Touring Colombian unionist Parmenio Poveda Salazar, an official with the National Unitarian Federation of Agrarian Unions (Fensuagro), has called for increased international solidarity with unionists and human rights activists in Colombia.
Parmenio said: "Many leaders of Colombian unions have been assassinated, and others have been forced into exile" by the policies of former president Alvaro Uribe. These same policies are continuing under new president Manuel Santos with at least 22 unionists and social justice activists being killed in the first 75 days of Santos’ presidency.
"Internal displacement has worsened in the past year, with some 4,700,000 persons currently displaced in Colombia.
"People have been forced to flee by the military and the right-wing paramilitaries, but meanwhile the big landholdings have grown as farmers are pushed off their land."
Despite the ongoing human rights violations the US continues to back successive Colombian governments because they are subordinate to US policies in Latin America he explained.
"The government claims to be democratic, but it's a total lie. Around 3500 leaders of the trade unions have been murdered since the late 1980s and 40 were assassinated last year.”
"It is very difficult in for the democratic movement in Colombia to win power by elections, because of the harsh repression," Parmenio said. "But, despite these problems, we are not stopping our fight, and are going forward in the struggle."
Parmenio’s tour was organised by Peace and Justice for Colombia (PJC). Fensuagro is affiliated to United Workers Centre (CUT) of Colombia and the World Trade Union Congress (WTUC).
He called for support for an open letter from Fensuagro to unions, social organisations and defenders of human rights internationally to protest to the Colombian government’s suppression of human rights in that country.
He also delivered a proposal from the CUT to the Australian Council of Trade Unions for increased assistance to endangered trade union leaders and made an invitation for an annual ACTU delegation to Colombia to monitor trade union rights in that country.
As part of the tour, Parmenio spoke at public meetings in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. He met with representatives from the ACTU; the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU); the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA Vic); the Australian Nurses Federation (ANF); the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU Vic), and the Rail, Bus and Tram Union (RBTU Vic).
He also met with Peter Simpson, QLD state secretary of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU); David Matters, from QLD RBTU; National Tertiary Education Union (NSW division); Warren Smith, assistant national secretary MUA; Joan Lemaire, senior vice-president NSW Teachers Federation; Peter Tighe, national secretary of the Communications Electrical Plumbing Union; and Mal Tulloch, NSW state secretary CFMEU Construction division.
He also met with a Queensland ALP Senator Claire Moore, NSW Greens Senator-elect Lee Rhiannon, and a representative of Victorian ALP Senator Gavin Marshall, to discuss human rights issues in Colombia.
[For more information visit www.colombiasolidarity.net ]