The Communications Workers of America condemns the Colombian government's extreme and unprovoked attacks on peaceful protesters in recent weeks. We urge the Biden administration to intervene now to end violence against innocent Colombians and halt the grave abuses of human rights taking place under President Iván Duque Márquez.
The Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron (ESMAD) and national police of Colombia have consistently and with impunity used merciless tactics to intimidate activists seeking social justice and a better life for working people, especially those of African and indigenous descent. Rising economic stresses, deepening inequality, and the COVID-19 public health crisis of 2020-2021 have made workers' demands for fairness and freedom more urgent, yet they have met only brutal suppression.
Colombia is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a union activist. Reports indicate that at least 42 people have been killed at the hands of police and security forces this year, women have been sexually assaulted, and dozens of protesters have been injured or detained. And since the 2012 U.S.-Colombian Trade Promotion Agreement, almost 200 trade unionists and more than 700 human rights activists have been assassinated in Colombia.
Workplace protections and the right to bargain collectively are no longer available to most workers, with workplaces redefined as "cooperatives" and most employment as "temporary." The result is that Colombia's employers are able to oppress workers, dismiss their rights, and never be held accountable. We stand in solidarity with Colombia's National Strike Committee who are mobilizing to protect the right to assemble and speak freely and to demand reforms and a better future for all workers.
We join dozens of members of the U.S. House of Representatives and other U.S. labor organizations in asking the Biden administration to strongly denounce the Colombian government's actions and take steps immediately to bring about peace, dialogue, and full accountability for those who are perpetrating the violence. The U.S. should suspend security assistance not related to human rights training and set clear benchmarks for improvements in human rights before that assistance can resume.