06 September 2019 – Education International (EI) member FECODE – the largest union in Colombia – has been targeted by paramilitary threats made against its executive committee. Educators from around the world call on the Colombian government to do its duty: ensure the safety of educators and protect schools as territories of peace.
On the 3rd of September, the FECODE executive committee received pamphlets with death threats from the paramilitary group the Black Eagles (Águilas Negras). The threats were directed specifically at Nelson Alarcón, FECODE President; Martha Alfonso, Second Vice-President; Domingo Ayala, Treasurer; María Eugenia Londoño, Secretary for Gender, Inclusion and Equality; Carlos Rivas, Secretary for Legal and Labour Affairs; and Isabel Olaya, Secretary for Organising and Union Education. On the same day, similar threats were received by the FECODE branch in the region of Cauca.
The pamphlets demanded that FECODE cancel its upcoming Caravan for Peace, Democracy and Life scheduled for 6-8 September. The threats also come in the wake of a series of strikes organised by FECODE and calling for better health coverage and conditions for educators in Colombia, the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement and better protection for social activists who have been the victims of violence since the agreement was signed.
Over 1,000 teachers and unionists have been killed in Colombia in the past 25 years. The violence escalated in 2018 when at least 13 teacher trade unionists were murdered. The terrible trend continues in 2019: 700 teachers have been threatened according to FECODE President Nelson Alarcón, with the most recent slaying taking place in August in the region of Cauca.
Strong international support for Colombian educators
Education International and its Latin America Regional Committee have expressed their grave concerns for the chronic lack of safety of teachers and unionist in Colombia and have addressed official letters to Colombia’s President Duque, requesting that the government protect schools as territories of peace and educators as defenders of life, democracy and human rights.
David Edwards, Education International General Secretary, stated: “We utterly condemn the threats made against FECODE. It is completely unacceptable for teachers and unionists, people who reject any form of violence, to be threatened with death. We call on the Colombian government to do its duty: investigate these threats, ensure the security of educators, protect schools as sanctuaries and territories of peace.”
Hugo Yasky, President of the Education International Latin America Regional Committee, and Vice-President Fatima Silva are currently in Bogota in solidarity with our Colombian colleagues and working closely with FECODE leadership.