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Some weeks back The Blanket published an article of mine in which I drew attention to the campaign of intimidation, violence and murder against trade union activists in Colombia. I have just received an email reporting the killing of two banana workers, Juan Montiel and Emilio Villeras Durán, who worked on the Ceiba y Circasia plantations. I have attached a statement issued by the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF).
I feel this issue is one that readers of The Blanket may be interested in responding to.
14th March 2002
Statement issued by the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF).
The IUF has just learnt of the killing of two banana workers: Juan Montiel and Emilio Villeras Durán, both from the Ceiba y Circasia plantations. Both were active in the local leadership of the IUF's rural workers affiliate SINTRAINAGRO in the Department of Magdalena.
The thoughts of the IUF and our deepest condolences go out to the families of these SINTRAINAGRO members who were deeply committed to improving the welfare of their fellow workers, their families and their communities. For this commitment - and for this reason only - they have now paid with their lives.
As with many such assassinations in recent years in Colombia, it is more than likely that there will be no serious investigation of this barbaric crime and that the killers will go unpunished.
It is therefore imperative that as many people and organizations as possible contact the Colombian authorities and insist in the strongest possible way that these murders be investigated, that their perpetrators be brought to justice and that proper protection be given to citizens exercising their democratic rights - including trade union rights - in communities throughout Colombia.
To assist affiliates and others please find below a copy of the letter the IUF has sent to the Colombian president. Feel free to use this text or adapt it when you send a protest message.
Protests should be sent by fax to the following number and copied to the IUF secretariat (email@example.com):
Presidente de la República de Colombia
Dr. Andrés Pastrana Arango
Palacio de Nariño
Fax. (+571) 286 74 34
Copy your protest to the Interior Minister:
Ministro del Interior de Colombia
Dr. Armando Estrada Villa
Fax. (+571) 562 98 87
Text of the IUF letter to President Pastrana:
Dear President Pastrana,
Concerns: Assassinations of Juan Montiel and Emilio Villeras, two members of IUF Colombian affiliate SINTRAINAGRO
The IUF is an international trade federation with 336 affiliated member unions from 124 countries representing over 12 million members.
It is with great shock that we heard on Friday March 8 of the assassination of Juan Montiel and Emilio Villeras Durán, both from the Ceiba y Circasia plantations and both active in the local leadership of the IUF's affiliate SINTRAINAGRO in the Department of Magdalena.
We demand that there be the fullest possible investigation into these acts of barbarism and that the Colombian authorities do everything possible to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice.
We fear however that like many such assassinations in recent years in Colombia it is more than likely that there will be no serious investigation of this barbaric crime and that the killers will go unpunished. If this is again the case then Colombia will continue to be considered a state where human decency and basic rights are denied its citizens and where the state remains incapable of providing or unwilling to provide basic security to its citizens.
We therefore further demand that your government do everything possible, and certainly far more than is presently being done, to provide guarantees of basic protection to all its citizens who would seek to exercise their basic rights in communities throughout Colombia.
Colombia today stands subject to the judgement of international public opinion and will be judged according to internationally recognized standards of basic human rights. The Colombian authorities, for whom you hold full responsibility, must therefore bring to justice the savage killers of Juan Montiel and Emilio Villeras Durán and of other trade union activists killed only because they were working courageously and selflessly to improve the welfare of their fellow workers, of their families and of their communities.Failure to do so will continue to be an indictment of your administration and a bloody stain on the reputation of your country.
We look forward to swift action on the part of the authorities and to hearing of concrete progress in the apprehension and swift trial of those responsible for the killings of Juan Montiel and Emilio Villeras Durán.
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