Unite International statement on Colombia
- Thursday 27 May 2021
On behalf of our 1.4 million members in Britain and Ireland, Unite the union stands in solidarity with Colombian trade unionists, activists and ordinary citizens in their struggle for economic equality and against the horrific state abuses being committed by president Iván Duque’s government. Through our work with Justice for Colombia, Unite has long campaigned to strengthen human rights, peace and social justice in Colombia.
National Strike demands for decent living standards, human rights and peace are basic human principles yet have encountered police violence on a massive scale. Videos have shown police and ESMAD riot police, as well as possible paramilitary accomplices, launching brutal attacks on peaceful and unarmed protesters. These abuses have exposed the Duque government’s authoritarian and violent practices to the world.
While there has rightly been world condemnation of the state repression, international focus must not drift from the chronic human rights insecurity that has seen more than one thousand social leaders and trade unionists murdered since Colombia’s historic peace agreement was signed less than five years ago. Over 270 former FARC combatants have also been killed since putting down their weapons. We call on the British and Irish governments to take all necessary efforts to ensure their Colombian counterpart meets its obligations to the peace process and the many communities impacted by ongoing violence.
Unite pays tribute to our trade union colleagues at the CUT, CGT, CTC and individual unions who have coordinated this extraordinary movement for a more just and humane society. We extend our unconditional support to the students, activists and citizens who are rising as one against Colombia’s grossly unequal economic model.
Unite urges the international community, including the governments of Britain and Ireland, to demand an immediate end to the Duque government’s barbaric treatment of protesters, including the reprehensible slurs made by several of Duque’s colleagues in the Democratic Centre party. We note this is a tactic far-right senators also use to stigmatise trade unions and delegitimise their noble struggle for fairer conditions, contributing to the climate of violence that has made Colombia the world’s most dangerous country for trade unionists.
Unite also calls for a review of British training of Colombian police until guarantees can be provided that the abuses will come to a permanent end.
Solidarity with the people of Colombia!