More than 70 people have been reported injured after a clash Saturday between San Quintín farmworkers and Ensenada police in Nuevo San Juan Copala, Baja California.
Early Saturday morning, a group of farmworkers arrived at the entrance of Rancho Seco, one of the region’s largest tomato producers, to convince their coworkers to stay off the fields after a federal official postponed a meeting.
According to reports by the farmworkers, the Ensenada police arrived about 5:00am after receiving a call from the ranch owner, and confronted the dissident farmworkers, some of whom fled to their nearby homes.
Police gave chase, said one report, and entered the houses where women and children, some still sleeping, were beaten. After seeing the chase, a second group of farmworkers went after the police with sticks and stones, destroying two of their 20 patrol cars.
Later, yet another group of workers destroyed an armored vehicle and the community’s police headquarters.
Seven of the 70 who were hurt are in poor condition and are being treated at a local clinic, said Triqui community leader Justino Herrera.
According to the state government, police had been advised that the protesting farmworkers had planned to break into Rancho Seco and burn several plots of land. Government Secretary Francisco Rueda Gómez said police attended the scene at the farm after receiving a call from a citizen, and rejected charges of repression by police.
They were responding to an emergency call, he said, and had sought to contain a group of about 50 farmworkers. But police were then subject to attacks by another 500 and applied security protocols and dispersion tactics to contain the aggression. Rueda Gómez admitted that some may have been hurt by rubber bullets.
Fidel Sánchez Gabriel, spokesman of the San Quintín Farmworkers Movement, said landowners requested the presence of police in order to avert the boycott of the region’s produce, called by workers dissatisfied with the response they have received from the government.
The workers have been protesting low pay — daily wages average about 120 pesos, or a little under US $8 — and working conditions since early March.
Meanwhile, Max Correa, general secretary of the Cardenista Farmers Central, emphasized that the absence of Interior Undersecretary Luis Enrique Miranda Nava in San Quintín and his response to farmworkers’ demands is what caused the violent acts.
Both Sánchez and Correa continue to call for an international boycott of San Quintín produce as a way of protesting human rights violations suffered by workers in the region. A decision is expected Monday or Tuesday, following discussions with other organizations. “We’re still in talks with organizations and unions in the U.S., asking for their support,” said Sánchez.
The farmworkers’ leaders claim Baja California Governor Francisco Vega Lamadrid, Miranda and agribusiness interests are responsible for violent and repressive actions by police, who used tear gas and rubber and real bullets against the protesting farmworkers.
The National Human Rights Commission has sent a group of inspectors that will asses the situation and determine whether actions by the state were respectful of human rights and conducted in accordance with the law.
Perseo Quiroz, executive director of Amnesty International in Mexico, said his organization is documenting the case. One of its main concerns is that state and federal authorities might have engaged in the excessive use of force.
– Source: http://mexiconewsdaily.com/