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The Socialist 19 July 2007 |
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'War crimes' accusations by mine workers
A FEDERAL court in Birmingham, Alabama, is trying the US mining company Drummond for war crimes. The company is accused of financing a right-wing paramilitary group to murder three Colombian trade union leaders in March 2001.
According to witnesses, a busload of coalminers from the La Loma mine was stopped by paramilitaries who dragged two union leaders, Valmore Locarno and Victor Orcasita (members of the Sintramienergetica union), off the bus and shot them dead. A third union leader, Gustavo Soler who replaced Locarno was found dead in October 2001.
The union at the time was fighting Drummond over the dreadful safety conditions in the mine after an accident had killed three workers.
Witnesses have testified that the mine's president, Augusto Jimenez had previously threatened union leaders saying: "A fish that swims with its mouth open soon dies."
Drummond, which 'earns' around $2 billion a year, has denied colluding with paramilitaries in the murders of union members but, recently, the banana company Chiquita admitted paying gunmen to protect its Colombia operations. Sintramienergetica has accused five companies, including Coca Cola, of hiring thugs to intimidate union members.
Colombia with its civil war and narco-terrorism is the most violent country in the world for trade unionists. Nearly 90% of trade union leaders killed worldwide die in this country.
The Colombia miners have got the backing of the miners' union in Alabama where 2,000 miners lost their jobs in the 1980s after Drummond started investing in Colombia.