COLOMBIA: UNION LEADERS' SAFETY AT RISK
A death threat was made against Colombian trade union leaders who are representing workers of coal mining companies in La Jagua de Ibírico municipality, in the north-eastern department of Cesar.
On 3 March trade union president Ricardo Machado and treasurer Wilder Martínez, of the La Jagua de Ibírico Branch of the Colombian Union of Workers of the Mining, Petrochemical, Agro-Fuels and Energy Industries (Sindicato Nacional de la Industria Minera, Petroquímica, Agrocombustible y Energética, SINTRAMIENERGETICA) were threatened. Wilder Martínez received an anonymous text message that read “Listen you son-of-a-bitch and that Ricardo you have your days numbered for sticking your noses where they don’t belong stay put or we will shut you up bastard guerrillas have you already forgotten what happened to Horcasita [sic] first and last [warning]”. (Oye HP tu y el Ricardo tienen los días contados por estar metiendo las narices donde no les interesa se queden quietos o los callamos guerrilleros malparidos ya se les olvido [sic] lo de Horcasita [sic] primera y ultima [sic]) Horcasita was a reference to the torture and killing of Víctor Orcasita, the Vice-President of SINTRAMIENERGETICA, by paramilitaries on 12 March 2001.
The two union leaders have been defending their union against lawsuits filed by the coal mining companies Carbones de La Jagua and Consorcio Minero Unido, both owned by multinational Glencore, regarding the legality of a strike SINTRAMIENERGETICA held between 19 July and 23 October 2012 as well as strikes held in 2011 and 2006. The union leaders had also campaigned to prevent the mining company from carrying out mining activities which they alleged would have had a negative impact on a river in the region.
Ricardo Machado had previously been threatened by an armed man on 12 February. Although the police were able to apprehend and question him, the man's identity remains unknown as he had falsely claimed to be working for the La Jagua mining project.
Please write immediately.
* Insist that the authorities provide protection to accord with the wishes of Ricardo Machado, Wilder Martínez and other members of the La Jagua de Ibírico Branch of SINTRAMIENERGETICA.
* Urge the authorities to conduct a full and impartial investigation into the threats against Ricardo Machado and Wilder Martínez, and to publish the results and bring those responsible to justice.
Use this contact information for your appeals:
Señor Juan Manuel Santos
Presidente de la República
Palacio de Nariño, Carrera 8 No.7–26
Fax: 011 57 1 596 0631 (hard to reach)
Salutation: Dear President Santos / Excmo. Sr. Presidente Santos
Rafael Pardo Rueda
Ministerio de Trabajo
Carrera 14, No.99–33
Fax: 011 57 1 489 3900 (You will need a machine that can dial ext 2320.)
Salutation: Dear Minister / Estimado Ministro
Please send a copy to
Honourable John Baird
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Fax: (613) 996-9880
Mr. César Felipe González Hernández
Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy of Colombia
360 Albert Street, Suite 1002
Ottawa, Ontario K1R 7X7
Fax: (613) 230-4416
Calle 8 No 4-45
Jagua de Ibírico
During Colombia’s long-running armed conflict between the left-wing guerrillas and the armed forces, which at times operate in collusion with paramilitaries, members of human rights organizations, trade unions and other social organizations have often been threatened, subjected to enforced disappearance or killed. Colombia's paramilitary groups supposedly demobilized in a government-sponsored process that began in 2003, but it is clear from the threats against human rights organizations and trade unions that they are still operating.
Colombia has one of the highest rates of killings of trade unionists of any country. Trade unionists face repeated death threats or are killed during labour disputes and during campaigns for improvement of their pay and working conditions. They have been repeatedly threatened and many have been extrajudicially executed or subjected to enforced disappearance by paramilitaries either acting alone or in collusion with the security forces. In addition, the security forces and paramilitaries often accuse trade unionists of being guerrilla sympathizers or auxiliaries. Guerrilla forces have also been responsible for killing and threatening those they accuse of collaborating with their enemies.
For many years members of SINTRAMIENERGETICA have been killed and received death threats by paramilitaries while the union has been seeking the improvement of working conditions. On 12 March 2001, the same day as Víctor Orcasita was killed, Valmore Locarno the President of the union was also killed.
Kathy Price, Campaigner
Amnesty International Canada (English Speaking Branch)
1992 Yonge Street, 3rd Floor, Toronto, Ontario M4S 1Z7
Tel: 416.363.9933 ext 322
For more information: www.amnesty.ca.