SUGAR CANE WORKERS THREATENED IN THE CAUCA VALLEY AND THE CAUCA
La Corporacion Humanidad Maestra Vida denounces to the national and international communities the following:
1. On August 25, 2008, the workers of the sugar cane industry in the Departments of the Cauca Valley and the Cauca held an assembly in the town of Candelaria, Valle, an assembly of more than 7,000 people, in which was approved, among other measures, the decision to strike as a result of the lack of will of the owners of the sugar cane industry who are members of Asocaña to negotiate with the workers about the list of conditions presented on July 14, 2008. After that event, the sugar mills of the region have been completely militarized: the workers are being escorted by motorcycles with armed men and with balaclavas; in some cases the armed men also climb onto the cars and travel with the workers.
2. On August 28, the wife of the worker Efraín Muñoz Yánez of the Cauca sugar mill INCAUCA, received a phone call in which she was told to tell her husband not to “fuck around” anymore or attempts on his life and those of his whole family would be made. On August 29, Efraín got a call in which we was told the same thing.
3. On September 1, 2008, in Daniel Aguirre’s house (he is also a worker at the Cauca INCAUCA sugar mill), a man appreared who in 2005 had threatened to kill Mr. Aguirre’s wife because of facts related to the defense of workers’ rights carried out by this worker.
4. The worker Luis Aguilar, of the Mayaguez sugar mill, has received in the past few days a call in which he was told to choose whether he would either get some money to stop participating in the workers’ movement or even more money for his funeral.
5. Some engineers from the Central Castilla sugar mill have threatened the worker Feliciano Saa, telling him that because he is a union member they will fire him, and that they are watching him.
6. Denunciations have been received in the sense that members of paramilitary grouops have indicated that the workers’ movement has been infiltrated by some “long-hairs” who have been passing themselves off as cutters and that they should be careful because the paramilitary troops have their eye on them.
7. The workers have been subjected to stops and inspections by the national police, during which they have been threatened should they carry out the strike.
8. Thirteen workers from the Mayaquez sugar mill were fired after participating in an organizing meeting in the town of Palmira. They were verbally informed that their firing constituted reprisal for their having participated in various meetings and events of the workers’ movement.
The above represents a serious violation of the rights of organization, assembly, and expression insofar as the way in which the just struggle of the workers has been attacked through the aforementioned threats, as well as through a deceptive media campaign organized by the sugar company—television commercials in which the community is lied to, falsely told that the sugar workers enjoy life and working conditions and economic benefits that they do not in fact have.
We request that the national government:
1. Through its Ministry of Social Protection immediately verify the working conditions of the sugar cane workers in the Departments of Valle del Cauca and Cauca, as well as warning the sugar mills that these workers have the right to organize themselves and demand better working ocnditions and a better life for themselves and their families and that this right should be respected.
2. Through the Ministry of Defense, the army and the nacional police in the Departments of Valle del Cauca and Cauca be ordered to respect the rights, lives, and integrity of the workers, cease the intimidation and harassment, stop committing any crimes of violence against them, and instead, make themselves available to protect them, as the Colombian constitution and laws demand.
To the sugar mills that are part of Asocaña in the Valle del Cauca and Cauca:
1. That they respect the workers’ rights of organization, association, and expression and as a result stop the pressure, harassment, and firings.
2. That a negotiating platform be installed immediately to discuss the list of petitions presented by the workers on July 14.
3. That they stop the disinformation campaign being conducted in the mass media about the conditions in which the sugar cane workers find themselves.
To the security organizations:
1. We ask that the Defense of the People Office and the Attorney General of the country smooth out and deepen the process of following and accompanying sugar cane workers and that they intervene so that the military and police authorities and sugar mills of Valle del Cauca and Cauca ensure that these workers’ rights are protected.
In the same way we call upon the national and international communites, human rights NGOs, and social organizations, to support, surround, and accompany the just struggle of the workers in the sugar industry in the Departments of Valle del Cauca and Cauca, so that they may present their fundamental rights.
La Corporación Humanidad Maestra Vida [Humanity’s Teacher of Life Corporation]
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621