The Colombian Government is demanding an explanation from the country’s
largest labor union as to why one of its members was found in a FARC camp.
The unionist, Juan Efraín Mendoza Gamba, was arrested by the Army Friday in the same anti-insurgency operation that killed eleven guerrillas and during which prominent FARC member ‘El Negro Antonio’ was arrested.
Social Welfare Minister Diego Palacio said to be surprised the activist was found in a FARC camp and demands an explanation, adding the union could have accused the Army of killing civilians if Mendoza had died in the military action. “If something had happened to Mr. Mendoza Gamba, what would they have said?” he told Spanish news agency Efe.
The labor rights activist is a member agriculture union Fenzuagro, whose director is in jail awaiting trial for alleged ties to the guerrillas. According to the government, the union leader is under government protection after having received death threats.
According to Palacio, the union leader had escaped his bodyguards.
Mendoza, himself says he had been kidnapped by the guerrillas and denies ever having received government protection. “I don’t have bodyguards, that’s completely untrue. I have been a union leader since 2004 and they have always said I ran little risk,” he told Caracol Radio from prison.
The CUT wants the court to decide the fate of Mendoza. “The union principally condemns violence, no matter where it comes from. If any of our members commits a crime, they must answer before the law and the State,” CUT president Tarcisio Mora said.
“Our union is a democratic organization that operates within the boundries of the constitution and the law to defend the rights of workers not to be interfered with by groups outside the law,” the union leader added.