A major aspect of Justice for Colombia’s campaign work is bringing Colombian trade unionists and activists to Britain and Ireland in order to meet with politicians, trade unionists and activists and highlight the challenges they face.
Since June, we have organised visits by four different people. In June, human rights defender Darnelly Rodríguez was a guest of UNISON National Delegate Conference in Liverpool, and also travelled to Ireland to meet politicians and trade unionists. The following month, the president of the FENSUAGRO agricultural union, Nury Martínez, joined us at Unite’s Policy Conference in Brighton. Nury was also due to address the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival but unfortunately it was cancelled due to poor weather.
In September, Fabio Arias, who is the president of Colombia’s largest trade union federation, the CUT, attended TUC Congress in Liverpool, where he met with several trade unions including UCU, NEU, NASUWT, CSP, UNISON, GFTU, POA and others. Most recently, JFC brought Ana María Cepeda of the FECODE teachers union to Labour Party Conference on a visit sponsored by the NEU as part of its core international work supporting education unions internationally.
Ana María was a keynote speaker at the NEU’s International Solidarity Conference on 14 October in London, where she discussed the importance of President Gustavo Petro’s social reforms and the Total Peace policy to end violent conflict in Colombia. She also highlighted concerns in Colombia over rumoured attempts by the political opposition to remove Petro through non-democratic means. She asked NEU members to stay alert to the situation in Colombia and to support the work of JFC, which campaigns closely with FECODE and other trade unions.
While at Labour Party Conference, Ana María raised these issues in meetings with a number of MPs, including Labour Party chair Annalise Dodds, the new Shadow Minister for Latin America Anna McMorrin, the Co-Chair of Parliamentary Friends of Colombia Jo Stevens and some of those who have visited Colombia with JFC, including Ian Byrne, Fabian Hamilton and Kim Johnson.
Ana María also took part in an event on Latin America’s progressive governments at The World Transformed political festival, which takes place alongside the Labour Party Conference, and in our latest JFC North West meeting, which focused on trade union support for the Petro government.