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Union leaders must ''pay with their lives'' for opposing Colombia's President

by ANNCOL Thursday, Dec. 04, 2003 at 11:45 AM

Acting in what seems as blind fury after loosing crucial elections, including a constitutional referendum to achieve special powers, the regime of Alvaro Uribe is seeking revenge on top union leaders. In the city of Pereira, death squads allied to the regime have murdered several street vendors, cut their bodies into pieces and left the bloody remains in different parts of the city as a warning.

01.12.2003 (By Maria Engqvist, ANNCOL Stockholm) In November, the Central Trade Union Federation of Colombia (CUT), denounced that the assassinations of trade unionists are increasing. According to CUT’s human rights department, there have been 58 assassinations this year, there are a growing number of forced displacements and unionists endure death threats on a daily basis.

One of the latest cases involves Domingo Tovar Arrieta, National Executive and Director of the Human Rights Department of the CUT.

On the evening of 30 October he received a telephone call to his mobile phone and was told: “YOU WILL PAY FOR THE DEFEAT OF THE REFERENDUM WITH YOUR LIFE”.

The CUT was publicly and constitutionally at the forefront of the Active Abstention campaign against the Referendum of the President, and Tovar was one of the promoters of the campaign.

This threat against Tovar comes just days after the District Court of Cundinamarca department ruled in favor of compensation to be made directly to Tovar and declared the Ministry of Defense, the National Army and the Public Prosecutor responsible for damages inflicted through the unjust imprisonment of Tovar on 12 February 1994.

In a statement by CUT’s National Executive Committee, the Colombian trade union movement asks for international solidarity to pressurize the Uribe regime to guarantee the right of dissent and the lives of unionists and workers.

Teachers and political campaigners also targeted by death squads

Elsewhere in Colombia, the persecutions of union leaders continue. According to a letter received by the London-based Colombia Peace Association, from the Pereira branch of the SINTRAEMSDES union, a manila envelope was received at the union offices on 22 October.

It contained a two-page leaflet in which 10 trade union leaders, human rights defenders, members of the Active Abstention campaign against the Referendum, of the Risaralda Teachers’ Union, street vendors and the Colombian Communist Party were threatened with death.

The other page contained the anthem of the illegal Cacique Calarca unit of the death squad umbrella organization AUC. In this document the paramilitaries stated that this was the first of three lists and is related with threats received in recent days and acts committed against trade union leaders in the North of Valle department.

The Uribe regime last week initiated a process of general amnesty for members of the AUC that will allow the paramilitaries to be officially incorporated into State security forces.

Street vendors are cut into pieces

In the city of Pereira a plan of territorial reorganization has been underway to alter the urban centre of the city and has resulted in the displacement of the destitute community that resides in this area.

According to the Pereira trade unionists, the municipal authorities have given a criminal treatment to the problems of under-employment and street vendors:

“Some have been assassinated, their bodies cut into pieces and left in different parts of the city. One died from a blow dealt by members of the national police and more have been disappeared,” the SINTRAEMSDES writes, and continues:

”These events have reminded us that, at a local level, different democratic sectors throughout the country united against the Referendum proposed by the government of Alvaro Uribe Velez and every single one of those threatened in the AUC document was part of the great Democratic Coalition for Active Abstention.

At the same time, the government has been criminalizing the political opposition, for example in the massive detentions realized in different parts of the country where leading activists in the Colombian Liberal Party have been charged with terrorism.”

The Pereira unionists call on the outside world to express their protest about “the lack of political will of the governing classes to stop these acts of barbarity against social activists”, and to condemn “this policy of terror aimed at eliminating the Leaders of Trade Unions and Democracy in our country.”

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getting rid of union leaders Meyer London Thursday, Dec. 04, 2003 at 7:23 PM

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