TRADE UNION RIGHTS
Article XXII of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man states that:1
Article XXII. Every person has the right to associate with others to promote, exercise and protect his legitimate interests of a political, economic, religious, social, cultural, professional, labor union or other nature.
The International American Charter of Social Guarantees (Article 26 and 27) stipulates as follows:2
Article 26. Workers and employees, without distinction of sex, race, creed or political ideas, have the right to associate freely for the defense of their respective interests, forming professional associations or trade unions, which may in turn federate among themselves. These organizations have the right to enjoy a legal personality and to be duly protected in the exercise of their rights. Their suspension or dissolution cannot be imposed except by due process of law.
The conditions of substance and form that may be required for the establishment and functioning of the professional and trade union organizations must not inhibit the freedom of association.
The establishment, operation and dissolution of federations and confederations shall be subject to the same conditions prescribed for trade unions.
Trade union officers, in the number established by the respective law, and during their term of office, cannot be fired, transferred or downgraded in their working conditions without just cause, previously determined by the competent authority.
Article 27. Workers have the right to strike. The conditions and exercise of such right are regulated by law.
The Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS), as amended by the Buenos Aires Protocol (1967) established the following (Art. 43 c):3
c. Employers and workers, both rural and urban, have the right to associate themselves freely for the defense and promotion of their interests, including the right to collective bargaining and the workers’ right to strike, and recognition of the juridical personality of associations and the protection of their freedom and independence, all in accordance with applicable laws.
union freedom is furthermore regulated internationally by current instruments of
the International Labor Organization (ILO), which after ratification by the
countries form part of the domestic law fully and directly applicable in the
State Party. Thus, for example,
Paraguay has ratified Conventions 87 (1948) on Trade Union Freedom and
Protection of the Right Unionize (entered into effect on July 4, 1950) and 98
(1949) on Application of the Principles of the Right to Unionize and Collective
Bargaining (effective on July 18, 1951).4
the right to unionize, the right to collective bargaining, and the right to
strike are part of the positive law of Paraguay, with the scope and
characteristics granted thereto by Conventions 87 and 98, the basic principles
of which are summarized below:
Workers have the right to form the organizations they deem expedient, as
well as to join those organizations, with the sole condition that they observe
the by-laws thereof;
The organizations have the right to draw up their by-laws, to elect their
representatives freely, and to organize their management and activities and
their program of action.
Labor organizations cannot be dissolved or suspended by administrative
The organizations have the right to constitute federations and
confederations and to join international workers’ organizations;
The organizations have the right to obtain legal status without being
subjected to any conditions that would limit trade union freedom;
The national legislation of a State Party may not limit nor lessen the
guarantees set forth in international agreements;
Workers must enjoy adequate protection against discriminatory acts that
might affect trade union freedom, especially the dismissal of workers reasons of
their trade union activities;
The authorities of the States Parties must not interfere in the
activities of the trade unions;
Agencies consistent with national conditions must be created to guarantee
respect for the right to form trade unions as well as the full implementation of
voluntary negotiation procedures to regulate working conditions by means of
Union organizations must respect the national laws of the respective
country, but these laws must be compatible with the principles of trade union
The workers and, particularly, the trade union leaders must enjoy
adequate protection against discrimination or acts that conflict with their
trade union duties in respect to their employment.
light of the principles and bases listed above, the purpose of this chapter is
to survey the status of trade union rights in Paraguay since 1978 (when the
IACHR published its last report on the Situation of Human Rights in that
V, Point 4 of the Constitution of Paraguay6
addresses the Rights of Workers (Article 104 through 110).
109 guarantees the “freedom of manual, intellectual and profession workers,
and of those who engaged in a similar activity as a means of livelihood, to form
trade unions in the defense of their group aims,” adding that “Such unions
shall be subjected to no requirements other than those established by law for
the purpose of ensuring their democratic organization and functioning and
guaranteeing the rights of their members.”
110 stipulates the right of workers to strike, although it transfers the
regulation of that right to the law “to assure that it is exercised according
to democratic procedures and solely to defend trade-union interests.”
those provisions could be considered to conform to the principles of trade union
freedom recognized by the ILO Constitution and the Declaration of Principles
closer examination suggests the following considerations:
The Paraguayan Constitution does not establish a guarantee for the right
to collective negotiation of labor contracts.
This is an important omission, particularly since it involves a right
closely linked to the right to strike.
Article 107 gives the authorities “control” of “work contracts,
minimum wages, and the application of social security and social welfare
benefits.” This seems to embody a
restriction that exceeds the limits compatible with trade union freedom, one
which might give rise to interference or action on the part of the public powers
that could impair the principles of ILO Conventions 87 and 98 as well as other
The text of Article 110, on the right to strike, assigns the regulation
thereof to the law in such ambiguous terms as “democratic procedures,” or
broadly restrictive ones, such as “solely to defend trade union interests.”
This terminology—the interpretation of which obviously left in each
instance to the authorities—could in practice become severe constraint on this
basic labor right.
The constitutional norms do not guarantee the right of trade unions to
recognition of their legal status and protection of the freedom and
independence. This is another
important omission that could have pertinent practical consequences on the trade
union regime. For this reason it
would be preferable to have this right expressly stipulated in the Constitution.
Neither does the Paraguayan Constitution expressly guarantee the right to
work without discrimination; nor the right that trade unions may be suspended or
dissolved only by due process of law, as established in Article 26 of the
International American Charter of Social Guarantees, with those included in
Article 43 (Social Standards) of the OAS Charter (a treaty that has been signed
and ratified by Paraguay). This is a further omission that conveys an idea of the
restrictive nature of the Paraguayan constitutional provisions in respect to
labor, and the limitations thereof when compared with applicable international
by Law N° 729 of August 31, 1961, it has not been altered since then.
Code recognizes the principles of trade union freedom and the right to unionize
(“without the need for prior authorization”—Art. 281).
It should nevertheless be stressed that Article 291 through 299 are
excessively stringent as to the requirements for the formation of trade unions,
the administration thereof, the admission and exclusion of members, the removal
of officers, and even the procedure necessary for amendment of the by-laws, all
of which seems to encroach on the intrinsic freedom of the trade unions.
Code also recognizes (Art. 303) the unions’ right to set up federations and
confederations, applying the same requirements for formation and administration
as for the trade unions (Art. 305).
347 et seq., which address the right to strike, have markedly restrictive
features that give public authorities considerable leeway in limiting the right
in question, judging by the tenor of Article 350.
Articles 353 and 354 are also very strict in their requirements for the
declaration of strikes, which in practice are impediments to the exercise of
this right with the freedom stipulated by the ILO (Convention 98), the
International American Charter, and the OAS Charter.
in the case of the Constitution, the Labor Code could be termed a legal cover
that is more in the nature of a statement than an effective guarantee of the
rights listed therein.
summary follows of events and situations relevant to trade union freedom IN
Paraguay, based on information and data made available to the Commission.
Confederation of Workers of Paraguay (CPT) was formed in 1951 by elements of the
Colorado, Federista and Communist parties.
It was dissolved in 1959, and its officials were persecuted and exiled. It now operates in exile in Brazil and Argentina.
The official Confederation is an instrument of the regime and of the
Partido Colorado, and its officers have been imposed by the Government.
The National Council of Delegates does not operate, and the leaders do
not even belong to the labor area. In
general, the CPT is considered comparable to the Ministry of Labor.
of the CPT leaders were reelected in 1986.
The General Secretary of the Journalists’ Union (which the Government
has refused to recognize) stated in ABC Color that the Confederation Paraguaya
de Trabajadores is a group set up to repress any attempt on the part of the
workers to defend their rights.
has a long history of labor conflicts. After
the suppression of the independent workers’ confederation (1959), its leaders
were arrested and exiled. Since
then, the above mentioned Paraguayan Workers’ Confederation (CPT), protected
by the Government, has dominated the labor movement—despite the fact that it
is considered to represent only about 2% of the trade union movement, since the
Government, not the workers, elect its officers.
Not one strike has been called since it was formed. As a result, the International Confederation of Free Trade
Unions expelled the CPT in 1979.
September 27, 1985, the police attacked the Workers’ Assembly, arresting
Sebastián Rodríguez, General Secretary of the Organization of Bus Drivers N°
21. Union leader Félix Sosa and lawyer Marcial González
Safstrand were also detained.
November 1985 the police continued their arbitrary arrests, detaining workers at
Yacyretá, a hydroelectric plant on the border with Argentina. Juan C. Perez, Isabel Cáceres and Concepción Rodríguez
were taken to Asunción and held at the Investigation Department without a court
order for a number of days, according to information reported to the Commission.
Confederation Paraguaya de Trabajadores is the country’s only labor
organization that is recognized by the Government: it is dominated by the
pro-Government Partido Colorado. Very
few of the trade unions that include Government opponents belong to the CPT.
Observers have noted that in recent years this Confederation has never
exercised the right to strike, despite indications of shift toward independence
and a more active position in the defense of the workers.
have also indicated that there is not real trade union movement in Paraguay
since the Confederación Paraguaya de Trabajadores (CPT), the only one to be
recognized, is controlled by the Government and the Partido Colorado.
same situation prevailed in 1981, and the CPT trade
union leaders elected that year enjoyed full-fledged Government support.
Meanwhile, it is noted that strikes are not permitted and that collective
bargaining of labor contracts was thwarted by interference from private
companies, despite (and contrary to) the guarantees set forth in the laws.
has also been reported that no progress was made in 1982 and 1983 in regard to
trade union freedom: the same restrictive conditions described for previous
years continued to obtain. In 1984,
however, certain developments within the Paraguayan trade union movement might
cautiously be considered as an incipient show of free trade union activity, in
spite of strict surveillance by Labor Ministry security forces, in which the
leaders are frequently summoned for interrogation as to their activities.
As mentioned earlier, in some cases they have been warned that they must
change or moderate their conduct.
the apparent trade union progress in 1984, a visit to Paraguay by the
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions late in 1983 ended with a
highly critical analysis of the situation, and the statement that the Government
of Paraguay was systematically violating the rights of workers.
International Labor Organization (ILO) made a visit to Paraguay in June 1985 to
verify the application of Convention 87 (Freedom of Association) and 98 (Right
to Trade Union Organization and Free Collective Bargaining by Labor).
a result of that visit the ILO expressed serious concern over the lack of
guarantees for the rights protected by those conventions, particularly the
prohibition of strikes in public sectors and
dismissal without prior indemnification.
acceptance of that direct observation mission represented progress, it should be
noted that up to that time, the Government had ignored the ILO decisions.
The ILO made a number of recommendations for wider and better
implementation of Conventions 87 and 98.
of the documents considered by the Commission examines the contradiction between
the guarantees of the trade union freedom and other labor rights provided in the
Paraguayan Constitution and the Labor Code and the actual situation or rights in
the country’s everyday life.9
is said in this context that, generally speaking, there is no trade union
organization in Paraguay that operates independently of the Government.
Although Confederación Paraguay de Trabajadores (CPT) claims to be a
free agency, this is highly debatable. Articles
109 and 110 of the Constitution guarantee the workers the right to strike and
the right of freedom of association for the defense of their trade objectives.
At the same time, Articles 104 and 108 guarantee and wide range of social
and economic rights. The present
situation of trade union rights nevertheless suggests that such rights are far
from being recognized in practice.
August 1978, the CPT leaders themselves stated that it had failed to accomplish
its basic aims putting the workers’ interests at the service of causes other
than labor and “very often contrary to the spirit and reason for existence of
an institution such as the CPT, which begins and ends with the struggle for the
well-being of thousands of men and women whose efforts and daily labor are
strengthening the present and future of the homeland.”
the Villarrica area between 1979 and 1980, a number of repressive acts by the
Government against the peasant labor organizations were reported.
They were characterized by their arbitrariness and violence as a means of
convincing these campesinos to leave their farms, without any basis for such
those arrested and killed in these incidents were well known leaders of the
Ligas Agrarias (Agrarian Leagues-unions of farm workers), whose members have
long been threatened and subjected to arbitrary arrests and torture.
Amnesty International addressed the President of the Republic, telling
him of its concern over such detentions and attack and the safety of the
prisoners held by the Villarrica Infantry Division given the record of that
armed unit in previous detentions of peasants.
On April 2, announced publicly that such acts were apparently designed to
reactivate the Government’s repressive apparatus to quell the peasants’
attempts to organize themselves in leagues or trade unions.
Commission was also informed that the trade union leader, Constantino Coronel,
who was released on September 5, 1980, had been exiled.
The authorities had originally accused him of common crimes.
IACHR was also informed of the concern over the persecution of the Ligas
Agrarias, an organization sponsored by the Catholic Church, which had been the
target of intense Government efforts to eliminate it.
The efforts finally succeeded, for its directors have been jailed or
compelled to leave the country, as in the case of Emilio Roa Espinosa and
Antonio Maidana, who are living in exile in Buenos Aires.
1980 the detention of journalists, political leaders and students was
accompanied by that of Angel Eustacia Rodríguez Benítez, a bricklayer and
trade union leader who was arrested on May 30 of that year on his way back from
Argentina to Asunción. He was
reported to have been taken to the Investigation Department where he was held
for several months and tortured before he was transferred to the Tacumbú
National Penitentiary. Tried in
August 1981 pursuant of Law 209, he was accused of being a communist and
sentenced to three years of prison.
number of public petitions were organized in May 1983 on behalf of more than 30
persons detained in Asunción. They
included several trade union leaders employed by the Paraguayan Data Bank (BPD)
and the Estudio Gráfico a printing company.
In September of that year, three of the detainees were still in the
Tacumbú National Penitentiary: Roberto Antonio Villalba, Enrique Gossen Martens
and Desiderio Arzamendia López. All
three were accused of violating Law 209 of 1970, which, it was said, “is
applied indiscriminately against any person who attempts to exercise his
April 1986, Amnesty International sent a delegation to Paraguay to investigate
the alleged arbitrary detention and torture of peasants who had taken part in
the land disputes and evictions. The
victims were usually communal leaders who had been negotiating these issues with
the Rural Welfare Institute (Instituto de Bienestar Rural—IBR).
In this instance, Pedro Ayala (Chairman of the Local Committee) was
detained in June 1984 and released in 1985.
As a result of its visit, Amnesty asked the Government to protect the
peasants communities to avoid evictions from their land.10
report of the International Labor Organization’s Administrative Council11
refers case Nº 854, presented by the Central Latino-Americana de Trabajadores
and the Confederación Mundial de Trabajadores against the Government of
case involves the detention of Domingo Melchor and Santiago Rolón Centurión,
brothers of the murdered trade union leader, Martino Rolón Centurión; the
proceedings instituted against union members José Gil Ojeda Falkan; and
allegations of torture of various union members during their detention.
Government alleged that the detention order for Ojeda Falkan had been issued in
1976 for violation of Law 209 (of 1970) on public peace and personal freedom. No information was given, however, about the Rolón Centurión
brothers or the allegations or torture of the other union members.
report says that in its examination of the case, the ILO Committee noted “the
considerable delay between the detention order (for Ojeda) and the time when he
was brought before a judge to answer the charges against him.”
The Committee recommended that he be tried promptly and that the sentence
be announced. There was also a
recommendation that the Government report on the situation of the Rolón
brothers and the alleged torture of the other union members who had been
the Committee expressed its deep concern over the fact that on several occasions
the Government had offered to furnish the information necessary for examination
of the case, but that it had never been received, which meant that the Committee
had to pursue its study of the case without such data.
to the detention of the Rolón brothers and Mr. Ojeda Falkan, the Committee said
that “the arrest of trade union leaders, even for reasons of internal
security, constituted a serious interference with the right to trade union
freedom unless the detainees were given adequate legal guarantees.”
It asked the Government to submit as detailed as possible a report on the
accusations and especially on the legal procedures to which the accused had been
submitted, as well as the texts of the sentences or verdicts issued, so that the
Committee could examine the case with the necessary data.
report of the ILO Administration Council12
summarizes the complaint or denunciation presented by the International
Confederation of Free Trade Union Organizations, jointly with the Confederation
of Paraguayan Workers in Exile (CPTE), on the Government’s attempts to block
the formation of a trade union by workers at the Itaipú dam, given the
suppression of all initiatives to that end, thus violation ILO Conventions 87
and 98. A complaint was also lodged
about the violation of other trade union norms in such fields as hygiene,
housing, hospitals, teaching, day nurseries, and mothers’ training centers.
Government’s reply denied charges. Although
the Committee was concerned about the events, it decided not to continue
examining the case.
ILO bulletin includes the following:13
Secretary General of the Movimiento Intersindical de Trabajadores (MUTP) was
detained on Wednesday, March 18, for having convened and participated in a trade
union meeting organized under the slogan of “trade unionism, fair wages and
work for all.”
Víctor Báez was held incommunicado for 36 hours in a common cell at the Asunción
Central Police Barracks. It goes on
to say “Comrade Báez was released for lack of evidence and pressure of the
trade union movement. ICFTU/ORIT
immediately launched an international campaign, sending protest cables against
the Stroessner regime and complaints to the ILO, demanding his unconditional
to the chronology of events in Paraguay, this is what happened:
Ardulfo Coronel. Coordinator of the Movimiento Sindical Campesino del
Paraguay was arrested (without charges) in his hometown of Santa Rosa, Misiones.
He and his nephew Hilarión were held incommunicado until March 9.
Dr. Carlos Filizzola (26), President of the Asociación Médica de
Hospitales, was arrested on May 2 and held incommunicado at the Investigation
Department in Asunción pursuant to Article 79 of the Constitution (state of
siege). On May 31, 1986, he was released, presumably because a strike
was called at the Hospital de Clínicas and through the invention of Archbishop
On October 31, 100 medical students marched to the Palace of the Congress
to ask for increased salaries at the Hospital de Clínicas.
The participants were violently put down, and 11 were wounded.
Medical student Héctor Lacoznata, representative of the Clinical
Hospital Doctors and Nurses Association, was arrested by the police and then
transferred to Tacumbú prison, where he was held incommunicado and could be
visited only by his mother. He has
been accused of subversion pursuant to Law 209, and was paroled on December 23
by Penal Judge Soto Estigarribia.
María Herminia Feliciangeli and her husband, Benjamín Ranson Livieres,
a reporter of La Tarde and member of the independent journalists’ trade
union, were detained without a warrant by men in civilian clothes near the Hoy
newspaper on October 24, 1986. Both
belong to independent unions. They
were taken to Investigaciones and then transferred, respectively, to Buen Pastor
and Tucambú. Only the mother of
one of them was allowed to visit—otherwise they were held incommunicado.
A writ of habeas corpus was presented to the Supreme Court of Justice.
Both were accused under Law 209. The
wife was released on December 17, but her trial continues. Mr. Livieres was given conditional freedom on December 30,
the interview, he indicated that there was no opposition from the Ministry of
Labor to his return, in which the ILO also intervened.14
following was also reported in the Daily Report:15
trade unions have published a press communique denouncing the arrest of Pedro
Salcedo, Secretary General of the Paraguayan Cotton Company Trade Union (CAPSA),
by the police on March 28, 1987. The
Movimiento Intersindical (MIT) has stated that “this is a case of persecution
and harassment of CAPSA union leaders because both the police and the
Confederación Paraguay de Trabajadores are using very possible means to keep
CAPSA from holding a general assembly. It
went to say: “It should be remembered that CAPSA was attacked last February by
the CPT Secretary General, accompanied by Senator Manuel Fontos Pane.”
sources reported that Raquel Aquino, member of the Business Workers sector and
the Employees’ Trade Union (SEOC) had been subjected to mental torture,
clearly for the purpose of dominating or controlling her activities, violating
her fundamental human rights.
arrest of Pedro Salcedo, mentioned earlier, was also reported, with the added
news of the constant police attacks on the cotton trade union and the arrest of
the TAVAPY II agrarian settlement and the Sindicato Nacional Campesino union
leaders, who were also incommunicado. Joint army and police forces ousted the peasants from the
TAVAPY II settlement by force, subjecting them to all sorts of mistreatment.
The peasants had been refusing to leave their land.
report on the situation on human rights in Paraguay cites the following events
involving trade union freedom and the peasants’ trade organizations’
“struggle for their land and their lives”:16
The prelate of Encarnación (Itapua Department, at the border with
Argentina) issued a statement categorically denouncing the mass violation of the
peasants’ rights. He said that
roughly 650 families had been victims or arbitrary measures, kidnapping,
destruction and seizure of land—which gives an idea of the oppression suffered
by the country’s campesino population.
An article dated September 3, 1986 and entitled “Landless Peasants”
includes the following statement:
group of representative of local and international human rights agencies,
journalists, religious organizations and trade unions has confirmed that unarmed
peasants have been violently evicted from their land by police and army forces.
As a result, twenty peasants were seized, and their whereabouts are not
The great majority of the workers trade unions have not legal standing. They are simply considered to be de facto groups who are
constantly fighting for minimal rights. “In
labor circles, the most recent repression was directed towards the workers at
the Clinical Hospital, particularly the nurses, whose financial straits forced
them to ask for an increase, since they were being paid less than the legal
systematic persecution of the hospital staff contained throughout 1986.
In October of that year the police used truncheons on the demonstrators,
leaving many wounded and others bruised. “The
brutality of the police attack gave observers and example of how the right of
meeting and association is respected in Paraguay.”
Another union group being persecuted is that of the journalists.
Two members of that union are under arrest now, as noted by Sendero (the
Catholic Church magazine). “Detentions
of this sort are part of the repressive action taken against the trade unions by
the police, who once again acted without authorization from the competent
authority, thus violating the basic trade union freedom that is guaranteed by
the Constitution and the law.”
Workers of the recently established trade union at Yacyretá, a
hydroelectric plant on the border between Paraguay and Argentina (build with
financial aid from Italy, France, the United States and Canada) were arrested
only two months after setting up the union.
the 17th session of the International Labor Organization (ILO), held in Geneva
in 1985, the Paraguayan Government requested the Committee on Conventions and
Recommendations to send a ‘direct
contact’ mission to Paraguay to observe the way in which the country was
applying Conventions 87 and 98 on trade union freedom and the rights of
collective bargaining and strike. The
discussion of that petition emphasized the availability of having the on-site
mission examine the cases pending before the Committee on Trade Union Freedom as
mission took place September 23-27, 1985, with a visit (September 21) to Buenos
Aires to interview the officers of the Confederation in exile.
mission visited high Government authorities, including the Minister of Justice
and Labor, Mr. Eugenio Jacquet; the Director of Labor Mr. Carlos Doldan del
Puerto; and other officials in the Ministry Labor.
It also interviewed trade union leaders from the Confederación Paraguaya
de Trabajadores (CPT); Federación de Producción, Industria y Comercio (EPRINCO);
Sindicato Nacional de la Construcción (SINATRAC); Federación de Empleados de
Bancos (FETRAPAN); Movimiento Intersindical de Trabajadores (MIT), and, as noted
above, the Confederación de Trabajadores Paraguayos en el Exilio (CTPE).
summary of the highlights of the report follows:18
It was not possible to interview the Minister of the Interior, to whom
the Mission wished to submit specific allegations within his purview, i.e., I) Case
1204, before the ILO since Mayo 20, 1983, involving the arbitrary arrest of
19 members of the Sindicato de la Solidaridad (MSS) as part of a campaign of
labor repression. O that number, 13
were in prison for more than a year, charged with violating the principles of
trade union freedom. As part of
this case the Mission asked the Government to present its opinion on: the arrest
of Stella Ufinelli, Margarita Ellias, Damian Vera, Juan
Carlos Oviedo, and María Herminia Feliciangeli, members of the MSS;
the case of the Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay (SPP), which had tried for
four years to secure legal status; the threats of exile to its leaders; the
arrest and trial of director Alcebíades González del Valle, Aldo Zucalillo,
Dr. Jorge Alvaranga and Mr. Carlos Cuevas during a trade union meeting; the
arbitrary dismissal of workers at La Americana S.A. following the presentation
of various petitions by the workers; the threat of dismissal of 800 workers at
FRISA S.A., followed by the workers; the request for payment of back wages; and
the shutdown of Radio Ñandutí for transmitting messages from the Confederation
of Paraguayan Workers in Exile (CPTE); and ii) Case 1341 before the ILO,
since June 1985, involving the police persecution of union leader Ricardo
Esperanza Leyva, who since his return to the country after several years of
exile has been constantly harassed by the authorities, preventing him from
performing any union duties.
During the meeting with the CPTE the Buenos Aires (September 21), that
Confederation stated the need for a guarantee of the safety of Mr. Juilo
Etcheverry Espinola, CTPE Secretary General, and asked that the ILO request this
of the Government, since Etcheverry would soon be returning to the country.
The Direct Contact Mission also addressed developments in Case Nº
1275 before the ILO since 1984, involving employees of the Bank of Brazil
trade union, particularly the firing of its members Rolando Duarte, Adolfo
Virgili and Guillermo Cáceres. It
was found in connection with this case that the new collective labor contract
had reached an impasse.
Developments in cases Nos. 1328 and 1301, before the ILO since
1985 and 1984, respectively, were also investigated:
Case 1328, presented by the International Federation of Free Trade
Union (ICFTU), denouncing the arbitrary arrest of union leaders Melanio Morel,
Gregorio Ojeda, Pedro Zárate, Carlos Castillo and Nicasio
Guzmán, members of SINATRAC, from whose posts they were removed by express
order of the Labor Ministry.
Case 1301, presented by the International Federation of Free Trade
Union (ICFTU), denouncing the arbitrary arrest of union leaders Melanio Morel,
Gregorio Ojeda, Pedro Zárate, Carlos Castillo and Nicasio
Guzmán, members of SINATRAC, from whose posts they were removed by express
order of the Labor Ministry.
The Contact Mission stated for the record its concern over the situation
of trade union freedom in Paraguay.
on the foregoing date and information, the following prima facie
conclusions may be drawn on the status of trade union freedom in Paraguay:
guarantees, particularly those in articles 109 and 110, are inadequate and do
not reflect the international commitments undertaken by the country.
The wording is anachronistic: it should describe basic union rights more
fully and precisely, without assigning the guarantees of such rights to the law
when—20 years after those articles were promulgated and 28 years after the
Labor Code was adopted—no legislation whatsoever has been adopted that
incorporates into Paraguayan internal law the international norms the country is
required to meet and respect.
addition to the shortcomings and restrictions of the Paraguayan Constitution in
the area of trade union freedom, the authorities neither respect nor implement
the few guarantees stipulated by the Constitution.
As a result, such guarantees may be said to represent simple declarative
statements with no practical value or effective validity, retained for
deliberate purpose of serving as a “screen” or legalistic cover to conceal
the disregard for union rights and the repression of both urban and rural
is no constitutional guarantee that explicitly entitles the trade unions to
recognition of their legal status.
Paraguay has ratified the OAS Charter, as amended by the Buenos Aires Protocol
(which provides for basic trade union rights) and their interests.
They cannot choose their union leaders freely.
They cannot meet without official interference.
They are not free to affiliate spontaneously adopt by-laws regulating
their national organizations. All
these factors constitute overt and repeated violation by the Paraguayan
Government of its own pertinent legal instruments and relevant international
union leaders enjoy no protection from the law for the performance of their
union duties. To the contrary: many
have been killed in violent circumstances, concomitant with trade union
repression, while others have been arbitrarily thrown into prison and then
forced into exile. In other all too
frequent instances, union leaders have been subjected to threats, pressure,
abuse and arbitrary detention by the Labor Ministry to force them to conform to
the interests of the Government or of the Paraguayan Workers’ Confederation (CPT),
which has been controlled by the Government and the Partido Colorado since 1958.
right to collective bargaining of labor contracts and the right to strike are
set forth in restrictive terms, delegating the regulation thereof to the law.
As with other union rights, this has meant an absence of regulation
prejudicial to the workers’ rights. In
practice, the authorities quash strikes by violent means, as they did recently
in the cases of the hospitals and the Agrarian Leagues.
Labor Code (Law 729 of 1961) is another text that fails to reflect the
country’s international labor commitments.
It follows the constitutional model, i.e., the formal, restrictive
statement of dependence on public authority incompatible with the rights
established by ILO Conventions 87 and 98, especially in regard to the right to
strike (Arts. 347 through 363).
trade union system does not represent the interests of the country’s workers,
and is dominated by the public authorities.
As a result of this scenario—which has existed since 1958 when the real
Paraguayan Workers Confederation was dissolved by violence—the trade union
movement and freedoms have been more or less constantly repressed.
This is a complete violation of internal laws and international
agreements, as substantiated by the ILO Direct Contact Mission’s visit to
Paraguay in 1985. The objectivity
and professional relevancy of that Mission’s report warrant full acceptance by
Ninth International Conference, Bogotá (1948),
Resolution XXX, II Supplement (1945-1954), p. 203 et seq.
The same right is recognized in Articles 20 and 23 (4) of the United
Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Paris, December, 1948).
2 Idem. Resolution XXIX, p. 195 et seq.
Basic Instruments of the OAS, Treaty series No. 61, OEA/Ser.X/II:
Social Standards, p. 12. This
provision corresponds to Article 44,c of the Protocol of Cartagena de Indias
[OEA/Ser.P/AG/doc.16 (XIV-E/85)] Rev. 2, February 26, 1986
4. Ratified by the Laws of August 31, 1961, respectively.
See also ILO Conventions and Recommendations, Geneva, 1966, pp. 707
and 831, respectively.
OEA/Ser.L/V/II.43, doc.13 corr. 1, cit.
6. Official edition, 1969.
Law 729 of August 31, 1961, reedited.
Mbarete. En guaraní, “the Arrogance of power.” The higher law of Paraguay, International League of Human
Rights, 1981, pp. 191 et seq.
Amnesty International Report, 1986, p. 185.
ILO GB 213/8/13, May-June 1980, pp. 12 and 13.
Case No. 1027, March 1982, GB 219/6/17.
March 1987, Vol. I, No. 2, p.4.
September 3, 1986, pp. H2 and 3, Vol. VI, No. 170.
April 9, 1987, Vol. VI,
No. 068, p. H1.
16. Office of Human Rights for Latin America, World
Council of Churches, Switzerland, February 1987, pp. 8-10.
ILO Committee on Trade Union Freedom, Report No. 241, 1985, pp.