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HomeMiscellanyUpdate: Miners’ union head who fled to Vancouver seeks Mexican senate seat, but could be on the hook for $100M

Update: Miners’ union head who fled to Vancouver seeks Mexican senate seat, but could be on the hook for $100M


Bob Mackin

A controversial Mexican union boss, who fled to British Columbia in 2006 with his wife and three children, is a candidate for his homeland’s senate, reports Mexico’s El Universal newspaper.

Los Mineros president Napoleon Gomez Urrutia was nominated by the Morena party on Feb. 18, the eve of the 12th anniversary of an explosion at a coal mine that killed 65 men in Coahuila. 

Leo Gerard (left), Napoleon Gomez Urrutia and Len McCluskey (Facebook)

Gomez blamed mining company Grupo Mexico and the Mexican government for “industrial homicide.” He was charged in June 2006 for allegedly embezzling USD$55 million 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. 

Announcement of Gomez’s candidacy, from Los Mineros website.

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.

Update (Feb. 28): El Universal has reported that Mexico’s Federal Board of Conciliation and Arbitration (JCFA) ordered Los Mineros to pay almost $55 million to workers affected by the 2005 trust dissolution. With interest, the award could be as high as $100 million. 

The newspaper reported that companies Industrial Minera Mexico and Grupo Mexico complied with obligations. theBreaker is seeking comment from both the USW and Gomez’s union, Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Mineros, Metalúrgicos, Siderúrgicos y Similares de la República Mexicana.