Prof. Luis Grubert Ibarra, President
FECODE on the dangers faced by teachers and trade unionists in Colombia
The context for what is happening in Colombia was set out by BCTF
president, Jim Iker, when he introduced at the 2014 BCTF Annual General Meeting.
By far the largest union in Colombia, FECODE represents more than 300,000
teachers and education workers across the country.
For many years now Colombia has been the most dangerous country in
the world for trade unionists.
Above all, it’s the most dangerous country in the world for teacher
Here are some disturbing statistics from a study by Education
Between 1999 and 2005, 1,174 trade unionists
were murdered worldwide.
The vast majority – 816 of them – were Colombian.
And here’s the most shocking part: More than half of those – 416 – were
teachers who were killed because they stood up for their union, their members, and
This is the kind of murderous situation that Luis and his colleagues
confront on a daily basis. In the past year alone, 12 teachers have been
And while the number of assassinations is shocking, that’s only part
of the violence they face.
Forced disappearances, arbitrary imprisonment, and physical attacks,
including torture, are commonplace.
Repeated death threats cause many members to flee their homes and
jobs, sometimes going into internal exile or seeking sanctuary abroad.
Exacerbating the problem is the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators
of the violence. Virtually no one is ever arrested for murders or other crimes
committed against trade unionists in Colombia. The national union confederation says that in
over 97% of assassinations nobody has been convicted.
Despite this incredibly difficult reality, Luis and the members
of FECODE continue the struggle.
Last September they launched a national strike demanding:
an end to privatisation,
payment of salaries owed to them,
decent working conditions in schools, and
an end to the campaign of oppression and intimidation
against trade unionists.
A video recording of Luis’ speech, in Spanish and English
translation, can be found on the BCTF YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/R1ANFy