The union headed by a man exiled in Vancouver since 2006 was ordered again to return USD$55 million to its members.
On May 9, Mexico’s Federal Board of Conciliation and Arbitration (JCFA) ordered Los Mineros to pay the sum to workers affected by the 2005 dissolution of a trust. The tribunal made a similar ruling at the end of February.
Los Mineros president Napoleon Gomez Urrutia is a Morena party candidate for appointment to the senate in upcoming elections under Mexico’s proportional representation system. Morena nominated Gomez on Feb. 18, the eve of the 12th anniversary of an explosion at a coal mine that killed 65 workers in Coahuila.
Gomez fled to Vancouver with his wife and three children in 2006 and became a Canadian citizen in 2013, but several Mexican media outlets are reporting that Gomez has renounced his Canadian citizenship in a bid to satisfy Mexican citizenship requirements for the election. However, the Immigration and Citizenship Canada website indicates there is a six-month wait time for processing renunciation of citizenship applications.
Gomez blamed mining company Grupo Mexico and the Mexican government for “industrial homicide.” He was charged in June 2006 for allegedly embezzling the money from a union trust fund that was dissolved in 2005.
Oxford-educated Gomez succeeded his father as the union’s leader in 2000, but never worked in a mine. He denied the charges. A Mexican appeal court, on Aug. 28, 2014, called the charges unconstitutional and cancelled an arrest warrant.
In 2013, the year before he became a Canadian citizen, Gomez published his memoir, Collapse of Dignity: The Story of a Mining Tragedy and the Fight against Greed and Corruption in Mexico. The foreword was written by United Steelworkers’ boss and B.C. NDP backer Leo Gerard.
Elections BC’s database shows seven donations to the NDP, from 2009 to 2017, by Napoleon Gomez, totalling $2,680.
Last September, Jerry Dias, president of Canada’s Unifor union, spoke at a Mexico City labour convention where he called on the Mexican government to let Gomez return safely.
Mexico has a 128-member Senate, which is elected, in-part, by proportional representation. Senators are elected to six-year terms. Voting day is July 1.
El Universal reported that 89 miners have died in Coahuila since the 2006 disaster. From 2008 to the third quarter of 2016, 311 miners died on the job in Mexico, according to government statistics obtained by the newspaper.
theBreaker is seeking comment from the USW and Gomez’s union.
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