The president of Colombian oil union USO, which has been striking over pay and conditions at Canadian-owned oil company Pacific Rubiales, said members have received death threats from paramilitaries.
In an exclusive interview with Colombia Reports Thursday, the president of the oil workers union said union leaders had received verbal, email and pamphlet threats of death, torture, and kidnap, for their “activities” protesting conditions at Pacific Rubiales, Colombia’s largest privately-owned oil company.
Rodolfo Vecino said four unidentified persons who claimed to be from the AUC, a now-defunct paramilitary group, told leaders of the union in Bogota that he now had a “sentence” and could be kidnapped at any moment.
The union leader explained, “They said that this was for our activities in Pacific Rubiales, and that we are an obstacle.
“They had declared us a military target for what we are doing, and they are going to kill us. Our families have been threatened.
“They are carrying out an anti-USO campaign in the towns of Barranca de Upia and Puerto Gaitan.
“Without doubt, they are making the fundamental rights and the expressions of trade unionist freedoms more vulnerable.”
Vecino said that these threats have been reported to the Prosecutor General’s Office in Bogota and other state organizations.
Pacific Rubiales told Colombia Reports that it was not aware of the events, and condemned threats of all kinds.
Jorge Rodriguez, the company’s head of corporate affairs, said “We are very sorry for the USO union. We reject any type of threat, any type of intimidation, not only to trade unionists but to anyone in the country.”
Rodriguez said that the company has not been approached by paramilitary groups.
He added “We are a company which respects the social state of law. We have a relationship with our wide community, with government institutions, and non-governmental organizations.”
The United Steelworkers Union (USW), an union in the U.S. with links to USO, has sent an open letter to three high-ranking United States government officials alerting them to the threats.
USW international president Leo W. Gerard wrote, “We just received the following alert from the USO union in Colombia: ‘The USO has been informed of the decision taken by paramilitaries operating in the area of Pacific Rubiales oil exploitation to take out the USO union there and to kill the leaders of the USO in the area.’”