URGENT ACTION: protect the lives of Colombian Oil Workers’ Union leaders

URGENT ACTION: protect the lives of Colombian Oil Workers’ Union leaders

On April 2nd several leaders of the USO oil workers’ union again received paramilitary death threats via email. On March 2nd Rodolfo Vecino, the National Legal Officer of USO (Colombian Oil Workers’ Union), and Rafael Cabarcas, a retired former member of the USO National Executive, and activist in the opposition Democratic Pole political party, received death threats from paramilitaries. The threat declared that the paramilitaries knew where they were, and that despite their bodyguards, the paramilitaries would now pass from warnings to action. These follow on from a threat against three USO leaders in January 2011.

The USO is at the forefront in the struggle to prevent the privatisation of the Colombian oil sector and members of the USO have often been targeted by threats and assassination attempts. Over 100 members have been murdered in recent years.

Please send the below message to the Colombian Ambassador calling for the Colombian government to protect the lives of these two trade unionists.

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URGENT ACTION: protect the lives of Colombian Oil Workers’ Union leadersDear Ambassador,

I am writing to express my concern for the safety of the leadership of the USO oil workers’ union. Several national and regional USO leaders have been named in a fresh death threat emailed to the union on April 2nd 2011. The recipients, Martin Ravelo, Rafael Rodriguez Moros, Robinson Diaz Camargo and Luis Alberto Galvis have been working to organise oil workers in several sub-contracted firms.

These threats follow the threats received on March 2nd by Rodolfo Vecino, the USO National Legal Officer, and his former colleague and member of the Democratic Pole party, Rafael Cabarcas, who received a death threat from the “Los Paisas de Cartagena” paramilitaries declaring their imminent assassination. This threat followed on from a series of others that were delivered to Rafael Cabarcas’s phone.

The USO has a long and tragic history of paramilitary threats against its members, and has had over 100 activists assassinated. Rafael Cabarcas, himself a former member of the USO National Executive, narrowly survived an assassination attempt in 2005, and has since received threats. Rodolfo Vecino has also been previously threatened. I am deeply concerned that these threats may result in members of the USO being killed. I am also sure that such threats undermine their ability to properly fulfill their role as trade unionists.

I urge you to ensure that all necessary measures are taken to safeguard the lives of USO leaders and activists. Furthermore, I urge you to ensure that the death threats against them are fully investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. The murder of trade unionists is not acceptable, and the international community will not stand by while colleagues continue to be persecuted and threatened in this way.

I would appreciate it if you kept me informed of any steps taken by the government of Colombia to safeguard these men, and of any developments in this case.

Yours sincerely,

[Your Name]