Culture of impunity allows trade unionists to be murdered in Guatemala

Tragically this month has seen the killing of a fourth trade union leader in Guatemala in three months.

Following the murders of Victor Galvez in November and Miguel Chacaj Jax and Pedro Ramirez de la Cruz in December, Evelinda Ramirez Reyes was killed on 13 January when unknown assailants opened fire on the car in which she and three others were returning from a meeting with government officials.

They had been calling for an end to the government declared ‘State of Prevention’ which has been in force since 22 December 2009 and under which many constitutional guarantees are being ignored.

She was a leader of San Marcos branch of FRENA, the resistance front for the defence of people and national resources, which is in turn affiliated to the Guatemalan labour, indigenous and campesino movement, MSICG.

As the International Trade Union Confederation have said what we are seeing in Guatemala is a culture of almost absolute impunity for those who are operating to suppress social and trade union movements and to deny ordinarily Guatemalans the most basic human and labour rights.

All of this is occurring away from the eyes of the international media, but it is vital that these crimes do not go unnoticed and that people around the world speak out (as TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber has done, writing to the Guatemalan Ambassador) in defence of our brave Guatemalan colleagues, who all too often are paying the ultimate price for their heroic struggles.

Sam Gurney

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