Brussels, 26 September 2007 (ITUC OnLine): The ITUC has condemned the brutal murder of Marco Tulio Ramirez Portela, Secretary of Culture and Sports of the Guatemalan Banana Workers Union of Izabal, SITRABI. Marco Tulio Ramirez was also the brother of Noé Antonio Ramírez Portela, the union’s General Secretary. He was gunned down outside his home by masked men carrying high calibre weapons as he was leaving for work at 5.45 on the morning of Sunday, 23 September.
The background to this murder is particularly disturbing. The ITUC recently protested about the forced entry into SITRABI’s premises by five soldiers from the Guatemalan army at the end of July. They demanded the names of the union’s leaders, the size of its membership and the nature of its activities. SITRABI complained about this incident to the authorities and only last week had a meeting at the Ministry of Defence who promised there would be an “internal investigation”. Just five days later, Marc Tulio Ramirez was murdered, in what was clearly a targeted attack.
His killing is one in a long line of attacks on trade unionists, as detailed in the recently published annual survey of violations of trade union rights. After the threats, attacks and intimidation of trade unionists in 2006, events took a sinister turn in January 2007 with the murder of the dock workers’ leader Pedro Zamora.
“The climate of killing and impunity in Guatemala must be brought to an end”, said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder. “Once again, a trade union representative has been brutally murdered simply due to his legitimate work in support of the rights of working people”, he added.