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Report: Colombia Most Dangerous for Union

June 10, 2003

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ Colombia was the most dangerous nation for labor unionists yet again last year, with 184 of the world’s 213 confirmed killings, according to an annual survey released Tuesday.

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions criticized what it called Colombia’s ``appalling toll of murder, beatings, disappearances and intimidation carried out with virtually total impunity.″

The report said union activists are targeted both by right-wing paramilitaries and leftist rebels who have battled government forces in Colombia’s civil war for four decades. Members of public sector unions including teachers and health workers were the most common victims.

Colombia has seen most of the world’s labor unionist killings for several years.

Other countries in Latin America accounted for 22 of the world’s 29 other trade unionist deaths.

They included two elderly union members who were bound and beheaded after a clash between unionists and a group working for a local landowner in rural Haiti; and Catalino Ramirez, who was tortured before his body was thrown in a river in Guatemala, where he was working with vendors evicted from a market.

The report said more than 10,000 workers were fired during workplace disputes in Latin America, the highest total for any region.

The report also named China, Myanmar, Congo, Zimbabwe and Belarus as countries with poor union rights records.

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions has affiliates in 150 countries and territories, which represent 158 million workers.

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On the Net:

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions: http://www.icftu.org

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