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Great Reboot

Mexican labor activist fights ban from border state, cites trade pact protections

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican labor lawyer Susana Prieto on Wednesday said she has appealed a judge’s order that she not enter the northern state of Tamaulipas, arguing it violates a new trade deal by stopping her from fighting for workers’ rights.

FILE PHOTO: Susana Prieto, a lawyer and labor activist, gestures during an interview with Reuters at the Paso del Norte international border crossing bridge in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico May 6, 2020. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

The 2-1/2-year ban from Tamaulipas, a border state with dozens of factories in the U.S.-Mexico supply chain, was a condition of Prieto’s release last week after the activist spent nearly a month in jail on charges tied to a labor protest.

Prieto said she represents 1,000 factory workers in cases under review at the Special Local Board No. 6 for Conciliation and Arbitration in the city of Matamoros. She was also specifically ordered to not approach the board.

Her detention prompted U.S. union leaders and Democratic lawmakers to call for Prieto’s release, citing the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a new trade pact whose aims include improving union independence and worker rights in Mexico.

“These workers have been left without their defender,” Prieto, the founder of an independent union, told a news conference.

In a hearing for Prieto’s case held over video, a recording of which was seen by Reuters, a state judge said she could re-enter Tamaulipas only for future court appearances, but otherwise must “stop visiting.”

The Tamaulipas prosecutor’s office said in a statement that Prieto could no longer enter the Matamoros labor board, without detailing a wider ban.

Workers from Tridonex, a unit of U.S. auto parts firm Cardone Industries, Inc, had protested outside the same labor board in March, demanding new, better representation.

Tamaulipas authorities accused Prieto of organizing the group, which they said was violent, charging her with having committed crimes against officials.

Prieto denies the charges. Her lawyers filed an appeal on Monday seeking to overturn the court’s order.

Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Dan Grebler and Leslie Adler

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