Trade Unionist Shot and Killed

News from Colombia | on: Tuesday, 30 August 2011

ASTRACAMCAG the Peasants’ Association of Caguan, has reported the killing of Rafael Andres Gonzalez Garnica, in the town of Cartagena del Chaira in the Southern department of Caqueta. Mr Gonzalez was a member of the union’s human rights secretariat. ASTRACAMCAG, an affiliate of FENSUAGRO - the Colombian agricultural workers’ federation - has reported a worsening human rights situation in the region in the run up to regional elections.

Mr Gonzalez was shot and killed on August 16th at 10pm, while having dinner in a local restaurant with two friends. The two friends were both wounded in the attack which took place just over a block away from a permanent police checkpoint. The town of Cartagena del Chaira is a centre for Colombian army operations in the region and locals report that the police checkpoint nearest the killing is manned by a mixture of uniformed police and also unidentified armed men who ride motorbikes without number plates, and wear civilian clothes. It is unclear who these men are, and who they answer to. Local human rights groups are asking the authorities to clarify this, since the threatening presence of these men is terrifying the local population. In many parts of Colombia human rights groups and local organisations accuse the armed forces and police of working alongside paramilitaries who carry out political assassinations.

ASTRACAMCAG demands that the government investigate the assassination of Rafael Andres Gonzalez Garnica and guarantee trade union freedom to organise.

The killing of Mr Gonzalez comes after peasant organisations held a national meeting for peace which condemned the government's rural policies and called for peace talks between guerrillas and government. One of the leaders of ASTRACATOL, the Tolima peasant workers' union, has since been accused on public radio of being a FARC member charged with infiltrating the peace meeting, placing his life in clear danger.

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