Colombian woman trade union leader murdered

'Yet another three children have been orphaned, thereby joining the long list of sons and daughters of workers.'

Bogota (16 Feb. 2007) - Trade unions around the world are expressing outrage at the recent assassination of Carmen Cecilia Santana Romaña, an officer of the Colombian rural workers' union SINTRAINAGRO.

This brings the number of members and officers of SINTRAINAGRO who have been assassinated since the union was founded to 435.

Carmen Cecilia Santana Romaña, 28 years old, was a leader in the agriculture union SINTRAINAGRO and a workers’ organizer at Finca Palmeras, where she served on the union’s negotiating committee. The cold-blooded murder occurred in the home she shared with her three children and Hernán Correa Miranda, the first vice president of Colombia's national trade union central - the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT).

Campaign of threats and intimidation

The murder followed an e-mail campaign of threats against the family members of trade union, civic and human rights activists in opposition to the government.

The assassination has been condemned by SINTRAINAGRO, a number of Global Trade Union Federations and by the CUT.

The CUT is demanding that the national government conduct a full, speedy, and impartial investigation. CUT also reiterates its demand that the political establishment undertake immediate measures to eradicate all forms of violence against trade unionists.

In 2006 there were a total of 96 murders in Colombia that were a result of trade union activism.

Global outrage at assassination

Expressions of shock and grief of this most recent killing in Colombia have come in an outpouring of letters from Latin American and trade unions worldwide.

Patricia Buritica, a member of the National Reconciliation Commission which is overseeing the implementation of the paramilitary demobilization, released a letter following Carmen Cecilia Santana' murder. In the letter she says:

This past November, Carmen Cecilia visited my office in Bogotá, seeking legal advice to denounce the murder of the father of her children and the intimidation and fear that had forced her to leave the region, finding herself displaced in the city of Villavicencio.

During our chat, she felt secure, having not previously found the opportunity to denounce or talk about the events with anyone other than her own family. In my position as Commissioner of the National Reparation and Reconciliation Commission (Spanish acronym CNRR), I gave her a sense of confidence.

I explained to her the legal tools and mechanisms that, as an indirect victim, she could use: the protection available for her and her immediate family, humanitarian aid that could minimize economic distress, and perhaps most important of all, her obligation to speak out, so that those responsible pay for the damage they caused.

She asked me for time to think about it, and I obliged. Toward the end of December she told me that, thinking about her children, she had decided to speak out and had returned to the region.

The fear had not let go of her, but she was conscious of what she ought to do. Although she did not want to approach the region's authorities with the issue, I suggested she do it through the Colombian Women for Peace Initiative, the organization which I direct and which is dedicated basically to attending to and advising victims. Sadly, Carmen Cecilia was not able to speak out.

Writing to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary Guy Ryder expressed global labour’s contempt, by stating his disappointment that “yet another three children have been orphaned, thereby joining the long list of sons and daughters of workers.” NUPGE

More information:

Colombia: the struggle for justice and peace

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