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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Union negotiates with El Cerrejon mine

(Translated by Anne Schoeneborn, a CSN volunteer translator)

Jorge Enrique Robledo, Bogota, December 17, 2008
Leon Teicher
President of Carbones de Cerrejon Limited
Regarding the demands of the workers of Cerrejon
Direct negotiation of the list of demands presented by Sintracarbon, the labor union of workers of Carbones de Cerrejon, has begun.  The union members welcome this step toward collective bargaining, and I hope that these conversations will both develop in a very constructive way and conclude with the necessary improvement of work conditions.
The demands of the workers, which I believe to be reasonable and within the power of the company to meet, are based on the following well-founded concerns.  First: the precariousness of the pay scale, which has been estimated to be one of the lowest within the mining sector worldwide.  Second: the high percentage of outsourced workers, who are not included in the collective bargaining and who suffer from undesirable work conditions.  Third: the occupational illnesses affecting a considerable number of workers, likely due to their work conditions and the way in which the coal is extracted.  Fourth: the need for a definitive resolution to the demands made by communities displaced by the mining operations, such as Tamaquitos, Roche, Changleta and Patilla.  Finally: other issues relating to social security and education (see the attached communiqué), to which I hope the company will respond in a constructive manner.
It is my hope that a company as important as Cerrejon Coal Limited, which is owned by multinationals as well known as BHP Billiton, PLC Anglo American and Xstrata, can find the means of arriving at an agreement that improves labor conditions for Colombians working to extract coal in the Guajira.  
I cordially request that you work to quickly reach a just solution that satisfies the demands of the workers,
I thank you for you attention,

Colombian Senator Polo Democratico Party
Following is the Union’s communiqué, which describes the current state of the negotiations:
National union of coal industry workers “Sintracarbon”
During the week of December 9-12, 2008, the negotiating committee of the company Carbones del Cerrejon Limited (property of the multinational companies BHP Billiton, PLC Anglo American and Xstrata) and Sintracarbon met to discuss the demands of the coal workers.
Despite the fact that these meetings are taking place in a respectful atmosphere, and that during this week the negotiating committee of Sintracarbon won the support of all of its members, trust has been slow in developing.  There remains an air of distrust on the part of both committees, which will have a direct negative impact on our ability to both engage in an open dialogue and to understand one another.   
This dialogue ought to be geared toward finding a means of achieving social equity and justice, and also of justly distributing the wealth and profits of Cerrejon so as to solve the problems faced by workers in the following areas:
-Economic instability and the low salaries of the coal workers (we are the lowest paid workforce within the mining sector worldwide)
-The varying work-related health problems of the more than 700 sick workers which have gone unrecognized by the company Cerrejon, and in the majority of cases all the judgments of the regional and national health committees are appealed by the company. Our organization rejects this type of attitude, which undermines not only the right to employment and the right to health, but also the most important right that we possess as human beings, which is the right to life.  It’s contradictory that such actions should come from a company that boasts of its respect for human rights.  In practice, Cerrejon refuses to recognize of the illnesses of its workers, subjecting them to a life of indigence once their inability to work exceeds 180 days.  At this point, these workers become a part of the poverty-stricken masses of our country.  
-The continuation of conventional benefits granted to dead or retired workers
-The high costs of education and social security
-That Cerrejon respect the right to free association and collective negotiation (Agreement 87 and 98 of the ILO, ratified by Colombia) of the 5,000 outsourced workers and the 750 workers of the informal sector associated with the company
-That Cerrejon respect the right to employment of workers with fixed contracts
-That a drug and alcohol policy be developed jointly by the company and the union according to the criteria of the ILO and the WHO
-A definite conclusion to the negotiations with the communities of Tamaquitos, Roche, Chancleta and Patilla, establishing productive projects and granting them land and participation in the design and constitution of the new houses and the conservation of the cultural patrimony guaranteeing the sustainable development of these populations.
-That Cerrejon assume the responsibility of culture, recreation, sports and transport on behalf of all its workers, since workers currently must assume part of these costs, which are actually the responsibility of the company
The worst possible response that could be given by Cerrejon to the list of demands of the coal workers is a minimal proposal that leaves the two parties at odds.  This would make it very difficult to later reach an agreement acceptable to both sides.
Sintracarbon is calling for all workers to start demonstrating our solidarity and discontent at our workplaces so that the company may begin to understand who we are and that it is because of our work that the company is able to meet its goals and be profitable.

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org

Monday, January 19, 2009

Military Operations for Muriel Mining

( Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN volunteer translator)

Communique 95

Tuesday, January 6, 2009
An unprecedented militarization of the territories of Jiguamiando where native peoples live is being carried out to support the exploration of the Cerro Cara de Perro by the US company, Muriel Mining Corporation, as the military has reported.
Beginning this afternoon they started a mobilization towards the indigenous reservations where the company has established itself. Indigenous, Afro-Colombian and mestizo peple of the Jiguamiando, Curvarado and Lower Atrato watersheds are rejecting what they see as an occupation by the company, since there has not been a Previous Consultation as required by International law and the ILO Agreement 169, and because of the damage to the environment and the survival of the peoples that the project signifies.
From Sunday, December 28, 2008 through now military operations have persisted, in which the soldiers indicate that they are there in order to provide protection for the exploration without consultation that the company—with headquarters in Colorado, USA—is carrying out in the territories of the Afro-Colombians and indigenous people.
The indigenous people of the reservations Urada Jiguamiando, Nuevo Canaveral, Alto Guayabal, Turriguitado Alto, Turriquito Llano, Guaguas, Coredo, Chibugado, Iñaragui, and the inhabitants of the Humaniarian Zones and the Biodiversity Zones of Jiguamiando and Curvarado are opposed to the exporation and exploitation of the Cerro Cara de Perro on the Jiguamiando River.
While the militarization is being carried out in the international business sectors, the “Gaitanista Self-defense Units” continue protecting the agrobusinesses of oil palm and banana, the deforestation, and the extensive cattle raising in the midst of the presence of the XV Brigade and the Urabá police. During the night of last Sunday, “Gaitanista Self-Defense Units” that were in the settlement of Brisas on the Curvarado murdered an Afro-Colombian with a knife. This is a place that has a regular presence of the public security forces. Twelve days ago a similar situation occurred and a lifeless body was carried along by the Curvarado River without the military or police acting efficiently.
The military presence includes the participation of troops of the XV and XVII Brigade. According to the people affected, they stay in the upper part of the watershed of the Jiguamiando River by the indigenous settlements of the Embera people in Coredocito in the foothills of the Cerro Care Perro, and they pass through the Humanitarian Zones of Nueva Esperanza and Pueblo Nuevo in the Jiguamiandó.
Last Saturday, January 3rd, four geologists of the Murielk Mining company arrived in Coredocito. They told the leader Argemiro Bailarin, that they had authorization for the exploration from Pedro Nel Lemus, a functionary of Muriel, and from two Indigenous people, Victor Carpio, who is from the region but does not belong to the communities directly affected, and Mario Domico. The geologists added that they had the consent of the indigenous authorities of CAMIZBA, some from Carmen del Darién, and from the community of Urada. Monday, January 5, at 4:30 PM a military helicopter landed en Coredocito, apparently with another geologist of the Muriel Mining Corporation.
The company plans to carry out exploration work that consists of drilling in the zone during a 2-month period. The community that traditionally lives there is against the implementation of the project of the extractive project and since last year convoked a People’s Consultation in which through their votes the reservations and the Community Councils expressed in a referendum their rejection of the exploration and exploitation of the Cerro Cara de Perro.
To the organizations in the United States that they sent communications to the government of their country and the Muriel Mining Corporation so that they cease explorations without consultation and with serious consequences for the indigenous and Afro-Colombian peoples of the lower Atrato. To environmental and human rights organizations, that they send communications to Francisco Santos, Vice-President of the Republic; Jaime Bermúdez, Minister of External Relations; Paula Moreno Zapata. Minister of Culture; Juan Lozano, Minister of Environment to act immediately to ask for the withdrawal of the Muriel Mining Corporation in the face of the intervention without consultation with the indigenous and Afro peoples of Jiguamiando.
Bogota, D.C., January 6, 2009
Comision Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz. [Inter Church Justice and Peace Council]
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Program 'Democratic Insecurity' Takes More Lives of Union Activists

Colombia, Jan. 8, 2009
Author: ANTHOC
(Translated by Rolf Schoeneborn, CSN volunteer translator)

Tumaco Municipality, Narînô Department, Jan. 6, 2009

It is nothing out of the ordinary to be shot and killed in the municipality
of Tumaco, Colombia. There are armed groups operating outside the law, new
gangs come and go, former members of paramilitary units, and common
criminals who all sow destruction in a municipality with just 170 000
inhabitants that has to deal with a level of violence far above the national
average. Just to give an example: during the last weekend of 2008 ten
persons died here a violant death. -by comparison,in the city of Cali
sixteen persons lost their lives that weekend. However, Cali is a large city
with more than 2.500 000 inhabitants.This is a very critical situation and
the democratic security promised by president Álvaro Uribe Vélez is nowhere
to be seen or felt. Criminal gangs that go by the names such as "stubbles",
"new generation" and "black eagles" are responsible for terror and
destruction all over Tumaco.

Tumaco is largely populated by descendants of African slaves and has no
history of violence. But foreign elements responsible for biopiracy are now
in control of the territory, which is known for its agriculture, cattle
industry, and contiguous aquifer zones. These foreign elements have now
initiated a war with no quarter given, which affects the local population
that neither wants nor chose, nor has any interest in this ever increasing
violence we are facing here.

There were three fatalities just on Jan. 5. One of the three was -Cecilia
Monta^no. wife of Jorge Calcedo, president of the Tumaco 'Asociación
Nacional de Trabajadores Hospitalarios de la Seguridad Social y Servicios
Complementarios' "ANTHOC" ( National Union of the Social Security Hospital
Workers and Ancillary Services). Cecilia Montan^o wa shot in the head three
times and the murderers disappeared immediately and no action taken by the

Once again this incident shows that trade union members and members of their
families are being killed with impunity in Colombia and that the state
inspite of all the lawsuits and complaints that are being filed fails to
respond appropriately. This has caused many union officers to leave the
country indefinitely because their life and safety could not be guaranteed.

We are now asking all human rights organizations to make their voices heard
loud and clear in the face of these barbarous acts that treaten to
annihilate the Tumaco population of African descent in very systematic ways,
and in ever greater numbers. We call upon the authorities to improve public
safety conditions in Tumaco. We want to be able to enjoy life in safe
surroundings, we wan to enjoy our riches, our biodiversity, and our
historical legacy. Armed gangs of delinquents serving the interests of big
Mafia organizations should not be in a position to jeopardize all this.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Colombia Support Network makes public a  letter written by the Internal council of the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado to Senators Kohl and Feingold.   They think it is essential that the views of the victims of the paramilitary violence be represented at the hearings the Senate Judiciary Committee is to hold on the nomination of Eric Holder to be Attorney General.  Mr. Holder, as attorney for Chiquita, negotiated a settlement with the U.S. Government under the terms of which Chiquita paid a $25 million fine.  Yet the victims of Chiquita’s violence have had no voice in the consideration of Chiquita’s crimes and their effects, nor received reparations for their losses.  We request that you take up the issue of paramilitary activity in Colombia with Mr. Holder.  We hope he would pledge to oppose the type of activity in which his client Chiquita engaged in Colombia.  We would hope he will support the rule of law and respect for human rights both in this country and abroad.



Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org


The indigenous Kankuamo community,

                              'FROM HOPE TO A VERY REAL HUMAN TRAGEDY'

( Translated by Rolf Schoeneborn, a CSN volunteer translator)

source: OIK (Kankuamo Inidiginous Organization), Jan., 2009

The authorities of the indigenous Kankuamo community denounce the attack that ocurred in Atánquez, municipality of Resguardo Kankuamo, on Dec. 31 and also asks for urgent intervention and solidarity. A grenade explosion killed five persons and wounded another 85 as aresult, many of these seriously, losing limbs, suffering psychological and sensory traumas, in short , this is a very real human tragedy.


It's common knowledge, both nationally and internationally, that the Kankuamo are being physically and culturally exterminated on a very systematic basis. Over the last several years more than 300 persons have been killed, so that we may speak of ethnocide or even genocide here, which not even provisional measures by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have brought to a halt. It should be pointed out that in July of 2004 this organization has passed the following resolution:

' the state is to introduce posthaste all necessary measures to safeguard the life and safety of all members of the Kankuamo indigenous people.'


Although individual assassinations have diminished, there exists to this day ever-present terror and threats of death for our people. We all felt in the night of Dec. 31 that pain and death was coming back once again with this slaughter, and thus also tears and sufferings untold and so unjust. As a result of past and present tragedies


                     regarding this grievous emergency:

1. That as a result of this terrorist act to this date five members of the Atánquez community have died, 85 persons have been gravely injured , who needed to be taken to Valledupar, the closest city during the night of Dec. 31.

2. That as a result of this terrible act four persons continue to be in intensive care, others are awaiting surgery in various clinics and hospitals. Over the last five days, a geat number of persons with physical, psysochological and sensory traumata had to be taken to various first aid stations in Valledupar, including persons who suffered sudden relapses after having been released who then had to be taken back to Valledupar and be readmitted.

3. That various family members who accompanied the injured to Valledupar do not have the necessary financial means to stay there, and that  there are now app. 13 more orphans as a result of this act, in addition to the more than 700 children who have been orphaned as a result of this war.

4. That the state of Colombia should be held responsible in some measure for this act of terrorism that has befallen the Kankuamo insofar as meausures of protection have  been taken by the international community, as a result of which a state of emergency had been declared which in turn should protect life and physical well-being of all members of the Kankuamo community. It needs to be pointed out that just last Dec. 4, 2008, the Colombian government wanted to have the state of emergency lifted, claiming that there was no more danger threatening the Kankuamo.


5. That we consider the statements made by  high government officials that a member of the Kankuamo community carried out the attack as being hasty and premature. We stress the fact that declarations of this sort endanger life and safety of some mebers of the community because family members of the victims may take the law into their own hands. Therefore we hold the State responsible for all the consequences that might be contingent upon this.

6. That the authorities of the Kankuamo Nation have initiated investigations surrounding this deplorable ocurrence, which will be presented to the pertinent national and international bodies.

7. That this terrible occurence, whatever its origins, has reopened wounds brought about by the war, has brought about fear and anxieties in all of the communities of the indigenous kankuamo Nation, especially in Ataánquez.


                     From the Colombian government and Colombian authorities

1. That the Colombian government and especially President ALVARO URIBE VELEZ comment on this terrrorist attack and calls it such, just as he has done very quickly upon other occasions in this country.

2. That the Colombian Attorney General  launch a speedy, efficient, and impartial investigation that finds answers to a number of doubts that surround  the motives, as well as the  perpetrators of this criminal attack.

3. That the pertinent control organs closely and continually supervise the investigations , so that this massacre does not go unpunished  as so many others which in the past the Kankuamo Nation has been  a victim of.

4. That the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare begin appropriate investigations and punish those responsible for the absence of a medical doctor in Atànquez at the time when the attack ocurred.

                 From the  Iner-American Court of Human Rights:

1. That the Court ask the Colombian State to comply with the provisional measures which were put forth in the resolution of July 2004, inasmuch as imminent risks and dangers are ever-ptresent.

2. That the State of Colombia be asked to insist on a speedy, efficient, and impartial investigation regarding this terrible attack.

3. That the State of Colombia be asked to ensure the protection of and immediate  attention to the needs of the orphans, the wounded, and the psychologically traumatized, in sum to the needs of the entire Kankuamo Nation that once again finds itself dressed in mourning, beset by uncertainty, fear, and pain.

                From the national and international organizations as well as civil society in general

1. That human rights organizations be solidary and provide accompaniment, and heed our complaints and demands that life, health and, safety of all the Kankuamo be ensured.

2. That the implementation of all the measures of protection of the human rights of the Kankuamo Nation be continually monitored in the context of this most recent attack that denied the right to life and the right to safety.

3. That the Colombian government be urged to investigate all the facts in a serious and impartial manner.

4. That there be immediate and unequivocal solidarity with the victims, orphans, wounded, psychologically traumatized, and all the persons who have been affected in any way by this act of terror.



Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org

Monday, January 12, 2009



         President George W. Bush is today presenting the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom to Alvaro Uribe Velez, the President of Colombia. We think this award is extremely inappropriate, and the selection of President Uribe debases the value of the award. During Alvaro Uribe’s Presidency the scope of paramilitary activities and of Colombian Army abuses has expanded greatly. Numerous members of Mr. Uribe’s party in Congress have been tied to the illegal paramilitaries, and his Presidential palace received a paramilitary murdered named Job and paramilitary representatives linked to the drug trade. The paramilitary activities, encouraged by members of Mr. Uribe’s party and by military officers collaborating with the paramilitaries, have displaced millions of peasants, indigenous peoples, and Afro-Colombians from their homelands, making Colombia the leading country in the world with over 4 million displaced persons, nearly 10% of the country’s population.


            President Uribe has characterized the human rights community as guerrilla apologists, a patent lie. Meanwhile, with corruption rampant in his government, Mr. Uribe arranged a bribe of a Congresswoman to vote for his re-election, without which he would not have had the votes needed for re-election. His anti-drug policy of crop spraying with Roundup Ultra has, meanwhile, decimated many peasants’ food crops while hardly denting coca production. And labor leaders continue to be murdered in numbers greater than anywhere else in the world.


            If there is to be an award of the Medal of Freedom to Colombia it should go, not to the President who has done so much to wreck his country, but to the communities who have organized in peaceful resistance to the Uribe policies--- such as the sister communities which Colombia Support Network chapters have been privileged to work with, such as the Peace Community of San Josesito de Apartado, the Movimiento Campesina de Cajibio, the Embera-Chami community in the Putumayo, the Movimiento Ciudadano de Tiquisio, the Constituent Assembly of Mogotes, and the Alto Naya community. These grass-roots community organizations, which have suffered greatly from paramilitary and military violence, it has been our privilege to promote and support.  


                                                            Colombia Support Network

                                                            January 12, 2009


Send this statement to your Members of Congress . Please go to our website and see CSN’s Action Center: www.colombiasupport.net

Send this to : www.change.gov and to Obama’s transition team

 Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org

Thursday, January 08, 2009

An Institutional Commitment to Deny the Version that the Deceased Edwin Legarda had Ignored a Military Checkpoint.

(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN volunteer translator)

 Uribe’s Policy of “Democratic Security” Murdered Edwin Legarda <http://www.nasaacin.org/noticias.htm

The death of the husband of the CRIC High Council member cannot be interpreted as an isolated act, but only as part of the chain of homicides, persecutions, illegal executions and displacements that the indigenous communities of Cauca and of Colombia have been suffering, and in which the State participates by action, omission and permission.

 The Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca [
El Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca], CRIC, makes the following points with regard to the attack in which our compañero José Edwin Legarda, husband of Aida Quilcue, a member of the High Council:

 The death of the husband of the CRIC High Council member cannot be interpreted as an isolated act, but only as part of the chain of homicides, persecutions, illegal executions and displacements that the indigenous communities of Cauca and of Colombia have been suffering, and in which the State participates by action, omission and permission.
That this repeated human rights violation against the indigenous peoples is an effect of the policy of  “democratic security” of President Álvaro Uribe Vélez.
 That from the evidence that has been collected in the place where the attack took place, it is clear that the version of the presidency, about the existence of an error in signals, or that compañero Edwin Legarda had passed by a military checkpoint is false. First because the clues indicate that the soldiers were in a 800-meter long trench waiting for the car for hours; second because at that time several vehicles went by that were traveling to a meeting that was being held the same day in forum of Togoima which Aida Quilcue Vivas, member of the High Council of CRIC was going to attend, vehicles that belonged to people who were never put under demands by the army group that was in the area; and third because in a document jointly signed by General Leonardo Barrerro, commandant of the XXIX Brigade of the army and the indigenous authorities, the former committed himself to deny the version that “the deceased Edwin Legarda had ignored a military checkpoint.”
The the attack was aimed at the High Council of CRIC, especially against Aida Quilcue Vivas, who, had she not been delayed, would have passed through that spot at the time of the attack during her trip to the forum of Togoima, located in the municipality of Páez.
That the military group was equally unable to explain their possession of two rifles that were in their camp with being assigned to a soldier, which the indigenous authorities take as an indication that there was an attempt to put together a fraud after the attack.
That in the first version by the commander of the military patrol, before the indigenous authorities, he said that there had been bursts of rifle fire from CIRC’s car, a version that he later changed, saying that Mr. Legarda had passed by a military checkpoint, finally admitting that it was a question of a military error.
That the community member Edwin Legarda managed to escape from the attack gravely wounded, thereby avoiding the creating of the fraud with the two rifles in possession of the military whose ownership could not be explained, which had it been carried out would have undercut the civil nature of our resistance and the transparency of our organization.
That the statements by President Álvaro Uribe justifying the military action in which the husband of the member of the high Council of CRIC was murdered is nothing more than another lie to blur the picture of this state crime and justify the continuation of his policy of annihilating indigenous peoples.
That despite the multiple threats and attacks against indigenous authorities and members of CRIC, the Colombian state has not taken measures to protect the physical and moral integrity  of our leaders; on the contrary, it seems that the government is using its political influence to avoid the Inter-American Human Rights Commission from decreeing the protective measures solicited by different human rights organizations en defense of our organizational processes.
Finally, we call on the international community, especially human rights organizations, to pay attention to the development of national policies towards indigenous peoples; as a result of our protests we are being stigmatized and criminalized, which puts our processes, traditional authorities, organizational personnel, indigenous leaders and communities in grave risk. As a consequence we assert that the Colombian state bears the responsibility for what happens to our people and our organizational processes.
Popayán, December 19, 2008
Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca [
Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca], CRIC


[Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular—People’s Research and Education Center] and Programa por la Paz [Program for Peace] make a statement about the murder of Edwin Legarda.

We ask of civil society and the international community solidarity and follow-up on the results of the investigations about these facts and on the guarantees to be offered to the indigenous communities to make the existence of their rights a reality.


Tejido de Comunicación y Relaciones Externas para la Verdad y la Vida

Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca - ACIN

Telefax: 0928 - 290958 - 293999

Email: acincauca@yahoo.es

Web: www.nasaacin.org/index.htm

Santander de Quilichao, Cauca -Colombia



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