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Colombia: Condemn death threats against leaders of the education union FECODE

On 26 October, death threats were sent to all 15 members of the Executive Committee of FECODE, the Colombian Federation of Education Workers (Federación Colombiana de Educadores), as well as to the President of the Trade Union Confederation CUT and former teacher and FECODE leader. The threats took the form of a funeral wreath with the words 'rest in peace'. Sixteen candles and 16 obituary notices with the name of each targeted union leader were also delivered to the home of Carlos Rivas, FECODE’s Secretary for legal affairs.

The threats come in the aftermath of national actions led by trade unions over the social, health, education and economic crisis in the country. FECODE is also leading an initiative to promote schools as zones of peace (territorios de paz) through community dialogues.

FECODE and the Escuela Nacional Sindical recorded 6,119 violations of the right to life, physical integrity and freedom of teacher unionists in Colombia between 1986 and 2016. These include 990 murders, 78 forced disappearances and 49 attempts against lives, in addition to over 3000 threats and over 1500 forced displacements.

Moves by the authorities to flexibilise labour, reduce the scope of collective bargaining and limit the right to strike have been paired with a systematic social media campaign of defamation and hatred targeting FECODE to try to silence teachers and their unions.