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OIL EMERGENCY IN COLOMBIA

by ANNCOL Thursday, Mar. 28, 2002 at 1:04 PM
redaccion@anncol.com

Workers shut down the country's main oil refinery in Barrancabermeja after right-wing gunmen kill yet another trade union leader.

Several regions in Colombia will be facing oil and gasoline shortages this Easter holiday. Oilworkers at Colombia's main oil refinery decided to close down production last week after gunmen allied

with the conservative government of President Andrés Pastrana killed a local union leader.

Rafael Jaimes Torra, treasurer of the Barrancabermeja branch of the oilworkers union USO, was gunned down March 20th as he left his home. Also killed was Torra's 16-year old nephew.

Torra was engaged in negotiations with the state-owned Colombian oil company Ecopetrol at the time of his assassination and was known as an outspoken critic of the government's plan to construct new private

refineries.

Torra became the 85th USO leader to be killed by right-wing death squads since 1988. No one has been prosecuted for these assassinations as of this date.

The President of Colombia's main trade union federation CUT, Miguel Antonio Caro Pinedo, on Friday reacted to Torra's murder, saying that President

Andrés Pastrana is responsible for a "policy of extermination" that is directed against the trade union movement.

Local media reported that Ecopetrol has announced that it will not be able to guarantee the supplies of oil and gasoline during Easter in several parts of the country because of the strike. The company also called on Colombian car owners to "limit the use of their vehicles to that which is strictly necessary".

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