Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Waterfront Warzones; Puerto Quetzal to Kaliningrad

GUATEMALAN trade union leader Pedro Zamora Alvarez was killed in the town of Puerto Quetzal, earlier this year, and several of his colleagues received telephoned death threats to themand their families. Pedro Zamora Alvarez was Secretary General of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Empresa Portuaria Quetzal (STEPQ, Quetzal Dockers' Union).

He was killed at around 7.50pm on 15 January, as he returned home from the local clinic with his two small children in his pick-up truck. Approximately 50 meters from his home, a car with five occupants was waiting for him. The hit squad fired about 100 bullets at Pedro Zamora's car, around 20 of which hit him. Badly wounded, he crashed his car into a wall. One of the attackers came up close and fired a final shot to his head. One of his children was also wounded in the attack.

The four remaining members of STEPQ's Executive Committee received death threats two days later.

Pedro Zamora, who was elected to the post of Secretary General in December 2005, had regularly been tailed by various vehicles in the weeks before his assassination. Unknown individuals also visited his family home on a number of occasions asking about his whereabouts.

In June last year another docks trade unionist, Max Alberto Estrada Linares, was shot and seriously wounded. On 10 January 2007 the Union's Executive Committee participated in a meeting at the Congress of the Republic in Guatemala City. The Union was informed at this meeting that nine dockers allegedly unfairly dismissed by the port of Quetzal in October 2006 would be reinstated, allegedly against the wishes of the port authorities. A dark-colored Toyota Yercel allegedly followed the Union members as they drove away from the meeting. From that date until his death, Pedro Zamora told his colleagues that he was followed every day.

The STEPQ, affiliated to the International Transport Workers' Federation, campaigns for better wages and conditions, and for welfare provisions to families. It opposed plans to build a new container terminal at the port, fearing this could lead to future privatization and job losses. The STEPQ has also campaigned for the reinstatement of the nine workers who were unfairly dismissed on 9 October 2006 during a peaceful demonstration against the construction project.
(info. from Amnesty International, see:

NOW from Central America to the Baltic port of Kaliningrad (that was once was Koenigsburg) and another report of violence against dockers' leaders, recieved today via Labourstart, together with a call for messages of solidarity.


Four days ago, on 7 June, Mikhail Chesalin, the chairman of the local Dockers Union in Kaliningrad, Russia, was savagely stabbed and beaten outside the union office. An unknown number of assailants attacked Chesalin when he got out of his car, stabbing him numerous times in the spine, and beating him severely about the head. He was left lying face-down, unconscious, in a pool of blood. Chesalin's colleagues believe that the attack was orchestrated by Vladimir Kalinichenko, the General Director of the Sea Commercial Port where the dockworkers' union is currently running an organizing campaign.

When we talk about "urgent action appeals" this is exactly the sort of thing that we mean. It is our responsibility as trade unionists to rally to the support of our brothers and sisters in Kaliningrad and to demand that attacks on trade unionists cease and workers' rights berespected. Please send your message of protest today:

And most important -- pass this message on, mobilize members of you runions, let's send thousands of messages to Russia today.

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