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\( a year,from sales of their coffee crops: A middleman from Ocosingo hauls the coffee through the jungle on his truck. He pays the farmers a low price, about 67 cents per kilo, and is their only option in such an isolated region. A cooperative of coffee farmers in another part of the jungle pays $1.16 per kilo, but is too far away for residents of the San Quintin valley.This year the valley’s indigenous families expect to earn even less money. Beginning January 11, the Mexican military fired air-to-surface missiles in the valley for three consecutive days, villagers said. One projectile fell 50 yards from the village of Vicente Guerrero. Residents found a piece of shrapnel inside one resident’s home, villager Antonio Hernandez said. Residents in many communities have blocked their small runways for fear the soldiers will land, said Alejandro Gomez, from the Ejido Tierra y Libertad. A year earlier, soldiers had come hunting guerrillas and drug dealers and had robbed his hen house, he said. “We lack food, medicine and other things, but we prefer to block the runway with logs and rocks so that we can be more secure,” he said. In an air tour over several farming villages, reporters counted 11 runways blocked with recently cut trees. Pilots Vega and Tapia reported having to pay “war taxes” of about $10 to land on some air strips. The “tax collectors” carried arms but were not dressed in Zapatista uniform. Gomez and others said that the Mexican army is continuing flights over the region in search of Zapatistas, despite an official ceasefire. “Last Friday four planes and two helicopters flew close to the ejido,” Gomez said. “There is fear that they will come back and start bombing again. That’s why we are not working in the fields and the crops are already starting to go bad.” The tension in the region has taken its toll on the population’s already deteriorating health, said the volunteer doctors, Gabriela Ortiz and Adriana Ruiz. Nervousness, anguish . and fear is so high that some mothers have been unable to breast feed, Ruiz said. San Quintin’ s communal representative, Martin Hernandez Velazquez, spoke for many when he said that he hopes the Zapatista insurgency will help his people obtain better living conditions. “Really, I think this could help us,” he said, “because unfortunately there has always been so much need here.” The valley’s inhabitants claim neutrality in the fight, but the indigenous farmers of this isolated region admit they support the demands. “We have struggled for so long. Now we are tired,” said Guadalupe Lopez of Ejido Zapata. “All the candidates come here and promise they are going to bring out a highway, that there will be electricity. But when they are installed in the municipal palace, they forget us campesinos.” BY ROBERT BRYCE Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico AS A UNION BOSS in a town where virtually every worker is a member of his union, Agapito Gonzalez Cavazos should be able to wield power with authority. His workers’ wages are among the highest on the United States/Mexico border. Almost all of the 95 maquiladoras in Matamoros deal directly with him to discuss wages, benefits and work contracts. For three decades, he has been the labor leader here. But these days, Agapito, as he is known to virtually everyone in Matamoros, doesn’t seem to eager to exercise his power. In fact, Agapito, like the rest of Mexico’s labor movement, is looking old and rather frail. Seated behind a small desk in a cramped office near the entrance of the bustling SJOIIM \(Union of Day Workers and Agapito is not a picture of youthful vigor. His pallid skin, drooping eyes and trembling hands betray his 78 years. Like his cornpalzero, Fidel Velasquez, the 93-year-old national boss of the Confederation of Mexican Agapito belongs to a bygone era when union leaders were treated respectfully by Mexico’s ruling party, the PRI. . Today, as the Free Trade Agreement begins taking effect, union leaders like Agapito are being undermined by the PRI \(the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which has ruled Mexico on the Mexican government to accommodate industry and the party, which controls the government, sees unionization as an obstacle to continued foreign investment. Labor leaders face the prospect of wage cuts or the elimination of wage increases for workers they represent at a time when inflation is reducing real earnings by 10 to 15 percent per year. So Mexican labor leaders are reluctant to pursue large wage hikes, because agitating for wage increases means pressuring the PRIdominated government. Agapito Gonzalez has learned what sort of risks this entails. While negotiating contracts in 1992, Agapito demanded a 20-percent wage hike. When he prevailed with several companies, the federal government, which had in place a policy to keep wage increases down, arrested Robert Bryce is a contributing editor at the Austin Chronicle. him and detained him for eight months in Mexico City, on charges of tax evasion. While he was detained, other companies negotiated wage increases, but none larger than 18.75 percent. Last fall, Agapito was tried, convicted and immediately pardoned. Since his arrest, strikes in Matamoros, once common, have become very few and very short. The arrest of Agapito was similar to the arrest of Joaquin Hernandez Galicia, the former union boss at Pemex, the government oil monopoly. Hernandez’s arrest was part of a general crackdown on organized labor that began shortly after President Carlos Salinas de Gortari took office in 1988. Hernandez is now in prison on charges of murder, illegal weapons possession and resisting arrest. According to Ellen Lutz, the California director of Human Rights Watch, abuse of workers in Mexico is no secret. “What happened to Agapito Gonzalez is standard operating procedure,” she said. “They get the activist out of the way and they negotiate whatever they want. Then they drop the charges. The PRI wants to silence the activists but also to intimidate everybody else into conforming.” Although killings are rare, Lutz says, union leaders who are harassed by. the government have no recourse because human rights commissions in Mexico are not allowed to investigate labor cases or elections. “The way Mexico treats labor activists is a clear violation of international law and Mexican law. What has to go in Mexico is the system. Mexicans have to be able to elect their officials and have them function independently.” The crackdown on labor signals a change in the alliance between the CTM and the PRI. Since the revolution in 1917, and the rise of the PRI in 1929, the CTM; by turning out the vote and organizing supporters, has helped keep the PRI in power . In return, union bosses got congressional seats, federal jobs and other perks. The relationship worked while there was even modest growth and organized labor seemed to have some say in the shaping of public policy. But during the ’80s inflation began eating away at wages, five million CTM members saw their purchasing power drop by 65 percent and Salinas began cracking down on union leadership. The change in relations between the PRI and CTM has left some American labor leaders wondering what to do next. Having lost in their attempt to defeat NAFTA, they now recognize that an increase in Mexican wages THE VIEW FROM MEXICO State of the Unions THE TEXAS OBSERVER 27