|Take action in support of labor leaders in Colombia|
?The most important thing that North American activists seeking to support trade unions in Colombia can do is to work to change U.S. policy towards Colombia, especially its emphasis on military and police aid.?
-- Alfonso Vel?squez, member of the National Executive Committee of Colombia?s largest trade union federation, the CUT.
Anyone concerned about the intimidation of and violence against Colombian unionists is urged to draw the following article to the attention of key government officials. The article below reports insider testimony about the collusion of U.S. corporate, Colombian corporate, and paramilitary interests.
Mining boss accused of paying for killings
By GERARDO REYES
May 19, 2006
El Nuevo Herald
A former Colombian intelligence officer has claimed that he saw the head of the Colombian branch of a U.S. coal company hand over a suitcase full of cash to pay for the assassinations of two labor leaders, according to a document filed in a U.S. court.
The sworn statement by Rafael Garc?a was made to U.S. lawyers for U.S. labor-rights groups who filed a civil suit in 2002 alleging the killers were ''acting as employees or agents'' of the Alabama-based Drummond Company Inc. The trial in Birmingham is scheduled to begin in October.
Drummond has steadfastly denied any involvement in the 2001 murders of Valmore Locarno and V?ctor Orcasita, president and vice president of one of the labor unions representing workers at its coal operations in north-central Colombia. A Drummond attorney Thursday declined to comment.
Garc?a, a former official of Colombia's equivalent of the FBI, is jailed in Bogot? on charges of corruption. He has made a string of allegations of DAS links to illegal paramilitary groups and electoral fraud that have unleashed a major scandal there.
His allegations about Drummond came in a sworn statement he gave earlier this month during a jailhouse visit by U.S. lawyer Dan Kovalik, who represents the relatives of the slain labor leaders in their suit, which is supported by U.S. labor groups, against Drummond.
The suit was filed under the U.S. Alien Tort Claims Act, an 18th Century law passed to fight piracy abroad but lately used by individuals to file suit over a broad range of allegations, from torture by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan to Central American human-rights abusers and the Cuban firing-squad execution of a boat hijacker.
In his statement to Kovalik, Garc?a said he was present at a meeting during which Augusto Jim?nez, Colombian president of Drummond's Colombian branch Drummond Limitada, had a briefcase with $200,000 in cash that was to be paid to a paramilitary leader, Rodrigo Tovar Pupo.
''That money was to be delivered to . . . Tovar Pupo to assassinate specific labor leaders at Drummond,'' he said in the statement, obtained by El Nuevo Herald. Garc?a identified the victims as V?ctor Hugo Orcasita and ``a gentleman by the name of Locarno.''
Garc?a did not claim to know the actual killers of the two leaders of the labor union at Drummond, Sintramienerg?tica. The right-wing paramilitaries have regularly killed leftist guerrillas and suspected supporters, among them scores of labor-union and human-rights activists.
Colombian prosecutors Thursday said the investigation into the Sintramienerg?tica leaders was still in its preliminary stages, with no arrests or official suspects.
Garc?a has previously told El Nuevo Herald and Colombian journalists that the DAS at one point drafted a list of union leaders and others, alleged collaborators with leftist guerrillas, who were to be killed by the paramilitaries.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzalez
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Senator Russ Feingold
506 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-4904
TDD (202) 224-1280
Fax (202) 224-2725
Representative James P. McGovern
430 Cannon Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-6101
Fax (202) 225-5759
Representative Sam Farr
1221 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
5525 Illinois Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20011