Death threat made against trade union leader after denouncing actions of multinational oil company
Death threat left at the doorstep of trade unionist. “Death to all snitches from the USO trade union”
In a further demonstration of the anti-trade union violence in Colombia and the connection between multinational companies and paramilitary violence, a trade union leader from the USO oil workers has received a death threat just days after taking part in an event looking at the impact of large-scale mining projects. The event was held in Puerto Gaitan in the Meta Department where the Canadian multinational Pacific Rubiales is particularly active.
Close to 5,000 workers in the second largest coal producing company in Colombia, Drummond, have gone on strike in search of better pay conditions, health provisions, and guarantees for 400 workers facing relocation or redundancy. A key demand is that workers are paid daily and not hourly which has thus far been refused by the Drummond executives. The strike is being organised by the SINTRAMINERGETICA union and includes Drummond’s mine, rail and port workers.
ASCAMCAT is the peasant farmer organisation in Catatumbo
After 53 days of protest which included the blocking of a major road in northeastern Colombia close to the Venezuelan border, the peasant farmer strike in Catatumbo has been temporarily halted after the government agreed to take part in talks to respond to the demands of the local population.
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There is international outrage after a death threat was issued by paramilitary forces called the Rastrojos against trade unionists, members of the Polo opposition party, community activists and human rights organisations. Many of those threatened work closely with Justice for Colombia, including Ivan Cepeda with whom a JFC delegation met with in Colombia just over a week ago and the Patriotic March whose representatives visited Britain and Ireland last April.
On 11 July 2013, Juan Carlos Galvis, a trade union leader in the Magdalena Medio region and member of the National Victims’ Movement, which works closely with Justice for Colombia, received an envelope which contained photos of his children and a letter threatening him with death.
“You’ll be our first target” the threat stated.
The letter also directed a threat against the LGBT community who in previous days had carried out a march in the city of Barrancabermeja.
The leaflet was signed by a paramilitary group calling themselves the ‘Anti-restitution Army of Magdalena Medio’. It promised to target attacks against the gay community, trade unionists and human rights defenders.
Over the course of the year threats and attacks have been repeatedly denounced by local organisations operating in the region. The paramilitaries call the region the ‘second anti-subversive capital’ of Colombia, referring to the amount of control which the paramilitary groups enjoy.
In February, four female human rights defenders received a death threat, a victims leader was kidnapped and another human rights defender was sent a bullet with a message telling her she had twelve hours to live. A number of attacks and threats have also been carried out against the USO oil workers union – Barrancabermeja, the largest city in the area, has a large oil industry.
The organisations are calling on the authorities to investigate fully all these attacks and to ensure the definitive break-up of the paramilitary groups that continue to act with complete impunity.
News from Colombia
Peace talks between the FARC and the Colombian government have taken a significant step with agreement being reached on the first of six points on the negotiating agenda: land and rural development.
In what is being called an historic moment, the FARC and the Government released a joint statement on Sunday which hailed an accord that will be “the beginning of a radical transformation of the rural and agrarian reality in Colombia”.
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Justice for Colombia (JFC) is a British NGO that campaigns for human rights, workers’ rights and the search for peace with social justice in Colombia.
Established in 2002 by the British trade union movement, JFC was created in response to the appalling human rights crisis in Colombia, and particularly the abuses committed against trade unionists and other civil society actors. Though our core backing continues to come predominantly from the trade unions, JFC’s support base has expanded to include the legal profession, the student movement and numerous politicians, journalists and academics and we now also have a chapter in the Republic of Ireland – JFC Ireland – and supporters in several other European countries.
The Northwest Probation & CAFCASS branch of UNISON support JFC
Gustavo Pizo, President of the ASOCAT peasant farmer organisation, of the FENSUAGRO trade union, was brutally murdered on March 25th in the village called ‘Gabriel Lopez’ in Cauca Department, southwestern Colombia. The 31 year old trade union leader was stabbed to death by unknown men, whilst out walking with his brother. ASOCAT is also a member of the National Association of Peasant Reserve Zones, known as ANZORC, which promotes the rights of peasants to land and sovereignty. He had played an important role in denouncing abuses of landowners, and was also recognised as a leading activist in promoting unity between peasant and indigenous organisations.
FENSUAGRO, the Colombian Agricultural Workers’ Union, is the 2nd largest union in Colombia and has had around 1500 members assassinated. Unite the Union and the United Steelworkers of America have a partnership agreement with the union.