COLOMBIA’S peace agreement is the most valuable asset of the country’s people, but it is under threat from the “far right” and the rich, Congress heard yesterday.
Trade union leader Huber Ballesteros told TUC delegates in Brighton that the deal offered hope, but warned of the need to defend it from opposition attempts at sabotage.
He said he had arrived at TUC Congress “four years late” as he was jailed in 2013 for “defending the rights of the most unprotected and impoverished workers” in Colombia.
Mr Ballesteros spent almost four years in prison on trumped-up charges of terrorism related to his activities as vice-president of agricultural workers’ union Fensuagro.
But the thawing of relations between communist guerilla army the Farc and the Colombian government paved the way for his release.
“Having now regained my freedom, I have found a country full of hope because of the peace deal signed between the Farc insurgency and the Colombian government,” he told Congress.
But he added that the agreement faced bitter opposition from the “far right” in Colombia, which has vowed to “rip it up” as it threatens their interests.
The South American country remains a dangerous place for trade unionists, with right-wing death squads still operating — though the government denies this.
Mr Ballesteros told delegates that since the peace deal’s signing last November, 149 social and political activists have been killed and the opposition has tried to disrupt the passing of laws connected to the agreement in Colombia’s parliament.
He said international solidarity was vital in the struggle for his release. “Consider my freedom as your victory,” he told delegates.
“I reaffirm my commitment to continue fighting to defend the rights of workers and for the unity of the trade union movement across the whole world.”