Mexico’s left-wing opposition party Morena has offered the name of Vancouver-exiled labour leader Napoleon Gomez Urrutia among its senate nominees, according to El Universal.
A win could pave the way for a return to Mexico after more than a decade in Canada.
Gomez Urrutia arrived in Vancouver with his wife and two sons in May 2006 after he was removed from his post as head of the National Union of Miners and Metalworkers, accused of plotting to dissolve a workers’ trust fund and take US$55 million.
Charges against him were dropped in 2014, but Urrutia continues to live in Vancouver and has Canadian citizenship.
Earlier this month, Morena presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called Gomez Urrutia a victim of government persecution and said his return to Mexico would be an act of justice and reconciliation, according to news reports.
“There is Napoleon Gomez Urrutia in Canada, in exile because they have persecuted him, because he did not submit to the dictates of those who rule in the ministry of labour and others who feel they own Mexico,” said Lopez Obrador, in El Universal.
The nomination appears to be part of a strategy by Lopez Obrador to ally himself with people who have been wronged by the long-governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) or the right-leaning National Action Party (PAN), according to Gerardo Otero, a professor of international studies at Simon Fraser University.
Whether Gomez Urrutia has a realistic chance of becoming a senator depends on where and how high his name appears in a list of Morena candidates who are elected based on the percentage of the popular vote the party receives.
Candidates near the top of the list are practically assured of a “win,” said Otero.
“If it’s high enough, then he will almost certainly be a senator, which, among other things, would give him immunity from persecution and the chance to return to Mexico,” Otero said.
Mexico will vote July 1.
Urrutia had been critical of Mexican labour and safety standards during his tenure as a union leader, and organized many wildcat strikes. He was replaced shortly after the death of 65 workers in a coal-mining accident that he called “industrial homicide.”
Gomez Urrutia has been organizing the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers from exile and has been re-elected as its leader.
The English version of Gomez Urrutia’s book Collapse of Dignity: The Story of a Mining Tragedy and the Fight Against Greed and Corruption in Mexico appeared on the New York Times non-fiction bestseller list.
Attempts to contact Gomez Urrutia for comment were unsuccessful.