Early this year, on Jan. 13, the Palo Alto
palm oil plantation, operated by the company
Inversiones Palo Alto Gnecco Espinosa in
Colombia's Ciénaga region, was the site of a
violent labor conflict. At the height of the
conflict, 185 workers were cleared out by
gunfire, after being laid off. The conflict
came to a successful end for the workers,
following an intense international campaign
conducted by IUF Latin America. Just two
months later, on Monday, May 17, the
Colombian and international labor movement
was once again shaken by violent news from
that same site. This time it was the murder
of a Palo Alto worker.
In conversation with
Guillermo Rivera, president of the National
Union of Agroindustry Workers
(SINTRAINAGRO), gave details of this
cowardly crime and the steps that are being
taken to quickly find the perpetrators.
-How did the murder take place?
was providing security services at a water
plant in the Palo Alto establishment owned
Inversiones Palo Alto Gnecco Espinosa,
when, according to witnesses,
two hired gunmen shot him to death.
Nobody knows why he was murdered or who had
him killed. As we speak, a SINTRAINGRO
delegation has traveled to the site to
demand that the Government and the competent
authorities take action and conduct an
inquiry to determine exactly what happened.
-What did SINTRAINAGRO do as soon as it
heard the news of the murder?
-We immediately denounced the situation at
the Palo Alto establishment, both nationally
and internationally, requesting that the
Interior Ministry and the
administration guarantee the safety of the
workers and trade union leaders, and that
the crime of our fellow worker
be cleared up and the perpetrators
identified and brought to justice.
In January of this year the company had
fired 185 workers in clear violation of
their labor rights; and in early March,
following an intense mobilization campaign
supported jointly by
IUF Latin America,
(the United Workers’ Federation) and
(the National Agro-Food Union of Colombia),
we reached an agreement with the company,
which included the reinstatement of all
After that, worker-management relations went
back to normal, with the company meeting all
the terms of the agreement. But last Monday,
rural workers were badly shaken by the
murder of our fellow unionist
in circumstances that are still unclear.
ever report any threats against him?
-No, he never reported any threats.