By Charity Ryerson, Program Coordinator, U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project
Last Tuesday’s announcement that four Colombian soldiers had been sentenced for the killing of three trade union leaders in Arauca was welcomed by many in the global trade union movement, including Colombia’s largest labor federation, the CUT.
The three leaders, Jorge Prieto, Leonel Goyeneche, and Hector Alirio Martinez, were killed on August 5th, 2004 by members of Colombia’s 18th Brigade. Since 2002, this brigade had been receiving training in counterinsurgency from the US Special Forces to protect an oil pipeline that is partially owned by US-based Occidental Petroleum. The soldiers reportedly stripped the union leaders down to their underwear before killing them. They then put guns in their hands to create the illusion that they died in battle.