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News :: Human Rights
Students Kidnapped While Protesting Coca-Cola
09 Jun 2005
Four students were kidnapped last week in Columbia while demonstrating in support of workers at a Coca-Cola bottling plant. Coke workers have faced severe repression at the hands of paramilitary groups hired by Coke to put down unions. We must stand in solidarity with these students who were kidnapped, as well as the workers. Please send your feelings to the contacts listed at the end of the article.

At around 7.30 pm on 3 June 2005, as SINALTRAINAL's protest against Coca-Cola for its policies of environmental destruction was ending (5 June being world environment day) just two blocks from the Barranquilla bottling plant, agents belonging to paramilitary groups carrying firearms, forced four students to get into a gray van. The students are LIZANDRO PERRIL, OMAR PERRIL, WALTER CARCAMO and BERNARDO CHARRIS, from Atlántico University and Pestazzi College. They had been demonstrating their solidarity with the Coca-Cola workers who mounted a protest outside the bottling plant beginning at 9 am. Other students managed to escape by throwing themselves out of the car and taking refuge in the 'Las Nieves' neighourhood.

Inside the vehicle, the students were forced to bend their heads face down and threatened with guns. The paramilitaries said that the Coca-Cola workers are guerrilla chiefs. They accused the students of being guerrillas since they had helped the protest and attended it. They stated that the zone was under paramilitary control and they would not allow any protests there. They knew the students attended Atlántico University and had their home addresses. The paramilitaries ordered the students to leave the city that day or be assassinated. After facing these threats, torture and a drive round the city that lasted about 45 minutes, the students were thrown out of the vehicle near the national police school, situated in Serri neighbourhood.

The paramilitaries could not “disappear” the students thanks to the rapid protests by the comrade responsible for Human Rights in the CUT, as well as the local and national leadership of SINALTRAINAL and the pressure that was exerted by the workers and social organisations to get immediate intervention by the security bodies, the vice-President of the Republic and the DAS [security police]. The students reappeared alive and the paramilitaries did not achieve their objectives.

Once again, this incident occurs at the time when we are presenting our annual negotiating position to Coca-Cola on the north coast region [where Barranquilla is located]. And as the facts have demonstrated, the government of President ALVARO URIBE VELEZ is lying to the world, given that this band of criminal paramilitaries continues assassinating, massacring, disappearing, torturing, forcibly displacing and terrorising the population. The State is affording these paramilitaries protection with the deceitful negotiations seeking to pardon and forgetting human rights violations. The trade unions and social movements seek peace with justice and democracy that resists the authoritarianism and militarism of the government. We demand that the Government of President Álvaro Uribe Vélez investigates and punishes those responsible for this macabre incident, that it guarantees union activity and protects the lives of the workers, students, communities and trade unionists.

Yours faithfully,

Send immediate protests to:

Presidencia de la República
Dr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez,
Cra. 8 No..7-26,
Palacio de Nariño,
Santa fe de Bogotá.
Fax: (+57 1) 566.20.71 E-mail: auribe (at)

[OR to better send e-mail to Uribe login to and click on ESCRIBALE AL PRESIDENTE at the bottom of the page.

Vicepresidencia de la República
Dr. Francisco Santos
E-mail: fsantos (at)

Colombian Embassy
2118 Leroy Place, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Tels: (202) 387-8338
Fax (202) 232-8643
Email: emwas (at)
See also:

This work is in the public domain
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