Three trade union leaders detained in Colombia

12.12.2013

On 4 December, Campo Elías Ortiz, a Colombian trade union, social and political activist as well as member of Unión Sindical Obrera (USO), was arrested. Merely a few hours later, two more members of USO, Jose Dilio Naranjo and Héctor Sánchez, were also detained. All three are employed by Pacific Rubiales, in the department of Meta.

The harassment, attacks, threats and detentions are part of a policy of persecution and interference with the work of USO, an IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, to promote trade union rights and freedoms for oil industry workers, especially those employed by Pacific Rubiales. The power of the oil companies in Colombia is strong. The companies’ private security groups, together with the armed forces, restrict the right of free trade union activity in the oil producing areas, prevent the free movement of trade union leaders, and deny them access to workers employed by these companies.

In November, IndustriALL Global Union wrote to the Colombian government denouncing the detention of the USO Meta vice president, Darío Cárdenas. Cárdenas was accused of obstruction of the public highway, damage to natural resources and aggravated damage to private property.

The court cases of the union leaders are proceeding, USO fears further detentions of its members and regional and national leaders and calls for urgent international and national solidarity to prevent the persecution and harassment of oil workers in Columbia and to send a strong message that the obstruction of trade union freedoms and penalization of union activity by companies like Pacific Rubiales will not be tolerated.

USO calls on other unions to denounce the anti-trade union regime fostered by the Colombian government on behalf of multinational companies, looting the country’s natural resources. The USO’s national executive denounces the detentions of union activists in the area of Rubiales, Meta, on the eastern plains.

Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, has written to President Santos urging him to intervene. IndustriALL demands the immediate release of Dario Cardenas, Campo Elias Ortiz, Jose Dilio Naranjo and Hector Sanchez; a guarantee of right to a fair trial; and a stop of the state persecution of oil workers and the country’s trade union and social movement.

Jyrki Raina says:

We call on the government to repeal the Citizen Security Law and other arbitrary legislation that criminalizes the freedom of association and social protest, and that rides roughshod over workers’ rights.