Memorial to the miners killed at Pasta de Conchos, a year after the disaster. Photo: Toño Hernández
Mexican mineworkers’ leader to campaign on mine tragedy
The exiled President of the Mexican Mining and Metalworkers Union (Los Mineros) Napoleon Gomez has launched a campaign to bring to the attention of the public the tragic events that happened eight years ago at the Pasta de Conchos mine, taking the lives of 65 miners whose bodies remain unrecovered.
Retold in his book Collapse Of Dignity, now a New York Times best seller, Gomez recounts the explosion deep in a Mexican mine and the half-hearted rescue attempts and government cover-up. The campaign kicks off in Gomez’s home base of Vancouver, and will be rolled out across Canada in newspapers, social media campaigns and with trade unions.
His message is clear – there are bodies still buried underground today and the lost miners deserve justice.
Their families have never received support and their plight has never been resolved. Most frustrating for Napoleon is the stark contrast to the Chilean mine tragedy in 2010, which was highly publicised and celebrated when 33 miners were safely rescued. A Hollywood film about the Chilean miners rescue is now in production.
The Chilean accident took place just four years after the Mexican mining tragedy that saw little media interest. Gomez is calling for solidarity to put right injustices such as this, explaining that it is not too late for individuals to take note of what happened in Mexico and to make a difference by challenging the inhumane decisions that were made and demanding better treatment for workers. He explains:
“For the past eight years I have worked to keep the story of Pasta de Conchos alive and raise awareness and support for the families of the miners. Across Canada I have been able to share a vision for better relations between governments, corporations and workers, and I feel the momentum building. This year, to mark the anniversary of the mine collapse, I really wanted to do something to spark interest with the average person. 65 families have gone through eight years of pain and mourning, awaiting the return of the bodies of their loved ones, who remain abandoned at the bottom of the mine. There could not be a more poignant time for me to reassert our plight.”
Gomez hopes to raise the profile of the mine collapse and the injustice of the tragic event. In doing so it will pave the way for incidents like these not to go unnoticed, while ensuring that everyone learns from tragedies like this so that they do not occur again. Through April, all proceeds from his book will go to helping the families of the miners, and the focus will remain on retrieving the bodies so they are put to rest in a dignified manner.
Napoleon Gomez is General Secretary and President of the National Mining and Metal Workers Union, Mexico’s biggest and most militant trade union. He is currently in exile in Canada after being harassed and persecuted by the Mexican Government which saw him placed on the Interpol Red Watch list for alleged wrong doing – for which he has been completely exonerated. Napoleon is also member of the Executive Committee of IndustriALL Global Union, and an Oxford-educated economist.