Projet Accompagnement Solidarité Colombie

Canadian Unions condemn murder of Colombia oil union leader

24 January 2012

The CUT and the USO oilworkers’ union have reported the assassination of trade union leader and community activist Mauricio A. Redondo and his wife Janeth Ordonez. The two were killed at 19.30 on January 17th in Puerto Asis. The couple leave behind 5 children.

Mr Redondo was from the settlement of Teteye, near Puerto Asis in Putumayo department in Southern Colombia. He worked in PEI, a services company for the oil sector. As a community leader he had recently had an active participation in a forum on the right to work.

According to the CUT his killing underlines the threat to trade unionists in the region, and it reports that three USO leaders have recently received threats by text message. Another telephone threat was received by the USO offices in the area, and 2 disciplinary cases have also been opened against USO members by their employers. Together these actions point towards a systematic policy of repression and hindrance of union activities.

USO leader Rodolfo Vecino was recently fired by Ecopetrol before being reinstated a month later. Similar cases are still pending on other USO leaders. The USO has played a leading role in industrial action in Colombia’s oil fields in the last year.


OTTAWA -- The president of one of Canada’s largest unions, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, says both the Columbian and Canadian governments need to act now to denounce the latest murder of a trade union leader in Colombia.

Maurico Redondo and his wife Janeth Ordóñez Carlosama were murdered by two gunmen in their home in Putumayo on January 17, leaving their five children orphaned.  Maurcio was a provincial leader of the Union Sinical Obrera (USO), and both he and his wife were activists in a community group that advocated for better working conditions, environmental stewardship and labour and human rights in the booming oil and natural gas fields of south-western Colombia.  The murders followed telephone threats to three other USO leaders and a bomb threat at USO’s regional office in Orito.

“Once again we see that activists for decent work and decent communities continue to be targets in Colombia,” says CEP President Dave Coles.  “We mourn the deaths of Maurico Redondo and Janeth Ordóñez and call on Colombian authorities to bring those responsible to justice.  We also call on the Canadian Government to cancel the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, until the Colombian Government meets its international obligations to respect labour and human rights.”

CEP is the largest union in several key sectors of Canada’s economy, including forestry, energy, telecommunications, and media.

For more information: 
Duncan Brown
National Director – Graphical
Humanity Fund Executive Secretary
(613) 230-5200 ext 281
(416) 605-4665

http://www.cep.ca/en/news/media-releases/cep-condemns-murder-colombia-oil-union-leader


Letter from the United Steel Workers

On January 24th Unite the Union and the USW wrote to President Santos regarding the two recent killings of trade unionists in Colombia. They wrote as leaders of Workers Uniting, the global union, which has a partnership agreement with FENSUAGRO, the Colombian agricultural workers’ union, one of whose members was tortured and killed by Colombian army troops on January 9th.

In their letter Len McCluskey and Leo Gerard express their “deep anger and sadness” at the news of the killings of two Colombian trade unionists who have been “brutally murdered in recent days.” The letter emphasises that one of the trade unionists, Victor Hilarion, was a member of FENSUAGRO, and therefore Workers Uniting treats the killing as that of a member of their own organisations – “We consider an attack on a FENSUAGRO member as if it were one of our own members.”

The letter calls on President Santos to immediately order an investigation into these brutal crimes, and release all trade unionists from prison (there are currently dozens of trade unionists imprisoned in Colombia) and provide security protection to Colombian trade unionists.

 

Dear President Santos,


We are writing to express our deep anger and sadness at the news of two more trade union activists who have been brutally murdered in recent days – one of them time directly at the hands of the Colombian Army.


 On Monday January 9th trade unionist Victor Manuel Hilarion Palacios, a herdsman and muletrain driver from Sumapaz, was travelling for work from San Juan de Sumapaz towards Rio Nevado when he was killed by Colombian army troops. The soldiers later handed his body to the CTI office in the town of Villavicencio, stating that he had been killed in crossfire – yet his colleagues and relatives who went to collect his body discovered it bore signs of having been brutally beaten and tortured.
Mr Hilarion was a member of SINTRAPAZ, part of FENSUAGRO, the Colombian Agricultural Workers Union. In February 2010 Mr Hilarion’s name and photograph were found on a list of 18 social activists accused of being “FARC militia” in the area. All those listed were members of social and community organisations. As you are well aware, this type of accusation is common place against trade union activists and often leads to assassination. Mr Hilarion was a carer for his elderly mother and leaves behind a young daughter.


Workers Uniting – the organisation representing over 3 million workers in UNITE the Union in the UK and the United Steelworkers of America in the US and Canada recently signed a partnership agreement with FENSUAGRO. We have a long history of working closely with this union which has suffered so much persecution at the hands of state security
forces.


We know the union’s leadership is still being denied security protection despite numerous requests which we have repeatedly supported. It continues to have members imprisoned – around 75 currently – and members assassinated, such as this most recent tragic example.
We consider an attack on a FENSUAGRO member as if it were one of our own members. In the US, Canada or UK, if a trade unionist were murdered by the army it would cause an uproar – it is simply unacceptable that in Colombia this happens on a regular basis with no repercussions for the perpetrators.


Mauricio Redondo, a leader in the USO oil workers’ union was killed on January 17th along with his wife, leaving behind 5 children. The USO has been the focus of government repression and paramilitary death threats ever since the mobilisations of last summer.


We call on you to immediately order an investigation into these brutal crimes, and ensure those responsible are brought to justice. We also request that all trade union members be freed from prison, and that the FENSUAGRO and USO leaderships receive adequate protection.


We have welcomed the change in official discourse towards trade unions, but sadly we see the situation remains the same on the ground for our colleagues. Over 25 trade union colleagues were murdered last year, and we will continue to raise these issues until we see an end to the abuses. Our colleagues have suffered too much simply for defending their members’
rights.


Yours sincerely,
LEO W. GERARD LEN McCLUSKEY
International President – USW General
Secretary – Unite

 


cc: Rt. Hon William Hague MP, First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for
Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, UK
Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso, President, European Commission
Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General, United Nations
Mr. Juan Somavia, Director General, International Labour Organisation
HMA John Dew, British Ambassador in Colombia
P. Michael McKinley, US Ambassador to Colombia
Amnesty International
Justice for Colombia
CUT, Colombian trade union confederation
FENSUAGRO
United Steelworkers Unite the Union
Five Gateway Center 128 Theobalds Road
Pittsburgh PA 15222 London, WC1X 8TN
USA UK

Author: 
CEP, United Steel Workers
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