MAC: Mines and Communities

USWA Strongly Urges Colombian President to Intervene to Save Lives of Missing Trade Unionists

Published by MAC on 2003-10-08

USWA Strongly Urges Colombian President to Intervene to Save Lives of Missing Trade Unionists

Pittsburgh, October 8, 2003

The United Steelworkers of America (USWA) has called on U.S. and Colombian officials to take immediate action to locate Colombian workers David Vergara and Seth Cure and return them to their families. On September 29, 2003, Messrs. Vergara and Cure, officials of the mining union SINTRAMIENERGETICA, disappeared from their abandoned vehicles en route to a meeting to discuss upcoming labor contract negotiations with the Drummond Company.

The clothes and personal effects of Messrs. Vergara and Cure were discovered with their vehicle, and combined with intelligence gleaned by SINTRAMIENERGETICA, which has worked closely with the USWA, has led to the conclusion that the two men are alive and in the custody of armed groups.

In a letter to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, USWA President Leo W. Gerard noted with alarm that quick action of Colombian officials is necessary to save the men's lives.

Gerard's letter noted that the forceful abduction of Messrs. Vergara and Cure "is tragically reminiscent of the forced capture and subsequent murders of Valmore Locarno, Victor Orcasita and Gustavo Soler -- all employees of Drummond and officials of SINTRAMIENERGETICA." Locarno, Orcasita and Soler were allegedly murdered in 2001 by paramilitaries who forcefully removed them from buses taking them home from their work at the La Loma Drummond mines.

The murders of Locarno, Orcasita and Soler are the subject of an Alien Tort Claims Act case brought jointly by the USWA and the International Labor Rights Fund ("ILRF") on behalf of the families of these deceased workers and on behalf of the their union, SINTRAMIENERGETICA.

The lawsuit, brought against the Drummond Company, alleges that officials of Drummond aided and abetted the paramilitary forces that murdered Locarno, Orcasita and Soler, and conspired with these forces to carry out these murders. The defendants' motion to dismiss this case has been denied, and the Plaintiffs are proceeding to discovery of the merits of this case.

The USWA and ILRF have also filed recent suits under the ATCA on behalf of Drummond employees and SINTRAMIENERGETICA officials Jimmy Rubio and Juan Aguas Romero, claiming that Drummond officials are knowingly continuing to aid and abet paramilitary forces which are attempting to kill them and that Messrs.

Rubio and Romero have been forced into exile in imminent fear for their lives. The lawsuit is one of two being pressed by the USWA, which has also named Coca Cola and related bottlers as defendants in a lawsuit filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act that alleges the Coca Cola bottlers conspired with paramilitaries to intimidate, torture, and in some cases murder trade union activists in Colombia - by far the most dangerous country in the world for labor activists.

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