Cablegate: Underlying Problems Resurface in Pemex Workers Unions

DE RUEHME #2625/01 2392106
R 262106Z AUG 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: (A) 06 MEXICO 5720 (B) MEXICO 3993

1. SUMMARY: Recently a group of some 40 dissidents within the
Petroleum Workers Union (STPRM), the sole union for Mexico's
national oil company, Pemex, briefly took over the offices of the
labor organization's national headquarters. The dissidents said
they took over the union headquarters as a protest against the
corruption and abuse of power of the STPRM's national leader, Carlos
Romero Deschamps, and to demand his removal from office. Roughly
four hours after taking over the union's offices the dissidents were
violently expelled from the premises by armed supporters of Romero
Deschamps. The dissidents' action and the subsequent reaction by
Romero Deschamps is the latest outbreak in an ongoing quarrel over
the results of a disputed union election held over two years ago
(Ref A). The dissidents have repeatedly appealed to the GOM to
annul the results of that election and to remove Romero Deschamps
from office but so far to no avail. The GOM's position is that
Romero Deschamps was legally elected to office in accordance with
relevant labor laws and those same laws must be followed to remove
him from office. This GOM position is somewhat disingenuous since
it has, at its convenience, removed duly elected union leaders from
office on various previous occasions. Some labor observers suspect
the GOM is reluctant to remove Romero Deschamps because he has so
far been able to keep the STPRM on the sidelines and out of the
current heated national debate over energy reform in Mexico. END


2. In late 2005, the National Executive Committee of Mexico's
Petroleum Workers' Union (STPRM), the sole union for the national
oil company, Pemex, convoked an "Extraordinary Convention" to elect
a replacement for the organization's leader, Secretary General
Carlos Romero Deschamps. This previously unscheduled convention was
a particularly unusual event since, at that time, Romero Deschamps
still had over a year left in his term of office. Moreover, STPRM
rules specifically state that elections for a new Secretary General
are to be held in the last three months of the current leader's

3. It is unclear what prompted the need for this early election but
speculation at the time by a dissident faction of the STPRM, known
as the National Alliance of Petroleum Workers, claimed Romero
Deschamps' early re-election was prompted by the fear of a Party of
the Democratic Revolution (PRD) victory in Mexico's July 2006
presidential campaign. At the time of the early union election the
PRD presidential candidate looked to be the sure winner in the race
to become Mexico's next president. A PRD win would have given that
party the power to confirm the results of the union election.
Consequently, according to the dissidents, the union establishment
wanted to ensure its continued control of the organization and
therefore moved forward the election of the next Secretary General
in order to present the winner of the presidential election with a
fait accompli.

4. According to one of Mexico City's major daily newspapers there
were some eight serious irregularities in Romero Deschamps'
re-election as STPRM Secretary General. A partial list of these
irregularities included such things as claiming that the stated
purpose of the "extraordinary convention" was to select replacements
for several positions that were vacant at that time. Initially no
mention was made of a plan to elect a new Secretary General. The
paper claimed that the only persons allowed to vote at the
convention were handpicked friends of Romero. Numerous GOM
Secretariat of Labor officials were at the convention in violation
of ILO convention #87. Romero Deschamps himself presided over the
entire process of the convention which, from start to finish, was
completed in a record three and one half hours. The results of this
election were immediately contested in the courts by at least two
dissent groups within the STPRM but were ultimately upheld in


5. Since being reelected as the national leader of the STPRM Romero
Deschamps has faced an ongoing series of protests from dissidents
within the union who refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of his
mandate. For the most part these protests took place away from the
public eye. Intra-unions disputes are fairly common in Mexico and
the vast majority of them do not receive significant media coverage

MEXICO 00002625 002 OF 003

or public attention. When it initially began the STPRM intra-union
dispute was something of an exception to this norm because of the
importance of the political and economic role that Pemex plays in
Mexico. Ultimately, however, public attention to the quarrel
dropped off dramatically once the courts upheld Romero Deschamps'
reelection in mid-2006. Reduced media coverage notwithstanding, the
reasons behind the dispute are still very much alive.

6. According to what a member of the STPRM told Mission Labor
Counselor, one of the main reasons the dissidents view Romero
Deschamps' reelection as illegal is that it violates the union's
previously established policy of term limits. Reportedly, STPRM
statues only allow for three consecutive six-year terms of office.
Romero Deschamps' is now serving his fourth term as STPRM Secretary
General because of a rule change specifically enacted to allow him
to remain in office. The dissidents argue that the rule change was
illegal because it was never put to a vote by the entire union
membership as required by STPRM statues.

7. The presumed illegality of Romero Deschamps' reelection, from
the dissidents' perspective, was like salt in a wound in that it
served to make a bad situation worse. Whatever the merits of Romero
Deschamps original election as STPRM leader nearly 20 years ago
during his time in office the Petroleum Workers Union gained a
reputation for being one of the most corrupt labor organizations in
Mexico. It has been widely reported in the press (and relayed to
Labor Counselor from various sources both in and out of the STPRM)
that under Romero Deschamps it is now common practice for people
seeking employment with Pemex to have to pay STPRM officials larges
sums of money for the privilege. Something not as widely reported,
perhaps because it is not yet as widely practiced, is a requirement
in some STPRM locals that workers kick back a portion of their
salaries to union officials. The pay and benefits package of
Pemex/STPRM workers are so generous that many job seekers willingly
pay whatever is asked to get themselves or a family member on the
national petroleum company's payroll.

8. In addition to the above mentioned abuse of job seekers and
actual employees the dissidents also claim that Romero Deschamps and
his supports regularly abuse basic worker rights. The dissidents
claim elections for union official positions are normally staged and
only persons approved by Romero Deschamps or senior supporters are
ever allowed to win. Romero Deschamps and his supporters in the
STPRM control five of the eleven seats on Pemex's administrative
board of directors. These seats give the current leadership of the
union enormous influence in the hiring and promotion of rank and
file workers. Moreover, because of these seats the STPRM reportedly
receives two percent of the costs of all outside contracting done by
Pemex and a similar percentage of the costs of all drilling
operations. The STPRM leaders' control over hiring and promotions
as well as their vast financial resources has, according to the
dissidents, allowed them to intimidate or buy off anyone who
challenges their authority or disagrees with their decisions.


9. For all of the above reasons a group of some 40 dissidents
recently took over the offices of the STPRM's national headquarters.
The dissidents said their action was a protest against the
corruption and abuse of power of STPRM's national leader, Carlos
Romero Deschamps, and a demand for his removal from office. The
take over by the dissidents was immediately reported to the Mexico
City police where news of the event was picked up by a reporter who
called his newspaper and several colleagues from other media outlets
to advise them of what was taking place.

10. One of the dissidents' many complaints against Romero Deschamps
is that when intimidation and bribes fail to quell opposition to his
leadership he routinely employs violence to get his way. This was
certainly the case in this instance where, four hours after the
dissidents took over the STPRM offices; over 200 supporters of
Romero Deschamps appeared to take back the premises. According to
reporters who quickly arrived on the scene the Romero Deschamps
supporters arrived visibly armed with clubs and pistols.
Approximately 20 minutes later the dissidents had been violently
expelled from the STPRM offices reportedly on the direct orders of
Romero Deschamps. The reporters on the scene noted that the
dissidents were beaten and bloody by the time they were forcibly
expelled from the STPRM offices. There is no indication that the
police, who clearly knew of the occupation of the STPRM offices,
ever showed up to compel the dissidents to leave or to in anyway

MEXICO 00002625 003 OF 003

prevent or mediate the violence that ensued once the supports of
Romero Deschamps arrived on the scene.


11. The day following the take over by the dissidents of the STPRM
offices both they and the union filed charges and counter-charges
against each other with the appropriate judicial authorities. The
dissidents accused Romero Deschamps and his supporters of assault;
for their part the STPRM accused the dissidents with criminal
trespass. Later that same day the dissidents held a press
conference where they again called for Romero Deschamps' expulsion
from leadership of the STPRM and appealed to Mexican President
Felipe Calderon to make this happen.

12. President Calderon did not respond directly to the appeal from
the dissidents. However, his Secretary of Labor, Javier Lozano
Alarcon, did address the matter of the STPRM intra-union dispute in
response to specific questions from the press. Secretary Lozano made
it clear that the GOM had no basis legally for removing Romero
Deschamps from his position as head of the STPRM. According to
Secretary Lozano, Romero Deschamps was elected to office in
accordance with relevant labor laws and a legal challenge to his
election was dismissed by the courts. Continuing on, the Labor
Secretary said that those same laws must be followed in order to
remove the STPRM leader prior to the end of his term of office.
(Note: Legally an elected and officially recognized labor leader can
be removed from office at any time if he/she is convicted of a
felony charge or if the union holds elections to remove one leader
by electing another.)


13. The Petroleum Workers Union (STPRM) is one of the most
important labor organizations in Mexico. It has at least 100,000
members, it has vast financial resources and it is a member of the
Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), the largest labor federation
in the country. Carlos Romero Deschamps is a member of the CTM's
National Executive Committee and, on paper at least, is the next in
line to become the national leader of the CTM. Romero Deschamps has
a long term working relationship with President Caldron dating back
to before his presidential election when he worked in the previous
administration as the government's Secretary of Energy.

14. One of the most prominent and emotionally charged priorities of
the Calderon administration is a major legislative overhaul of
Mexico's energy sector. Energy reform is a hotly debated topic in
Mexico and is currently being debated at almost all levels of
Mexican society. The GOM is looking for allies to help sell its
proposals to the Mexican congress and people. Thus far the STPRM,
which could theoretically bring a great deal of information, for
good or ill, into any discussion of energy reform, has remained
quiet and completely outside of the debate. This studied "no
comment" stance by the STPRM may well be one of the reasons why the
Calderon administration has taken a hands-off approach to the
ongoing dispute within the Petroleum Workers Unions.

15. For all of his faults, many labor observers recognize that
Carlos Romero Deschamps and his supporters have maintained
repressive but firm control over the STPRM. This control is being
used to keep the union out of the energy reform debate and this fact
cannot have gone unnoticed by the Calderon administration.
Consequently, when the GOM's Secretary of Labor says that Romero
Deschamps was legally elected to office in accordance with relevant
labor laws and those same laws must be followed to remove him from
office the government is being somewhat disingenuous. The GOM has,
at its convenience, found ways to remove duly elected union leaders
from office on various previous occasions. It could well be that
the GOM has chosen to remain aloof from the STPRM intra-union
dispute because there is no legal basis for it to do otherwise.
However, it is just as possible that the GOM is prepared to overlook
allegations against Romero Deschamps as long as he ensures that the
STPRM stays away from the ongoing national debate on energy reform.


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