Two More Trade Unionists Murdered in Venezuela; National Union of Workers Demands Justice

Following the murder of two Venezuelan trade unionists this week, the National Union of Workers (UNETE) demanded that state security forces carry out efficient investigations and adopt preventative measures to protect union leaders.

By James Suggett - Venezuelanalysis.com
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Mérida, July 14th 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Following the murder of two Venezuelan trade unionists this week, the National Union of Workers (UNETE) demanded that state security forces carry out efficient investigations and adopt preventative measures to protect union leaders.

On Monday night, UNETE member Alexis Díaz died after being shot twice outside of his home in Aragua state. Díaz, a father of five, was a union organizer at Plumrose, a Danish meat processing company, and a member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

Local news reports identified Diaz’s attacker as Cristian Vargas, who had recently been released from jail and had charges pending against him for robbery and homicide. Díaz allegedly fired back using the handgun he carried, wounding Vargas, who was taken to the hospital and remains in police custody. 

On Sunday, Densy Sánchez, the general secretary of the workers union at the multi-national courier company MRW, died after being shot in the head in his home in Valencia, Carabobo state.

Sanchez’s murder appears to be the result of a conflict over the management’s alleged violation of the workers’ collective contract and the cancellation of severance pay and other benefits. Sanchez’s killers allegedly entered his home seeking documents related to the conflict, according to local news reports. MRW management officials were due to appear before the state legislature for interrogation last Thursday, but did not show up.

On Tuesday, State Legislator Sixto Rodriguez publicly expressed condolences to Sanchez’s family and summoned the MRW management for questioning before the legislature next Wednesday.

What are suspected to be politically-motivated, hired killings of trade unionists are the most common form of trade unionist assassinations, and have been a growing problem. Over the past three years, eight members of the UNETE in Aragua state alone have been murdered, including the union’s state-level coordinator.

Hired killings, inter-union violence, and abuse of power by state security forces have taken the lives of scores of labor leaders, with some human rights groups' estimates at more than one hundred dead since 2007, according to a report by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission of the OAS.

Those who carry out the shootings are rarely brought to trial and convicted, and so far no “intellectual authors,” meaning those who planned, paid for, and ordered the killings, have been brought to justice.

On Tuesday, UNETE released a statement denouncing the murders and demanding justice. “It is necessary that the competent institutions pay special attention to thoroughly investigating the material authors and masterminds of the cases of murders, persecution, terrorism, and management-led hired killings against classist union leaders who, in the context of the confrontation between capital and labor, are the ones who struggle daily, and the Venezuelan state should bring an end to the impunity that exists,” said the statement.

The union confederation is planning conferences and public demonstrations in different parts of the country in the coming weeks, the statement said.

The confederation delivered a similar demand to Venezuela’s vice president, labor minister, justice minister, attorney general, and public defender in February of this year.

In April, UNETE leaders and state officials met twice in the Ministry of Justice and Internal Affairs to spell out preventative measures to deal with the management-led attacks against union leaders.

UNETE is the nation’s largest national union confederation. It is composed of unions from many different economic sectors and ideological currents, but is, on the whole, supportive of the government led by President Hugo Chavez.

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