The army and the police are condemned by the court for the exile of Alvaro Romero, leader of the Sinaltrainal Union

[Translated by Steve Cagan, CSN Volunteer Translator]

The Dispute Tribunal of Valle [Valle del Cauca, a Colombian Pacific coast department—SC], in a decision on March 19, 2015, declared that the Army and the National Police are responsible for the displacement and exile that were suffered by the union leader Alvaro Romero, caused by the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) [United Colombian Self-Defense—the paramilitaries—SC] in 1999, for which the State will have to indemnify him for the harm this did to him.

The decisions states:“The Ministry of Defense and the Army, and the National Police, failed in their duty to provide protection and security, once they knew the danger the plaintiff was in because of the activity that he carried out as a union and civic leader and failed to carry out the actions necessary to prevent the harm that in fact happened, that is, his forced displacement.”

In truth, in 1999 and 2000, the context in the region was not the best: The AUC was threatening the civilian population, accusing them of being auxiliaries of the insurgency through pamphlets and grafitti, and murdering more than half a hundred people in the municipalities of Buga, Bugalagrande, San Pedro, Tuluá and Andalucía, [in the department of] Valle del Cauca. But the strategy was intended to annihilate the rural and urban organizations that sought better conditions of life for the communities.

A number of the companions of Alvaro Romero in the social and union movements, like Jesus Orlando Crespo Cardenas and Roberth Cañarte Montealegre, of the Union of Public Employees of the Municipality of Bugalagrande—SINTRAMUNICIPIO—were murdered and others suffered exile.

The union leader was the victim of threats and attacks by the AUC, which acted in strict collaboration with the civilian, military and police authorities.

On one occasion, in August of 1999, when the union activist was being followed by two people, he asked for protection form the police—in vain, since he met the people following him in the station. The decision says: “It is undoubtable that the failure to defend the plaintiff, required because of the threats against his life, was the determining factor in his decision to seek asylum.”

During the criminal trial case, in File 1100313104056200800028 of the ILO, the paramilitary leader Elkin Casarrubia Posada said, “Alvaro Romero did indeed have problems with the organization…they told us that he was a military target of the Calima Bloc…and that if he did not leave the area he would also be executed. Equally, in File 110013104911-2008-00005, the paramilitary confessed, “People in the armed forces collaborated with us with information and supplies; the administration also collaborated with us.”

Alvaro Romero worked at the Nestlé of Colombia company, with its headquarters in Bugalagrande, for twenty-two years. In that period he occupied the posts of treasurer, vicepresident, member of the grievance committee, president of the regional structure of SINALTRAINAL [National food workers’ union—SC] and president of the national executive board. He also belonged to the Valle del Cauca branch of the CUT [United Worker’s Federation—one of the Colombian labor federations—SC] He was also an organizer of regional civic activities of aimed at improving the social conditions of the communities.

Taking up the doctrine of the Sistema Interamericano de Protección de los Derechos Humanos [Interamerican System for Protection of Human Rights, with seats in Washington and San José, Costa Rica—SC], the decision that condemns the State for the forced displacement and exile of Alvaro Romero points out that: “The apparent convergence of interests between the paramilitary groups that attack unions and official actions gives fuel to the assertions according to which there are state agents directly involved in the violent attacks against unionists, or who encourage and support those attacks….It has similarly been suggested that the paramilitary groups get the information necessary to carry out their attacks against union activists from the state security forces.”

“The State is therefore responsible for the violations of the rights to life and physical safety of those union activists, as well as their right to free association, protected by Article 16 of the Convention.”


Cali, April 9, 2015

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