EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 34/43/94
UA 395/94 Fear for Safety 3 November 1994
GUATEMALA Félix GONZÁLEZ, trade union leader
Débora GUZMÁN (f), his wife
Julio COJ, trade union leader
José GIL, trade unionist
and 49 workers of Lunafil S.A.
Workers and trade union leaders at the Lunafil S.A. textile factory in Amatitlán,
Department of Guatemala, are reported to have been subjected to repeated death
threats and other acts of intimidation since May 1994, when a group of 49 of
them began a protest outside the factory against what they claim to be its
illegal and unjustified closure with the subsequent loss of 200 jobs. A spate
of recent threats has greatly heightened concern for the safety of those named
Incidents reported to Amnesty International include:
• May - unknown men carrying weapons went to José Gil's home several times
to threaten him;
• 6 October - a group of masked men violently intercepted Débora Guzmán and
threatened to kill her within 48 hours if her husband, Félix González, and
Julio Coj did not stop their union activities;
• 7 October - the offices of the Unión Sindical de Trabajadores de Guatemala
(UNSITRAGUA), Guatemalan Workers Labour Union, to which Lunafil's trade union
is affiliated, received several anonymous phone calls. In the last of these,
the callers stated that they were holding Débora Guzmán and that her life was
in her husband's hands;
• 8 October - Débora Guzmán and Félix González received an anonymous letter
at home reiterating the threats.
Other members of the family of Débora Guzmán and Félix González are also reported
to have been subjected to acts of intimidation; in one incident Félix González's
brother was shot at by unknown individuals.
The workers suggest that members of private security guards, hired by the Lunafil
management during another dispute in 1987 and 1988, may have been responsible
for some of these incidents. No official investigation has been opened.
Trade unionists have been a long-term target of human rights violations in
Guatemala and recent months have seen a renewed wave of abuses against them.
In a previous dispute at Lunafil, from June 1987 to May 1988, Lunafil's workers
carried out an occupation after labour negotiations broke down due to
disagreements over working hours and conditions that management were trying
to impose, and which the workers said were in breach of Guatemala's Labour
Code. On 27 May 1988, Julio Coj was shot at, reportedly from a police car,
when riot police was trying to end the occupation.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express and airmail
letters either in Spanish or in your own language:
- expressing concern at the serious threats and acts of intimidation against