Friday, February 24, 2006

Hoffa seems left of Labor Notes lately

Teamsters call death probe tainted
North Jersey News

U.S. Embassy officials in El Salvador insisted Wednesday that the right people were tried in the 2004 murder of a Cliffside Park labor leader, even though two of three were acquitted over the weekend.

The response came on the same day Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa blasted the Salvadoran government for what he said was a coverup in the shooting death of union official Gilberto Soto.

"We received assurances that the Salvadoran government would conduct an objective, open-ended inquiry," Hoffa said. "That never happened."

Teamsters have long claimed that Soto, 49, was shot dead on Nov. 5, 2004, because of his efforts to organize truck drivers as part of a trip through Central America.

A month later, his mother-in-law, Rosa Elba Zelaya de Ortiz, was charged with hiring hit men to kill Soto because of a dispute between him and his estranged third wife.

But Zelaya de Ortiz and alleged gunman Santos Sanchez Ayala were acquitted Saturday night. Herbert Joel Gomez, who was charged with supplying the murder weapon, was convicted.

Embassy officials maintained they did everything to ensure Salvadoran police investigated all angles of the killing and were pleased with the results of their work.

"We had confidence in the investigation and the police and thought the right people were on trial," said Rebecca Thompson, an embassy spokeswoman in San Salvador. "We're still awaiting the sentencing. But in the end you have to respect the results of the judicial process, even if you're disappointed with the outcome."


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