Violence in Colombia

Lesley Gill, an author and professor of anthropology at Vanderbilt University, took a trip to Colombia where she conducted research on the impact of political and economic violence on the workers of Coca-Cola and SINALTRAINAL, a Colombian labor union. On July 22, 2006, Gill attended the “International Day of Protest Against Coca-Cola” in Barrancabermeja; workers performed street theater, rather than the usual political speeches. Workers protested in order to show the degradation of work that was brought about by the shift to neoliberal capitalism, and, furthermore, to denounce the corporate’s involvement in the murder of eight Coca-Cola workers by the paramilitary.

There is strong direct-political violence in the Coca-Cola workers lives, as well as the SINALTRAINAL union. Many had been living with death threats for years from the paramilitary, and many had suffered through multiple assassination attempts. In particular, Carlos Montes, a SINALTRAINAL board member, who Gill had known while she was visiting, was murdered by the paramilitary while walking home. Montes had received many death threats because of his union activities. Many workers and union members walk around with multiple body guards to try and ensure their safety. The violence that the workers and unionists suffer through displays their need to fight for better working conditions, and ultimately, a better life.

References: Fighting for Justice, Dying for Hope On the Protest Line in Colombia By Lesley Gill