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Statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney on Assasination of Union Representative

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Statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney on Murder of Teamster Jose Gilberto Soto in El Salvador
                
WASHINGTON--November 18 -- The AFL-CIO stands with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and with our trade union brothers and sisters in El Salvador in demanding justice in the assassination of Jose Gilberto Soto, and in ensuring a safe environment for workers and their organizations to engage in the exercise of their fundamental worker rights in El Salvador.

We express our sincere condolences to the family of Teamster José Gilberto Soto and to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. 
 
On Friday, November 5, 2004 at 6 p.m., Teamster Port Division Representative Soto was shot in the back three times while visiting Usulutan, El Salvador on behalf of the Teamsters to meet with Salvadoran trade union leaders and port drivers. He was a trusted and respected Teamster leader from the Port of New York/New Jersey. There was no robbery and Soto was not involved with any illegal activity. The Teamsters and the AFL-CIO are deeply concerned that Mr. Soto's murder is related to his leadership position with the union and his intention to meet with Salvadoran labor leaders and port drivers.

 

To date, little has been done to investigate and apprehend the individuals responsible for this reprehensible act of violence against a trade unionist. The AFL-CIO and the Teamsters have made clear requests to theUnited States Department of State and the Government of El Salvador tomake every effort to ensure that the murder is investigated and that those responsible are brought to justice. 

While the Government of El Salvador assures that they will investigate the murder and keep us informed of the progress, recent press statements indicate that they see no connection to the trade union activity of Mr. Soto, and claim that U.S. organizations seek to exploit the murder as part of a strategy to oppose the U.S.- Central America Free Trade Agreement. No statement could be further from the truth. The AFL-CIO believes that the murder of a visiting representative of the union movement should demand immediate attention in its own right, and that a thorough and immediate investigation is essential. We hope that the government of El Salvador will not use this situation to highlight its own agenda concerning trade issues, and will instead treat it with the full gravity warranted for a murder investigation.


In a separate development, the offices of the Centro de Estudios y Apoyo Laboral(CEAL), a Salvadoran labor support center that immediately made public statements and press releases regarding the murder of J. Gilberto Soto, were ransacked in early morning hours of November 14, 2004. The communications and computer equipment were removed and there was evidence that files and documents had been opened and reviewed. CEAL has filed complaints with the national authorities asking for investigation of the incident. 
 
The AFL-CIO condemns this attack on a Salvadoran labor organization and demands that this incident as well as any connections to the murder of Jose Gilberto Soto be thoroughly investigated by the Salvadoran authorities.

"Maersk Drivers Face Repression and Abuse in El Salvador", Original Report