A new survey of trade union rights says that Colombia is by far the most dangerous place in the world to be a member of a trade union.
According to a new report on human rights violations released by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) at least 184 trade unionists were killed last year in Colombia–accounting for some 86% of the global total of killings of trade union members. The report also mentions that some 189 Colombian unionists received death threats, 27 were victims of assassination attempts, nine were ‘disappeared’ and that there were a total of 166 abductions and arbitrary arrests of union members.
Colombian security force personnel physically attacked many other trade unionists during the year and the report mentions some 80 union activists forced into exile in fear of their lives.
Additionally the ICFTU criticized what it called Colombia’s “appalling toll of murder, beatings, disappearances and intimidation carried out with virtually total impunity” and pointed out that “none of the investigations opened following the attempts on trade unionists’ lives have resulted in the effective sentencing of those responsible.”
Although the Colombian government claims to have a protection scheme for trade union members at risk the CUT trade union federation and local human rights organizations state that the government refuses to offer any protection whatsoever to some of those most in danger and that even when the scheme is applied it is inadequate. Such claims are given added credence by the fact that among the 184 trade unionists reported killed there are some that were allegedly receiving government protection when they were assassinated.
In accordance with all other studies and reports on the situation faced by unionists in Colombia the ICFTU report blamed nearly all of the killings on rightwing paramilitary death squads that work with the Colombian army.
ALFREDO CASTRO writes for ANNCOL.