Security Forces Clash with Baja California Farmworkers

by on May 12, 2015 · 1 comment

in Civil Rights, Economy, History, Labor, Media, Politics, World News

baja farmworkers clash May015

Photos via KPFK – Facebook

By Doug Porter

Police raids and street protests in Baja California have led to scores of injuries in the latest round of labor strife over pay and working conditions in San Quintin, an agricultural region producing produce sold in the United States.

This weekend’s violence followed the failure of Interior Minister Luis Miranda Nava to show up for a meeting with leaders of farm worker organizations in the area.

Max Correa Hernandez of the Central Campesina Cardenista (CCC), and Fidel Sanchez Gabriel, spokesman for the Movement of Agricultural Workers of San Quentin have called upon the state and federal government to intervene, saying more than 80 people have been injured by police in recent days.

La Jornada Baja California says union leaders will be issuing an international call on Wednesday for a boycott of fruits and vegetables exported from this region, in protest of violations of human and labor rights suffered by workers.

No details are available as yet about what products or companies will be targeted by the boycotts. The Driscoll company, which imports large quantities of berries, has been mentioned in numerous news accounts. The company claims its workers are treated better than others, although it has been pointed out that much of their product comes via sub-contracted farms in the region.

Attempts to negotiate better working conditions and higher wages following walkouts and highway blockades during March collapsed not long after the news media withdrew from the area.

From KPFK, via Facebook:

Thousands of Mexican farm workers from ?#?SanQuintin? Baja California, just a few miles from our Southern California border are regrouping right now after a harrowing day of protests and political rallies.

Late this afternoon, organizers say hundreds of Mexican federal police attacked a mostly peaceful worker rally and civil disobedience.

About 30,000 workers from the San Quintin region (about an hour and a half drive from San Diego) earn less than $10 a day and aren’t given any benefits. The workers have been fighting for a contract that includes at least $14 a day and federal health benefits.

Mexican authorities say protesters pelted police with rocks and bottles. Officers responded with tear gas and fired numerous rounds of rubber bullets. Reports estimate dozens were injured. Organizers told La Jornada, a Mexican daily, that police infiltrators began instigating the crowd and are mostly to blame for the unrest. Reports say two cars and a police station were torched.

The Mexican army was also patrolling the massive rally but sources say they did not appear to get involved. The country’s military has been dispatched to numerous parts of the country especially in drug routes used by organized crime syndicates.

According to RT (And yes, I know it’s owned by the Russians, but at least they have a reporter on the scene):

The workers allege that police have been carrying out raids on their homes in the Ensenada municipality without authorization, which resulted in assaults on whole families – including children, according to the website La Jornada. The neighborhood of Nuevo San Juan Copala is some 180km from the city of Ensenada.

The farm workers were reportedly protesting working conditions and low wages in the state. They had been preparing a strike, as their grievances had not been addressed for months, and some of the workers decided to blockade a tomato farm Sunday morning, asking their colleagues to join them on a picket line until next Wednesday, when the deputy secretary of the interior, Luis Enrique Miranda Nava, was to arrive.

This was reportedly followed by the owner of the ranch calling the police, who arrived around 5:00 a.m. local time and allegedly started raiding workers’ homes with no warrants. Some reports claimed they were beating children while they were still asleep.

The video below includes a song in solidarity with the farmworkers and a slideshow depicting conditions in the area. Via NOTICIAS paro laboral SAN QUINTIN

Here’s the report from UT-San Diego:

Protesters in the Baja California’s San Quintin region intermittently blocked the Transpeninsular Highway on Saturday and clashed with police outside a tomato ranch.

The flare-ups have come several weeks after a farmworkers strike shattered the tranquillity of this major export-oriented agricultural region that grows strawberries, tomatoes and other produce, mainly for the U.S. market. The strikers have been demanding higher pay and improved working conditions.

Saturday’s incidents came after a top federal government official, Luis Miranda Nava of the Interior Ministry, failed to show up for a meeting with leaders of the striking farmworkers, according to news reports.

Jose Luis Fraga, an official with Mexico’s Federal Highway Police, said in a telephone interview on Saturday afternoon that there had been intermittent closures of the Transpeninsular Highway near the communities of Colonet and Vicente Guerrero, and recommended that travelers avoid the area.

And here’s an excerpt from an earlier report at Global Research with some background information:

The San Quintín Valley has over the past couple of decades been transformed into one of the most productive agricultural regions of Mexico where large scale irrigation systems, modern buildings, and large scale truck transportation have been combined by employers with low wage indigenous workers to produce an abundance of fruit and vegetable for American consumers – hundreds of thousands of tons of berries, tomatoes, and vegetables each year – and to make fortunes for the transnational and Mexican companies that own and manage the farms.

Many Baja California and Mexican government officials are actually owners or investors in the twelve largest farms as well as in some of the smaller one. Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, for example, is an investor in one of the companies. The near fusion between corporate executives and the Baja California government has made it difficult for workers to achieve even the minimal wages, benefits and conditions to which they are entitled under the law. Last December The Los Angeles Times published a series of articles and produced a video revealing workers’ onerous conditions in San Quintin in December…


The above is an excerpt from Doug Porter’s column at San Diego Free Press, our online media partner.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sean m May 12, 2015 at 3:20 pm

Most of the producd grown in San Qintin are certified organic.


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