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Colombia - A new solidarity?

Kevin Keating

12 March 2006

On Thursday March 9th in Trinity College Harry Browne (journalist and anti-war activist) and Senator David Norris (Joycean scholar, anti war and gay rights compaigner) launched the "The Profits of Extermination. How U.S. Corporate Power is destroying Colombia". The event was organised by Colombia Solidarity Network and Trinity One World Society

In this proxy book launch Harry and David agree to substitute for the author, Francisco Ramirez Cuellar, President of Sintraminercol (The Miners Union of Colombia). Francisco Ramirez Cuellar is at present in Columbia and several attempts have been made to assassinate him since the book was published. 

Forty people attended the launch, including members of Socialist Democracy, the Irish Socialist Network, the Latin American Solidarity Centre and Trinity One World centre. Thy listened intently as an outline of the book was presented and a vigorous message presented.  Harry Browne summed up many people’s reactions when he said that the book was an inspirational guide to action that no militant should be without.  Both a weakness and a strength of the meeting was the absence of the main groups of the revolutionary left.  The absence of any working-class force is a weakness, but it was negated by the generally rightward drift of the current left organisations and their unwillingness take up issues such as the Columbia.  In their absence the presence of a new layer of youth willing to carry on a boycott campaign and apply a new imagination to the tasks of solidarity is to be welcomed.

The following text was released to the meeting from the author of the book: Francisco Ramírez Cuellar, President SINTRAMINERCOL, General Secretary FUNTRAENERGETICA

To the Brothers and Sisters of the Social Organisations in Ireland.

On behalf of the workers in the mining sector of Colombia I wish to extend our warmest greetings to this book launch. First of all we wish to thank the Colombia Solidarity Network delegation that visited our country last June and July. Such visits allow us to show you first hand the grave situation facing the trade union movement and the communities and for you to see first hand the challenges we face and hopefully encourage you to continue in your internationalist solidarity.

It gives us great pleasure to know that you are launching our book The Profits of Extermination as this allows us to continue with our investigations and to mobilise the community and trade union organisations, the victims of the attacks by the Colombian government, the multinationals and the international financial institutions.

Unfortunately since we published the book the situation in the mining and energy producing regions of Colombia has not improved. Currently 87 of every 100 people forcibly expelled from their land come from such regions. The total number for displaced people in Colombia is in excess of 3 million in a country of barely 44 million. 80% of all human rights violations and 71% of the murders of trade unionists take place in mining and energy regions.

Neither have the attacks on our union ceased. The government , at the behest of the mining multinationals has ordered the closure of the state mining company Minercol which we work for. This company regulates the mining industry, regulation will pass into the hands of local authorities that are notoriously corrupt and the mining companies themselves. Our union will aslo cease to exist. It is our union that has fought tooth and nail against the hand over of our natural resources to the lowest bidder and our union which has fought to expose the murder and massacres that take place in mining areas. The aim is to remove a voice which places obstacles in the path of the mulinationals.

Ireland is a small country but we still need your solidarity. 88% of Irelands’ imports from Colombia consist of coal. The total amount is 38.5 million euros a year, a small but not insignificant amount. Colombian coal comes largely from open cast pits in the north of the country. Whole towns have been cleared away to allow the mine to expand. The Colombia Solidarity Network delegation had the opportunity to meet with an indigenous woman twelve of whose family members were butchered in the most cruel and inhumane fashion. The massacre is linked to coal interests, coal that eventually arrives in Ireland and the rest of the European Union. Coal is our largest export to the European Union. Our struggle in not unlinked to yours. Not just because the coal arrives in Europe or that the coal companies are European as well as US, but because we have common cause against an enemy who will go as as far as they can, where ever they can. If we lose you also lose as the threshold of acceptable behaviour is lowered. If we win, so do you. There is no half way house between murder and the victim. The choice is stark you must take the side of the victims, even if it means opposing “European” interests. The profits of these companies are as the title of the book says the profits of extermination. There can be no obsfuscation of the issues.

We would invite you to come to Colombia to get to know the situation here; to see for yourselves the real causes of violence in this country. Far from the myths of Pablo Escobar type figures, you will see a country pushed to the limit in the name of multinational greed. We need your solidarity.


Francisco Ramírez Cuellar


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