On Tuesday, Amnesty International joined several other human rights organizations issuing public warnings about the deteriorating health of a group of nurses in the Mexican state of Chiapas who are entering their second week of a hunger strike.
The head of Amnesty International Mexico, Tania Reneaum, wrote to the governor of Chiapas urging him to negotiate with the nine nurses and to “guarantee the legitimate exercise of social protest.”
The group began their hunger strike last Monday, outside the women’s hospital in the state capital, in an escalation of a years-long struggle over working conditions and chronic underfunding of health care in the largely Indigenous southern state.
In January of this year, healthcare workers throughout the state called for an indefinite protest against alleged corruption within the state hospital system which has left clinics without basic equipment and medicines.
On March 22, the government fired 14 nurses after they publicized the deplorable conditions, triggering the hunger strike which, among other demands, is calling for the reinstatement of the fired healthcare workers.
Amnesty now joins the Chiapas Center for the Rights of Women, the Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center, and the National Teachers Union in supporting the demands of the striking workers, including the full supply of medical equipment and medications to all health care centers in the state, and the reimbursement of millions of dollars of illegal deductions from worker salaries.
The Mexican auditor general found “irregularities” in the distribution of over US$40 million in health care funds to the state in 2015 and gave the Mexican government until April 12 this year to respond to the report.
In a statement of support for the hunger strikers issued earlier this week, the Bartolome de Las Casas Center condemned, “the serious crisis in the health system in Chiapas, which today puts at risk the lives of (nine) nurses who decided to highlight the situation that the state government is trying to hide.”