Colombia: 40 unionists murdered in 2009

There continues to be a “systematic policy of violation of human rights, of violation of union rights” in Colombia, Alberto Vanegas, head of the Human Rights and Solidarity Department of the country’s main labor federation, the Unitary Workers Central (CUT), charged on Feb. 4 at the start of a two-day conference in the northwestern city of Medellín in Antioquia department. According to the union movement, 40 union leaders and activists were killed in Colombia during 2009, a slight improvement over the 49 killed the year before. Vanegas told the Spanish wire service EFE that “60% of the trade unionists killed worldwide are Colombians.”

“More than a number, this is a whole genocide against the union movement,” Vanegas said. According to the CUT, 2,721 unionists have been murdered since 1986; 573 of the murders have occurred since August 2002, when current Colombian president Álvaro Uribe took office. Just 2% of the murders have been punished, the unions charge. Some 150 people attended the conference, the Second National Meeting of Victims of Anti-Union Violence; about half were relatives of murdered union members, while the rest included representatives of human rights groups and United Nations agencies. The first conference was held in 2007 in the northern city of Barranquilla. (EFE, Feb. 4; Latin American Herald Tribune, Feb. 4 from EFE)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 9

See our last post on paramilitary terror in Colombia.