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History of Human Rights in Latin America

CROM letter heading

The Modern Records Centre holds a range of sources on human rights in Latin America during the 20th century. This resource links to digitised copies of documents from the first half of the 20th century. Additional undigitised sources, particularly from the 1960s onwards, can be identified through our research guide to sources for the study of Latin America.

More than 200 documents on the Chile Solidarity movement and human rights in Chile after 1973 have been digitised and are available through Warwick Digital Collections.


Mexico, the Revolution and the labour movement

The Herald of Revolt

The Herald of Revolt was a British anarchist journal edited and published by Guy A. Aldred. The journal included some articles about the revolutionary and political situation in Mexico, some of which have been made available online:

February 1912 (including article on 'The Mexican revolution' by Ricardo Flores Magón, a Mexican anarchist known, with his brothers, for the 'Magonismo' anarchist philosophy)

November 1912 (including article on 'The Mexican struggle' by the Mexican anarchist Enrique Flores Magón)

December 1912 (including 'More about Mexico' by J.F. Moncaleano, former editor of Mexican newspaper 'La Luz', who had been imprisoned by the Madero administration)

February 1913 (including front page photograph of 'Imprisoned Mexican rebels')

April 1913 (including article on the 'Mexican situation' following the collapse of the Madero administration)

October/November 1913 (including article 'Oil means blood', on US interests in Mexico)

Constitution of the United States of Mexico, 1917-1926

English language edition of the Mexican constitution, first published in 1917. This is a revised and amended version from 1926, reprinted from the 'Mexican Review' in Washington.

'Memorandum on existing conditions in Mexico', Undated [c.1924]

Memorandum written by Ricardo Treviño, a leading member of the Confederación Regional Obrera Mexicana (CROM). The first part of the memorandum refers to exploitation and misrepresentation of Mexico by the USA, including by the oil industry, and the economic profitability of the country during the revolutionary period. The second part of the memorandum refers to social reforms, including property and labour rights as represented in articles 27 and 123 of the Mexican constitution.

'The Anglo-Mexican diplomatic situation', Undated [post 1927]

Memorandum written by Ricardo Treviño, a leading member of the Confederación Regional Obrera Mexicana (CROM). It focuses on the De Kay debt case, the expulsion of Herbert Ashley Cunard Cummings by the Mexican government, and the case of Rosalie Evans (killed in 1927).

'Calles transfers Mexican Presidency to Portes Gil', 1928

English language press release issued by Agencia Mexicana de Prensa (Mexican Press Service), reflecting on the achievements of the administration of Plutarco Elías Calles and the intended plans of the incoming President Gil.

'Mexican labour laws: Sweeping reforms proposed', 1928

Press cutting from 'The Times', reporting on the new labour code proposed by the government of Emilo Portes Gil, designed to implement article 123 of the Mexican constitution. The Ley Federal de Trabajo (Federal Labour Law) was enacted in 1931.

'Transcendental discurso del Compañero Luis N. Morones', 1928

Poster reproducing a speech (in Spanish) by Luis N. Morones, trade union leader and founder of the Mexican Labour Party, in which he speaks about the Confederación Regional Obrera Mexicana (CROM), the broader labour movement and politics. The speech was made at an event to commemorate the 'Chicago Martyrs', anarchists executed in the USA in 1886. 1928 was the year in which Morones' political influence began to wain.

'A los trabajadores miembros de la CROM, y al pueblo en general - Salud', 1930

Poster setting out the policies of Confederación Regional Obrera Mexicana, issued by the Central Committee of the organisation (in Spanish).

'To the working people', 1936

Statement from the Comité Central, Confederación Regional Obrera Mexicana (CROM), on the "failure in the unification of the organized workers of Mexico". It is a response to the formation of the rival organisation Confederación de Trabajadores de México (CTM).

Letter regarding Mexican representation at the International Labour Conference, 1936

Copy of letter from the Comité Central, Confederación Regional Obrera Mexicana, to the Chief of the International Labour Office. It argues that CROM is the most representative trade union organisation in Mexico and shouldn't be replaced by rival organisation Confederación de Trabajadores de México as the 'official' representatives of Mexican labour at the International Labour Conference.

'Action taken by the Confederation of Mexican workers for the creation of a Pan-American Trade Union Federation', 1938

Letter from Vincente Lombardo Toledano, Confederación de Trabajadores de México, 29 November 1937, circulated for the International Federation of Trade Unions Executive meeting on 12-13 January 1938. It includes information about CTM's formation and its rivalry with the Confederación Regional Obrera Mexicana (CROM).

Memorandum on the Confederación Regional Obrera Mexicana, 1938

The memorandum is written from the perspective of CROM, and includes information about the history of the organisation and its rivalry with other trade union bodies. A note on the document states that it was "Handed to Sir Walter Citrine [General Secretary of the British Trades Union Congress] by Matthew Woll [Vice President of the American Federation of Labor], at Oslo, 20.5.38".

Circular regarding invitation to International Conference for Latin America in Mexico, 1938

The circular was sent to member organisations by Walter Schevenels, General Secretary of International Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU). It informs them of the IFTU's decision not to attend the conference organised by the Confederación de Trabajadores de México, due to the divided nature of Mexican trade unionism and uncertainty about the "character" of some of the invited organisations. The social democratic IFTU usually refused to work with pro-Communist trade unions (who were affiliated to a separate, Soviet international organisation) and "character" is likely to be a euphemism for political affiliation.

'Mexican oilfields', 1938

British Trades Union Congress memorandum on the Mexican nationalisation of foreign oil companies, including text of telegrams received from the Confederación de Trabajadores de México.

Telegrams regarding the Mexican government's expropriation of oilfields, 1938

From Rodolfo Piña Soria, Confederación de Trabajadores de México, to Sir Walter Citrine, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, thanking the TUC for their expression of solidarity

From Sir Walter Citrine, at a meeting of International Federation of Trade Unions in Oslo, to Vincent Tewson, Assistant General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, asking for information about the British Labour Party's position on the expropriation

Letter to Comrades of the Workers' Organisations of London, 1938

The letter was sent to the British Trades Union Congress by Vincente Anzures, Secretary of the Sindicato de Profesionistas Revolucionarios de Morelos (both the Spanish original and an English translation are included). Anzures thanks the TUC for backing the Mexican government's expropriation of the oilfields and expresses support for the "British doctrine of democracy", as opposed to "exotic ideas like Fascism and Communism".


Argentina: Labour movement before and after Peron

'Argentine Republic (British company railways)', undated

Memorandum produced by the Research Department of the (British) Trades Union Congress General Council. It provides summary information about dividends of British railway companies operating in Argentina up to 1926.

Message to the organised workers in Argentina, 1939

Text of fraternal greetings from Joseph Hallsworth, Chairman of the General Council of the British Trades Union Congress, to the Argentinian TUC, given at Geneva.

Report of discussion about the situation in Argentina, 1944

Translation of report from George Stolz, representative of the International Federation of Trade Unions, following his attendance at the Confederación de los Trabajadores de América Latina (CTAL) conference. It includes a report of a conversation with the Mexican trade union leader Lombardo Toledano about the pro-fascist government of General Pedro Ramirez and resulting suppression of freedoms.

Letter of protest from the Confederación General del Trabajo de la República Argentina, 1945

Translation of letter from Alcides E. Montiel, Provisional General Secretary of the CGT, to Sir Walter Citrine, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress. The letter was sent in response to suggestions that the CGT would be excluded from the proposed World Congress of Labour Organisations in London, due to allegations that it was a government-controlled body.

Letter regarding the present situation in the Argentinian trade union movement, 1946

Typescript copy of letter sent to William Green, President of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), from members of the trade union commission appointed by the AFL to make a study of the present situation in the Argentine trade union movement. They suggest accepting the Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT) as the legitimate representatives of trade unionism in Argentina but comment on the difficulty of ascertaining the independence of the CGT from the Peron government.

Report of the US Labor Delegation to Argentina, 1947

The delegation was made up of representatives of the American Federation of Labor and the Railway Labor Executives Association. The report contains a 'chronological synopsis of the trip', which includes descriptions of the forced resignation of the General Secretary and entire Executive Committee of the Confederación General del Trabajo de la República Argentina (CGT), following accusations of 'treachery' against President Peron, of the delegates' meeting with President Peron, and of verbal and physical threats made against members of the delegation. It also contains a sub-section on 'Techniques used to win labor support and gain control of unions' by the government.

Statement on the report of the US Labor Delegation to Argentina, 1947

Press release issued by the Committee on International Labor Relations of the American Federation of Labor. It recommends non-collaboration with the Argentine Confederation of Labor and support of trade unions independent of the Peron government.

Interview with a group of members and leaders of Argentinian trade unions, 1947

Report of interview between members of the US Labor Delegation to Argentina and representatives of five Argentinian trade unions in Buenos Aires. They discuss government interference and the creation of 'puppet' unions to support Peron.

Bill of Rights of the Workers, 1947

"Proclaimed by His Excellency the President of the Argentine Republic, General Juan Peron, at Buenos Aires, on February 24th, 1947". This English edition was published in Buenos Aires by the Under-Secretariat for Informations.


Cross Continental: Confederation of Latin American Workers (CTAL)

'Present and future of Latin America', 1944

Report produced for the Second General Congress of the Confederación de los Trabajadores de América Latina (CTAL) held at Cali, Columbia. It includes sections on Latin American "backwardness", foreign investments, economic exploitation, survival of feudalism, living standards and "general bases for a progressive Latin American programme".

Resolutions adopted by the Second General Congress of the Confederación de los Trabajadores de América Latina, 1944

They include resolutions on the organisation of peace, the position of CTAL at the World Labour Congress, the industrialisation of Latin America, post-war employment, distribution of imports, and 'agencies of continental and world economic co-ordination'.

Report on the Confederación de los Trabajadores de América Latina, held in 1944

Report on the 1944 conference written in 1945 by the British trade unionist A.L. Horner, who had attended as a fraternal delegate. He talks about the youth of the labour movement in Latin America and the mixture of support and suppression received in different Latin American countries. Horner refers specifically to conditions in Columbia (the host country) and Argentina (attitudes towards the dictatorship).


Labour rights elsewhere in Latin America

Programme of the Partido Trabalhista do Brasil, 1930

Leaflet which summarises the policies of the Partido Trabalhista do Brasil (Labour Party of Brazil), published in Portuguese. Another PTdoB leaflet from 1930 is also available.

Protest against "high-handed action of British company" in Costa Rica, 1945

The telegram was sent by Rodolfo Guzman, Central de Trabajadores de Costa Rica, to Sir Walter Citrine, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress and President of the World Federation of Trade Unions. It protests against the "starvation wage rates and inhuman conditions of work" of the Northern Railway Company.

Letter from the British Vice Consulate for Oriente, Santiago de Cuba, 1945

The letter was sent to Sir Walter Citrine and reports on the worsening situation of British West Indian subjects in Cuba (including the government's use of the slogan "Cuba for the Cubans" and hostility from local trade unions). An earlier letter about the British West Indian Relief Fund is also available.

'Recent political and social events in Chile', 1946

Translation of a letter sent by Arturo Velasquez and Bernado Ibanez, of the Confederación de Trabajadores de Chile (CTCH), to Sir Walter Citrine, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress and President of the World Federation of Trade Unions. They report on the shooting of demonstrators by the police and subsequent protests, and on a power struggle within CTCH between Communists and social democrats.

'Evolution of trade unionism in Peru', 1948

Report on the development of trade unionism and labour rights in Peru, sent to the Trades Union Congress by a representative of the British Foreign Office. It includes comments on the attitudes of various Peruvian Presidents to rights and social reform.