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Throwing the bums out… or new bums?

20 August 2008

I used to live a few blocks from PRI headquarters.  Because the party was THE party for so many years, my neighborhood was sort of the Mexican “K Street” with several of the party-connected lobbying organizations and union groups headquartered near my house.  As neighbors, their “domestic disputes” could get a bit, shall we say, annoying.  Like the night one faction of a farmers’ group decided to throw out their leader.  Unfortunately for the leader, he was in his second floor office at the time.

Excelsior, the pressmen, reporters and delivery drivers found themselves on different sides in a protracted labor dispute that ended up with one group crossing another groups picket line, and fights breaking out in the newsroom  The neutral photographers got some great photos… a friend of mine who was an editor (and — in theory — management) at the paper had the ticklish job of figuring out how to cover the event.  He quipped he was glad it was a slow news day anyway, and he figured the brawling employees were just going above and beyond the call of duty to get a good front page story.

In the farmers’ “coup” and in the newspaper strike, the various union factions were tied to various factions within the political parties.  Mexico is a labor country, and the wording in the Constitution allows freedom of association “to jointly struggle for rights”.   Who is joined to who, and how, is sometimes difficult to tell. One man’s “reformist” is another man’s “sell-out”.

The PEMEX union headquarters was taken over by dissidents last Saturday, in an attempt to oust long-time leader, Carlos Romero Deschamps.  As David Shields writes in today’s The (Mexico City) News:

The dissidents, who were protesting against what they called the fraudulent re-election of the union leader, were dislodged two hours later by workers faithful to Romero Deschamps in what appears to have been a bloody battle inside the building. Soon after, the leader held a party for his faithful. Romero Deschamps has led the union for 17 years and has been involved in political scandals such as “Pemexgate,” which sought to illegally finance the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, candidate in the year 2000 presidential elections. He also has a reputation for being immensely rich, corrupt and antidemocratic. Dissident groups have sought his downfall for years and it is not clear what else they can do to achieve their goal.

Romero Deschamps is a scoundrel, but there’s no indication that the “dissidents” are not also scoundrels. Given the tenor of Shields’ piece (and the apparent editorial policy of the News, which is owned by the O’Farrill family, which traditionally maintains close ties to the presidency (and the presidential party), I wonder if the dissident “coup” (or, in this case, “coup attempt”) might have been fomented by PAN to either neutralize the unions’ opposition to PAN plans for PEMEX’s reorganization.

Shields’ piece is on the editorial page, and there is no reason it shouldn’t reflect an opinion.  Management or his own.  However, with the paragraph following the one I quoted comparing “the rouge oil workers’ union” with SUTERM (which represents CFE — one of the two state-owned power companies) which cooperates with the Calderon administration (it recently accepted adding five years, from 25 to 30, employees need to work before becoming fully elgible for their pension benefits).  To Shields (and I think to the News):  pro-government unions good.  Anti-administration unions bad.

Which is fine in itself.  All I’m suggesting is that the dissident coup (or attempted coup) may have had outside help.  Certainly, all PEMEX reform packages, whether from the left or the right, will affect the union.  What will be worth watching is what other dissident movements spring up in the next few weeks, and what their agendas are.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 21 August 2008 3:40 pm

    The oil workers’ union is not opposed to the Calderon energy reform because the proposals fail to touch the union. If the oil workers’ has an enemy, it’s the PRD, which is the only party demanding that the union be overhauled along with Pemex.


  1. Correction on PEMEX and the union « The Mex Files

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