The United Steelworkers (USW) is condemning the arrest of one of its
international representatives by Mexican customs officers on Monday.
Manny Armenta, a USW sub-district director in Albuquerque, NM, was arrested
while on his way to meet with attorneys for the Mexican mineworkers’ union
Los Mineros, which has waged a nearly four-year strike against Grupo
Mexico’s copper mine property at Cananea in Mexico’s northern state of
According to the USW, a customs officer stopped Armenta’s car, which is
leased by the union, and accusing him of driving a stolen vehicle. “Armenta
presented documentation to no avail. After searching the vehicle with dogs,
the officer attempted to extort a ‘fine’ of 185,000 pesos (about $15,000).
When Armenta refused to pay he was arrested, detained overnight, and
released early Tuesday, Jan. 25, after posting a bond of 80,000 pesos (about
Amenta’s car was impounded and it has not been returned, while Armenta’s
wallet was taken from him in the arrest, but later returned, minus $700 in
cash, the USW said.
“This outrageous treatment by Mexican federal authorities shows the extent
of the government’s corruption,” USW International President Leo Gerard
said. “We demand that these bogus charges be dropped with the immediate
return of the union property along with what belongs to Manny.”
“It is ironic that although Mexican courts have issued 20 warrants for
Germán Larrea—the owner of Grupo Mexico—the government has never been able
to arrest him,” Gerard added. “Yet they can arrest Manny because he is in
Mexico helping the mineworkers defend their rights.”
On Jan. 17-18, Mexican mineworker leaders joined USW copper miners who met
with officials of Asarco, a copper producer also owned by Grupo Mexico, at
“sound-off” event in Tucson. The USW contract with Asarco expires in June.
Armenta is a lead negotiator at Asarco.
“By arresting Manny, the Mexican government is trying to intimidate the USW
copper miners from exercising our right to collective bargaining and showing
solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Mexico,” Gerard said.
Noting that Armenta was arrested on the same day that U.S. Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton was in Mexico in support of that country’s law
enforcement actions on illegal drug activity, Gerard said, “I hope the U.S.
State Department will put as much energy into seeking justice for Manny and
for the rights of workers at Cananea as they have in praising the Mexican
The USW said that it would file a formal complaint with the U.S. State
For more on the USW and Los Mineros in Mexico: