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William Mendoza, vice president of the Coca-Cola workers union in Barrancabermeja, in Danger!

Dear friends,

The bodyguards of William Mendoza; vice president of the Coca-Cola workers union in Barrancabermeja, Colombia; were dismissed by the Colombian government on February 28. The government then offered William two new bodyguards. He didn't know or trust those two men, so he refused their service and is now without any bodyguards. William is demanding that the government either rehire his bodyguards or allow him to choose two new bodyguards that he knows and trusts. I just talked with William and he's very concerned about his situation. I've know William for five years and I've never heard him as concerned as he is now.

Barrancabermeja is controlled by the right-wing paramilitaries and they have repeatedly threatened to kill William because of his leadership in the Coke workers union. The Interamerican Human Rights Commission ordered the Colombian government to provide protection for threatened human rights activists, like William, and that program allows those individuals to select their own bodyguards.

William has been in contact with Dr. Carlos Franco, director of the Presidential Human Rights Program. Thus far, Dr. Franco has not taken action so that William can again have bodyguards that he knows and trusts. William is asking that we e-mail Dr. Franco so that he will take the proper action to protect William's life.

At the end of this message is the e-mail address for Dr. Franco and a suggested message in Spanish (that you can copy and send – just add your name, city, state, and country at the end), and the English translation of that message.

William is one of my closest friends. I've accompanied him for each of the past four summers – he's asked for that accompaniment because the paramilitaries are less likely to kill him in front of international witnesses. On behalf of our beloved companero, please take a moment now to send a message to

Dr. Franco.
In solidarity,
Scott Nicholson
Montana Human Rights Network

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E-mail address: cefranco@presidencia.gov.co
Subject: URGENTE: Retiro de los escoltas de William Mendoza
Suggested message:
Dr. Carlos Franco
Director
Programa Presidencial de Derechos Humanos
Bogota, Colombia

Estimado Dr. Franco,

Me dirijo a usted para expresar mi grave preocupacion por el retiro de los escoltas de confianza de William Mendoza Gomez, el vice-presidente de la seccional de SINALTRAINAL (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria de Alimentos – que representa a los trabajadores de la Coca-Cola) en Barrancabermeja.

El Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad, DAS, retiro a los dos escoltas de William el 28 de febrero. Dos personas nuevas fueron asignadas a William, pero el no los conoce ni sabe de donde vienen, y obviamente no son de su confianza. Por eso, William no acepto a esas personas y en estos momentos el se encuentra en Barranca sin escoltas – una situacion de alto riesgo. El programa de proteccion contempla la posibilidad que William escoja las personas que seran sus escoltas, pasando por los estudios de confiabilidad del DAS. Dado las amenazas en contra de William y la grave situacion de seguridad para el en Barranca, apoyo su posicion en relacion con la necesidad urgente de contar con escoltas de confianza. Estoy muy preocupado por la seguridad de William y pido a usted que tome las acciones necesarias para que el cuente de nuevo con escoltas de confianza – sean los dos que fueron retirados o dos nuevos escogidos por el.

Desde 1999, William tiene medidas cautelares por la Comision Interamericana de Derechos Humanos de la Organizacion de Estados Americanos. Desde 2002, tiene esquema de seguridad que consiste en dos escoltas, dos pistolas, arma de apoyo, radios Avanteles, chalecos anti-balas, y vehiculo.

El 18 de junio de 2002, tres paramilitares intentaron secuestrar a la hija de William, Karen (quien tenia cuatro anos en ese momento), cuando estaba con su madre, Luz, en la plaza central de Barranca. Gracias a la llegada oportuna de dos policias a la plaza, y la fuerte reaccion de Luz, Karen se salvo. El 17 de enero de 2003, un hombre llamo a la casa de William y Luz. La hija de William, Paola, respondio. El hombre amenazo a William y Luz, dijo a Paola el nombre de la escuela donde ella asistia, y dijo que el hijo de William, Heyner, estaba lavando el frente de la casa – que era la verdad y que indico que se estaba vigilando la casa y la familia de William. Estos hechos demuestran el alto nivel de riesgo en lo cual se encuentra William ahora.

Le pido que tome las acciones necesarias para que William cuente de nuevo con escoltas de confianza.

Atentamente,

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English translation of message:
Subject: URGENT: Dismissal of William Mendoza's bodyguards
Dr. Carlos Franco
Director
Presidential Human Rights Program
Bogota, Colombia

Dear Dr. Franco,

I'm writing to you to express my grave concern for the dismissal of William Mendoza Gomez's trusted bodyguards. William is the vice president of SINALTRAINAL (National Food Industry Workers union that represents the Coca-Cola workers) in Barrancabermeja.

The Administrative Security Department, DAS [security police], dismissed William's two bodyguards on February 28. Two new people were assigned to William, but he doesn't know them or where they come from, and he obviously doesn't trust them. Because of that, William didn't accept those people and right now he's in Barranca without bodyguards – a situation of high risk. The protection program allows William to choose the people that will be his bodyguards, providing that they pass the DAS background check. Given the threats against William and the grave security situation for him in Barraca, I support his position in relation to the urgent need to have bodyguards that he trusts. I'm very concerned for William's security and I ask you to take the necessary actions so that he again has bodyguards that he trusts – whether they're the ones that were dismissed or two new ones chosen by him.

Since 1999, William has had security measures through the Interamerican Human Rights Commission of the Organization of American States. Since 2002, he has had a security system that consists of two bodyguards, two pistols, a support weapon, two-way radios, bulletproof vests, and a vehicle.

On June 18, 2002, three paramilitaries tried to kidnap William's daughter, Karen (who was four-years-old at the time), when she was with her mother, Luz, in the main plaza of Barranca. Thanks to the timely arrival of two policemen, and the strong reaction of Luz, Karen was saved. On January 17, 2003, a man called William and Luz's house. William's daughter, Paola, answered. The man threatened William and Luz, told Paola the name of the school that she attended, and said that William's son, Heyner, was cleaning the front of the house – which was true and indicated that William's house and family were being watched. These events demonstrate the high level of risk facing William now.

I ask that you take the necessary actions so that William again has bodyguards that he trusts.

Sincerely,
William Mendoza

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