I prefer attributed to anonymous sources, but in a context like Colombia where hundreds of union leaders, human rights activists, journalist, lawyers and the like are killed every year for speaking out, I believe exceptions can be made.
I blogged yesterday that the 18th Brigade of the Colombian Army is directly implicated in a massacre of 13 people in Arauca. Today a communique from “social organizations who will not leave the shadows” pointed out a coincidence — that the very day of the massacre (May 20), the commander of the armed forces Martin Orlando Carreno made a visit to the military base of Pueblo Nuevo. Pueblo Nuevo is a 30 minute car ride from the site of the massacre (Pinalito and Flor Amarillo of the Tame Municipality).
Other Colombia news: SINTRAEMCALI, the city of Cali’s remarkable public utility worker’s union (here’s an interview on them) has again occupied a public building — a very high-risk, high-stakes action in a place like Colombia, demanding an end to the government’s creeping attempts to privatize the company. They are trying to put a light on things the government would rather keep hidden. See details below, thanks to the UK Colombia solidarity campaign.
More Colombia labor news: The Union Sindical Obrera, the oil worker’s union, went on strike 35 days ago to try to stop privatization of the state oil company. The government agreed not to privatize, ending the strike. The workers sacrificed a tremendous amount — 248 workers who were fired when the strike was declared illegal have the option of arbitration or voluntary retirement.
SINTRAEMCALI declares a Permanent Assembly, 1600 people peacefully occupy the Central Administration Building – The CAM Tower
Santiago de Cali 26th May, 2004
The CAM Tower, symbol of the defence of the rights of the workers of EMCALI EICE ESP has been occupied once again by SINTRAEMCALI in the face of the failure of the government of ALVARO URIBE VELEZ to fulfil its obligations under a recent agreement. The administrative functions of the company have been paralysed but the provision of basic public services will be guaranteed. The Permanent Assembly will continue until the National Government fulfils its obligations under the agreement with the workers and citizens of Cali.
Around 1600 workers of the Municipal Enterprises of Cali EMCALI EICE ESP, declared themselves to be in Permanent Assembly from 6.00 am this morning, the 26th of May, 2004. They will remain there until the nationally imposed Managing Director CARLOS ALFONSO POTES is fired for his involvement in corruption, the EMCALI workers that were dismissed have been reinstated in their positions, and the national government fulfills its agreement with the EMCALI workers and the citizens of Cali.
The Regional Attorney yesterday announced that ALFONSO POTES had been found guilty of corrupt practices and disqualified him from holding public office and continuing in his job. However, the Superintendent of Public Services EVA MARIA URIBE immediately stated that ALFONSO POTES would carry on in his position because the case did not proceed to prosecution [translators note: i.e. that it was not a judicial process but an administrative investigation] . This confirms once again that the Colombian government places itself above State Organs of control. Despite the Regional Attorney’s call for his dismissal the Superintendent of Public Services decided to allow him to carry on in his position.
The National and International Community have been witness to the range of attempts by ALVARO URIBE VELEZ and the Superintendent of Public Services EVA MARIA URIBE, to privatize the company and also the effort that workers have made so that EMCALI could remain as a Commercial and Industrial State Enterprise: On the 4th of May, 2004 the workers ceded many benefits acquired over 70 years of struggle by renegotiating the Collective Agreement with the Ministry of Labour [in order to save the company].
Despite this, the response of the government has been repression against the workers, a restructuring of the company that was not discussed in the recent agreements, giving precedence to the National and International Banks to the detriment of the ‘patrimonio publico’ [translators note: common good/public property] and the rights of the workers and consumers.
Since Carlos Alfonso Potes took control of EMCALI he has consistently denied any accusations that he was ineligible to take up the position due to his involvement in a previous public service provider, and has denied any involvement with the Public Service Company of Tulua [ a private supplie of public utilities]. However, that company has certified that Potes is a shareholder. Furthermore, it was proved that he was involved in the appointment of the manager ISABEL CRISTINA VIGOYA, who was ultimately dismissed for having forged her qualification certificates, and for carrying out activities aimed at destabilizing EMCALI.
SINTRAEMCALI has consistently argued that the current Managing Director is incompetent and corrupt, and has called for a commission of inquiry – made up of the Regional Attorney, the State Prosecutor, the Controller General and the Citizens Watchdog to investigate – into all the administrative acts that have caused damage to the ‘patrimonio nacional’ of EMCALI EICE ESP as well as causing harm to the consumer community.
For the above reasons the trade union of the Public Municipal Enterprises of Cali – SINTRAEMCALI, the Association for Research and Social Action NOMADESC and other members of the Campaign PROHIBIDO OLVIDAR (Forbidden to Forget) call on the national and international community to support the demands that:
a.. The Manager of EMCALI EICE ESP CARLOS ALFONSO POTES is immediately dismissed from his position in line with the Regional Attorney’s verdict.
b.. That the government complies with the agreement signed by Alvaro Uribe Velez and the workers and citizens of Cali
c.. That the government respects constitutional and legal rights such as the right to life, security, freedom of opinion, information, mobilization, trade unionism and protest, and conforms to the International Pacts and Agreements that the Colombian government has signed up to.
d.. That the Colombian government guarantees the necessary conditions to protect the physical and psychological integrity of the workers.
e.. Calls on the United Nations, the Organisation of American States, the Diplomatic Corps based in Colombia, and the International Labour Organisation to guarantee the human rights of the leaders and activists of SINTRAEMCALI.
Sindicato de Trabajadores de Las Empresas Municipales de Cali – SINTRAEMCALI
Sindicato De Los Trabajadores Universitarios De Colombia – SINTRAUNICOL
La Unión Sindical Obrera- USO
Asociación para el Desarrollo Social Integral – ECATE
Central Unitaria De Los Trabajadores CUT – VALLE DEL CAUCA
For more info contact Colombia Solidarity Campaign at firstname.lastname@example.org and to this e-mail address email@example.com Tel 07743743041