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On February 21, trade union leader Juan Pablo Jimenez Garrido was shot in the head and killed in Santiago, Chile. He was the chair of the N°1 union and of the Federation of Workers of Ingenieria Electrica Azeta, a company that provides services to Chilectra, Chile’s main electricity corporation.
Chilectra is in charge of providing nearly 45% of the country’s electricity, especially in the country’s capital Santiago and the central area of Chile.
Jimenez was last seen by co-workers on February 21 seating on a bench at the office, while he was going through documents related with trade union activities. Minutes later, another worker, Mario Gutierrez found him dead on the same chair he had been seen a while before. The following day he was going to submit claims over labour abuse and unfair lay-offs before the government’s Labour Department. The Chilean Investigations Police attributed Jimenez’s death to a stray bullet.
The trade union leader was 34 years old, married and had two children. His family will file a criminal lawsuit. In a public statement issued by the Trade Union of Azeta on February 22nd, his colleagues said Jimenez “lead a difficult collective bargaining process that ended in December of 2012 with the vote for a strike, after failing to reach an agreement with the company”. “Finally, the trade union’s assembly decided to abide by article 369 of the Labour Code, something that upset the company owners because it implies to have another collective bargain within a year”, reads the statement.
Jimenez had also “filed many complaints over labour abuse and poor safety working conditions”. In June of 2012 Richard Trincado, one of the company’s workers died in a work-related accident.
“The disagreements between the union and the company had recently worsened as a result of the workers’ questioning of the kind of safety harness the company wanted to impose on them. It should be noted that the employees are outsourced workers of Chilectra in charge of re-establishing electricity who work in highly dangerous conditions”.
Jimenez fellow trade unionists said that he described himself as “a working class activist” and identified with the “classist, democratic and grassroots unionism” with no room for corruption. He was also member of Radio Popular Enrique Torres, that operates in the towns of La Granja municipality.
The public statement ended as follows: “Juan Pablo was murdered inside the company at the end of his work day and the Azeta’s management cannot explain what happened. We demand truth and justice”.
Jimenez’s funeral was held on February 23 with the presence of his family and friends. “Justice, truth, no impunity” was the slogan chanted by the people at the funeral at El Prado cemetery of Santiago de Chile.
The chair of the Workers’ United Center of Chile (CUT), Barbara Figueroa, described Jimenez’s death as a really serious incident and emphasized the need to do an investigation to determine what happened. Figueroa said the CUT is planning a series of actions with leaders of the Azeta union and with Jimenez’s family.
On Feburary 27, thousands of peoples demonstrated in Santiago to demand truth and punishment for the workers’ murderer. As it is usually the case with peaceful demonstrations in Chile, the police repressed the mobilization. In spite of this, Juan Pablo’s name was stilled chanted and the demand for a serious and fair investigation was stronger than the repression.
La académica Katherine Reilly, profesora asistente en la Escuela de Comunicaciones de la Simon Fraser University de Canadá, y la maestrando Belén Febres Cordero de la misma casa de estudios, acaban de publicar el trabajo “Radio Mundo Real (2003-2013): el rol de la comunicación en resistencia en la cambiante coyuntura geopolítica de América Latina” (adjunto a esta nota).
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