Thirty-six Colombian trade union leaders have been assassinated so far in 2010, compared to 26 over the same period in 2009, according to Luis Alberto Vanegas, the director of the human rights department at Colombia’s Confederation of Workers (CUT).
According to CUT data, April has been the most violent month to date, with eleven trade unionists murdered.
Vanegas said that ultra right-wing criminal organizations, primarily the “Aguilas Negras” and “Los Urabeños” had continued to publish and distribute pamphlets threatening trade unionists throughout the course of the year.
“A high percentage of those who threaten and persecute the trade unionists are private paramilitary armies funded by wealthy landowners,” the human rights representative said.
Vanegas added that 87% of human rights violations against trade unionists are committed against CUT members.
Colombia has been agitating to push through free trade agreements (FTA) with both Canada and the U.S. However both agreements stalled due to concerns over Colombia’s poor human rights record, labor laws and workers’ conditions.
The Canada-Colombia FTA has been approved by both countries’ Congresses. The U.S.-Colombia FTA is yet to go before U.S. Congress.
Almost half of the 101 trade unionists murdered worldwide in 2009 were Colombian, according to a report released in June by the International Trade Union Confederation.