Colombia: labor strife rocks oil port

Canadian oil company Pacific Rubiales has reportedly reached a deal with striking workers following a month of labor unrest in Puerto Gaitan, Colombia, that culminated this week in a blockade of the oilfields and riots in which several vehicles were destroyed, both protesters and National Police officers were injured, and by some reports one striker was killed. The dispute was triggered by the firing of 1,100 contractors by Cepcolsa, the Colombian subsidiary of Spanish multinational CEPSA, which partners in the region with state-controlled Ecopetrol and private companies such as Pacific Rubiales.

Colombia’s Interior and Justice Minister Germain Vargas Lleras said that the governor of the Meta department will meet with central government officials and representatives of the Unitary Workers’ Central (CUT), the country’s labor federation. But he also had an implicit threat for the strikers: “The protests are legitimate; what is not legitimate is the exercise of violence… to paralyze the national roads, as the new public safety law penalizes those who block traffic on national highways.” Germán Alfredo Osman, vice president of the Workers’ Sindical Union (USO), the oil workers’ CUT affiliate, countered that the protest was peaceful until police attacked the workers. (Colombia Reports, EFE, Xinhua, July 20; Colombia Reports, July 19; El Espectador, Bogotá, July 14)

See our last posts on Colombia and the labor struggle.

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