A court ruling that struck down a detention order led yesterday to the release of three members of the Unión Sindical Obrera (USO), Héctor Sánchez, Dilio Naranjo Gualteros, and Campo Elías Ortiz. The men were being detained for offences allegedly committed during protests held in Puerto Gaitán in 2011, in the ongoing campaign to compel the multinational Pacific Rubiales and its contractors to respect labour rights.
The decision by Constitutional Rights Judge 78 of Bogotá gives support to the fight for union and labour rights led by the USO in Meta Department and puts a damper on persecution of union leaders. Under the guise of “investor confidence,” the transnationals operating in our country have trampled on the rights of those who make demands on them, so that they can continue to pillage our natural resources and damage our environment.
The implementation of the ruling was hindered for two days by a dilatory motion filed by the La Picota penitentiary and INPEC (the Colombian correctional authority), requesting that one of the men be cleared in another case before being released. Under Colombian law, however, enforcement of a release order is not conditional on such a finding.
In the ruling, the judge found that the charges brought by the public prosecutor lacked a strong evidentiary basis and that the facts alleged were not sufficient to keep the men in custody. In addition, some of the alleged facts were found to be mutually contradictory. These circumstances gave weight to the arguments of the Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners that the presumption of innocence should prevail, and cast doubt on the arguments of sectional public prosecutor 239 of Bogotá, Luisa Fajardo, who had laid the charges. The prosecutor was found to have taken excessive measures that harmed the interests of the USO leaders and benefited those of Pacific Rubiales.
The legal team responsible for this victory for trade unionism in Colombia, made up of Liria Manrique and Eduardo Matías Camargo (from the Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners), Mauricio Rodríguez of the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center, and Camilo Acero of USO Meta, announced that, though the legal proceedings continue, the men free for the time being.
Only one case remains pending, that of USO Meta Vice-President Darío Cárdenas Pachón, who is still detained in Villavicencio prison on similar charges stemming from the workers’ struggle in Puerto Gaitán.
UNIÓN SINDICAL OBRERA: 90 YEARS OF STRUGGLE TO IMPROVE THE LIVING CONDITIONS OF OIL SECTOR WORKERS AND FOR THE NATIONALIZATION OF OUR NATURAL RESOURCES