15 March 2001
The following is from the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM):
The Colombian government must act now to halt the continuing wave of assassinations directed against trade unionists.
That was the call today from the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) following a new upsurge of killings in Colombia.
The ICEM condemned the brutal murder this Monday of two mining union activists employed at a coal mine in northern Colombia. The mine is owned by the US-based multinational Drummond.
Valmore Locarno Rodriguez and Victor Hugo Orcasita, President and Vice-President of the mine workers' local union at Loma mine, were pulled from a company-chartered bus while on their way to work. They were shot execution-style by gunmen, some of them dressed in military uniforms. The other miners on the bus were forced to witness the killings.
In a protest over the murders, the mine's 1,200 workers struck, halting all production. The miners are members of ICEM affiliate Sintracarbon, the Colombian national mine workers' union.
"We utterly condemn these vile murders," said ICEM General Secretary Fred Higgs today, "and we demand that the Colombian government bring the perpetrators to justice without delay. These killings are just the latest in a long series of assassinations directed against trade union activists in Colombia. Last year alone, at least 129 Colombian trade unionists were murdered. Unless and until the authorities make a real effort to investigate these crimes, and bring them to an end, the suspicion must remain th t the gunmen are not acting alone."
Higgs also called for a full investigation into the recent death of Dario Hoyos.
Hoyos was murdered in unexplained circumstances in his home town of Fusagasuga earlier this month. No further details have emerged about the killing. Dario Hoyos used to be the Colombian coordinator for the Miners' International Federation, a forerunner of the present ICEM. "This was a tragic end to a life devoted to the defence of the Colombian workers," Higgs said.
Meanwhile, the murder of the Loma mine leaders has also drawn protests from miners in the USA, where the Drummond company is headquartered. Last year, Drummond decided to close most of its US coal mines and begin operating new mines in Colombia.
"We strongly condemn these assassinations of our trade union brothers," said American union leader Jerry Jones today. Jones is Vice-President of the ICEM-affiliated United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). He is also an ICEM Vice-President.
"When Drummond chose to switch many of its operations to Colombia," Jones pointed out, "it did so knowing that country's hostile political climate and egregious human rights violations. The UMWA would hope that Monday's assassinations might make Drummond rethink its decision. The UMWA's prayers and condolences go out to the families, friends and co-workers of Brothers Locarno and Orcasita, and we offer our full support and solidarity to the Colombian mine workers' union."
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