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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Exile Claims Mexican Biz Defamed Him

VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - An Oxford-educated union leader from Mexico, in exile in Vancouver, claims in court that copper mining giant Grupo Mexico was behind a campaign of defamation aimed at breaking the miner's union he heads and increasing profits at the expense of workers' safety.

Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, head of the National Mine, Metal, and Steel Workers Union of Mexico, sued Grupo Mexico, six people and the public relations firm Grupo Puebla Consultores, in British Columbia Supreme Court.

He claims the defendants conspired to bring false criminal allegations against him to Mexico's Attorney General, forcing him to flee to Vancouver when Mexico issued warrants for his arrest.

Gomez claims the warrants have been dismissed, and that Canada refused to extradite him when it found the allegations unfounded. He says Interpol expunged its file on him as well.

Gomez claims the defendants cooked up a plan to discredit him and break the miner's union after he sought the leadership of the Mexican Labor Congress.

The defendants filed a criminal complaint against him, claiming he'd misappropriated $55 million after shares in Grupo Mexico subsidiaries were transferred to the miners' union, according to the complaint.

Charges were brought against Gomez and three other union officials and the accusations made international headlines, he says in the complaint.

Gomez claims the defendants spent millions on print and television advertisements to spread the allegations, while the Mexican government moved to unlawfully ax him as the head of the miners' union after he led several strikes, blaming the government and employers for mining accidents he characterized as '"industrial homicide.'"

Gomez claims he and his family received death threats and fled to Vancouver to avoid political persecution.

Mexico has strong unions, but they are under the iron hand of political parties, particularly the PRI, or Industrial Revolution Party, which controlled the country for more than 70 years after the Mexican Revolution, and holds the presidency again.

"For the past seven years the defendants have engaged in what can only be described as a malicious, profit-motivated campaign aimed at silencing Gomez Urrutia and breaking the Miners Union," the complaint states. "The defendants have been able to delay and extend this defamatory course of conduct in part due to Mexico's civilian based criminal justice system, which, unlike common law criminal justice systems, is largely driven by the allegations and wishes of the complainant. In Mexico, a complainant can, for example, refuse to bring a complaint or withdraw a complaint and, as a general rule, in this is the case, the prosecution cannot proceed."

Defendants include Grupo Mexico S.A.B. de C.V.; Grupo Mexico Chairman of the Board German Feliciano Larrea Mota-Velasco, who also controls a string of other companies; Grupo Mexico CEO Oscar Gonzales Rocha; Elias Morales Hernandez, Miguel Castilleja Mendiola and Jose Martin Perales Lozano, former union members Gomez describes as snitches for Grupo Mexico; Eduardo Garcia Puebla and Garcia Puebla Consultores, a Mexico City PR firm.

Gomez seeks damages for defamation. He is represented by David J. Martin and Casey L. Leggett of Vancouver.

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