Protests against presidential front-runner, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, flooded the streets of Mexico City on Sunday, just before the first presidential debate. But not all were spontaneous.
Many of the protesters were forced, under threat of losing their jobs, to shout slogans against López Obrador and in favor of Alejandra Barrales and Ricardo Anaya, both candidates of the ‘Por México al Frente’ coalition for the CDMX’s head of government and the national presidency, respectively. According to protesters, they were forced to participate in the protest by order of directors of the union of employees of the capital’s government.
“Those of us who presented ourselves there were forced. Anyone who does not go to the demonstration to support them will be fired,” said one of the employees of the city’s Health Department, who preferred not to be identified for fear of reprisals.
Univision obtained a copy of several chats with the call that employees claim to have received on WhatsApp on Saturday night.
They were summoned to a sports center in the north of the capital. They did not tell them why they were wanted. The message was brief: “Appointment Sunday 22. Normal clothes without logos, comfortable.”
It was not the first time that employees of the sections of the workers’ union in the capital received similar instructions. The testimonies obtained indicate that at least in the last three years they have been taken to different events with the same threats and promises.
“At least 80%, 90% of the people who work in the hospital where I work do not have work benefits. There are people who have been working for 7, 8 years and that is their only income for their family. Obviously they are hopeful that in some day the benefits will come to them that they are entitled to and therefore they will accede,” said Pablo Gómez, a surgeon who has witnessed the pressure on his union colleagues.
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On this occasion the objective was to protest against López Obrador. After several hours of waiting in the sports center, according to their story, they handed out posters and banners. They distributed them in central streets of the capital to demonstrate. The order was to begin the protest at 2:30 in the afternoon.
Some employees decided not to attend. “Regardless of whether one needs the base, dignity is not for sale either. The union is conditioning us to do everything they want, with the promise that maybe it’s not even a security, we can give ourselves ,” said another of them. Those who made this decision affirm that they were threatened that their behavior would be “taken into account” in order to give them their basic employment or not.
The “base” is a permanent work contract, with benefits and seniority right that most of these workers do not currently enjoy. Many of them work with temporary contracts that are renewed annually and do not entitle them to a paid retirement.