Through direct threats and information received from a number of reliable sources, we know that a plan is underway to attack the national president of the USO, comrade Rudolfo Gutierrez Nino.
The situation has come about since union discussions with the government and Ecopetrol management regarding the very serious situation the state company is in because of the fall in reserves and production, the low yields from the refineries and the leasing of pipelines, as well as the system of storing fuel; as well as counter-reforms that are eroding workers' rights and preventing the free exercise of their trade union activities, including dismissals, disciplinary processes and criminalisation.
All these things have prevented any possibility of negotiating the list of demands we presented in order to renew the Collective Labour Convention which expired on 31 December 2002.
Those who are planning to carry out this criminal act seek to unleash violence against the union in order to silence the voices of protest against the intentions of North American multinationals to take possession of the hydrocarbon industry, a process that started with the restructuring of the company and official oil policy.
USO rejects and condemns this dark plan targeted at the president of our organisation. We demand that the government of President Alvaro Uribe Velez provide guarantees to enable the union to function and to preserve our right to exercise civilised and democratic opposition to government policies.
National Executive Committee of the Oil Workers' Union (USO)
15 January 2003, Bogota
THE GOVERNMENT OF URIBE VELEZ GIVES THE ORDER TO DETAIN THE NATIONAL LEADER
OF THE USO AND THE NATIONAL PRESIDENT OF USO IS THREATENED
The Central Trade Union Federation of Colombia (CUT), through its Human Rights Department, denouces before national and international public opinion the onslaught by the government of Alvaro Uribe Velez against the Colombian trade union movement.
A specific example of this onslaught is the ongoing criminalisation of the leaders of the Oil Workers Union (USO). Today, 15 January, the National Public Prosecutor gave the order to detain comrade HERNANDO HERNANDEZ, Secretary for International Affairs of the Oil Workers Union (USO); comrade HERNANDO was the First Vice-President of the Executive Committee of USO in its last session.
Likewise, we denounce the death threats against comrade RODOLFO GUTIERREZ, President of USO, and against EDGAR MOJICA, the National Leader of the union.
These events coincide with a growing labour conflict concerning the negotiation of the union's list of demands to which the response of the "ECOPETROL" corporation has been to dismiss trade union leaders and militarise the refineries.
We will continue to call for solidarity with Colombian workers. Now as much as ever we need your urgent and vital response to the attitude of the Alvaro Uribe Velez government.
DOMINGO TOVAR ARRIETA
Director of the Human Rights Department of the CUT
Bogota, 15 January 2003
(Translated by the Colombia Peace Association)