Colombian Trade Unionist Assassinated

House of Representatives member, Keith Ellison, released a statement last week to Colombian President, Juan Santos, calling for an investigation into the killing of trade unionist, Ever Luis Marin Rolong on January 4.

Rolong, an electrician at the Aguila beer brewery with 26 years of experience, was on his way to work when six shots were fired at him while he stood at a bus stop, according to Justice for Colombia. He was 46 years old.

Violence against trade unionists are on the rise in Colombia, with 26 unionists killed in 2013, a 15 percent increase from the previous year, according to the Escuela Nacional Sindical figures.

"As a member of the Congressional Monitoring Group on Labor Rights who monitors the implementation of the U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan, I am greatly concerned about the ongoing death threats and intimidation suffered by Colombian trade unionists," stated Ellison's letter to President Santos.

Not only was the SINALTRACEBA unionist murdered, but the president of SINALTRACEBA also received a death threat the next evening. These incidents clearly illustrate the level of violence that trade unionists face in their country.

"It is incumbent upon your government to send a strong message by arresting and sentencing the perpetrators of these horrific crimes," said Ellison in his letter.

Crimes against trade unionists, many of whom are Afro-Colombians, are not new. In 2008 TransAfrica warned against the US - Colombian Free Trade Agreement (FTA), spreading the word that it was a tool for ethnocide.

In a September 2008 Action Alert we reported that, "The reality is that murders of Colombian trade unionists continue to be a serious and worsening problem and the total number of union murders for the first eight months of 2008 now surpasses the figure for the entire previous year. In Buenaventura, a city with a majority Afro-Colombian population, union workers operate in deplorable conditions, are forced to work overtime without adequate compensation, and are subjected to terror and violence."

Despite the abuse and displacement of Afro-Colombians, the Indigenous and trade unionists, despite the profound impunity and a lack of justice the Administration decided to move forward the FTA. The FTA provides no enforceable protection for Afro-Colombian communities, whose legally-protected communal territories make up some of Colombia’s most ecologically rich and diverse lands.

TransAfrica calls upon the Government of Colombia to take immediate action to end impunity experienced by perpetrators of selective assassinations and extrajudicial killings of Afro-Colombian civilians, particularly community activists. Perpetrators must be brought to adequate justice under the law.