Teamsters and Allies Demand Justice for Gilberto Soto 10 Years After His Murder
Ten years ago today, Teamsters Port Division Representative Gilberto Soto was assassinated in Usulutan, El Salvador. Soto, an American citizen, had returned to his native country to meet with Central American trade union leaders and port drivers, and to document worker rights violations. His death remains unsolved. Today, CISPES remembers Gilberto and join the calls for justice in his killing.
The following is the text of a letter published in newspapers throughout El Salvador on Wednesday, November 5. Click HERE for a copy of the letter and HERE for a video marking the anniversary of Gilberto's assassination.
IMPUNITY OR JUSTICE? An Open Letter to: Luis Martinez, Attorney General, El Salvador
“I was only two when my father was gunned down in front of my grandmother’s home in Usulatan. Three shots ended his life and shattered mine. Who killed my father? Don’t I deserve to know?” –MARIANA SOTO LAREDO, AGE 12
Teamsters Union leader Gilberto Soto was a naturalized American citizen who traveled to his Salvadoran birthplace in 2004 to meet with area transportation unions. He was murdered 10 years ago today and his death remains unsolved.
According to investigations by El Salvador’s Human Rights Ombudsman (PDDH) and the Human Rights Institute at El Salvador’s Jesuit University (IDHUCA):
• On that Friday evening, three men shot Gilberto Soto in the back.The assassins didn’t take his watch, his wallet or his phone.
• The police neglected to secure the crime scene or the evidence, including the bicycle one of the gunmen left behind, and never checked for finger-prints.
• Days later, El Salvador’s Interior Minister declared that Gilberto was not killed by a death squad—yet no one had said that he was.
• After another two weeks, at a private breakfast meeting in Washington’s Hay-Adams Hotel, Rene Leon, Salvador’s ambassador to the United States, told American union officials that the police still refused to send him a copy of their report.
• Additionally, PDDH ombudswoman Dr. Beatrice Alamanni de Carrillo revealed that the National Civilian Police (PNC) denied her constitutionally guaranteed right to inspect its files or observe the progress of the investigation. Dr. Alamanni de Carrillo and her staff also received death threats.
• Soon thereafter, the PNC arrested three gang members and sexually tortured them in the presence of a representative of the attorney general to extract a confession that would seem to substantiate the government’s claim that this was simply a “common crime.”
• When PDDH investigator Zaira Navas brought in a physician to document the torture, and the men recanted their statements, she came under attack from the Attorney General and had to resign.
According to Dr. Juan L. Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, it is vital for a nation torn by human rights crimes to uncover the truth in order to transition to authentic reconciliation.
For the sake of Gilberto Soto’s children; for the sake of the workers of El Salvador; for the sake of the soul of your nation; we request that you reopen this and other emblematic human rights cases. We urge you to work cooperatively with the PDDH and independent human rights organizations to identify those who ordered these crimes and those who covered them up.
James Hoffa - General President International Brotherhood of Teamsters Geoff Thale - Program Director Washington Office on Latin America Gastón Chillier - Director Ejecutivo Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales Buenos Aires, Argentina Tyler Giannini - Co-Director International Human Rights Clinic Harvard Law School Laurel E. Fletcher - Director International Human Rights Law Clinic University of California Berkeley Leonel G. Rivero Rodríguez - Coordinador General Defensa Estratégica en Derechos Humanos México City, México Viviana Krsticevic - Executive Director Center for Justice and International Law Washington, DC Livingstone Sewanyana - Executive Director Foundation for Human Rights Initiative Kampala, Uganda Richard Trumka - President AFL-CIO James J. Silk - Director Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic Yale Law School Lance Compa - Professor of International Labor and Human Rights Law Cornell University New York Martín Sigal - Director Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina Richard J. Wilson - Director International Human Rights Law Clinic American University Washington, DC Knud Foldschack - Advokat Copenhagen Denmark Ron Carver - Associate Fellow Institute for Policy Studies Washington, DC