2,800 Colombian Unionists Slain Since 1984, UN Says

BOGOTA – Some 2,800 Colombian union members have been murdered since 1984 and more than 94 percent of those killings remain unpunished, the Colombia office of the United Nations Development Program says in a report released on Monday.

The document also cites 216 instances of forced disappearance, 83 cases of torture and 163 kidnappings of labor activists.

Compiled by the UNPD with input from the Colombian government, unions and employers, the report notes that while the number of murders began to decline in 2003, threats against labor leaders have increased.

Unions representing teachers, oil workers and employees on banana plantations have been the most frequent targets of violence.

Only in 22 percent of the murders did authorities identify a suspect or suspects, report coordinator Carlos Miguel Ortiz said at Monday’s presentation.

Right-wing paramilitaries were the prime suspects in nearly two-thirds of those killings, well ahead of leftist guerrillas, members of the security forces and common criminals.

The top UNPD official in Bogota, Bruno Moro, said Colombian authorities must reduce the “unacceptable indices” of anti-labor violence in the Andean nation.

The UNPD study, which is based on research by experts and comments at 15 public forums over the past two years, will be formally presented to the Colombian government on Wednesday. EFE

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