Cartagena oil refinery strike ends after wage agreement

A union-led work stoppage at one of Colombia’s largest oil refineries, located in the northern city of Cartagena, has ended after a wage agreement was struck just three days after strikes began, media reported Monday.

Colombia’s national oil workers’ union, the Union Sindical Obrera (USO) successfully negotiated a pay increase of between 40 and 100 percent for employees of the REFICAR plant, according to its leader Redolfo Vecino. He said: “We reached a $104.5 million deal for salary increases.”

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Colombia tightens security cooperation with Russia and Sweden

Colombia’s defense minister announced an accord to strengthen security cooperation between his country and two European allies, Russia and Sweden, at an event in Stockholm on Saturday.

Speaking at the Global Strategic Review of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon announced agreements between the three countries to tighten collective efforts in the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking.

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Colombia`s sugarcane unions denounce labour abuses

Comment / News Review | By Peter Bolton

Four of Colombia’s sugarcane unions united at a press conference last month to denounce abuses against workers in the sugar industry. Sintrainagro, Sintracatorce, Sintracañazucol and Sinaltrainal met for the first time in years to sign a resolution which set forth common concerns faced by labour activists in the sugar sector and agreed to a set of recommendations and actions for the future.

The document made condemnations of “violence and impunity against union leaders” such as the assassination of Sintrainagro leader Carlos Pérez Muñóz which took place in January of this year. Muñóz’s death has been given as proof that unionist in Colombia are still under considerable risk from targeted violence. Despite a decrease in assassinations of unionists in recent years, Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists. The resolution also condemned continued threats against leaders and the failure of the National Protections Union to provide guarantees for their organizations.

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Anti oil giant Pacific Rubiales rally in Puerto Gaitán

Published On: Wed, Jul 31st, 2013 Comment | By Peter Bolton

Pacific Rubiales Energy has over the last decade grown to be the largest independent oil company in South America. A result of a myriad of mergers between different companies, it can trace its presence in Colombia back to 1982 and made big inroads in the country with the 2008 acquisition of Kappa Energy. The Toronto-based oil giant today extracts around 20% of Colombia’s oil and has surpassed BP and Occidental to become the country’s largest extractor of oil behind the state-owned Ecopetrol.

The multinational giant, however, has been mired in controversy over the last few years. In 2011 it was embroiled in a clash with the Colombian government over security (. The company threatened to bring a halt to production unless they were given guarantees over security. Next year in 2012 it was put under investigation for obstructing environmental regulation by failing to provide a environmental compliance report and giving false information to environmental authorities.

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Senior Semana journalist attacked

Published On: Sat, May 11th, 2013

Chief of Investigations at Colombia´s top weekly publication Semana, Ricardo Calderon, survived a gun attack in Tolima last week. Five shots were fired at his car while he had stopped to urinate before approaching a toll near the town of Fusagasuga late on Wednesday, May 1st.

The attack on such a high-profile journalist has reignited the debate about safety for members of the press in the country. Semana’s publisher released a statement saying that it was the first against one of its journalists in its 30 years of publishing. The Associated Press reported: “While provincial journalists are periodically assassinated in Colombia for their work, attacks on prominent journalists such as Calderon are extremely rare in Colombia.”

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Colombia´s May Day protests end in violence

Published On: Fri, May 3rd, 2013

May Day protests in Bogotá ended in violence on Wednesday with police firing tear gas, stun grenades and using water cannon tanks to disperse crowds in the Plaza de Bolivar and along Carrera Septima.

According to police, 65 people were arrested and three have been formally charged. The Unified Command Post of the Mayor announced that the march took place without mishap. However, others such as the Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners, an NGO based in Bogotá, have claimed that there were arbitrary arrests and harassment of peaceful protesters and journalists covering the event. The Ministry of Health has announced that 12 people, three of them policemen, were admitted with minor injuries.

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Colombia: Marcha Patriótica Gains Momentum in the Struggle for Peace with Social Justice

By Peter Bolton and Alejandro Gonzalez

Along Bogotá’s iconic Carerra Septima, a semi-pedestrianized street usually bustling only with local Bogotános buying from the stores and street vendors lining the thoroughfare, a very different sight was seen on April 9. A sea of people from all across Colombia marched with a common desire for an end to the country’s armed conflict. They lined the streets in a lively procession, including dancing, music and performance. Countless people waving flags, holding banners, and wearing symbolic T-shirts marched to the city’s famous Plaza de Bolívar, united by a common desire for peace.

One of the largest mobilizations for peace in recent memory, the march was planned to coincide with and support talks taking place in Havana between the Colombian government and the armed rebel group FARC. The talks, which began last year in Oslo, before moving to Havana, are of huge significance, given the hard-line stance taken by Colombia’s former president Álvaro Uribe, and considering that the current president, Juan Manuel Santos, a former defense minister in Uribe’s government, has committed such a bold about-face by engaging with the FARC. Significant gains have already been made. For example, a chief government negotiator recently announced that an agreement had been reached on the central issue of land.

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