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March 2008

Congratulations to Wales’ largest trade union that vowed to strip Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells of his political sponsorship because his support for the army in Colombia.

Campaigners have condemned Dr Howells after he was pictured apparently sharing a joke with a controversial general with alleged links to human rights abuses in the strife-torn South American country. I made similar comments of this blog last month.

But Andy Richards, regional secretary for Wales of the trade union Unite saidUnite  he found Dr Howells’s approach “reckless and wholly unacceptable”. Andy is as mystified as all the rest of are by Kim’s claiming that most of the Colombian trade unionists killed had been murdered by the Farc.

Liam Craig-Best, the director of Justice for Columbia said, “Not even the Colombian Government claims that Farc is responsible for most of the murders of trade unionists.

An estimated 3,000 trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia in recent years during a bitter conflict between the Marxist guerrilla movement Farc and the Colombian government. Human rights groups have alleged links between the Colombian army and right-wing paramilitary death squads.


Mr. Richards visited Colombia and met families of trade unionists who had been brutally tortured, murdered and mutilated.” We were left in no doubt that aid from the British Government was ending up with groups that are involved in the murder of trade unionists. He described the trip as traumatic.

Incredibly he reports that Kim refused to meet Mr. Richards and his colleagues to discuss their heartfelt concerns.

Our conduct in Colombia is shameful. Only Britain and Israel are giving military aid to Colombia. It should end and the money diverted to humanitarian aid.