Thus far in 2009, six unionists have been killed in Guatemala; 9 were killed in 2008; and two in 2007, making Guatemala the second most dangerous country in Latin America for unionists. In the past two months alone, four unionists were murdered.
The violence and murder used to silence unionists and foment fear among workers is meant to intimidate and suppress the defense of labor rights. No progress has been made in arresting and prosecuting those responsible for the murders of these trade unionists, or in any of the cases over the past three years.
We condemn and denounce:
· The murder of Miguel Chacaj Jax, who was shot eight times on October 6 and died one week later. The attack occurred in Coatepeque, where merchants associated with the Central Federation of Guatemalan Workers (CGTG) and Guatemalan Indigenous and Campesino Union (MSICG) are in an ongoing struggle for the right to work in their marketplace.
·The murder of Víctor Gálvez, shot 18 times and killed on October 25. Gálvez was a member of the Natural Resources Protection and Resistance Front, FRENA. He led efforts against labor violations by subsidiaries of the Spanish electric company Unión FENOSA. On June 9, Galvez and three colleagues were beaten and threatened with death while demonstrating in front of the National Electricity Institute, INDE.
·The murder of Pedro Ramirez de la Cruz, who was shot three times and killed on November 29 in Las Vegas Cubulco, Baja Verapaz. De la Cruz was director of the Indigenous Defenders of the Verapazes and member of the National Council of Indigenous and Campesino People (CNAICP) and member of the MSICG union. De la Cruz received death threats for his work in defense of the land, promotion of agrarian reform and rural development.
·The murder of Olga Marina Ramirez Sanse, shot four times and killed on December 5 in the central market of Chiquimula. Ramirez was a member of the Merchants Union of the Oriente, affiliate of the CGTG (Central Confederation of Guatemalan Workers). She previously received death threats.
In addition, trade unionist Jorge Chen Álvarez, an official in the National Health Workers' Union who promotes improved services for pregnant women and girls, received a death threat on November 29. Chen lives and works in Poptun, Peten.
On December 10, International Human Rights day, at noon in the Central Plaza, 27 members of the SITRAPETEN union were violently and illegally evicted by the Guatemalan National Police and the Municipal Transit Police. Their tent was dismantled and their possessions taken. At 11:30pm they were again attacked with tear gas, beaten with batons, and doused with caustic liquid that induced nausea and severe itching. Observers Nery Rodenas from ODHAG and Iduvina Hernandez from SEDEM were also doused with the liquid. [See a video of the eviction.]
We are united with the international labor community in our request that the Attorney General and head of the Public Prosecutor's Office pay special attention to labor repression and targeted violence against unionists who exercise their right to organize and defend their labor rights. In June 2009, 40 US Congressional representatives sent a letter to President Colom, initiated by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) urging him to address worker rights violations and violence against trade unionists. There has been no response by the Guatemalan government to improve safety and protection for unionists.