It was a little after 10 p.m. Saturday when a convoy of pickup trucks carrying balaclava-clad men rolled up to a roadblock near Torex Gold’s mine in Mexico’s Guerrero state. As part of a wildcat strike, workers at the Canadian-owned operation had cut its water supply and were barricading a dirt road leading to the wells.
The attackers opened fire with assault rifles and shotguns, miners told The Globe and Mail in interviews at the scene, chased the protesters into the surrounding scrubland and beat them up. When the shooting stopped, two men lay dead: Brothers Victor and Marcelino Sahuanitla Pena. Locals said the pair had worked delivering diesel to the mine and were manning the blockade that night.
What exactly caused the violence is a matter of dispute. The protesters blame their trade union, the Confederacion de Trabajadores de Mexico (CTM), which they accuse of being too close to Torex and dealing with the company behind their backs.
Some miners have been trying to leave the CTM to join a more independent union, Los Mineros. State authorities, meanwhile, contend the carnage was actually a fight between two rival militias that had nothing to do with the strike.
As the bloody episode unfolded in the rugged mountains near a village named Atzcala, negotiators from Canada, the United States and Mexico were gathered at a luxury hotel 240 kilometres to the north in Mexico City, trying to hash out an overhaul of the North American free-trade agreement.