14 Hurt in Mexico protests

Mexico City –  A protest Monday in the Mexican capital on behalf of former employees of defunct state-owned utility Luz y Fuerza del Centro led to disturbances that left 14 injured and eight people in police custody.

Two of those hurt were journalists.

Efe saw Radio Formula reporter Juan Carlos Santoyo and La Jornada newspaper photographer Marco Paleas attacked as they were covering the demonstration.

A dozen other people, including women and children, were hurt in a stampede at a metro station affected by police tear gas.

Members of the SME electrical workers union who tried to storm the former headquarters of Luz y Fuerza del Centro were confronted by 600 riot police and around 100 traffic cops.

Nearly 1,500 SME activists took part in demonstrations that spread to the interior ministry and the Supreme Court, blamed by the workers for upholding the dissolution of LyFC.

Shortly after midnight on Oct. 11, 2009, Mexican President Felipe Calderon signed a decree dissolving LyFC, sending soldiers and police to occupy the company’s installations and expel the few workers then on duty.

LyFC’s 44,300 employees were left unemployed and 16,000 of them have refused to accept severance payments, instead demanding the return of their jobs.

The federally owned CFE utility, which took over LyFC’s installations, said Monday that the protesters set three vehicles on fire and assaulted CFE workers, beating one so badly he required hospitalization.

SME leader Martin Esparza blamed the violence on “infiltrators” seeking to “criminalize” the union.

“What we are doing is conducting our mobilizations in a peaceful manner to demand they give us back our jobs and to reiterate that the decree dissolving Luz y Fuerza del Centro is illegal,” he said.

The SME announced another protest for Wednesday, aimed at urging Congress to create a separate publicly owned rival to the CFE – Mexico’s national electric monopoly – that would serve the capital region and employ the former LyFC workers.

LyFC served some 25 million people in Mexico City and parts of four states, a region accounting for a third of the country’s gross domestic product.

The SME contends that the government’s motive in shutting down LyFC was to benefit well-connected foreign companies anxious to get their hands on LyFC’s distribution network in and around the Mexican capital.

The union says Calderon’s right-wing National Action Party gave a foreign firm access to LyFC’s fiber-optic network while obstructing the state utility’s attempt to implement an SME proposal to use the firm’s grid to offer a package of television, Internet and telephone services.


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