Agricultural Union General Secretary Killed by Colombian Army

News from Colombia | on: Tuesday, 29 January 2008

55-year-old Israel Gonzalez, the General Secretary of the Colombian agricultural trade union ASTRACATOL and an active member of the Polo Democratico opposition political party, has been shot dead by soldiers of the 'Caicedo' Battalion of the Colombian Army. The killing, which took place at 7.15am on January 24th as Mr Gonzalez prepared breakfast for himself and his wife at their home, comes only months after he led a protest of over 20,000 agricultural workers in the department of Tolima, the region in which he lived.

Mr Gonzalez, a father of four who led the Association of Country Workers of Tolima (ASTRACATOL), had also recently been elected as President of the 'Community Action Council' in the town of Mesetas. The town, which is in the province of San Antonio, Tolima department, was also where he was killed.

According to a statement denouncing the event released by the agricultural workers union FENSUAGRO, Mr Gonzalez's wife, Clara Inés Bocanegra, heard the army batallion arrive and take Mr Gonzalez away. Moments later Mrs Bocanegra heard heavy gunfire.

The army have subsequently claimed that Mr Gonzalez was a left-wing "subversive" and was killed in combat with the army. The army took Mr Rodriguez's body to the morgue in the municipality of Chaparral on Saturday January 26th, therebye preventing him from being buried in his home province of San Antonio, department of Tolima.

Source: January 28th 2008 Press Release from FENSUAGRO (La federación nacional sindical unitaria agropecuaria)

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