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JFC developments

Find out more about recent developments in the Justice for Colombia campaign.

Colombian trade unionist, due to address TUC Congress, is imprisoned

September 2013

The vice-president of Colombia's agricultural workers' union Huber Ballesteros has been being imprisoned by the authorities, shortly before he was due to travel to the UK to address the annual Trades Union Congress and meet with British MPs , Lesley Mercer highlights in her blog.

For more information, see the Justice for Colombia website: Individual donations to Justice for Columbia, to help it carry on its work, are always very welcome

Colombian Peace Campaigners Visit Ireland and London

April 2013

ERUS Director Lesley Mercer took part in a reception at the House of Lords on 24 April for three leading Colombian peace campaigners.

File 115450Welcoming the visitors in her role as TUC president, Lesley highlighted the physical risks attached to being a trade union or human rights activist in Colombia, activities that are taken for granted in Britain. She assured the visitors that the TUC supported the efforts of the new mass movement campaigning for peace with social justice, the Patriotic March (left), and that the TUC would continue to lobby the Colombian authorities direct over threats to individual trade union leaders.

The three campaigners, who included the country’s leading women’s rights activist as well as a former student leader, were visiting London after a series of meetings with parliamentarians from all the political parties in Ireland to learn lessons from the Northern Ireland peace process.

For more information, see the Justice for Colombia website: Individual donations to Justice for Columbia, to help it carry on its work, are always very welcome

Carmen Mayusa's speech to the TUC

File 110594 Carmen Mayusa (2nd right) with CSP delegation to TUC Congress 2012 - photo: Jess Hurd

29 October 2012

Carmen Mayusa, general secretary of ANTHOC, the Colombian Health Workers' Union, addressed the TUC Congress in September 2012. Here is a transcript of her speech:

Many, like me, are willing to keep struggling until the last day of our lives for peace and reconciliation"

I want to thank the TUC, their leaders, the whole British union movement and Justice for Colombia for the space you have given me in this congress.

I am Carmen Mayusa, trade union activist from the health sector in Colombia, General Secretary of ANTHOC, the health workers' union.

I am a victim of the abhorrent policies of extermination suffered by the Colombian trade union movement. During this government, we have seen 68 assassinations of trade union activists, 17 this year so far. The government claimed publically that they would strengthen the protection measures for unionists because they needed to sign free trade agreements with the US and Europe, but as soon as the agreement with the US was signed they cut the funding for transport for activists in the protection scheme. The threats are innumerable and hundreds of us have been displaced.

In my case, through this work denouncing the abuses, I am paying homage to my dead; four brothers assassinated for their trade union activity and for the social struggle they led in resistance to a neoliberal system; two nephews assassinated and one disappeared; my sister the victim of having lost her two sons is now under psychiatric care; the massacre of my uncle and his family, the unjust imprisonment that me and my sister with her son of just 18 months we were victims of for more than two years, only to be later absolved and released from prison, making clear that it was all a false case, fabricated against us for our trade union activity. I want to thank to the campaign by Justice for Colombia, the British unions, Thompsons Solicitors, the Parliamentary Friends of Colombia. If it were not for them we would probably still be in prison.

For that reason I ask you to provide permanent support for Justice for Colombia because their work prolongs the lives of many trade unionists and social activists in Colombia.

Now, a new movement the Patriotic March is emerging, and is working towards a peace process in Colombia. A process of dialogue between the government and the FARC guerrillas is only just beginning, but we, as trade unionists and victims of a policy of state persecution, that has always tried to link us to the guerrillas, need it more than anyone. We are tired of so much death against those who raise their voices in the search for social justice. We need an end to the internal conflict and we need all your support so that that this dream can become reality- Join voices; join hands; join forces. Help us to ensure that what happened in the 80s does not take place again, when following a peace process between the FARC and the government of President Belisario Betancur, the Patriotic Union movement emerged, but was then exterminated, with more than 5,000 of its leaders and activists assassinated.

The success of the current process - whether it can result in a true peace with social justice for the Colombian people, depends greatly on your solidarity and on solidarity from across the world. Many, like me, are willing to keep struggling until the last day of our lives for peace and reconciliation, sure that we will achieve it with help from all of you, for our union and all the trade union movement in Colombia.

Thank you very much,
Carmen Mayusa.

For more information, see the Justice for Colombia website: Individual donations to Justice for Columbia, to help it carry on its work, are always very welcome

Agricultural union activist still missing, presumed dead

17 August 2012

A trade union activist that CSP director Lesley Mercer met as part of the trade union delegation to Colombia earlier this year was still missing mid-August after a suspected 'forced disappearance' on 18 April, according to Justice for Colombia.

Herman Henry Diaz from the agricultural workers’ union FENSUAGRO who in February helped organise a hearing in the remote town of Puerta Asis, in the Putamayo department, close to the border with Ecuador and Peru, that provided first hand testimony of serious human rights abuses to CSP Director Lesley Mercer and other British trade unionists. A local human rights NGO dealing with the case has reported to Justice for Colombia - which organised the delegation and to which the CSP is affiliated - that there is still no clear update on an investigation into the disappearance.

There has been confirmation from local state authorities that the only armed actor in the region is the army which confirms JFC's suspicion that the army were involved. Local people last week gave testimony to the NGO that on the day of Henry’s disappearance they saw armed men in civilian clothes operating in the area which they suspect are paramilitaries operating with the tolerance of the army. A few days ago, Henry’s clothes were found in between two army checkpoints, raising concerns that he was murdered.

Herman Henry Diaz had led efforts to organise a delegation of 200 activists from Villa Guamez municipality in Putumayo Department who were travelling to take part in the Patriotic March events on 20th, 21st and 22nd April in Bogota. The Patriotic March, (a coalition of trade unions, student, indigenous and other social organisations) has been accused of being linked to the FARC, an accusation which often ends in activists being imprisoned or murdered tragedy.

FENSUAGRO is one of the most persecuted unions in Colombia, with well over a 1000 members assassinated.

Justice for Colombia continue to push for an investigation on this case.

For more information, see the Justice for Colombia website: Individual donations to Justice for Columbia, to help it carry on its work, are always very welcome

Colombian trade unionist freed from jail says "See, you got me out!"

5 March 2012

Since August 2008, Colombian academic and trade union leader Liliany Obando has been held in Buen Pastor women's jail in Bogota.

She has never been formally charged, still less tried or convicted, but has been held with convicted right-wing paramilitaries which - given the Colombian Government's accusation that she is a left-wing guerrilla sympathiser - has exposed her to daily risks of violence, abuse and harassment.

For years, trade unionists in Britain and elsewhere have been campaigning for her release - especially through the union-sponsored Justice for Colombia (JFC) campaign, to which the CSP is affiliated.

On 29th February members of a JFC delegation to Colombia, including CSP Director of Employment Relations & Union Services Lesley Mercer, held a protest outside the Buen Pastor jail.

A small number of the delegation then visited Liliany inside the prison. Liliany urged the delegation to tell the world about her incarceration and keep up the campaign for her release and the release of all the other trade unionists who are held without charge in Colombia's jails.

She said the international campaign for her release had kept her strong, and she hoped to be free one day. What she didn't know was that that day would be the day after the visit: on Thursday 1 March, Liliany was released on bail, and was greeted by the whole JFC delegation and many other supporters outside the prison. Her first words to JFC Director Mariela Kohon were "See, you got me out!"

In her first speech to supporters, Liliany paid tribute to the international campaign, which she credited with forcing the Colombian Government to let her out, and she urged us to redouble our efforts for all the other thousands of political prisoners still in jail.

She later recorded a video message thanking the TUC, Thompsons Solicitors and Justice for Colombia which was shown to deafening applause and cries from South African trade unionists of "Viva Liliany!" at the TUC's 2012 International Women's Day event just a week later.

It is disgraceful that Liliany was in jail in the first place; disgraceful that she spent 42 months in captivity without being charged, tried or convicted; disgraceful that she is even now only out on bail; and doubly disgraceful and deeply disturbing that she is now under even more threat from paramilitary thugs because the Government continues to smear her as a guerrilla supporter or even member. JFC is organising protests to the Colombian Government to demand that Liliany is protected and the charges dropped.

It is repugnant that the European Commission is still planning to do business with the Colombian regime by negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with it, giving it a legitimacy it simply doesn't deserve. And it is beyond belief that Colombian Vice President Angelino Garcon should have the cheek to stand for the position of ILO (International Labour Organisation) Director General.

But it is testament to the power of union campaigning and public pressure that Liliany is out of jail. But don't take it from us. Take it from her: watch the video.

For more information, see the Justice for Colombia website: Individual donations to Justice for Columbia, to help it carry on its work, are always very welcome.


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