28 January 2014 – The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is sad to announce that the father of Victor Crespo – the Honduran trade union leader threatened with death for his work in Puerto Cortés – has died following an attack on him and other family members by an armed assailant who ran them down in a stolen car.
Following a murder attempt in September 2013 Victor Crespo was evacuated to a third country to allow him to continue his work as president of the ITF-affiliated Sindicato Gremial de Trabajadores del Muelle (SGTM). It appears that the same forces that wanted him dead then have now targeted his father, Victor Manuel Crespo Puerto, who was declared brain-dead following the attack. His life support was switched off this afternoon.
Death threats have also begun again against Crespo’s colleagues in the SGTM leadership. The ITF and SGTM believe these are connected to the union’s lawful request for a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) at the port and the recognition that benefits have not been paid, despite the law requiring them. The port operating concession has recently been taken over by ICTSI, which has hired a single stevedoring company. When the SGTM presented legal cases to press for its members’ rights the death threats immediately resumed.
During the first attack, on 14 September, three armed assailants tried to force their way into Victor Crespo’s home. When they failed to break in, and having woken nearby residents, they left shouting that they’d be back in eight hours “to finish the job” and that Crespo should “stop making noise organising stevedores”. The incident followed months of death threats telling Crespo to stop seeking a collective contract at the town’s port.
Antonio Rodriquez Fritz, ITF Americas regional secretary, commented: “After the first attack we moved quickly to protect Victor, and demanded that the Honduran authorities provide an armed police guard for him. It quickly became evident they had decided to ignore the obvious danger he was in, and so we had to get him out of the country and to a place of safety.
“Despite our briefing them all, the president of Honduras, the labour minister and the local police have failed to provide any protection for Victor or his family – perhaps not surprisingly in a country where it is often claimed that the authorities are behind attacks against human and trade union rights activists. We know that the danger to Victor has not diminished and are taking the necessary steps to protect him. What none of us had expected was that the attackers would be so cowardly and cold blooded as to murder an innocent and elderly man in his place.”
ITF president and dockers’ section chair Paddy Crumlin added: “This was a vile act, sending a thug to wipe out an old man. There is no doubt that this murder was a mixture of spite and political act. They couldn’t get to Victor so they punished his nearest and dearest instead. The ITF is putting the Honduran government on trial: sort this out and ensure justice is done, or face the consequences.”
Following the September attack the ITF alerted the Honduran police, president, the ILO (International Labour Organization) and the port’s incoming concessionary operator. Antonio Rodriquez Fritz met with the Honduran minister of labour and social security, Jorge Bográn Perdomo, who agreed with the need for police protection. Fritz also raised the matter of the ministry’s lack of response since January 2013 to the SGTM’s requests for a CBA at the port, and on the issue of job security of stevedores once ICTSI – which won the concession to operate the port in February 2013 – began operations. So far no serious actions have been taken by the government.