Visit to Juan Linares in Prison

May 3, 2010

Andy Ross and a delegation of Canadian and US labour leaders visited Juan Linares in prison on the outskirts of Mexico City today, and reported that he is in good health and good spirits.

MoveUP has been actively supporting Linares and fundraising to support him since he was jailed in 2008 after attending the BC Federation of Labour convention as a special guest. A close associate and friend of Napoleon Gomez, Linares was arrested at the airport when he returned to Mexico City. Despite the charges against him being dismissed, he remains held in the Reclusio Norte prison pending appeals by the right-wing federal government.

Ross visited Linares with CLC President Ken Georgetti, USW Canadian Chair Ken Neumann, USW District Reps Steve Hunt (District 3), Jim Robinson (District 7), and Manny Armenta (District 12), and Joe Drexler from the ICEM. After encountering difficulties getting access during a previous visit in January, the group expected some obstacles to gaining access. However, with Los Mineros preparing everything in advance, the delegation was able to gain access relatively easily.

Ross described the security situation, which involved registering and handing over your passport, a personal search, and receiving a series of stamps on his arm visible only by ultraviolet light that were required to get out of the prison afterward.

Ross said the group was ushered in and met Linares, who was waiting for them in a reception area.

“His health is good and his spirits are high,” Ross reported, noting that pretty much everyone present “got choked up” at one point, overwhelmed at the strength of Linares’ conviction and his spirits.

Linares himself broke down simply because he was overwhelmed at the level of support and solidarity from his supporters in the US and Canada, and to know that he had so many people advocating for him at so many levels. 

Ross also noted that, due to the strict wardrobe restrictions in the prison, Linares wasn’t able to wear the USW hat that had been brought to him, so the USW had a new one made up in regulation colours, allowing him to show his USW support while in prison.

The disheartening part of the story followed Linares’ telling of the events that have kept him there. Linares said that representatives of Grupo Mexico, the mine operator that has government ties and has pursued Los Mineros ever since they exposed the “industrial homicide” of a mine accident, came to the prison and offered Linares five million pesos (approx $2.5 million, CAD). All he had to do, they said, was renounce Napoleon Gomez and Los Mineros, and he could walk free as a millionaire. Linares refused, and he remains in prison.

Linares also told the group that while he has documents that testify to his innocence, they have been ruled inadmissible in his latest hearings.

Ross stated that Linares is a true inspiration and an incredible trade unionist. When asked if he needed anything, Linares demurred. When pressed, he admitted that he was overjoyed at the smoked salmon a previous delegation from BC had brought him, and so arrangements are being made to have more BC smoked salmon brought to him in prison.

After 45 minutes, the group had to leave the prison, leaving Juan Linares inside.

MoveUP will continue to work with the USW, the BC Federation of Labour, and the CLC to secure Linares’ release and, in the meantime, ensure he has the support and advocacy he needs.

Tomorrow, the delegation will fly to Tucscon, AZ and from there drive back into Mexico to the Cananea Copper Mine, where striking workers are squared off against Grupo Mexico and the threat of armed government intervention. 

Watch for updates.