Attempted murder and death threats made against oil workers

News from Colombia | on: Friday, 24 May 2013

“Death to those guerrilla sons of bitches. We invite you to their funeral in 48 hours”.

This was the death threat distributed in the oil producing city of Barrancabermeja earlier this week. Four oil workers, member of the oil workers trade union USO, were named.

In a public statement the union expressed its complete condemnation of threats against its members and called on the government to ensure that guarantees are given for trade unions to operate in safety. Colombia is still the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist. 20 trade unionists were killed in 2012. The death threat was signed by the paramilitary organisation Los Rastrojos who have a strong presence in the region in spite of complete military control of the area. the threat also makes a direct reference to the union members work saying that they were “upsetting the tranquility” and that the oil company Occidental Andina is “here to stay”.

The threats come in a month that has seen several threats and attacks against USO members. On 7 May 2013 Rafael Rodriguez Moro narrowly escaped after he was shot at by gunmen on a motorcycle as he was shopping in a chemist and on 9 May 2013 another union member, Ariel Corzo, received a text message death threat to his phone.

USO has repeatedly denounced attacks against its members and particularly the pattern of increased attacks at times of industrial dispute. It has called on the government to make statements defending the legal right to organise in a trade union but as yet the government has kept complete silence. As is common for attacks against trade unionists nobody has been charged for any of the threats or attacks. Indeed of more than 3,000 trade unionists killed since 1986, there is an impunity rate of 95%.

The union called on its members to not weaken in face of the threats and to continue with determination in their struggle for workers’ rights.



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