On the 10th – which happens to be International Human Rights Day – and 11th December members of the trade union SITRAPETÉN were violently evicted by the National Civil Police (PNC) from the makeshift huts in which they had for 15 months been staging their peaceful protest in front of Guatemala City’s National Palace.
The workers of Distribuidora del Petén, part of the company Agua Salvavidas which is owned by Corporación Castillo Hermanos, formed their trade union SITRAPETÉN in February 2007 but had their attempts to register with the Ministry of Labour rejected five times. According to those affiliated to the trade union, the delay was due to pressure put on the Ministry by the company. Just days before the trade union was finally recognised by the Ministry of Labour in May 2008, the company was declared bankrupt. Workers were transferred and offered new contracts. However, no such offer was extended to the trade unionists who were effectively fired.
The members of SITRAPETÉN protested first outside the company’s premises but were later evicted. Fifteen months ago they moved to the Parque Central in Guatemala City, where they have been staying in makeshift huts in front of the National Palace ever since, in a peaceful protest demonstration in which they demand the resolution of their labour case.
They have been subject to a series of threats and intimidations, as well as offers of money on the condition that they abandon their campaign. On the night of the 9th December the municipal judge, who according to the Convergencia de Derechos Humanos (a collective of human rights organisations) did not have jurisdiction in the case, gave a "verbal notification" of the eviction. An eviction notice was not presented.
On the 10th and 11th December the trade unionists were violently evicted. Riot police from the PNC carried out the eviction and they, supported by members of the Policía Municipal de Tránsito (Municipal Transit Police), violently removed the possessions of the workers and attacked them with irritant gases to force them to retreat.
As well as causing grave concern due to the excessive police mobilisation, the eviction highlights the lack of a definitive resolution in this case… nineteen months on and the trade unionists are still awaiting a ruling.
To watch video footage of the eviction, follow this You Tube link.
For the Coordination of International Accompaniment in Guatemala article on the eviction (in Spanish), click here.
For a recent Upside Down World article (in English), click here.