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Rail blockade ends in Mexico after 60 days of protests

Mexican authorities reach agreement with teachers in Michoacán state

The end of the blockade has freed key rail lines connecting to the Mexican seaport of Lázaro Cárdenas on the Pacific coast that had been disrupted since late September. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

A record-breaking rail blockade that cost the Mexican economy more than $140 million in lost trade has ended after almost two months.

The end of the blockade has freed key rail lines connecting to the Mexican seaport of Lázaro Cárdenas on the Pacific coast that had been disrupted since late September.

Officials with Mexico’s Ministry of the Interior said on Monday they reached an agreement to sit down with teachers from the National Coordinator of Education Workers Union of Michoacán (CNTE) to discuss their demands.

Teachers from CNTE had been blocking train tracks in the town of Caltzontzin, Mexico, protesting unpaid wages and demanding higher salaries and guaranteed jobs for recent college graduates. 

“In an act of trust toward the government of Mexico, via mediation of the Interior Ministry, the train tracks in Michoacán were freed,” Olga Sánchez, Mexico’s secretary of the interior, tweeted. “At a meeting we established agreements with the teachers and Michoacán Governor Silvano Aureoles. The aim is to consolidate the rule of law and guarantee investment.”

The teachers had blocked railways using debris, automobiles and even their bodies in some cases.

The blockade strained commercial cargo movement from the Port of Lázaro Cárdenas, one of Mexico’s key seaports, according to Maersk officials.

“Road blockades in Michoacán state result in lack of connectivity to major industrial centers in the west, central and north of [Mexico],” Alexandra Loboda, managing director for Maersk Middle America, told FreightWaves on Oct. 6.

Denmark-based Maersk is the world’s largest shipping container carrier and has operations at the Port of Lázaro Cárdenas. 

Kansas City Southern de Mexico (KCSM) is the provider of rail service for the Port of Lázaro Cárdenas through Michoacán. KCSM President Óscar del Cueto said he talked with Mexican authorities about aiding in the unblocking of affected tracks.

“KCSM thanks Mexican Association of Railways and the federal and state authorities for the agreements that made it possible to end the blockades in Michoacán,”del Cueto tweeted on Monday. “We urge that social discontent not affect third parties or industries in Mexico.”

In a statement on its website, KCSM said, “We are pleased to report that as of Dec. 1, the track has been cleared of protesters and service has resumed. While we remain cautiously optimistic that the mainline will remain clear, there is risk that the situation could reoccur.”    

Mexico’s Association of Industrialists of the State of Michoacán estimated that the rail blockade was costing the country $2.4 million every day it continued. After 60 days, the total losses are at $141 million.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]