About 90 percent of the banana workers in Colombia's Uraba region were back at work Monday, following a two-day stoppage last week after a massacre by left-wing guerrillas.
The region's 18,000 banana workers refused to go to the plantations after guerrillas on Sept. 20 stopped a bus carrying banana workers on their way to the fields. The workers were forced to lie on the ground, then the guerrillas opened fire, killing 26."There is a lot of tension," said Gilberto Torres, vice president of the banana workers union. "They're afraid to go to the plantations."
Not all the laborers are showing up for work. Many have fled, leaving the region's 400 banana farms shorthanded, said Mr. Torres. Normally, the zone produces about 200,000, 40-pound boxes of bananas for export a day.
The guerrillas, who have killed more than 570 banana workers so far this year, are stepping up their reign of intimidation and terror in an attempt to destroy the union, said Mr. Torres. Many of the union members belong to the Hope, Peace and Freedom movement, which consists of former guerrillas who have reintegrated into society and turned the front into a political party. The guerrillas responsible for the massacres belong to a rival group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which has refused to join the peace process.
"Please, no more assassinations of innocent banana workers who are only trying to make a living and support their families," pleaded Mr. Torres.
Uraba is Colombia's most important banana producing zone, accounting for 60 percent of banana exports via the Port of Turbo on the Caribbean coast near the border with Panama. Banana's are the country's largest nontraditional export, worth about $450,000 last year.