Trade Union Leader Accused of Being a FARC Guerrilla
News from Colombia |
on: Tuesday, 30 August 2011
Jailer Gonzalez, the President of ASTRACATOL, the Tolima Peasant Workers’ Association, has reported a series of threats and a smear campaign aimed at linking him to the FARC guerrillas.
ASTRACATOL, since its foundation has repeatedly denounced horrific human rights abuses by the Army’s 6th Brigade as well as the South Tolima Task Force. On March 30th two of its members were killed some 400 metres from an army checkpoint. Following the killing union members have repeatedly been forced to report their activities to army and police units in the region, despite the fact that no official warrant for their arrest exists.
On April 16th 2011 Jailer Gonzalez was arrested by army troops and force marched for 6 hours before being released after locals protested outside the place where he was being held. In the run up to the peace meeting Caracol radio ran a series of reports alleging links between the FARC and the organisers of the peace meeting, and on August 17th the station ran a story which accused Jailer of being a FARC infiltrator in the peace meeting.
The previous day another peasant trade unionist was shot and killed in the Southern department of Caqueta. The danger of Caracol radio reporting that Mr Gonzalez is a FARC guerrilla is that it may be used to justify his assassination. This stigmatisation of the political opposition has been a common tactic in Colombia used to justify the repression of trade unionists, human rights defenders and others who disagree with government policy. Such accusations often precede what Colombians call ‘judicial framings’, when activists are subjected to extended judicial proceedings, and are often imprisoned without trial.
ASCAP the Putumayo Peasant Workers’ Association - another FENSUAGRO trade union - has recently had 6 leading members arrested on accusations of ‘terrorism’ and other charges. Justice for Colombia is running an urgent action calling for their release.