The Colombian government has repeatedly said that the country has become safer for labor activists as part of President Alvaro Uribe’s “democratic security” policies. At an International Labor Organization (ILO) conference this week, Vice Minister for Labor Relations Ana Lucia Noguera boasted that killings of union members dropped by 81% since 2001.
On the other hand, the ITUC claimed that Colombia is "most dangerous place on earth for trade unionists." The ITUC said that of the 76 unionist deaths worldwide in 2008 49 of them were in Colombia. In addition, impunity reigns in most crimes against labor activists in Colombia; the ILO estimates that a whopping 96% of cases go unpunished.
Violence against labor unions is one of the main reasons why Congressional Democrats have held up the free trade agreement between Colombia and the U.S. This topic will surely be discussed when Uribe and U.S. President Barack Obama meet in Washington on June 29th.
Colombia is not the only danger zone in the Americas for unionists according to the ITUC:
The ITUC survey documents assassinations of trade unionists in 10 other countries, including Guatemala, Venezuela and the Philippines.Image-BBC Mundo
Guy Ryder, ITUC general secretary, said: “The fact that certain countries, such as Colombia, Guatemala and the Philippines, appear year after year on the death list shows that the authorities are, at best, incapable of ensuring protection and in some cases are complicit with unscrupulous employers in the murders.”
Online Sources- Colombia Reports, Plan Colombia and Beyond, Financial Times, Reuters