Urgent Action: On 19th October 2001, the following leaders of the Union Sindical Obrera (USO, the Oil Workers Union), were detained:
JAIRO CALDERON, in Bucaramanga;
ALONSO MARTINEZ, in Bogotá;
LUIS VIANA, in Santa Marta;
RAMON RANGEL, in Barrancabermeja;
EDGAR MOJICA, in Bogotá.
Also detained in the context of this operation was the former leader of FEDEPETROL, FERNANDO ACUNA, in the city of Barrancabermeja.
In the early morning hours, employees of the Attorney General’s office in Bucaramanga, the Prosecutor General’s office, and the Administrative Department of Security, came to the residence of GLADYS ROJAS and CARLOS MEJIA, members of the Mesa Regional de Trabajo Permanente por la Paz en el Magdalena Medio, (Regional Body of Permanent Peace in the Middle Magdalena Region), interrogating people there about where Carlos and Gladys were and how to locate them. These employees carried a list of names of persons and compared the citizenship and identification card which the person who talked to them and compared to their list. The two people they sought were not at home at the time and have not yet been detained.
The Colombian trade union federation CUT reports that in all 16 people have been detained. The operation was ordered by the National Attorney General, charging USO trade unionists and human rights defenders with the crime of rebellion.
This is the third case of the Attorney General attempting to criminalise the oil workers. In 1995 15 USO members were detained, and two years later 6 union leaders including PEDRO CHAPARRO the president of USO – Refineries branch. These cases were filed when the human rights lawyer EDUARDO UMAÑA MENDOZA demonstrated that the witnesses gave false and cloned evidence, before he was assassinated by the paramilitaries.
These latest detentions occurred in the context of a work stoppage at state oil corporation ECOPETROL to demand that the national government provide guarantees for union activity, which is being impeded by the continuous threats of killings and persecution by paramilitary groups. The Colombian government has not only failed to take action against the paramilitaries who continue bleeding the Colombian social movement, but also now the judicial authorities have charged these leaders with activities outside the law, seeking to de facto criminalise the rights of association and of protest of Colombian citizens.
Sources: USO, CUT, Colombia Solidarity Network.
We demand of the Colombian state and its highest authorities the following:
1. An immediate end to the continued persecution of social, trade union and human rights leaders in Colombia.
2. Set free immediately JAIRO CALDERON, ALONSO MARTINEZ, LUIS VIANA, RAMON RANGEL, EDGARD MOJICA and FERNANDO ACUNA.
3. Take all necessary actions to guarantee the right to free association, organisation and social protest.
4. A full International Labour Organisation Commission Of Inquiry into the human rights violations of trade unionists in Colombia.
Direct your communications to:
Andres Pastrana Arango, Presidente de la Republica de Colombia Fax (571) 2867434; Tel: 5629300 ext. 3550-2843300 E-mail: apastra@presidencia. gov. co
Reinaldo Botero, Vicepresidencia de la Republica Tel: 336 03 11 celular: 367 76 67 E-mail: rbotero@presidencia. gov.co
Director General of International Labour Organization Tel: 41-22- 799-6019; Fax: 41-22-799- 6111 E-mail : email@example.com
ILO Regional Office for the Americas in Lima Tel: 51-1-215-0300; Fax: 51-1-421 5292 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
With copies to:
USO E-mail: email@example.com
CUT E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Colombia Solidarity Campaign (in Britain) E-mail: email@example.com