New Internationalist

Another Guatemalan banana union leader shot dead


On March 2nd, Guatemalan banana union leader, Miguel Angel Ramirez of SITRABANSUR, was shot dead. SITRABANSUR, which is affiliated to Banana Links Guatemala partner union UNSITRAGUA, was founded by Miguel Ramirez and his fellow workers at the ‘Olga Maria’ plantation in the Pacific South of Guatemala in July 2007. Since then SITRABANSUR members have been harassed and threatened by private security hired by the company -Frutera Internacional Sociedad Anónima, supplier to Chiquita Brands- and 24 union members have been sacked. UNSITRAGUA has been working with SITRABANSUR to support these sacked workers and strengthen union organisation on the Olga Maria plantation.

The murder of Miguel Angel Ramirez is just one of the many recent cases of violence against banana union leaders in Guatemala. In September 2007 SITRABI union leader, Marco Tulio Ramirez Portelo was also shot dead and just four weeks ago the daughter of the General Secretary of SITRABANSUR was raped by armed men.

Pressure must be put on the Guatemalan government to ensure that the people responsible for these killings are brought to justice and the systematic violations of labour rights are put to a stop. As a result of a previous international campaign led by the IUF, EUROBAN and COLSIBA, the new Guatemalan president, Alvaro Colom, promised to take action so that the previous murder of SITRABI union leader Marco Tulio Ramirez is investigated by the authorities. Political pressure is needed to get EU governments to criticise the Guatemalan government for their lack of action on these violent and shocking cases of trade union repression and ensure that Alvaro Colom sticks to his commitments to end impunity and violence in Guatemala.

ACTION: Write to Sr Mario Mena, representative of Chiquita subsidiary COBIGUA, asking him - in the face of a rapidly deteriorating security situation and in the framework of the regional trade union rights agreement between Chiquita, COLSIBA and UITA/IUF - to transmit to the company’s supplier that it is completely unacceptable for Chiquita brand bananas to be sourced from a plantation with such an appalling record of violence towards employees, who are simply exercising their constitutional right to from a trade union.

Sr. Mario Mena’s email address is: [email protected]

Please CC your mail to [email protected]
Please contact Banana Link for more information and monitor the Banana Link website to support any further call of action from our Guatemalan trade union partners to end this violence against their fellow union leaders and bring the perpetrators to justice.

 Email:[email protected]

Banana Link website

The Banana Link Team


For more background on Guatemala and this trade union, see the New Internationalist Magazine issue on the Banana Wars.

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About the author

David Ransom a New Internationalist contributor

David Ransom joined New Internationalist in 1989 and wrote on a range of issues, from green justice to the current financial crisis, before retiring in 2009. He was a close friend of Blair Peach, once worked as a banker in Uruguay and continued to contribute to New Internationalist as a freelancer until shortly before his death in February 2016. He lived on a barge on the waterways of England’s West Country.

His publications include License to Kill on the death of Blair Peach in 1979 and The No Nonsense Guide to Fair Trade. He also co-edited, with Vanessa Baird, People First Economics.

Read more by David Ransom

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