Around the world, domestic workers demand decent, living wage and work conditions NOW!

Across the globe, domestic workers are struggling and organizing for decent work conditions, a living wage, respect and dignity. In 2011, the International Labour Organization passed C189, Convention concerning decent work for domestic workers. In 2013, the Convention went into effect. As of now, 24 countries have ratified the Convention. And yet … Yesterday, domestic workers in Tamil Nadu, in India, gathered to demand a living wage and legally enforced protections. Yesterday, in Mexico, the ILO reported that 1% of domestic workers in Mexico have any kind of social security. Yesterday, a report from England argued that the way to end exploitation of migrant workers, and in particular domestic workers, is a fair and living wage. Today, an article in South Africa argued that Black women domestic workers bear the brunt of “persistent inequality”. Today, an article in France argued that economic indicators systematically exclude “domestic labor” and so exclude women. What’s going here? In a word, inequality. Women bear the brunt of urban, national, regional and global inequality, and domestic workers sit in the dead center of the maelstrom.

Today, the inaugural World Inequality Report was issued. Since 1980, income inequality has increased almost everywhere, but the United States has led the way to astronomic, and catastrophic, income inequality. In the 1980s, inequality in western Europe and the United States was more or less the same. At that time, the top 1% of adults earned about 10% of national income in both western Europe and the United States. Today in western Europe, the top 1% of adults earns 12% of the national income. In the United States, the top 1% earns 20% of the national income. It gets worse. In Europe, economic growth has been generally the same at all levels. In the United States, the top half has been growing, while the bottom half, 117 million adults, has seen no income growth.

According to the report, the United States “experiment” has led the a global economic, and state, capture: “The global top 1% earners has captured twice as much of that growth as the 50% poorest individuals …. The top 1% richest individuals in the world captured twice as much growth as the bottom 50% individuals since 1980.” The authors note, “The global middle class (which contains all of the poorest 90% income groups in the EU and the United States) has been squeezed.”

Call it global wealth – state capture relies on expanding “opportunities” for the global poor – particularly in countries like China, India, and Brazil – while squeezing the global middle class, and that’s where domestic workers come in. Paid domestic labor has been one of the fastest growing global labor sectors for the past four decades. Women have entered the paid labor force thanks to other women who have tended to the household work. After its preamble, the ILO C189 opens, “Recognizing the significant contribution of domestic workers to the global economy, which includes increasing paid job opportunities for women and men workers with family responsibilities, greater scope for caring for ageing populations, children and persons with a disability, and substantial income transfers within and between countries …”

That language was formally accepted in 2011. Six years later, domestic workers are still waiting, and struggling, for that recognition. In Mexico, groups are organizing to include domestic workers into Social Security programs as well as to ensure that employers pay the end of year bonus that all decent, and not so decent, employers in Mexico pay. In India, domestic workers are marching and demanding protections as well as a living wage. Domestic workers are women workers are workers, period. Today’s Inequality Report reminds us that the extraordinary wealth of those at the very top has been ripped from the collective labor and individual bodies of domestic workers. Structured, programmatic ever widening inequality, at the national and global level, begins and ends with the hyper-exploitation of domestic workers, through employers’ actions and State inaction. Who built today’s version of the seven gates of Thebes? Domestic workers. It’s past time to pay the piper. NOW is the time!

 

(Photo Credit: El Sie7e de Chiapas) (Image Credit: World Inequality Report / Quartz)

Every day in Latin America, 12 women are killed. Seven of them are killed in Mexico.

In 1993, a group of women shocked Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, with the news that dozens of girls and women had been murdered and dumped, like garbage, around the city during the year. As the numbers of murders grew over the years, and as the police forces proved unable and unwilling to find the perpetrators, the protestors became activists. They called the violence and consequent impunity for the crimes `femicide,’ and they demanded that the Mexican government, at the local, state, and federal levels, stop the violence and prosecute the murderers.”

In 1993, the murder of women, and the refusal of the State, in this instance the Mexican state, to do anything, was shocking. In an interview today, Luis Raúl González Pérez, President of Mexico’s National Commission for Human Rights, said that, across Latin America, 12 women are murdered every day. Seven women are killed every day in Mexico. In Mexico, this is called feminicidio. In English, it’s both femicide and feminicide. Whatever it’s called, it’s an atrocity, one that’s been created by successive Mexican governments, governments north and south, east and west of Mexico, multinational corporations, and more. Mexican femicide is the nation’s, and the world’s, cost of doing business. That’s why the hotspots of femicide in Mexico have moved from the southern border to the northern. Ever increasing mounds of women’s cadavers is not even collateral damage in the national, regional and global development scheme, and those mounds are piling up at an ever-increasing rate.

A recent report on household relations, from the National Institute for Statistics and Geography, suggests that in Mexico 7 out of every 10 women has experienced violence, most of which is sexual and emotional. Ten areas exceed the national average. In Mexico City, for example, eight of ten women have suffered violence.

Right now, 12 areas in Mexico have been issued a “femicide alert” by the Commission. Another five been under the alert for almost six months. When these alerts are issued, the locale often sees it as a hassle and an embarrassment. As González Pérez explained, “Local governments must see that this alert is a tool that does not seek to harm, but to contribute to the solution of the problem. [Some consider it a political coup] because it is misunderstood. It feels like it’s  reproaching them for the past, but it’s actually a proposal to move towards the future.” In what world do governments see femicide as a misplaced garbage dump, as bad for business, and nothing more? In our world.

Since that day in 1993, women have been protesting, organizing, militating against femicide. Mexican women have reached across borders and across oceans for support and for models of anti-femicide activism and policy. Since January 2016, Maria Salguero, a geophysical engineer, has designed and maintained an interactive femicide map. Guadalupe García Álvarez, a member of the Mazahua indigenous nation, suffered violence at home and then, at the age of 13, was sent to Mexico City to work as a maid. She decided enough was enough, and left. She went to university, completed her studies, and then returned home, where she founded, MULYD, Mujeres Lucha y Derechos Para Todas. Women’s Struggle and Rights for All (Women and Girls). Poets, such as Mijail Lamas, have invented new kinds of poetry, documentary poetry, to do more than “draw attention” to femicide and to violence against women. Lamas, and other poets, are insisting that the assault on women is an assault on language, on communication, on the soul and spirit of each and every human being, and not only in Mexico.

Every day, seven women in Mexico are murdered. That arithmetic is described as a crisis. It is. The crisis is violence, the violence committed by men in relationships, by men in corporations and investment agencies and banks, and by men in charge of governments, and not only the government of Mexico. Where is the global outrage at a contemporary witch hunt that threatens, as they always have, every woman?

 

(Photo credit: SDP Noticias / Claroscuro)

Mexico City: The femicide of earthquake and the feminism of recovery

On September 19, 2017, Mexico City was upturned by a powerful earthquake. Reports suggest that the quake killed 330 people nationwide. In Mexico City, 198 people lost their lives. Of the 198, 127 were women, 71 were men. This is the altogether predictable and planned mathematics of earthquakes, and of “natural disasters”. As with human stampedes, earthquakes have a morbid gender ratio, during the event and after.

Who are the women who died? The earthquake struck at 1:14 in the afternoon. Thirty-four buildings collapsed. Many of them were apartment buildings. According to Mexican sociologist Patricio Solis, the reason for the preponderance of women among the dead is straightforward: “the segregation of women and of gender roles.” First, many apartments were destroyed, and in the early afternoon, the residents were housewives and domestic workers. Second, a major garment sweatshop building collapsed, and its workers were almost all women. Third, a school collapsed, and its workers were predominantly women.

None of this is new. In the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, textile “factories” collapsed, and women workers perished. The factory building that collapsed this time had survived the 1985 earthquake. It was one of the few. It was well known to the authorities. It was well known that hundreds of women, many of them undocumented, worked for criminally low wages there. It was well known that the passageways and stairs were too narrow to accommodate everyone, should the need arise. One newspaper called the collapse and deaths “industrial homicide” and “state crime”. They should have included “industrial femicide” among the charges. Thus far, the government has remained silent.

None of this is new. A study published in 2007 considered “natural disasters” in 141 countries from 1981 to 2002: “We find, first, that natural disasters lower the life expectancy of women more than that of men. In other words, natural disasters (and their subsequent impact) on average kill more women than men or kill women at an earlier age than men … Second, the stronger the disaster (as approximated by the number of people killed relative to population size), the stronger this effect on the gender gap in life expectancy. That is, major calamities lead to more severe impacts on female life expectancy (relative to that of males) than do smaller disasters. Third, the higher women’s socioeconomic status, the weaker is this effect on the gender gap in life expectancy. Taken together our results show that it is the socially constructed gender-specific vulnerability of females built into everyday socioeconomic patterns that lead to the relatively higher female disaster mortality rates compared to men.”

In 2000, the Pan American Health Organization studied the increased and mass produced vulnerability of women and its toll in natural disasters and disaster relief. In 2002, the World Health Organization did as well. In 2005, Oxfam reported on the tsunami’s impact on women. And the list goes on. There is no surprise in the gender of earthquake mortality rates. We were told for over a decade, and we did nothing. We did less than nothing. We built more unsafe workspaces, and we segregated the working day ever more fiercely. We wear the dead in the filaments of our clothing.

After the buildings collapsed, women from across Mexico rushed to the streets of Mexico City and, in many parts, led the rescue efforts, searching for loved ones and strangers in the rubble. Self-described feminist brigades rushed to the factory in the Colonia Obrera. As Mar Cruz explained, “The people in this factory are women, and they are immigrant women in a country where they are very much discriminated against, in a country that doesn’t care much about them. Knowing the treatment that they face in the factories, it was up to us as feminists. We are women defending women. We have demanded our right to defend our female comrades and their human rights.” Dominique Draco added, “We are here as feminists because we are fed up with being murdered. Femicide is one way of killing us, but this is also a way of killing us: in a collapsed building that doesn’t have proper working conditions.”

 

(Photo Credit 1: Animal Politico/Manu Ureste) (Photo Credit 2: St. Louis Dispatch/Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

In elections from the State of Mexico to the councils of Cambodia, women are on the move

Delfina Gómez Álvarez

This weekend saw three major elections. In Lesotho, people went to the polls to elect a Prime Minister … for the third time in three years. Despite a heavy presence of military at the polls, generally reports are that everything was orderly and reasonably fair and free. The other two elections, for the Governor of the State of Mexico and for council and commune seats in Cambodia, the electoral story is all about women: Delfina Gómez Álvarez in Mexico, and in Cambodia, Mu Sochua, Tep Vanny, Preah Vihear, Jen Juri, Kem Tola, Sok Da, Khum Rany, Nget Chan Dara and countless others. While the particularities from Mexico to Cambodia my change, the story of the insurgent ascendancy of women in response to neoliberal models of so-called development that tally women as so many disposable bodies is the same. From Mexico to Cambodia, women are saying NO!

In the State of Mexico, known as Edomex, Delfina Gómez Álvarez, of the relatively new leftist Morena party, has been running a fierce campaign against a candidate who is president Enrique Peña Nieto’s cousin and whose party has ruled Edomex for 90 years. Additionally, his father and grandfather were governors of Edomex. So, it was a done deal, right? Wrong. Delfina Gómez covered the state, from one end to the other and all points in between, and the State of Mexico is Mexico’s most populous and most densely populated state. Not a member of an illustrious family, Delfina Gómez had spent most of her adult life as a teacher. When she entered politics, in 2012, she ran for Municipal President of Texcoco, and won. Delfina Gómez Álvarez was the first woman to win a municipal election in Texcoco. Now she’s taking that to the State level. It’s unclear, as of now, who won the election. Both sides are claiming victory, and the margins are narrow. What is clear is Delfina Gómez Álvarez, standing loud and proud, and urging the people onward.

In Cambodia, women –  like Yorm Bopha, Tep Vanny, Phan Chhunreth, Song Srey Leap, and Bo Chhorvy and thousands of others – have led the campaigns against land grabs, mass evictions, and other forms of `urban development.’ With the elections coming up, many activists – such as Jen Juri, Kem Tola, Sok Da, Khum Rany, Nget Chan Dara – decided to join Mu Sochua and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party. Woman after woman told a version of the same story. They had had enough of both the patriarchal national form of so-called development AND the patriarchal forms of opposition. Despite the difficulties of moving up in any Cambodia party bureaucracy, they decided the time is now. They had pushed for so long, and still the bulldozers came, whole communities were removed, and if there was any public outcry, it was short lived and then forgotten.

As in Edomex, the results of the elections are not altogether clear. The national ruling party seems to have won at the national level, but in many regions, the CNRP did well, and women candidates did well.

Winning an election is important, terrifically and often terribly important, but so is entering the race, and in Mexico and Cambodia this weekend, that’s what women did. Where are the women? They’re in the garment factories and, like activist Tep Vanny, in the prisons, and they’re in the polling booths, on the election posters, on the platform and dais, in the meetings, and soon, very soon, they will be in the governor’s estate, in the council and commune bodies, and beyond. Soon, very soon, and not just in Cambodia and Mexico.

Khum Rany

 

(Photo Credit 1: Excelsior / Cuartoscuro) (Photo Credit 2: Phnom Penh Post / Pha Lina)

For the women of Atenco, today is one more day of women’s fight for justice and freedom

In 2001, Mexico’s federal government joined with the local government of the State of Mexico and “expropriated” the land wherein lay the village of San Salvador Atenco. In order to build a new airport, the State, with little to no consultation, decided to forcibly remove thousands of people, mostly indigenous, from the lands they had inhabited for generations. The people of San Salvador Atenco organized a massive resistance to this plan. In May 2006, the Governor of the State of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto, sent in the police “to clean up the mess.” Two people were killed and 217 detained, of whom more than 50 women were tortured and sexually violated. Though haunted by the experience, the women refused to become specters. For a decade they have refused every government attempt to silence them, from intimidation to bribes. They have said, every day, we want justice and freedom, and that means we want the truth to be known. This week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights decided to pursue the case of “Mariana Selvas Gómez y others”. These are the women of Atenco: Mariana Selvas Gómez, Georgina Edith Rosales Gutiérrez, María Patricia Romero Hernández, Norma Aidé Jiménez Osorio, Claudia Hernández Martínez, Bárbara Italia Méndez Moreno, Ana María Velasco Rodríguez, Yolanda Muñoz Diosdada, Cristina Sánchez Hernández, Patricia Torres Linares and Suhelen Gabriela Cuevas Jaramillo.

Working with the Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez, better known as the Centro Prodh, the women fought, day in and day out, for one thing, “a public reckoning of what happened to them and who ordered it.” During the last decade, they say they have met many other Mexican women, and in particular indigenous Mexican women, who have suffered State-administered sexual torture. For that reason, they joined the campaign, “Breaking the silence. All against sexual torture.”

For ten years, the women of Atenco lived with trauma and memory, watching the men who tortured them walk free and empowered, watching the State do worse and less than nothing, and they refused to accept any of that. When the State tried to threaten and intimidate them, they pushed back. When the State offered them free homes and scholarships, they refused. They said, like the land, like the Earth itself, they were not merchandise, and they were not for sale.

In 2011, Martha Pérez Pineda, of the Peoples Front in Defense of the Land, an organization begun in 2002 in San Salvador Atenco, explained, “Today is one more day of women’s fight for justice and freedom … It was the women who led the fight against the government’s imposition of constructing a new airport on our land. It was we, women, who decided that nothing was going to be constructed there. It was us who decided that those lands were going to keep on being farmlands. We stood firm even when the government tried to subjugate us and to break up the social movement, we, the women said you are not going to subjugate us. We are going out to the streets, in spite of the risk to our lives and our integrity, we are not going to be quiet, we are going to keep on demanding freedom and justice … in Atenco we women say no, we will keep on raising our machete, we will keep on raising our bush of maize that symbolizes life. Those symbols give us a lot of strength … Everything comes from the land, she is so generous. When we walked in our territory during these ten years of fight we see how ourselves in our personal territory as women, have also taken a long journey. In Atenco we are no longer the same women who began the fight. This fight has changed our behavior in front of the male comrades, it has transformed our decisions and our life plans. This fight has helped us to understand that we are not the only women who are living or who lived this violence in 2006, even if violence against women continues.”

That was 2011. Five years later, for the women of Atenco and for the women they stand for, the struggle and the transformation continue.

 

(Photo Credit 1: Somos el medio) (Photo Credit 2: Proceso / Miguel Dimayuga)

Jacinta Francisco Marcial, Alberta Alcántara Juan, Teresa González Cornelio demand justice!

Jacinta Francisco Marcial

Jacinta Francisco Marcial, Alberta Alcántara Juan, and Teresa González Cornelio are Otomí-speaking ñhäñhú women street vendors who have struggled for the past decade to force the Mexican government to do more than `stop oppressing’ indigenous women. Asserting their dignity as indigenous women, they have demanded justice. This week they may have moved a step closer to that goal.

Jacinta Francisco Marcial, Alberta Alcántara Juan, and Teresa González Cornelio were arrested, charged, tried, convicted, and sentenced to decades in prison for a crime that never occurred. On March 26, 2006, members of the now-defunct Federal Investigation Agency (AFI) of the federal Attorney General’s Office showed up at the town plaza of Santiago Mexquititlán in the state of Querétaro. Never identifying themselves as police, they began to shake down the local street vendors, the vast majority of whom were ñhäñhú women. The women massed around the agents and demanded they stop their extortion. The agents’ superiors arrived and offered to pay for damages, and that should have been that.

Four months later, Jacinta Francisco Marcial, Alberta Alcántara Juan, and Teresa González Cornelio were arrested and charged with having kidnapped six agents. The evidence was allegedly a newspaper photograph that showed the three women somewhere in the vicinity of the crowd of indigenous women. The trial dragged on for two years. Not a single federal agent ever showed up or gave testimony, and yet all three women were sentenced to 21 years in prison. That’s justice in Querétaro for the crime of being a working poor, indigenous woman.

At the time of her imprisonment, Jacinta Francisco Marcial was 43 years old. She was married and the mother of six children. She sold juices and ice cream in the town square. Jacinta Francisco Marcial was guilty of the crime of survival with a modicum of dignity.

When she was sent to jail, the Centro Prodh took up her case. Soon after, Amnesty began investigating and campaigning as well. In September 2009, Jacinta Francisco Marcial was released from prison. The Attorney General’s Office had dropped the charges, but never declared her innocent. In April 2010, Alberta Alcántara Juan and Teresa González Cornelio were also released. At the time of their release Alberta Alcántara Juan was 31, and Teresa González Cornelio 25 years old. Teresa González Cornelio gave birth to a baby girl while in prison.

The three women had been released, but Jacinta Francisco Marcial had not been exonerated, and so she sued the State for damages and demanded an apology. In May 2014, in a groundbreaking case, Jacinta Francisco Marcial won, the first time a Mexican citizen sued the State for wrongful incarceration and was awarded reparations and a public apology.

The State refused to pay up or apologize. This week, the earlier judgment was confirmed, and there’s no chance for the State to appeal the decision. The State must compensate and formally apologize, and it must do so by September 2016.

Mexico currently holds over 9000 indigenous people in its prisons. The prisons are hellholes generally, and for indigenous people, even more so. There are little to no language services either in the courts or in the prisons, and so many indigenous people are left to fend for themselves, which is to say disappear. As Jacinta Francisco Marcial has explained on more than one occasion, she didn’t know what kidnapping was when she was charged with that crime.

According to the Mexican National Commission on Human Rights, the conditions of women’s prisons are deplorable. Querétaro’s Centro de Reinserción Social Femenil San José El Alto offers threats, humiliation, discrimination; toxic maintenance conditions; unregulated and irregular application of solitary confinement; overcrowding; and more. According to the Commission, Querétaro’s Centro de Reinserción Social Femenil San José El Alto is not one of the worst women’s prisons in Mexico, not by a long shot.

The State tried to crush Jacinta Francisco Marcial, Alberta Alcántara Juan, and Teresa González Cornelio, because it considered three working poor indigenous women as so much dust. From the streets to the courts to the prisons to the highest offices in the land, State agents thought they could abuse such women with impunity. But when they struck Jacinta Francisco Marcial, Alberta Alcántara Juan, and Teresa González Cornelio, they hit and dislodged a boulder that will continue to roll and pound until the State of impunity is crushed. There are many Jacintas in Mexico and beyond.

 

(Photo Credit: Centro Prodh) (Video Credit: Amnesty / YouTube)

The Topo Chico massacre, Mexico’s fire this time

Yet again, women gather outside prison gates to find out if their loved ones are still alive. This time, it’s the Topo Chico prison, in Nuevo León, in northern Mexico.

Yesterday, something happened that left at least 49 prisoners dead and 12 injured. That `something’ has been variously described as a battle, riot, clash, brawl, fight, pitched battle, and gang war. It was all of those, and it was more. It was a predicted event, and to that extent, irrespective of the violent histories of the individual prisoners involved, it was a planned massacre.

In 2014, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, visited Mexico’s prisons, including Topo Chico: “Overcrowding … is a serious problem … The Government reported a total prison population of 248,487 men and women, distributed among centres with a total capacity of 197,993 persons … Overcrowding is … caused by a failure to use alternatives to prison and by abuse of pretrial detention, especially its mandatory application. Of the total prison population of 248,487 detainees, 104,763 have been charged … In … Topo Chico … inmates have excessive control over services, benefits and the functioning of the prison (inmate “self-rule”), which gives rise to disparities in the exercise of rights, corruption and situations of violence and intimidation among inmates, all of which the State has a responsibility to prevent. The Special Rapporteur accepts that protective measures must sometimes be taken and that it is often inmates who request them, but such measures cannot involve cruel, inhuman or degrading conditions. He draws attention to the conditions observed in the Topo Chico prison “doghouse”, a small enclosure where over 40 detainees allegedly in need of protection are living in unacceptably cramped and insanitary conditions … In …Topo Chico … inmates generally had no water, light or ventilation in their cells. Health conditions were usually grim and many inmates had to sleep on the floor or in shifts … Solitary confinement generally involves critical overcrowding in small cells and appalling conditions, particularly in … Topo Chico.”

In the same year, Mexico’s National Commission of Human Rights assessed all the prisons in Mexico, and rated Topo Chico a 5.72 on a scale of 10. The Commission reported that Topo Chico was designed for a maximum of 3635 prisoners, and held 4585. The Commission found that, in 2013, the male wing of Topo Chico was 55% over its limits, and the women’s section was 56% overpopulated.

None of this is new. Topo Chico was a well known bomb set to go off, and it did. That the pieces of that bomb are gang members or have violent pasts, or not, is a distraction. The real violence is the cramming of more and more bodies into less and less space that is itself less and less livable.

James Baldwin wrote, “There is a limit to the number of people any government can put in prison, and a rigid limit indeed to the practicality of such a course. A bill is coming in that I fear America is not prepared to pay.”

For Mexico, this Topo Chico massacre is the fire this time. The bill came in, and now, as so often, the women stand at the gates calling, weeping, mourning.

 

(Photo Credit: Juan Cedilla / Proceso)

The forgotten grave of Nadia Vera, Yesenia Quiroz, Nicole, Alejandra, Ruben Espinosa

On Friday, July 31, five people, four women and one man, were tortured and murdered, in the Narvarte neighborhood of Mexico City. The women were raped and tortured and then shot. The women are Yesenia Quiroz Alfaro, a student from Michoacan; Nicole, a Colombian activist; Alejandra, a domestic worker; and Nadia Vera, a human rights activist. The man was Ruben Espinosa, a photojournalist for Proceso, a leading news magazine. Both Espinosa and Vera were public in their investigations and critiques of the powerful in Veracruz, which is one reason they had both fled that state for the presumed safety of the Federal District. Because of the sexual violence and torture against the four women, the State may pursue a case of femicide.

Nadia Vera was a leading member of the Xalapa, Veracruz, section of the #YoSoy132 student and youth movement. She was a social anthropologist. A year ago, after having been beaten by the police and after receiving anonymous death threats, Nadia Vera left Veracruz. In Mexico City, she worked as a cultural promoter in a cultural center and was, by many accounts, “happy for the first time in a long time.” At the same time, she continued her social justice work. When Ruben Espinosa fled Xalapa, he went to stay with his friend and comrade, Nadia Vera.

Nadia Vera was happy, but she also knew that the State was responsible for the violence and death in Veracruz and would crush those who called it out. Eight months ago, she gave an interview with Rompeviento Televisión, which concluded with this statement, “I hold Javier Duarte, the governor of the state of Veracruz, and his entire Cabinet responsible for anything that happens to me and my family … I want to be absolutely clear that it is the responsibility of the State, not of the security forces, because it is the State that is directly responsible for sending them to repress us.”

It is the State that raped and butchered four women in Narvarte last Friday, and everyone knows that. As Vera said earlier in the same interview, “How many journalists have been assassinated, and absolutely nothing has been done? How many students? How many activists? How many human rights defenders have been assassinated or disappeared? We have an impressively high level of disappearances.” Nadia Vera went on to explain that in Xalapa, and in Veracruz generally, the State and the narcotraffickers worked hand in glove, and that journalists, students, activists, human rights defenders were trying to survive and thrive somewhere in the spaces between the State hand and the narco glove.

That interview was titled, “Veracruz: la fosa olvidada”. Veracruz: the forgotten grave. Five more people are being laid into that forgotten grave, four women, one man. I want to be absolutely clear that it is the responsibility of the State.

 

(Video Credits: Vimeo / Rompimiento Televisión)

In Canada two Mexican women workers win a victory for women workers everywhere!

Since 1973, Canada has run the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, or TFWP. Initially designed to bring in `high-skilled’ and specialized workers, in 2002 it was revised in order to bring in “low-skilled” workers who now make up the overwhelming majority of TFWP workers. Eight years ago, two Mexican sisters took on the injustice of the TFWP and, last week, won a landmark victory for women workers everywhere.

In August 2007, two sisters, now known as O.P.T. and M.P.T., left Mexico to work in Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. They were employed by Presteve Foods Ltd, in Ontario, owned at the time by Jose Pratás. At the time Pratás was 74. O.P.T. is now 36 years old, and her sister is 30.

According to both sisters, Pratás immediately started making explicit sexual advances towards O.P.T. and then demanded sex. Whenever O.P.T offered resistance, Pratás would threaten to send her back to Mexico. This was no idle threat. Under the TFWP, “temporary workers” are attached to their employers. In the Spring of 2008, O.P.T. fled Presteve, moved to Windsor for a bit, and then returned to Mexico.

In the Spring of 2009, the CAW-Canada union, now called Unifor, filed a brief with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, on behalf of 39 Thai and Mexican women workers employed at Presteve. Then things moved both quickly and slowly. Pratás was charged with 23 criminal charges of sexual assault and five counts of common assault, all involving women “temporary foreign workers”. In March 2010, Pratás pleaded guilty to one count of assault, and received a conditional sentence and some probation.

Ultimately, of the original 39 claimants, only O.P.T. and M.P.T. were left to challenge the power of Presteve Foods, Jose Pratás and the entire Temporary Food Works Program.

Last Wednesday, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario handed down its decision and awarded O.P.T. a record $165,000 as compensation for “injury to her dignity, feelings and self-respect”. The Tribunal also awarded M.P.T. $55,000. Pratás and Presteve Foods, now owned by Pratás’s son, must pay the two sisters $220,000 for having created a “sexually poisoned work environment”.

After the hearing, O.P.T. said, “I want to tell all women that are in a similar situation, that they should not be silent and that there is justice and they should not just accept mistreatment or humiliation. We must not stay silent. [As a migrant] one feels that she or he has to stay there [in the workplace] and there is nowhere to go or no one to talk to. Under the temporary foreign worker program, the boss has all the power – over your money, house, status, everything. They have you tied to their will. It has been 8 years to obtain justice but 8 years and justice is finally here today.

If we don’t do what they say, they have the power to deport. We are obligated to work. Not as people, but as slaves. We endure wage theft, verbal abuse, physical abuse, and our bodies are injured because of the stress of the work. They push and push us. How can you say that we are free when in practice we have no right to leave?

“But how can we leave, if we cannot work for another employer. They harm us, and then they send us home. There is racism underlying their treatment of us. How is this allowed in Canada? That happened to me eight years ago, and the system is still the same. Treat us with dignity. Not as animals. But as human beings who merit respect.

Even when we have been humiliated and mistreated, we have to hang on to our dignity. That is all we have.”

Canada created a system in which workers were tied, handcuffed, to their employers, in which workers were forced into almost complete dependence on employers. Employers then sought women workers, whom, by law, they are allowed to pay less for the same work as male workers in the program. Women in the caregivers’ program suffer the same violence.

O.P.T’s and M.P.T.’s victory is a victory for women workers across Canada and around the world, as they struggle with the violence of `national economic growth.’ We have to hang on to our dignity. That is all we have.

 

(Photo Credit: thestar.com)

End State terrorism: Free Nestora Salgado now!

 


Women are organizing a revolution in the highlands of Guerrero, in southwestern Mexico. They are mobilizing and militating in self-defense. They are organizing to protect and extend women’s rights and power at home, in the streets, in the State. They are saying, “¡Ya basta!” Enough is way too much. They are calling women from across Mexico to join with them. These are the rank and file and the comandantes of the Community Police Forces. Nestora Salgado is one of the many women in this growing revolution.

At the age of 20, Nestora Salgado left her home town of Olinalá, Guerrero, and moved to the United States. She left for a better life for herself and her three daughters, and she left to escape a physically abusive husband. Ending up in Renton, Washington, Salgado worked as a domestic worker, at first; sent her daughters to school; divorced her husband; obtained U.S. citizenship; remarried.

At a certain point, Salgado started returning, twice a year, to Olinalá. Initially, she returned to maintain family ties, and to bring material goods to the family, and then to the community. In Olinalá, Nestora Salgado witnessed the ravages of the so-called War on Drugs, which had translated much of the narco-violence to the countryside. She saw the government collude with drug cartels. She saw her community crushed by a political economy of violence, consisting of murder, rape, kidnappings, and wall-to-wall terror and intimidation. She saw violence intensifying, poverty deepening and expanding, and a pervasive sense of abandonment.

Nestora Salgado declared, “¡Ya basta!” She joined a local indigenous community police force. While many in the international press refer to such forces as “vigilante”, in fact their existence is codified in the Mexican Constitution and Guerrero legislation. Initially, Salgado’s security force received major funding from the State of Guerrero. Salgado was elected regional comandante.

Within the first ten months of her tenure, the community police broke the hold of the ruling local gang. Homicide, and most crimes of violence, dropped drastically. Kidnapping practically vanished. And women joined the struggle and moved up through the ranks. Women changed both the war zone of the everyday and the social relations of their own communities.

Then Salgado began investigating and arresting local officials, for their criminal involvement with the cartels. Suddenly, Nestora Salgado went from hero to `terrorist.’ On August 21, 2013, she was arrested and charged with kidnapping. She was carted off to the federal maximum-security prison in Tepic, Nayarit, hundreds of miles away. Despite having been acquitted of those charges, she has been held in Tepic, often in solitary, for almost two years. She has had no trial. She has been denied access to medical treatment.

On May 5, Salgado began a hunger strike. After much dithering and handwringing, and no acknowledgment of the previous two years’ ordeal, the National Commission on Human Rights weighed in, and the so-called Human Rights division of the Ministry of the Interior announced, yesterday, that Salgado would be moved out of Tepic and to a prison closer to her lawyers, family, and comrades.

Nestora Salgado is one of many. Every day, Olinalá and the mass grave of Ayotzinapa grow closer. The number of political prisoners rises as violence against journalists intensifies.

As the violence intensifies, so do the demands for freedom and justice. Nestora Salgado has put it succinctly, “They will not break me and I will not ask forgiveness of anyone.” Indigenous women are organizing and militating. #NestoraLibre appears everywhere. Freedom for Nestora Salgado! Freedom and justice for all indigenous women!

I’m not afraid of the hired guns or of organized crime. I’m afraid of the State, for the State will disappear me. It’s the State that attacks us.” Nestora Salgado understands that when “organized crime” attacks Olinalá, it’s the State attacking. And when the State attacks … it’s time to fight back. The women of Olinalá demand freedom for Nestora Salgado and for all who stand with her: Release from prison, freedom from State terror and violence … now!

 

(Photo Credit: La Jornada / Sanjuana Martinez)