Showing posts with label SME. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SME. Show all posts

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Working Class Under the Gun: Mexico’s Other War

A shorter version of this article appears in the current issue of Left Turn magazine, which is on newsstands now, or can be purchased online.

by Kristin Bricker 

Anyone who saw the police strapping on protective gear on October 10, 2009, probably thought they were preparing to battle organized crime.  That night, six thousand militarized federal police deployed to Mexico City and four surrounding states. But they weren’t there to take down a drug cartel. Their orders were to bust the Mexican Electrical Workers Union, the SME.

Without warning, the police stormed government-owned power plants and substations and ordered all of the workers out at gunpoint.  No pink slip, just the barrel of a gun—and instantly 44,000 workers found themselves jobless.  Another 16,000 retirees saw their pensions disappear overnight.  In one hour, President Felipe Calderon fired every member of the SME, one of the nation’s oldest and most powerful unions.

The move sent chills down the spine of every union worker in the country. Guadalupe Cervantes from the San Luis Potosi Independent Union of State Government Workers asked, “If the government can do something like this to the SME, what will it do to the rest of the unions?”

Calderon told the press that the government would provide the electrical workers with “assistance and training to find other jobs.”  The President conveniently forgot that Mexico is currently experiencing what is arguably the worst employment crisis in the nation’s history.  Laid-off electricians will have to get in line behind the millions of people who are already unemployed or severely underemployed.

Rising Prices

As if the lack of gainful employment weren’t enough, prices of basic necessities have skyrocketed during Calderon’s term.  Since Calderon took office on December 1, 2006, the price of the canasta básica (the government’s official measure of the cost of feeding a family of five for one day) has risen 93%.

Experts blame food prices’ sharp increase on two factors: food scarcity and rising gasoline prices.

The federal government owns Mexico’s petroleum industry, as decreed by the constitution.  Calderon has repeatedly increased the price of gas throughout his term in order to make up for budget shortfalls caused by the global economic crisis and the drug war.  Higher gas prices mean that the cost of transportation and petroleum-based chemical fertilizers also increase, which translate into higher food prices.

Food prices are also rising because successive Mexican presidents have led Mexico down a path of neo-liberal globalization.  Government policies are intentionally converting Mexico’s traditional peasant agriculture, which produces food for auto-consumption and domestic consumption, into industrial agriculture that produces for the global market.  Monoculture is replacing the milpas, a peasant farming method in which several crops are mixed together in a single field. Following Hurricanes Stan and Wilma, for example, the Chiapas government offered economic incentives to peasants who converted their destroyed milpas into African palm plantations. 

Some peasants have stopped working in agriculture altogether.  Former President Carlos Salinas’ reform of the Mexican Constitution’s Article 27 made it legal to sell ejidos (communal peasant land) and use them as collateral for loans.  Prior to the reform, ejidos belonged to the community and could only be inherited.  The reform of Article 27 was a prerequisite for Mexico’s entry into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 

NAFTA dealt a double blow to Mexico’s peasant farmers.  It flooded Mexico with subsidized corn and other agricultural products from the United States, which destroyed the domestic market.  Farmers, faced with cheap, imported, genetically modified competition, struggled to make ends meet.  When they could no longer compete, they lost their land through sales and foreclosures, both made possible by the reform of Article 27. 

The result is that Mexican farmland is no longer producing enough food for domestic consumption.  It produces eucalyptus for wood pulp, African palm and soy for biofuels, and grain for livestock—all destined for the international market.  In turn, Mexico is now dependent on imported food, regardless of what it might cost.

Thanks in large part to NAFTA, Mexico now sends approximately 80% of its exports to the United States.  Exports constitute approximately 30% of Mexico’s gross domestic product (GDP).  When the US economy crashed and its effects rippled across the globe, demand for Mexico’s exports dropped, causing its GDP to plunge 6.5% in 2009. 

With the economy shrinking and the country in the middle of an expensive war, Calderon had to come up with money for the federal budget somehow.  In 2009, while many federal social and development experienced budget cuts, drug war spending increased.  In 2010, with the country experiencing a full-blown economic crisis, Calderon increased drug war funding yet again.  This year he expects to add 12,347 drug warriors to the military, Federal Police, and intelligence agencies.  He funded these new positions by laying off 10,000 civilian government workers.

In addition to massive layoffs, Calderon funded his 2010 budget by raising taxes.  The new higher tax covers a range of goods and services, including all imported goods.  The higher rate taxes prices that were already inflated due to years of neo-liberal economic restructuring.

Government Neglect

Valle de Chalco is a working class town located along a major highway just outside of Mexico City.  Many residents either commute to work in Mexico City or make a living in the informal economy, working in the local flea market or in workshops located in their homes.

The town was already feeling the effects of the economic crisis: the rising cost of living, stagnant wages, and layoffs mean that customers have less money to spend.  But then things got much worse.

This past February, the Mexico City metropolitan area experienced unseasonable rains during what is generally the dry season.  It rained for a week, swelling local streams.

Valle de Chalco is located next to the La Compania canal, which used to be a river.  As the government authorized and funded new housing projects upstream, the amount of runoff, raw sewage, and industrial waste that was dumped into the river steadily increased.  About twenty years ago, in order to accommodate rising water levels, the government began to pile sandbags and dirt along the riverbanks, turning the polluted river into a makeshift black water canal. 

“Any time you drive down that highway [next to the canal] you see a bulldozer putting more and more dirt around the canal,” says Chalco resident Aurura Garcia Ruiz.

The canal, despite its haphazard construction, is equipped with floodgates and sump pumps—both of which require electricity in order to function.

Blackouts

The SME had a team of electricians that worked around the clock to repair potentially dangerous electrical outages, such as those that effect sump pumps and floodgates.  When Calderon shut down the government-owned company where they worked, Luz y Fuerza del Centro (LyFC), he promised the public that 8,000 people could do the work that 44,000 SME members used to do.

Calderon turned LyFC’s grid and infrastructure over to the other government-owned electric company, the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE).  The union that represents CFE workers is a charro union—political parties control its leaders, and the union is pro-government and docile.

When the CFE took control of LyFC’s infrastructure, it subcontracted 200 workers to maintain the grid. The majority of those workers sleep in cots in a 10-meter by 20-meter tent that is reminiscent of an emergency storm shelter.  The 200 workers share six cold-water showers and twelve latrines.  



The SME's Secretary of the Interior, Humberto Montes de Oca, says the subcontractors are untrained and working under dangerous conditions.  He says that many of them have been injured or killed on the job: he cited one man who was reportedly electrocuted and another who fell from a tower. "This is how the government wants to see all of us workers,” he said. “With miserable paychecks, in a tragic situation, without benefits, without a collective contract, and without a union."

Even with the help of 200 cheap, expendable subcontractors, it appears as though—contrary to what Calderon claims—8,000 CFE workers can’t maintain the grid that 44,000 SME members had maintained for over 100 years.  Frequent and prolonged power outages have plagued the former LyFC grid ever since Calderon’s middle-of-the-night shotgun layoffs last October.

Unnatural Disaster

On February 3 and 4 during heavy unseasonable rains, the SME documented service interruptions that amounted to a “perfect storm” over the southern Mexico City metropolitan area.  Four electrical substations that serve that area experienced “disturbances,” knocking out the power to southern Mexico City’s drain system, flood gates, and two sump pumps, one of which served the La Compania canal in Valle de Chalco. 

The floodwaters began to rise in southern Mexico City as the rain filled the streets and rivers.  With the sump pumps and floodgates inoperable, the water filled La Compania canal, pushing against its makeshift walls until they burst on February 5.

When the canal wall burst in front of Valle de Chalco, raw sewage and industrial runoff flooded the highway, killing five motorists. 

“We blocked the street with sandbags,” recounts Luisa Lopez Santos. “We saw that the water reached a certain point and stopped rising, so we figured, 'Well, that's as high as it'll get, just like ten years ago.'” 

However, when Valle de Chalco flooded ten years ago, the drainage system and sump pumps were operational. 

“To our surprise,” says Lopez Santos, “the water started coming up out of the drains, the foundations of the houses, in the gardens...water started gushing out from everywhere.”

The SME documented electrical failures in the area throughout the week, which caused the floodwaters to retreat much slower than normal.  Valle de Chalco was under raw sewage for thirteen days.  In some areas, the dirty water filled houses’ entire first floors.

Chalco residents went at least 15 days without work.  Many of those who commuted to Mexico City for work lost their jobs for failure to show. “People couldn't get to work,” says Garcia Ruiz.  “The street was full of water and cars and buses."

Those who work in Chalco saw their livelihoods washed away along with their homes.  Everyone is finding it difficult to pick up the pieces. 

“We sell in the flea market, and our sales have dropped a lot,” says Lopez Santos.  “People who before bought a half kilo of peppers are now buying a quarter kilo because they don't have work.”

Flood survivors criticize the government’s response to the flood.  The government gave MX$20,000 ($1,640 USD) to each family affected by the flood, regardless of the damage sustained to their homes or how many people are in each family.  Residents who lost their home-based businesses received no extra aid.  Rather than disinfecting homes and helping families remove their belongings that had been soaking in raw sewage for over two weeks, teams of government workers merely pushed the “mud” out of houses with brooms and gave every family a bucket of paint and a bottle of bleach. 

A government aid worker who spoke to Left Turn on condition of anonymity says that many families aren’t receiving the little aid they are entitled to: “A lot of property owners are taking advantage to collect the aid that is owed to their renters.”

Furthermore, the aid worker says, “We have to determine the number of families in a building by the number of kitchens.”  Many poor Mexican families rent one room for their entire family and share a kitchen with other renters.  This means that five poor families who rent rooms in a building with a shared kitchen split $20,000 in aid. 

The $20,000 the government gave flood victims came in the form of vouchers that they could only use in select chain stores, making it impossible to shop around for the best price or buy used.  This means that flood victims can’t stretch the $20,000 vouchers as far as they could stretch cash. “There's a lot of people who, when they got their vouchers and figured out that they could only use them to buy a few things, decided to wash their beds,” says Garcia Ruiz.

Chalco residents are feeling the consequences of sleeping on dirty beds in dirty houses.  They have skin infections, respiratory infections, eye infections, sore throats, allergies, infected lesions: all the result of living in and breathing the filth and dust that the raw sewage left in their homes and neighborhoods. But the government’s medical teams came and left immediately following the flood, and they don’t plan to return.  The government also never sent psychologists to help residents through shock and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Coordinadora Valle de Chalco, a local coalition that is part of the Zapatistas’ Other Campaign, has stepped up to fill the gap left by the government’s criminal neglect. Through community work, they are proving that organized people can meet their own needs better than the government can. 

On February 5, when the floodwaters first began to rise, the Coordinadora mobilized to help residents move their belongings to the second floor of their homes.   They helped neighbors pile sandbags in the streets in an attempt to stop the floodwaters’ advance. 

“We initially provided human labor for the most part,” explains Coordinadora member Rafael Garfias. “Later, donations of food and money began to arrive from the Other Campaign in Mexico City and Mexico State, so we started to distribute that as well. We started to videotape and take photos so that people on the outside would know what was happening here.  Two days after the flooding, the government began to say that everything was under control, that people were fine, that no one should worry.  So we began to issue communiqués about the military and police presence.  There were no aid workers.  They sent the military.  The Navy.  The police… this was their first response.”

When the floodwaters retreated, the Coordinadora organized an autonomous needs assessment to determine its response to the disaster.  This set them apart from the political parties and factions who wanted to capitalize on the disaster.  “Right now we’re not interesting in shutting down highways or occupying the town hall,” argues Garfias.  “The Other Campaign’s slogan, ‘From below and to the left,’ is not empty rhetoric.  It means that if the government doesn’t care about us, we have an urgent task at hand.  We need to help our people get through the shock, be there with them.  If they decide to shut down a road, we’ll be there with them.  But we asked, ‘What do you want?  What do you need? How can we help?’ And they told us, ‘We need medical attention.  We need for the kids to get past their trauma.’”

So, instead of a protest, the Coordinadora organized a fair in the church.  Church ladies distributed donated food and clothing while doctors from the Other Campaign provided free exams and medicine.  A hairdresser donated her labor and cut kids’ hair while musicians sang.  Psychologists from the Other Campaign will visit the community soon. 

“The path is clear: from below and to the left,” says Garfias.  “What’s important now is the community work that will give us the strength to begin bigger projects and keep organizing."
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Video from Police Repression of Electricians in Ecatepec, Mexico State

This video is the unprovoked federal police attack on the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) in Cerro Gordo in Ecatepec, Mexico State.  This attack left one man "gravely wounded" and three people detained, at least who of whom were reported to have been severely beaten.



To add insult to injury, La Jornada reports that after the police beat and arrested people in Mexico State, they tore down their strike banners and burned them.

Video courtesy SME.
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Federal Police Attack Five More Electricians' Blockades, One Electrician Shot

The Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) reports that this morning federal police violently attacked five blockades outside Luz y Fuerza del Centro (LyFC) buildings in Mexico State in what appear to be coordinated actions.  The attacks left multiple electricians wounded and detained.  One electrician is the in hospital with a gunshot wound.

The blockades outside former LyFC buildings are part of the SME's national strike, which it declared on March 16, the day its collective bargaining contract expired.  In October, President Felipe Calderon unilaterally fired 44,000 LyFC workers at gunpoint and shut down the state-owned electric company.

This morning's attacks began in Ecatepec county.  The SME reports that 100 federal police arrived at the blockade outside the substation there and, without a word, attacked the striking workers.  SME member Alejandro Lopez Perez was "gravely wounded" in the attack and remains hospitalized.  As in Juandho, Hidalgo, the federal police are using the LyFC complex to detain and torture workers.  During the attack, police took SME member Luis Valdés and LyFC retiree Raúl Villaseñor inside the LyFC building.  The SME reports that the two men have been "severely beaten" and remain detained.

Likewise, federal police attacked the blockade outside the electrical substation in Toluca.  Police detained five SME members and supporters, including the daughter of a former LyFC worker.  Ten people were seriously injured, including Juan Ceballos Flores, who was hospitalized with a bullet wound.

This morning police also attacked blockades in Vertiz, Indios Verdes, and another LyFC building in Ecatepec.

Today, SME Secretary General Martin Esparza announced that the federal Secretary of the Interior, Fernando Gómez Mont, has agreed to sit down with SME leadership tomorrow for new negotiations.  The SME does not hold out much hope for successful negotiations, but say it will bargain in good faith.  Pending the negotiations, Esparza has requested that members maintain their protest encampments outside their former workplaces, but that they unblock the entrances so that police and contractors and freely enter and leave.
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Update on the State of Siege in Juandho, Hidalgo

I just spoke with Gregorio Paredes, an SME leader in Tetepango, Hidalgo.  He is currently in hiding because the police are looking for him: they are searching houses in Juandho in an attempt to find him, and they have his father's house under surveillance.

Paredes says that the federal police (he estimates about 1,300 officers) remain in the area.  Some of the "federal police" came dressed in military uniform, he says.  There is a military base next to Juandho.

There is slightly less tension in the area as compared to last night because a lot of media and human rights organizations have arrived.  They've begun the process of documenting human rights abuses.  The federal police had originally installed blockades at all four entrances to Juandho, but now some of those blockades are being lifted.  Again, Paredes believes the arrival of human rights observers led to some (but not all) of the blockades being lifted.

The SME is not occupying the Luz y Fuerza building as was originally reported.  The SME has lifted its blockades outside the building.  The Luz y Fuerza building is controlled by the police.

Paredes says that when federal police snatched SME members and residents from the streets and their homes, they took them to the local Luz y Fuerza del Centro building, beat them, and forced them to sign documents.   However, everyone reported detained or disappeared has been released--they were all taken to the Luz y Fuerza building and interrogated and beaten, and then released.  At this point it is unknown exactly how many people were kidnapped and taken to the Luz y Fuerza building for interrogation.

Paredes complained that the federal police are supposed to be going after drug traffickers and thieves, and instead they're using their weapons against the people.  "We're workers, not thieves," he told me.

Paredes also complained the the state governor did nothing to protect Juandho residents from the federal police.  The union requested that state and local police come to the town to keep the peace, but the government did not send any officers.

The siege isn't over in Juandho--the police have not left, and they are still looking for Paredes and fellow SME leader Pablo Esparza Flores (Secretary General Martin Esparza's brother).  But Paredes reports that more and more people are arriving to support residents, so the tension has diffused slightly.
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Urgent: SME Under Siege in Hidalgo, Violent Repression Feared

1,5000 Federal Police Have the Juandho Community Surrounded and are Raiding Houses, Town's Electricity Has Been Cut

by Kristin Bricker

[An update on the current situation in Juandho, Hidalgo, is available here.]

The town of Juandho, Hidalgo, has been under siege since yesterday, when members of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) hung strike banners on their former workplaces as part of the national strike in support of the SME.  The SME reports that the town's electricity went out last night.  During the night, hundreds of federal police arrived.  There are now between 1,000 and 1,500 federal police surrounding the town.  The police presence is overwhelming: Tetepango county, where the Juandho community is located, has about 9,000 residents.

At approximately 3am this morning, federal police began raiding houses in search of SME leaders.  SME Central Committee member Gregorio Paredes and his family are in hiding because federal police have burst into several homes looking for him.  SME members Diego Sánchez Mendoza, Sergio Mendoza Rivera, and Adrian Monroy Mejía have been detained and beaten.  The SME reports that dozens of people have been disappeared.

The SME's Secretary General, Martin Esparza, is from Juandho and his family lives there.

Tensions in Juandho began yesterday when SME members blockaded the the Luz y Fuerza complex in Juandho:
SME members and supporters blocked the entrance to the Juandho LyFC complex with piles of dirt.  According to El Universal, "This angered the federal police, leading to a confrontation."  The police fired tear gas and pepper spray at the crowd, and fired live rounds into the air.  El Universal reports that following the repression, approximately three police helicopters and 400 federal police arrived on the scene to drive back protesters.

Following the police repression, floodgates that guard a canal of raw sewage were opened, flooding the LyFC complex and the police inside.  At the time of publication, it has not been confirmed how the floodgates opened.  However, the flood seems to have incapacitated the police--reports from Juandho indicate that the SME still holds its blockade of the LyFC complex there.
Media and human rights organizations began to arrive in Juandho last night.  SME leaders are expected to arrive in Juandho today with representatives from the Mexican government's National Human Rights Commission.  The SME invites national and international human rights organizations, union leaders, and social and political organizations to come to Juandho "to mobilize and stop this miserable fascist policy of criminalizing electricians' just social struggle."  It also calls upon international supporters to hold emergency protests outside Mexican consulates and embassies.
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National Strike Begins in Mexico, Police Respond With Violence

SME Members Defend Themselves and Continue to Block Their Former Workplaces

by Kristin Bricker

At noon on March 16, the Mexican Electrical Workers Union went on an indefinite strike, and unions all over the country went on strike with them. Electricians hung black and red banners across the entrances of their former workplaces, refusing to allow anyone to enter or leave the buildings.  The actions occurred at all of the former Luz y Fuerza del Centro (LyFC) buildings in Mexico City, Mexico State, Puebla, Hidalgo, and Morelos.  Actions in solidarity with the SME occurred in at least 21 other states.  In addition to hanging strike banners on former LyFC buildings, supporters blocked major federal highways, took over government buildings, and held rallies.  A significant number of the blockades remain, particularly in central Mexico.

At least two SME actions outside LyFC buildings were violently repressed when Federal Police (PFP) attempted to prevent the SME from hanging its strike banners.  However, in both instances the SME and supporters repelled the police and hung their strike banners.


The repression began at Cables Bolivar in central Mexico City.  "When we tried to hang our strike banners, the PFP started yelling insults at our compañeros," says Gerardo Avelar, the SME's Secretary of Agreements.  "We dialogued with the PFP's commanding officer on site so that we could peacefully hang our banner.  He accepted this.  However, when the banners were hung, a member of the PFP irresponsibly pulled down a banner that we had hung with [the commanding officer's] permission."  The PFP then began to fire tear gas into the crowd, according to Avelar.  While the exact number of tear gas canisters fired is unknown, SME members were able to show this reporter pieces from four spent canisters: two rifle-fired canisters and two hand-thrown grenades.

The tear gas was manufactured by US-based Combined Tactical Systems, the same company that manufactured the tear gas used in the 2009 Bagua, Peru, massacre of indigenous protesters and the violent attack against striking teachers in Morelos, Mexico in 2008.

When the PFP fired tear gas at the SME, the gas wafted into surrounding schools and homes, affecting the children inside.  The Cables Bolivar complex is located across the street from an elementary school and catty-corner to a daycare.  The SME reports that 2-month-old Alexis Emiliano Hernández was hospitalized when tear gas entered his home near Cables Bolivar.

Calls to support the SME in Cables Bolivar went out over Twitter and Radio SME, and support quickly arrived from other parts of the city.  Students from the Autonomous University of Mexico City, the Urban Movement of Popular Power, and other organizations quickly arrived and drove back the police.  Avelar says, "We will not move from here until the Ministry of the Interior or the Supreme Court presents a solution to this problem."

The second confrontation with police occurred in Juandho, Hidalgo.  SME members and supporters blocked the entrance to the Juandho LyFC complex with piles of dirt.  According to El Universal, "This angered the federal police, leading to a confrontation."  The police fired tear gas and pepper spray at the crowd, and fired live rounds into the air.  El Universal reports that following the repression, approximately three police helicopters and 400 federal police arrived on the scene to drive back protesters.

Following the police repression, floodgates that guard a canal of raw sewage were opened, flooding the LyFC complex and the police inside.  At the time of publication, it has not been confirmed how the floodgates opened.  However, the flood seems to have incapacitated the police--reports from Juandho indicate that the SME still holds its blockade of the LyFC complex there.

The SME continues to blockade key LyFC buildings, and will do so indefinitely.  The workers have organized themselves into shifts that will maintain the picket lines around the clock.  As nighttime fell, a "tense calm" fell over the blockades.  Police continue to attempt to penetrate the blockades, particularly in Nexaca, Hidalgo, and there is fear that police will attack in the night while the majority of the region is asleep.

National Support

Actions in support of the SME reportedly occurred in about 25 states.

The national strike has inspired organizations all over the country to take bold measures to support the SME as well as their own causes.  Several organizations took advantage of the national strike in support of the SME to pressure the government to cede to their own demands.

Oaxacan teachers, in addition to sending a delegation to the Mexico City protests, blocked government buildings and highways in their own state, bringing transit to a standstill.  Their actions were in support of the SME, but also designed to pressure the government in their own 2010 contract negotiations.

Students from the Autonomous University of Mexico City rushed to the SME's aid in front of the Cables Bolivar complex after police attacked there.  The city government has cut all funding for their university, leaving them unsure how they will continue their studies.  They arrived at Cables Bolivar with signs that said, "Less Military, More Education."

Miners in Cananea, Sonora, blocked a federal highway there.  The company that owns the mine where they work refuses to recognize their union and seeks massive layoffs.  The government has authorized the military to take over the mine.  The miners participated in the SME's national strike by blocking the Cananea-Agua Prieta federal highway and have vowed to remain there until their own labor dispute is resolved.  The SME and the Miners Union have a strong relationship and a history of mutual aid.

Photos: Santiago Navarro, No a la Destrucción de Hidalgo, and Pateando Piedras
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Monday, March 15, 2010

Government Blocks SME's Telephones; Soldiers Arrive in New Necaxa

by Arturo Alfaro Galan, La Jornada

Since yesterday afternoon, callers who dialed the cell phone numbers that belong to the Mexican Electrical Workers Union's principal leaders in the Nuevo Necaxa division began to receive the message: "The number that you dialed is restricted by government order."  This came after 200 members of the Mexican military and the Ministerial Federal Police (PFM) arrived before dawn this past Sunday morning.

Leaders from the Democratic Council of the Puebla Teachers Union (CDMP) and the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) who were interviewed by La Jornada de Oriente, expressed their fear that the military and federal forces would carry out an operation to repress the electricians, who will try to close highways and occupy Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) buildings tomorrow.  On Tuesday there will be mobilizations and marches around the country with the intention of seeking a national consensus on the recall of President Felipe Calderon.

As part of the actions, the electricians are expected to take over highways, public spaces, and government buildings in the Huauchinango region to demand their reinstatement in their old jobs.

According to reports from the CDMP, various groups of soldiers and federal police began to arrive in Puebla's Sierra Norte to take up positions in the communities of Santa Catalina in Huachinango, Nuevo Necaxa in Juan Galindo, and Lomas de Ocotzotal in Xicotepec de Juarez, which has caused anxiety among residents.

The places where the soldiers and Federal Police took up positions since yesterday morning are the main access points over land that connects the Sierra Norte with the states of Hidalgo, Veracruz, and Tlaxcala, which have been blocked on various occasions by electricians to demand the suspension of the presidential decree that shut down the company Luz y Fuerza del Centro (LFC).

According to the electricians, the soldiers and PFM officers remain stationed on highways and in hotels in Huachinango, while their vehicles are located near LFC's electric substation in Huachinango, next to the local fairgrounds.

"As of this moment they have not committed any act of repression, nor have they tried to deploy, but people here are very nervous due to the soldiers' presence.  They're just parked, watching every movement," said Roberto Robles Monzón, a member of the CDMP.

A few days ago the SME's Undersecretary of External Affairs, Miguel Angel Montiel Eslava, did not rule out that during the protest there could be confrontations with the military and police.  He asked the federal government to "not repress the electricians" in Sierra Norte.

Translated by Kristin Bricker
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