Article from Mexican Labor News & Analysis
Published by UE International.

Date published: February, 2016

Web version:

Pasta Deconchos: Ten Years of Impunity

By Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, general secretary of the Mexican Miners Union, Translation by Dan La Botz

Ten years ago, on February19 2006, one of the worst tragedies in the history of Mexico mining occurred. The explosion occurred in Mine 8, a coal mine in Pasta de Conchos in the municipality of San Juan de Sabinas, Coahuila in which 65 workers lost their lives and nine others suffered serious burns because they weren’t rescued and attended to as they should have been by the Grupo México company owned by the unfeeling businessman Germán Feliciano Larrea Moto Velasco.

At that time, I called it a case of industrial homicide due to the irresponsibility and criminal negligence of the company, which refused to recover the 65 miners, suspending its rescue work only five days after it began, without knowing whether the miners were alive or dead, the families suffering terribly. With this inhuman decision—not even in war are the fallen left on the battle field—Grupo México and Larrea attempted in a cowardly fashion to avoid facing 65 criminal complaints, and in their arrogance they never corrected the unsafe conditions that prevailed in the mine and which had been repeatedly reported by the members of the Joint Commission of Health and Safety. The Mexican Miners Union repeatedly demanded their immediate correction, but the mining company’s management, headed by Germán Larrea y Xavier García y Quevedo, with its wretched, arrogant attitude, refused to do so.

2006 was the last year of the Vicente Fox administration. Fox and his wife Marta Sahagún, both of whom had well known interests in common with and had been involved with Larrea and his company. Among things all had been involved in the Vamos México Foundation created expressly to collect resources from businessmen in order to increase the “retirement fund” for the future ex-president and his wife. Of course these donations and contributions from Germán Larrea, Alberto Bailleres González, Alonso Ancira Elizondo, Julio Villarreal Gujardo, and many others provided the necessary cover and protection which allowed them to commit all sorts of abuses and violations of the rule of law, without anyone being able to denounce or judge them. Since then they have been completely in a situation of impunity, destructive for the entire society and not only for the workers.

With the arrival of the National Action Party (PAN) and the coming to power of Vicente Fox and then the election of Felipe Calderón to the presidency, as he himself has said, “however it may have happened,” lack of safety, corruption, and influence peddling have accelerated enormously. The businessmen’s contributions, previously mentioned, that were used to finance political campaigns and for the obscure deals and slush funds for personal benefit, were compensated for by granting concessions for mining, gas, electricity, petroleum, tourist developments , and many others, the PAN governments going along with the appointment of public functionaries whose sole function was to safeguard and increase the businessmen’s interests and those of the functionaries themselves.

So we suffered through various PAN cabinet members, legislators, and judges, chosen or imposed, who came from that group of opportunists, mercenaries and influence peddlers in search of personal gain, utterly unscrupulous, without moral qualities or professional ethics of any kind. To mention some of those who had a grave responsibility for the shocking tragedy at the Pasta de Conchos mine, we have Francisco Javier Salazar, former secretary of labor in the Fox cabinet, who was an active supplier of chemicals to Larrea and Grupo México from his personal businesses located in San Luis Potosí. His son-in-law was the Secretary of Labor’s representative in Coahuila when the explosion occurred and the tragic death of 65 Mexican workers took place, 63 of whom still remain permanent buried and abandoned at the bottom of the mine, a depth of only 120 meters. In addition, the son of Salazar, who has the same name as his father, was designated by Fox to be the first president of the National Commission of Energy Regulation, which hands out concession for the exploration of gas, of which Grupo México was a beneficiary and was the principal recipient of concessions in 2006 when the tragedy occurred.

Afterwards, Calderón named the nefarious Javier Lozano Alarcón to be the next secretary of labor, to provide even greater cover for Larrea and Grupo México. Lozano compete with Salazar for the not very honorable title of having been the worst cabinet member in the history of Mexico. Lozano, according to political gossip, was in the pay of Grupo México and was, is, and will be in charge of protecting the criminal irresponsibility of Larrea and of his former leader Felipe Calderón. He was also the campaign coordinator of the latter and collected funds, such as the $205 million from the Chinese Zhenli Yegón (who was known as “the neck”), money that disappeared and nobody knows where it is. In the 2012 federal elections, Lozano was made senator for Puebla covering Calderón’s back and his own.

And the other case of public shame was the designation of Fernando Gómez Mont, Larrea’s criminal lawyer, who continued in that position while also coming to occupy the post of Secretary of the Interior, or as it’s often referred to in political circles, the vice-presidency of Mexico. Gómez Montt did everything he could and continues do so from that position to provide cover for Larrea and to attack all of those who oppose him or represent a challenge to his interests. His base behavior and servility degrade and dirty his profession of law and the application of justice which is so lacking in Mexico. In the same situation are those former states attorneys Eduardo Medina Mora, Daniel Cabeza de Baca, Jesús Murillo Karam, and the current sub-secretary of labor, Rafael Avente, and various others.

Today, ten years later, because of those immoral, makeshift, and perverse individuals, those 63 mine workers bodies remain abandoned, and a serious attempt to recover them was never made, as was done in the case of the 33 Chilean miners, an act that represented a moral, human, and political triumph of the workers, unions, families, the company and the conservative government Sebastián Piñera of that great Latin American country. In Mexico there has never been a professional and independent investigation of the tragedy and of the causes that motivated it, much less any attempt to punish those responsible with all the weight of the law. Neither have the widows and family members been indemnified justly and with dignity, which is an immense social debt owed by Grupo México and by the rulers of the country, a debt that remains due and unpaid.

The question for the current government is when will it fulfill the demand for the recovery of the bodies, a just and dignified compensation for the families, and punishment for those responsible. How many human tragedies have to take place in order for justice to be done and impunity to be ended. It would be magnificent if the Mexican government headed by Enrique Peña Nieto were to provide a definitive resolution to this unjust situation.

And this, in the context of the visit to Mexico of this great man, Pope Francisco, who has made proposals, not only for peace and reconciliation, but also for justice, respect, and dignity for those who have less and are more marginalized. The image of Mexico will grow enormously if it follows and honors the Pope’s call for human betterment. We have had enough impunity.

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