If Over 150 CEOs Had Been Assassinated in Colombia Over the Past 3 Years
Would You Still Think It a Safe Place for Investment?
That’s how many labor leaders and activists were targeted and murdered in Colombia, according to the annual reports of the International Trade Union Confederation. Each year, the number of trade unionists assassinated in Colombia has equaled or surpassed the total number of such murders in the rest of the world combined. That’s why Colombia remains #1 as the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist.
And 2011 is no different. So far, this year, 17 labor activists have been murdered, as documented by the National Labor School (ENS/Escuela Nacional Sindical) based in Medellín. These are real people – not just statistics. They were teachers and workers in factories and farms. We should care about their lives and their deaths.
I support the measures outlined in the U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan (LAP) – but they don’t go far enough and it’s a plan that rewards intentions, not results. Congress should demand that the increased protections called for under the LAP actually result in protecting and reducing the violence against trade unionists before the U.S.-Colombia FTA is debated. Congress should require that Colombian workers are able to organize, speak freely and negotiate directly with their employers – without fear of violence and death aimed at them and their families – before taking up the FTA for debate and approval.
Please take a look at the names of the 17 labor activists murdered so far this year in Colombia. Remember that they had families, children, friends, neighbors and colleagues. Remember the 150 trade unionists targeted and assassinated over the past three years. Demand that conditions change and improve on the ground in Colombia before the House takes up the Colombia FTA for consideration.
James P. McGovern
Member of Congress
Colombian Unionists Killed January 1 – June 21, 2011 (ENS):
1. Alejandro José Peñata López, teacher and member of the Asociación de Maestros de Córdoba – ADEMACOR (teachers’ association of Córdoba), affiliated to the CUT, was murdered on June 20. After he disappeared after leaving school, his body was found with signs of torture. He had been hanged with barbed wire.
2. Margarita de las Salas Bacca, judge on the Sixth Circuit Labor Courtand member of the Asonal Judicial union, was killed in Barranquilla on June 9, 2011, after leaving the courthouse. She was survived by her husband and daughter.
3. Jorge Eliecer de los Rios (pictured left), teacher, environmental campaigner, and member of the Ser union, killed June 8, 2011 in Pereira, Risaralda department. He was shot several times from a motorbike while on his school’s campus. A leading member of the Meedrua non-governmental organization, he had led a campaign to expose the damage wreaked by an open air mine belonging to multinationals.
4. Carlos Julio Gómez, teacher and member of the Sutev union, shot and killed May 29, 2011 in Cali, Valle department.
5. Freddy Antonio Cuadrado Nuñez, teacher and member of the Edumagunion, killed May 27, 2011 in Cienaga, Magdalena department. He was shot in the head and killed as he celebrated his 46th birthday.
6. Carlos Arturo Castro Casas, 41, engineer, member of the Sintraemcali union, and father of three, shot in the neck by two armed men and killed May 23, 2011 in Cali, Valle department.
7. Juan Carlos Chagüi Cueter, prison guard and member of the Sigginpec union, killed May 15, 2011 in Barranquilla, Atlántico department.
8. Dionis Alfredo Sierra Vergara, elementary school teacher and member of the Ademacor union, killed May 15, 2011 in La Apartada, Córdoba department.
9. Luci Ricardo Florez, 28, teacher and member of the Ademacor union, shot by armed men on motorbikes and killed May 3, 2011 in Ayapel, Córdoba department as she was walking home with her mother.
10. Antonio Ramiro Muñoz Sánchez, member of the Asotmem union, killed April 8, 2011 in Puerto Boyacá, Boyacá department. According to witnesses, he was shot repeatedly by two men riding a motorbike as he was leaving a union meeting. According to Justice for Colombia, the union had been organizing workers and the local community to demand that oil companies hire local labor.
11. Héctor Orozco, 35, father of three and Vice-President of the Astracatol union, killed March 30, 2011 in Chaparral, Tolima department. In the days before he died, Orozco had reported to the local office of the Reiniciar human rights non-governmental organization that he and several other persons had been threatened by an army officer named John Jairo Velez.
12. Hernán Yesid Pinto Rincón (pictured left), member of the CGT union and Founder and member of the national board of the new farmers’ organization, killed March 19, 2011 in Tibacuy, Cundinamarca department. Before his death, he had taken the lead in the struggle of farm workers.
13. Carlos Alberto Ayala Moreno, member of the Asepunion and Director of the Caucasia Rural Education Institute, killed February 5, 2011 in Puerto Asís, Putumayo department. He was shot and killed by gunmen as he left his home.
14. Humberto de Jesús Espinoza Díaz, teacher in the Mistrato Agricultural Institute and member of the Ser union, shot and killed by armed men in January 30, 2011 in Mistrató, Risaralda department.
15. Jairo Enrique Veloza Martínez, 35, member of the Sigginpec union, shot three times in the head by gunman and killed January 27, 2011 in Bogotá, Cundinamarca department.
16. Silverio Antonio Sanchez(pictured left), 37, member of the union Ser, killed on January 24, 2011, from an intentional explosion which caused burns to 80% of his body on December of 2010.
17. Manuel Esteban Tejada, teacher and member of the Ademacor union, shot and killed in his home by armed men on January 10, 2011 in Planeta Rica, Córdoba department.