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Reply #27: Colombian President Uribe Confirms U.S. Unions' Fears [View All]

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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-26-08 10:06 PM
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27. Colombian President Uribe Confirms U.S. Unions' Fears
Colombian President Uribe Confirms U.S. Unions' Fears
Posted February 19, 2008 | 12:30 PM (EST)

Last week, the AFL-CIO sent a delegation of trade unionists, including representatives of the United Steelworkers on a fact-finding mission to Colombia, South America -- the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists. Approximately 2,300 unionists have been killed in Colombia since 1991; 470 since the current president, Alvaro Uribe, took office in 2002. Five have been killed already this year.

I represented the USW on this delegation as it asked numerous unionists, Colombian congressional representatives, the ILO, the Colombian Constitutional Court, Attorney General Mario Iguaran, and President Uribe about the continued violence against trade unionists in that country.

Our meeting with President Uribe took a chilling turn when I raised our collective concern about the pervasive anti-union culture in the military, companies and even the government in Colombia -- a culture which labels those workers attempting to organize and exercise their union rights as "guerillas" or "terrorists." In a country where the Colombian military, along with right-wing paramilitaries aligned with the military, are at war with the guerillas, such labels target those workers for assassination.

As an example of anti-union stigmatization, I related to President Uribe a conversation I had with a colonel of the Colombian Army's 18th Brigade shortly after this Brigade shot and killed three trade union leaders near Saravena in August of 2004. Colonel Medina of the 18th Brigade told me at that time that he knew he was required as an army officer to protect trade unionists as he would all citizens. However, he claimed that many unionists were in fact guerrillas -- a claim which is untrue but which makes unionists fair game for attacks by the military.


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