Following the brutal murder of four trade unionists near the March 6 day of protest against paramilitary groups in Colombia, CUPE has written to Colombian president Alvaro Uribe Velez to denounce his government’s failure to protect trade unionists.
The victims of this recent paramilitary violence were Leonidas Gomez Rozo, leader of the National Union of Bank Employees (UNEB); Carlos Burbano, vice-president of the hospital workers’ union (Asociación Nacional de Trabajadores Hospitalarios); Carmen Cecilia Carvajal, a teacher; and, Gildardo Gómez Alzate, a teacher and activist with the Asociación de Institutores de Antioquia. The four were active participants in the rallies that attracted hundreds of thousands of people.
Colombia has earned a reputation as the world’s most murderous country. With these latest murders, the Uribe government “must wear a badge of shame”, said the letter signed by National President Paul Moist and National Secretary-Treasurer Claude Genereux.
The CUPE leaders call on Uribe to bring to justice the paramilitaries, submit to a thorough international investigation into the murders committed by paramilitary groups, and end “the intolerably dangerous situation facing trade unionists and other civil society activists in Colombia.”
A second letter set to Prime Minister Stephen Harper warns that Canada will share in Colombia’s shame if it proceeds to negotiate a free trade agreement with a country that holds one of the world’s worst human rights records. A third letter of condolences was sent to the UNEB.
Global justice co-chair speaks on Colombia
GJ co-chair Barb Moore recently made a presentation in Nova Scotia, showing the links between the privatization of the health care system and the undermining of public services in Colombia. In her 30-minute presentation, Moore says she “made strong connections between Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s political agenda and the state erosion of the public services in Colombia.” Moore has been a Colombia watcher for several years, travelling to the troubled South American country in 2006 with a joint labour tour.
Fifth murder reported
As the CUPE letters went out, a fifth murder was reported by the Central Union of Workers (CUT) of Colombia. Adolfo Gonzalez Montes, a leader of the Union of Coal Miners (SINTRACARBON), was killed March 22, 2008. According to the CUT, he was tortured and assassinated at his home. Gonzalez had four small children. He is the 12th trade unionist to be murdered since the beginning of 2008.