Guatemalan Union Leader Killed
September 27, 2007
Marco Tulio Ramirez Portela, a union leader for the Guatemalan Banana Workers Union of Izabal (SITRABI), was murdered at 5:45 a.m. on Sunday, September 23, 2007. Masked assailants gunned down Marco Tulio while leaving his home for work on a banana plantation. He leaves behind a wife and young children. GHRC believes that this murder is directly related to SITRABI’s efforts to end acts of intimidation and harassment against its defense of labor rights. Click here to send a message to Guatemalan authorities urging them to investigate the murder and bring the perpetrators to justice!
Ramirez Portela’s murder is the most recent in a series of threats and attacks against SITRABI and its leaders. In 1999, the union suffered a devastating attack by armed individuals. In November 2006, assailants stoned and then shot at a SITRABI-owned vehicle driven by an elected union officer. In late July of this year, military officers forcibly entered SITRABI’s headquarters and demanded to know the identity of the union leaders. The assassination of Ramirez came just three days after SITRABI learned that military officers had been disciplined by the Ministry of Defense in response to SITRABI complaints about the unlawful entry.
SITRABI and GHRC consider the military's recent acts of intimidation to be retaliation for the union's significant role in worker rights training and support for workers on banana plantations in the Izabal and Southern Coast regions.
Violence against unionists in Guatemala has increased since the passage of CAFTA, the free trade agreement between Guatemala and the US. Four union representatives have been murdered so far in 2007, including the January murder of Pedro Zamora, head of the STEPQ Docker’s Union. The government has yet to charge anyone in the murder of Mr. Zamora.
Click here to send a message to the Guatemalan government to investigate Marco Tulio Ramirez Portela's murder, bring those responsible to justice, and do its utmost to prevent future attacks against union leaders.
[Information for this Urgent Action has been taken from STITCH, the Solidarity Center – AFL-CIO, and the Center for Labor Studies and Support (CEAL). We appreciate their contributions!]