Violent Eviction of Farmworkers in Colombia Leaves 1 Wounded

BOGOTA – A farmworker was wounded by unknown persons who fired shots to expel 185 rural laborers from a palm-oil plantation in northern Colombia, the union representing the workers said.

The farmworkers were forced to leave for having joined the National Union of Agriculture Industry Workers, or Sintrainagro, the nongovernmental organization said in a communique, which noted that the plantation owners fired all of them.

The evacuation took place Thursday at the Palo Alto farm – located in Cienega, a town in the Caribbean province of Magdalena – Sintrainagro’s interim president, Hernan Correa, said.

The plantation belongs to the Inversiones Palo Alto Gnecco Espinosa investment company, the union leader said, adding that the workers have been protesting against it since Dec. 23 for not paying their wages and other benefits.

Correa said in a communique that the expulsion was carried out by armed men who asked for two of the farmworkers by shouting: “Get out of here because we’ve come to kill you, don’t try to hide!”

Wounded in the attack was farmworker Miguel Augusto Cuenca, the president of Sintrainagro said, adding that such acts are a “clear violation of labor rights by this company.”

The same firm “also violates human rights by taking reprisals against workers for exercising their free right to unionize,” Correa said, noting that all the workers were fired from their jobs.

“We must take criminal action against this company,” the union leader said, announcing that he would file a complaint about the incident with the International Labor Organization and other international organizations that defend human rights.

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