Former Trade Union and Political Leader Visits UK

Justice For Colombia News | on: Saturday, 3 May 2008

Aida Avella, the only surviving member of the leadership of the leftwing 'Patriotic Union' political party in Colombia, has returned to exile in Switzerland after a three day visit to the UK arranged by Justice for Colombia. Ms Avella, former President of the 'Patriotic Union' party who also led the Colombian public sector workers trade union FENALTRASE in the early 1990s, was forced to flee Colombia to Switzerland after an assassination attempt in central Bogota during which a bazooka was fired at her armoured car.

As well as meetings with trade unionists Ms Avella did press interviews and addressed the May Day rally in the Scottish capital Edinburgh. In various meetings in Wales she described how the political party that she led was physically exterminated through an intense campaign of violence by the Colombian security forces which saw some 4000 party members killed including 14 members of Congress and the 'Patriotic Union's' two presidential candidates. Ms Avella herself only narrowly risked assassination in the Bogota attack which was allegedly carried out by military intelligence agents.

During her address to the Edinburgh rally Ms Avella described how Colombian workers, like many British workers, suffer from several key problems including low wages, bad terms and conditions, casualisation of labour contracts and hostility from employers to union activity.

"But in Colombia we have another problem that it is different to other nations. In Colombia the authorities are killing us. Killing us simply for being trade union activists. Killing us simply for campaigning for better wages, for a better standard of living for working people." She then went on to name the 23 trade unionists who have already been assassinated in Colombia during 2008.

In Cardiff, the Welsh capital, Ms Avella met with union leaders and thanked them for their efforts to draw attention to the activities of Welsh MP and Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells. Howells was recently photographed posing with a Colombian Army unit involved in torturing and murdering trade union activists and with a General accused of working with rightwing paramilitary death squads. Andy Richards, head of the largest union in Wales, Unite, told Ms Avella that trade unionists all over Wales were ashamed of Mr Howells and described the photographs as "both disgusting and shocking".

In a separate event at Bristol University, arranged by young trade unionists and Bristol Students Union, Ms Avella spoke of the importance of young people getting involved in trade unionism and gave an overview of the critical situation faced by Colombian students. She was joined on the platform by Bristol University NUS President Tobin Webb who pledged that students at the university would continue to campaign on Colombia with a special emphasis on pressuring the British Government to end their policy of providing unconditional and secret military aid to the Colombian regime.

An interview given by Aida Avella to the Western Mail newspaper during her visit can be seen at

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