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Unionists persecuted by right-wing thugs and police

by ANNCOL Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2002 at 3:49 AM

Death threats, police raids and assassinations are the daily lot for Colombian trade unionists. The persecutions and assassinations are "the dark consequences of the imposition of a State of National Emergency", says Colombia's national union confederation CUT

ANNCOL is pleased to provide our readers with an English translation of the latest information from the Central Trade Union Federation (CUT) about the persecution, forced disappearance and assassinations of trade unionists in the month of October 2000:


Report on the human rights violations against Colombian trade unionists during the month of October 2002

The Human Rights Department of the Central Trade Union Federation of Colombia (CUT) denounces:

*On 16 October 2002, in the town of Ibague, Tolima department, the following people along with their families were issued death threats by the paramilitaries from the Tolima block: comrades EVER TIQUE GIRON, Education Secretary; EDUARDO CAMACHO RUGELES, Health Secretary and Member of the Human Rights Commission; and PEDRO EDGAR GALEANO OLAYA, Secretary for Co-operative Issues, all comrades who belonged to the Executive of the Colombian University Workers and Employees Union (SINTRAUNICOL-CUT), Tolima branch.

*On 10 October 2002, in the municipality of Palermo, Magdalena department, teacher JOSE FERNANDO MENA ALVARES was assassinated. He was an affiliate of the Magdalena Teachers Union (EDUMAG-FECODE-CUT). The comrade was being threatened and had reported this to the Security Administration Department (DAS). He was assassinated while travelling in his car in the company of two other teachers. He was approached by armed men on a motorcycle who overtook him and starting shooting. The other comrades were seriously injured.

*On 11 October 2002, in the town of Santa Marta, Magdalena department, the Security Administration Department (DAS) issued a warning of a possible attempt on the life of comrade JUAN MARIA AGUAS ROMERO, National Education Secretary of the National Mining and Energy Industry Workers Union (SINTRAMIENERGETICA-CUT).

*In the month of October 2002, in the city of Bogota, paramilitaries of the Capital block [AUC] issued death threats to comrades CARLOS DIMATE, ANTONIO GUERRERO, DEMETRIO GUERRERO, MARCOS MORENO and DIOGENES CORREA, leaders of the Small Agricultural Workers Union of Cundinamarca department (SINTRAGRICUN) an affiliate of the National United Agricultural Workers Union (FENSUAGRO-CUT) where the treasurer GERARDO GONZALEZ has been extensively threatened. All these comrades took part in the Campesino Reserve Project in Cabrera municipality, Cundinamarca department.

*In the month of October 2002, in the town of Popayan, Cauca department, paramilitaries in this region issued death threats to comrade CHRISTOBAL GUAMANGA, President of the Cauca department Small Agricultural Workers Union (SINPEAGRIC) an affiliate of FENSUAGRO-CUT.

*In the month of October 2002, in the city of Bogota, death threats were issued by telephone calls to their homes of comrades EFRAIN HOLGUIN, FERNANDO TRUJILLO LOZADA and JOSE EDUARDO VILLA GARZON, leaders of the Bogota Aqueduct and Drainage Company Workers Union (SINTRACUEDUCTO-CUT).

*On 17 October 2002, in the town of Popayan, Cauca department, paramilitaries issued a death threat by calling the mobile phone of comrade OSCAR ALIRIO SANCHEZ, treasurer of the Cauca-CUT branch.

*On 22 October 2002, at 8:00am in the municipality of Ponedera, Atlantico department, comrade VICTOR MANUEL JIMENEZ FRUTO, vice-president of the Agricultural Workers Union of the Department of Atlantico (SINTRAGRICOLAS-FENSUAGRO-CUT), was disappeared. He was replacing Mr Saul Colpas Castro, who was assassinated on 13 June 2001 in front of his house
and his family.

It is important to take into account that comrade Victor Manual hadexpressed his concern about the many death threats he was receiving to the National Public Prosecutor's Office on 24 June 2001 and to the Sabanalarga branch, in order to get protection for his life and get them to carry out investigations, but they only gave him advice on protecting himself.

*On 23 October 2002, in the city of Cali, Valle del Cauca department, at approximately 9:30 in the morning, comrades PEDRO PABLO BERNE and MILCIADES SANCHEZ, activists in the National University Workers and Employees Union of Colombia (SINTRAUNICOL-CUT) were confronted by the police.

The police wanted to detain them without any just cause but this was not possible thanks to the support of all the workers at the University who stopped this arbitrary action. However, they did take away the personal documents of the comrades and hours later brought them back thanks to the pressure put on them to stop these kinds of violations against the workers.

*On 25 October 2002, in the city of Bogota, the headquarters of the PERMANENT ASSEMBLY OF CIVIL SOCIETY FOR PEACE was raided. It was carried out at 4:45 in the morning and at 6:30 in the morning by 40 officers belonging to the DIJIN, the Security Administration Department (DAS), and the army, who broke windows in order to get in, held the owners of the building at gunpoint (elderly people of 70 years old), forced open the offices and checked through the computers and files. There was no representative of the Public Prosecutor or the General Attorney present.

*On 28 October 2002, in the town of Nieva, Huila department, comrade MARIO DE JESUS CASTANEDA, twice president of the Huila-CUT branch, was detained by the police. The first time was at 12:30pm for more than half an hour and the second time was at 8:00pm. The aim of both was to get information about the National Strike called by the CUT and the National Federation Leadership so that they could spread propaganda.

*On 28 October 2002, in the city of Barranquilla, Atlantico department, at 5:00 in the afternoon, the home of comrade LUIS FERNANDO JIMENEZ MADIEGO, director of the National Union of Bank Employees (UNEB-CUT), was raided. This act was carried out by agents of the Security Administration Department (DAS) and DIJIN and they were accompanied by a representative of the Public Prosecutor. They got into the house through the roof and, locking the residents in the rooms without allowing them to make a phone call, they proceeded to check every corner of the house without finding anything.

*On 28 October 2002, in the municipality of Pivijay, Magdalena department, the teacher OSCAR DAVID POLO CHARIS, affiliate of the Magdalena Teachers Union (EDUMAG-FECODE-CUT), was assassinated. The events took place in the morning when the comrade was travelling to his place of work at the San Jose Rural School of Media Luna. So far this year two teachers from this school have been assassinated and four from the municipality. This is a very worrying situation because it is clear that teachers have no guarantees to carry out their work and education is disintegrating at the hands of these illegal groups.

*On 29 October 2002, in the city of Bogota, comrade NICOLAS ACEVEDO CUARTAS, president of the Apartado branch of the National Bank Workers Union (UNEB-CUT), received a death threat by phone call to the national headquarters of the union.

We condemn these attacks on members of trade union organisations, which only seek the vindication of rights and in this respect we demand respect for freedom of expression and real guarantees to carry out our work. It is clear that all these actions are nothing other that the dark consequences of the imposition of a State of National Emergency and Decree 2002, which are a direct assault on the freedoms of expression and the interests of the Colombian people.

CUT Human Rights Department
Bogota, 5 November 2002

(Translated by Liz Atherton/Colombia Peace Association)

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