Colombia: Farm workers co-operative's leader threatened with death

The leader of Colombia’s Blanquicet Farm Workers' Cooperative, Oscar Maussa has received death threats and Amnesty International believes that he and other members of the workers’ co-operative may be in grave danger.

Oscar Maussa – who is one of the leaders of the Blanquicet Farm Worker's Cooperative (COOTRAGROBLAN) which was set up by workers from La Esperanza farm seeking to improve their livelihoods – has reportedly fled the area after paramilitaries in the north-western department of Antioquia threatened to kill him.

In March 2007 Oscar Maussa sought help from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). In 2006 the IACHR urged the government to protect him and his family, as well as three other families that are part of COOTRAGROBLAN. Oscar Maussa has also submitted complaints of paramilitary activity to the authorities.

On 6 October in the Blanquicet area of Turbo Municipality, Antioquia Department, a man told a COOTRAGROBLAN member that the leader of the paramilitary group operating in the area was looking for Oscar Maussa to kill him.

Amnesty International's Trade Unions Manager, Shane Enright said:
"This threatening behaviour towards unionists and co-operative leaders in Colombia who dare to speak out against the land grabs and rights violations carried out by the paramilitaries is very concerning but sadly all too common.

“Colombia is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a trade unionist because of the lack of prosecutions of perpetrators of violence. This is why it’s so important that as many people as possible around the world to continue to call for better protection for Oscar and people in a similar position across Colombia.”

On 5 October six gunmen in military uniforms, who said they were paramilitaries, took up positions next to the La Esperanza Farm in Blanquicet.

They searched vehicles leaving the farm and asked the drivers to take them to various other places along the road. There is a heavy military presence in the region, but paramilitaries are still able to operate freely.

Shane Enright continued: “I would encourage as many people as possible to urgently appeal to the authorities in Colombia for full protection for Oscar and other trade unionists and agricultural workers who are in danger.”

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