Labor lawyer charged with inciting riot; arrest prompts outrage, protest marches

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Labor lawyer Susana Prieto Terrazas, center wearing a purple T-shirt, was arrested in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. (Courtesy Facebook)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — The arrest of a Juarez labor lawyer is drawing outrage and protests along the Mexican border.

Susana Prieto Terrazas

Tamaulipas state authorities on Monday took custody of Susana Prieto Terrazas on charges of coercion and inciting a riot. The lawyer and activist is well-known in El Paso for her efforts to organize maquiladora workers. She’s been an occasional guest on events at La Mujer Obrera center in El Paso.

Prieto late on Monday broadcast her own arrest on Facebook Live from the parking lot of a restaurant in Matamoros, Mexico. More than half a million people watched the broadcast. Many voiced outrage.

Earlier that day, the activist had met with workers outside a U.S.-run plant.

“We are here with the few workers who did not allow themselves to be intimidated,” Prieto said Monday morning on Facebook Live. Plant officials “are out here taking photos, surely to repress (the workers).”

The Juarez lawyer explained she’s been trying to organize maquiladora workers in Matamoros for the past year and a half. On Monday, she listened to tales from workers who said they were made to sign agreements to go home during the COVID-19 emergency at 60% pay or were fired for not signing them.

“I’ve been telling people that everyone should be paid 100% of wages,” she said during the broadcast. “I have so many enemies among the people with power, the manager, the mayors, the governors. I take care not to tell any lies because they’re all trying to (expletive) me.”

She was taken into custody hours later. The Tamaulipas attorney general tweeted confirmation of her arrest Monday evening and disclosed additional charges of making threats and committing offenses against public servants.

Workers on Tuesday morning marched in Juarez and held protests in Mexico City urging her release.

This screenshot from Facebook Live shows a poster placed on the door of a business during a protest in Mexico City Tuesday morning calling for the release of Juarez labor lawyer Susana Prieto Martinez.

Lorena Andrade, executive director of La Mujer Obrera in El Paso, said workers anywhere have a right to organize to improve their working conditions.

“I have never organized workers in Mexico, I’m not familiar with Mexican law, but, as a human being, she has the right to raise her voice and demand better working conditions,” Andrade said.

She said she’s not surprised that labor organizers in Mexico are subject to “arrest, persecution and (negative) propaganda,” on the part of business owners and the government. “They always paint (union organizers) as troublemakers, as rioters when it is those in a position of power who are the ones committing the exploitation.”

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