Trade Unionists Call For Justice In El Salvador

"Nineteen years after the signing of the Chapultepec Peace Accords, people around the globe are watching to see if El Salvador is prepared to protect the rights of its citizens to participate in union activities and other forms of engagement in civil society without risking their lives," -Paddy Crumlin, President of the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and General Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia.

Only days before the 19th anniversary of the signing of the Chapultepec Peace Accords, a powerful group of international trade union leaders has publicly called upon El Salvador's authorities to resolve outstanding cases of murders by death squads, placing advertisements in El Salvador's national press.

The advertisements, appearing in La Prensa Grafica and Co Latino this week, highlight the case of Gilberto Soto, the Teamster Union official who was assassinated in El Salvador in November 2004 during a visit to the country to build a solidarity network between transport workers and their unions in the United States and Central America.

The global coalition of union presidents includes twenty-four leaders from eighteen countries on six continents, many from Latin America.

"Nineteen years after the signing of the Chapultepec Peace Accords, people around the globe are watching to see if El Salvador is prepared to protect the rights of its citizens to participate in union activities and other forms of engagement in civil society without risking their lives," stated Paddy Crumlin, President of the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and General Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia. "We are especially alarmed that the forces of reaction continue to threaten officials, such as Zaira Navas, who are seeking to end corruption and ensure that no one, regardless of rank or class, is allowed to act outside the law with impunity."

The advertisement in today's newspapers calls on President Funes and the Assembly to protect Zaira Navas, and calls on the attorney general to insure transparent and effective investigations of crimes.  "People from all sectors of society, all social classes and all political parties must give their support to anyone who is committed to ending corruption and to punishing those who commit these crimes.  We call on Attorney General Romeo Barahona to appoint an official who is willing and able to effectively investigate the murder of Jose Gilberto Soto, as well as other killings by death squads," state the union leaders in their  declaration.

"This is our first public statement," said David Cockroft, General Secretary of the London-based ITF.  "But behind the scenes, the ITF and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) have expressed concern previously that Soto's death was linked to his trade union activities, and have filed a complaint with the ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association regarding the case."