Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia: Miners and Citizens Demand Rights

Across Latin America, miners and citizens participated in strikes, protests, marches and trials in the last weeks to fight for better wages, improved safety conditions and to denounce union-busting and assassination of union leaders. 

In Peru, a two-day national strike was called for July 10 and 11 by the National Federation of Miners, Metalworkers and Steelworkers. The Federation is acting in solidarity with over 1,500 workers at a mine in Casapalca.  The workers, who walked out in May, have suffered five deaths since then. Last Friday, company owners agreed to attend negotiations. 

The National Mining and Metal Workers Union in Mexico called a national one-day protest on July 5. The union says that 80% of miners and steelworkers participated to support workers at the San Martin copper and gold mine owned by Grupo Mexico SAB in their struggle to increase safety conditions. 

In Bolivia, conflicts between miners in Huanuni have renewed this week. Over the past year, tensions have risen between state and independent miners at the partially nationalized, partially privatized deposit. When government forces stopped the miners from marching to the capitol city of La Paz, parties returned to dialogue. 

The Chilean state-owned company Codelco halted production for the second day in a row after striking workers wrecked trucks transporting ore and threw stones at busses transporting strike-breakers. Reuters describes the protests as “the most serious yet in a two-week stand-off between Codelco, the world’s biggest copper miner, and subcontracted workers who are demanding improved pay and conditions.”

In Colombia, the Drummond Company and Chiquita Brands are accused of funding right-wing paramilitary groups. At a trial motivated by civil lawsuits through the Alien Tort Claims Act, Drummond, a major coal producer, is facing “charges of complicity” in the assassinations of 3 worker union leaders in La Loma, Colombia, near a Drummond mine in 2001.