FLOC founder and president, has long maintained that Rafael Cruz
was assassinated in retaliation for his organization’s attempts
in México to stop the corruption against
agricultural workers seeking employment in the U.S. under the
H2A guestworker visa program.
“They could have killed Santiago on any street in Monterrey, but
they decided to do it in the office to send us a message,”
Velásquez told a crowd of 30 people gathered for the memorial.
“We were in a campaign to stop the graft and abuses and
particularly the extortion, particularly of our members who were
coming to work under the visa at unionized farms in North
FLOC has maintained a presence in México since 2006 to help
migrant farmworkers to obtain H2A visas and avoid extortion
attempts by labor recruiters and drug cartels south of the
Velásquez told the crowd he had just finished a tour of four
Mexican cities where he talked to at least 100 migrant
farmworkers at each stop. Each worker was only supposed to pay
$346 in fees to come to the U.S., but recruiters were charging
them as much as $2,000 and pocketing the rest.
Under a labor agreement FLOC had reached with Mt. Olive Pickle
at the time, workers could file grievances if recruiters charged
too much. Many of them faced the option of paying a coyote
(smuggler) thousands of dollars to sneak them across the border
as an undocumented immigrant or pay a recruiter much less.
According to Velásquez, Rafael Cruz paid $7,000 to be smuggled
from Mexico to Toledo, where he later landed his job as a FLOC
“Recruiters were making money heads over heels,” he said. “We
started to file grievances—hundreds of them—to force those
American employers, who those recruits worked for, to straighten
this thing out. We got two of the recruiters fired. They stalked
our office, broke into our office twice. Once they stole our
HISTORY: Velásquez had just returned from México to spend an
Easter vacation with his family in Michigan, when he received a
call about the murder of Santiago Rafael Cruz, his hands bound
behind his back and beaten to death. A college professor who
stopped by the office every Monday morning to visit with Rafael
Cruz discovered his body lying in a pool of blood. The FLOC
founder and president returned to Mexico immediately.
“We changed the system of the money that was to be paid to the
American consulate,” said Velásquez. “The money got deposited
with the consulate and paid electronically so there was no cash
changing hands. They hated us for that. That’s when the
assassination took place.”
a renowned human rights lawyer, and FLOC’s attorney in México,
continues to work on Santiago’s case. Via Skype from his
México office, Rivera told those gathered one of the killers is
serving a 40-year prison sentence, but two other assailants
known to Mexican authorities remain on the loose.
“As long as the Mexican government and the police and other
people cooperate, we’ll be able to move forward with this,”
Rivera told the group through an interpreter. “With FLOC, we’re
going to keep pushing forward to apprehend the other criminals,
the other assassins. At the same time, we’re going to push
forward to continue the work that was started to stop the
“A member of the government of Nueva León came out and said [the
murder] was about a fight over a woman,” said Velásquez. “They
changed the story to say he was trafficking workers and they
changed the story two or three times. The government has had
every opportunity to submit their side of the investigation.”
The migrant farmworkers’ union has identified corruption as the
payment of bribes at both ends of the season: first for the
right to enter and work in the U.S., and then again to Mexican
immigration and customs officials when charter busloads of farm
workers return to Mexico.
A large FLOC delegation traveled to México City last month to
present a 20-page complaint to the National Commission on
Human Rights detailing the corruption. The complaint
outlines that 70 percent of migrant workers paid some sort of
bribe, some as much as $180 each to ensure safe passage home.
FLOC also is pushing for México’s federal government to take
over the murder investigation from the state attorney general in
Nueva León. Union leaders believe investigators know the names
of the assassins, but has left them at-large for over a decade.
FLOC plans to be more aggressive and active during the growing
season, attempting to hold large international corporations
accountable for the agricultural supply chain in the U.S. and
globally. The main target continues to be tobacco companies.
According to a union statement, FLOC’s aim is to create an alliance with tobacco sector unions around the world “to
work together and avoid efforts to pit workers against each
other globally in a race to the bottom.”
FLOC now represents over 10,000 agricultural laborers in the
South and Midwest, a much larger contingent that when the
migrant farmworkers’ union was first founded in 1967.