By Cruz Bonlarron Martinez
The Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective recently received reports that Brink’s workers affiliated with the union Sintrabrinks had received threats from the right-wing paramilitary organization, the Aguilas Negras (Black Eagles).
A History of Intimidation
On January 18th, various leaders of Sintrabrinks in Bogotá received text messages that said “Communique Aguilas Negras Bloque D.C: We’re warning you, fucking communist union guerrillas of this country we’re tired of your actions against Colombia. You’re a military target you’ve been warned death to guerrillas”.
According to Romer Díaz, President of the Sintrabrinks local in Bogotá and one of the recipients of the threats, the threats are due solely to the union activists organizing activity against Brink’s because they are not involved with any other social movements.
Díaz told me that he and other activists have been subject to various threats from the Aguilas Negras dating back to October 2019. Sintrabrinks has documented and reported these threats to various branches of the Colombian government but was told that they did not constitute a big enough threat to justify government intervention or protection.
The Aguilas Negras have a history of threatening activists of all stripes and are the second biggest culprit of death threats in Colombia. Yet, nobody has been held accountable by the government for these death threats which has allowed them to continue.
Brinks Workers Keep Up the Fight
These threats are not the only repercussions that Brink’s workers have faced. Earlier this month we published an exposé in Labor Notes about the various abuses and intimidation that Sintrabrinks organizers face in Cali. Workers told us about various issues that they face on the job including low pay, health issues due to working conditions, and demands that they work up to 15 hours in one day.
However, one of the biggest issues that workers brought up was Brink’s use of motorcycles to transport valuable goods, a practice that puts them at risk of robbery and murder. We were also shown documentation from the Colombian government reprimanding Brink’s for carrying out this illegal practice. On January 13th, a Brink’s worker was murdered in Cúcuta while transporting goods on a motorcycle, a sad result of the company’s disregard for the safety of their workers.
In my conversation with Romer Díaz he told me that in addition to fighting for the safety and rights of Brink’s workers, Sintarbrinks also fights for environmental justice. He told me about a recent campaign to get the company to comply with environmental regulations and buy new vehicles with lower emissions.
Díaz told me frankly that he does not want to become another statistic in a report about dead union leaders and has asked for international organizations to show solidarity with Sintrabrinks workers. In the spirit of Martin Luther King Day, it’s important to remember his famous quote “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’’.
The Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective stands in solidarity with Sintrabrinks against these threats. We call on the Colombian government to ensure that Romer Díaz and other union activists are provided the protection they need to exercise their right to organize in the workplace. We call on Brink’s to ensure that their workers are respected and that they comply with Colombian safety laws. Finally, we call on the United States government to pressure Brink’s, which is based in Richmond, Virginia, to respect the rights of their workers and to follow Colombian law.