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economic justice | labor

Guatemalan Unionist Killed, Others Threatened

Trade union leader Pedro Zamora Alvarez has been killed in
the town of Puerto Quetzal, in Escuintla department,
southern Guatemala. Since his death, several of his
colleagues have reportedly received anonymous phone calls
threatening them and their families with death within nine
days.
19 January 2007
UA 16/07 Fear for safety/ death threats

GUATEMALA
Oscar Gianni Gonzalez Donado (m) ] Members of the
Lazaro Rene Reyes Mata (m) ] Executive Committee of the
Trabajadores de la Empresa ] Sindicato de
Max Alberto Estrada Linares (m) ] Portuaria Quetzal
Eulogio Obispo Monzon Merida (m) ] (STEPQ, Quetzal Dockers' Union)

Killed: Pedro Zamora Alvarez (m), Secretary General of STEPQ

Trade union leader Pedro Zamora Alvarez has been killed in
the town of Puerto Quetzal, in Escuintla department,
southern Guatemala. Since his death, several of his
colleagues have reportedly received anonymous phone calls
threatening them and their families with death within nine
days. Amnesty International believes that their lives are in
serious and imminent danger.

Pedro Zamora Alvarez, Secretary General of the Sindicato de
Trabajadores de la Empresa Portuaria Quetzal (STEPQ, Quetzal
Dockers' Union) was killed at around 7.50pm on 15 January,
as he returned home from the local clinic with his two small
children in his pick-up truck. Approximately 50 meters from
his home, a car with five occupants was allegedly waiting
for him. The five individuals reportedly shot approximately
100 bullets at Pedro Zamora's car, around 20 of which hit
Pedro Zamora. Badly wounded, he crashed his car into a wall,
before one of his assailants reportedly approached and fired
a final shot to his head from close range. One of his
children was also wounded in the attack.

The four remaining members of STEPQ's Executive Committee
have since received death threats. On 17 January, Oscar
Gianni Gonzalez Donado and Lazaro Rene Reyes Mata received a
total of three anonymous phone calls between them, made to
their mobile phones between 1.45pm and 8pm. The caller's
voice had apparently been electronically disguised, and
reportedly told them that they, their other colleagues and
their families would be killed within nine days. According
to reports, a pick-up truck with tinted windows has been
seen parked close to Eulogio Obispo Monzon Merdia's house in
recent days.

The five members of the STEPQ Executive Committee and their
families have allegedly been intimidated and attacked in the
past year. Pedro Zamora, who was elected to the post of
Secretary General in December 2005, was the principle target
of the attacks and intimidation, in an apparent attempt to
discourage STEPQ from pursuing contentious areas of union
work. From 9 January to March 2006 he was regularly followed
by a variety of vehicles, including a Toyota Yaris and a
pick-up truck. Unknown individuals also visited his family
home on a number of occasions to ask for his whereabouts
during this period.

In June there was an attempt on the life of Max Alberto
Estrada Linares. He was shot and seriously wounded by
unknown individuals. The incident was reported to the Public
Prosecutor's Office but those responsible have not been
brought to justice.
On 2 November Pedro Zamora was followed by a vehicle whose
occupants drew their weapons and fired shots in the air. He
described the vehicle as a black or grey Chevrolet with
tinted windows. Pedro Zamora also claimed to have been
followed constantly throughout the month of December,
obliging him to change his routine regularly.

On 10 January 2007 the Union's Executive Committee
participated in a meeting at the Congress of the Republic in
Guatemala City. The Union was informed at this meeting that
nine dockers allegedly unfairly dismissed by the port of
Quetzal in October 2006 would be reinstated, allegedly
against the wishes of the port authorities. A dark-colored
Toyota Yercel allegedly followed the Union members as they
drove away from the meeting. From that date until his death,
Pedro Zamora told his colleagues that he was followed every
day.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION
The STEPQ is affiliated to the International Transport
Workers' Federation, and works to improve the working
conditions of its members, as well as campaigning for basic
services to be made available for workers' family members.
Recent activities have included opposing plans to build a
new container terminal at the port, due to fears that this
could lead to future privatization and job losses. The STEPQ
has also been active in campaigning for the reinstatement of
the nine workers who were allegedly unfairly dismissed on 9
October 2006 during a peaceful demonstration against the
construction project.

The Guatemalan Movimiento Nacional de Derechos Humanos,
National Human Rights Movement reports that between January
and August 2006, there were 161 threats or attacks against
human rights defenders, a similar level compared to the same
period in 2005. Amnesty International believes that the lack
of political will to deal with the longstanding issues of
impunity, a weak judicial system, clandestine groups, and
hostility to human rights defenders in Guatemala has allowed
this wave of attacks against human rights defenders to go
unchallenged.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly
as possible:
- expressing grave concern for the safety of Oscar Gonzalez,
Lazaro Reyes, Max Estrada and Eulogio Monzon and their
families;
- calling on the authorities to order a full and impartial
investigation into the death threats against them and the
killing of Pedro Zamora, and asking that those responsible
be brought to justice;
- urging the authorities to guarantee the safety of Oscar
Gonzalez, Lazaro Reyes, Max Estrada and Eulogio Monzon, in
strict accordance with their own wishes;
- reminding the authorities that human rights defenders have
the right to carry out their activities without any
restrictions or fear of reprisals, as set out in the UN
Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals,
Groups and Institutions to Promote and Protect Universally
Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.


APPEALS TO:
President of the Republic:
Lic. Oscar Berger Perdomo
Presidente de la Republica de Guatemala
Casa Presidencial, 6 a. Avenida, 4-18 zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax 011 502 2221 4423 / 2238 3579
Salutation: Dear Mr. President/Estimado Sr. Presidente

Attorney General and Head of the Public Prosecutor's office:
Lic. Juan Luis Florido
Fiscal General de la Republica y Jefe del Ministerio Publico
Edificio Ministerio Publico
Tercer Nivel, 8a. Avenida 10-67, Zona 1, Ciudad de
Guatemala, 01001, Guatemala
Fax: 011 502 2411 9124/ 9335/ 9336 (if someone answers, say
''tono de fax, por favor'')
Salutation: Dear Attorney General/Estimado Sr. Fiscal General

COPIES TO:
Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Empresa Portuaria - Quetzal (STEPQ)
c/o Confederacion Central General de Trabajadores de
Guatemala (CGTG)
3a. Avenida 12-22 Zona 1, Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax 011 502 2251 3212

Ambassador Jose Guillermo Castillo
Embassy of Guatemala
2220 R St. NW
Washington DC 20008
Fax: 1 202 745 1908
Email:  info@guatemala-embassy.org



PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the Urgent
Action Office if sending appeals after 2 March 2007.