MAC: Mines and Communities

Communique To Workers And Public Over The Recent Ruling In Alabama

Published by MAC on 2007-07-30
Source: General Secretary of Funtraenergética

Communique to workers and public over the recent ruling in Alabama

By General Secretary of Funtraenergética, Colombia,

30th July 2007

When Sintramienergética-Funtraenergética and the families of our assassinated co-workers decided to seek justice in the United States with the support of steelworkers of that country, we did so with the conviction that there would be a possibility of justice. Because of the impunity which has blanketed the process in Colombia throughout this time, and in the face of immense levels of corruption in the judicial system, we have had no real hopes for an investigation into those who are responsible, intellectually as well as physically for the crime. We were conscious of the political limitations of the US judicial process, but we always believed, and still do, that it is necessary to validate these institutional means rather than confrontation in other forms of protest.

We were pleased with the first ruling of the court which took the case, permitting us to continue on with it, not only because it showed Garry Drummond and his Colombian managers as responsible for the violation of the labor laws of Colombia, of the International Labor Organization pacts and agreements, but also because it meant that they could be held criminally responsible for committing crimes against humanity and war crimes, according to the context in which the assassinations of our co-workers were carried out. But we always kept in mind that the judge had been named by President Bush, and that in his two presidential campaigns, Bush had received strong economic support of Drummond. We began to notice this, when inexplicably, the process was sent to the State Department for consultation into whether the case could damage the "economic interests" of the United States with Colombia, and after months of waiting, the case was sent back without conditions.

With the passing of time, the judge began to refuse witness testimony, new evidence, new witnesses, a fact that was made evident when Rafal García, head of information of the DAS (colombian Administrative Department of Security), sent us a declaration where he said that in the year 2001 he had been present in a meeting between a member of the mercenary group Jorge 40 and Augusto Jiménez, president of Drummond, in a hotel in Valledupar (calling our attention because President Uribe Vélez has said that during this time Augusto Jiménez was outside of the country, when all of the workers had seen him at the mines, a fact corroborated by a "journalist" of El Tiempo). In this meeting, Jiménez brought a briefcase filled with money and the names of the two co-workers Orcasita and Locarno who were to be assassinated. Two weeks later men working for the mercenary Tolemaida murdered them.

In the face of this evidence we were ordered by the court to a "counter-interrogation" to verify if the things Garcia had said were true. Despite that the necessary paperwork for this was sent in April of this year to the Minister of Foreign Relations, at the same time that Drummond sent one to verify the criminal records of our three witnesses, ours was not authorized, despite the efforts we went through to achieve it. It must be emphasized that the government of Uribe Vélez impeded our evidence with all means possible, as Fabio Echeverri Correa, legal counsel of the President has been representative of Drummond Colombia for years. Correa, Garry Drummond and Uribe Vélez were charged with corruption by a court in Florida for illegally taking oil wells from the company Llanos Oil and transferring them to Drummond, in a business involving the Vice President of the United States.

Five months before the trial, one of our witnesses told us that the company leaders were absolutely sure that they would win the trial and because of this they went to him, because everything was already "in order," some days later other persons confirmed to us this same information. The judge was already busy denying new testimony, influencing the jurors, and continuously violating rules of process, to the point of even telling the jurors that if they decided against the company, that she would reject their decision.

Under these pressures, the alternative was to make the public aware of some of this evidence, open a space so that four sub-commissions of the United States Congress could investigate, as they are doing so now, about the North American companies and their criminal activities in our territory, and try to present as much evidence as possible to the jury. Finally, the court ruled against us, despite our efforts, and although we thought they were going to be more intelligent, as this decision just will lengthen the fight, and we are going to take advantage of that.

What we will do now is go to appeals court which will have to take into account all of the evidence, the violations of rules of process, to annul the ruling in order to repeat the case in better judicial conditions for us. What Drummond is not saying is that after years of investigation, the Department of Justice of the United States has initiated a criminal investigation against the mining company not only for the murders of Valmore, Victor Hugo and Gustavo, but also for other criminal activities, and this investigation could produce very important evidence for our civil case.

We want to call to all workers, to the social and labor organizations of Colombia and the world, to rise solidarity with Sintramienergética, to denounce the crimes of Drummond. We ask for an embargo of coal until the murderers of our union brothers are brought to justice, to urge the nationalization of this mine, so it may pass into the hands of the nation, and not in the hands of those who have it now; we will not falter in our goal to the search for truth, justice and reparations for the union movement and the victims of the conflict, generated by the imposition of an economic model of plunder which corrupts, murders, displaces and commits massacres, in order to obtain greater profits at the costs of the lives of millions of human beings.

For our dead, not a minute of silence; an entire life of fighting! Orcasita, Locarno and Soler...

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