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CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill and secretary-treasurer Mark Hancock, along with CUPE members and regional staff, joined an enthusiastic rally downtown on Thursday, February 17, to support visiting Mexican union leaders and speak out against the violent repression of labour and human rights in Mexico.

As part of demonstrations and events taking place in over 30 countries, including major cities across North America, labour and community supporters held a commemorative event yesterday across the street from the Mexican consulate in Vancouver to mark the fifth anniversary of the Pasta de Conchos coal mine tragedy in Coahuila state.

On February 19, 2006, an explosion at Grupo Mexico’s Pasta de Conchos coal mine killed 65 miners. Only two of the bodies were recovered, and five years later the Mexican government has failed to recover the rest of the dead, investigate the disaster, provide adequate compensation for surviving families, or prosecute those responsible.

Last June, widows of the Pasta de Conchos victims were forcibly removed from their ongoing presence at the mine site in the middle of the night - the same night that the Mexican government sent in federal and state police to break a legal strike of Los Mineros members at the Grupo Mexico copper mine and smelter in Cananea, Sonora State.

Speaking at the Vancouver event, which was hosted by the United Steelworkers, were USW Western Canada Director Stephen Hunt, Napoleon Gomez, exiled leader of the Mexican Mine and Metalworkers Union (Los Mineros), Jorge Castillo, deputy secretary general of the Mexican Telephone Workers Union (STRM) and Martin Esparza, secretary general of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME). These organizations’ members have been violently attacked by Mexican authorities.

Following the event O’Neill and Hunt, along with B.C. labour leaders from the CEP, CAW, COPE 378, the CLC and the BC Federation of Labour, joined the Mexican labour leaders and their Canadian supporters in a short march to the consulate. The leaders asked the Mexican consul general to call on the Mexican government to restore justice for killed workers, ensure freedom of association for workers and put an end to the use of force to repress workers’ demands for democratic unions, better wages and working conditions and safe workplaces.