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Colombia: increasing violence against union leaders

Igor Díaz, from IndustriALL affiliate Sintracarbón,. received a text message on 6 June, with a warning that an “extermination operation” would commence in 24 hours.

On 11 May, Díaz received another death threat from a criminal group called Las Águilas Negras. The threats were aimed at all union leaders who had participated in a meeting with Dutch congress people and senior executives from multinationals in Colombia to discuss the country’s coal industry.

A joint statement from unions in Colombia’s mining and energy sector, reads: 

“This new attack is a warning against Sintracarbón’s work, an organization known nationally and internationally for defending workers from Cerrejón and Prodeco and for its work with nearby communities. These threats are a part of a strategy from employers and the government to intimidate and kill social leaders.”

Dibeth Quintana, from IndustriALL affiliate Unión Sindical Obrera (USO) visited the prosecutor’s office on 5 June, in connection with an assault case she had been the victim of in 2016. When answering the phone in the same evening, she was told to refrain from contact with prosecutor’s office, or she would “actually die next time”.

These threats are not isolated incidents, but part of an escalation of violence and threats towards Colombian union and social leaders, which began with the Duque-Uribe administration. 

IndustriALL’s regional secretary, Marino Vani, says:

“Our hearts go to our fellow unionists and their organizations. IndustriALL strongly condemns the threats and demand that the Colombian government take action and identify those behind the threats and prosecute them. 

“The rule of law, the right to life, unions’ right to function without interference, and their leaders’ right to physical, mental and moral integrity, must be guaranteed.” 

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