On 15 February the notorious ESMAD ‘anti-strike’ police attacked a community and workers’ picket line by the Tauramena BP plant in Casanare, Colombia.
Three workers were hospitalised and several children affected heavily by tear gas. Workers at the BP plant at Tauramena, part of the Cusiana oil field in Casanare, Colombia have been protesting since 22 January 2010 for improved wages.
The department of Casanare is one of the most prosperous oil producing regions in Colombia. For more than 20 years multinational corporation BP has been exploiting this natural resource. As is common in our country, the presence of extractive projects is accompanied by state depredations and a strong paramilitary presence. During all of this time the workers and farmers of the region have had to bear all manner of assaults and human rights violations. Paramilitary groups imposed labour conditions in the corporations, those who resisted were assassinated, as occurred to several campesino and community leaders in the department.
In 2009, the Oil Workers Union (Unión Sindical Obrera – USO) managed to organise a union branch in Tauramena. From that moment USO initiated a series of actions demanding rights for the workers and the communities in the region, supporting social processes that were already under way.
The union has been leading a peaceful protest since 22 January 2010 demanding that [oil pipeline consortium] OCENSA and BP improve wages and working conditions for the workers at Tauramena.
Due to the workers’ and community struggle a significant advance was made in terms of wages and the reintegration of some sacked workers. The employers committed to holding talks this Tuesday 16 February to discuss the outstanding points; on its side the union stated its willingness to negotiate and to lift the protest action once talks commenced, in the knowledge that it has been repeatedly deceived.
Then in the morning hours of Monday 15 February a squad of ESMAD [anti-mutiny – ‘robocop’] police attacked the workers and local people, not respecting the children who were just then making their way to school. As a result of this brutal aggression three workers were injured and several children contaminated by tear gas.
In the face of this we ask:
1. That the Colombian government of Álvaro Uribe insists that the oil companies in Casanare – BP, OCENSA and SAR ENERGY S.A., – respect the employment rights of the workers, that they work in dignified conditions.
2. That the Colombian government of Álvaro Uribe provides the necessary guarantees for the free exercise of the rights to trade union association and social protest.
3. That the Attorney General (Fiscalía General de la Nación) and the competent state authorities investigate the links between paramilitarism and oil exploitation in Casanare. Evidential proofs of the violations of human rights were presented to the Peoples Permanent Tribunal, but no state investigation is known.
4. We appeal to national and international unions, and to organizations defending human rights, to reject these aggressions and to be vigilant with this process of social resistance.
USO National Human Rights Commission.
15 February 2010