VEIL OF DOUBT COVERS THE KIDNAPPING AND MURDER OF UNION LEADER.

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From: Center of Labor Studies and Support (CEAL), El Salvador, Central America.

Miguel Angel Vasquez, Leader of STSEL

Miguel Angel Vasquez was the Secretary of Finances of the Workers of the Electrical Section (STSEL) Union. His friends and co-workers describe him as methodical, orderly, a family man, and very dedicated to his union and his co-workers. He joined STSEL (then known as ATCEL) in 1990 and had worked for more than 20 years in the electric sector. ´He was a friend with a great loyalty to the organization` says Roxana Deras, General Secretary of STSEL. Another friend and co-worker identified as Ernesto, mentioned `He was a man who would take the shirt off his back for another`. Many who knew him said he was a man without pride and always worked in collaboration with others. When co-workers look back through the years of labor conflicts, Miguel is remembered as always being concerned about the wellbeing of his fired work companions. Miguel was also a person with strong religious convictions.

On July 19th co-workers had a ceremony to commemorate Miguel's years of service in the company ´Duke Energy where he worked. This ceremony included executives of the company, who gave their condolences to his family and friends, including friends from the local union. It is of note that STSEL and Duke Energy maintained a normal labor relation, which included collective bargaining.

The causes for his murder remain unclear for his family, the union community, and the Salvadorian soical and popular movement.

IN THE CASE OF HIS WORK

Miguels wife stated that Miguel always came home after work. His co-workers last saw him on Monday July 17th at 5pm after leaving the plant terminal of Soyapango, the section he was in charge of. Friends of Miguel knew that his plans were to go to the veterinary in downtown Sal Salvador to pick up some vaccines. The owner of the veterinary, a friend of the family, said he never arrived. It is supposed that he was kidnapped during this time, on his way traveling to the veterinary

In the report from police, he was in the vicinity of ´Las Palmas´ neighborhood in the municipality of Mejicanos in the northern end of San Salvador. They report that he was in a vehicle that he owned which was parked on a side street in Mejicanos.

There were several people in the parked car with him, and that the car was kept running for close to two hours, with the lights on. Later, two shots were heard and the vehicle sped off.

The same vehicle owned by Miguel was later found at 12pm on Wednesday July 18th in Neighborhood 22 April in Soyapango. The search for Miguel by family and friends started the same night, as they thought it was strange and were worried that he had not come home or called the house. Police investigators found an unknown body with two gunshots to the head at 9:10pm on the night of July 17th. The next day family identified the body as Miguel Ángel Vásquez. Miguel did not have any money or anything of value, only his documents were taken.

Members of STSEL have pointed out that a murder of a union member has occurred in a very difficult time for the popular movement, and union movement in El Salvador, and that this must be taken into consideration during the investigation. Right now in the country, there is increased political repression and tension surrounding the 13 political prisoners that are being charged with the new anti-terrorism laws. These political prisoners were arrested on June 2nd for protesting against the governments plans to privatize the water in Suchitoto. As well, in the last three years, various murders of political leaders and union leaders have occurred with complete impunity. One of these cases is the murder of Salvadorian-American union leader Gilberto Soto, along with other religious and left leaders in El Salvador. Says fellow union member Roxana Deras, We will not ignore any motive, but as well, we cant be sure of a concrete cause of this crime yet. The most important thing is that we do not let impunity thrive and make sure this is investigated thoroughly.

Though these statements are sensible, it does not allow for the very serious threat this sends to social and union organizations. This reminds of 1978, when the skillful and sinister assassinations of union leaders started mentioned Miguels co-worker. The union community maintains that they will not hurry to any conclusions, but they are not ruling out conducting a simultaneous independent investigation, given that police investigations often turn up empty.

What is true is that El Salvador cant seem to shake the serious social and political crisis it is in. The country is at a height of crime, economic crisis, and repression of social organizations, causing great worry both inside and outside of the country. It is evidence of governmental crisis and the exhaustion of the economic model which is incapable of offering stability and wellbeing to the population.

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