Columbia. remains the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist. Last year 78 human rights defenders were killed; mainly by paramilitaries and state security forces.
Each day the human rights situation is worsening for social and political activists and on 22 February, the peasant farmer activist Jorge Eliecer Hernandez Blanco was shot dead by the Colombian Army. Peasant farmers are often killed for their land, which is then sold off by the Government to multinational companies.
None of which prevented a smiling Nick Clegg shaking the bloodstained hand of Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos when he led a delegation of over 40 British businesses to the country in February. The Liberal Democrat leader ignored appeals to visit members of civil society groups as he sought to increase trade with a regime in which 40% of MPs have direct or indirect support from illegal armed groups who are killing trade unionists and political activists.
Despite the slaughter the Colombian people are fighting back. There was a remarkable uprising last summer in which hundreds of thousands of small and medium scale farmers, miners, students, lorry drivers, teachers and health workers bravely organised a 3 week national strike that included road blocks, mass marches and noisy protests. Agricultural workers on strike were angered by free trade agreements with the US and European Union that flooded the market with cheaper, heavily subsidised, agricultural products.
The army and police killed 12 individuals before the protests ended when the government promised better prices for agricultural products and greater access to loans. With the government having not kept their commitments a conference on the problems in the Columbian countryside was held in Bogota in March and preparations are being made for another strike in May. Keep up to date with developments in Columbia at:www.justiceforcolombia.org