Chile: Union leader shot dead, family accuses bosses

Issue 

Chile may have dispensed with military dictatorship, but agitating for workers’ rights can still get you assassinated.

Juan Pablo Jimenez, 35, was the president of the union representing workers at Azeta, one of Chile’s largest electrical engineering companies. On February 21, he was found dead in a pool of blood at his workplace, minutes after finishing a shift, a bullet lodged in his cranium.

The initial police report said it was a “bala loca” that killed Jimenez — a random stray bullet that supposedly made its way into Jimenez’s enclosed workshop.

This finding, deeply implausible to say the least, was immediately rejected as a cover-up by the dead unionist’s family. They accused a “mafia” connected with Azeta management of carrying out the killing.

Jimenez was a tireless advocate for workers’ rights and had recently been involved in documenting labour abuses at Azeta. He was shortly due to present his findings in a meeting with government officials.

Jimenez was last seen sitting on a bench going over some important papers connected with the inquiry.

It appears increasingly likely that this electrical worker, husband and father of two young children was murdered to silence his truth-telling mission on behalf of the Chilean working class.

In the aftermath of Jimenez’s death, which has produced widespread outrage and dismay, labour leaders and human rights activists throughout the country have called for a thorough investigation into the circumstances.

Among those who have pledged their support are the families of unionists murdered during the Pinochet era.

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