Colombia: String of Murders and Threats Against Union Members Continues

By Ricardo Zamora
Impunity Watch Reporter, South AmericaBy Ricardo ZamoraBy Ricardo Zamora
By Ricardo Zamora
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, Colombia – Colombian gunmen have claimed the life of yet another trade union member, the latest casualty in a string of murders attributed to conflicts between paramilitary and guerilla groups.

Last week, union member, Nelson Camacho González, was gunned down by guerillas on motorbikes as he waited for the bus to go to work at 5:30am.  Nelson is the 31st trade union worker to be murdered this year in Colombia.  Despite government efforts to decrease paramilitary violence and harassment, this is just another instance indicating that those efforts are ineffective.

Indeed, since the murder, paramilitary groups have continued to send death threats to other human rights defenders and social activists – a sign that these armed groups are still a real threat against those who support the country’s laborers, especially the poor, against poor working conditions, facilities, and related workers’ benefits.  Human rights activists are therefore calling the Colombian government to take further action to curb such acts and have even appealed to the U.S. government to support Colombia’s Constitutional Court.

Paramilitary groups are no strangers to Colombia’s internal conflicts.  In fact, they play a crucial role in keeping those conflicts alive.  Throughout the country’s history these groups have, either alone or in collaboration with Colombian security forces, labeled human rights organizations, trade unions, and other social organizations as guerilla supporters.

Similarly, guerilla groups are weary of human rights activists who they fear support or merely concede to paramilitary groups.  Indeed, guerilla groups have, themselves, sent threats and have committed inhumane acts against activists considered to be siding with paramilitary groups

Thus, it is no surprise that this distrust and hatred between paramilitary and guerilla groups and their respective “supporters” has led to crimes against humanity committed against defenseless human rights organizations, trade unions, and other social organizations caught in the middle of the conflict.

Paramilitary groups view human rights organizations, trade unions, and other social organizations as barriers to achieving paramilitary and related governmental goals. Indeed, many members of such groups are victimized simply for union association.

Marco Romero of the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement, addressed the Washington Office on Latin America earlier this month to raise awareness of targeted groups and activist groups.  He aimed to increase support for a U.S. Resolution supporting Colombia’s Constitutional Court.

For more information, please see:

Trade Unions North International – Yet More Death Threats Against Human Rights Organisations In South-West Colombia – 28 June 2010

Amnesty International – Colombia: Further Information: Trade Unionist Killed, Many More At Risk: Nelson Camacho González – 23 June 2010

Trade Unions North International – Yet Another Trade Unionist Murdered in Colombia – 21 June 2010

Latin America News Dispatch – WOLA Announces Second Death Threat From Colombian Paramilitaries For Working With Displaced Peoples – 18 June 2010

Author: Impunity Watch Archive