Saturday, December 04, 2004

Union Organizer's Mother-In-Law Arrested for Murder

We demand the strictest form of justice for the murder of Brother Soto!!!

Mother-In-Law of Slain Teamster Arrested
December 04, 2004 8:19 AM PST

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador - Salvadoran police have arrested the mother-in-law of a U.S. Teamster gunned down in El Salvador last month, along with five other suspects, describing the slaying as a contract killing that was the result of a family dispute.

Jose Gilberto Soto, 49, a U.S. citizen of Salvadoran origin from Cliffside Park, N.J., was shot in the back on Nov. 5 outside his family's house in Usulutan, 70 miles southeast of San Salvador. Soto had arrived in El Salvador on Oct. 30 to meet with the country's trade union leaders and port drivers.

Rosa Elba Ortiz, Soto's mother-in-law, was in police custody on Saturday, accused of ordering the killing, according to a police report. Ortiz denied any wrongdoing.

Ortiz and three men accused of carrying out the shooting, including two identified as members of a notorious Salvadoran street gang, were presented to the media on Saturday, escorted by armed guards with black masks. Two other suspects were being held on suspicion of acting as middlemen but police did not release their identities.

The suspects had not yet been formally charged and were scheduled to appear in court early in the week.

"The motive of the events has to do with family problems between the victim and his wife" in the United States, said National Police Director Ricardo Meneses, who refused to elaborate. "Right now, we have gotten as far as the responsibility of the mother-in-law, but the investigation is not over."

Ortiz told reporters she did not know the three men lined up next to her.

"I'm innocent," said Ortiz, sobbing as police escorted her in front of reporters and cameras. "I don't know those men."

Police made their first arrests in the case last week after Stanley Gacek, the union's assistant director for international affairs, offered a $75,000 reward in El Salvador for information leading to Soto's killers. It was unclear how police located the suspects, or if the reward would be paid.

Announcing the reward on Thursday, Gacek said it was large enough to allow someone to flee the country if necessary.

Days after Soto's slaying, Teamsters union President James P. Hoffa asked Secretary of State Colin Powell to pressure El Salvador to investigate the death, expressing concern that it was connected to his efforts to unionize port workers.

The Teamsters also rallied scores of U.S. congressmen to sign a letter to the State Department, urging progress in the investigation and sent its own 10-member delegation to visit El Salvador and meet with Cabinet-level officials.

Union representatives could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.

Soto had emigrated from El Salvador to the United States in 1975, joining the union in 1985 and working his way up the ranks.

His trip to El Salvador was part of a Central American tour that was to include stops in Honduras and Nicaragua to investigate working conditions and establish stronger ties with workers.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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