Support for Colombian VP’s bid to lead UN labor organization

Colombian Vice President Angelino Garzon has received cross-party backing in his bid to lead the International Labour Organization, despite ongoing trade unionist murders, a press release confirmed Thursday.

The Bureau of National Unity, made up of five political parties, announced their support on Wednesday, declaring Garzon’s candidacy “the best thing to happen for Colombian trade unionists and recognition of his achievements, attitude [and] bravery.”

The ILO is a UN body responsible for drawing up and overseeing international labour standards. It is understood Garzon would use the role to focus on labour rights and the eradication of child labor.

However union leaders have criticized Garzon’s candidacy given Colombia’s exceptionally poor record on workers’ rights. For several decades it has been deemed the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist – it’s estimated thousands have been killed since 1986, by paramilitaries and security forces, with the most recent assassination happening just this week.

Last year was the first time in two decades that Colombia was not included in the ILO black list of nations that fail to comply with international working conditions.

The announcement of Garzon’s cross-party support was made by Green Party spokesman Luis Eduardo Garzon, following a meeting of the Tripartitie Commission, composed of representatives of national associations, unions and the national government, held at the Presidential Palace in Bogota.

The Tripartite Commission highlighted progress in the formalization of employment law and conclusion of minimum wage increases.

Tarciscio Mora, director of Colombia’s Confederation of Workers, has said Colombia would have to set a much better example to the international community before it could expect to lead it. According to Mora, Garzon should not be putting himself forward while “trade unionists are still being killed,” he said.

International NGO Human Rights Watch highlighted the ongoing murder of trade unionists in an open letter to Garzon prior to his visit to Washington in January.

However compared to many Colombian politicians, Garzon’s record on workers’ rights is strong. He was a union leader for ten years before entering politics, and was Minister of Labor between 2000 and 2002, under the government of Andres Pastrana.

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