Colombian State Accused of Torture and Murder of Trade Union Leader

July 25, 2008 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

The brutally murdered body of disappeared trade unionist, Guillermo Rivera, President of SINSERPUB, the Bogotá public sector workers’ union, and also an activist in the ‘Polo Democratico’ opposition political party, was found on July 15th after months of campaigning and protests by the Colombian trade unions and opposition. Trade unions and human rights groups have accused the government of being responsible for the killing.

Mr Rivera (pictured) originally disappeared on April 22nd after dropping his daughter at school in Bogota. Though witnesses reported that police had taken him away, the police denied all knowledge. Indeed, both the police and the Colombian authorities promised his family and trade union colleagues that they would help to try and find him.

However, on July 15th his body was found in an ‘anonymous’ grave in the city of Ibague. And, what soon became clear was that the authorities must have known all along where Mr Rivera was and that they have attempted to cover up yet another murder perpetrated by state forces.

Going back in time to his disappearance on April 22nd it is now apparent that Mr Rivera was tortured and then strangled to death, almost certainly on April 23rd before being dumped in a rubbish dump. The following day, April 24th, his body was found and the authorities, on April 28th, buried him in an anonymous grave.

This was despite the fact that by this time his name and face had been widely distributed as part of the campaign to find him, and that the authorities were well aware of his disappearance. Trade unions, opposition figures and human rights organisations are now calling on the Colombian regime to explain how, after almost three months from the date of Mr Rivera’s disappearance, they suddenly realised that they had actually buried him only days after he went missing.

As is usual in such cases, the Colombia authorities have yet to respond.

Mr Rivera is the latest in a disturbingly long line of trade unionists assassinated this year. The list now reaches 32, an 80% increase compared to the same period last year. The trade union movement is calling for an immediate and thorough investigation into Mr Rivera’s murder and point out that the impunity which the killers enjoy indicates further complicity of the state in the crimes.

Worryingly, those who have spoken out about Mr Rivera have now themselves received death threats. This effort to silence them has not worked though there is extreme concern for the safety of Ana Lucia Pinzon, the president of the public sector union federation, FENALTRASE, who has received anonymous threats telling her that she is to be killed.

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This post was written by Justice For Colombia

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