Gunmen attack labor organizer, family in Colombia

Gunmen killed one victim and wounded four others during an assassination attempt against a labor organizer in Cali, Colombia’s third largest city, on Wednesday.

According to local media, assassins arrived at the house of Cali Municipal Business Union (USE) Vice President Adolfo Devia Paz around midnight and opened fire.

Paz’s bodyguard reportedly returned fire, wounding one of the attackers. The unidentified assailant was arrested Thursday morning when he arrived at a hospital for medical treatment.

Paz was unharmed, but his 26-year-old brother, Jonathan, was shot in the head and killed. Paz’s wife, bodyguard, and three year old daughter were also wounded during the exchange.

Cali Metropolitan Police Chief Fabio Castañeda said investigators were working to establish a motive for the attack.

USE President Alvaro Velasco noted Paz had previously received threats.

Velasco also criticized the Colombian government for the situation. “Organized Labor has again been attacked. It’s very worrisome because even though we have asked the Government and the administration of Emcali for support, they have not given us a response.”  USE organizes workers for Emcali, a public utilities company in the region.

According to Spanish news wire EFE, Colombia is the world’s most dangerous country for labor organizers, with over 2,800 unionists killed since 1986.

The recent signing of the U.S. – Colombian Free Trade Agreement, despite Colombia’s record of violence, has caused Colombian and U.S. unions to question U.S. Barack Obama’s commitment to human rights.

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