The Fight Against Corruption

The following article was written by Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, and originally published in Spanish on March 21st, 2013 in La Jornada, Mexico City’s leading daily newspaper, considered by many scholars as one of the last remaining independent newspapers in the Americas.


In Mexico, following the current government’ symbolic first 100 days, we are entering the phase of achieving goals, although there seems to be an endless supply of such goals. Various reforms are on show and we needn’t go into them because they have been well publicised. Key issues have been energy and education, as well as tax and treasury policy. These are not lightweight issues, rather each one is loaded with importance for the country’s immediate future.

One of the fundamental issues, which I discussed in my previous article, is that of the new strategy for fighting corruption. Contrary to what is mistakenly said in certain circles, Mexico is not a country full of corrupt individuals, nor do crooks predominate. If that was the case, the country would have gone to the dogs. In our country, despite how widespread antisocial behaviour has been, there is a strong core of honesty and integrity. The country’s small and medium-sized communities show this unceasingly, even though those places have the highest levels of marginalisation and neglect. This shows that a lack of honesty is not bred by poverty but by exploitation and discrimination. The Mexican people who live in these communities, who are in the majority, are honourable and willing to fight against corruption when their leaders and those in government firmly and credibly strike out along that path, setting a strong, efficient example.

An important gap in the aims of the Pact for Mexico is without a doubt this, the fight against malpractice. It is not a case of applying cosmetic remedies to the situation, with simple words or nothing more than intentions, as was the case under previous governments; rather it is time to develop a real strategy which will allow the country to reduce those terrible practices as far as possible, coupled with profound changes in the education system. Many honest efforts from government, which have always been present, are smothered by the scepticism about their existence, particularly when they are not evenly applied but are selective or motivated by a clearly obsessive and unhealthy political persecution that is not applied to businesspeople or politicians.

Democratic and independent unions, including the miners’ union, have been hindered in part due to this negative image projected by other organisations that do not espouse the principles of honesty or dignity. We have been the victims of a kind of malign and perverse complex that applies the same label to different groups, in a fierce attack on the unions and the working class in general, without pausing to study each individual case with the truth and the facts to hand.

A campaign was recently launched against the miners’ union, which attempted to invent a supposed collaboration with the legal defence of a teachers’ union leader against the criminal accusations she is facing. It must be made clear that it is not the miners’ union nor its leader who have embarked upon this collaboration, but simply the lawyer, who defends us efficiently; he has taken on the case because it fits with his professional interests. Thus miners’ fight is not contaminated by other situations.

Anti-corruption efforts at all levels and in all sectors should have a dedicated section in the current government’s programme. How can it be that the miners’ union has been politically pursued for over seven years, and to date there are no signs of change in this demented aggression? Such aggression is promoted by certain unscrupulous individuals who have made their fortune from mining and who attempt to conjure away the accusations of their own corruption by attributing it to the miners. This absolute minority of businessmen, however, do not represent the opinions nor the political will of the huge majority of companies who operate in this sector, which is strategic in the country’s economy.

The current government must urgently turn its back on escapist approaches and face the problems of the mining, metalwork and steelwork sector head on, above all when we see that certain people in this sector will not desist in their new judicial and eternally shameful persecution of the miners’ union and its leaders, and when a biased judge decides to artificially revive an apprehension order which now tens of judges and tribunals have declared unfounded on more than four occasions on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

Despite this political persecution the miner’s union has repeatedly been highly successful in its reviews of wages and benefits at the companies with which it maintains labour relations. This, along with the recognition its leader enjoys from workers and the great majority of the sector’s companies, should be proof of the union’s honesty and transparency. So far in 2013 there have been 10 wage or contractual revisions, and in all of those the miners’ organisation has obtained increases across the board of an average 14 percent, well above the rate of inflation and a lot higher than the increases obtained by other unions. This continues the trend of the last seven years.

The judge’s latest accusation, surely motivated by interests that are neither legal nor professional, means that corrupt of mining barons, who have got rich through unchecked exploitation, are cynically and defiantly trying to intimidate the current government so that it will not attempt to impose legal order on the situation in the mining sector and bring justice to the miners and their union organisation. This is a new illegitimate pressure that today’s government must resist and not give in to. By doing so they will show that the strategy for the fight against corruption is a firm goal.

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