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Colombia Solidarity Campaign

Bulletin Issue1 - April - June 2001

THE HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION OF TRADE UNIONISTS IN COLOMBIA

The following is an abridged translation of a report prepared by the CUT Human Rights Section for the United Nations Human Rights Commission, March 2001.

The following is an abridged translation of a report prepared by the CUT Human Rights Section for the United Nations Human Rights Commission, March 2001.

The following is an abridged translation of a report prepared by the CUT Human Rights Section for the United Nations Human Rights Commission, March 2001.

The United Central Workers Union of Colombia "CUT", through the Human Rights Department has reported continuously on the violation of civil and political rights that Colombian Trade Unionists have been victims of.

The armed social conflict, in which the country is engulfed, obviously affects the Trade Unions, and this is not a new phenomenon. Since the creation of the CUT (1986) over 3000 leaders, activists and workers have been killed. Some were killed because of their association with activism on the political left, others either for the quality of their Human Rights work, or for working towards a peaceful and permanent solution to the armed conflict, and more still for industrial disputes. Furthermore, Trade Unionists have become victims of the paramilitary accusation that they are an auxiliary army of the guerrilla movement. In 1999 there was a reduction in the number of trade unionists that were killed. In 2000, however, assassinations and threats increased, and the paramilitaries were overwhelmingly responsible.

 

 Year  No of Victims
 1991  109
 1992  148
 1993  216
 1994  113
 1995  181
 1996  253
 1997  156
 1998  91
 1999  69

 

 

THE TOTAL NUMBER OF ASSASSINATIONS in 2000 was 128. In 2001, 25 trade
union leaders and activists have so far been assassinated.

SECTORS WITH THE MOST ASSASSINATIONS

Education Unions: Federation of Colombian Educators – FECODE – Association of University Professors – ASPU – National Union of University Workers and Employees of Colombia – SINTRAUNICOL. In 2000, 52 were assassinated
Unions of the Departments, Municipalities and Public Service Providers,
Electricity and Petrol.
In 2000, 23 were assassinated
Agricultural and Food Unions: 9 assassinated
Health Sector Unions: 7 assassinated
Legal Sector Unions: 3 assassinated
Construction Unions: 3 assassinated
The remaining crimes were on colleagues affiliated to other branches of the union movement.

FORCED DISAPPEARANCES

We denounce the forced disappearance of GILBERTO AGUDELO MARTINEZ,
President of the National Union of University Workers of Colombia – SINTRAUNICOL, which occurred in April 2000 and he is still missing.

On 14 January 2001, in the city of Cali, GERMAN MEDINA GAVIRIA, assigned to the energy sector, was leaving his home to go to work but never arrived.

On 19 January, in the municipality of Rio Negro, in the department of Antioquia, RUBEN DARIO GALLEGO was forcibly disappeared. He was affiliated to the Association of Antioquian Institutions – ADIDA, FECODE and CUT

ASSASSINATION ATTEMPTS

On 11 January, in the municipality of Yumbo (Valle del Cauca) an attempted terrorist attack with explosives occurred against our colleague EZEQUIEL ANTONIO PALMA JIMENEZ, director of the Municipal Workers Union of Yumbo SINTRAMUNICIPIO YUMBO. As a consequence of this criminal act, his brother’s car was destroyed and his house was seriously damaged. EZEQUIEL and his family were unharmed.

On 12 January of this year RICARDO NAVARRO BRUGES fell victim to an
assassination attempt by armed men. The incident occurred in the city of Santa Marta (Magdalena). He was unharmed but was forced to leave the region in order to save his life. RICARDO NAVARRO BRUGES is the president of the National Union of University Workers of Colombia – SINTRAUNICOL Santa Marta section, which is composed of workers form the Technological University of Magdalena.

On 15 January 2001 GUSTAVO ALEJANDRO CASTRO LONDONO, was the victim of
an attempted assassination in the city of Villavicencio (Meta). This criminal act was carried out by armed men who caused serious injuries, and for that reason he has been hospitalised in the Meta Clinic. GUSTAVO CASTRO is a union leader in the health sector and he is also on the Executive Committee of the CUT, Meta Subregion.

The new wave of violence violates our autonomy and independence as trade unionists, furthermore it involves us directly in the armed conflict within which our only proposal is that a solution must come through political negotiations. The trade union movement has been threatened at every level: at the National Executive level, at the regional level, in the Federations, in National Unions and their base of leaders. We are considered military objectives by the paramilitaries.

The deepening of the conflict has its roots in social reasons. However the response of the State to reduce the cost of violence and overcome inequality has been insufficient to achieve substantial improvement in the human development index. Furthermore huge differences exist between and within departments both socially, and economically.

The state has continued to avoid its responsibilities by stating that ‘in Colombia trade unionists are not killed for being trade unionists, the deaths against them are just a manifestation of the armed conflict’. On another occasion the government stated that it was another victim of the internal conflict, and by stating this they seek to absolve themselves from responsibility for these crimes. We emphasise that the threats and assassinations, coupled with bomb attacks which have risen to 16 in the last three (3) years are carried out specifically because people are trade unionists, and not randomly, as suggested by the state.

Jesús Gonzalez

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