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In your dread of dictators you established a state of society in which
every ward boss is a dictator, every private employer a
dictator, every financier a dictator, all with the livelihood
of the workers at his mercy, and no public responsibility.
- George Bernard Shaw



More Workers Murdered in Colombia


Billy Mitchell


Once again the Trade Union Movement in Colombia has called for international support in the face of the continued murder campaign against trade union activists. Fifty trade union members have been murdered in the first four months of this year alone.

In most recent round of killings (26th April) seven members of SINTRAINAGRO were murdered on the banana plantation on which they worked. These killings add to the horrific catalogue of attacks against SINTRAINAGRO which has seen some 400 of its members murdered since 1989, mainly by right-wing paramilitaries. These latest killings, however, are reported to have been carried out by FARC guerrilla forces.

According to the IUF - the global federation union representing agricultural workers in Colombia - guerrillas attached to the “Fifth Front” of the FARC guerrilla forces “entered the plantation Montesol Vereda Salaipuedes on the outskirts of Apartada and systematically assassinated the following workers: - Alberto Martinez. Juan Sepúlveda, José de Jesús Ledezma, José Hurtado, Enrique Suárez, Luis Enrique Guisao

The IUF statement claims that “The assassins are reported to have carried with them a list of the victims, checking their names off methodically after they were murdered. Two persons who were neither banana workers nor associated with the union, but happened to be in the area where the workers were murdered, were also assassinated: Patricia Carvajal and Luis Henry Gómez”.

Trade Union representatives, including SINTRAINAGRO president Oswaldo Cuadrado and general secretary Hernán Correa, met with government ministers on 11th April seeking protection for trade unionists and other workers. The massacre of the seven banana workers took place some fifteen days later.

Robert Perillo of the U.S. Labour Education in the Americas Project, in a report on the roots of violence against trade unionists in Colombia, has pointed out that “Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist. In fact, of every five union members killed worldwide every year, three are Colombian. Since the mid-1980's, almost 4,000 trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia. Few, if any, of the perpetrators of these crimes have been caught and punished”.

Perillo claims that “Major human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented close and pervasive ties between army officials and paramilitary forces.” He points out that while the Colombian army was responsible for more than half of the civilian death toll during the early 1990’s it is now responsible for around 2% of deaths. That is not to say that violence against civilians has been reduced. The task has simply been handed over to the paramilitaries who are responsible for around 75% of civilian deaths, and it is not just the right wing paramilitaries who are targeting civilians. According to Perillo, “Human rights groups attribute 15% to 20% of political deaths to the guerrillas.”

Of murders carried out before April this year, CUT, the Colombian equivalent of the TUC, attributes 25 of the murders (56%) to paramilitary groups, 15 (33%) to unknown assailants, and five (11%) to the FARC guerrillas. This does not include the seven trade unionists and two other civilians killed by FARC on 26th April.




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