Date: Fri, 30 Oct 98 18:39:57 CST
From: Dennis Grammenos <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Unions claim seven activists killed during Colombian strike
Unions claim seven activists killed during Colombian strike
Agence France-Presse, Tuesday 27 October 1998
BOGOTA -- Seven organized labor leaders, including the vice-president of Colombia's largest union, were killed during a three-week strike by some 800,000 state employees, the unions said.
The strike ended Tuesday when the government agreed to pay hikes of 15 percent for the workers --one percent more than originally offered-- and suspended plans to privatize the Colombian Telecommunications Company and the National Training Service.
The unions leading the strike did not directly assess blame for the murders but some have hinted that the government was behind them.
One of the seven killed was Jorge Ortega, vice-president of the Central Workers Unit, who was shot by an unknown gunman last week just as negotiators saw a deal being reached.
President Andres Pastrana said that the murder was the work of "dark forces bent on destabilizing the country" and vowed to arrest the culprits.
Nevertheless, Ortega's death, coupled with violent clashes between striking workers and police, delayed the accord.
The most recent murder occurred late Monday when the president of the palm workers union, Jairo Cruz, was murdered on a busy street in San Alberto, some 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of the capital, the union said.
Late last week, Professor Macario Barrera, leader of the National Teachers Federation in southern Hula department, and Hortensia Alfaro of the health workers union in Cesar region on the north coast, were killed, the unions said.
Education and health sector workers had been among the most active of the strikers and schools and hospitals were crippled by the work stoppage, according to the Central Workers Unit.
In the first week of the strike, which began on October 7, three other local union leaders were killed, the unions said.
Copyright Agence France-Presse
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