General Secretary of Colombian Sugar Cane Cutters’ union assassinated

Daniel Aguirre becomes the seventh Colombian trade unionist killed this year, and the 61st since Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos took office in August 2010.

Colombia (07 May 2012) - The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is expressing sadness at the recent murder of Daniel Aguirre Piedrahita, the General Secretary of Colombia’s Nation Union of Sugar Cane Cutters (SINALCORTEROS).  Aguirre was assassinated on April 27 as he accompanied his wife, Helena to make a telephone call in their west-central Colombian neighbourhood.

The killers shot him twice in the head only 70 metres from his home. SINALCORTEROS issued a statement saying that the cold-blooded murder demonstrates the continued violence and persecution of trade union leaders in Colombia. It urged members and activists not to let this “reprehensibly violent action torpedo our union” and derail activities, but rather to “reaffirm our actions and our mission.”

The Colombian government has condemned the killing.  Deputy Minister of Labour David Luna Sanchez supported the Interior Ministry’s Protection Unit director’s call for an investigation.

Aguirre, 35, astalwart leader of sugar cane cutters, fought for trade union recognition from sugar mill employers who consider them self-employed independent contractors.

He led the strike that led to the creation of SINALCORTEROS, now an affiliate of the International Food and Agricultural Workers’ Association (IUF). He led strikes of 18,000 sugar cane cutters in 2008 which, after two years, resulted in collective agreements and labour pacts that made organizing less cumbersome.

Recently, he had been pushing for revisions to Colombia’s labour statutes to raise them to International Labor Organisation (ILO) standards.  Aguirre was also known as a strong opponent of Free Trade Agreements with the U.S. and Canada.  

Daniel Aguirre becomes the seventh Colombian trade unionist killed this year and the 61st since Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos took office in August 2010. He is survived by his wife and three daughters, ages 14, 10 and 4.

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 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

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