Guatemala: Trade Unionist Denouncing Violations by Environment Ministry Arrested

The unfair detention of a trade union leader in Guatemala has roused international condemnation of Otto Pérez Molina’s government. Jacinto Boj Equite, general secretary of the union representing Environment and Natural Resources Ministry employees SITRAMARN, was arrested on 30 June for allegedly stealing four bottles of water.

Trade union organisations in Guatemala insist that the arrest is a clear attempt to stifle trade union rights and freedoms. Boj Equite has been at the frontline of protests against the attacks on job security and the right to organise by the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry and its current head, Sergio Ruano.

The Ministry has been transferring unionised workers from the central offices in the capital to other departments around the country. In many cases, the transfers mean that the employees would have to work over 200 kilometres away from their homes, which amounts in practice to an indirect dismissal. Activists argue that the policy is a blatant attempt to weaken SITRAMARN.

In a public announcement regarding the trade unionist’s arrest, the government defended itself, saying that the "Ministry and its authorities support and value the work of all their employees, and insist that no action undermining its stability and harmony will be tolerated."

In a letter to President Pérez Molina, the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Sharan Burrow, called for an immediate end to the attacks on the Guatemalan trade union movement. "We hold Sergio Ruano accountable for any physical harm or action endangering the physical integrity of Jacinto Boj Equite and other members of the union," warned the head of the ITUC.