CUPE’s national leaders have called on Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson to help protect the Nasa indigenous communities that have recently been sent death threats that appear to be tied to landowners in the Cauca region of Colombia.
“We urge you to instruct the Canadian Embassy in Bogota to investigate these threats against the Nasa leaders in Northern Cauca and to offer any assistance and protection required,” said National President Paul Moist and National Secretary-Treasurer Claude Genereux in a letter to Emerson dated Aug. 14.
The letter also drew attention to the free trade agreement between the Harper government and the Alvaro Uribe government. “Once again, this latest threat draws attention to the rampant human rights violations in Colombia and offers a warning of what could come with a free trade deal if Colombia does not stop the systematic terror campaigns and crimes against trade unionists, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, and the victims of displacement.”
The leaders were informed that the threats could be the launch of a campaign of terror and death against the Nasa people who are known worldwide as a peace-loving nation, having twice received the Colombian National Peace Award.
CUPE has been told that the threat is related to the recent confession of a paramilitary member who was involved in the 1991 massacre of 20 Nasa elders, women and children. Indications suggest that the death threat comes from the landowners and paramilitaries in collusion with the government as a way to cover up their involvement in the massacre.
“We believe they are being threatened and repressed because they defend their right to live free of persecution on their ancestral territory,” the letter said.
CUPE is also concerned for the safety of Alfredo Molano-Bravo, a respected sociologist and journalist who faces persecution because of an article he wrote about powerful land-owning families in the Valledupar region of Colombia.
“We applaud Alfredo Molano-Bravo for his courage and principled use of the right to free expression at a time in Colombia’s history7 when critical thinking and discourse are truly needed,” wrote CUPE’s Hospital Employees’ Union president Fred Muzin in a letter to Colombia president Alvaro Uribe dated Aug. 12. Muzin is also global justice Committee liaison to the CUPE National Executive Board.