Further Attacks on Striking Sugarcane Workers as Government Links Strike to FARC
News from Colombia |
on: Friday, 26 September 2008
In what unions claim is an effort to discredit strike action taken by over 10,000 sugarcane workers in southwest Colombia, the Colombian Government has alleged that the strike is being coordinated by the leftwing FARC guerrilla group and says that the dispute is not a "labour problem" but rather a "public security problem". Meanwhile more strikers have been injured in further attacks by the security forces.
The strike, which began on September 15th, has been met with repression though comments by Diego Palacios, the Minister for Public Security, in the Colombian Senate on September 22nd that the guerrillas are involved are sure to intensify the already inflamed situation according to union leaders.
On television this morning Palacios again alleged that the FARC were involved in the dispute and claimed that he had evidence that the guerrillas were "managing" the strike. He also linked opposition Senator Alexander Lopez (Democratic Pole), who is acting as a mediator for the unions involved, directly to the FARC. Lopez is the President of the Senate Human Rights Commission and himself a former union leader.
Meanwhile further intimidation and violence has been aimed at those involved in strike and on September 24th the General Secretary of SINALCORTEROS, one of the main unions involved, was followed to his home in the city of Palmira by men in two jeeps with dark windows. His family have reported seeing men in cars and on motorbikes with no license plates constantly circulating the family home. At 'Providencia' mill, one of those involved in the strike, a group of masked men wearing black uniforms have also been seen intimidating the striking workers.
In the early hours of yesterday morning some 130 members of the ESMAD riot police unit arrived at two of the mills and fired teargas directly into groups of picketing workers. At least four union members – Ruben Dario Cordoba, Franklin Murillo, Eder Caseres and Hugo Pascual – were badly wounded. Human rights groups have complained that the security forces are preventing access into the region where the strike is most intense, a concern echoed by the human rights department of the CUT trade union federation.
For more info: Repression Meets Striking Sugarcane Workers in Colombia (Sept 20th)