Columbia is widely regarded as the most dangerous country in the world for labour unions and their members. According to the United Nations, over 3,000 trade unionists have been murdered in Columbia since 1986, and at least 11 have been killed in the first six months of 2013 alone. All reports indicate that state authorities are involved in many of the killings. Attempted murders, death threats, and imprisonment for union activity are also commonplace in the country.
The Confederation of Canadian Unions condemns the systematic violence and imprisonment of trade unionists in Columbia and calls on the Columbian government and multinational corporations like Nestle to respect the right to life and liberty of trade unionists there.
Oscar Lopez was shot and killed on November 9, 2013. He was an employee of Nestle. On November 8, 2013, leaders of his union received death threats from paramilitary groups. Members of the union have been on a hunger strike since November 5 in front of the Nestle factory in Bugalagrande, Columbia. Since 1982, 20 members of the union have been murdered, and 13 of them worked for Nestle.
In August 2013, Huber Ballesteros was arrested and imprisoned. He is one of the nation’s most recognized union leaders and at the time of his arrest he was organizing strikes across the country. He was clearly imprisoned by the Columbian government for his union activity.