Paramilitaries Murder Trade Unionist Next to Police Checkpoint

News from Colombia | on: Thursday, 23 April 2009

A trade union activist and high profile community leader was yesterday assassinated in the central Colombian region of Bolivar in an attack which local police officers appear to have been complicit in. Officers had prevented Edgar Martinez from leaving the town of San Pablo by the road that he wished to use, forcing him to travel a different route where members of a paramilitary death squad were waiting for him. He was murdered just moments from a police checkpoint yet his killers were able to escape without difficulty.

Mr Martinez, an activist in the FEDEAGROMISBOL trade union representing workers in agriculture and mining, was also the President of the local Community Integration Association, spokesman for the Regional Social Development Forum, and active in his local community action council. He was murdered on the morning of April 22nd as he left the town of San Pablo, in the south of Bolivar department, shortly after 9am.

Although Mr Martinez had attempted to take the road towards the town of Monterrey, police officers had turned him back forcing him to take the smaller road from San Pablo to the community of El Retorno. It was on that road, just minutes after going through a police roadblock, that paramilitaries forced him off the motorbike that he was travelling on and shot him dead.

The paramilitaries responsible are from the 'Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia' (AGC) group, a death squad which operates in several regions of the country and which is allegedly linked to the Colombian Army. On March 18th this year the AGC released a statement announcing that they would shortly begin attacks in Bolivar department and it is believed that they may also have been behind the recent death threat made against Alexi Mastrascuna Cano, the departmental coordinator of the Democratic Pole opposition political party.

Mr Mastrascuna Cano, who lives in the city of Cartagena, capital of Bolivar department, received a telephone call on March 29th in which he was told that if he did not leave the region within 24 hours he would be murdered. Last year suspected paramilitaries also shot dead local oil workers' trade union leader Alexander Blanco Rodriguez in the nearby town of Cantagallo.

For further information about the situation in Bolivar department see:

March 2009: Three Trade Union Leaders Detained in Colombia

April 2008: Priests Forced to Flee After Death Threats

March 2008: Peasant Farmers Call on Army to End Executions

Feb 2008: Paramilitaries Assassinate Two

Jan 2008: Further Abuses in Bolivar Region

Sep 2007: Colombian Army Assassinate Peasant Farmer, Agricultural Leaders Detained

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