Colombian Labor Leaders Assassinated

Two more union activists have been murdered in Colombia, reconfirming its status as the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists. Of the 101 labor activists murdered around the world last year, 48 were in Colombia. The death toll so far this year is nearly 30.

Nelson Camacho González, a member of the oil workers union, USO (Unión Sindical Obrera), was one of the latest killed. He was shot while waiting at a bus stop for his ride to work. His murder is one in a series of systematic attacks and threats against members of USO, the union that has taken on big-oil conglomerate British Petroleum (BP) and other oil and pipeline companies for their failure to negotiate with workers.

The other victim was an activist from the Antioquia teachers’ association, ADIDA (Asociación de Institutores de Antioquia). Ibio Efrén Caicedo was assassinated one day before the presidential elections. His murder is the seventh killing of a union teacher in Antioquia this year.

These latest killings of Colombian trade unionists – which are running at a rate of almost one a week – come as the Obama administration pledges to beef up its efforts to advance passage of free trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama in Congress.

In a statement released on a possible U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “It is premature to talk of passing the trade agreement before there is evidence of sustained and substantial advancement on labor and human rights, implementation of needed labor law reform, significant progress to halt the violence against trade unionists and to end the impunity surrounding the true authors of aggression against Colombian workers and union leaders.”