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72 CUT members were assassinated in 2003

The social, political and human rights situation in Colombia worsens daily, which shows that the solution is not to increase war and violence. The state-government and the armed groups (insurgency, paramilitary and armed forces) have evaded the United Nations’ 27 recommendations for human rights policy. The Colombian state has completed noe of the recommendations; it is clear that President of the Republic Dr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez is applying the policies of ‘demorcatic security’. Their have been massive detentions in which the government does not fulfill codes and international treaties, illegal raids and 72 union leaders were murdered last year. The concern today is all the greater, now that an antiterrorist statute has been approved which we are sure will not be applied to terrorists. On the contrary, this whole policy is directed to hit and to put an end to the organizational processes of the social movement that generate opposition to the policies of North American imperialism and the government of Álvaro Uribe Vélez.


On 17th January 2004, RICARDO BARRAGÁN ORTEGA was murdered as he was leaving his place of residence. He as an activist and member of the Cali Municipal Corporation Workers Union - SINTRAEMCALI - CUT. The comrade was on his way to the Navarrese Center Operatiions Yard to play a soccer game with his work mates when he was intercepted by two motorcyclists who shot him five times in the head. One of the assassins who participated in the comrade RICARDO's murder was captured by the police as he tried to flee the place of the crime. He was transferred to Guabal Neighbourhood Police Station. The comrade had been characterized by his technical contributions to the proposal to save EMCALI, and he had made ingenious contributions to reduce the costs, to increase the revenues and to optimise human resources. And he had been active participating in the protest days of the workers to defend EMCALI EICE ESP from privatisation.


On 13th January 2004, an envelope with a condolence card [standard form of assassin threat] was left in the offices of the Atlántico branch of ANTHOC [health workers union]. It was addressed to the Committee of this organization, citing the names of GILBERTO MARTÍNEZ (member of the National Committee), CARMEN TORRES (member of the Departmental Committee, ÁLVARO MÁRQUEZ (member of the Departmental Committee), JOSÉ MERIÑO (member of the Departmental Committee) and ANGEL SALAS (member of the National Committee). It was apparently from the AUC (United Self-defenses of Colombia) [paramilitaries] and is signed with the letters Antonio Uparela Castro at the end.

On 16th January 2004, a death threat arrived at the electronic mail of the CUT (United Workers Federation of Colombia). It was from someone calling themselves "Major Rigoberto Zarate Ospina Cell 18" of the Block Calarca of the AUC e-mail (bloquecalarcapara@hotmail.com) and in which death threats against union leaders in Risaralda are confirmed. It was necessary to take these leaders out of the country last October in the face of the siege and death sentence passed by this paramilitary unit.

In this sentence the paramilitaries condemn not only the social work of the "Social Pastoral of Colombia [church] but the State of CHILE for giving refuge to criminals of little worth as are the union leaders of the CUT in Risaralda; and they point out that their armed units are already placed in Chile awaiting the order to begin locating the whereabouts and then the execution of those called civil subversives."

On 21st January 2004 once again the national and local leaders of ANTHOC are the object of death threats. [This time] by the Peasants AUC of Magdalena's Medio who have declared as targets JESUS ALFONSO NARANJO and MARIO NEL MORA PATIÑO representatives of the Human Rights Department and Medical Mission. This is for making accusations against administrative corruption and raising national and international protest actions against the constant and repeated threats, forced displacements and assassinations of health officials and especially of their members. The paramilitaries claim in their note that the two leaders are not human rights defenders, but guerillas fighters infiltrated in the union movement, for such a reason they will be eliminated in any part of the country.

The government intends to apply a plan in the department of the Cauca in the south west of the country like the plan it has applied in Arauca. In Arauca the government persecuted, harassed and imprisoned the leadership of the social movements. In Cauca massive detentions have been carried out in the last year. There are populations (municipalities) that are closed off by the National Army and others by the paramilitary groups violating the most elementary rights and even international treaties. For example they control the entrance of food to the peasants and they don't allow them to take out their products, which of course deteriorates the quality of the civil population's life. In the union movement the Executive Committee of the Subdirectiva CUT Cauca and the Executive Committee of unions have been threatened recently. Several comrades have been forced by the circumstances of threats to abandon their region where the right to association right and union freedoms are palpably being violated.


The government presents Cartagena as the paradise of the Americas. Cartagena is the capital of Bolívar Department where, unfortunately the social movement has registered around 350 illegal detentions in the previous year. It is clear that in Colombia respect for the freedom of expression does not exist and hence silence covers acts infringing human rights. For this reason, we demand real guarantees on the part of the State to exercise the union freedoms in Colombia.

DOMINGO TOVAR ARRIETA Director Human Rights Department, Bogotá, D. C. 23 January 2004

Calle 35 No. 7-25 P.9 PBX y FAX 3237550-3237950 Bogotá, D.C. ­Colombia
Email: derechoshumanos@cut.org.co

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