Texas activists rally to end ‘political persecution’ of Juarez labor lawyer

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Susana Prieto Terrazas was jailed in Tamaulipas while organizing maquiladora workers and now fears arrest imminent in Chihuahua

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A group of border activists rallied Thursday in front of the Mexican consulate in El Paso, alleging persecution against a Juarez labor lawyer.

The attorney, Susana Prieto Terrazas, spent 24 days in a Tamaulipas jail this year on charges of threats against government officials and inciting a riot. She had traveled from Juarez to Matamoros in June to organize workers at U.S.-run factories who were allegedly being made to work during the pandemic at a reduced salary.

Prieto was released by a Tamaulipas judge in July on the condition that she not return to the state for two years nor travel abroad during that time.

The lawyer’s daughter now says the government of Chihuahua is preparing similar charges against her mother, so she’s asking for help from U.S.-based labor unions and human rights organizations to prevent her arrest.

“She is being hunted like an animal by prosecutors and governors who are at the service of transnational companies” in Mexico, said Maria Fernanda Peña, the lawyer’s daughter and a political sciences major at the University of Texas at El Paso. “This is a political persecution that has not ceased.”

A poster depicts Juarez labor lawyer Susana Prieto Terrazas and the two Mexican governors she says are targeting her for her union organizing. (Julian Resendiz/Border Report)

Prieto in recent years organized work stoppages and led the “20/32” campaign, pushing for a 20% pay raise for maquiladora workers and a 32,000-peso (US$1,600) bonus.

The lawyer, through previous Facebook Live transmissions, said she was targeted for her activism. Her daughter said Prieto was subjected to psychological torture while in jail, being made to share a mixed-gender cell with prisoners that included a mentally ill man and a convicted rapist.

Prieto has already secured a writ of habeas corpus, known in Mexico as an “amparo,” against the expected charges in Chihuahua, Peña said.

The lawyer’s daughter said her mother has dedicated her life to organizing Mexican workers she believes are being exploited by business interests in both Mexico and the United States.

“This is a political persecution that includes the United States when it applies to transnational corporations and industries,” Peña said. “It’s a ‘not in my backyard problem.’ You don’t have to exploit people (in the United States) … so you move to Mexico and exploit people over there. (But) then things are so bad there that people have to migrate to the United States and be exploited here.”

Guillermo Glen, a long-time El Paso labor activist, says Mexico should allow independent unions to operate freely and U.S. corporations need to pay better wages to employees at their Mexican plants.

“They should pay them the U.S. minimum wage. That’s what they should do,” he said. The federal minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.25 an hour. The Mexican minimum wage is 123.22 pesos, or $6.16 a day.

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