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P 211212Z APR 08 FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2445 UNCLAS BOGOTA 001460 SUBJECT: GOC REACTS TO SURGE

IN LABOR VIOLENCE REF: A. A. BOGOTA 1017 B. B. BOGOTA 1197 C. C. BOGOTA 1432 1. (U) The murder rate of unionists in the first quarter of the year has increased over 2007, with 19 reported cases to date. If the rate continues at this pace, the total in 2008 will be 76, an increase over the 39 reported in 2007. Some human rights groups link the surge in labor murders to threats allegedly made by the Aguilas Negras against the organizers of the March 6 march against paramilitary and state violence. Eight murders have occurred since the event (see reftels). March organizer Ivan Cepeda told us in mid-March that only one of the four union victims was directly involved in the march; three others belonged to groups that supported the event. Since then, four other unionists have been murdered. Others link the increase more generally to the expansion of new criminal groups. 2. (SBU) The GOC issued a statement on April 7 condemning the threats and offered an award to any

information on the perpetrators, noting that the Colombian National Police and Prosecutor General's Office (Fiscalia) are investigating. GOC officials, including Presidential Human Rights Director Carlos Franco, met the march organizers after the threats to talk about security measures. 19 of those threatened--although none of the eight union victims killed after the event--have received protection from the Minister of Interior and Justice's protection program. (Note: 1959 union members currently participate in the Minister of Interior and Justice's protection program.) 3. (SBU) National Director of the Fiscalia German Ortega said the Fiscalia has arrested five individuals suspected of involvement in trade unionist murders in 2008. On April 17, CNP Director General Oscar Naranjo and Prosecutor General Mario Iguaran briefed the diplomatic community on the Aguilas Negras threats and union violence. Iguaran said that based on the police's preliminary investigations, union-affiliation does not appear to be the motive in any of the 19 union homicides committed in 2008. In contrast, thee National Union School (ENS) reports that it has not yet been able to determine the motives behind the 2008 homicides. In 2007, ENS said it could not ascertain the motives behind 80% of the murders, threats, and other offenses committed against unionists. The ENS attributes no union murders to common crime. BROWNFIELD (Edited and reading.) reformatted by Andres for ease of