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CONFIDENTIAL (97070)
CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN (4678)
SECRET (11322)
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UNCLASSIFIED (75792)
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY (58095)
Reference ID 09GUATEMALA582 (original text)
SubjectUPDATE ON SITRABI CASE OF THE CAFTA-DR LABOR
OriginEmbassy Guatemala
ClassificationCONFIDENTIAL
ReleasedAug 30, 2011 01:44
CreatedJun 19, 2009 01:10
VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHGT #0582/01 1700110
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 190110Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY GUATEMALA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7659
INFO RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC C O N F I D E N T I A L GUATEMALA 000582 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR OTLA 
DEPT FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/EPSC, EEB/BTA, AND DRL/ILCSR 
DEPT PLS PASS TO USTR LAURA BUFFO 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/17/2019 
TAGS:                  
SUBJECT: UPDATE ON SITRABI CASE OF THE CAFTA-DR LABOR 
COMPLAINT 
 
REF: GUATEMALA 514 
 
Classified By: Pol/Econoff Brenna Dougan for reasons 1.4 (b,d) 
 
  1. (C) Summary: On May 29 Poloff met with AFL-CIO Solidarity 
Center Central America Representative Rob Wayss and Banana 
Workers' Union of Izabal (SITRABI) representative Cesar 
Humberto Guerra Lopez.  Guerra updated Poloff on the outcome 
of SITRABI's most recent meetings with the GOG.  The first 
meeting, with the Ministry of Government's Vice Minister for 
Justice, Angel Donald Gonzalez Cuevas (reftel), allowed 
SITRABI to voice its continued concerns for security to guard 
against the entry of unauthorized individuals at the banana 
farms in Izabal Department. The Vice Minister asked SITRABI 
to submit another written request for security and reportedly 
told SITRABI representatives he would review the request and, 
if necessary, would act on it.  SITRABI also met with the 
Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, Edgar Alfredo 
Rodriguez, who informed SITRABI he had been briefed on the 
meetings SITRABI had with other GOG officials.  Guerra 
thanked Poloff for the May 28 visit of Emboffs to Bandegua 
property in Izabal, including to Yuma farm, site of the 2007 
murder of Marco Tulio Ramirez Portela, and one of the farms 
included in SITRABI's request for security.  The farm is 
located near the buildings Bandegua prepared to house a 
police sub-station, mentioned in USDOL's Public Report on the 
CAFTA-DR labor complaint.  The sub-station is still a point 
of contention between the Ministry of Government and Bandegua 
and SITRABI; Bandegua prepared the buildings, but the 
Ministry never sent the police.  Emboffs verified the 
existence and condition of the structures and can confirm 
there is not a police patrol currently stationed on the 
farms. End Summary. 
 
SITRABI Meeting with Vice Minister of Government 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
 2. (C) On May 27, representatives from SITRABI, as well as 
representatives from Bandegua, met with the Ministry of 
Government's Vice Minister for Justice, Angel Donald Gonzalez 
Cuevas (reftel).  SITRABI discussed its continuing concerns 
over security at banana farms in Izabal Department, which 
include the undocumented entry of persons onto the farm and 
the increase in death threats to members of SITRABI's 
executive board.  Since the September 2007 murder of SITRABI 
executive board member Marco Tulio Ramirez Portela, SITRABI 
has submitted numerous petitions to the Ministry of 
Government requesting increased police patrols in and around 
the farms and surrounding communities, as well as the 
provision of personal protection for members of SITRABI's 
executive board.  The Vice Minister reportedly asked both 
SITRABI and Bandegua to submit new requests for security that 
he would review and follow up on, as appropriate.  SITRABI 
reported the Vice Minister was relaxed and not defensive, as 
he had been in the May 21 meeting (reftel). (Note: Ministry 
of Public Security Special Advisor Alma Luz Guerrero, the 
Ministry's POC for the CAFTA-DR labor complaint has left the 
Ministry, effective June 1. End Note.) 
 
Some Evidence of Increased Patrols 
---------------------------------- 
3.(U) SITRABI reported that the evening after the meeting 
with the Vice Minister, a police patrol stopped at Noe 
Ramirez Portela's house in Morales.  Ramirez is SITRABI's 
Secretary General, and the only member of the SITRABI 
executive board who lives in the city and not on one of the 
farms.  The police officers spoke to Ramirez, circled his 
Qfarms.  The police officers spoke to Ramirez, circled his 
house, and then got back in their vehicle to continue their 
patrol.  Ramirez was cautiously optimistic that this patrol 
was meant to protect not intimidate, and he hoped more such 
patrols would be forthcoming.  However, as of June 18, there 
have been no additional patrols. 
 
Police Sub-Station Ready to Go 
------------------------------- 
 4. (U) On May 28, Emboffs visited Bandegua property in Izabal 
department to see the structures Bandegua has built to serve 
as a police sub-station.  Emboffs followed Bandegua vehicles 
first to Yuma farm, site of the residence and 2007 murder of 
Marco Tulio Ramirez Portela.  There Emboffs were joined by 
SITRABI members, who showed Emboffs the murder site of 
Ramirez and who then accompanied Emboffs and Bandegua 
representatives to the new sub-station structures.  Emboffs 
found the sub-station structures habitable.  There are two 
unfurnished structures, one of which can serve as an office 
building with four individual rooms and a detached kitchen 
and bathroom.  The other structure has individual dormitories 
and bathroom facilities.  Both buildings were equipped with 
running water and electricity and, according to Bandegua's 
 
Labor Relations Manager, Elvys Marquez Reyes, could house up 
to nine people.  Marquez said that as soon as he had word a 
police patrol was on its way, the buildings would be 
outfitted with furniture for the patrol's use. 
 
 6. (U) Guerra reported to Poloff that on May 29, he and Noe 
Ramirez Portela met with Minister of Labor and Social Welfare 
Edgar Alfredo Rodriguez to discuss the lack of follow-up by 
the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare on payments to 
workers for extra hours worked and for local holidays. 
SITRABI learned that the Minister had been briefed on the 
meeting SITRABI and others had at the Ministry of Labor on 
May 21 (reftel), as well as on the meeting SITRABI had with 
Vice Minister Gonzalez on May 27.  The Minister made no 
commitments in reference to the SITRABI case. 
 
Wayss Concerned about GOG Backsliding 
------------------------------------- 
 7. (C) During the meeting with Poloff, Solidarity Center's 
Wayss shared his concerns related to the case.  Wayss is 
concerned GOG has no intention of moving ahead with the 
investigation into the death of Marco Tulio Ramirez Portela. 
He shared that he knew the Ambassador had visited the Public 
Ministry (equivalent to U.S. Dept. of Justice) in February to 
urge GOG to continue the investigation.  However, as Wayss 
has been unable to obtain an update on the case, he fears GOG 
intends to let the investigation drag on interminably.  He 
also worries that if Vice Minister Gonzalez assigns a patrol 
to the farm, it will be only a temporary assignment.  He said 
that after Ramirez's murder, the Ministry of Government 
(responsible for public security) had scheduled a regular 
patrol, but that the patrol officers left less than a year 
after the murder. Wayss also shared that the Ministry of 
Government has sent police officers for personal protection 
to leaders of other unions but required the individuals 
requesting protection to pay the per diem of the officers. 
According to Wayss, paying per diem for a police officer is 
more than a banana worker can afford.  Guerra shared that the 
inability of SITRABI Executive Board members to meet the 
financial requirements is why they do not have personal 
police protection. (Note: As reported in USDOL's Public 
Report of Review of Office of Trade and Labor Affairs U.S. 
Submission 2008-01 (Guatemala), the Ministry of Government is 
legally obligated to provide for the per diem and salary of 
those providing protectin to individuals who have been 
authorized to recive protection.  However, SITRABI's Guerra 
reported that the Ministry has cited budget constraints as 
the reason why individuals receiving protection must pay the 
per diem for the individuals providing protection. End Note.) 
 Wayss complained that it is necessary to constantly monitor 
the promises GOG makes, as they tend to backtrack or only 
partially fulfill their word.  Wayss also expressed 
frustration that GOG sets up obstacles to obtaining justice. 
He specifically asked why the Ministry of Public Security 
would need another written request for security from SITRABI 
and from Bandegua when they had already received numerous 
written requests from both parties.  He feels this is an 
example of GOG delaying a response and creating obstacles to 
justice. 
 
 8. (C) Comment: It is encouraging that Vice Minister Gonzalez 
followed through with the meeting with SITRABI and Bandegua 
representatives.  It remains to be seen if the Vice Minister 
will follow through on the newly-submitted requests for 
Qwill follow through on the newly-submitted requests for 
security.  It is also a good sign to hear that the Minister 
of Labor was knowledgeable on meetings and movements in the 
CAFTA-DR labor complaint.  His past performance has indicated 
lack of knowledge and interest.  Embassy shares Wayss' 
concern that the Ministry of Government might assign security 
only temporarily.  This concern is based on the previous 
assignment of police patrols to the areas, which came during 
the aftermath of Ramirez's murder.  However, the patrol was 
removed less than a year after Ramirez's murder.  While we 
recognize that the GOG does not have enough police resources 
to assign protection in all cases, the SITRABI case is an 
emblematic one and we will continue to press the government 
to assign the resources needed for this case. 
McFarland
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