UCU delegates gave a standing ovation to Colombian academic Miguel Beltran, the Colombian academic freed after an international campaign by education trade unionists. Miguel was imprisoned for more than two years for the nebulous crime of ‘rebellion’ and his academic research formed part of the prosecution’s evidence against him. Miguel was able to appear at this year’s University and College Union Congress, held in Manchester in June because education trade unions and UCU members in particular launched an international campaign to force the Colombian government to confront academic community’s outrage. Find out more about this campaign here.
Watch Miguel’s message of thanks:
Miguel sent a short personal message of thanks to everyone who participated in the campaign to win his freedom which you can watch on youtube here
Read Miguel’s speech to Congress:
Miguel also gave a dignified and powerful speech which thanked delegates for the union’s work and which stressed that the persecution of trade unionists, teachers and academics continues in Colombia and he called for peace in his country. You can read his full speech here
The Times Higher magazine also carried a moving interview with Miguel, detailing his treatment in Colombia’s prisons, where he was incarcerated alongside drug traffickers, paramilitaries and other violent criminals and forbidden to see his newborn son.
Still working to ensure Miguel’s safety:
Despite his release, Miguel is stil in danger. Following serious death threats, Beltrán has been forced to live and work outside Colombia. However, his employer, the National University of Colombia, Bogotá, recently turned down a request to extend his sabbatical leave and has demanded that he return to campus. In the absence of any physical protection being guaranteed by the Colombian state, UCU and JfC are extremely concerned that Beltrán’s life will be in grave danger if he returns to Bogotá. Both organisations have written to President Santos calling on his to ensure Dr Beltran’s safety.
UCU Congress support for Justice for Colombia:
Following Miguel’s speech, UCU’s Congress also passed a motion which called on the union to campaign for the release of all Colombian political prisoners and for the protection of those who have been released, as well as support the Justice for Colombia campaign for a peace process and to encourage all UCU branches to affiliate to JfC. Find out more about the peace process campaign here. Read the UCU motions in English and Spanish