From: "Colombia Solidarity Campaign"


Date: Thu, 3 Oct 2002 17:44:16 +0100






SINTRAEMCALI, the Cali Public Services trade union, denounces to the national and international community the action of President Alvaro Urribe who has ordered the military occupation of EMCALI work plants. This action aims at preventing workers from entering the CAM – Central Administration Building and Bulevar (another work plant). Up until now no workers have been able to enter and carry out their duties.


The Events:


1.- In the early hours of 30th September, a contingent of military personnel from the Third Brigade accompanied by the local police and an anti –riot squad occupied the entrances to both the CAM Tower administration building and the Bulevar Telephone office. Initially they prevented the entrance of workers, and later disrupted the Permanent Assembly that workers have been carrying out since 25th September due to the failure of the government to fulfil signed agreements with the trade union which were agreed on 29th January, and also in protest at the actions of the water manager CARLOS VITALIANO SANCHEZ


2.- The order for the military takeover of the plants was given directly by President AlvaroUribe Velez, according to the Superintendent of Public Services MARIA DEL PILAR ORDSQEZ MENDEZ, the commander of the Third Brigade JORGE PINEDA CARVAJAL and the Commander of the Metropolitan Police OSCAR ADOLFO NARANJO TRUJILLO.


3.- The Superintendent stated that Alvaro Uribe had ordered the military occupation of the plants via the Superintendent of Public Services due to a fear that the trade union and its members were planning to occupy the installations. Authorisation was given to use all necessary measures to prevent workers from occupying the installations and to ensure the continued provision of services provided by the company, and the security of the infrastructure.




Since 24th September EMCALI workers affiliated to the trade union SINTRAEMCALI have exercised their constitutional rights and international norms to carry out a ‘Permanent Assembly’ with the aim of pressuring the government to fulfil its obligations under an agreement signed with the trade union on 29th January 2002 aimed at strengthening and saving EMCALI EICE. The trade union last week denounced the bad management of water plant manager


VITALIANO SANCHEZ and the head of the Maintenance Department JAIRO VILLAREAL, who have both put in jeopardy the provision of water to more than 70% of the local population. Since the appointment of the Water Manager the plant has been on the verge of collapse two times, despite the verbal and written protestations of the trade union. The union called for a ‘Shock Plan’ which would remove those in the administration responsible for these acts, and extra financial measures to pay for necessary equipment and repairs. The union received no response.


The Puerto Mallarino Plant is crucial for the supply of water to the city of Cali –responsible for nearly 70% of the population’s water supply. The union suspects that the actions of the manager are a deliberate attempt to destabilise the company and seriously effect the provision of water to the local population.


CARLOS VITALIANO SANCHEZ, was involved as an adviser in the public services and mining industries in the Atlantic Coast and Cundinamarca regions which have been privatised. He was a consultant for Carbocol, a company that has now been brought by Drummond and Minercol.


The most serious of all is that the action of the manager goes against signed agreements between the Colombian government and the trade union which aimed at guaranteeing the survival of the company and the implementation of cost saving measures such as Mingas Comunitarias (Community Work-ins) where workers give up their weekend to work for free carrying out repairs.


We denounce these attempts that seek to yet again provide the terrain for the privatisation of the company EMCALI E.I.C.E and furthermore we also denounce the blatant violation of basic trade union rights of association, expression and protest which are protected in both the National Constitution and International norms that protect workers rights throughout the world.


We call on all of you to demand that the Colombian government respect these minimal guarantees and above all that they fulfil obligations signed in the 29th January 2002 Agreement.


30th September, 2002








SINTRAEMCALI, the Municipal Corporation of Cali Workers Trade Union, and the undersigned members of the National and International Human Rights Campaign Against Privatisation, Corruption and the Criminalisation of Social Protest denounce to the national and international community the serious events that happened today, 1st October 2002, in which several workers have been injured as the result of being hit by tear gas bombs and shrapnel grenades thrown at them by the state security forces, particularly by members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Unit ESMAD of Cali Metropolitan Police under the command of Colonel CELIS.


The Events:


1.... [background as above]


2. The incident started at 9:30 in the morning at the Sewerage Treatment Plant located at No.59-85, 15th Street when a joint team of Army and National Police arrived throwing tear gas bombs and shrapnel grenades, wounding two workers at this plant, while three others with symptoms of asphyxia had to leave immediately for emergency medical treatment.


3. 50 tear gas bombs were thrown in the space of 20 minutes into the Sewerage Treatment Plant. These are prohibited in international law because of their fatal characteristics. They were of the type MODEL 7290 FLASH BANG, 1.5 SECOND DELAY U.S, MADE IN USA. Others used, equally noxious but less powerful, were GREN HAND A/RIOT IRRT SMK MULTIPLE PN770 1063 SP 98 CS.


The security forces launched a renewed assault on the workers in this plant at 1:30 p.m., just as students from a nearby college were coming out of their classes - putting the lives of more than one hundred minors in danger.


4. Previously, from 10:30 a.m. another operation was launched against the workers at Bodegas Navarro Plant, situated at No 27 A 40 25th street, where again the state forces attacked the workers with MODEL 7290 FLASH BANG tear gas bombs, which fell very close to the leaders of SINTRAEMCALI, who were there giving a report to more than one hundred workers gathered at the plant. The gas bombs were also thrown into the cellar where the work implements are stored.


5. Then at 12:30 p.m. at the Colon Telecommunications plant, situated at Nos. 33-40 on 14th Street, members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Unit assaulted the workers by throwing gas canisters in a way that put their and customers' lives at risk. The state forces threw the tear gas at the public service centre, just where members of the community were in attendance to pay for their public services. The missiles hit against the windows of the centre, and affected the staff of Megabanco, of Banco de Occidente, and EMCALI's own customer service workers, as well as the security guards from Gran Colombia corporation who provide services to this plant.


Other tear gas canisters hit the windows of Colon Warehouse, where functioning telecommunications equipment is stored. Meanwhile, tear gas canisters were falling across the whole plant affecting all its EMCALI EICE workers and cleaning workers from the Washroom Services company.


The state forces deployed tanker vehicles with water cannon directed at the broken windows of the Communications Centre, putting at risk equipment that is being used for the benefit of the community. At the same time the tear gas was also affecting people in residences in the surrounding area.


During these events members of NOMADESC human rights association arrived to confirm the reports of an attack. Just as they were getting ready to protest the conduct of the state forces, throwing tear gas that provoked the workers and affected the community, the NOMADESC workers were threatened with death by one of the Anti-Riot Squad agents, who signaled that they were in his sights and that they would be the next to be hit with a grenade attack.


The NOMADESC workers sought out the Police commander directing the operation and protested what was happening. He aggressively refused to identify the agent who had made the death threat, so they then communicated with Coronel Novoa of the Police, with the Ombudsman and the Regional Prosecutor, managing to get this last official to come to the Colon telephone centre to verify what had been going on


6. Simultaneously, state forces were attacking the electricity workers gathered at the South Zone Energy Centre CAES, which is at Kr 80 No. 18 -12. They threw tear gas and shot into the air, breaking the entry gate and tried to enter by force.


We emphasise that the workers EMCALI EICE have guaranteed the supply of public utility services to the whole city, in spite of these serious events and the assault against them by the state forces.


We point out that the national Government headed by President of the Republic ALVARO URIBE VELEZ, Superintendent of Domestic Public Services EVA MARIA URIBE TOBON and the highest officers of the military and the police are responsible for this warlike treatment of a social conflict and the just demands of the workers to continue contributing their defence of EMCALI as a Industrial and Commercial State Corporation (EICE) that operates for the benefit of the whole community.


We know that the interest of URIBE and his Superintendent, is to Privatise EMCALI EICE, as has already showed when two days after his inauguration he came to Cali to say that that EMCALI should be a share holding company, and now he has resorted to the use of force violating the workers' most basic rights.


We ask you to direct protests to the Colombian government demanding that the Agreement it signed with the workers on 29th January 2002 be implemented, and to avoid a catastrophe without precedent in the history of the city of Santiago de Cali.



Santiago de Cali, 1 October 2002.




Presidente de la República

Fax 00571 337 5890, 00571 566 2071

Try also (00571) 3342921-- 2431023 - 3342841




Ministro del Interior y de Justicia

Fax 00571 286 8025 ;



Ministra de Defensa

Fax 00571 222 1874




Colombian Embassy (UK):

Denis MacShane Foreign Office (UK)

CUT Human Rights Department:

Colombia Solidarity Campaign (UK)


Additional News


1. Two JPEG pictures available on request.


2. Official DAS creditation has been withdrawn from eleven bodyguards of the trade union leaders detained on Friday 20th September. These comrades were part of a Humanitarian Delegation taking food, mediciines and blankets to peasants surrounded by army units in neighbouring Cuaca department. The Humanitarian Delegation was held for 14 hours to stop it from bringing relief to the peasants.


3. The University of Valle de Cauca in Cali has announced it has to Cut a hundred workers. The union SINTRAUNICOL has a programme of workshops and protests to mobilise against these sackings.