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Mon Dec 2 10:00:15 2002

Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Dec. 5, 2002
issue of Workers World newspaper



By Natalie Alsop

Delegations of 30 people, including U.S. union activists,
are going to Bogota, Colombia, Dec. 4-8 to participate in
public hearings on the Cocal Cola Corp.'s crimes against
Colombian trade unionists. This is an important step in
building international solidarity and support for Colombian

In the last year, the U.S. government has expanded and
officially reshaped its intervention in Colombia. The old
pretext of fighting a drug war has conveniently been
superseded by the war on terrorism. This allows Washington
to allocate all aid to the counter-insurgency war, increase
the number of U.S. troops in Colombia, and increase aid to
Colombia's corrupt military apparatus.

In the past four years, the United States has given more
than $2 billion, mostly military aid, to the Colombian
government. This aid is directly connected to the expansion
of the civil war and the increased repression of social
movements by the Colombian state and its paramilitary
allies. The Colombian military is notorious for its
connection to these paramilitary forces.

Union organizers and members in Colombia have been under
particular attack. In the year 2000 alone, 129 unionists
were murdered. Sinaltrainal (Sindicato Nacional de
Trabajadores de la Industria de Alimentos--the National
Union of Food Industry Workers), the United Steel Workers
and the International Labor Fund have filed a case in U.S.
courts accusing Coca Cola of using paramilitaries to
intimidate and assassinate union organizers.

The lawsuit focuses on the murder of Isidro Segundo Gil and
the intimidation of five of his co-workers from a bottling
plant in Carepa.

This case is not an isolated incident. It is representative
of the struggle that union organizers must wage every day in
Colombia. Sinaltrainal leaders say Coca Cola uses
paramilitary violence as a systematic strategy to intimidate
workers and keep enlarging already excessive profits.


Although notorious, Coca Cola is not alone in this practice.
Drummond Coal has also been sued for hiring paramilitaries
to kill two union leaders in 1998.

U.S. companies and other foreign multinationals dominate the
Colombian economy, exploiting the people and resources.

To build international solidarity and expose the
multinational corporations' crimes in Colombia, Sinaltrainal
has organized three public hearings. The first was in
Atlanta in July; the second in Brussels, Belgium, in
October; and the third is scheduled for Dec. 5-7 in Bogotá.

The International Action Center and the Committee for a New
Colombia have organized a delegation of 24 people, including
13 trade unionists, two lawyers, three students and a
journalist, who will be traveling to Bogotá Dec. 4-8 to
participate in these public meetings. The Committee for
Social Justice in Colombia has also organized a delegation
of six people.

It is important that such a large group is coming from the
United States to support these workers. Solidarity
delegations are also coming from across Latin America. They
will all be protesting at the Coca Cola plant there on Dec.

Some will also take part in three days of hearings and
forums on human rights and union organizing in Colombia.

It is clear that the United States continues to expand
intervention in Colombia to protect these companies and
contain the threat that the Colombian social movements,
armed and unarmed, pose to U.S. interests within Colombia
and the region. This is evident in the $6 million the U.S.
government recently handed to Oxy Petroleum to protect its
pipeline from attack by the guerillas.

In response to this increased intervention, it is important
to build a strong solidarity movement in this country to
work with the movement in Colombia to end U.S. intervention
and defend the Colombian people's right to self
determination. The delegations of 30 people coming from all
over the United States to stand in solidarity with
Sinaltrainal and other workers in Colombia are an important
step in building this solidarity movement. n

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