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Guatemalan Pres. To Open Int'l Union Conference

Guatemala: President Colom To Open International Union Conference Against Impunity, As Killings Continue

Brussels, 29 January 2008: The ITUC, together with its regional organisations ORIT and CLAT , the International Transport Workers' Federation's (ITF) and the main trade union centres in Guatemala, CGTG and CUSG, are holding a major international trade union conference to tackle impunity on 29, 30 and 31 January in Guatemala City. The Conference, to be opened by Alvaro Colom, new President of Guatemala, will address important issues such as the fight against endemic impunity and organized crime and the building of an environment where workers can freely exercise their fundamental rights.

The conference will bring together key political, trade union and social figures from Guatemala and Central America, along with representatives from the regional and international trade union movement. The aim is to develop and implement political and trade union strategies to promote core labour standards, to strengthen the unions' capacity to fight impunity, and to ensure that the murders of trade unionists are fully investigated and that those responsible are brought to justice.

Guatemala is one of the world's most dangerous countries for trade unionists. Corruption, drug trafficking and the maras (juvenile gangs) is what ordinary Guatemalans and workers have to face every day. Almost 6.000 people die violent deaths every year, the death toll of women is of 2 a day, people talk of "feminicidio" in Guatemala.

Against this background, Pedro Zamora, General Secretary of the Guatemalan Dock Workers' Union, STEPQ, was brutally murdered in January 2007. The ITUC is supporting the International Transport Workers' Federation 's campaign to bring the killers to justice and put an end to the climate of total impunity which exists in Guatemala.

Guatemala has one of the world's worst records for unsolved murders. In 2007 apart form the very frequent violations of the worker's most fundamental rights, the country faced not only Zamora's assassination, but also the killing of Walter Aníbal Ixcaquic Mendoza and Norma Sente de Ixcaquic of the FESTRI trade union, of Marco Tulio Ramírez, of the banana union in September and the attack with heavy weapons against the house of Carlos Mancilla's house, leader of CUSG, on New Year's Eve. On January 21 2008, Rosalio René González Villatoro, General Secretary of an independent agricultural trade union was murdered.

One of the objectives of the Conference is to put international pressure on the Government to finally conclude the investigations of all the pending cases of assassination of trade unionists for the only reason of exercising their rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, and take the intellectual and material perpetrators to justice in accordance to the law.

This Conference will also press Government and employers to fully respect the core ILO labour standards, all ratified by Guatemala and to show in concrete ways their full compliance with ILO Conventions and Recommendations.

"This international trade union conference will urge the new government of Álvaro Colom and all the stakeholders in Guatemala to fight impunity and organized crime", stated Guy Ryder, ITUC General Secretary. "The rule of law must be strengthened. The respect of human and trade union rights must be a priority in this country", he added.

The ITUC represents 168 million workers in 155 countries and territories and has 311 national affiliates.

ENDS

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