CUT – The United Confederation of Workers
Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia

Rodrigo Rosco

Representative Rodrigo Rosco
Marylen (campesina organizer and our accompaniment) also contributed.

Rodrigo Rosco is with CUT's banking sector. He worked for the Bank of the Republic, which is comparable to the US Federal Reserve. He has worked for CUT for four years, especially in the protection of human rights.

The US has had many negative impacts on Colombia, both on the level of policy and via the SOA.

CUT sees this meeting with the delegation as important, as the beginning of a longstanding relationship.

CUT is the largest and most important workers' body. Functions as a Unified Workers' Central.
Historically there were three centrals:
1. the church and the conservatives,
2. the communists, and
3. the liberals.
These became a unified and pluralistic central. Their merging allowed them to become political protagonists. In fact, as soon as CUT came into existence, it became a major protagonist. Other centrals still existed, but CUT became dominant.

Within its 16-year history, there have been nearly 5000 members assassinated, mostly by paras and public security forces. So far in 2002, there have been 79 deaths.

CUT has a national presence, with regional offices, including one in Cauca. Each office has its own history of assassination.

Central Bogota office has asked offices to forget about tendency to act in own interest. Rather we are to take into account the interests of non-workers as well.

Nevertheless, despite the importance of CUT, we say the union movement in Colombia is in crisis. Membership is down.

Neoliberal legislation has moved toward making more flexible the companies' relationships to unions. In 1990, Law 50 came out to this end. It particularly affected contract labor, which needs to re-contract every year, and seeks to avoid the stigma of unionism in the face of job vulnerability.

But in spite of all the problems, we as CUT have moved into the role of protagonist on a national level, both in terms of workers' reforms and general social concerns. Four years ago at national conference, CUT moved to put its members into office.

Despite the fact that our Constitution protects our right to protest, the public security forces have repressed our marches. There are still companeros detained and disappeared -- we don't know where they are or if/where they were killed.

Delegation member and former POC Sister Dorothy Hennessey,

At the roots of these statistics of death, the central office decided to strengthen the human rights department:
1. strengthened the executive committee in Bogota;
2. became trained in how to become true defenders of human rights.

US has helped to create poverty.
1. We reject the World Bank plan which our government signed on to facilitate the paying of the debt;
2. We reject Plan Colombia which has no real social investment; it was always meant to be counter-insurgency. "It is a fumigation of life." We have seen the consequences against the civilian population in Cauca.

Each sub-director has its own legacy because of social and political factors. We are the only sub-director with a high school. There are times for classes throughout the week.
Morning -- children of CUT members;
Afternoon -- for workers without diplomas;
Saturday -- an accelerated program for workers who cannot come during the week, and also for some campesinos.

Cauca is one of the richest departments in terms of natural resources. Thus it bears the burden of prospective mega-projects. Cauca has the highest number of indigenous, as well as highest ethnic
Cauca is also one of the most forgotten departments by the state. Because they have been forgotten, the indigenous and campesinos are constantly organizing themselves. When they cut off the Pan-Am Hwy, the government must send officials to negotiate. When negotiations are not respected, the organizations re-mobilize !

Paras have managed, despite the heavy army presence, to commit massacres. Despite the high level of organization among the population, the paras have managed to fulfill 70-80% of their objectives in taking the southern corridor. "Certainly we cry for our fallen companeros, but we cry more for the impunity. The paras exist as a policy of the state. And impunity exists as a complementary policy of the state." This is how the state can get rid of opponents and distance themselves from it.

Hospital workers have not received their salary for 14 months; they are only receiving a down payment. Health care is no longer a right, but a privilege for the wealthy; it's a business. It's not unusual to see the poor die on the doorstep of the hospitals.

Blackboard in the classroom where we met included english translations for a class.
(click here or image above for a big view)

Infiltration is a mechanism of the paras where they pose as street vendors; they also pose as taxi drivers, and then have the radio system at their disposal. We know of more than 50 para taxi drivers. Our phones are also tapped. We as the CUT do not have any protection against infiltration.

Hospital workers' march was meant to protest the 50% cutback of services, and to call for the hospital director's resignation. 70% of hospital workers are receiving psychiatric care !

Rodrigo: "Globalization needs to be understood also in terms of globalizing unionism."
Marylen: "A globalization of solidarity."

Marylen: Whenever there is an era of mobilization, we find that any letters from the international community provide a significant benefit.

Rodrigo: Losing the services of this sole third-level hospital in the very area where the violence is being escalated affects the entire population, as well as the workers. E.g., recently parents seeking
neo-natal care, no longer available here, took their children to the hospital in Cali. En route, they were caught in crossfire between the armed actors.

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