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Background: Union asks Colombian president to find two missing labor workers

Published by MAC on 2003-10-08

Background: Union asks Colombian president to find two missing labor workers

October 8 2003

By Jupy Lin, Associated Press Writer

United Steelworkers of America President Leo W. Gerard has sent a letter to the president of Columbia urging swift action in finding two mine workers who were recently abducted on their way to a labor contract meeting.

Steelworkers officials say they fear that the two Colombian men, David Vergara and Seth Cure, may have been targeted for their roles in upcoming labor talks with a mine owned by Alabama-based Drummond Co.

A telephone message left for Drummond wasn't immediately returned Wednesday.

In the letter to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Gerard noted similarities between the way the men were abducted Sept. 29 and the murders of three employees at the La Loma Drummond mine in northern Colombia in 2001. It's unclear which mine Vergara and Cure worked.

The situation "is tragically reminiscent of the forced capture and subsequent murders of Valmore Locarno, Victor Orcasita and Gustavo Soler," Gerard wrote. Gerard, who has written on numerous occasions to U.S. and foreign government officials on behalf of labor causes, said quick action is needed to save the men.

Steelworkers officials say it's unclear who abducted Vergara and Cure. The two, who are believed to be alive, were taken from their vehicle on their way to labor contract talks with Drummond representatives.

Their clothes and personal belongings were found abandoned with their vehicle. "We have fears it could be related to their trade union activities," Steelworkers attorney Dan Kovalik said Wednesday.

The union has sued Drummond in federal court over the three workers' deaths, claiming the mining company hired paramilitary gunmen to kidnap, torture and murder them for their ties to Sintramienergetica, the Colombian union representing Drummond workers.

The Steelworkers claim Locarno, Orcasita and Soler were forcefully removed from buses taking them home from their work at the mines.

The suit alleges the killings were part of a systematic plan to intimidate union members. According to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Colombia is the most dangerous nation for union members, with 184 of the world's 213 confirmed killings last year.

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