Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the May 13, 2004
issue of Workers World newspaper


By Heather Cottin

The Colombian Coca-Cola workers' union, SINALTRAINAL, has called for an
international caravan to travel to Colombia in solidarity with the union
movement there. In response to this call, the International Caravan to
Save the Lives of Colombian Workers will take place from June 20 to June

The message is urgent. SINALTRAI NAL is calling on activists from all
over the world to come to the support of workers in Colombia.

"In order to continue living and constructing new dawns for our
Colombia, it is necessary that the international union movement, human-
rights organizations, social organizations and democratic personalities
visit the country and share with us this harsh reality," says the
union's statement.

All who attempt to organize in Colom bia are under threat, from teachers
to human-rights activists, industrial workers to petroleum workers.

From the United States, members of the International Action Center will
join activists from United Students Against Sweatshops and the Committee
for Social Justice in Colombia on this voyage of solidarity. The
International Caravan will also include activists from Australia and

All will bear witness to the paramilitaries' crimes all over Colombia.
In addition, the delegation will accompany pro testing workers at
occupied factories in Medellin, visit urban youth in Cali and see an
environmental project in Bogotá.

Teresa Gutierrez, co-director of the International Action Center and
national coordinator of its Colombia Project, is organizing activists to
join the caravan. Gutierrez told Workers World, "The IAC is calling on
the religious, labor and student communities to contribute to a
fundraising campaign to support the SINALTRAINAL union."

Colombian workers have faced Coca-Cola, British Petroleum, Nestlé, Occi
dental Petroleum, and the many other multinationals that have privatized
and looted the country. In the pay of these multinationals, Colombian
paramilitaries and death squads oppose workers' right to organize.

Official Colombian government policy threatens union activists. In
April, a strike in Colombia's oil industry was declared an act of
"terrorism" by the U.S.-backed Uribe government. The Colombian govern
ment placed legal sanctions on the 5,500-member union, arrested strike
leaders, and has threatened military force to bust the strike. Death
threats have been made against striking workers.

In the past five years, police and paramilitary death squads in Colombia
have assassinated over 3,800 union activists, according to the Web site The union movement declares that it is being
"increasingly battered and in the process of being annihilated for the
benefit of the state, the multinationals and the national monopolies."

Gutierrez says: "Labor activists in Colombia, as well as women,
students, campesinos and all popular sectors, face a dire situation.
Their struggle for justice is part of the anti-globalization and anti-
FTAA struggle and should be earnestly supported by the solidarity
movement. This is also part of the struggle against Plan Colombia, which
is the military wing of the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

"The Bush administration is every day militarizing Colombia, not only to
attack the movements in Colombia, but also to threaten Venezuela and
revolutionary Cuba.

"People need to think about going to Colombia. If they can't go
themselves, they should try to have resolutions passed in their unions
supporting struggling workers in Colombia. Unions should send messages
of solidarity and contribute to the IAC's SINALTRAINAL Solidarity

- END -

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