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Colombia: Two trade union leaders killed

Brussels March 14 2001 (ICFTU OnLine): Following the killings of two trade unionists in Colombia, the world's largest labour body, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has protested vigorously against the appalling circumstances in which they were killed in a letter to President Andres Pastrana.

The victims, Balmore Locarno and Jaime Orcasitas, respectively President and Vice-President of the union at the mining firm Drummond Ltd, were gunned down by paramilitary forces, thought to be the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), after being dragged out of a bus, taking them to work at the coal mine. Drummond Ltd operates the coal mine of El Cerrejon, the largest open cast mine in Colombia and one of the largest in the world.

Yesterday's assassinations are being seen as part of a long campaign by the country's far right movement to silence labour leaders who speak out against them.

The ICFTU warned that this steep increase in violent attacks against trade unionists would, if continued, leave it with no alternative but to resume its campaign for the appointment of a special ILO Commission of Inquiry, one of the strongest measures available to the ILO.

The ILO Governing Body, now meeting in Geneva until March 30, will soon examine the 2nd report of the ILO Director General's Special Representative for Colombia, appointed in June 2000 as a compromise which allowed the Colombian government to temporarily avoid the scrutiny of an international judicial investigation into violence against the country's trade union movement.

A total of 129 Colombian unionists were killed in 2000. The ICFTU's affiliate, the CTC (Confederation of Colombian Workers), and the country's largest national union centre, CUT, have both called for an increase in resources for the Special Representative's office in Bogota.

For more information, please contact the ICFTU Press Department at +32 2 224 0210

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