Unions condemn threats against Colombian trade union leader

Unions have condemned the recent threats made against Diogenes Orjuela, president of the CUT, Colombia’s version of the TUC.

Earlier this month a letter was delivered to the CUT’s Bogota headquarters signed by a group identifying as the Black Eagles and threatening Mr Orjuela and other union officials.

A statement from ASLEF reads: “We are appalled at the high levels of violence which Colombian trade unionists and civil society activists continue to face simply for seeking better living and work conditions for themselves and their communities.

“Murders of trade unionists more than doubled between 2017 and 2018 to represent almost two thirds of the 53 worldwide cases registered by the International Trade Union Confederation. The United Nations has repeatedly said that full implementation of the 2016 peace agreement is needed to tackle the violence impacting Colombia yet too little has been done to achieve this.

“Last September, ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan shared a platform with Mr Orjuela at a Justice for Colombia event at the TUC Congress, where Mr Orjuela was an invited guest.

ASLEF is a co-founder of Justice for Colombia and our General Secretary Mick Whelan is the organisation’s Chair. We are proud of our historic and ongoing partnership with JFC to defend trade union and human rights in Colombia. We offer solidarity and our full commitment to Mr Orjuela and his trade unionist comrades in Colombia, as well as the millions of people striving for a stable and lasting peace with social justice.”

A statement from the POA reads: “We send solidarity to Diogenes Orjuela following the threats made against him and other prominent political figures. Several of our senior members have met with Mr Orjuela and other CUT officials on delegations to Colombia with the British-Irish organisation Justice for Colombia and our Vice-Chair Dave Todd spoke on the same panel as Mr Orjuela at the TUC’s 2019 congress.

“We are appalled that violence against trade unionists has increased in Colombia and that the 2016 peace agreement continues to suffer uncertainty and obstacles. The United Nations has repeatedly said full implementation of the agreement is the most effective means of ending violence against civil society. We therefore call on the British government to maintain pressure on its Colombian counterpart to ensure the peace process is fully implemented. The world cannot keep turning a blind eye to the human rights crisis impacting Colombia.”

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