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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Human and Labor Rights Organizer Murdered in Mexico for his Union Activity

Urgent Message from Global Exchange:

Human and Labor Rights Organizer Murdered in Mexico for his Union Activity

Mexican Government must Investigate the Murder, Achieve Justice

On Monday morning, April 9, 2007, 29-year-old migrant farmworker organizer Santiago Rafael Cruz was tortured and brutally murdered in the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC, AFL-CIO) office in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. Santiago had worked for FLOC as a member-organizer for four years in Toledo, Ohio, and for one-and-a-half months in Mexico as a full-time office manager / grievance handler. Witnesses on the scene have confirmed that Santiago was tortured by more than one individual, and that the union's office showed no sign of forced entry or robbery. Santiago is survived by his father, mother, brothers and sisters in Mexico.

In 2004 FLOC won a historic collective agreement with the North Carolina Growers Association to represent nearly 10,000 farmworkers who travel each year from Mexico to North Carolina on H2-A guest worker visas to harvest tobacco, cucumbers and Christmas trees. FLOC's agreement cleaned up and systematized the recruitment of these workers in Mexico, jeopardizing the business interests of fly-by-night recruiters in rural areas of Mexico who previously overcharged workers by several hundred dollars to find them jobs in the U.S. Since FLOC established its office in Monterrey in 2005, it has been the victim of attacks in the media, deportation threats, several robberies and violent intimidation.

It's typical in Mexico for state attorneys general and police investigators to presume relatively simple solutions to potentially complicated cases, especially those involving human and labor rights defenders. For this reason, we ask supporters to contact the Nuevo Leon Governor and its Attorney General's office to demand the following:

? A formal, timely, honest and thorough criminal investigation (averigüación previa);
? Just prosecution and punishment for the perpetrators of this crime;
? Non-repetition measures to ensure FLOC and human and labor rights defenders are not subject to political and economically-motivated intimidation;
? And restitution for Santiago's family.

Santiago's murder will not intimidate FLOC into abandoning its operations in Mexico. To the contrary, FLOC will reinforce the security of its office in Monterrey and continue struggling for justice and human rights protections for all farmworkers. Santiago spent years defending the rights of fellow Mexicans working the fields in the U.S. and Mexico, and his life and service will be missed but not forgotten. People wishing to donate money to help with funeral costs and securing FLOC's Monterrey staff against further attacks can make checks payable to: FLOC, C/o Santiago Tragedy Fund, 1221 Broadway Street, Toledo, OH, USA, 43609.

For more details on this case and related news reports, please check out www.floc.com and www.solidaritycenter.org.

Activists play up political motive

BY KELLY ARTHUR GARRETT, El Universal
Jueves 12 de abril de 2007

Labor and political leaders from the United States and Mexico urged authorities Wednesday to consider political motives as they investigate the murder of an employee for a U.S.-based labor organization specializing in migrant farm workers´ rights

Labor and political leaders from the United States and Mexico urged authorities Wednesday to consider political motives as they investigate the murder of an employee for a U.S.-based labor organization specializing in migrant farm workers´ rights.

Santiago Rafael Cruz, the Oaxaca-born office manager for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), was apparently beaten to death before dawn Monday morning by an intruder in FLOC´s Monterrey, Nuevo León, office.

"A number of high-level people in the United States are taking a strong interest in this case," said Ben Cokelet, of the Mexico City branch of the AFL-CIO, with which FLOC is affiliated. "They´re expressing their concern that the government not look at this as just your average robbery-homicide but a politically connected murder."

One of those people is U.S. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat from the Ohio district where Rafael Cruz previously worked for FLOC.

According to FLOC founder and president Baldemar Velásquez, Kaptur has already contacted the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey and asked its political officer to press for "a speedy and judicious processing of the case."

The AFL-CIO has made a similar request to the U.S. State Department.

At least two Mexican human rights groups, CADHAC of Nuevo León and the national Pro Juárez Human Rights Center have committed to following the case.

"There has been a tremendous outpouring of support from civic organizations and human rights groups and other unions from both countries," Velásquez said. "They´ve been fighting the same kind of corruption we are."

Velásquez and Cokelet both say the killing was motivated by the work FLOC does in Mexico. The Monterrey office was set up shortly after FLOC came to a three-way agreement with the Mt. Olive Pickle Company and the North Carolina Growers Association to set up a guest worker program that would bring Mexican workers to North Carolina under the H2A worker visa program.

FLOC´s role is to protect those workers´ rights. For example, the agreement calls for a limit on what the migrants can be charged to transport themselves to the United States, with the North Carolina companies picking up the rest of the tab. Unscrupulous "recruiters" have been known to quote high transportation prices and pocket the difference.

"We educate workers about the recruitment process so they don´t get ripped off or extorted, which was an ongoing practice here before we arrived," Velásquez said.

"Our efforts don´t make those crooked people very happy, so we´ve had continued attacks on our officers here in Mexico, and harassment of our staff," he said.

Santiago Rafael Cruz and his family had to abandon their Oaxaca cornfield in the mid-1990s, "a victim of NAFTA," according to Velásquez. Most of his family moved to Puebla, but Santiago migrated to the United States, working in the fields without papers. He eventually hooked up with FLOC, working in its Toledo office. He returned to Mexico, and was re-hired by FLOC in Monterrey just six weeks ago.

Rafael Cruz´s body was returned to Puebla on Tuesday,after a brief ceremony in the CADHAC offices. Results of the autopsy have not yet been released.

"He was one of the most affable, courteous, respectful people I´ve ever met," Velásquez said. "He was one of those guys who would subvert his own interest to help others. That´s what made him such an attractive hire."

© Queda expresamente prohibida la republicación o redistribución, parcial o total, de todos los contenidos de EL UNIVERSAL

Template Protest Letter

Gobernador (Governor) de Nuevo León
JOSÉ NATIVIDAD GONZÁLEZ PARÁS
Zaragoza y 5 de Mayo, Centro, Monterrey, N.L., México 64000
Tel: (011) (52) (81) 2020-1226 or 2020-1509
Fax: (011) (52) (81) 2020-1087 or 2020-1085
gobernador@nl.gob.mx

Procurador General de Justicia (State Attorney General) del Estado de Nuevo León
LUIS CARLOS TREVIÑO BERCHELMANN
Ocampo 470 Poniente, Colonia Centro, Monterrey, N.L., México 64000
Tel: (011) (52) (81) 2020-3333 and 2020-3317
Fax: (011) (52) (81) 2020-4094, 2020-4038 or 2020-4088
ltrevino@nl.gob.mx

Dear Gobernador and Attorney General,

I am writing to express my outrage at the brutal murder of migrant farmworker union organizer Santiago Rafael Cruz in Monterrey on April 9. Santiago was a human and worker rights defender who devoted his life to securing better working conditions for Mexicans who toiled in the fields of North Carolina as H2-A guest workers. Santiago's union, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC, AFL-CIO), won a historic collective agreement in 2004 with the North Carolina Growers Association to represent nearly 10,000 Mexican farmworkers who harvest tobacco, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, and Christmas trees.

In 2005, FLOC established an office in Monterrey to represent the contractual rights of its members as they travel from their home states through Monterrey en route to North Carolina. As you know, the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey issues the majority of H2-A visas, and FLOC's office plays an important role in ensuring that workers are protected from illegitimate labor contractors in small Mexican towns. FLOC's agreement cleaned up and systematized the recruitment of these workers in Mexico, jeopardizing the business interests of fly-by-night recruiters in rural areas who were overcharging workers by hundreds of dollars to find them jobs in the United States. Since the Monterrey office opened in 2005, FLOC has been constantly attacked in the media for "destabilizing" Mexican businesses. The office has been broken into several times, and union files and equipment have been damaged. FLOC staff members have been threatened with deportation and violently intimidated.

I respectfully request that your government ensure the following steps:
• A formal, timely, honest, and thorough criminal investigation;
• Just prosecution and punishment for the murderers;
• Official measures to ensure that FLOC members and human and worker rights defenders are not subjected to political and economically motivated threats; and
• Restitution for Santiago's family.

I look forward to your timely response.

Sincerely,

(Your Name Here)

Categories:
Workers' Rights, World News


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