At 7 am on April 20, various armed men with machine guns entered the home of the brother of Coca-Cola union leader Efrain Guerrero’s wife in Bucaramanga, and fired indiscriminately at the family. Guerrerro’s brother-in-law, Gabriel Remolina and his wife Fanny were shot dead. Three of their children were wounded. Robinson Remolina, one of the three wounded children, died later.
This is not the first time that the families of Sinaltrainal union leaders have been the victims of such violence. This happened in the context of the labor conflict against Coca Cola, where union leaders are trying to avoid the firing of workers due to closing production lines. The union is also negotiating a new convention with the company which was presented in March of this year. In addition, shortly before the killings, lawyers contracted by the Coke workers had announced that they had filed a case against Coca-Cola in the United States, for acts of anti-union violence in Colombia.
During the union’s protest, group affiliated with the country’s most notorious paramilitaries, the army-backed AUC, released a statement declaring war on the union leaders and promising to “finish them all off” if they do not leave the country in three months.
Paramilitaries acting with at least tacit approval of Colombian Coca-Cola officials are suspected in the murder of seven Coca-Cola unionists in recent years and the kidnapping and torture of others. About 3,600 Colombian union members have been killed in the last two decades, at the hands of right-wing paramilitaries and security forces.
In December 2003 paramilitaries arrived at the home of Sinaltrainal union leader Rafael Carvajal in Cúcuta and threatened that they would assassinate his family if he did not turn down his complaints against the soft drink giant, who had unjustly suspended him from his work contract several times. On the same day the son of national Sinaltrainal President Javier Correa was kidnapped in Bucaramanga, but was later released.
Letter written April 21, 2004 by Monique Pongracic-Speier, member of LRWC.