Human Rights Activists and Trade Unionists Threatened

News from Colombia | on: Sunday, 2 March 2008

February saw a big increase in paramilitary threats to kill civil society activists in the central coffee growing region of Colombia, known as the 'Eje Cafetero'. Among those threatened were trade unionist Yerly Mauricio Cubides, human rights activists Guillermo Castano and Luz Adriana Gonzalez and leaders of the public sector workers union in the regional capital Pereira.

The upsurge in threats began on February 5th when leaders of public sector workers union SINTRAEMSDES in the region received an e-mail death threat. A week later Yerly Mauricio Cubides, a leading agricultural workers' union activist in the region, was the victim of an abduction attempt at a café in the town of Quindio. He subsequently received a number of death threats by telephone including one, on February 17th, during which he was insulted and told that he would shortly be killed.

On February 29th yet another threat arrived by e-mail, this time aimed at Guillermo Castano, the President of the Permanent Committee for Human Rights in the region – Colombia's largest human rights organization. That same day, at 5.30am, unidentified men on motorbikes opened fire on the home of Luz Adriana Gonzalez, a worker at the Permanent Committee. Although she was not hurt, human rights groups fear that someone will shortly lose their life.

Calls on the Colombian Government to provide protection to the threatened individuals and to act to apprehend the perpetrators, have gone unanswered.

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