Sunday, October 14, 2007

Javier Correa and the Impunity of Murderers in Uribe's Colombia

Sometimes, and only sometimes, one forgets the blatant hypocrisy at the heart of the so-called 'War on Terror'. But then one reads of the latest developments in Colombia (a close ally of the Bush White House) and it all comes flooding back. Although, given the nature of the mainstream media, it is hard to get any facts on the link between Bush and terrorism (you could do worse than watch this to get a basic understanding of the links between Bush and terrorism).

The following is taken from the United Steelworkers Union:

The USW president expressed grave concern for the lives of several members of the SINALTRAINAL union in Colombia, naming leaders from Bucaramanga as Javier Correa, Luis Eduardo Garcia and Jose Domingo Florez. Describing a tide of paramilitary re-mobilization, Gerard cited an explicit threat written by the Black Eagles, who said they would “bury the union members and their families in a mass grave on Christmas Day if they do not cease their union activities and leave the area.”

Gerard related an incident on Sept. 27 involving the son of Florez, who was picked up by presumed paramilitary gunmen, thrown into a van, beaten and told they won’t stop until his father is dismembered.

According to Amnesty, the full letter read:

"All orders are followed - communist guerrillas trade unionist facade - Javier Correa, stop your ideological discourse - you must leave the department - if not we will be obliged to carry out the military objective and at Christmas we will hand over the bodies of your families in a mass grave."

The letter bore the acronym of the AUC.

It is worth putting this into context. In 2006, 78 unionists were murdered in Colombia, over half the total global union murders. Despite these horrific figures, impunity for the murder of unionists is around 98%. Taking 2006 as an example, only three convictions were secured against the 78 murders. Furthermore, if one were to examine the period 2004-6, a period that witnessed the murder of 236 trade unionists, there were only five convictions. And if one was take the broader picture throughout Uribe's presidency, the picture is even bleaker. Since coming to power in 2002, there have been nearly 400 murders and only ten convictions (these figures come from a non-governmental organisation often cited by the American government). Taking all of these figures into account, as well as the figures pre-dating Uribe's presidency, the conviction rate stands at a pathetic 1.9%. No wonder Colombia is frequently described as 'one of the world's most dangerous places for trade unionists'.

Of course, these figures are even more disturbing when you take into account the many links between President Uribe and the terrorists responsible for this bloodshed. There is a video that has been circulating in Colombia for some time now that shows the future president meeting with one of the leaders of the AUC. There have also been frequent allegations of links between these terrorist organisations and the Colombian government. The former foreign minister, Maria Consuelo Araujo, was forced to resign due to the arrest of her brother and the investigation of her father for deals with terrorists.

With such a background, it is little wonder that union members are subjected to the kinds of disgraceful threats that face Correa and Florez. These threats will undoubtedly continue as long as the British and American political establishments turn a blind eye to the behaviour of the Colombia government and provide substantial financial and military aid. No wonder the Colombian government and the US administration embarked on a mass PR campaign in the 90s (with the involvement of Mark Malloch Brown - a key ally of Gordon Brown), there is certainly much to hide from the eyes of the general public.

You can take action in support of Javier Correa by visiting the Amnesty International Action page here.