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Another Guatemalan Trade Unionist Killed
On October 16 another Guatemalan trade unionist was murdered. An unidentified assailant shot Pablino Yaque Cervantes, a member of the Banana Workers Union of Izabal (SITRABI), eight times in broad daylight near a municipal market in the department of Izabal.
SITRABI, which represents Del Monte union members and is the largest private sector union in Guatemala, has faced increasing violence, intimidation, and persecution. In 2011 alone, four union members have been killed (two since mid-September) and many more threatened, leading the union to demand more government protection and an end to impunity. Update: On October 27, Miguel Angel Felipe, founder and former general secretary of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Finca El Real (El Real Farm Workers Union), was shot dead by a security guard at the El Real banana plantation, bringing to five the number of banana trade unionists murdered so far in 2011 in Guatemala, as reported by the AFL-CIO's Solidarity Center.
SITRABI was one of the six Guatemalan unions that filed a CAFTA worker rights complaint in 2008 with the AFL-CIO, responding to illegal firings, failure to bargain in good faith, health and safety violations, and violence against trade unionists, including the murder of the brother of the General Secretary of the union. The Guatemala labor complaint is the first filed under CAFTA.
On August 9, 2011, the United States Trade Representative announced that it was requesting the establishment of an arbitral panel under the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) in order to discuss the Guatemalan government’s continuing failure to enforce its labor laws, including those protecting the right to association and collective bargaining.
The CAFTA complaint has been pending for over three years, even as more Guatemalan trade unionists continue to be assassinated. Guatemala is the second most dangerous country for trade unionists, trailing only Colombia.
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