U R G E N T - SINTAINAGRO leader killed - CIÉNAGA

With Guillermo Rivera

Cowardly murder

at Palo Alto establishment



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 Sirel, 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?

-Francisco Antonio Abello was providing security services at a water plant in the Palo Alto establishment owned by 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 Álvaro Uribe administration guarantee the safety of the workers and trade union leaders, and that the crime of our fellow worker Abello 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, CUT (the United Workers’ Federation) and UNAC (the National Agro-Food Union of Colombia), we reached an agreement with the company, which included the reinstatement of all dismissed workers.


After that, worker-management relations went back to normal, with the company meeting all the terms of the agreement. But last Monday, May 17, Colombia’s rural workers were badly shaken by the murder of our fellow unionist Francisco Abello in circumstances that are still unclear.


-Did Francisco Abello ever report any threats against him?

-No, he never reported any threats.




From Montevideo, Amalia Antúnez


May 24, 2010






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