UE Genl. Pres. John Hovis has called on Brazilian authorities to thoroughly investigate the burglary of the offices of the Central Unica dos Trabalhadores (CUT), Brazil’s largest labor federation. The break-in – by men wearing police uniforms – occurred hours following approval of a national strike to protest regressive labor legislation. This raid also follows a series of assassinations of labor movement leaders.
At around 2 o’clock on the morning of Feb. 2, the night security officer at the CUT building in Sao Paulo was ordered to open the door by men dressed in civil police uniforms. He was locked in a room; a truck without license plates was driven into the CUT’s parking lot. The men, armed with machine guns and other weapons, stole 30 computers, a safe and numerous documents from the building, which houses the CUT’s national headquarters, the Sao Paulo office, as well as offices of affiliated organizations.
"As I am sure you aware, this raid is the latest in a series of crimes affecting the CUT, including the murder of dozens of CUT trade unionists," Hovis said in a letter to Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. "Although we are pleased to learn that some of the computers have been recovered and arrests have occurred, we are concerned that this matter may be dismissed as a simple robbery by local officials.
"Whatever the ultimate conclusion," Hovis continued, "the recent assassinations of trade union leaders, such as Aldanir dos Santos, a member of the CUT’s national executive committee who was brutally murdered last December, and Celso Daniel, the Mayor of Santo André, who was Lula’s campaign manager, certainly convey an ominous message and suggest that a more serious investigation is warranted."
Lula – Luis Inacio Lula da Silva – is a trade union leader, a founder of the Workers’ Party (PT), and candidate for president in the October elections. The PT governs numerous cities and states and has dozens of representatives in the Brazilian Congress.
The killers of dos Santos and Daniel and other trade unionists are still at large.
"We ask that you take all possible measures to ensure both that a prompt and vigorous investigation is conducted and that future violence directed against leaders of the trade union movement and the Workers Party is halted," said Hovis in his letter, which also went to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.