Credit: Jardin, Colombia | Pedro Szekely | Flickr
Credit: Jardin, Colombia | Pedro Szekely | Flickr

Colombia: unions demand Government action following the murder of an indigenous teacher

published 26 October 2018 updated 29 October 2018

The teachers’ union FECODE has reported the murder to various government bodies and demands that action be taken to investigate the case and prosecute those responsible.

The murder of José Domingo Ulcué Collazos in the Colombian department of Cauca earlier this week is just one in a growing list of attacks against civilians. A total of 173 social leaders have been murdered so far this year, 31 of them killed since Iván Duque won the Colombian presidency in August.

As reported to authorities by the Asociación de Institutores y Trabajadores de la Educación del Cauca(ASOINCA), on 22 October, a member of FECODE, José Domingo Ulcué, was held and executed by armed men while on his way home. He worked as an ethics and agriculture teacher in the Munchique Los Tigres indigenous reserve. Ulcué worked at a school named after Benjamin Dindicué, an indigenous leader who, in 1979, was killed at his home in front of his wife and children after having received many threats.

This latest assassination has prompted a reaction from teachers’ union FECODE, a member of Education International (EI). In a letter signed by Nelson J. Alarcón Suárez, president of FECODE, the union demands that an official investigation be launched in order to determine the facts. In their communiqué, FECODE decries the attack as taking place in a political context of violence and insecurity: the statement references a “criminal wave of threats, forced displacement and murder of teachers and social leaders throughout the nation”. The union is also urging authorities to adopt measures to protect and uphold civilians’ right to life and safe participation in all teaching and union activities.

Education International has also condemned the murder of Ulcué and joins FECODE in demanding that authorities open an investigation. “In accordance with ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, the government has the duty to guarantee safety, life and free exercise of rights for indigenous teachers, community leaders and their families”, declared Haldis Holst, EI Deputy General Secretary and  the officer responsible for EI’s work in the areas of human and trade union rights. “The facts must be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators duly punished in accordance with the law”.