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Mexico's hunger strikers in critical condition

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Two electricians who have been on a hunger strike for three months to protest the government's shutdown of a power company were reported in criticial condition Thursday.

The report came a day after Mexican lawmakers offered to mediate in the fight between the Mexican Union of Electricians union and the government of President Felipe Calderon, who ordered the state-run Luz y Fuerza del Centro closed in October because of a gaping budget hole.

The union has been protesting Calderon's decision with marches and lawsuits. Earlier this month, Mexico's Supreme Court dismissed the union's last available legal appeal.

Protesters have welcomed the mediation offer from a legislative commission, but there was no comment from the government.

A physician, Dr. Alfredo Verdiguel, said Thursday that the two hunger-striking electricians, Cayetano Cabrera and Miguel Angel Ibarra, were in "very grave" condition. He said their muscles had begun to deteriorate.


Both men, who are demanding their jobs back, are living in a tarp tent on the Zocalo, the historic main plaza of Mexico City. They have subsisted for three months only on water — occasionally with sugar and honey.

Deputy Interior Minister Roberto Gil said the government had sent doctors and psychologists to the two workers but their help was rejected by people guarding the protest camp. He said the government has asked the Red Cross to help instead.

The men are among the 44,504 employees who worked for Luz y Fuerza, which supplied electricity to 25 million customers in Mexico City and parts of four central states.

Calderon has defended the closure, saying that raising electricity rates or taxes to make up for the company's economic losses would be "unfair, particularly when our country is going through tough economic times."

The Federal Electricity Commission, a state-run utility that provides electricity for the rest of Mexico, took over Luz y Fuerza's power system.

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