Tell the new Guatemalan Attorney General the world is watching how she handles union murder cases.
Guatemala is fast becoming one of 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 unionists 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.