Protest stands up for Colombian unionists

Paul McAleer speaking at the December 13 rally for Colombian unionists. Photo by Vlaudin Vega.

Unionists and solidarity activists rallied outside the Colombian consulate in Sydney on December 13 to denounce the fact that Colombia remains the most dangerous place in the world for trade unionists.

The protest, called to coincide with International Human Rights week, was organised by the Sydney branch of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and supported by Peace and Justice for Colombia (PJFC).

The initiative for the protest came in the wake of the recent visit by Colombian trade unionist Parmenio Poveda.

A representative of Federation of United National Agricultural workers unions (FENSUAGRO), Poveda met with unionists and solidarity activists in various cities. He outlined the systematic campaign of state-sponsored terror and human rights abuses that activists are forced to endure in Colombia

The protest heard speeches by Rita Mallia, from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Unions and Paul McAleer from the MUA. The following letter, signed by a number of trade union leaders, was hand delivered to the Colombian consul general.

* * *

To Colombian Consul, Sydney

We the undersigned, resolutely condemn attacks perpetrated against members of Trade Unions, Civil Society Organisations, Indigenous Communities and Students Groups in Colombia. We call upon the Colombian Government, as a matter of urgency, to stop the incursions on the above mentioned peoples by upholding civil liberties, social justice and the rule of law.

We note with profound regret that Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world for trade unionists. In fact, over 60% of all trade unionists killed world-wide are Colombian – a statistic that is undisputed. Violations include but are not limited to, assassinations, forced disappearances, incarcerations, torture and involuntary displacements.

The situation has been described as a “humanitarian disaster” by the United Nations and contrary to the massive public relations campaign being rolled out by the Colombian government, circumstances are not improving.

We call on the Colombia regime to enter into an agreement of political, social and industrial inclusion of the abovementioned peoples, to recognise the human rights of such peoples an to end the persecution of political and social movements in their country

Signed:

Paddy Crumlin
President, International Transport Workers' Federation
National Secretary, MUA

Ian Bray
Assistant National Secretary, MUA

Mal Tulloch
Secretary, Construction division, CFMEU

Paul McAleer
Sydney Branch Secretary, MUA

Joe Deakin
Sydney Assistant Branch Secretary, MUA

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