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Issue #1542      4 April 2012

Guatemalan union leader assassinated

Members and the leadership of the Guatemala Peace and Development Network (GPDN/RPDG) fully identify with the words of Erick Valdez, one of our colleagues, who affirms: “My heart is full of indignation.”

Paid assassins took the life of Luis Ovidio Ortiz Cajas on March 24, precisely when the national health workers trade union to which he belonged, supported by the National Front for Struggle (Frente Nacional de Lucha, FLN), was about to celebrate minimum gains for those workers.

It happened during the period of the march of peasants, Indigenous peoples and grass-root organisations that is taking place and is becoming stronger each day, moving from the rural areas to Guatemala City.

It is not a coincidence. It was a clear message of intolerance coming from powerful persons who fear social organisation and mobilisation. This crime, despite the fact that the media has paid little attention to it, continues the traditional practice by those with power in our country: beheading the trade-union movement every time it advances and obtain gain with its actions. Newspapers presented this assassination as a senseless attack by violent criminals; but there is no explanation of why Luis Ovidio was hit by more than 30 shots, as denounced by URNG-MAÍZ, the leftist party he belonged to. It is clear that he was the target of the attack, following the abhorrent practices used during the days of the internal armed conflict. This crime is similar to the situation faced by the popular and trade union movement in Honduras, long suffering after the coup in that country.

Our own popular and trade union movement unanimously condemns this crime and we add our voice to those political forces that nationally and internationally denounce it. All organisations urge the Guatemalan government, presided over by Otto Pérez, to investigate this crime in depth and promptly capture and prosecute its perpetrators. We also urge the government to find those responsible for ordering the crime. All persons both ordering and perpetrating this assassination should be put to trial no matter how powerful they may be. According to his electoral campaign promises, President Pérez must show now “zero tolerance” vis-à-vis violence, particularly regarding politically-motivated killings. We firmly demand immediate responses.

We express our deepest condolences to our friend Luis Ovidio’s relatives; his loss is irreplaceable. We also send our sorrow and solidarity to his colleagues in the national health workers trade union and workers in general, particularly those within the FNL, who always benefited from his enormous efforts, as well as the leaders and militants of URNG-MAÍZ and other progressive social and political forces.

We all have lost a social fighter and a defender of human rights, especially the rights of vulnerable and marginalised people. However, we are certain that his example will result in the rise of thousands of leaders like him, who will also have Luis Ovidio’s vision and commitment.

Today, we are mourning. We feel the pain for the death of a comrade who was in the words of Erick Valdez: “A totally committed trade-unionist and active social fighter.” Nevertheless his death will not be in vain, nor will his life, because we will continue our process of unification and consolidation until we reach total and decisive transformations of the conditions under which people live in Guatemala.

Executive Committee of the Peace and Development Network   

Next article – Gazan man killed in protests

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