Rubén González has worked for CVG Ferrominera Orinoco C.A. (Ferrominera) in Venezuela for nearly 27 years. He is 51 years old. González is the secretary general of the Workers Union of CVG Ferrominera Orinoco C.A. (Sintraferrominera), the companys largest union.
On August 12, 2009, González led approximately 2,000 workers of Ferrominera on a peaceful strike to protest the companys failure to comply with a collective bargaining agreement signed on January 5, 2009, and ratified later that year. On August 26, the president of Ferrominera and González, as secretary general of Sintraferrominera, signed an agreement to end the strike in exchange for the companys commitment to fulfill its obligations under the collective bargaining agreement. On that same day, the strike ended.
On September 24, 2009, González was detained on charges of unlawful assembly, public incitement to commit crimes, violation of the freedom to work, and violation of a security zone. Two days later, a judge ordered González to be placed under house arrest, where he remained until January 21, 2010, when a different judge ordered that he be sent to prison.
On January 22, 2010, the National Labor Union of Public Workers of the Venezuelan Corporation of Guyana filed a formal complaint to the Committee on Freedom of Association of the International Labor Organization (ILO) regarding the case of González. On November 19, 2010, the ILO requested that the Venezuelan government release González without delay pending judgment and that González be appropriately compensated for his inappropriate detention. As of today, González remains in prison.
After an investigation into the facts behind Gonzalezs case, as well as the applicable domestic and international law, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) concluded, (1) that Rubén González has been accused, detained, imprisoned, and prosecuted exclusively for exercising his right to freely associate for labor purposes in Venezuela, and (2) that these actions violate both Venezuelan law and the standards of protection of the freedom of association and personal freedom according to international human rights law.
The four accusations and the ongoing criminal proceedings against González are in violation of the Organic Labor Law of Venezuela, which recognizes the legitimate ends of labor union activities and strikes, and the Organic Penal Procedure Code, which establishes the minimum statutory requirements for a criminal case.
The actions of the public prosecutor and the judge sitting on Gonzálezs case also violate the international standard of protection of freedom of association. According to this international law standard, reprisals against a worker for exercising his legitimate right to strike, constitute a violation of freedom of association, as guaranteed by Article 16 of the American Convention on Human Rights.
In this regard, the Committee on Freedom of Association of the ILO has stressed that no one should be deprived of their freedom or be subject to penal sanctions for the mere fact of organizing or participating in a peaceful strike. The Committee further stated that the detention of trade unionists for reasons connected with their activities in defense of the interests of workers constitutes a serious interference with civil liberties in general and with trade union rights in particular.
The illegal actions of the public prosecutor and the judge regarding the case of González violate the international human rights law standards of protection of freedom of association, freedom of movement, and the right to personal liberty. These actions make the Venezuelan State responsible for the violation of Articles 7, 16 and 22 of the American Convention on Human Rights, as interpreted by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the principles of the Committee on Freedom of Association of the ILO.
Gonzálezs case is emblematic of the dire situation of human rights and highly eroded state of democracy in Venezuela. The persecution of workers for participating in union activities is just one type of human rights violation that occurs in the context of widespread criminalization of social protest in Venezuela. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has called upon Venezuela to refrain from subjecting to judicial processes [those] labor leaders who are exercising that right legitimately and peacefully.
According to figures from the Venezuelan Program for Education-Action on Human Rights (PROVEA), in the last five years more than 2,240 protestors in Venezuela have been subjected to criminal prosecution, including a wide range of restrictive measures of deprivation of personal liberty, as an alternative to imprisonment. In 2009 alone, 754 protesters that participated in public protests were detained.
The case of Ruben González is the seventh documented through HRFs Caracas Nine campaign.
Photo of Rubén González appears courtesy of Clavel Rangel
|Last and First Names:||González, Rubén|
|Occupation:||Iron ore miner, union leader|
|Spouse:||Yadid de González|
|Children:||Four children and five grandchildren|
|Date of detention under house arrest:||September 24, 2009 |
|Date of imprisonment:||January 21, 2010 |
|Charges:||"Unlawful assembly," "public incitement to commit crimes," "restriction of the freedom to work," and "violation of a security zone" |