Tuesday, May 16, 2006

COLOMBIA: Barrancabermeja marches for workers' rights

Dear friends,

News from Colombia, where on May 1, workers and womens' groups constructed a Book of Life showing the names of all those who had lost their life in the struggle for justice.

May each of our lives be part of that grand project of life, of ushering in the Dance of God's upside-down reign.


Matt Guynn
On Earth Peace

5 May 2006
COLOMBIA: Barrancabermeja marches for workers' rights

Representatives from unions, human rights and social organizations gathered in a soccer field 1 May to celebrate International Workers' Day, and to remember all of those who have fallen in the struggle for the right to dignified work, and other human rights.

The construction of a "Book of Life" began the ecumenical action. Unions, organizations and parishes contributed pages to the book, naming members of their communities murdered because they struggled for justice. The teacher's union highlighted fifteen educators killed in the last four months. Christian Peacemaker Teams Colombia added names from the Opón communities and beloved fellow CPTer, Tom Fox.

After this moment of remembrance, each sector of the population received a candle dedicated to the construction of hope in the midst of threats.

Bishop Jaime Prieto closed the ecumenical witness. He spoke about the potential good that could come from globalization, and the terrible realities of the poverty in rural and urban communities today caused by globalization. "In this new century, work continues to be the key to the social question," he said, "that deeply challenges democratic process, because without social justice for the worker's world, democracy cannot exist." The Bishop renewed his commitment to workers, saying, "I have opted for the defense of the poorest and most marginalized."

All present demonstrated their commitment to continue working for labor rights, justice and peace with a march that ended in a political action. Sinaltrainal, the Coca-Cola workers' union, carried a banner that read, "Coca-Cola robs the salary from its workers," and again called for a boycott of all Coca Cola products until the multinational changes the treatment of their workers. The Popular Women's Organization (OFP), used the moment to continue denouncing militarization with signs that showed camouflaged clothing. They read, "If my body is a project for life, why would I camouflage it?" Everyone strongly expressed their objection to the reelection of President Uribe and the Free Trade Agreement that Colombia and the U.S. are currently negotiating.

The events of the day conveyed the unity of Barrancabermeja's social organization in working for human rights. Together community members thanked unions for their work in the defense of the right to dignified work, and denounced the violations of labor rights, including union leaders' right to life. CPT Colombia shared a litany written for the celebration.

Two union leaders received awards for their long term dedication to the struggle: Odinto González of Sintraemdes, the decentralized municipal business worker's union, and Roque Bernardino Contreras of the USO, the petroleum worker's union. Barrancabermeja, in the midst of civil war that does not cease, continues the struggle for their rights.

Links of interest:
Popular Women's Organization - Colombia
Christian Peacemaker Teams - Colombia Project
Barranca background on Wikipedia


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