Alberto Román Acosta González, president of the Guacarí SINTRAINAGRO branch in Colombia’s Valle del Cauca, was fatally shot by gunmen on a motorcycle on July 1 while watching his son play football. SINTRAINAGRO members were the target of violent attacks during the 2015 cane cutters’ strike in Valle del Cauca. The union has been an outspoken critic of the Colombia-US Free Trade Agreement which has led to a severe deterioration of the sugar workers’ living conditions. IUF-affiliated SINTRAINAGRO has also strongly advocated for the peace process involving the government and the armed opposition.
His murder comes not long after President Juan Manuel Santos proudly announced that Colombia was no longer identified by the ILO as a country which violates workers’ rights. According to the government’s own Defensoría del Pueblo, the agency responsible for defending civil rights, 156 social activists and rights defenders were murdered between January 1, 2016 and March 1 of this year. Colombia remains a country in which union leaders and members remain at high risk.
The IUF has written to President Santos to demand a full and transparent investigation into this latest assassination and adequate measures to protect union leaders and members.