Death Threat to Salvadoran Unionist

Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador
April 23, 1998


The new Secretary General of ASTTEL, Camilo Antonio Acosta López, has received numerous death threats directed at him and his family. On February 28, Mr. Acosta received the first of six calls made to his home. The message in all six calls was the same: "If you value the lives of yourself and your children, you will stop participating in the ASTTEL union." The caller also referred to where Mr. Acosta's children attend school and the bus they take to get there. Mr. Acosta and other union activists hold the company responsible for these threats. Fearing for his children's lives, Mr. Acosta sent a letter of resignation from his position with CTE/ANTEL, and also to ASTTEL, but has since reversed his decision. At this point, CTE management has refused to allow him to retract his resignation.

Tensions have increased as the May 20 date for selling the telecom company, CTE/ANTEL, approaches. The workers have been denied union recognition twice since the creation of the holding company on January 1, 1998 (see previous action alerts and updates). This denial of union recognition is in keeping with the Salvadoran government's and telecom company's strategy of turning over a union-free company to a foreign investor. Potential buyers include U.S. based Bell South, Southwestern Bell and GTE.

Salvadoran Government Feels the Pressure:
The Salvadoran government and CTE are already feeling significant pressure from the US Congress, NGOs, and the AFL-CIO. All of these sent letters to the Inter-American Development Bank, which took the case very seriously and sent a team to El Salvador to investigate. In mid-April the president of CTE, Juan José Daboub, visited Bank officials and congressional offices in Washington and tried to explain that everything CTE had done was legal and above-board. Bank officials were not convinced, and they are pledging to pressure CTE for most of the union's demands. Now is the moment to add our pressure and convince CTE that it must yield.

Pressure between now and May 20 is crucial to ensure that the new union leadership is not fired, and that their constitutional right to organize is not violated.

1) Call Salvadoran Ambassador to the US, René León, and demand a full investigation of the threats against Camilo Antonio Acosta López. Also demand that the CTE/ANTEL sit down and negotiate with ASTTEL's leadership as a "union-in-formation".
Ambassador Leon -- Phone: 202-265-9671, ext. 229

2) Call John Feeley, El Salvador Desk Officer, US State Department. Demand a full investigation of the threats against Camilo Antonio Acosta López. Also demand that the CTE/ANTEL sit down and negotiate with ASTTEL's leadership as a "union-in-formation".
State Department El Salvador Desk Officer John Feeley -- Phone 202-647-3505

3) Fax letters of pressure (Sample letter attached) to CTE/ANTEL President Dr. Juan José Daboub, with copies to Salvadoran President Calderón Sol.
Dr. Juan José Daboub (fax): 011-503-281-0017
President Armando Calderón Sol (fax): 011-503-281-0018

(please send copies of all messages to the National CISPES office (fax) 212-645-7280)

4) Send letters of support to Camilo Acosta López and his family, and to ASTTEL. Fax letters to the National CISPES office. We will forward them to El Salvador.

On February 22, 39 workers held an assembly to reorganize their union ASTTEL within the "holding company" of CTE/ANTEL and to elect new union leadership. On April 3, their request was once again denied by the Ministry of Labor on the basis of a weak legal excuse.

With the sale of 51% of CTE/ANTEL to a strategic partner scheduled to take place on May 20, the union is demanding that CTE/ANTEL sit down with ASTTEL's leadership as a "union-in-formation" and negotiate the following points:

1) Guarantee that the 38 founders of the Feb. 22 formation of ASTTEL not be fired, laid off or pressured to resign, and that the right to organize a union after the sale be recognized and respected.

2) Reinstatement of the four remaining workers who were fired January 2nd and who have not accepted severance pay.

3) Resolution of the case of Camilo Antonio Acosta López, guaranteeing his continued employment in the same conditions, and guaranteeing cooperation in the investigation of the threats received by Mr. Acosta.

4) That actions being taken within CTE/ANTEL to pressure employees to resign will cease.

Dr. Juan José Daboub
Presidente CTE/ANTEL

Estimado Dr. Daboub,

Como ciudadan(o) (a) estadounidense preocupado por el respeto de los derechos de las y los trabajadores, me dirijo a usted con relación a los últimos eventos ocurridos al interior de la CTE, companía que usted dirige.

Con mucha consternación he sabido de las presiones y amenazas que han sido sujeto los miembros del sindicato en formación ASTTEL.

En particular, es de suma preocupación las amenazas a muerte recibidas por el Sr. Camilo Antonio Acosta López, Secretario General de ASTTEL, en contra de el y su familia. El Sr. López ha recibido seis llamadas donde lo amenazaban de muerte si este continua su trabajo con el sindicato. Por esta razón el Sr. López tomo la decisión de solicitar su renuncia ante los titulares de la CTE, la cual modifico días después. Es de mi entender que la administración de CTE se ha negado a aceptar la modificación de su decisión inicial.

De igual manera, he sido informado de presiones de despido recibidas en contra de los trabajadores al interior de la CTE, en especial aquellos que simpatizan o apoyan a ASTTEL.

Entiendo que hace unos cuantos días usted visitó los Estados Unidos con la intención de aclarar lo que ocurre al interior de CTE. Es preocupante sin embargo que este tipo de acciones que atentan los derechos y la vida de los trabajadores continúe dándose de manera sistemática.

Por lo anterior expuesto, respetuosamente le solicito interponga sus buenos oficios para:

… Sentarse a negociar con la junta directiva de ASTTEL, como sindicato en formación, para tratar los puntos antes mencionados entre otros.

… Investigar las amenazas recibidas por el Sr. Camilo Antonio Acosta López y su familia.

… Aceptar la revocación de la decisión de renuncia del Sr. López. … Que cesen las presiones de despido en contra de los trabajadores de CTE.

Agradeciéndole de antemano su atención y no omitiendo que me mantendré al tanto del desarrollo de los hechos en torno a este tema, me despido de usted.


cc. Dr. Armando Calderón Sol
Presidente de la República de El Salvador


Dear Dr. Daboub,

As a US citizen concerned about the rights of workers, I write to you regarding recent events within the CTE, the company which you direct. I am extremely concerned about the pressure and threats against members of the union-in-formation, ASTTEL. I am especially disturbed about the death threats received by Mr. Camilo Antonio Acosta López, ASTTEL's Secretary General, and his family. Mr. Acosta López has received six phone calls threatening to kill him if he continued working with the union. Because of this, Mr. López resigned from his position within the CTE, which he reversed some days later. It is my understanding that the CTE management has refused to allow him to retract his resignation.

I am also concerned about the threats of firing against CTE workers, in particular those who sympathize with the union, ASTTEL.

I understand that you recently traveled to the United States to clarify the situation within the CTE. In light of your visit, it is troublesome that threats against the lives and human rights of workers have continued in a systematic manner.

For the above reasons, I respectfully request that you ensure:

… The CTE/ANTEL administration sit down with ASTTEL leadership as a "union-in-formation" and negotiate the above mentioned points, among others.

… Cooperation in the investigation of the threats received by Mr. Acosta López and his family.

… Resolution in the case of Mr. Acosta López, guaranteeing his continued employment in the same conditions.

… That actions being taken within CTE to pressure employees to resign will cease.

I appreciate your attention to these matters, and will continue to closely follow the situation within the CTE.


cc. Dr. Armando Calderón Sol,
President of the Republic of El Salvador

Distributed by: CISPES -- Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador
National Office: P.O. Box 1801, New York, NY 10159 ~ 212-229-1290
Regional Offices: New York, NY 212-229-1290
Minneapolis, MN 612-872-0944
San Francisco, CA 415-648-6520