On the afternoon of 11 December, in the Colombian municipality of Puerto Gaitan, gunmen assassinated Milton Parra Rivas, an operator and electrician at Termotécnica Coindustrial SA, a subcontractor of Spanish-based CEPSA.
Milton Rivas was a leading activist of IndustriALL-affiliated Union Sindical Obrera (USO), leading the permanent workers assembly at Termotécnica. His murder was preceded by death threats up to the day before the assassination.
The murder occurred the day after Human Rights Day and is the latest in a long series of attacks and threats against trade union members of USO and other unions across the country. The murder came just hours after the signing of a Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and Colombia and Peru.
Leif Sande, President of IndustriALL’s Norwegian affiliate Industri Energi, yesterday addressed the plenary of the ILO’s Global Dialogue Forum on Future Needs for Skills and Training in the Oil and Gas Industry, in Geneva, Switzerland:
Chair, on a point of privilege, it has just come to my attention that another Colombian trade unionist was assassinated yesterday - a member of the oil workers' union - following repeated death threats against the union leadership, apparently only for the reason of being involved in trade union activities. I would ask this assembly to join with me in condemning this vicious act.
On 4 and 15 October the General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union sent letters urging the Colombian government to take all necessary measures to end anti-union practices in Puerto Gaitan and immediately cease violence against USO members and striking workers of Termotécnica.
Today's reality contrasts with the Colombian government's response to these letters, who mentioned that the government is the first to defend civil liberties and generate action to protect its citizens so that such potential threats and violations of the constitution should be corrected by legal institutions.
The assassination of Milton Rivas is evidence of the persistent anti-union culture and the lack of effective protection in Colombia. In 2011, 29 trade unionists were killed in Colombia.
The executive committee of IndustriALL Global Union today resolved to:
- Categorically condemn the murder as an act of aggression against the labour movement in general and the oil union in particular;
- Send a message of condolence and sympathy to the family, friends and union of Milton Rivas Parra;
- Express continued support to USO, all Colombian affiliates of IndustriALL and other trade unions in Colombia facing similar violence;
- Join USO in its demand on the Attorney General's Office and the competent authorities to undertake a thorough investigation of this crime and the punishment of those guilty;
- Urge the Government to give full guarantees for the free exercise of trade union activities, and to respect fully the fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO), ratified by Colombia.