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Labor Activists In Mexico Caught In Drug War Crossfire

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Labor Activists In Mexico Caught In Drug War Crossfire

Labor Activists In Mexico Caught In Drug War Crossfire

Photo by Hernán Rozemberg

Diana Sosa helps make a flame-retardant protective suit at the Neese de México factory in Piedras Negras, Mexico.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- A veteran labor activist in violence-plagued Tamaulipas state in Mexico says he and many colleagues have been forced to go into hiding.

Activists who focus on improving working conditions at border manufacturing plants, known as maquiladoras, seem to joining the list of the latest random victims in Mexico’s incessant drug war.

“It seems these days the struggle for justice is a threat to everybody,” said the 35-year-old man, a former maquiladora worker who then turned activist.

For his own safety and that of his girlfriend, he asked that for anonymity. His girlfriend is also a former maquila worker and veteran labor organizer. He said the last time anybody saw her was eight months ago when four men in a van grabbed her and took her away.

The man said there are 56 other labor activists still missing — there’s no way to verify that figure.

“She has been really loved and admired in union circles and in the community,” he said of his missing girlfriend. “But we’re not giving up hope; we’re still investigating and hope to find her.”

Mexico experts said there may necessarily be a clear-cut explanation of why organized crime and their minions would target maquiladora activists.

“This is a very dangerous time to raise your voice on almost any issue,” said Andrew Selee, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington think tank.

Anybody from a labor activist to political protestor risks becoming a victim.

“Sometimes they’re just targeted by lower-level members of a cartel or someone who has a gun for no real apparent reason,” Selee said.

The unnamed activist with the missing girlfriend says he can’t tell anymore if he’s more afraid or more enraged.

Either way, he said, he’s ready to die every time he goes out the door.

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