2014 has started with fear and sadness in Colombia as attacks and criminalization of social protests continue. With yet another trade union leader viciously attacked, IndustriALL Global Union joins Colombian unions in denouncing the violence.
The attacks, displacements, threats, assassinations as well as the criminalization of social protest, continues corroborating the lack of political will to guarantee the exercise of freedom of association, collective bargaining and the right to strike in Colombia.
The latest dramatic incident reported occurred on 10 January when workers of the hydroelectric Caldas - CHEC- of SINTRAELECOL-CUT, an IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, conducted a demonstration demanding the right to implement their Collective Agreement. The demonstrators also denounced the abuses committed by the Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM) against the communities in Caldas.
Demonstrators were violently attacked and beaten by the Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios, using explosive devices; one of these explosives seriously injured several workers and their families. Among them, the President of CUT and SINTRAELECOL-Caldas, Arturo Oscar OROZCO, who is still in hospital in a very serious condition, suffering critical injuries to his eyes. Reports say that Arturo Orozco has lost his left eye, doctors are struggling to save his right eye and to reconstruct his face.
This is fourth attack on Oscar Orozco’s life, who has suffered persecution by the security and justice agencies of the Colombian state and in particular by the Attorney General's Office. Deliberately ignoring his role as a trade union and community leader, the Attorney General’s Office has attempted to convict Oscar Orozco claiming that he has staged "self- attacks."
On January 4, 2014 Luis Marin Rolong Ever, a regional leader of SINALTRACEBA brewery workers union was murdered by unknown gunmen as he was waiting for a bus in the town of Soledad. The next day the President of SINALTRACEBA, Gamboa Rafael Maldonado, received death threats from paramilitaries while the union was holding its General Assembly.
In December 2013 IndustriALL denounced the unfair detention of four leaders of IndustriALL affiliate USO; Dario Cardenas, Hector Sanchez, Campo Elías and José Ortíz Dilio Naranjo. They are also key witnesses in an ongoing investigation against Pacific Rubiales. Edwin Brown, president of the National USO, reaffirmed that these arrests are part of a setup orchestrated by Pacific Rubiales in complicity with the Attorney General. USO leadership has called on the Vice President to urgently move the four unionists to another prison yard as they are currently sharing the yard with members of paramilitary and Bacrim groups who are threatening their safety.
On 15 January Colombian unions will be mobilizing denounce these horrific attacks. Join our campaign to demand an end to persecution, attacks and assassination of trade unionists in Colombia!