Colombia and Guatemala Again Ranked 1st and 2nd in Murders of Trade Unionists

In its 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights released June 6, 2012, the International Trade Union Confederation found that Latin America remains the most dangerous region of the world for trade unionists, with Colombia again leading the world, followed by Guatemala.  

The ITUC says 29 trade unionists were reported murdered in Colombia in 2011, with 10 more in Guatemala, together accounting for a bit over half of the 76 trade unionists reported murdered in 2011.  Colombia’s share of total murders dropped significantly, however, reflecting a decreased in 2010 murders of 51, representing 55% of the 92 trade unionists murdered in 2010.  

Ironically, Colombia and Guatemala are also the two countries in Latin America that have been at the heart of U.S. policy on worker rights and Free Trade Agreements, with the Obama Administration pushing forward with implementation of the Colombia FTA in mid-May despite insufficient progress on worker rights while continuing to deal with a CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement) labor complaint on Guatemala filed over four years ago that has yielded little progress even as violence against Guatemala unionists has escalated.  

In a welcome and some say historic development, the conservative Guatemalan agribusiness sector has called on its own government to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the violence that has been directed at the country’s largest union, Sitrabi, which represents Del Monte banana workers and is a filer of the CAFTA labor complaint.  Sitrabi reports that seven members of its union members have been murdered since April 2011.  The Camara del Agro released its remarkable letter [English translation here] in late May; no response from the government has been reported as yet.