Friday, 26 October 2012

Columbian killings continue

The callous execution of a Columbian peasant trade unionist in early August re-affirms that the South American state is the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist. Over 2,500 unionists have been murdered in the past 20 years. This is more than the rest of the world combined and yet there is now the prospect of things getting even worse. 

Aldemar Pinto Barrios of the Association of Peasant Workers of Caloto was killed instantly on Sunday 5 August when two men riding a motorbike shot him in the head, neck and chest. Two colleagues narrowly escaped with their lives.

Just days later Juan Carlos Pinzon, the Columbian Defence Minister, accused the Patriotic March social movement, whose membership includes Columbian trade unions and peasant organisations, of being funded by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) guerrillas. 

The last organisation to be similarly accused was the Patriotic Union in 1980s and following which paramilitary death squads assassinated over 3,000 people. An April 1988 report by Amnesty International accused the Columbian government and military of being involved in a ‘deliberate policy of political murder.’ Despite providing no proof to substantiate his allegations the fear now is that Pinzon’s statement will see the destruction of a movement that is campaigning peacefully to resolve the conflict in Columbia. 

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey noted that five of the sixteen trade unionists murdered in 2012 were from the FENSUAGRO agricultural workers’ union. Promises of government protection had proved worthless and fuel to protection units has even been cut. 

Justice for Columbia (JFC) is the TUC-backed coalition of 40 national trade unions (including Unite) providing support to the Colombian people and trade union movement.

In an attempt to end anti-trade union violence in Columbia the JFC is asking union  members to send protest messages to the Colombian Ambassador in London. Help is also needed to stop UK military aid to Columbia and for persuading MPs to back an early day motion calling on the British Government to encourage the Columbian government and FARC into seeking a negotiated settlement.

020 7324 2490 

Palestinian agricultural workers also attacked 

Palestinian agricultural workers and organisers appear to have been targeted for an intensified arrest campaign in the occupied West Bank of Palestine. New Israeli settlements have made it increasingly difficult for Palestinians to defend their land and produce the farm products so urgently needed throughout the Palestinian territories.

The Union of Agricultural Works Committees (UAWC) had its offices in Jericho ransacked by Israeli forces only hours after local coordinator Dr Moayad Ahmad Bisharart was taken from his home at dawn on 31 July 2012. Days earlier the UAWC’s Director of Development and Operations, engineer Fuad Abu Saif, along with activist Mohammad Nujoom were also abducted. The UAWC, formed in 1987, also remains has concerned that Board member Ahmad Soufan has been ordered into a third term of six months imprisonment without charge. 

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