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Outrage over Colombia’s trade unionist expulsion

Outrage over Colombia’s expulsion of foreign trade unionists

Colombian President Uribe lied to union delegation: International unionists took part in a meeting with Uribe, where the President assured the delegation of his government's full commitment to trade union rights, and thanked them for their interest in the situation in Colombia. When they returned to the country again, they were expulsed.

03.11.2004 [Jhony Valetta, ANNCOL/CIOSL OnLine] An international trade union organisation expressed its outrage at the expulsion of four international union representatives from Colombia on 30 October and 1 November, on the order of the government of President Alvaro Uribe.

It is understood that the Uribe government has drawn up a list of trade union representatives banned from entering the country, and that this list includes persons who took part in an international solidarity mission to Colombia in September, to press the Uribe government to bring an end to the killing of Colombian trade trade unionists and the other means of anti-union repression which are rife in the country.

According to a statement by ICFTU, an international confederation that represents 148 million workers; »Colombia has had a notorious record of violence and discrimination against trade unionists over many years, with more than 50 trade unionists murdered already this year«.

The four expulsed unionists, Victor Baez Mosqueira, General Secretary of the ICFTU regional organisation for the Americas, Antonio Rodriguez Fritz of the International Transport Workers' Federation, Cameron Duncan of the Public Services International, and Rodolfo Benitez were due to attend an Americas region trade union coordination meeting.

Immigration officials detained them on arrival in the country and expelled them, in contradiction to Colombia's normal visa entry requirements. Three of them had taken part in a meeting with President Uribe during the September solidarity mission, where the President assured the delegation of his government's full commitment to trade union rights, and thanked them for their interest in the situation inside the country.

According to Spanish news agency EFE, the Director of Colombia’s secret police DAS, denied the expulsion of the foreign union leaders, saying that in order to perform other activities than tourism, a visa is obligatory.

In another development, union leaders from Great Britain, Ireland and Spain who had arrived in Colombia to attend a meeting of women trade unionists had their 60-day visas cancelled and were permitted to stay only three days in the country.

The ICFTU is writing to formally protest to President Uribe at his government's actions, which constitute a "totally unacceptable attempt to deny Colombian workers their legitimate right to international representation", according to ICFTU General Secretary Guy Ryder.

The expulsion of the trade union leaders will also be brought formally to the International Labour Organisation, which is this week examining a number of complaints from the trade union movement over attacks committed by state security forces and their paramilitary groups.

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