Death Threats against Regional Trade Union Leaders and Human Rights Defenders

News from Colombia | on: Thursday, 24 April 2008

A series of death threats have been received by regional leaders of the CUT trade federation as well as individual trade unions and human rights groups. The threats, which accuse the recipients of working with guerrilla groups, list over 20 individuals who the paramilitary group that signed the threats claim they are preparing to assassinate. All of those named were active in the March 6th national protest against state sponsored violence in Colombia an event that the Colombian Government claim was supported by the FARC guerrilla group.

One of the threats, which arrived at the regional offices of the CUT federation in the city of Bucaramanga (Santander department), said that the CUT and various regional human rights NGOs were made up of "disguised guerrillas". The threat went on to say that those that oppose President Uribe of Colombia will be executed if they continue with their activities and went on to list the following regional trade union and NGO activists and declared them all as military objectives:

DAVIS FLOREZ, JAVIER CORREA, ALFREDO VALDIVIESO, JUAN JAIMES, RAFAEL OVALLE, MARTHA DIAZ, MIGUEL CONDE, MAURICIO MARTINEZ, NORMA (ALIAS LA PROFE) JOSE BAUTISTA (ALIAS CHURCO) CAROLINA RUBIO, MARIA CARDONA, NICANOR ARCINIEGAS, PABLO VARGAS, GABRIEL PRINCIPE, FERNANDO PORRAS TERESA BAEZ

A seperate paramilitary threat, this time by e-mail, arrived the following day, April 23rd, at the office of the Committee for Solidarity for Political Prisoners (CSPP) in the city of Barranquilla (Atlantico department). The threat specifically mentioned Jesus Tovar, the Vice President of the CUT in Atlantico region, as well as human rights lawyer Jose Humberto Torres and CSPP activists Nicolas Castro and Maria Cedano. It accused all of them of being guerrillas and said that they were being watched.

The e-mail also said that the paramilitaries would shortly begin to assassinate members of the CUT, the regional teachers' trade union ADEBA, the food and drink workers union SINALTRAINAL, and the two university student organizations ACEU and FEU.

The threats come less than a month after a leaked Colombian Army intelligence report revealed that the military believe that trade unionists and human rights defenders in the city of Barranquilla are in fact guerrilla sympathizers. Human rights groups have pointed out that those named in such documents regularly become the targets of paramilitary death squad threats or even assassination and question how the paramilitaries are able to access military intelligence files.

The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has called on the Colombian Government to end their practice of holding intelligence files on human rights defenders and trade unionists due to the fact that paramilitaries appear to have such easy access to the records. The Colombian Government has repeatedly failed to implement the UN recommendation.

In an April 24th statement the CSPP says that the believe that the recent threats are linked to comments made by senior Colombian Government officials that those involved in the March 6th national protests against state-sponsored violence are supporters of the FARC guerrilla group. The comments were followed by a huge upsurge in threats and killings aimed at those involved in the day of action. All those mentioned in the most recent threats participated in the March 6th events.



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