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Cablegate: 2009 Labor Violence Numbers and Impunity Update

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DE RUEHBO #0049/01 0192239
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 191444Z JAN 10 ZFF6
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2061
INFO RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS BOGOTA 000049

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
USTR FOR EISSENSTAT, ROMERO, AND HARMAN
DOL FOR ZOLLNER AND QUINTANA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB EAID ETRD PGOV PHUM PREL USTR LAB CO
SUBJECT: 2009 LABOR VIOLENCE NUMBERS AND IMPUNITY UPDATE

REF: BOGOTA 1120; 08 BOGOTA 2175; 08 BOGOTA 4390; BOGOTA 3031

SUMMARY

-------

1. (SBU) National Union School (ENS) statistics show that murders
of trade unionists fell by 20% in 2009, and by 80% since 2002.
However, ENS Director Jose Luciano Sanin said the focus on killings
masked the scope of anti-union violence -- only 26% of the violent
acts ENS had recorded were murders. Labor groups decried high
impunity rates for crimes against unionists, and called for greater
government resolve in identifying and punishing the perpetrators.
Vice Minister of Labor Ricardo Andres Echeverri Lopez said the GOC
had invested extensively in protecting unionists and combating
impunity. Consequently, the murder rate for unionists had fallen
faster than the overall homicide rate since 2002: by 74% compared
to 49%. Today, the murder rate for Colombian unionists (5 per
100,000) is lower than the general homicide rate in the United
States. End Summary.

HOMICIDES OF UNIONISTS DOWN 20 PERCENT

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

2. (SBU) The National Union School (ENS) reported that 39 trade
unionists were murdered in 2009, 20% less than in 2008 but equal to
the number killed in 2007. The Ministry of Social Protection (MPS)
reported 28 killings in 2009 (18% drop). Vice Minister Echeverri
emphasized that 15 were teachers, and preliminary evidence
indicated that not all of the 28 were killed for their union
activity. (Note: ENS includes in its statistics a broader
spectrum of labor activist groups that are not registered as
unions, including peasant leaders, family members of unionists, and
members of organizations that have "union-like" structures. End
Note.) Still, by ENS calculations trade unionist murders have
fallen by almost 80% since 2002, when it reported 186 murders.

OVERALL VIOLENCE ON THE RISE?

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

3. (SBU) ENS Director Jose Luciano Sanin acknowledged the positive
trend, but warned that focusing on murders alone masked the true
nature and scale of the violence. He said that homicides
represented only 26% of the 10,364 "violations of life, liberty,
and integrity of union workers" that had occurred since January 1,
1986. Total anti-union violations increased by 73% between 2007
and 2008 (from 441 to 762) according to ENS. The majority of
violations consisted in death threats (4,418) and forced
displacements (1,611), and, to a lesser extent, arbitrary
detentions, harassment, non-lethal attacks, disappearances,
kidnappings, torture, and illegal searches. While murders had
steadily fallen, non-lethal crimes had continued unabated, he said.


LABOR DECRIES IMPUNITY, CALLS FOR GREATER GOC RESOLVE

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

4. (SBU) Labor groups said that the Prosecutor General's Office had
only initiated investigations into 1,119 of the 2,704 murders labor
groups had identified, leaving nearly 60% in complete impunity
(Note: the Prosecutor General's Office only recognizes a unionist

link in 1,344 of the 2,704 cases. End Note.) Labor groups also
complained that many investigations remained in the preliminary
stages with very few convictions. According to ENS, impunity rates
by number of convictions were 95% for murders, 98.7% for attacks,
99.9% for threats, 93.7% for kidnappings, 99.7% for forced
displacement, and 100% for forced disappearances and tortures.

GOC HIGHLIGHTS PROGRESS, POINTS TO RESULTS

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

5. (SBU) Vice Minister Echeverri said that the GOC had invested
heavily in protecting unionists and combating impunity. For
example, the GOC maintained a $45 million protection program for
approximately 10,000 vulnerable social leaders/activists, including
1,500 labor leaders; provided $4 million in funding for a permanent
International Labor Organization (ILO) office in Bogota; engaged
private sector companies and labor leaders in a regular tripartite
dialog; passed legislation to harmonize domestic law with ILO
conventions; strengthened its labor inspections capacity; and
created a special Labor Sub-Unit within the Prosecutor General's
Office with three dedicated judges to investigate, prosecute, and
try cases of violence against unionists (reftels).

6. (SBU) As of December 20, 2009, the Prosecutor General's Office
reported 234 convictions (209 for murder) against 334 perpetrators
of anti-union violence since 2000, including 69 convictions in
2009. The Labor Sub-Unit, created in October 2006, was responsible
for 184 (79%) of the total convictions. Echeverri said that as a
result of GOC efforts the murder rate for unionists had dropped 25
percentage points faster than the overall homicide rate since 2002
(74% compared to 49%). The 2009 general homicide rate was 32 per
100,000, compared to 5 per 100,000 for unionists using ENS
statistics. (Note: According to the FBI, the U.S. general homicide
rate in 2009 was approximately 6 per 100,000. End Note.)
Echeverri defended the GOC's resolve in protecting unionists and
combating impunity.
NICHOLS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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