MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Colombia-threats In The Coal Region

Published by MAC on 2006-12-15

COLOMBIA

Threats in the coal region

15th December 2006

Spanish text, SINTRACARBON union, Colombia;
English translation, Avi Chomsky, North Shore Colombia Solidarity Committee, Massachusetts, USA.
Introduction: Richard Solly and Avi Chomsky

Groups around the world have been monitoring the negotiations currently going on between Sintracarbon, the union at the Cerrejon coal mine in La Guajira, Colombia, and the Cerrejon Coal Company owned by Anglo American, BHPBilliton and Xstrata. On Monday 18 December 2006, the bargaining committees will be discussing the union's demands regarding the rights of the Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities surrounding the mine, and the demand that the mine sponsor a public forum on coal policy. On December 23, the first 20-day bargaining period will end. As of Friday 15 December, resolution does not appear forthcoming on any of the many issues under negotation. Meanwhile, Sintracarbon and other popular organisations have been threatened by a shadowy group apparently linked to the paramilitaries. The union issued the following press release on 15 December:

National Coal Industry Workers' Union SINTRACARBON

STATEMENT TO THE PUBLIC AND THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

The Union of National Coal Industry Workers, Sintracarbón, denounces several recent incidents in our country, and in particular on the Caribbean coast, related to the demobilization of the paramilitaries and the scandal unfolding in the last few days regarding the links between high-level political figures--who the press is now calling "para-politicians"--and the paramilitaries. These politicians are under investigation by the Supreme Court for their role in the creation of paramilitary groups and the organization of massacres and demobilizations on the Caribbean coast. At the same time, a new group calling itself "The Black Eagles" has begun circulating pamphlets threatening union, student, and popular leaders, and other members of the CUT union confederation.

In recent days they have delivered death threats against leaders of the oil-workers union USO and student leaders at the University of Cartagena. They have also given them an ultimatum to leave the city.

USO leader Rodolfo Vecino was the target of an assassination attempt which we assume was carried out by the Black Eagles. Fortunately he escaped unharmed.

CUT Executive Board member Domingo Tovar, who is currently participating in the Sintracarbón negotiating committee, and his family in the Sucre department, have been the targets of harassment and threats by these groups.

Yesterday a pamphlet was circulated at the University of the Atlantic, similar to the one threatening union, student, and popular leaders with assassination if they did not leave the city of Barranquilla. Among the organizations named in yesterday's pamphlet were:

• Members of the University Students Association (FEU)

• Student Dignity

• Democrativ Vision

• National University Federation (FUN)

• Colombian Association of University Students (A.C.E.U)

• The unions SINTRAINAL, ANTHOC, ASOJUA, ASPU, SINTRAUNICOL, SINTRAIMAGRA, COMITÉ DE SOLIDARIDAD POR LOS PRESOS POLÍTICOS, SINTRACARBÓN, ADEBA, SIMUSOL, SINTRAHOBICOL, CUT ATLÁNTICO.

The pamphlet ended with these words:

"There is not enough paper for us to include all of the names and organizations that are serving as a front for their insurgent (i.e., guerrilla) work, these sons of bitches, gonorrheas, but we have listed their main leaders but everyone directly affiliated with these kinds of people and organizations should affiliate to a FUNERAL HOME."

In the face of these threats, intimidations, harassments and ultimatums against student, popular and union leaders, "SINTRACARBÓN" strongly denounces this type of threat, which violates our fundamental rights, freedom of association, and freedom of expression. We therefore publicize our stand before the local, national, and international communities.

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