archivos de los protestos globales

Date: Mon, 8 Jul 2002
Super Urgent Action! - SOS from SINTRAEMCALI


I.      SOS LETTER from BERENICE CELEYTA  5th July 2002

ANNEXES (pp 4-13)

IV.     RIGHT OF CORRECTION SINTRAEMCALI letter to El País, 5thJuly 2002
V.      THE COUNCILLORS SHOW THEIR FACE El País 30th June 2002
VII.    FACTS AND SCRAPS  El País 5th July 2002

I.      SOS LETTER from BERENICE CELEYTA  5th July 2002
Dear friends,

We write to you profoundly worried by the permanent threats, followings,
and labeling of SINTRAEMCALI.

Right now, in the night hours there are several suspicious vehicles
passing in front of the union's headquarters. These incidents follow
claims made by several Cali councillors charging the trade union with
being infiltrated by the insurgency.

These claims were published in El País newspaper and they put at high
risk the security of all the workers, actvistts and leaders of the
union. We append to this e-mail the formal complaint made against El
País, and we urge you to make urgent actions. This is an SOS call
against those who have stigmatised us and put our lives at risk.

Yours sincerely,

Berenice Celeyta
5th July 2002


Sintraemcali Comrades,

Once again we are victims of being marked out by El País newspaper and
the political and corrupt class of Santiago de Cali, who in an
irresponsible manner to which they are accustomed, have once again
stigmatised our organisation as having links with the subversion
[guerilla movements].

In the last week El País has dedicated four pages and an editorial in
attacking us. These attacks the clear purpose of rendering illegitimate
and illegal the leadership and the struggle that we have given to defend
our commonwealth of the caleños, thereby setting the scene for the
privatisation of EMCALI  E.I.C.E.

Mr. Diego Martnez Lloreda, the newspaper's sub-director of information
argues, in his editorial of 5th July entitled "Facts and Scraps", that
"it is totally false that members of Sintraemcali  have never have been
in clandestinitity ... they wore balaclavas to hide their faces when
they took the EMCALI tower, is that not to shield themselves in
clandestinity? ... it is undeniable that the union has shown behaviour
that borders on the subversive ... the two occupations of the CAM tower
are the biggest example of this type of behaviour ...".

Comrades, as defenders of EMCALI E.I.C.E., today, more than ever, we
must show that we have sufficient civil values to defend our
corporation, that the attacks from the Lloreda family, from Mr.
Fernández  de Soto, ex-Mayor Ricardo Cobo Lloreda, from councillors
Maria Piedad Echeverri, Marcos Len Villegas and all the political class
of the region. Rather than discourage the cause of the Cali people, it
strengthens us and clearly shows, as we have been saying, just who it is
behind the selling off and economic blood letting of the corporation.

The dignity that has been shown by this union and its workers are an
example to the whole world of resistance against neoliberalism, to the
International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation, and to all
those who want that the rich get ever richer while the poor become ever
poorer.  In the case of the recent uprisings in Argentina, why are they
not justified? Why do hunger, misery , social crisis and the deaths
caused by privatisation  seem so little to the masters of the neoliberal

Our trade union organisation has shown to the nation and the entire
world our high degree of commitment, so that EMCALI should continue
being an Industrial and Commercial State Corporation, to stop the sell
off of public services, to demand of the government that it fulfils its
financial obligations  to the PTAR project [waste water treatment
plant], and above all to prevent the handover of our resources to the
multinationals and the super-rich of this region.

With the leadership and struggle carried out by SINTRAEMCALI with the
people of Cali, it has been very evident both the viability and
profitability of EMCALI E.I.C.E. That is why comrades we will continue
struggling, we will defend to the final consequences   the agreements
achieved on 29th January, with which we gained a new victory against
neoliberalism and the corrupt elite of this region.

WEDNESDAY 10th JULY AT 5.00pm, so that we prepare ourselves to go out on
a massive protest against the declarations of El País newspaper, that
once more has place a tombstone around our necks, in an attempt to
silence our voice of protest against privatisation.

Politicians who want to appear as midwives to the future are no more
than merchants of death, hunger and misery.

We shall not be moved from the struggle... we shall not be moved from
defending EMCALI E.I.C.E., we shall not be moved from the cause of
social justice and dignity.

7th July 2002

8th July 2002

This is the most serious Urgent Action we have issued to date. The
situation is even more acute than at the height of the occupation.

The lives of Lucho Hernández, Berenice Celeyta and all our dear friends
in SINTRAEMCALI have been deliberately put in even greater danger by a
sustained campaign by El País newspaper, the mouth piece of Cali's
elite. Everyone in Colombia knows that to mark out somebody as being
involved with 'the subversion' or 'the insurrection', by which is meant
the guerilla movements, is to mark them out as a legitimate target for
paramilitary assassination.

Despite SINTRAEMCALI's emphatic denials of any link with the guerillas,
El País has insistently pushed the accusation without providing any
evidence. The newspaper's campaign suggests a high level decision to
finish off SINTRAEMCALI. Immediate international solidarity action is

A second wing of the attack is destabilisation lead by the US dominated
Inter-American Development Bank. This organisation has been a consistent
supporter of privatisation, its intervention is designed to prevent a
negotiated solution with private banks that leaves EMCALI in the public
sector, that is to use debt terms as a lever to force privatisation.

We will work with other supporters of SINTRAEMCALI to organise an
emergency delegation to the Colombian embassy in London, most probably
on Thursday this week. If any of you can join this delegation please
contact me immediately.

In the meantime we urge our readers to WRITE IMMEDIATELY and send
messages to El País, the Colombian embassy, and to SINTRAEMCALI.

Members of the occupation hid their faces for the obvious reason that
they feared reprisals.  A fear all too sadly vindicated since the
occupation with the assassinations of JULIO GALEANO, a community leader
who supported the occupation on 11th February, and SINTRAEMCALI member
ORLANDO ARENAS MARIN on 18th May, on both occasions the assailants were

Your message to El País should additionally point out that:

· The hostility and lack of objectivity in its reporting, including
specifically that nowhere in all the El País reports does the newspaper
acknowledge the merit of SINTRAEMCALI's case or the strength of popular
support SINTRAEMCALI has united around it against privatisation.

· SINTRAEMCALI enjoys increasing international recognition as an
inspiring example of resistance against the privatisation of public
services. The bravery of union members has saved water, electricty and
telephone services for the people of Cali, and as registered in the
Agreement of

· The standards of journalism that allow the repeated accusations
against the union that could leave to the assassination of any one of
its members without full right of reply are appalling. They indicate a
form of 'dirty journalism' use to justify Colombia's notorious dirty

· The newspaper should the union's reply to accusations made against it
and issue a front page apology (see IV below).

Your message to the ambassador should additionally call on the Colombian
authorities to:

· press ahead with the full implementation of the 30th January Agreement
including the agreed investigation into corruption (most especially the
allegations of links between former managers and local politicians);

· place the whole of the SINTRAEMCALI's union under protective measures;

· implement SINTRAEMCALI's constitutional guarantees against false

· allow independent international observers to accompany SINTRAEMCALI
bearing witness directly to the international community.

El País Email:

Dr Victor G Ricardo, Colombian Embassy, 3 Hans Crescent, London SW1X
Fax: 020 7581 1829 Email:

The British Foreign Office E-mails:
Minster of State Dennis Macshane:
Shiela Bramley:
Jeremy Hobbs:
Jack McIver:


Colombia Solidarity Campaign:



5th July 2002

Director of El País newspaper

Ref:  Right of correction  founded in  article of the National

With indignation we see again how the newspaper that you direct has
irresponsibly leant itself  to stigmatising, falsely accusing and
injuring our Trade Union Organisation, worsening the high risks for the
leaders and activists of SINTRAEMCALI. We have been victims in the last
2 years of 8 assassinations, attempted disappearance of two workers,
assassination attempts and permanent threats.

Our Trade Union Organisation has shown to the nation and the whole world
its high degree of commitment to defend EMCALI as an Industrial and
Commercial State Corporation.  With the leadership brought by
SINTRAEMCALI, the viability and profitability of the corporation has
been evident, a situation that seems to upset those with an interest in
privatising it and handing it over to the multinationals.

Unfortunately the spoken and written media in our region has, rather
than analysing the root problems in our country such as the
privatisation of public service corporations, education and health , the
violation of human rights, corruption and growing impunity, continued in
attacking defenders of human, labour and social rights, and state
services, trying to relate their activities with the insurgent
organisations, thereby labelling and stigmatising social, trade union
and popular leaders. The claims contribute to deepening the climate of
violence and inexorably push us further away from any serious proposal
of peace with social justice for Colombia. On the contrary, these
methods contribute to the criminalisation of social protest, which in
the last year has lamentably left 170 trade union leaders assassinated,
and so far this year another 78 victims.

Señor FERNÁNDEZ de SOTO  in the article published on Sunday 30th June
2002, page  11, under the title COUNCILLORS SHOW THEIR FACE, it was

"... the councillors participating in the forum questioned whatever had
allowed Sintraemcali to assume administrative control of the Municipal
Corporation Emcali, to the point that, according to them, the union has
to be consulted on every decision.

At the same time some councillors denounced the infiltration of
guerillas into the Emcali workers union, they affirmed that many of the
pressures that been brought were to prevent and advance in seeking
definite solutions."

Apart from being irresponsible and foolhardy these claims put our lives
in grave danger and flagrantly violate the constitutional norms  and
laws of the Republic, in which are promulgated fundamental rights such
as life, security, equality, conscience, honour and good reputation, and
denying the rights of association and demonstration, which has been
stigmatised through your publication.   (Titulo I , Art. 11, 13, 15, 18,
21, 37, 38 and 39 amongst others)

Equally this is in full breach of directive No. 07 of 12 November  1999,
in which the President of the Republic in his general c consideration,
condemned threats, attacks and assassination attempts against members of
human rights non-governmental organisations,  and ogf whatever other
social, union, political, civic, academic or community organisation and
ordered in his first point:

"All public servants to abstain from

(i) questioning the legitimacy of human rights organisations and their
members who act in accordance with the laws;

(ii) make claims that disqualify, harass or incite the harassment of
such organisations,

(iii) issue public or private declarations that stigmatise the relevant
work of these organisations".

According to your publication of last Sunday señor Marcos Len Villegas
assured that from the 1998 tower occupation - that obliged the
withdrawal of the reform - Sintraemcali had started to work amongst the
rank and file workers, and to "exercise pressure inside the corporation
on behalf of some subversive sectors". You told readers that señora
Maria Piedad Echeverry warned "that elements of the subversion are
exercising pressure inside the corporation".

These claims that you expressed as made by some councillors attack the
legitimacy of our union organisation and increase the risk that all we
workers and defenders EMCALI E.I.C.E are currently running.

Besides, the presidential directive has a second point:

"To all public servants to abstain from false imputations or accusations
that compromise the security, as much as the honour and the good name of
human rights organisations and their members. In the case of knowledge
of a crime committed by members of an organisation, it is a duty to
inform the competent judicial authority."

The fact of relating directly and senselessly SINTRAEMCALI with the
insurgency and giving it out as public knowledge is to sentence to death
each and every one of the activists and leaders of our organisation who,
in spite of the corrupt enemies of justice and equity, we will keep on
defending the social interests and the common wealth of our fellow
citizens of Cali and the Cauca Valley.

We demand the publication of the full text of this letter and that on
the front page of your newspaper you rectify the false accusations made
against SINTRAEMCALI,  because while it is a right of any society that
calls itself democratic that there be information, it is also certain
that this right has its limits in respect of human dignity.

You know that as public servants they [the councillors] call for
respect, and that they must respect the rights of our members. That they
are responsible by action or omission for fulfilling these duties in the
exercise of their functions. And that private bodies such as yourself as
representative of El País newspaper are responsible to the authorities
for infringing the Constitution and the laws.

We make you responsible for your newspaper's information, and the
irresponsibility of the councillors  (who without any legal support made
these false accusations public last Sunday in El País), and for whatever
action is carried out against the physical and psychological well being
of the workers of EMCALI E.I.C.E., the union's leaders and activists and
their families.

Without further ado I send this to you,



from El País 30th June

On Sunday 30th June El Pais carried extensive reports of a forum it held
with seven of Cali's twenty-one city councillors, in which they
discussed their perspectives for improving services to the people of the
city. The three-hour recorded discussion included administrative reform,
and Cali's lack of housing and public transport system apart from the
situation of EMCALI.

These seven councillors are the hard right on the council. They are in
opposition to Cali's elected mayor as well as to SINTRAEMCALI. El País
revealed that it had organised the forum  "to allow the councillors to
show their interest, they want to get closer to the citizens of Cali, so
that they are not seen as corrupt and career politicians".

"...the councillors participating in the forum questioned whatever had
allowed Sintraemcali to assume administrative control of the Municipal
Corporation Emcali, to the point that, according to them, the union has
to be consulted on every decision.

At the same time some councillors denounced the infiltration of
guerillas into the Emcali workers union, they affirmed that many of the
pressures that been brought were to prevent and advance in seeking
definite solutions.

The municipal leaders agreed that a large part of the crisis in the
corporation originates in the reform applied in 1996 which divided the
corporation into four business units, but which was never implemented,
and then was reversed a year later.

They also took time to defend themselves and emphasised that the
political class is not responsible for the Emcali crisis, and that they
had not participated in the Management Board of the corporation for the
last 11 years. They emphatically agreed that Emcali must receive an
injection of capital.

"Capitalisation is not viable with the current structure, it is like
throwing money into a bottomless well" stressed Marco León Villegas.

The councillors attribute a great part of responsibility for the crisis
confronting Emcali on the Management Boards that have lead the
corporation since 1991.

According to them it was from 1991 that the levels of debt began to rise
excessively and the corporation was committed to investing in projects
that affected its financial state.

Nevertheless, according to the Council's president Gustavo Rivera, the
point of no return came in 1996 when reform was not introduced to define
responsibilities and concentrate operations into business units.

He added that Emcali must strengthen investment in improving and
extending the service networks, and that while it continues losing 40%
of water it will not be a viable business.

As a form of capitalisation, he proposed converting a part of the social
terms and conditions into shares in the corporation, and issuing bonds
so that the users have a part of the corporation.

Marco León Villegas explained that the 1996 reform did not work because
Sintraemcali had never allowed it to. At the same time he denounced the
[union's] occupation of the administrative tower in 1998, that had
obliged withdrawal of the reform. [From that time on ] Sintraemcali
began to campaign amongst the workforce and exercise pressure inside the
corporation on behalf of some subversive sectors.

María Piedad Echeverry intervened to say that Emcali had inherited
problems from the previous management teams who had generated
bureaucracy since 1991, bringing about the corporation's current
situation. She also warned that elements of the subversion are
exercising pressure inside the corporation.

Meanwhile, César Tulio Delgado said that it had not been possible to
advance a solution to the structural problems of Emcali because the
Mayor had taken the side of the trade union, which had prevented him
from seeing from other angles a better way of running the corporation.

Apolinar Salcedo said that frustrating the reform of 1996 was the worst
thing that had happened to the corporation. He said that it had to be
recognised that Emcali requires capitalisation, but that this must be
done in a way that will inject new resources.

Luis Mario Cuervo asked that those parties committed to a solution to
the Emcali problem define, before they take decisions, what it is that
they want to do with the corporation.
"What is important to caleños [the people of Cali] is that they are
provided with good service", he emphasised.

Mauricio Mejía said that the Superintendent of Public Services had shown
that it is an inefficient entity because it had no policy of how to save
the corporation.

from El País 4th July 2002

According to the international bank, the corporation lost  $138.000
million last year .

IDB report reveals mistakes in Emcali's internal control systems and
denounces the failure to repayment commitments.

The IDB has put serious questions on the administration and financial
management of the Municipal Corporation of Cali, Emcali, during the 2001
financial year.

These warnings are contained in a document sent by Fernando Cossio, the
Bank's representative in Colombia, to Rodrigo Caicedo Montalvo, the
interim director of Emcali, in which he advises that in spite of the
economic advances made by the corporation it is still in a state of
illiquidity. This is evidenced, according to the IDB directive, in the
fact that the National Government as guarantor of the credits acquired
by Emcali, continues to assume the corporation's debt service payments.

The document states moreover that although during the 20001 financial
year the Municipal Corporations registered a significant reduction in
operational losses - greater costs in production and the sale of
services - the total losses increased 300% over the results of year

The IDB assures that while Emcali's accounts for documents for fiscal
year 2000 showed a final loss of 33,717 million pesos, this figure rose
to 138,141 million in 2001.

"This reflects that the financial management of the corporation was not
fortunate during year 2001", notes the IBD representative.

The report also warns that Emcali did not fulfil the management
commitments in the documents that backed the credits.

Such is the case with the recuperation of investment through the pricing
system, where Emcali only managed 30.6% contributions against a hoped
for target of 85%.  So that, according to the document, income from
charges only reached 13.6%, against the 20% required in the contracts.

The level of earnings recovered from consumer bills was 8% below the
commitment that Emcali had made to the IDB, that is it only reached
78.17% against the target figure of 85%.

According to Emcali's figures, billing for year 2000 for the three
services was 1,282, 438 million pesos, and the income was only 819,000
million pesos.

The representative of the Inter-American Development bank in Colombia
also called the attention of the Director of Emcali to the weaknesses in
the internal control systems.

"We call his special attention to the numerous questions on internal
control, many of which arise from previous exercises, marking the
insufficient efforts to correct them" says the document.

These mistakes had already been commented on by the Municipal auditor,
Amparo Cardona Echeverry, who in an evaluation report for 2001 concluded
that Emcali had serious problems in internal control, especially in the
areas of invoicing, collection and portfolio management.

The pronouncements of the IDB were made based on its reports evaluating
the management of Emcali through the course of 2001 carried out by the
firm Moore Stephens Consulting, charged with external audit of Emcali's
financial state to assure the IDB credits.

Rodrigo Caicedo Montalvo, the Interim Director of Emcali, said that the
increased losses referred to in the IDB document do not correspond with
a small income of capital or imbalance in the business, but they
represent general adjustments in the balance due to previous operations.

The official explained that during the past year, with the aim of
clearing up the accounts, so as to be able to give more realistic
financial accounts, it was necessary to write off approximately $500,000
million pesos from the budget as a financial exercise resulting from
previous losses.

"What the 2001 balance reflects are not operational losses, but
accounting adjustments that the corporation has to make to establish
true accounting", Emcali's Interim Director explained.

Debt Payment
Representatives of Emcali and the national bank have achieved
significant advances in agreeing new conditions for paying the internal
debts of the public service Corporation.

According to what is known by El Pais, representatives of financial
creditors would have accepted not to charge punitive interest rates
chargeable to the corporation once the Superintendent of Public Services
had intervened, and to pardon standard interest charges for up to 4th
April 2000 when the takeover took place.

For its part Emcali's administration committed itself to paying this
year a part of the 207,400 million pesos owed to national banks.

"The amount is not yet decided, but it will be significant", said
attendees at the meeting that took place yesterday in Bogotá.

The settlement would be delayed for six or eight years depending on
interest rates to be agreed, which in any case will not be more than two
points above base rate.

by Diego Martínez Lloreda  EL Pais 5th July 2002

The Stigmatisation of Sintraemcali
At last someone has dared to air in public something that has been
rumoured privately around the city for many years: the supposed
subversive infiltration in the union of the Public Municipal
Corporation, Emcali.

The denouncement, formulated by city councillors in an interview with
this newspaper, is of the greatest seriousness. And I suppose that if
they dared to make it it is because they have convincing indicators of
such links.

As is scarcely obvious, Sintraemcali shouted to the skies against the
charge and in a public communique accused its accusers of "putting a
tombstone on its back".

The President of that organisation advised that "never have we acted
shielded by arms or in clandestinity, and the caleños who have backed us
in our actions are witnesses of first rank".

I will ignore whether the accusation formulated by the councillors is
true. What is totally false is that the members of Sintraemcali "have
never shielded themselves in clandestinity".

Why then did they put balacalavas on to hide their faces, as they trade
unionists did during the occupation of Emcali tower, if it were nor to
"shield themselves in clandestinity"?

The councillors' denunciation although brave is not very new. They have,
it is true, the merit of having made public a story which, I repeat, has
circulated in the city for some time.

And it is not us who are telling lies, although irrefutable proofs do
not exist of this link between Sintraemcali and the ELN, it is
undeniable that the union has had conduct bordering on the subversive.

The two occupations of the CAM towers are the greatest example of this
type of behaviour. The modus operandi of those occupations - masked
individuals who entered building by force, with perfect timing taking
different floors and establishing guard shifts - is more appropriate to
an armed organisation than to a trade union.

It is not only Ceasar's wife who must be beyond reproach. Emcali's trade
union cannot assume insurrectionary positions and then protest
afterwards that it is associated with the insurrectionists.

As an organisation it has the full right to defend its point of view but
it has to take much care in the resources that it uses for this..

Because what is serious is not that they are accused of being
guerrilleros, but that they acted as such.

To dispel the cloud of doubt that hangs overt the organisation, instead
of issuing defiant communiques, Sintraemcali must abandon the practices
that have brought this stigmatisation upon it.

And the members of the union must themselves be vigilant to block the
subversion, which is always seeking to infiltrate this type of
organisation in which its proposals to bring chaos, reach their

Everyone has their price in this life. Certainly Sintraemcali with its
strikes and demonstrations of force has managed to block the
transformation of Emcali, to the point of using fear (terror?) to
display its arguments. But in all this process, its image as a
democratic and pluralist organisation remains seriously damaged.

By your methods you will be known. And the methods used by Sintraemcali
to 'defend' the corporation are not appropriate to the Boy Scouts.


from El País 7th July 2002

Union leaders deny the accusations.

The mayor demands that evidence be presented to the appropriate

Photo: On 31st January, after 36 days inside the Cali Municipal
Corporation tower, about a hundred workers, the majority covering their
faces with balaclavas, leave the building.

The declaration passed to El País by some councillors, in which they
denounced a presumed infiltration of the guerillas into the Emcali
workers union, Sintraemcali, revived the debate over the influence that
armed groups have over workers' organisations.

In their declaration the councillors affirmed that sectors of the
guerillas are exercising great pressure on the corporation through the
union, stopping it from taking corrective measures within Emcali's
recovery process.

The councillors expressed fears that there has been intimidation and
pressure against some members of Sintraemcali when they assume positions
that contradict the leaders of the organisation, or when they have
questioned the workers attitude towards the corporation.

Such claims, because of the implications they have, generated an
immediate response from Sintraemcali president, Luis Hernández Monroy,
who described them as irresponsible and foolhardy.

"They put us in the sights of the paramilitaries, they are hanging a
tombstone around our necks" the workers' leader indignantly said.

Nevertheless this is not the first time that stories of insurgent
movements penetrating into the Emcali workers union have been known.

It can be said that such signals have been recurring, especially since
the corporation has been the scene of great workers agitation and of
strong confrontations between the workers and the [city] Administration.

The first clashes took place in 1996, during the leadership of Mauricio
Guzmán. Next, in 1998, Ricardo Cobo confronted the union's first
occupation of the corporation and in 2001, Jhon Maro Rodríguez did not
escape the workers' pressures.

The reality is that in the three cases the corporation's plants were
occupied by groups of workers to pressurise for decisions to be taken
over the future and legal status of Emcali.

On each of these three occasions rumours circulated in the city that
there were members of the guerilla in the occupations. Witnesses to
such facts said that they had seen armed people inside Emcali

However, according to the files of the National Attorney General, on no
occasion were formal statements made on the participation of armed

Nevertheless, El Pais knows that the state security organisations are
investigating some facts that may compromise Sintraemcali members with
armed groups who have a presence in the region.

One of these cases is related to statements given by people who were
kidnapped by the ELN from La María church on 31st Mayo1999, who said
that a few days after their mass abduction, the guerillas handed them
garments - trousers and drill shirts - some of which were marked with
Emcali logos.

Sintraemcali leaders explained that these garments had been part of
materials that the ELN had taken in a robbery of four Emcali corporation
vehicles that were travelling on La Reforma highway, days before the

"It is no secret to anybody that associations, especially workers and
community organisations, are in the sights of the subversion as entities
from which they can develop their political activity and institutional
destabilisation" a military intelligence source contacted by this
newspaper pointed out.

However, although the guerilla have managed to infiltrate several of
their cadres in rank and file committees of some unions, up to now it
has not been possible to verify that these organisations are taking
specific directions from armed groups.

In 1996, when Mauricio Jazzman proposed the transformation of the
corporation into a holding company with four business units operating as
independent companies, the workers occupied the telephone and water
treatment plants. In spite of there being insistent reports of the
presence armed personnel, they were dislodged by the State Forces.

The signs of guerilla infiltration in Sintraemcali took on more force
in 1998, when to pressurise for the transformation of the corporation to
become an Industrial and Commercial State Corporation, a group of
workers took possession of the administrative tower and water treatment
plant for 14 days.

The then mayor, Ricardo Cobo, recalled that one of the reasons that the
State Forces were planning to retake the building on the occupation's
second day - an action that was suspended by the national President -
was the presence of heavily armed people inside the occupied building.

According to what Cobo said, some were bodyguards of Sintraemcali
president Alexánder López, and others did not belong to any security

He added that some of these armed people were present at the
Intercontinental Hotel where the ending of the occupation was to be
negotiated. "We disarmed one these individuals who was stood opposite
the hotel's lifts, and for this the union suspended the negotiations",
recalls Cobo.

The ex-mayor added that the state security organisations were informing
him of the permanent presence of armed civilians inside the CAM tower
and in some of the plants. Cobo stressed that from this moment that
Emcali's capitalisation was proposed, the pressures and threats of the
National Liberation Army, the ELN, could be felt.

"I was always pressured by the ELN. The security forces have the
documents in which they indict me because of  Emcali. This came from
information that had been handed over from the union", Cobo clarified.

He added that afterwards he also received threats from the Farc. For the
former mayor the incidence of the insurgency inside Emcali is a serious

Precise Action
Similar information circulated during the occupation of the CAM tower
starting on 25th December 2001.

That day, in a precise action with almost military rigour, more than a
hundred people penetrated the building and initiated the longest ever
occupation of a public building known in this country - 36 days of

Although there are those who claim that this time too there were armed
persons present in the tower, current mayor Jhon Maro Rodríguez - who
met three times with the trade unionists - said that at no time did he
see fire arms.

He said that he called attention that in spite of being inside the
building some of the occupiers covered their faces with balaclavas and
had bags hanging from their belts.

Rodríguez reiterated  that on the occasions when he met with the trade
unionists he never saw arms, apart from those of the bodyguards of the
union leaders.

However, he pointed out that that some people who had been inside the
building had told him that they had seen people carrying arms.

Nevertheless, he added that up to now no evidence had been presented to
the authorities and he warned the authors of these stories to do so. On
this point union president Luis Hernández, said that the only arms were
those of the bodyguards, who stayed inside the building with the
authority of the National Director of DAS [Security Police].

He pointed out that the arms  used by the building's security guards
were kept is a string room on the first floor.

"The organisation is not infiltrated by the insurgency. We are clean and
we are not going into an armed scenario. We respect that scenario, but
ours is one of ideas, added Hernández Monroy.

Nevertheless, the occurrence of certain facts, such as the finding of
revolver rounds in food packets sent into the occupiers, is cause for
investigation by the authorities.

For his part, the Municipal ombudsman, Fernando Montoya, whose office
was used to guarantee the handing over of food to occupiers inside the
building, stated that the only arms he saw were those of the union
leaders' bodyguards.

He agreed with the Mayor that people who entered the building commented
that they had seen heavily armed individuals.

In fact one Emcali worker commented to a government official that in the
tent where they prepared the food was where they kept some of the

Nevertheless, unless the stories concerning guerilla infiltration in
the union become an official case, few want to commit themselves.
Including the councillors who made the claims are for now maintaining a
discreet silence.

Neither did other sources consulted want to express an opinion because
they consider "the issue is very delicate".

For now the authorities continue their investigations, but what is
certain is that right now no formal denouncement exists linking the
corporation's unionised workers with the subversion.

 "There are no proofs"
On the claims of guerilla infiltration into the Emcali union, Héctor
Galindo the ex-president of this organisation and current secretary for
the Andean region of Public Services International PSI, said that this
was a continuation of the state's policy to delegitimise union
organisations and the workers movement in general.

The ex-president of Sintraemcali showed that in the midst of the armed
conflict in which the country lives, in which different organisations
have taken up arms, it is extremely dangerous to make this type of
accusation.  "To make these claims is to declare the death penalty on
the leaders of Sintraemcali. It is to send them to the scaffold", said

The ISP representative in Colombia insisted that during his time in the
union there were never attitudes that would allow any direct relation of
the union or the workers with illegal armed groups.

Galindo recalled that in 1996, when he had a seat on the council, on
behalf of the demobilised M-19,  who was the victim of similar labeling
because he opposed the  changes to the corporation proposed by the then
mayor Mauricio Guzmán Cuevas.

According to him, some of his colleagues on the council schemed with the
investigation authorities so that his office at the town hall was broken
into, where, according to his detractors, there was supposed to be an
arms store. According to Héctor Galindo, the unions have militants from
different political organisations, but to this time there is no
confirmation that they respond to instructions or orientation from the
armed groups.

For the ISP Colombia representative,  Sintraemcali has carried out a
democratic struggle to defend the common wealth of the citizens, today
threatened by a serious economic crisis.

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