Tell the new Guatemalan Attorney General the world is watching how she handles union murder cases. Guatemala is the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist. Since 2007 a total of 68 unionists have been murdered and none of the perpetrators of these crimes have been brought to justice.
Banana trade unions have been on the front line of this surge in violence. The local banana workers’ union SITRABI have had some successes in the north of the country but the large-scale anti-union plantations of the Pacific South – now responsible for over 80% of exports – are still somewhere that workers dare not organise.
The only attempt to organise a union in this region was put down with violence in 2008; the General Secretary of the new union was killed and the daughter of another leader was raped. The north isn’t much safer: between 2007 and 2012, twelve SITRABI organisers were also murdered there.
The investigations into the murders are going very slowly. In March this year we heard that possible culprits had been identified but still nobody had been brought to trial. And then the Attorney General was suddenly dismissed, jeopardising the work she had started on the investigation.
This is an international issue too, with implications for workers in many other countries. Guatemala is growing very quickly as a producer of bananas, as companies seek to find cheaper labour for their crop. The exploitation of Guatemalan workers makes them the cheapest and threatens jobs with better conditions and respect across Latin America. We need to take a stand to avoid a race to the bottom for the whole region.
Can you help?
It’s a key moment for the issue. A new Attorney General has just been appointed, Thelma Aldana. She was sworn in by the President on 17 May, amidst suspicions the change was politically motivated. Will she let these crimes just get swept under the carpet to spare the government international embarrassment?
Please can you write an email to the Human Rights Department at the Attorney General’s Office, to ensure that the process of investigation into the crimes against trade unionists is not dropped, and that progress starts to be made more quickly?
We can help you send an email to the team tasked with the investigation, and copy it to President Otto Perez Molina and Guatemala’s Ambassador to the UK. Internationally, activists are ramping up the pressure on the Guatemalan government, showing them that impunity for union murders is damaging their country’s perception in the eyes of the world. Your support will help show that the brave activists of SITRABI do not stand alone against these threats.
This action is in partnership with the Trades Union Congress.
I am very concerned that the Public Ministry of Guatemala investigations into the murder of 12 members of the SITRABI union in Northern Guatemala between 2007 and 2012 are proceeding very slowly. The Human Rights Department at the Attorney Generals office informed the TUC and Banana Link during a delegation to Guatemala in March 2014 that some possible culprits have been identified but still nobody has been brought to trial.
We urge the Guatemalan authorities to accelerate their efforts to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice and enable the banana industry to start re-building the trust needed to make union organising possible, in both the North and the Pacific South of Guatemala.