Mexico: Labour rights lawyer & defender of maquila workers' rights released ahead of US/Canada trade deal: incl. one company response

Susana Prieto Terrazas is a prominent labour rights lawyers who defends maquila workers in Matamoros, Tamaulipas in the North of Mexico.  On 8th June she was detained.  Since then, different national and international organisations and trade unions have demanded that she is freed, holding the State government and many maquila companies responsible. Prieto was released on 1 July as trade deal with USA and Canada, which includes provisions to strengthen labour rights and trade union independence, comes into effect.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre contacted BVI, Merit, TPI, Tridonex, Kongsberg, Electrolux, Lexmark and BCS ASI to respond to the detention of the labour rights defender; only Tridonex responded.

For further information about the accusations in Spanish, see our website.

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2 July 2020

Mexican Labor Activist Released From Jail as Trade Deal Takes Effect

Author: New York Times

...Mexican labor attorney and independent union leader Susana Prieto was released from jail on Wednesday after her arrest nearly a month ago on charges of inciting violence at a workers protest, state prosecutors said.

A judge's order for her release came hours after the July 1 start of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal, according a statement from the attorney general's office of the northern border state of Tamaulipas.

Prieto's release was contingent on her paying 66,000 pesos ($2,911) for damages and her agreement to not travel abroad for the next 30 months, the statement said. She was also ordered to reside at her home in nearby Chihuahua state.

Prieto is still charged with crimes against public servants, including threats and inciting a riot linked to a worker protest outside a labor board in the city of Matamoros last March...

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30 June 2020

Jailed Mexican Labor Activist’s Immediate Release Demanded

Author: Public Citizen (USA)

...A group of powerful U.S. organizations demanded the immediate release of imprisoned Mexican labor lawyer Susana Prieto Terrazas, who was arrested on June 8 on trumped-up charges for “mutiny, threats and coercion.” Prieto’s daughter delivered a letter from the groups to the Mexican National Human Rights Commission today.

Prieto, an advocate for labor rights of workers in maquiladora factories near the Mexico-U.S. border, has defended workers who are protesting for improved safety measures against COVID-19 in reopened plants. Dozens of maquiladora workers have died after being exposed to the coronavirus. She recently sought to register a new independent union to replace a company-connected “protection” union. This is a core protection guaranteed by the revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Mexico’s 2019 revised national labor law.

The arrest of Prieto and punitive bail denials that threaten her life given the high incidence of COVID-19 in collective settings such as jails, spotlights the ongoing labor rights crisis in Mexico. Growing focus on Prieto’s detention is overshadowing the July 1 start date of the revised NAFTA.

Members of Congress raised concerns about Prieto’s imprisonment to USTR Robert Lighthizer during a congressional hearing on June 17. Lighthizer said he was closely monitoring the case, “take[s] this very seriously,” found it to be a “bad indicator” of compliance with the new labor standards, hoped “[Mexico] can work it out themselves” but that “we’ll take action if appropriate.”...

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16 June 2020

Tridonex response

Author: Tridonex

We have no comment.

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16 June 2020

U.S. unions urge Mexico to defend workers' rights after labor advocate's arrest

Author: Reuters

...Prieto, who last year helped organize unprecedented strikes at several dozen manufacturing plants in the northern border city of Matamoros, was charged with threats, inciting a riot, coercion and crimes against public servants. She has denied the charges.

With the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) set to go into effect on July 1, U.S. unions are concerned the detention undermines Mexico’s pledge to protect workers’ rights, a central aim of the trade pact.

Prieto could remain in jail until late July as investigators probe the case, the Tamaulipas state attorney general’s office said following her June 8 arrest in Matamoros. A state judge rejected Prieto’s requests to be released while the case is pending.

“This clearly is intended to and will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on workers who are forced to make a life and death decision every day before they go to work under dangerous working conditions,” United Auto Workers union spokesman Brian Rothenberg said in a statement on Tuesday.

“It signals a very real challenge for the Mexican government to implement the reforms agreed upon by the U.S. and Mexico under USMCA.”...

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10 June 2020

Top Mexican labour lawyer arrested after activism in US-owned factories

Author: The Guardian (UK)

A prominent labour lawyer in Mexico’s borderlands has been arrested on accusations of inciting violence – a move family members and colleagues denounced as retribution for advising wildcat strikers at US-owned factories.

Susana Prieto Terrazas filmed her own arrest in the city of Matamoros on Monday. “I knew that sooner or later the state governor would do this. I am being arrested,” she said as she was confronted by officers.

She was transported to the state capital, Ciudad Victoria – 320km south-east of Matamoros – and was ordered detained on Wednesday morning. Prosecutors said she was arrested on charges of inciting riot, threats and coercion of public officials.

“We think this is an attempt to get her out of the picture,” said Fernanda Peña Prieto, the lawyer’s daughter. “They’re trying to fabricate false evidence, saying that my mother was the mastermind of whatever violence workers may have committed.”

A fiery speaker with a fondness for sarcasm and a shock of dyed red hair, Prieto has made many enemies by representing workers fighting for higher salaries and trying to organise independent unions at maquiladoras – largely foreign-owned factories that manufacture products for export...

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