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Colombian union leaders receive death threats

16 May, 2019Leaders of Colombian mining unions Sintracarbón, which is an affiliate of IndustriALL Global Union, and Sintramienergética received death threats after they met with Dutch members of parliament and representatives of Glencore, Cerrejon and Drummond.

On 11 May, the national leader of Sintracarbón, Igor Kareld Díaz, and Sintramienergética members, Juan Carlos Rojas, Dairo Mosquera, Gustavo Benjumea and Jairo Córdoba received a flyer containing death threats from the paramilitary group "Aguilas Negras" via social media.

The group threatened to kill the leaders for being "guerrillas disguised as workers" and accused them of wanting to impose a new form of socialism on Colombia. The perpetrators also gave the leaders 48 hours to leave the country or "suffer the consequences".

"I condemn these threats because we are agents of peace and use our union role to achieve equity and justice for workers and society as a whole. I call for our lives to be respected and for the right to union freedom to be exercised,"

said Igor Díaz.

The threats were made after the Dutch embassy and the Dutch union organization CNV held an official meeting on 6 May so that Dutch members of parliament could learn more about the situation of coal mining and coal workers in Colombia. In addition to the members of parliament, the meeting was attended by union and community leaders, and executive managers of the multinationals Prodeco-Glencore, Cerrejon and Drummond.

It's no coincidence that three of the union leaders who received death threats are involved in the current negotiations with Drummond.

The oil workers' union USO, electricity workers' union Sintraelecol and Sintracarbón – all of which are IndustriALL affiliates – issued a statement condemning the violent intimidation. They said that such threats were part of a systematic process to eliminate the opposition and union leaders in Colombia, with 262 assassinations since Iván Duque took office as president. They condemned the government for ignoring these facts and for not taking any action to protect union leaders, prevent such actions or hold those responsible to account.

IndustriALL's secretary general, Valter Sanches, wrote a letter to President Duque, in which he said that, given the long history of violence against union and social leaders in Colombia, such threats should be taken extremely seriously and with utmost concern.

He urged the president to intervene immediately to safeguard union freedom and protect the physical, mental and moral wellbeing of workers. He concluded:

"Those responsible for these threats need to be identified and held accountable. We urge you and your government to ensure that the necessary conditions and guarantees are in place to protect the lives of union and social leaders in Colombia and to allow unions to act freely.”

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