeit insufficient – of the savage persecution against me, which was first

unleashed in 2006 after I described the Pasta de Conchos tragedy as industrial homicide,

whereby Grupo México left 65 miners who could have been saved to die. The same company

exhibited similar negligence in 2014 with the spillage of 400 million litres of toxic residues into

the waters of the rivers of Sonora, evidence that Mr. Larrea has learnt precious little from his

own failings and mistakes.

 

Throughout the year the unconditional global solidarity has been steady and has indeed

intensified, expressed by 200 million workers across the planet through the most powerful

international trade unions. Added to this, in June 2014 I received the prestigious Arthur

Svensson Prize from the most important organisations in Norway for fighting to promote trade

union rights, which complemented the Meany-Kirkland Prize awarded to me by the American

Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO) in November 2011, in recognition of the struggle for human

rights and social justice. Then in May 2014, the Independent Publisher Book Awards in New

York gave me a Gold Medal for the profound subject of the true story told in my book.

 

In Mexico, in September of this year, I was also given the Sentimientos de la Nación prize

(Sentiments of the Nation) by the Popular Assembly of the People of Guerrero (APPG, by its

initials in Spanish), for my struggle to defend the social rights of Mexicans. In November, on

Thursday 27th, I received the great recognition of the Emilio Krieger medal which is awarded to

those fighting for social justice by the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (ANAD by

its initials in Spanish).

 

All these events underline the importance that 2014 has had for me personally, and for the

National Miners Union as a whole. A year of advances and successes, accompanied by the fact

that various mining workers groups have openly and publicly stated their intention to join our

trade union, and that others have refused to leave our ranks, despite the attempts of certain

companies, or even obsolete social organisations, to crush the struggle and freedom of

association of genuine workers.

 

This month, as we do every year, we’ll be holding general assembly meetings with our

colleagues from the various sections of the National Miners Union. The content of this message

will help to strengthen and consolidate the fight for the democracy and freedom that historically

set us miners apart.