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IndustriALL angered by Colombian death threats

11 April, 2013Enough is enough. Colombian trade unionists continue to live under constant threat of assassination, in a country where 4,000 union leaders have been murdered in the last 25 years. On 1 April a notorious paramilitary group released a list of murder targets including dozens of trade union leaders in the IndustriALL global family.

Trade unions around the world have been expressing solidarity with Colombian colleagues since the extreme right-wing paramilitary group “Los Rastrojos” public statement promised to “hunt and kill” the list of prominent Colombian trade unionists.

Industrial relations are tense at a number of key mining and manufacturing sites in Colombia. The powerful groups that stand to benefit from a weakening of the trade unions in these negotiations are strongly suspected to be linked to the death threats. The complicity of the state authorities throughout years of trade union assassination allows the murderers to continue with impunity, and must be condemned in the strongest terms.

In 2012 over 280 death threats were made to trade unionists in Colombia, with 20 murders. Already in the first three months of 2013 four murders have been carried out.

The 1 April hit list includes IndustriALL Executive Committee member Igor Diaz, President of Sintracarbon and president of the IndustriALL’s affiliate council in Colombia. Diaz and three of his Sintracarbon colleagues also on the list are central figures in their community and the wider social justice and democracy movement. Sintracarbon’s trade union official Heli Arregoces Ibarra survived an assassination attempt on 7 April, when two men on a motorbike fired a gun at him on the street in the city of Riohacha.  

IndustriALL is equally concerned about the targeting of leaders at other affiliated organizations Sintrametal, Sintraelecol, Utramicol, USO, and colleagues at the national centre CUT and partner trade union Sintramienergetica.

IndustriALL leadership lodged the organization’s serious concerns over trade union rights violations in the country at the Colombian Mission to the United Nations in Geneva on 4 March. Despite promises made by the Colombian ambassador of government action, the reality is different.

Apart from a number of trade unionists, the hit list includes several targets working for human rights NGOs, lawyers, religious leaders, and even a senator who all work for social justice.

Write your appeal to President Juan Manuel Santos and send via fax to 0057 1 596 0631.