Mexico: Corruption in the national oil company (Pemex); treatment of employees by management and union leaders; incidents of violence against Pemex employees [MEX103806.E]

20 September 2011
Mexico: Corruption in the national oil company (Pemex); treatment of employees by management and union leaders; incidents of violence against Pemex employees
Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Sources place the number of Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) employees between 140,000 ( 20 July 2011) and 150,000 (Reuters 27 July 2011). The Union of Petroleum Workers of Mexico (Sindicato de Trabajadores Petroleros de la República Mexicana, STPRM) represents Pemex's manual workers (MLNA June 2010a). The STPRM signed their first collective agreement with Pemex management in 1942 (Mexico n.d). According to The New York Times, the STPRM has a membership of approximately 100,000 workers (9 Mar. 2007). The National Union of Technical and Professional Petroleum Workers (Unión Nacional de Técnicos y Profesionistas Petroleros, UNTyPP) represents white-collar Pemex workers who, after "several years of struggle" to gain recognition, were officially recognized on 19 December 2009 (ICEM 2 Nov. 2010). The UNTyPP has a membership of approximately 30,000 workers (ibid.).
Sources indicate that Pemex's production has been declining (New York Times 9 Mar. 2007; 20 July 2011; Reuters 27 July 2011). Privatization has been discussed since the 1990s, with support from the Institutional Revolution Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) who has tried to privatize Pemex before ( 20 July 2011). The National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN) is also in favour of private investment (ibid., The New York Times 9 Mar. 2007).
Corruption in Pemex
According to media sources, Pemex has a history of corruption (El Diario de Coahuila 10 July 2011; Contralínea 20 Feb. 2011). The Ministry of the Public Service states that Pemex is the [translation] "most corrupt entity" of the federal government (ibid.; Milenio 15 July 2010). According to Agencia EFE, a Spanish-language news agency, a Pemex Deputy Comptroller stated that between 2006 and 2010, within Pemex's largest unit, Pemex Exploración y Producción, there were 153 cases of fraud detected (Agencia EFE 5 July 2011). Of these cases, 57 occurred in 2010, and 14 cases occurred in 2009 (ibid.). The corruption reportedly includes: inflating multimillion dollar contracts, giving contracts in exchange for favours, and giving contracts without a license to friends (El Diario de Coahuila 10 July 2011). Agencia EFE also reports that contracts were given to unqualified firms (3 Feb. 2011). Other media sources indicate that Pemex employees have helped criminal groups to steal fuel (Reuters 25 July 2011; LA Times 6 Sept. 2010).
According to Agencia EFE, the government has attempted to combat corruption at Pemex by bringing in more specialized and skilled workers (5 July 2011) to strengthen the "organs of control" (4 July 2011).
Payments between Pemex management and the STPRM
During 2008 and 2009, Pemex gave STPRM approximately 493 million pesos (38,083,018 Canadian Dollars (CAD) [ 13 Sept. 2011]) as [translation] "help" for the union (El Universal 9 Feb. 2011; Excélsior 10 Feb. 2011). The national newspaper El Universal (El Universal n.d.) reports that according to Pemex, this money was used for expenses for celebrations such as the anniversary of petroleum expropriation and two first of May parades, economic support for the general executive committee, and contract costs associated with annual revisions to the collective agreement (9 Feb. 2011). According to a daily newspaper from Mexico City, Excélsior, the money that Pemex sent to STPRM was used for travel expenses, financial support to the executive committee, and the promotion of cultural and sporting activities (10 Feb. 2011).
Corruption in the STPRM and employee reactions
According to The New York Times, hundreds of millions of the union's dollars have gone to "unexplained benefits" (9 Mar. 2007). Mexican media sources indicate that Carlos Romero Deschamps, the leader of the STPRM (El Universal 18 Mar. 2011), has accumulated [translation] "inexplicable" wealth (El Mañana 18 July 2010; El Siglo de Torreón 19 July 2010). According to El Siglo de Torreón, a news source operating in Torreón (ABYZ News Links n.d.), Pemex workers have asked authorities to investigate Deschamps' wealth (El Siglo de Torreón 19 July 2010). El Siglo de Torreón reports that according to the coordinator of the group who requested the investigation, [translation] "workers that have questioned the financial situation of the leader have faced threats and harassment at their workplaces" (ibid.). Similarly, La Jornada, a newspaper based in Mexico City, indicates that there is [translation] "constant repression against workers who oppose Romero Deschamps" (16 Aug. 2008c). The Energy Workers Front (Frente de Trabajadores de la Energía, FTE) of Mexico, a labour organization affiliated with the World Federation of Trade Unions (FTE n.d.), states that due to the [translation] "disproportionate economic and political power of the union leaders, many workers are submissive and powerless and do not act on injustices against them and their families" (ibid. 2008). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
On 16 August 2008, several armed Pemex workers occupied Deschamps' office (FTE 2008; La Jornada 16 Aug. 2008a) to protest the [translation] "fraudulent" re-election of Deschamps, who was already the leader of the STPRM for 17 years (ibid.). Armed Deschamps supporters arrived and beat the protestors, forcing them out of the office (ibid.; FTE 2008). La Jornada states that Omar Toledo Aburto, the leader of the group that occupied Deschamps' office (16 Aug. 2008a), submitted a penal complaint against Deschamps for ordering that the protesters be "brutally beaten" (La Jornada 16 Aug. 2008b). Information on the status of the penal complaint could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. According to La Jornada, before the occupation, Toledo conducted a 19-day sit-in to revoke the leadership title from Deschamps (ibid.).
Treatment of UNTyPP members
Sources indicate reports of harassment against UNTyPP members by Pemex management (MLNA June 2011b; Imagen y Política 3 Aug. 2011; IMF 22 Mar. 2010; UNTyPP n.d.a). According to the International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF), "[t]he workers' struggle for an independent union dating back to 1994 and the relentless intimidation, harassment, firings and threats against UNTyPP members and their families is all too common in Mexico" (22 Mar. 2010). Mexican Labor News & Analysis (MLNA), a periodical produced in association with the Mexico Authentic Labor Front (Frente Auténtico del Trabajo) and the United Electrical Workers of the United States (MLNA n.d.), reports a Senator of the Democratic Revolution Party (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD) as saying that UNTyPP members have been "threatened, blackmailed, fired, and violently driven from their workplaces in order to prevent the union from recruiting members and functioning within the state company" (June 2011b).
According to a report written by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the IMF reports that the following incidents have occurred between 2008 and 2010 to UNTyPP members:
threats of being fired
dismissal from their jobs
forced retirements
forceful resignation from the union and signing for the deregistration of the union
violent evictions from their workplaces
refusal of emergency medical services because of affiliation of a relative to the union, which resulted in the death of the victim
threats to the physical safety of employees and their families
cancellation of medical services
employees being followed (ILO Mar. 2011, Para. 797)
The UNTyPP indicates that their members also face [translation] "extreme working conditions" and "work terrorism" from management (UNTyPP n.d.a)
Sources indicate that Pemex has dismissed active UNTyPP members (ICEM 2 Nov. 2010; IMF et al. 14 Feb. 2011; CLC 16 Feb. 2011; Cimacnoticias 18 Apr. 2011). The IMF, the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), UNI Global Union, and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) report that "[p]aramilitaries physically removed workers from their workstations on November 14, 2009 and P[emex] fired the UNTyPP union leaders and activists" (IMF et al. 14 Feb. 2011). According to the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), the "entire leadership" of the UNTyPP was dismissed (CLC 16 Feb. 2011). Pemex management told some members of the UNTyPP to sign two documents to retain their jobs: one calling for the decertification of the UNTyPP, and one in which they personally resign from the UNTyPP (ICEM 2 Nov. 2010; ITUC 2011). The ICEM indicates that due to global pressure, some employees have been reinstated (2 Nov. 2010). However, MLNA states that 24 employees who were dismissed since 14 November 2008, "most of them violently," are still not reinstated; it also reports on a case that occurred on 29 March 2011, in which a UNTyPP member was told not return to work the next day (MLNA June 2011a). In an interview with the magazine Contralínea, this employee states that she was suspended from her duties for 10 years because she spoke out about corruption, was actively against the privatization of Pemex, was active in the union, and because of her alleged support for the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN) (Contralínea 26 May 2011). The UNTyPP is against the privatization of Pemex (UNTyPP n.d.b).
According to the ICEM, protection contracts have been signed between Pemex management and the STPRM (ICEM 2 Nov. 2010). The IMF states that protection contracts "force workers to join unions nominated by company management rather than one of their own choosing" (IMF 5 Feb. 2009). In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a representative of Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN) stated that in these "employer protection contracts," the "official unions" operate in a way to protect the employer, and any independent unions that employees want to organize are repressed and may even be beaten by the "thugs" of official unions (MSN 31 Aug. 2011). The MSN is a "labour and women's rights organization that supports the efforts of workers in global supply chains to win improved wages and working conditions" (MSN n.d.). According to MLNA, the STPRM has started registering technicians and professionals who are under the UNTyPP's jurisdiction (June 2011a). MLNA states that the STPRM requires engineers to work one extra day per week to do "social work," consisting of building homes for STPRM leaders; if employees do not comply with this requirement they may not receive another contract (ibid.). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
Homicides and kidnappings
Sources consulted by the Research Directorate report on homicides and kidnappings that occurred with unknown motives (Agencia EFE 17 June 2011; Reuters 25 July 2011). On 17 July 2011, a union representative was killed in Oaxaca (Agencia EFE 17 June 2011; Diario Oaxaca 17 June 2011; Milenio 17 June 2011). According to the Mexico-based Milenio, this union representative belonged to the STPRM (17 June 2011). Agencia EFE states that the motive for this homicide is unknown (17 June 2011).
According to Milenio, a Pemex official who had received death threats was killed, likely due to "revenge" (28 June 2009). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
Sources report on kidnappings of Pemex employees in 2010 (Dow Jones News Service 11 June 2010; LA Times 6 Sept. 2010; Reuters 11 May 2010). On 25 July 2011, Reuters reported that 17 Pemex employees have been kidnapped since 2005, with unknown motives (Reuters 25 July 2011). The LA Times reports that the motives behind five kidnappings that took place in May 2010 are unclear (LA Times 6 Sept. 2010). The LA Times also reports that Pemex "sought to repress information on the kidnappings, possibly for the men's safety" (LA Times 6 Sept. 2010). Some of these kidnappings have been presumed to be conducted by drug cartels (Dow Jones News Service 11 June 2010; LA Times 6 Sept. 2010). According to Reuters, 2 Pemex employees were killed in a gas field in Arcos, and drug cartels are "suspected" (3 Mar. 2011).
Relationship between Pemex, STPRM, and the Government
Article 5 of the Pemex Act states: [translation by the Translation Bureau]
Petróleos Mexicanos and its subsidiaries, in accordance with their respective purposes, may conclude any kind of deed, agreement or contract with, and borrow from, individuals or corporate entities, while maintaining the Mexican government’s exclusive ownership and control of hydrocarbons, subject to the applicable legal provisions. Petróleos Mexicanos and its subsidiaries shall be authorized to conduct operations directly or indirectly related to this purpose. (Mexico 2008)
Sources indicate that the government has considerable oversight of Pemex's financial management (Standard & Poor's 13 May 2008; The New York Times 9 Mar. 2007). According to The New York Times, in 2006, $US79 billion of Pemex's $US97 billion sales went to the government (ibid.). Other sources place the percentage of government revenues coming from Pemex at between 38 percent (Agencia EFE 3 Feb. 2011) and 40 percent (Standard & Poor's 13 May 2008).
Sources indicate that during the 2000 presidential election campaign, Pemex transferred money to the PRI through the STPRM (Greene 2007, 113; SourceMex 3 Nov. 2004), amounting to US$147.2 million (Greene 2007, 113). According to MLNA, engineers have been pressured by the STPRM to attend PRI rallies during political campaigns (June 2011a). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. The STPRM has also reportedly endorsed the PRI for the presidential election in 2012 (El Diario Extra Express de Oaxaca 11 Aug. 2011).
Treatment of journalists covering Pemex corruption
The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that in August 2007, a journalist who had reported "extensively on corruption" involving Pemex and its local union in Oaxaca was warned not to "'mess with our leader'" and was shot and wounded in front of his house, in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca (9 Oct. 2007). Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reports on a similar incident that occurred in August 2009, also in Salina Cruz, in which there was a shooting attack on the home of a journalist who regularly writes about the Pemex refinery (1 Sept. 2009).
According to the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), an organization that works to support independent media and their role in the development of democracy around the world (CIMA n.d.), a judge in Mexico City ruled that Contralínea magazine will be fined for reporting on Pemex giving contracts to private companies (CIMA 17 Jan. 2011). According to CIMA, Contralínea's publications about Pemex contracts led to several lawsuits targeting the magazine and its editor; in addition, Contralínea's employees were reportedly harassed (ibid.). CIMA also reports that Contralínea's editor was arrested in 2009 and charged with insulting authorities (ibid.). The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders corroborates the "judicial harassment faced by Contralínea magazine," as well as the intimidation of its members, and withdrawal of government advertising due to their reporting of corruption in Pemex (2010).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
ABYZ News Links. N.d. "Mexico Newspapers and News Media Guide." [Accessed 29 Aug. 2011]
Agencia EFE. 5 July 2011 "Corruption Rings Dismantled at Mexican Oil Giant, Official Says." (Factiva)
_____. 4 July 2011. "Se desmontaron redes de corrupción en Pemex: SFP." (Vanguardia) [Accessed 13 July 2011]
_____. 17 June 2011. "Asesinan a tiros a un delegado de Pemex en el sur de México." (Diario@Diario) [Accessed 26 Aug. 2011]
_____. 3 February 2011. "Mexican Auditors Uncover More Corruption at State Oil Giant." (Factiva)
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). 16 February 2011. "Georgetti Writes to Mexican Ambassador Regarding Persecution of Workers." [Accessed 25 Aug. 2011]
Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA). 17 January 2011. "Mexican Magazine Fined for Reporting on Pemex Oil Giant." [Accessed 25 Aug. 2011]
_____. N. d. "About CIMA." [Accessed 14 Sept. 2011]
Cimacnoticias. 18 April 2011. Guadalupe Cruz Jaimes. "Inhabilita Pemex por 10 años a mujer sindicalista." [Accessed 25 Aug. 2011]
Committee to Protect Journalists. 9 October 2007. "Three Media Workers Murdered in Mexican State of Oaxaca." (United Nations Refworld) [Accessed 25 Aug. 2011]
Contralínea. 26 May 2011. Ana Lilia Pérez. "Inhabilitan a funcionaria por criticar privatización de Pemex." [Accessed 31 Aug. 2011]
_____. 20 February 2011. "Pemex sí es de interés público: Vega Casillas." [Accessed 25 Aug. 2011]
El Diario de Coahuila. 10 July 2011. Ricardo Ravelo. "Pemex: Contratos del Saqueo…" [Accessed 13 July 2011]
El Diario Extra Express de Oaxaca. 11 August 2011. "STPRM manifiesta respaldo de sus agremiados al PRI." [Accessed 29 Aug. 2011]
Diario Oaxaca. 17 June 2011. "Asesinan a líder del sindicato de Pemex en el istmo." [Accessed 26 Aug. 2011]
Dow Jones News Service. 11 June 2010. David Luhnow and Nicholas Casey. "WSJ: Workers at Pemex Installations Abducted - Pemex Officials." (Factiva)
Excélsior [Mexico City]. 10 February 2011. "Pemex entrega 493 mdp al STPRM." (El Diario Extra Express de Oaxaca) [Accessed 26 Aug. 2011]
Frente de Trabajadores de la Energia (FTE). 2008. "Petroleros Toman Sede Sindical." [Accessed 26 Aug. 2011]
_____. N.d. "Inicio." [Accessed 13 Sept. 2011]
Greene, Kenneth F. 2007. "Why Dominant Parties Lose: Mexico's Democratization in Comparative Perspective." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Imagen y Política. 3 August 2011. Roberto Pérez López. "UNTyPP a la defensa de sus agremiados." [Accessed 25 Aug. 2011]
International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM). 2 November 2010. "Leader of Pemex Union in Mexico Sacked." (IMF) [Accessed 16 Aug. 2011]
International Labor Organization (ILO). March 2011. Informes del Comité de Libertad Sindical. [Accessed 13 Sept. 2011]
International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF). 22 March 2010. Kristyne Peter. "PEMEX Workers Forced to Resign from Union." [Accessed 29 Aug. 2011]
_____. 5 February 2009. Erin Farley. "IMF Lodges Unprecedented ILO Complaint." [Accessed 29 Aug. 2011]
International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF), International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), UNI Global Union (UNI), and International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). 14 February 2011. "Workers' Rights in Mexico, Persecution of Independent Trade Unions." [Accessed 25 Aug. 2011]
International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). 2011. "Mexico - 2011." Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights (2011). [Accessed 25 Aug. 2011]
La Jornada [Mexico City]. 16 August 2008a. Gabriel León Zaragoza. "Un líder disidente despachó un rato en el STPRM; lo sacaron a tubazos." [Accessed 23 Aug. 2011]
_____. 16 August 2008b. P. Muñoz and G. León. "Los petroleros golpeados presentan denuncia contra Romero Deschamps." [Accessed 23 Aug. 2011]
_____. 16 August 2008c. "STPRM: corrupción, represión y encubrimiento." [Accessed 23 Aug. 2011]
Los Angeles Times (LA Times). 6 September 2010. Tracy Wilkinson. "Mexico Under Siege; Drug Cartels Cripple Oil Operations; The Kidnappings of 35 Terrorize the State Firm Pemex, Stopping Work in Areas of One Major Petroleum Basin." (Factiva)
El Mañana [Nuevo Laredo, Mexico]. 18 July 2010. "Critican riqueza del dirigente Deschamps." [Accessed 26 Aug. 2011]
Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN). 31 August 2011. Telephone interview with a representative.
_____. N.d. "About MSN." [Accessed 13 Sept. 2011]
Mexican Labor News & Analysis (MLNA). June 2011a. Vol. 16, No. 6. "UNTyPP Blog - Accusations of Violation of Labour Rights." [Accessed 29 Aug. 2011]
_____. June 2011b. Vol. 16, No. 6. "Senator Accuses PEMEX Director of Harassing Union Members." [Accessed 29 Aug. 2011]
_____. N.d. "About Mexican Labor News & Analysis." [Accessed 13 Sept. 2011]
Mexico. 2008. "Ley Petróleos Mexicanos." [Accessed 16 Aug. 2011]
_____. N.d. "Historia de Pemex." [Accessed 26 Aug. 2011]
Milenio [Mexico City]. 17 June 2011. Óscar Rodriguez. "Asesinan a delegado del sindicato de Pemex en Oaxaca." [Accessed 26 Aug. 2011]
_____. 15 July 2010. Nayeli Roldán. "Pemex, la entidad más corrupta del gobierno federal, señala SPF." [Accessed 25 Aug. 2011]
_____. 28 June 2009. "Presumen Fue por Venganza Asesinato del Funcionario de Pemex." [Accessed 25 Aug. 2011]
The New York Times. 9 March 2007. Elisabeth Malkin. "Output Falling in Oil-Rich Mexico, and Politics Gets the Blame." [Accessed 13 July 2011]
Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint project of the Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'homme (FIDH) and the Organisation mondiale contre la torture (OMCT). 2010. "Mexico." Steadfast in Protest: Annual Report 2010. ( [Accessed 25 Aug. 2011] 20 July 2011. Andrew Smolski. "PEMEX and the Long Road to Privatization." [Accessed 12 Sept. 11]
Reporters Without Borders. 1 September 2009. "Oaxaca Newspaper Editor Goes into Hiding After Shooting Attack on Home." (United Nations Refworld) [Accessed 25 Aug. 2011]
Reuters. 27 July 2011. "Mexico's Pemex Agrees to Worker Wage Increases." (Factiva)
_____. 25 July 2011. Mica Rosenberg. "Pemex Counts 100 Workers Linked to Mexico Fuel Thefts." (Factiva)
_____. 3 March 2011. Robert Campbell. "Two Mexico Oil Workers Murdered in Drug War Hot Zone." (Factiva)
_____. 11 May 2010. Robert Campbell. "Pemex Exec Kidnapping Rattles Mexico Oil Industry." (Factiva)
El Siglo de Torreón. 19 July 2010. "Alertan a trabajadores de Pemex por violencia." [Accessed 25 Aug. 2011]
SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico. 3 November 2004. "Pemex Director Raul Munoz Leos Resigns Under Pressure." (AllBusiness) [Accessed 25 Aug. 2011]
Standard & Poor's. 13 May 2008. Summary: Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX). [Accessed 25 Aug. 2011]
El Universal [Mexico City]. 18 March 2011. Jorge Ramos. “Crimen acosa ductos de Pemex: Romero Deschamps.” [Accessed: 30 Aug. 2011]
_____. 9 February 2011. Lilia Saúl. "Pemex entregó a sindicato 493 mdp como 'ayuda'." [Accessed 13 July 2011]
_____. N.d. "Inicio." [Accessed 29 Aug. 2011]
Union Nacional de Técnicos y Profesionistas Petroleros (UNTyPP). N.d.a "A los Trabajadores Petroleros." [Accessed 31 Aug. 2011
_____. N.d.b. "Bienvenidos al Sindicato de la Union Nacional de Técnicos y Profesionista Petroleros (UNTyPP)." [Accessed 25 Aug. 2011] 13 September 2011. “Currency Conversion Results.” [Accessed 13 Sept. 2011]
Additional Sources Consulted
Internet sites, including: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Global Union Research Network, International Crisis Group, ReliefWeb, Transparency International, United Nations - Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and United States - Department of State.