As Mexican President Comes to D.C., Abuse of Mexican Labor Activist Susana Prieto Escalates, Casting Pall on New NAFTA

Prieto’s July 1 Prison Release Conditioned on 30 Month Internal Exile, End of Her Matamoros Labor Organizing, Not Leaving Mexico and Relocation to Chihuahua Where Prosecutor Has Issue New Warrants for Her Arrest

The extreme conditions imposed in exchange for Mexican labor lawyer Susana Prieto Terrazas’ July 1 release from jail after three weeks of imprisonment on trumped-up charges undermine the labor rights guaranteed by the new North American Free Trade Agreement.

Prieto revealed the conditions imposed on her for the next two and a half years:

·         Banishment to the state of Chihuahua, meaning the end of her labor activism in Matamoros, which is in Tamaulipas;

·         A ban on visiting the Labor Court where independent unions would be certified;

·         A ban on leaving Mexico; and

·         Payment of “reparations” for emotional suffering by government officials who were present when workers protested outside the Labor Court.

Additionally, on July 4, Prieto announced that two arrest warrants had been issued for her by a prosecutor in Chihuahua, where her release order required her to relocate on July 5. “Confirmado. Tengo dos ordenes de aprehension en Chihuahua. La Carcel que me impone ilegalmente la jueza de Tamaloupis,” she posted on Facebook.[Confirmed. I have two arrest warrants in Chihuahua. The prison that the judge of Tamaloupis illegally imposes on me.]

The legal process that resulted in her release – called a suspensión provisional del proceso (provisional suspension of the process) – has never been used in Mexico in the context of labor rights or human rights advocates. Its use in this context sets an extremely dangerous precedent for labor rights and human rights in Mexico. The process is akin to a plea bargain, and in the past has been used to suspend criminal charges pending completion of probationary terms and payment of restitution.

Prieto , a key advocate for exploited workers in border maquiladora factories in Matamoros and Juárez, was held without bail for three weekson trumped-up charges of “mutiny, threats and coercion” after trying to register an independent union to replace a corrupt “protection” union in Matamoros. Growing outrage about a jailed Mexican labor activist, bogged-down labor reforms and threats to Mexican workers pressured to return to factories plagued by COVID-19 was not the scenario the U.S., Mexican or Canadian governments imagined for July 1, the date the revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect.

U.S. fair trade activists delivered the letter to Mexican consulates nationwide on July 1. After decades of worker intimidation, Mexican manufacturing wages are now 40% lower than those in China.

Prieto became well-known in Mexico for helping maquiladora workers win higher wages in factories along the Texas border last year as part of a growing independent labor movement. Recently, she supported workers demanding COVID-19 safety measures after dozens of maquiladora workers died from workplace coronavirus exposure. Wildcat strikes and mass protests have grown throughout the border region as U.S. companies and officials push for plants to reopen without safety measures. At June 17 hearings, members of Congress raised concerns about Prieto’s arrest with the U.S. Trade Representative, who confirmed he was closely following her case and found it a “bad indicator” of compliance with NAFTA’s revised labor standards. Prieto livestreamed her arrest as she tried to register the Independent Union of Industrial and Service Workers “Movimiento 20/32,” chosen by workers to replace a “protection” union. Last week, Prieto’s daughter delivered a letter from U.S. unions and civil society groups to the Mexican National Human Rights Commission seeking help on Prieto’s release. 



By: Susana Prieto Terrazas

On June 8th of the current year, I was illegally deprived of my freedom without an arrest warrant, without having been read my rights, and noting that this order was issued by a control judge, Rosalía Gómez Guerra, Control Judge of the 3rd region of the state of Tamaulipas, dated May 15, 2020, the work of the Supreme Court of Justice of the state of Tamaulipas being suspended because of a red light that determines the SAR-CoV2, also known as COVID 19, to be a very serious risk.

The criminal acts that are imputed against me are dictated by the state of Tamaulipas itself through the president of the special board no. 6 from the local Conciliation and Arbitration Court (Labor Court) in Matamoros, Tamaulipas and subordinates to his orders: 3 secretaries, and 2 clerks.

 They accuse me of crimes considered as such only in the holy inquisition, such as a riot or mutiny, on March 10, 2020 at the facilities of the special board no. 6 of the local conciliation and arbitration court when I was not present that day in that court and which were carried out according to witnesses, by workers from the Tridonex maquiladora, from the American corporate Cardone, who refurbish automobile brakes.

The crimes are not serious, and according to Mexican law, I should have been able to carry out the trials in liberty, but the judge denied me the right to do so saying that I did not live in Matamoros, when I have lived in that city for almost two years. I accredited that I have my own house and a law firm, but the judge said that since I also have properties in the state of Chihuahua, there was a risk that I would flee from criminal justice, although even if guilty of the crimes I could obtain probational freedom.

I appealed the judge’s decision because she said that I had to prove that I lived in Matamoros, I proved it with witnesses, with inspections of my house, and the new judge, Irwin, said that I should stay in prison anyway, even though I proved have my home in Matamoros, because I did not prove that my children lived with me at that home. I couldn’t prove the impossible, because my oldest son lives in Los Angeles, one in Denver, and the remaining three, and my mother, in El Paso, with the youngest being 23 years old, and the oldest 36, of whom 3 have families of their own. Additionally, there was the danger that I would flee from justice, since Chihuahua and Tamaulipas are border states with the United States, leaving me in prison.

It should be noted that both judges acted illegally and violated my rights, because the Mexican criminal law establishes that the benefit of substantiating the trials in freedom can only be denied to those who have committed serious crimes such as homicide, terrorism, rape, kidnapping, contraband, tax evasion, perversion of minors, etc., without these being my case.

Then, my lawyers processed a benefit that derives from the presumption of innocence, and that consists of the trial being suspended, not continuing, and subjecting myself to the provisions that the judge establishes in order to grant me my freedom of agreement according to article 195 of criminal proceeding, but having to present a planned project before the judge.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office must not object to the suspension of the procedure.

My lawyers offered to have me pay for the repair of the damage by paying 5 sessions with a psychotherapist in Tamaulipas who offered to grant them at a cost of $350 MXN per session to two of the alleged victims because they are the only cases of which a psychological expert from the prosecution reports that they need therapy, I committed to provide social service by taking the legal defense of free appeal trials for 6 months in favor of prisoners sick with terminal or chronological illness held in the Center of Execution of Penalties and Sanctions, where I was held, and to sign before the judge every month, since I defend workers and I have legal cases and trials in 3 states of the Mexican republic (Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, and Coahuila) therefor, I could not present myself to sign every week, and finally, to live exclusively in my house in Matamoros.

The prosecutor did not oppose suspending the procedure, but asked the judge to sentence me to live in the state of Chihuahua at the address of my Mexican voter’s registration card (the address I lived in as a child), to compel me to go to the judge to Tamaulipas to sign each week, and to pay for the repair of the damage $ 66,000 MXN. 

Beyond what the prosecutor asks her, the judge says “I condemn you to live in the state of Chihuahua. I order you to abandon the state of Tamaulipas in minute one of your release, you will not be able to return to the state of Tamaulipas in 2 and a half years, unless a judge orders you to appear before him as long as you notify me with reasonable time to authorize it, consisting of more than the 26 hours it takes to get from Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua to Matamoros, Tamaulipas by public transport. And I forbid you to stand on the Special Court no. 6 of the Conciliation and Arbitration of Matamoros, Tamaulipas. I forbid you to travel abroad, and I condemn you to pay $66,000 MXN in damages for the victims.” All conditions are in violation of individual guarantees or fundamental rights, and all have been sentenced for a duration of 30 months.

They violate my right to work and to the free exercise of my profession, being a law graduate and having a thousand clients in cases filed before the Special Court no. 6 of Conciliation and Arbitration in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, the right to free transit through MX, which has 32 states in the republic, violates me and forces me to live in CHIH, since as a citizen of Mexico and the USA, I have the right to live where it is convenient for me as a citizen of both countries, and it condemns me to pay excessive damage reparation to people to whom I have never caused any harm.

It should be noted that the judge, in accordance with the National Code of Criminal Procedures, should place the restrictions on probational freedom to the best of her or his knowledge, depending on the dangerousness of the alleged offender, their criminal record (which I do not have), and it is not a decision the public prosecutor nor the accused to accept the conditions imposed by the judge, but it is an obligation to accept them to achieve release.

Although I was not satisfied with the conditions that were presented to me to suspend the judicial procedure, and although I had the desire to remain in prison until my freedom was proven, at the time of my final trial I was informed that my mother, 72, had been positively detected with SARS -CoV2, Covid 19, affecting my decision to accept the conditions because of my mother’s mental, emotional, and physical health, which is why the handling by the press sponsored by the maquiladora government itself and its unions that I gladly accepted the conditions is false. If not for this circumstance, I would remain incarcerated in the Prison of Tamatan, in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, until my innocence was fully demonstrated because that is why I rejected the prosecutor’s proposal to plead guilty to get out of jail after my second trial. The suspension of the procedure does not imply recognition of guilt.

Today, my lawyer in Tamaulipas is filing the appeal against the excessive and illegal resolution of the judge that implies my exile from Tamaulipas, violating my right to live where it suits me best, my practice of the profession of graduate in law, and the union with my family by prohibiting me from traveling to the US for 30 months.

I consider that the judgment of Rosalia Gomez Guerra could be part of a criminal association forged by the foreign maquiladora industry of the US-MX border region and the white unions, both corrupt, who refuse to accept union freedom and democratization, revised as mandatory in the USMCA, through the governors of Tamaulipas (Francisco Javier Garcia Cabeza de Vaca) and Chihuahua (Javier Corral Corrado), because my ordeal is not over.

It seemed suspicious that the judge forced me to live exclusively in the state of Chihuahua, having 31 states to choose from in the Mexican republic, for which reason I promoted in Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua protection against a probable deprivation of liberty in that state.

Yesterday I found out that my suspicions were true, that I was deprived of my freedom on June 8, 2020 in Tamaulipas, and that on June 9, already detained in that entity and by order of the prosecutor, an arrest warrant was issued against me in Cd. Juárez CHIH, in criminal case 2324/2020 filed before the Judge of First Instance in Criminal Material of the Accusatory Criminal System of the Bravos Judicial District in the state of Chihuahua, Lic. Felix Aurelio Guerra Salazar, for falsehood before authorities in prejudice to the administration of justice; that is to say that in this case it is also the state of Chihuahua that initiates persecutory actions against me, founded on false facts because I have never committed any crime.

The persecution does not end there having been deprived of my freedom on June 8, 2020 in Tamaulipas, on June 10, 2020 a second arrest warrant is issued against me by the Control Judge of the Bravo Judicial District of the state of Chihuahua for the alleged commission of the crimes of deprivation of liberty and illegal exercise of one’s own right against the maquiladora Electrocomponentes de Mexico, SA de CV, a subsidiary of the corporate ECI, with its main headquarters in the US, being false that I have committed any crime.

It is suspicious and completely incredible that these last two arrest warrants had been issued by judges from the state of CHIH where the TAMS judge forces me to establish my residence the day after she executed the illegal arrest warrant that issued my against, and a day later. There is a presumption that the judge forced me in an illegal resolution to reside in CHIH so that the governor of that state, through the public prosecutor’s office, could deprive me of my freedom illegally when I arrived there.

It is suspicious and completely unbelievable that these last two arrest warrants had been issued by judges from the state of Chihuahua where the Tamaulipas judge forces me to establish my residence the day after she executed the illegal arrest warrant that turned against me. There is a presumption that the judge forced me in an illegal resolution to reside in Chihuahua so that the governor of that state, through the public prosecutor’s office, could deprive me of my freedom illegally when I arrived there.

 Regardless of the appeal promoted to prevent the execution of the two arrest warrants that were issued in the state of Chihuahua, it is feared that in the next few days I will be deprived of my freedom because the Judge of Appeals forces me to appear before the judges who issued the arrest warrants against me, and if I do, although they are not serious crimes that they impute to me (as happened in Tamaulipas), it is feared that my immediate imprisonment will be ordered for the procedure suspended in Tamaulipas. Now, due to the pronouncement issued by 60 US congressmen the US embassy itself in MX, it is a public and known fact that I am an American citizen by naturalization, and this fact alone can be an excuse for the judges that I am likely to withdraw from the execution of criminal action, fleeing as if I were a criminal to the US, when this is false, but they will not believe it just because of my word. I am interested in fully proving that I am a political prisoner of Tamaulipas, that I am about to become a political prisoner in Chihuahua, and that I have never committed any crime. That the only thing that the maquiladora industry, the unions, and governments that refuse to respect the union freedom and democratization of the workers that I have defended for more than 30 years are united to dismantle their struggles to grant better wages, working conditions, and living conditions.


Arthur Stamoulis

Citizens Trade Campaign

(202) 494-8826

Guest Author

El Paso News guest authors.