Solidarity with Colombian education union leaders

Education International has started a campaign via LabourStart. Individuals can add their voices to those condemning the death threats and the broader trend of violence, intimidation, and repression.

Ottawa (23 Nov. 2020) — The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is speaking out against threats made to education union leaders in Colombia. 

On October 26, 2020, death threats were sent to 15 members of the Executive Committee of the Colombian Federation of Education Workers (FECODE) and to the President of the trade union federation, known as CUT Colombia. A corresponding number of candles and obituary notices were delivered to FECODE’s Secretary of Legal Affairs.

“The news of the death threats sent to Colombian unions leaders is horrific,” said Larry Brown, NUPGE President. “Such violence is never acceptable, but is even more shocking because it comes in response to noble union-led efforts to stand up for the health and wellbeing of teachers, workers, and students. NUPGE strongly condemns the death threats and the ongoing repression of union leaders and activists in Colombia.”

Symptom of a systemic problem

NUPGE has previously written here about the targeting of trade unionists in Colombia. 

The death threats are, unfortunately, another instance of the systemic repression of and violence towards trade union leaders in Colombia. According to a report by FECODE and the Escuela Nacional Sindical, between 1986 and 2016 there were over 6,100 violations of the right to life, physical integrity, and freedom of education unionists in particular. These rights violations include threats, forced displacements, forced disappearances, murder, and attempted murder. 

This is not the first time that FECODE leaders and members have been targeted. Earlier this year, FECODE members took to the streets to protest the violence against teachers, activists, and other community leaders (Reuters).

In this latest incident, the threats followed cross-country efforts led by unions regarding Colombia’s ongoing economic, health, social, and educational crises. According to Education International, a global union federation representing over 32 million workers, FECODE has been at the forefront of defending public education and democracy. The union has also been calling for schools to be zones of peace (territories de paz) through community-based dialogue.

We can all take action and show our solidarity 

Education International has started a campaign via LabourStart. Individuals can add their voices to those condemning the death threats and the broader trend of violence, intimidation, and repression in Colombia. The campaign allows individuals to send their message by electronic letter to Colombian government officials.

Individuals and organizations can also take action by speaking out to raise awareness and supporting the activists and leaders on the ground in Colombia.

NUPGE continues to support the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers' Collective (CAAJAR) in Colombia. CCAJAR does immensely importance work to protect human rights and represent labour activists in Colombia and throughout the region.
 

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NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE