Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Labor Activist's Killers Must Be Found

[From an email from US LEAP]

The 2004 murder of US trade unionist Gilberto Soto has yet to be solved. He was killed in El Salvador, where authorities have yet to adequately pursue his case and bring his murderers to justice. Please read this action alert about his case, from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters:

Labor Activist’s Killers Must be Found

On November 5, 2004, Teamsters Port Division Representative Gilberto Soto was assassinated in Usulutan, El Salvador. Soto, an American citizen, had returned to his native country to meet with Central American trade union leaders and port drivers, and to document worker rights violations.

The murder remains unsolved.

In a gruesome echo of the Salvadoran government’s response to the death squad assassinations of the 1980s, the Salvadoran Interior Minister labeled Soto’s death a “common crime” within days of his murder—and before the government had launched any investigation.

One Salvadoran official took the assassination seriously and sprang into action: Beatrice de Carrillo, the ombudsman and director of the official Salvadoran Human Rights Office. Though her office is mandated by the Salvadoran constitution, the police refused to give her access to the investigation files or the officers conducting the investigation. She predicted that the government would soon make an arrest, call the murder a “crime of passion” and then after the media attention faded, ultimately drop the case.

That’s exactly what happened. Within a week the government of El Salvador arrested Soto’s mother-in-law, claiming that she hoped to collect the Teamsters’ million-dollar life insurance policy. In fact, Soto’s policy was for only $50,000 and his children were the beneficiaries, not his wife. Fourteen months later, Soto’s mother-in-law was acquitted. The government has continued to obstruct, frustrate and harass Dr. de Carrillo. She has also received death threats because of her ongoing search for the truth.

On November 15, 2006, the International Labor Organization (ILO) issued a report that demanding that the Salvadoran government reopen the case file on Soto’s murder.

The Teamsters union has joined with labor leaders in El Salvador to demand that the true killers be brought to justice. If we allow this murder to go unsolved, labor and human rights leaders will never be safe in El Salvador. Tell Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Ambassador to the United States from El Salvador Rene Leon to demand that the Salvadoran government reopen the investigation into the Gilberto Soto murder and protect and the work of
the Salvadoran Human Rights Ombudsman.

Check out the Teamsters website for more information and the sign the petition

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