Colombia’s largest trade union centre, the CUT, has called on the government to ensure protection for labour organising after the latest threats against one of its officials.
In a statement, the CUT said its regional president in the department of Atlántico, Javier Bermúdez Gómez, had received death threats on Saturday 20 February. At around 6pm, the trade unionist received a telephone call and was told ‘Dr Javier, we know where you live and where you go… we’re going to make you explode.’
The CUT said the government must provide ‘guarantees for the exercise of the constitutional right to trade union assocation.’ It also said that Javier Bermúdez Gómez has been ‘leading the defence of workers’ rights, especially in the health sector, [which are] violated by the government and business leaders, without any consideration in this pandemic, as well as the peace agreement signed between the government and the FARC.’
Bermúdez Gómez has been coordinating programmes to house vulnerable children, provide land restitution to conflict victims and to oppose drugs trafficking and corruption in the region. At least three paramilitary groups are operating in Atlántico’s capital of Barranquilla, situated on the northern coast of Colombia.
‘We urge the international community to show solidarity with the Colombian trade union and social movement that is persecuted and stigmatised for its activity,’ said the CUT. Colombia is by far the world’s most dangerous country for trade unionists, with at least 20 killed in 2020 and three so far in 2021. More than 3,000 were killed from 1971 to 2018, according to Colombia’s National Trade Union School.