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Colombia is one of the most dangerous places in the world to stand up for workers’ rights and fight privatization, according to a new Amnesty International report.


The report, Killings, arbitrary detentions, and death threats – the reality of trade unionism in Colombia, documents a pattern of systematic attacks against trade unionists and their families. The violence is widespread, affecting workers in the health, education, public services, agricultural, mining, oil, gas, energy and food sectors.

Colombia’s National Trade Union School documented 2,245 killings, 3,400 threats and 138 forced disappearances of trade unionists between January 1991 and December 2006.

Sixteen have died so far this year. Despite their supposed demobilization, army-backed paramilitaries and the security forces are thought to be behind most attacks. Guerilla groups are believed responsible for some of the killings. In 90 per cent of the cases, those responsible have not been brought to justice.

CUPE continues to work in solidarity with Colombian trade unionists and their allies to defend human rights, stop the killings and protect public services. CUPE, through its Global Justice fund, sponsors the “Defending Public Services: Canadian and Colombian workers on the Front Lines” project.

The project, co-sponsored with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Public Services Alliance of Canada and the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union, has brought Colombian trade unionists to Canada and sent Canadian workers – including CUPE members and staff - /to Colombia

CUPE BC is also working in partnership with workers in Colombia, supporting human and labour rights training for SINTRAEMCALI members, the public sector workers’ union in Cali, the country’s second-largest city. Members of the Front Lines tour celebrated the graduation of 19 human rights trainees in July 2006. The profound impact of this work is profiled in the BC division’s recent convention video.

For more about the situation in Colombia, visit LabourStart and Public Services International. PSI’s resources include a 2003 report on labour rights violations and water privatization in Colombia.