Colombia: Teacher trade unionist killed as violations continue

published 4 August 2010 updated 4 August 2010

Education International has expressed dismay as news emerged that another teacher trade unionist has been killed in Colombia. This latest murder brings to 17 the total number of teachers that have been killed in 2010 alone.

The teacher trade unionist, Fernando Loboa Aragon, from Santander de Quilchao in Cauca province, was killed on 31 July when he was leaving a higher education institution. Another teacher, Elcira Burgos, who was with him at the time, was also wounded.

EI and its member organisation, the Federación Colombiana de Educadores(FECODE), have condemned the murder and reiterated their demand on the government to increase protection for teachers and trade unionists in Colombia.

The violation of the right to life remains an all too common form of political violence in Colombia and teachers, especially those who are in the trade union movement, represent an unacceptably high proportion of the casualties.

The charge sheet against Colombia is staggering. Since 1991, more than 873 teachers have been reportedly killed. More than 3,000 have been threatened; 1,000 have been displaced, more than 70 have been forced to leave the country with their families, and 60 have simply disappeared without trace. Despite a protection programme being put in place by the Colombian authorities, teacher trade unionists continue to be targeted by paramilitary groups, armed guerillas and drug traffickers.

The teachers that have been killed mostly originate from the departments of Valle del Cauca, Antioquia, Cauca, Narino, Amazonas, Cordoba and Caqueta. In 2009, EI published a report on the extent of violence against teachers in Colombia. The report showed that these departments were where the killing of teachers was most prevalent.

FECODE has publicly denounced the killings to a range of officials in the Ministries of Education; Justice; Social Protection, and the Interior; as well as to the Public Defender and President of the Republic. The union had demanded that the Colombian authorities guarantee the free exercise of trade union activities and that they undertake all necessary investigations to break the chain of impunity that typically characterises the murder of teachers and trade unionists.

In addition to the prevalence of assassinations is the feeling of insecurity. The fact that 96 per cent of murders are neither investigated nor solved, creates a n unacceptable climate of impunity.