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Guatemala: Union leaders imprisoned for having negotiated a collective agreement

January 30, 2019
PSI is calling on all affiliates to join the LabourStart campaign in support of Dora Regina Ruano and Luis Alpirez Guzmán, Organizing Director and General Secretary of PSI's affiliate the National Union of Health Workers of Guatemala (SNTSG).

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Send a letter of protest to the Guatemalan government

 Guatemala has been going through an institutional crisis in recent months that has now become more acute. The Jimmy Morales government is systematically increasing the persecution of community leaders, activists, journalists and trade unionists.

Luis Alpirez Guzmán, General Secretary of the National Union of Health Workers of Guatemala (SNTSG), and Dora Regina Ruano, from the same organization, were detained for nearly ten days (17-28 January) for negotiating and signing a collective agreement between the union and the Ministry of Health authorities in 2013. Following a defence hearing on the Friday (25 January) night, both union leaders were released on parole last Monday but have been placed under house arrest, pending a final decision.

The intermediate stage of the judicial process is set for May 15; it is important to maintain the pressure to ensure due process and a fair trial for Luis and Dora.

PSI and its affiliate, SNTSG, are calling on all affiliates to join the LabourStart campaign, to show their support to fellow unionists and call on the Guatemala government to ensure that the principle of innocence prevails until proven otherwise, to drop all charges against Dora Regina Ruano and Luis Alpirez Guzmán and to put an end to the repression and harassment of trade unionists including the prosecution of workers’ gains through collective bargaining.

PSI will continue to closely monitor the situation including pursuing the official complaint with the International Labour Organization and calling for an end to repression against all community leaders, activists, journalists and trade unionists.

JOIN THE LABOURSTART CAMPAIGN
Send a letter of protest to the Guatemalan government

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

SNTSG and PSI called on the Guatemalan government to drop all charges against them and end repression against all community leaders, activists, journalists and trade unionists.

Luis Alpirez Guzmán, General Secretary of the National Union of Health Workers of Guatemala (SNTSG), and Dora Regina Ruano, were detained for nearly ten days (17-28 January) for negotiating and signing a collective agreement between the union and the Ministry of Health authorities in 2013.

According to the Attorney General's Office against Corruption in Guatemala, the alleged crime of the two unionists was to have endorsed the creation of a regulation concerning expenses and perdiems for workers and the Ministry of Health authorities.

The prosecutor's office has argued that Luis Alpirez Guzmán and Dora Regina, through the signing of the collective agreement at that time, embezzled the Ministry of Health for a large amount of money. They have both been charged with ‘abuse of authority’.

PSI is calling on the Guatemalan government to drop all charges against them and end repression against all community leaders, activists, journalists and trade unionists. This is an attack on collective bargaining in the public sector. The Guatemalan Attorney General’s office is clearly being used to criminalize one of the most important instruments of the trade union movement.

PSI is actively working to move an official complaint forward at the International Labour Organization (ILO) and has launched an urgent denunciation campaign against the Government of Guatemala and the Guatemalan Public Ministry for depriving the liberty of our colleagues, and to protect other unions in a similar situation from the same threat in the future.

Guatemala has been going through an institutional crisis in recent months that has now become more acute. The Jimmy Morales government has taken political control over ongoing corruption investigations. The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) organized by the United Nations (UN) and which had been invited into the country in 2006 was kicked out on January 9th, 2019. Morales, who is currently under investigation for illegal campaign financing practices unilaterally broke the agreement with the UN and has systematically increased persecution of community leaders, activists, journalists and trade unionists.

The Morales government appointed a new Attorney General who has politicized the public prosecutor office’s investigations into corruption in the public sector. This has led to a deeper investigation of corruption at the Ministry of Health that occurred between 2012 and 2014.

JOIN THE LABOURSTART CAMPAIGN
Send a letter of protest to the Guatemalan government

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