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Danger for teacher unionists in Colombia

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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 trade unionists.

Here are some disturbing statistics from a study by Education International:

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 their students.

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 killed.

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