ACT NOW: protest at the shooting of Guatemalan health trade unionist Mateo Lopez

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Solidarity with unions in Guatemala

Joint protest with Amnesty International

November 2010

The TUC has joined with Amnesty International in protesting about the shooting of Guatemalan trade unionist Mateo López. General Secretary Brendan Barber has written to the Guatemalan Ambassador in the UK:

  • calling for an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into the attack, with the results made public and those responsible brought to justice; and
  • urging that the authorities take immediate steps to provide appropriate protection to Mateo López and his family, in accordance with their wishes.

Mateo López is Secretary General of the local branch of the Health Trade Union (Sindicato de Salud) and a member of the coalition, National Front for the Struggle (Frente Nacional de Lucha - FNL). Since January 2010, he has been very active in denouncing corruption in the health service.

On 28 October, at 2am, Mateo Lopez left his house to take a bus to Guatemala City, the capital of the country, in order to attend a general assembly of the Health Trade Union. In the agenda of the meeting, there was a talk on a corruption case which he campaigned against.

While walking towards a bus stop, a red motorbike with two men on it approached him. The man riding passenger shot him five times. Mateo Lopez received a shot in the stomach, two shots grazed him over the right shoulder, and the final two shots grazed him in the knees. Mateo López fell to the ground. The men were about to shoot him once more, but people in neighbouring houses started to turn on their lights and make noise. The attackers escaped.

The Health Trade Union campaigns for access to public health services, while the FNL campaigns on broader themes like access to better standards of public services at affordable costs. The FNL has promoted campaigns against the high costs of electricity. In the last year, eight trade unionists belonging to the FNL have been killed. Those killings have not yet resulted in any convictions.

Background

On 20 October 2010, Mateo Lopez participated in a public event to commemorate the killing of the FNL activist Víctor Gálvez, who was killed in Malacatán, a town in the same region. Mateo López gave a speech about social issues in the San Marcos area and the need to tackle them by social activism.

Víctor Gálvez was shot 10 times on 24 October 2009 as he left the office of the consumer rights organization Resistance Front for the Defence of Natural Resources and People's Rights, (Frente de Resistencia en Defensa de los Recursos Naturales y Derechos de los Pueblos, FRENA). He had just spoken at a public meeting about FRENA's campaigning to highlight the alleged poor quality and high charges by the regional electricity company. Víctor Gálvez had also received death threats, and had been verbally threatened and physically attacked in relation to his work.

For more information on trade union rights in Guatemala, see the ITUC Annual Survey on Violations.

TUC letter to the Ambassador

HE Mr Alfonso Roberto Jose Matta Fahsen
Ambassador
Embassy of Guatemala
13a Fawcett Street
London SW10 9HN

Dear Ambassador

Shooting of Mateo López

I was appalled to learn of the shooting on 28 October of health trade unionist Mateo López in Guatemala, and I would urge you to pass on to your government the TUC's call for an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into the attack, with the results made public and those responsible brought to justice; and for the authorities to take immediate steps to provide appropriate protection to Mateo López and his family, in accordance with their wishes.

The Trades Union Congress is the national representative of workers in Great Britain, and is affiliated to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which represents 175 million workers in 155 countries and territories and has 311 national affiliates, including the Guatemalan trade union centres, CUSG, CGTG and UNSITRAGUA.

Mateo López is Secretary General of the local branch of the Health Trade Union (Sindicato de Salud) and a member of the coalition, National Front for the Struggle (Frente Nacional de Lucha - FNL). Since January 2010, he has been very active in denouncing corruption in the health service. On 28 October, at 2am, Mateo Lopez left his house to take a bus to Guatemala City, the capital of the country, in order to attend a general assembly of the Health Trade Union.

While walking towards a bus stop, a red motorbike with two men on it approached him. The man riding passenger shot him five times. Mateo Lopez received a shot in the stomach, two shots grazed him over the right shoulder, and the final two shots grazed him in the knees. Mateo López fell to the ground. The men were about to shoot him once more, but people in neighbouring houses started to turn on their lights and make noise. The attackers escaped.

In the last year, eight trade unionists belonging to the FNL have been killed. Those killings have not yet resulted in any convictions.

I would be grateful if you could let me know what action has been taken in this terrible case.

Yours sincerely

BRENDAN BARBER

General Secretary

To send your own message, you can email it to secretary.gtm@btconnect.com .

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