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Attack on Brazilian
Labor Federation
Condemned by
UE, AFL-CIO Presidents


World Social Forum participants protest attack on the headquarters of the CUT ...
World Social Forum participants in Porto Alegre, Brazil protest the attack on the headquarters of the CUT, the country’s largest labor federation.

Burglarized Brazilian Union Aided by UE

The Central Unica dos Trabalhadores (CUT), Brazil’s largest and most progressive labor federation, lost 30 computers, a safe and numerous documents in a possibly politically motivated break-in on Feb. 2. UE is sending the CUT $2,815 towards new computers, thanks to money contributed by members and others.

District 11 Pres. Carl Rosen and District Two Sec.-Treas. Jonathan Kissam, along with Intl. Labor Affairs Dir. Robin Alexander, were in Brazil attending the World Social Forum when the burglary occurred. They reported the events to their district councils, and delegates responded.

District Two Council delegates took a collection that netted $244; District 11 Council delegates passed the hat for $171. In addition, both Rosen, Kissam and Aexander each made contributions; Alexander coordinated contributions from other sources.

The presidents of UE and the AFL-CIO have condemned the burglary of the offices of the Central Unica dos Trabalhadores (CUT), Brazil’s largest labor federation, and called for a thorough investigation and prosecution of those responsible.

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 are aware, this raid is the latest in a series of crimes affecting the CUT, including the murder of dozens of CUT trade unionists," UE Genl. Pres. John Hovis said in a Feb. 12 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 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. Daniel, who was mayor of an industrial suburb of Sao Paulo, was found murdered two days after having been kidnapped Jan. 18.

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.


In his Feb. 20 letter to Pres. Cardoso, AFL-CIO Pres. John Sweeney expressed satisfaction that a few computers have been recovered and some suspects have been arrested, but stated disappointment and concern "that certain local authorities have considered this attack to be nothing more than simple burglary carried out by common thieves."

Less than a month earlier, Sweeney wrote, the AFL-CIO had conveyed its "horror at the senseless and barbaric killing" of Daniel and dos Santos. "I consider the coincidence of these crimes taking place against progressive political leaders and the progressive trade union movement in an election year to be most disturbing.

"I urge you, the Brazilian Federal Government, and the state and local authorities in your country to do your utmost to provide effective protection to progressive political and trade union leaders, including those of the PT and the CUT," Sweeney wrote. "I also urge you, your Government and all of the state and local authorities in your country to do everything possible to prosecute all of those responsible for the crimes, which I have mentioned, including the assault on CUT headquarters."

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