Last Wednesday, paramilitaries dragged Alfredo Zapata Herrera, a leader of the SUTIMAC trade union, off a bus while on his way to work. The next day he was found dead nearby. He was the 45th trade unionist assassinated so far this year while a further ten have disappeared.

Zapata was on his way to work at the El Cairo Cement Factory when an army-backed death squad abducted and then murdered him. The entire leadership of his union SUTIMAC, which represents workers in the construction and cement industries, have recently been threatened by paramilitaries and according to the CUT, the national trade union federation all leaders and members of the union are in grave danger.

A CUT urgent action appeal released on April 4 spoke of the paramilitary campaign against SUTIMAC by saying that their “principle objective is to take control of this workers’ organization by blood and fire using, as their main method, the physical elimination of the leaders.” The CUT went on to “place full responsibility for each and every assassination of the men and women of the CUT upon the government of Andres Pastrana.”

In a separate document released on April 3 the CUT listed four recent attacks on unionists and mentioned that affiliated members had also suffered five attempted assassinations and innumerable death threats and forced displacements so far this year.

On March 20 on the road to the Rio Bobo electrical generating plant in the department of Narino paramilitaries assassinated Juan Bautista Cevallos and Luis Omar Castillo of the electrical workers union SINTRAELECOL.

On March 22 Ernesto Alfonso Giraldo Martinez, a member of the FECODE teachers union, was assassinated on the road between Rio Negro municipality and the city of Medellin, Antioquia department.

On March 23 Jose Orlando Cespedes Garcia, a leader of the Arauca teachers union was disappeared by paramilitaries at Pueblo Nuevo near the town of Tame in Arauca department.

On March 25 paramilitaries took oil workers Hernando Silva and Jose Antonio Perez away while they traveled to work near a place known as Qubrada La Nata near the town of Yopal in Casanare department. Both men were active members of the USO trade union and neither has been seen since.

According to the head of the human rights department at the CUT, Jesus Antonio Gonzalez, the army and their death squads have now killed 3,800 affiliates of his federation in the past 15 years.

Reprinted from The News Agency New Colombia (