Trade unionist José Manrique murdered in Bucaramanga

A trade unionist was murdered in the city of Bucaramanga on Monday 25 February, the latest act of violence committed against organised labour in Colombia. 34-year-old José Fernel Manrique Valencia was an executive board member of the SUTIMAC trade union for workers in the construction industry. He was shot dead by two people on a motorbike outside his home in the Cafe Madrid neighbourhood.

José had worked for Cemex Colombia, a national construction company, for over a decade. He had lost a leg in a road accident but remained actively involved in trade unionism.

SUTIMAC condemned the murder and called on authorities to identify the perpetrators. Since the trade union was formed in 1972, at least 40 of its members have been murdered. Only one person has ever been convicted for any of these crimes.

For decades, Colombia has been the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists, with thousands murdered since the 1980s. As a result, the country has one of the worst records in the world for labour rights, while most of the workforce is non-unionised.

More than 20 social activists have been murdered in 2019, taking the figure to well over 400 since the peace agreement was signed in November 2016.