USO oil workers union denounces abduction and torture of trade unionist

Colombia’s main oil workers union, USO, has denounced the recent attack on Dibeth Quintana, the latest in a string of incidents targeting her over trade union activity. On 13 February, Dibeth was abducted, bound, beaten and abandoned outside Aguachica in the department of Cesar. In a statement, USO accused police and security personnel at the state oil company Ecopetrol of targeting and harassing Dibeth and her family. USO has suffered high levels of political persecution over the years, with several members murdered, displaced, attacked and harassed.

Below is the full USO statement (translated by JFC).

The USO oil workers trade union condemns and denounces the brutal aggression against our colleague Dibeth Quintana, union leader of our workers’ organisation, who, after attending a judicial proceeding in the Public Prosecutor’s Office in the municipality of Aguachica (Cesar) on 13 February, was approached by strangers who abducted her, beat her and tied her hands and feet, then abandoned her on the outskirts of the municipality. Our colleagues is recovering in a local medical centre, where she displays physical traumas and a delicate emotional state.

The situation is aggravated by the fact that our colleague has already suffered several acts of aggression and threats, such as on 27 May 2016. Then, as she was about to enter the Barrancabermeja oil refinery, she found that her card had been blocked which prevented her from entering to fulfil trade union activity. Upon trying to enter, she was attacked by guards and members of the National Police responsible for ‘security’ in that part of the refinery, and subsequently had to be hospitalised due to the brutal beating she received. Nobody was prosecuted for the incident, there was no investigation by Ecopetrol or the Attorney General’s Office and impunity was total.

Our colleague Dibeth has been the object of constant harassment and hostile actions. The police have regularly intercepted her movements and under various pretexts; she and her family suffer harassment and threatening phone calls; Ecopetrol has consistently refused to provide effective protection mechanisms.

We demand an investigation into the possible participation of Ecopetrol’s security officers and the police, in the face of the systematic hostility against our colleague Dibeth Quintana. We also demand investigation the statement our colleague made to the Prosecutor’s Office in Aguachica, which today this entity denies receiving.

We regret the position which Ecopetrol’s management has taken in the National Commission for Human Rights and Peace, which denies the possibility of humanitarian support for Dibeth, and shows that bureaucratic procedures are more important than the lives of workers and leaders.

USO demands that the authorities investigate this serious incident and punish those responsible, and urges Ecopetrol to assume its responsibility in relation to Dibeth’s security and personal integrity by receiving her in the Human Rights Commission. We call for national and international solidarity in the face of the resurgence of anti-union violence in Colombia.