Mexico News and Analysis: November 9-15, 2009

1. SME National Strike closes Mexico City
2. Mob almost lynches kidnappers
3. Robledo named head of Federal Police 


1. SME National Strike closes Mexico City
Wednesday’s national strike led by the Electrical Workers Union (SME) virtually closed Mexico City as hundreds of thousands of workers, students and colonos blocked highways and major intersections.  The union is calling for the Calderon administration to re-open the government-owned Central Light and Power (LFC), closed a month ago in a Saturday night police action that cost more than 44,000 union jobs.  At least 200,000 people filled the Zocalo for a late afternoon gathering after a day of actions throughout the urban area.  Protestors entered the city from five directions, while police used tear gas and excessive violence in an effort to undermine the massive protest.  In one case, police attacked a caravan of cars slowly entering the city on one of the major highways, breaking at least 20 windshields with nightsticks and attacking drivers and passengers.  In any effort to escape the police violence, one car ran over several officers.  Three protestors are currently in jail charged with attempted murder. 

SME leaders called for a national general strike, and conditions appear ripe.  Perhaps the only negative indication on Wednesday was the highly visible participation of PRD leaders.  Most Mexicans do not trust political parties and many independent popular organizations refused to join the one-day action because of the role of the PRD.  On Friday, Labor Secretary Javier Lozano appeared to challenge the SME by essentially writing off the possibility of a general strike.

Electrical workers warned of an imminent collapse of the entire power system in the Mexico City region.  Private contractors have been unable to maintain the aging infrastructure of LFC.  Workers warned of particularly dangerous problems in underground lines in the historic city center and overhead lines in poor neighborhoods on the outskirts of the capitol.

A small dissident group within the SME announced plans to form of a new private company that would employ former union members and provide services for the electrical system in the Mexico City region, though there appeared to be few union members interested. 


2. Mob almost lynches kidnappers
An angry mob nearly lynched four kidnappers on Tuesday in Juchitepec, on the outskirts of Mexico City.  Mexico State police rescued the kidnapping gang, which included two federal police officers, holding them briefly in a local police station before hundreds of residents set the building on fire.  The prisoners along with dozens of officers escaped the burning building with the help of 300 special forces police who used tear gas to disperse the crowd.  The incident is an indication of the lack of confidence many Mexicans have in security forces who are generally seen as the worst criminals in the country rather than protectors of public safety.  Increasingly, spontaneously formed groups are taking legal matters into their own hands.


3. Robledo named head of Federal Police
Wilfredo Robledo was named the new head of the Federal Ministerial Police, an arm of the Federal Attorney General.  Robledo was chief of the Mexico State Security Agency during the infamous May 3 and 4, 2006, police riots in San Salvador Atenco in which police murdered two youth, tortured dozens of arrestees, and sexually molested at least 30 women held as prisoners.  He resigned shortly after the incident.  Earlier in his career, Robledo was also in charge of the Federal Preventative Police action that broke up the student strike at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in 2000.  His new position is supported by President Calderon.  He is seen as a serious threat to Mexican social movements and popular protests in a nation moving rapidly toward the rule of a police state.