by Tim Lezard GMB is calling on the European Commission to suspend the Colombia Free Trade Agreement because of renewed death threats against leaders of our sister union, SINTRAINAGRO, by right-wing paramilitaries in the province of Magdalena. Respect …

Tim Lezard Europe, South America, UK, GMB, UK unions,

Colombia

by Tim Lezard

GMB is calling on the European Commission to suspend the Colombia Free Trade Agreement because of renewed death threats against leaders of our sister union, SINTRAINAGRO, by right-wing paramilitaries in the province of Magdalena.

Respect for human rights constitutes an essential element of the Agreement and a violation of the human right clause entitles the other party to adopt ‘appropriate measures’, in accordance with international law.

This GMB call comes as Gerardo Iglesias, Latin American Regional Secretary of the International Union of Foodworkers, writes to President Santos of Colombia, demanding that he take action to stem the violence.

The Colombian Government has failed take action against the right-wing paramilitary group ‘Comando Urbano Los Rastrojos’ which distributed pamphlets saying that it was necessary to “once more fight against those guerrillas who disguise themselves as trade unionists.”

This is the terrorist group which has been responsible for previous murders and this year 9 trade unionists have already been killed in Magdalena, making it the most dangerous region in Colombia for organised labour.

At least 750 members of SINTRAINAGRO, a union of 27,000 people working in bananas, palm oil, sugar, rice and flowers, have been assassinated in past decades, the last of those being Tomas Rodriguez, gunned down in May.

Bert Schouwenburg, GMB International Officer, said “Across Colombia from January 2013 to May 2014, 26 union members were killed by death squads, according to figures collated by human rights organisations who also recorded 13 intended murders, 149 death threats, 28 kidnappings and 13 arbitrary detentions, all directed against trade unionists. 90% of the victims were union leaders. There have been no arrests and not a single prosecution has been brought by the authorities.

Before more of our trade union comrades are killed or maimed the European Union must insist that the Colombian authorities fulfill their obligations with regard to the respect of human rights in Colombia. The free trade agreement has legitimised a government who, at best, do nothing to curb paramilitary gangsters working hand in glove with anti-union employers or, at worst, actively collaborate with them.

The deal should never have been signed and claims that it would help to stem the violence in Colombia have been shown to have no substance whatsoever. The human rights clause in the agreement must be observed and if the Colombian government is unable or unwilling to do so, it should be suspended immediately.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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