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HomeNewsOpinion: B.C. NDP donor became a Mexican senator, by the miracle of proportional representation

Opinion: B.C. NDP donor became a Mexican senator, by the miracle of proportional representation


Bob Mackin

To some, he’s a saint. To others, he’s a sinner. 

He is Napoleon Gomez Urrutia and his name has been conspicuously absent from the debate over the electoral reform referendum in British Columbia, which ends at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 7. 

Napoleon Gomez Urrutia: Out of Canadian exile and into the Mexican senate, thanks to proportional representation.

Gomez is a B.C. NDP donor who spent more than a decade in Metro Vancouver, as the leader-in-exile of Los Mineros, the biggest Mexican miners’ union. That is, until he returned to Mexico in August to assume a seat in the senate. 

He was not elected, but appointed under that country’s mixed member proportional representation system after the July election of new president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and the left-wing National Regeneration Movement (Morena). 

Gomez became a Canadian citizen in 2014 and enjoyed the support of NDP-allied unions, such as USW and Unifor. Early this year, the Morena party leader added him to a list of potential senate appointees, depending on the popular vote.

For many years, Mexican authorities had sought Gomez’s extradition because they were pursuing him for allegedly embezzling US$55 million from a union trust. They gave up when the court refused their application. Efforts to recover the money continue in civil court. 

Gomez has claimed he did no wrong. As a senator, anti-corruption is one of his main causes and he enjoys immunity.

Back to B.C., where the No Proportional Representation B.C. Society has tried to convince voters in the mail-in referendum that ending first past the post elections and adopting proportional representation would empower extreme right-wing parties, like those in Germany and Sweden. Never mind both countries are grappling with mass-migration from Africa and the Middle East and social unrest due to youth unemployment. Issues that wouldn’t easily be solved under first past the post. 

Mexico has been largely ignored, even though it is the closest proportional representation jurisdiction to B.C. 

A search of Tieleman and Anton’s Tweets finds no reference to the Gomez case. 

Why would Tieleman, who is fond of wintertime siestas in Mexico, say anything bad about a man who was a darling of the Left Coast labour scene? 

Why would Anton say anything bad about anyone in the mining industry? After all, Vancouver mining companies (including some with Mexican investments) shovelled millions of dollars to the BC Liberals before the NDP reformed campaign financing last year. 

Gomez is still generating headlines in Mexico. On Nov. 26, Noventa Grados quoted Juan Luis Zuniga, a former Gomez collaborator who claimed the union blackmailed mining companies: pay $20 million, avoid a strike. Zuniga further alleged that he traveled north as a cash courier. 

“We were the ones who made ‘mules’ to take money to Napoleon to Vancouver,” according to a translated quote attributed to Zuniga. “I, for example, went three or four times, each exit was $9,900, because you could not take more, we left four or five, with up to $50,000 of money for Napoleon.”

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