Colombia Visit Leaves Deep Impressions

News from Colombia | on: Friday, 16 March 2012

Delegates of the 2012 JFC delegation to Colombia have been deeply impressed by the situation they witnessed in Colombia. Several of the delegates kept fascinating delegation diaries, and others have written about their experiences since returning to the UK.

The delegates met with representatives of a broad spectrum of Colombian civil society and government. The delegation met the CUT and CTC trade union federations, and the leaders of the main trade unions. The delegation also met with victims’ organisations, including MOVICE, the National Victims’ Movement, as well as hearing testimonies from many individual victims. The delegation visited the southern region of Putumayo on the Ecuadorean border, where they heard from victims of human rights abuses, the repression of the political opposition and other civil society representatives. After these testimonies they took part in a silent protest march through Puerto Asis to protest at the abuses, before meeting with the town’s deputy mayor. The latter meeting, which was filmed by the army, was notable for the government official’s outright denial of abuses by the armed forces and police, as well as his denial of the existence of political prisoners in the region. Whether this was his sincere belief, or was encouraged by the presence of an officer and three soldiers in the room is hard to say.

Delegates also visited Liliany Obando in prison the day before she was released on bail. Among the visitors to the prison was Steve Gillan, the General Secretary of the POA, who described conditions in the prison as “appalling”. Other delegates visited the National University in Bogota, where student leaders spoke to them about the 2011 mobilisations against President Santos’ educational reforms, and about the long struggle of Colombian students to remain an island of freely expressed critical thought. The students showed delegates the memorials around campus commemorating students killed by police during past protests dating back to the 1950s and continuing to the present.

The delegation also met with the Democratic Pole, and members of Colombians for Peace and also met with representatives of the government – from the Attorney General’s Office, and the Foreign Ministry to the Labour Ministry and representatives of the Interior Ministry.

You can read John Rimmer’s (NASUWT) account of the delegation here. Owen Tudor, head of the TUC’s International Department has also written about the delegation. Lesley Mercer of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists wrote an account of Liliany’s release, and Jonathan Ledger of NAPO wrote some impressions from the delegation here. Bryan Nott of Simpson Millar also wrote a detailed delegation diary which you can read here.

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