Yesterday was an important day for Colombia, a day to reflect on a reality that cannot be denied or excused: almost 500 leaders have been killed since the implementation of the Peace process. “To defend life, we must defend peace” was the message that politicians, students and social and union leaders conveyed to Iván Duque’s Government, to put an end to the murders and the systematic violation of human rights.
The participation of the Colombian people inside and outside of Congress for the political debate regarding the murders of social leaders clearly showed the need for change, and the call to take action effectively with policies that protect those who defend the rights of the most vulnerable. Registration to watch the debate in Congress exceeded expectations, and more space had to be be provided for the public to view proceedings. Meanwhile at Plaza Bolívar 10,000 people gathered together drumming and chanting as they closely followed what was happening inside Congress.
UNI Americas affiliates were among the first to enter and participate in the debate. Yuli Higuera, president of UTRACLARO and whose life has been threatened because of her union activity, said, “Indifference is being put aside. I almost cried in the middle of the debate when I saw so many people in the plaza singing so powerfully. I feel that in Colombia we are moving forward, we are not alone”.
Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, expressed concern about the lack of protection for union activity and the increase in murders of social and union leaders.
“Unfortunately, these findings confirm what Colombian trade unionists and other champions of democracy and peace in the country already know to their cost: the Duque government and the Colombian authorities are failing to protect working people and safeguard the peace process,” said Hoffman
The Colombian government promised to deliver a document in fifteen days on public policies to prevent crimes against social leaders, including unionists.
UNI Americas together with all its affiliates will continue to denounce the violation of human rights in Colombia, and will continue insisting on the need for the trade union movement to have an active voice in the peace process.