IFJ Condemns Colombian “Intimidation” After Officials Bar Union Activists from the Country

The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the Colombian government over a “political game of intimidation” after barring entry into the country of Víctor Báez Mosqueira, the General Secretary of ICFTU-ORIT, along with three other international trade union representatives.

“In a country where union activists are being killed as they fight for their rights, it is intolerable that international unionists expressing solidarity and support should be victims of a political game of intimidation,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.

On 30 October and 1 November Víctor Báez Mosqueira, General Secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions - Regional Organisation for the Americas (ICFTU-ORIT), Antonio Rodríguez Fritz (International Transport Workers' Federation), Rodolfo Benítez (Union Network International) and Cameron Duncan (Public Services International) were detained at the international airport in Bogotá by agents of the Colombia's intelligence agency, DAS.

They were told they did not have a valid visa, even though three of the four did not require entry permits. “This is harassment of a kind that prevents acts of solidarity to some of Latin America’s most vulnerable workers,” said White, who said the IFJ shared the view of global union leaders that the Colombian government has a responsibility to protect trade unionists from all forms of violence and intimidation.

Three of the four colleagues had already taken part in a meeting with President Uribe during a solidarity mission to the country in September, when the President assured the delegation of his government's full commitment to trade union rights.

In another development, union leaders from Great Britain, Ireland and Spain who had arrived in Colombia to attend a meeting of women trade unionists had their 60-day visas suddenly cancelled and were permitted to stay only three days in the country. This decision was rectified following a formal protest presented by representatives of the Global Union Federations and local unions in Colombia to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

“These actions are inexplicable,” said White. “Colombia is one of the most dangerous places in the world to work as a unionist, with over 50 trade union workers killed already this year and it is essential that the government maintains a dialogue with both local and international partners”.

Complaints are being prepared for the International Labour Organisation, which is this week examining a catalogue of violations of freedom of association in the country. The IFJ is joining other protests in Brussels and Geneva over the incidents.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries