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Guatemalan union leader and his family threathened by death

The International Trade Union Confederation proclaims that the lives of trade union leader Carlos Mancilla and his family are in danger. The family has been receiving a series of death threaths. CNV Internationaal shares the concerns expressed by International Trade Union Confederation ITUC. In a letter CNV president Piet Fortuin calls on the Gualtemalan autorities to investigate the threats and to protect Mancilla.

Mancilla is general secretary of trade union centre CUS-G, president of Guatemala’s Tripartite Commission on Labor Relations and Freedom of Association and a titular member of the ITUC General Council.

On the 31st of March, Mancilla and his family members received anonymous phone calls warning that they were being watched. All family members were mentioned by name. The callers sent out a photo of Mancilla’s house and told him they had followed his daughter and had holden back from killing her.

The events take place in a larger context of increasing insecurity and attacks on the union movement in Guatemala, in addition to a large amount of unresolved labour disputes and a campaign to discredit and stigmatise workers’ representative in the Tripartite Commission,” says ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow. 

CNV's letter to Guatemalan authorities

(Lack of) freedom of association in Guatemala

CNV Internationaal has been working for several decades in Guatemala, where only two percent of the workers is trade union member. Becoming a member is not without any risks. It might cost someone their job or at least a part of their income. Trade union leaders are constantly harassed, shadowed are intimidated. Since 2006, more than 90 trade union leaders have been killed because of their activities. This is why it is at the same time so important as well as special that they have pursued their work with this much dedication.  

Urgent letter to Guatemalan authorities

The threats to Mancilla and his family must be taken very seriously. Their lives are in danger. It is up to the government now to act upon their protection and identify the people that are behind the threats. Together with other trade union partners CNV Internationaal decided upon writing a letter to the Guatemalan autorities. The letter is mainly meant to let the government know that there is a large international concern about Mancilla and his family. Secondly, it contains an urgent plea for the government of Guatemala to:

  • urgently adopt all necessary measures to ensure the physical integrity and safety of Carlos Mancilla and his family;
  • carry out an immediate, independent, thorough, exhaustive, effective and impartial investigation into the threats directed at Carlos Mancilla and his family members in order to identify those responsible, bring them before a competent, independent, fair and impartial tribunal, and hold them accountable in accordance with international labour and human rights law and standards;
  • guarantee, in all circumstances, that trade union leaders in Guatemala are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisals and free from all restrictions.
  • immediately cease the campaign to discredit and delegitimise the current workers' delegates to the Tripartite Commission on Labour Relations and Trade Union Freedom.

As members of the Domestic Advisory Group of the EU-Central America Association Agreement, CNV Internationaal will inform the European Commission on this threatening of not only a trade union leader but with him the trade union freedom in Guatemala.

CNV's letter to Guatemalan authorities (download PDF)

In this film, made by Uli Stelzner and commissioned by CNV International and CGTG (the largest trade union federation in Guatemala), two trade unionists are followed. They represent different generations and are committed to upholding the rights of workers in, among others, the sugar cane sector, the textile sector and the informal economy. This documentary makes it painfully clear that in Guatemala safe work and a living wage are not a given.

Publication date 05 04 2022