Two teacher trade unionists killed in separate attacks

Two teacher trade unionists have been killed in the latest attacks on organised labour in Colombia. The news comes days after the FECODE teachers union took part in nationwide strikes calling for improved funding and conditions in the public education system, as well as protection for human rights.

In the first killing, the body of teacher trade unionist Byron Revelo Insuasty was found in a morgue in Tumaco, department of Nariño, on Sunday 22 November. Nine days earlier, he had been abducted while en route to union elections. Byron was a member of the SIMANA teacher union in Nariño and the Colombia Humana political movement.

Also on 22 November, teacher trade unionist Douglas Cortés Mosquera, who belonged to the Risaralda Teachers Union (SER), was killed in La Virginia, department of Risaralda. He was also known locally as an artist. He is the 258th social activist murdered in 2020, according to the INDEPAZ human rights organisation.

Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists, with teachers among the most targeted sector. Since the start of 2018, more than 30 teachers have been murdered, according to FECODE. Additionally, there have been cases of forced displacement and threats against teachers.

Other recent trade unionist murders include that of Ovidio Baena, of the USO oil workers union, in June, and of FENSUAGRO trade unionists Jayder Quintana and Nelson Ramos Barrera, who were killed days apart in Cauca in October. Later that same month, death threats were sent to members of the FECODE executive committee, as well as to Diogenes Orjuela, the president of the CUT trade union confederation.