On 7 November, Colombian trade unionist Robinson Jiménez died of his injuries one month after being attacked in Puerto Wilches, a town in the northeast department of Santander. He had been in a critical state since suffering at least six gunshot wounds as he boarded a bus to return home from work on 6 October.
Robinson was a member of the USO oil workers union, which like many other unions has for years faced high levels of violence. USO has partnered with Unite and UNISON on a project coordinated by JFC (watch a video here) to establish the union’s presence in a region where paramilitaries had previously impeded labour organising. USO members have also met British and Irish trade unionists as international guests at conferences, as well as on JFC delegations to Colombia.
In a statement, USO said that it ‘calls on the State to investigate and identify the intellectual and material authors of this attack which today became a murder so that they can be tried and convicted. This violence against trade union and social leaders must come to an end.’
Colombia continues to be by far the world’s most dangerous country for trade unionists. In its latest annual report on labour abuses and anti-trade union violence around the world, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) registered 22 murders in Colombia between March 2020 and April 2021.
USO said that the attack on Robinson came amid an ongoing union campaign against increased privatisation and outsourcing at the state oil company, Ecopetrol. The union has opposed government plans to sell off state assets in the oil industry, as well as the mass layoff of workers in the early stages of the global pandemic.