The Washington Post
Saturday, December 4, 2004; Page A17

4 Held in Salvador in Killing of Teamster

By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service

MEXICO CITY, Dec. 3 -- Police in El Salvador arrested four people Friday in connection with the Nov. 5 murder of Gilberto Soto, a Teamsters union organizer from New Jersey who U.S. labor leaders said was assassinated for trying to organize workers in a nation with a long history of hostility to unionized labor.

President Elias Antonio Saca announced the arrests Friday afternoon, calling the men the "material authors" of Soto's killing and vowing to continue searching for "those responsible for this situation."

Union leaders and Soto's family say they believe the killing was ordered by someone who wanted to prevent Soto from organizing non-union truck drivers.

Although Saca announced the arrests of three men, four are actually under arrest, said Maria Teresa Perez, a spokesman for El Salvador's National Civil Police. She said the motive for the killing was still being investigated. The men were arrested in Puerto Parada, a town about 10 miles south of the provincial capital of Usulutan, where the killing took place. She said one was a member of the street gang Mara 18. El Salvador and other Central American countries have been plagued by violence caused by street gangs.

Soto, who would have turned 50 the day after he was killed, emigrated from Usulutan to New Jersey in 1975 and rose through the ranks of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. He had returned to El Salvador for the Teamsters to investigate the working conditions of hundreds of truck drivers who haul cargo between San Salvador and ports in El Salvador and Honduras.

© 2004