A Call to Action: Cease the Persecution of SUNTRACS! End Union-busting in Panama!

Trade unionism is a right, not a crime. The Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) vehemently condemns the relentless attacks against the Single Union of Construction and Similar Industries of Panama (SUNTRACS). These attacks have escalated over months, culminating in the recent heinous assault on its regional office during the night of 10 March.

The arson attack on SUNTRACS’ office isn't an isolated incident but the peak of a series of calculated attempts to silence and persecute SUNTRACS and its leaders. This persecution stems from their prominent role in nationwide protests that successfully thwarted a 40-year mining concession for the Canadian company First Quantum Minerals.

These repressive measures include the arrest of SUNTRACS’ Foreign Relations Secretary, Jaime Caballero, on 26 February, the unjust closure of bank accounts previously denounced by BWI, unfounded accusations against SUNTRACS’ leaders including its General Secretary, Saul Mendez, and manipulation by the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF) to implicate SUNTRACS in baseless judicial investigations for alleged money laundering. These despicable strategies aim to undermine the union's credibility and operations.

BWI views these orchestrated acts of persecution, culminating in the arson attack on SUNTRACS' headquarters, as an attempt to dismantle the union by manufacturing justifications through a combination of criminal proceedings and violent assaults. This aggression, following the announcement of a 24-hour national warning strike on 19 March, demonstrates a deliberate effort to suppress dissent and restrict the union’s ability to protest and advocate for justice.

The arrest of trade union leaders and attacks on their premises represent a grave assault on trade union liberties and a stark attack against independent trade unions. These acts reveal a clear intent to dismantle independent voices advocating for workers' rights and environmental justice.

BWI stands in unwavering solidarity with SUNTRACS and its leaders. We understand that these arrests, threats, and violent attacks will not weaken our collective resolve to demand respect for fundamental rights. An attack on one of us is an attack on all who champion justice, democracy, and the right to dissent. Therefore, we urgently call on our affiliates to ACT NOW! Our Panamanian comrades need us! Let’s jointly halt these attacks against trade unions in Panama!

How to get involved?

  • Send letters denouncing the situation to the Panamanian Embassy or Consulate in your country. A sample letter is available in EN  ES  and FR Find the Panamanian Embassy or Consulate in your country here.
  • Organise protests in front of Panamanian Embassies or Consulates across the world. Join us and rally outside the Consulate against union-busting measures and in solidarity with the Panamanian working class.
  • Sign our online petition and spread it.
  • Please send a copy of your letter or a brief report of your actions to comunicacion@bwint.org.

We cannot tolerate labour rights violations, especially the freedom of association, in Panama. We must act now!