BOGOTA – Thirty-six union leaders have been murdered in Colombia so far this year, compared with 26 during the first eight months of 2009, an official of the CUT labor federation said Tuesday.
Five of the 36 slain leaders were from a single organization, the Adida union representing teachers in the northwestern province of Antioquia, CUT human rights director Luis Alberto Vanegas said.
Paramilitary groups involved in drug trafficking routinely distribute flyers threatening union activists, he said.
“A high percentage of those who threaten and pursue unionists are the private armies of paramilitaries financed by landholding business-owners,” Vanegas said.
More than 2,700 unionists have been killed in Colombia since 1986, including 40 slain last year, making the Andean nation the world’s most dangerous country for organized labor, the CUT says.
Those statistics have prompted U.S. lawmakers to oppose ratification of the trade accord the Bush administration negotiated with Colombia, a pact that remains on hold. EFE