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Cablegate: Colombia Disputes Amnesty International Report On

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #5489/01 2082324
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 272324Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7664
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 9212
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ JUL 8859
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 5290
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 5890

UNCLAS BOGOTA 005489

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB PGOV PHUM CO
SUBJECT: COLOMBIA DISPUTES AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT ON
LABOR


1. Summary: Amnesty International (AI) released a report on
July 3 criticizing the GOC's record on combating violence
against trade unions. The report accused the Colombian
military of maintaining links with former paramilitary groups
that used terror tactics against unionists. It also
criticized the GOC for not making significant progress in
reducing killings of labor unionists and addressing impunity.
The GOC said the document ignored GOC efforts to protect
unionists and prosecute perpetrators of violence. It also
charged the report used outdated and inaccurate data, and
noted AI did not seek GOC input. End Summary

-------------------------------------
GOC POINTS OUT FLAWS, DISPUTES CLAIMS
-------------------------------------

2. AI's July 3 report said the Colombian military maintained
links with paramilitary groups and accused the GOC of not
doing enough to protect unionists and combat impunity.
Minister of Social Protection Diego Palacio Betancourt issued
a statement, posted on the Presidency's web site on July 4,
criticizing AI for publishing a report with numerous factual
errors and for failing to seek GOC input. The 59-page AI
report entitled "Killings, Arbitrary Detentions, and Death
Threats: the Reality of Trade Unionism in Colombia" included
examples of labor killings and recommendations to the GOC as
well as the international community.

3. Betancourt said AI never met with the GOC to verify any
of the information they cite or to discuss the programs the
GOC has in place to battle violence against unionists. He
rejected AI's claim that a relationship persists between the
armed forces and the former paramilitaries. The AI document
quotes a report by the ENS as saying that 77 unionists were
killed in 2006, but Betancourt said the ENS report they cited
registered 72. He said the GOC reports 60 unionist murders
in 2006, and clarified that not all of those were killed
because of their union affiliations.

4. Betancourt said AI selectively chose its date ranges for
statistics to produce the most dramatic results. When
calculating the number of murders, Amnesty cited numbers up
until April, 2007, but when referring to convictions of
murderers, AI only cited the number achieved up until 2004.
Betancourt said this hides major advances in the past few
years. For example, AI's document reported there had not
been a single conviction in a case of unionist homicide. The
most recent update from the GOC reports there have been 48
cases resolved, with 89 individuals jailed since 2002.

5. Betancourt also said that Amnesty emphasized killings
committed by former paramilitary groups, while not adequately
addressing those committed by guerrilla groups like the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). He said
that, while paramilitaries are mentioned on nearly every page
of the report, Amnesty International only dedicated one and a
half pages to discussing violence perpetrated by the FARC.
Betancourt's letter said ENS attributes 285 of the murders
from 1991 to 2006 to the paramilitaries and 147 to guerrilla
groups (in the majority of cases, the responsible party is
unknown). He suggested the killings committed by guerrillas
merited further emphasis by AI.

-------------------------------------
GOC CITES PROGRESS, INCREASED EFFORTS
-------------------------------------

6. Betancourt said whether one uses GOC statistics or ENS
statistics, murders of unionists fell by over 60 percent
from 2002-2006. (Note: ENS reports two more unionists were
killed in 2006 than in 2005, but ENS and GOC show the same
overall downward trend during the period-- see table below.)
Betancourt also pointed out that, in accordance with the
tripartite agreement brokered by the International Labor
Organization and signed by the GOC, industry leaders, and the
labor confederations, the GOC set up a special unit within
the National Prosecutor's office (Fiscalia) to investigate
violence against unionists. This unit has nearly 100
investigators and prosecutors.

7. He also said the Ministry of Interior and Justice's
protection program currently protects 1504 union leaders.
According to Betancourt, GOC resources dedicated to this
effort have risen substantially since 2000. The program's
budget for 2007 was over USD $34 million. He called on AI to
recognize these achievements in their report.


--------------------------------------------- --------------

Table: Unionist Murders from 2001 to 2006
Sources: Ministry of Social Protection and ENS
--------------------------------------------- --------------

% Change
'01 '02 '03 '04 '05 '06 '01 - '06
--- --- --- --- --- --- ---------

ENS: 197 186 94 96 70 72 63.4%

MSP: 205 196 101 89 40 60 70.7%

--------------------------------------------- ---------------
Drucker

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