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News ::
Solidarity trip planned on Coca-Cola's crimes (english)
02 Dec 2002
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 workers, writes Natalie Alsop.
02.12.2002 (By Natalie Alsop/Workers' World News) 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 The old pretext of fighting a drug war has conveniently been superseded by the war on terrorism.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. 5. 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.
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