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Migrant rights worker killed

11 April 2007

I put off posting this until today, hoping to find out a little more.  All U.S. and Mexican sources are basically repreating the same information that was first put out by the AP Mexico City office yesterday just before 2 PM:

MEXICO CITY — A Mexican employee at an organization that fought for the rights of Mexican migrant guest workers in North Carolina and other states in the U.S. was found beaten to death in the northern city of Monterrey, officials said Tuesday.

The body of Santiago Rafael Cruz was found early Monday at the Monterrey, Mexico, office of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, Leticia Zavala, international vice president for the organization, said in a telephone interview from North Carolina.

The Ohio-based arm of the AFL-CIO represents the rights of migrant farm workers, she said.

Officials believe Cruz was killed late Sunday or early Monday. He had been hired recently as the Monterrey office manager and was staying at the office while he looked for a place to live.

Police had made no arrests in the case, Zavala said. On its Web site, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee said it believed the killing was related to the group’s work defending the rights of migrant workers.

“We have put up with constant attacks in both the U.S. and Mexico, including having our staff harassed, our office burglarized and broken into several times, and a number of other attempted break-ins,” it said. “Now the attacks have come to this.”

Zavala said the killing did not appear to be a burglary because nothing was missing.

Jornada and the Monterrey daily, Porvenir, both of which had early stories when Cruz was thought to have been a night watchman, reported that he’d been bound hand and foot.  The Toledo (OH) Blade (Cruz was a Toledo resident, and the AFL-CIO affiliate he worked for is headquarted there) added that Cruz’ work specficially involved obtaining temporary worker visas for Mexican workers in a North Carolina pickle factory.  And that FLOC organizers have been harassed in both the United States and Mexico.  FLOC’s website adds the interesting detail that the recruiting office where Cruz’ body was found is right next door to the United States Embassy in Monterrey. 

My first thought was that this might have something to do with “illegal immigration”, but that makes no sense.   Admittedly, in the long run, a program like FLOC’s — which gives Mexican workers legal protection and a way to protect their rights in the United States — might put some polleros out of business, but other legal hiring halls haven’t been targets for criminals. The pollero style is more highway banditry, robbing migrants, than going after union organizers (especially those next door to the United States Embassy).

Forgive my suspicous mind, but FLOC makes powerful enemies in corporate agribusiness .  Unionized farm labor is not a popular idea with that bunch, and FLOC has an “agenda” beyond just guaranteeing that legal workers receive a living wage. 

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO, (FLOC) is both a social movement and a labor union. Our immediate constituency is migrant workers in the agricultural industry, but we are also involved with immigrant workers, Latinos, our local communities, and national and international coalitions concerned with justice. The FLOC vision emphasizes human rights as the standard and self-determination as the process for achieving these rights. We struggle for full justice for those who have been marginalized and exploited for the benefit of others, and we have sought to change the structures of society to enable these people a direct voice in their own conditions.

It is involved in international groups like the Grassroots Global Justice Forum and is active in the “Social Justice movement”:

We believe that as a US based organizations, we must be committed to building a strong enough movement to prevent the US government and US corporations from suppressing popular movements and interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.

We believe in creating opportunities for convergence that facilitate resource sharing, popular and political education, skill sharing and dialogue between organizations.

We believe in joint action, that acting together in the U.S. and globally we have more power to create social change.

Both Mt. Olive Pickles and Smithfield Packing (the two North Carolina food companies FLOC is involved with) have an unsavory history of labor abuses, and this wouldn’t be the first time a U.S. company was using hitmen to take care of pesky union organizers and globalists.

I don’t think I’m completely nuts on this — I’d expect U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza to be making his usual “U.S. residents are in danger” speech, but so far nothing. Why gangsters or gun-runners would merit the Ambassador’s attention, but not labor organizers (and people working FOR legal immigration) is a question I’ll leave for the Ambassador.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. MrE permalink
    12 April 2007 1:26 pm

    things certainly seem to be a little off with this case. after hearing the news, i was shocked and decided to do some investigating. the organization seems intent on sticking a story of death, that does not really fit the story originally told by actual witnesses to the crime scene. this tragic incident, happens coincidently shortly after the announce of the new campaign by the union, a campaign fighting according to them for immigrant rights, but in reality its a fight to keep the contracts won in previous campaigns, which bring in a high revenue. where are the ledgers i’d like to know…


  1. What stinks? « The Mex Files

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