( Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN volunteer translator)
On Friday December 21, 2007, at 4 pm in the township of Los Santos Santander the mayor elected for the period beginning 2008, Orlando Arenas Mendoza, was detained for corruption and ties to the paramilitary groups, while his brother, Carlos Mendoza Arenas, the mayor immediately preceding him, managed to escape. He was detained on December 24 for the same charges as his brother. This was achieved through the struggle of, and insistent denunciations by, ASTDEMP and the Guayacanes Corporation to the Prosecutor’s office 20 in the city of Bucaramanga. When they were arrested they threatened ASTDEMP, saying that the union would be paid back, that this would not end here and that they are not alone.
This threat worries us a good deal, since our organization defends the rights of its members and denouncing the corruption in the townships of Santander and Los Santos has meant facing threats of death in writing and by phone, torture, and stigmatization to the point that we are the military objective of the paramilitary group called the Black Eagles, according to a pamphlet sent to the union office on October 16, 2007.
The paramilitary group called Black Eagles, for unknown reasons, alleges that their interests are suffering because of the charge of corruption and also popular vindicative struggle. They threaten that there will be reprisals against ASTDEMP and its members, who, according to the paramilitary groups’ pamphlet, will determine that these reprisals not reach extremes. They will have to respect the prohibitions, that is: leaving the Department, not denouncing the mayors’ corruption, and accepting all violations of human and labor rights that they carry out against workers and the population in general.
1. In the name of the Santander Association of Public Workers ASTEDEMP, we ask that the federal Attorney General, before whom we have denounced these facts; the Ministries of Social Protection and the Interior; the Public Defender; the federal Procurator’s office, and the authorities; immediately investigate these threats, end them, and sanction those responsible, in order not to have to lament afterwards facts that have already been put forward by ASTEDEMP.
2. That the Colombian government offer guarantees of safety to members in the township of Los Santos Santander, in order to preserve the life and well-being of our compañeros and allow them to continue exercising the free right to association, as our political constitution and international law guarantee.
3. Also, we ask all social and popular organizations that they urgently demand of the official offices mentioned that they investigate and sanction those responsible.
4. We ask that the national and international human rights movements stand in solidarity with ASTDEMP and its leaders, especially the compañeros Alix Rodríguez Uribe, Luis Enrique Pérez Pérez, Benito Almeida Peñaloza, and Wilson Mantilla, and that they express the need for immediate protection so that they, fulfilling their obligation in the exercise of union rights, participate in efforts to solve the problems presented legally and legitimately to the authorities and diverse sectors of the population; in this case, the population of the township of Santos Santander.
Please send urgent letters to the following e-mails and addresses:
Presidencia de la República Central Unitaria de Trabajadores CUT
Dr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez Calle 35. No. 7-25 piso 9,
Cra. 8 No..7-26, Palacio de Nariño, Tel. 3237550. Bogotá
Santa fe de Bogotá. E-mail: email@example.com
Fax: (+57 1) 566.20.71
Vicepresidencia de la República
Dr. Francisco Santos
Programa Presidencial de Derechos Humanos y de Derecho Internacional Humanitario.
Dr. Carlos Franco
Calle 7 N° 5-54
TEL: (+571) 336.03.11
FAX: (+57 1) 337.46.67
E- mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos
Representante Permanente de la OIT en Colombia
Dr. Marcelo Castro Fox
Dirección: Av. 82. No. 12-18. Oficina: 504.
Teléfono: 623 75 86 -Bogotá D.C.
E-mail: email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>
Procuraduría General de la Nación
Dr. Edgardo José Maya Villazón
Carrera 5 No. 15-80
Santa Fe de Bogotá.
Fax: (+57 1)342.97.23
E-mail: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Fiscalía General de la Nación
Dr. Mario Aguarán
Diagonal 22 B No.52-01
Santa fe de Bogotá.
Fax: (+571) 570 20 00
E-mail: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Unidad de Derechos Humanos y de Derecho Internacional Humanitario
E – mail: email@example.com
Defensoría del Pueblo
Dr. Volmar Antonio Pérez Ortiz.
Calle 55 No. 10-32
Santa Fe de Bogotá.
Fax: (+571) 640 04 91
Bucaramanga, December 25, 2007
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621