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Date: Sat, 2 May 98 16:53:25 CDT
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Guatemala: Banana Conflict at Boiling Point!
Article: 33882
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.14941.19980503121640@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** pn.alerts: 71.0 **/
** Topic: Banana Conflict at Boiling Point! **
** Written 1:24 PM May 1, 1998 by nisgua in cdp:pn.alerts **
/* Written 1:21 PM May 1, 1998 by nisgua in igc:reg.guatemala */
/* ---------- "Banana Conflict at Boiling Point!" ---------- */

Judge issues order to evict Guatemalan banana workers; violent confrontation feared

U.S./GLEP alert, 1 May 1998

On April 29, 1998, Judge Edgar Rivera Gonzalez issued orders to evict workers at two Guatemalan banana plantations that have been at the center of a two month-long conflict between union organizers and a manager for Del Monte Fresh Produce's Guatemalan subsidiary, Bandegua.

The order came after an appeals court ruling that allowed Judge Rivera, whose actions on this dispute have been highly questionable, to reissue eviction orders that had first been issued in late March. Workers have filed a motion with the President of the Supreme Court to block the new eviction order.

Observers are concerned that violent confrontation is a serious possibility should the orders to evict be carried out on the Mopa and Panorama plantations. The judicial actions to evict workers comes even though there has not yet been consideration by the Supreme Court of a request by the workers to review and reverse the original decisions charging workers with an illegal strike and occupation. The workers argue that they were in fact illegally fired for attempting to form a union and were then charged by management with engaging in an illegal strike.

In a tacit admission of the workers claims, the labor inspector in the Puerto Barrios area who reportedly back-dated the firings of the workers to make it appear as if they took place prior to a February 19 injunction against firings has been removed from his post.

There are other indications that the Guatemalan government is concerned about the handling of this matter and is trying to move towards some settlement. High level governmental delegations have visited the plantations and several new efforts to mediate the conflicts have been initiated. However, no resolution has been reached in either the Mopa or Panorama cases, or the more recent but similar case of El Paraiso where workers were illegally fired in April for also attempting to form a union.

In addition, a security guard who reportedly shot two banana workers on two different occasions remains free although a warrant has reportedly been issued for his arrest. Meanwhile, the executive committee of the union backing the Mopa and Panorama organizing efforts, SITRABI, is still facing arrest warrants, preventing SITRABI participation in the International Banana Conference in Brussels May 4-6 which SITRABI has been helping organize for over a year.

Because of the potential for violence, of most immediate concern is the order to evict workers.

Please see previous updates for background information.

Actions requested:

Contact the President of the Supreme Court of Justice, Lic. Angel Alfredo Figueroa.

Respectfully encourage him to act sympathetically on Amparo 101-98 Oficial 3o, the motion that would block the eviction orders. Note the potential for violent confrontation on the Mopa and Panorama plantations and the importance of the Supreme Court acting on quickly. Letters in Spanish are preferable but English is acceptable. Fax (there isn't time to send letters by mail): 011-502-232-6626.

This alert was prepared May 1, 1998 by the U.S./Guatemala Labor Education Project, PO Box 268-290, Chicago, IL 60626. Tel: 773-262-6502; 773-262-6602; e-m: usglep@igc.org.

Tel: 773-262-6502; Fax: 773-262-6602
PO Box 268-290
Chicago, IL 60626