Giraldo to Address UVM

To the Editor: Hector Giraldo is a Colombian union leader involved with Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT). His union has already lost 25 union leaders to assassination by the paramilitary in the last five years. As a road maintenance worker struggling to keep his co-workers’ jobs from being replaced with non-unionized labor, (so the corporation they work for can skimp on workers’ rights), Giraldo faces the same fate as over 3500 other unionists since 1986-the death squads of the paramilitary. The paramilitary in Columbia is tied to the United States in a few ways. First, they get funding directly from the United States, often in the form of Blackhawk helicopters and weapons. US funding also goes to institutions like the School of the Americas, in Georgia. At the School of the Americas, the Colombian military, which has direct ties to the paramilitary, can send its people to learn about terror and torture tactics. As Giraldo put it, “Your tax money is being used to kill union members. The unity of the paramilitary and the official military means that these resources are used to kill us.” This US funding used to come in the guise of a war on drugs, but more recently, the war on terror has provided justification for jacking up the amount given to the paramilitary. A second link between the paramilitary and the US is the paramilitary’s close connection to United States corporations opposed to unions, like Coca-Cola. As is encouraged by the system of “free trade,” these corporations seek non-unionized labor because it is cheaper. They will go to any extent to get what they want, including using the paramilitary to kill union leaders. They also seek to deregulate and privatize all services and institutions that once were public, in order to make more profit. However, this neoliberal attitude leads to worse conditions not only for workers, but for all citizens as profit-hungry corporations rampage public works, education and the prison system. Giraldo, who will be speaking at the University of Vermont on Wednesday, will explain more of the intricacies of this situation. He will speak about the parallel neoliberal attitudes by corporations in both Colombia and Vermont, and their relation to workers and the rest of the community. He will also talk about his own experiences: “We are fighting the neoliberal model, because it restricts our rights, threatens democracy, increases unemployment and increases poverty. Because we are fighting it, we are targets of paramilitary violence. My union president was assassinated in front of the workers, with seven bullets. Then they said they were going to kill me, so I had to leave Colombia.” He is one of 26 unionists currently in exile in the United States, with an AFL- CIO exchange program. You can hear Hector Giraldo speak on Wednesday, the 29 of January, in John Dewey Lounge at 6 p.m.Sophia StrosbergClass of 2003