COLOMBIAN LABOR MONITOR
Wednesday, 30 May 2001
BOGOTA -- On May 21st 2001, Carlos Eliecer Prado, a union activist for the Municipal Workers of Cali trade union, was assassinated. He was shot 11 times as he arrived for work at 7.00am. Carlos had received numerous death threats from the paramilitary death squad that operates in the city of Cali alongside the Colombian army's 3rd Brigade.
On May 17th Professor Miguel Angel Vargas, the president of the Cesar University Professors Association was assassinated by paramilitaries in the city of Valledupar, Cesar department. Vargas was shot by two paramilitary gunmen on a motorcycle as he left the 'Universidad Popular de Valledupar". Lisandro Vargas Zapata, brother of the victim and also a university professor, was also murdered by paramilitaries three months ago in the city of Barranquilla, Atlantico department (see below).
Colombian trade unionists continue to be murdered by paramilitary death squads at an alarming rate. So far this year the paramilitaries have assassinated 48 unionists including 15 leaders or senior officials. If this rate of assassinations continues, this year will be the worst year in the history of trade unionism in Colombia. Below is a list of those murdered so far this year - including their name, the union to which they were affiliated or working for, the date that they were assassinated, followed by the town or municipality and then the department in which the crime took place:
The latest assassinations were denounced by the SINTRAEMCALI trade union in a statement that mentioned that, "We, Colombian trade unionists, have been targeted by dark forces moving inside the State itself. They seek to silence through assassination, exile or terror those who are against privatisation and those who defend human rights."
In a press release put out on the same day by the CUT (Colombia's main trade union federation), blame for the "selective assassinations" was firmly placed with the "paramilitary groups of the extreme right led by Mr. Carlos Castano".
The CUT press release went on to call for the International Labour Organisation to impose its harshest sanction on Colombia and appoint a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the murders and to pressure the Colombian government to "truly install a policy of dismantling paramilitary groups," The CUT said that, "The Administrative Council of the ILO does not need to listen to more speeches and unfulfilled promises, in response to the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the Organisation of American States Human Rights Commission and the reports of the ILO itself, none of which have been implemented."
Copyright 2001 News In Brief by Liam Craig-Best & Rowan Shingler
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