Tag Archives: Colombia

Callout for Canadian Contacts!!!

To help with the on-going actions in any way please use the contact information and links from the appeal…
GM Workers 1To give a quick overview, I am a volunteer with the Portland Central America Solidarity Committee in Portland, Oregon. I and a number of individuals from other organizations, mostly in Detroit, Michigan, have been supporting the Colombian workers who were injured while working for General Motors at the company’s Bogota, Colombia plant. The injuries were caused by extremely poor working conditions and GM instead of improving the assembly line, rigged a system to illegally rid itself of injured workers.
The injured workers have been challenging GM through all of the government regulatory processes available to them for a number of years and in August of 2011, set up a tent encampment in front of the U.S. Embassy on the street in Bogota, Colombia.

GM Workers 2Since then, they have gone through a series of 4 dramatic hunger strikes with their lips stitched closed with a needle and thread and have maintained the tent encampment to this day- over 1000 days of occupation. The injured workers have received death threats and been victims of politically motivated crimes.

But the pressure that they have generated has resulted in improved conditions within the plant, including $6 million worth of ergonomic improvements to the assembly line and the opportunity for new hires to organize without the same degree of retaliation. Though GM acknowledged the legitimacy of their grievances by sitting down to negotiate with them, the company offered a pittance of a settlement- it was not even enough to cover the back surgeries that many of them need as a result of showing up to work every day. This is a significant shirking of GM’s legal responsibility to these workers as laid out by Colombian law.

So while GM has refused to settle, the workers, permanently disabled, have been unable to find employment and have been slowly sliding into financial misery. Currently injured worker Carlos Trujillo is facing the foreclosure of his home. Luckily he has connected with a foreclosure resistance group on the ground in Bogota, Victimas de Banqueros and they have gone through his papers and found that Colpatria bank (which is owned by Scotiabank) is carrying out fraud in Carlos’ case. They are challenging it legally, though the Colombian courts are tilted heavily toward the banks, and we are trying to create an international outcry. We feel that the mere evidence of this case gaining international attention will create a significant amount of pressure and might be enough to prevent the foreclosure.

As I said, we are a network of individuals in the U.S. Our Detroit team is located close enough to the Canadian border to be planning a trip to Windsor to deliver a letter and do an action in front of Scotiabank. We are hoping to connect with others in Canada who might be willing to do similar actions in their cities as well as to participate in actions such as faxing the president of Colpatria in Colombia (we have a free way to send an international fax online).

We would very much appreciate any connection you can make for us with individuals involved especially in Latin America solidarity and foreclosure resistance campaigns in Canada, although we would be more than happy to work with anyone who cares about human rights or who is interested in supporting this international foreclosure resistance campaign.

I would appreciate any contacts that you could give me. We would be happy to prepare a communique as well as a list of actions that individuals and groups can take.


Paige Shell-Spurling




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Docking companies on Colombia’s Pacific coast fined over $170k for violating worker rights

Colombia Reports

April 27, 2012 – Thirty docking companies in Colombia‘s Pacific port of Buenaventura were fined over $170,000 by the Ministry of Labor for violating workers’ rights, Colombian media reported Friday.

An inspection found that the companies had violated labor standards as well as the Rules of Professional Risks and Occupational Health.

According to the investigations, port companies had temporary workers carrying out the same activities for seven, eight, or nine years, and had broken rules regarding excessive overtime, the non-provision of benefits packages, and not having authorization for additional working hours.

The Vice-Minister of Labor David Luna said that, since January, 157 visits were made which led to 148 investigations being opened, and 30 financial penalties being given.

Investigations are also being carried out at the Caribbean ports of Cartagena and Turbo, and at Puerto Wilches in the Magdalena river.


This article appeared first at – http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/23745-docking-companies-on-colombias-pacific-coast-fined-over-170m-for-violating-worker-rights.html


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Pledge to support Colombian GM Workers‏

A message from Gail M. Francis…

Dear Friends and Concerned Colleagues,

Help support self organized GM workers in Bogota, Colombia!
For 180 straight days of protest outside the US embassy, the workers are protesting GM’s egregious working conditions and its firing of injured workers. They have formed a group named ASOTRECOL (Association of Workers and Injured Ex-Workers of GMC) to defend against a systematic practice of firing them after they suffer workplace injuries. The problems are particularly severe in the painting and welding department.  The most frequent and persistent injuries are to the rotator cuffs, respiratory systems, backs, tendons, and internal organs. These are chronic injuries rendering most of them permanently disabled. The company falsifies medical records so that these injuries are not defined as work-related, thus denying them their occupational health insurance protection.
While I was in Colombia, I saw video footage of the conditions under which these workers are toiling.  These conditions virtually guarantee work-place injury.   As someone who used to work in an auto parts factory, I was absolutely horrified for them, and chilled to think that if GM is allowed to run their Colombian factory in this way, then they aim to weaken conditions for workers all over the world.
These workers need your support. 
Please make a pledge at one of the suggested levels below or at any level you choose. Every penny will go to helping these workers strengthen their movement or to support those who are most in need of urgent medical care, which they are currently unable to receive.
Once you make the pledge, I will send you a stamped and addressed envelope for your donation. Simply email me at gailmfrancis@yahoo.com to let me know your contact information and pledge amount.
These workers are determined to win this David and Goliath battle, but they cannot do it alone. My goal is to raise $500 by the end of the month. Please give what you can for the Colombian workers of today and the North American workers of tomorrow.
Suggested Levels:
______$10 (food and supplies for the encampment)
______$30 (travel funds and materials to help them organize)
______$80 (medical supplies and treatment)
Please email gailmfrancis@yahoo.com with your pledge. You can also mail me a check or money order directly at 2933 N State Road 27, Ojibwa, WI 54862. Put ASOTRECOL in the memo field.  Please note, this is not a tax-deductible contribution.
Thank you for helping to build worldwide solidarity!
Gail Francis

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Former guerrilla Gustavo Petro elected mayor of Bogota

This article appeared first at : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2055771/Former-guerrilla-Gustavo-Petro-elected-mayor-Bogota.html

Associated Press

October 31, 2011 – Former leftist rebel and anti-corruption crusader Gustavo Petro has been elected the new mayor of Bogota, the first time an ex-guerrilla has won Colombia’s second most important elected office.

Petro, 51, has been a key player in Colombia’s recent history and ran a “zero corruption” campaign in the nation’s capital. The previous elected mayor of Bogota is in jail for his part in a corruption and bid-rigging scandal.

Five years ago, Petro’s denunciations in the senate, of close ties between national and regional politicians with right-wing death squads spurred investigation into the Colombian “parapolitics” scandal that has landed dozens of lawmakers in prison.

Short, slim and bespectacled, Petro is deliberate in speech and favours tweed and Nehru jackets.

Like many prominent Colombians unafraid to speak their minds, Petro has been periodically targeted by death threats and has long been assigned a phalanx of bodyguards.

He said in 2007 that he had learned of two organised attempts by the extreme right to kill him, one of which forced him into temporary exile to Belgium.

Petro, who finished fourth in last year’s presidential election, won the Bogata mayor’s race with 32 per cent of the vote, with 25 per cent for his nearest challenger Enrique Penalosa declared after nearly all ballots had been counted in the city of eight million people.

Penalosa defeated Petro in 1997 for the same job, which has often been a springboard to Colombia’s presidency.

Urban planners widely admire Penalosa for making Bogota more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly during his term, and for launching a bus rapid transit system that has been a model in Latin America and beyond – but analysts say Penalosa, 57, was hurt by his endorsement from the conservative, former President Alvaro Uribe, in a city more friendly to the left.

“Bogota continues to be a fortress of electoral freedom,” says analyst Alfredo Molano. “Gustavo Petro is a step forward in defeating machine politics.”

Bogota is Colombia’s biggest city, its urban area Latin America’s sixth most populous. Its gritty southern districts teem with tens of thousands of refugees from the country’s long-running conflicts.

The voting in the capital was part of a nationwide program of regional and municipal elections, with 32 governorships and more than 1,100 mayoral and municipal council posts being contested.

Electoral watchdog groups reported some vote-buying in rural areas but relatively few voting irregularities.

Less than two weeks before the vote, 20 soldiers were killed in two separate attacks blamed on FARC rebels, which have commonly made election-day attacks.

But there were no reports of rebel violence Sunday, and President Juan Manuel Santos declared it among Colombia’s most peaceful election days.

Regional and municipal elections tend to be a better barometer than presidential votes in Colombia of the relative health of the country’s democracy.

This year, illegal armed groups including the FARC and right-wing bands, both fortified by drug trafficking profits, intimidated candidates throughout rural Colombia.

Violence has been on the uptick since Santos was elected in mid-2010, and at least 42 candidates in local races were killed in the weeks leading up to Sunday’s vote.

Petro, who begins his four-year term as mayor Jan. 1, has been harshly critical of the FARC, saying it is tainted by its involvement in drug trafficking and ransom kidnappng.

It is nothing, he says, like the M-19 movement that he joined at age 17 while a civic organizer. Six years later, he would graduate from Bogota’s prestigious Externado University with an economics degree.

Petro and his former comrades and relatives say he was never involved in violence, working instead to clandestinely recruit and organize for M-19.

“He was a small, fragile, skinny person with myopia,” his sister, Adriana, said in 2007.

M-19 was named for April 19, the date of the 1970 presidential election that many Colombians believe was stolen in favour of the Conservative Party candidate, Misael Pastrana.

Friends say the outrage expressed by Petro’s mother over that outcome led him into leftist politics.

While the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, is a mostly peasant guerrilla force formed in 1964, M-19 was a more classic Latin American rebel group formed largely by urban, middle-class intellectuals.

It became renowned for publicity-seeking actions including the theft of the sword of Latin American independence leader Simon Bolivar and the 1980 two-month takeover of the embassy of the Dominican Republic.

Petro was not personally involved in M-19’s greatest fiasco: the 1985 takeover of the Palace of Justice in which more than 100 people, including 11 Supreme Court justices, were killed.

M-19’s detractors contend the late drug lord Pablo Escobar financed the takeover. Petro vehemently denies this, and blames an unprovoked storming by the military for the deaths.

Captured 20 days before the raid, Petro still has scars from a week of torture in which he says he was shocked and beaten, denied food and almost drowned. He was jailed for a year and a half for rebellion.

He made the mistake the previous year of publicly announcing his M-19 affiliation after the government and rebels forged a truce that would later fall apart. It forced him to go underground.

After M-19 signed a peace pact with the government in 1990, Petro helped to rewrite Colombia’s constitution the following year. Petro was then elected to Congress.

Gustavo Petro spent most of the last two decades in Congress and, after being elected senator in 2006 began revealing details of the Colombian “parapolitics” scandal: close collaboration between lawmakers and far-right militias known as “paramilitaries”. The investigations wound up sending more than 60 politicians to prison from crimes ranging from criminal conspiracy to murder.

Last year, Petro helped uncover a bid-rigging scandal in Bogota that landed Samuel Moreno, the city’s previous elected mayor, into jail facing corruption charges.

The state found that some $1.2 billion in government funds had been diverted during the process of awarding government contracts, including the contract for constructing the avenue that links Bogota’s center with its international airport.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2055771/Former-guerrilla-Gustavo-Petro-elected-mayor-Bogota.html#ixzz1cc3rcFDG

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