On 26 January the sad news came to us that that our dear colleague and friend Julio Roberto Gómez Esguerra passed away on the night of 25 January. He was victim of the COVID-19 pandemic, the terrible disease that is leaving a trace of destruction. He was 69 years old.
Out of prevention Julio Roberto Gómez Esguerra was hospitalized at the Clínica Cafam in Bogota on 27 December. Despite the fact that he showed signs of improvement the days before his death, he suffered a relapse which turned out fatal.
Julio Roberto Gómez Esguerra was a true trade unionist. He dedicated his life to the improvement of the position of workers. In Colombia, Latin America and the world. Additionally, he was involved in the Colombian peace process between the Colombian government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC–EP). Julio Roberto Gómez Esguerra wanted to give all Colombian people a voice; from farmers to displaced people to the indigenous peoples.
Julio Roberto Gómez Esguerra was born in Cachipay, Cundinamarca in 1951. He began working at age of 17 as a typography operator. He was introduced to the labour movement through the influence of the liberation theology. The liberation theology is a synthesis of Christian theology and socio-economic analyses, which emphasizes “social concern for the poor and political liberation for oppressed peoples.”
In 1971 Julio Roberto Gómez Esguerra was one of the founders of the Confederación General de Trabajadores – CGT and worked for the trade union organization for almost 40 years. The CGT is the second largest trade union of Colombia with more than a million members.
Since the 1990s he was president of the CGT and as such he fought in defense of the rights of workers on national, Latin American and world level. He was much involved in the World Confederation of Labour, which was also the former umbrella organization of the WOW. After the WCL merged with the ICFTU in 2006 he was active in the ITUC, but got disillusioned at some point. This urged him to found the Alternativa Democrática Sindical de las Américas – ADS. The founding congress took place in Bogota from 16-20 April 2017. Julio Roberto Gómez Esguerra was elected as the first ever president of the ADS.
Furthermore, Julio Roberto Gómez Esguerra frequently participated in ILO Labour Conference, an annual event assembling government representatives, and representatives of employers’ organizations and employees’ organizations. With the support of workers delegations of 92 countries he was elected full member of the ILO Governing Body for the second time in 2011. Back then he was the only representative of any Latin-American country in this body.
His whole life Julio Roberto Gómez Esguerra wanted to give a voice to people who were often not in the position to defend themselves. He has contributed tremendously to the improvement of the lives of workers. But beyond that he contributed tremendously to the improvement of the lives of people in general.
Julio Roberto Gómez Esguerra will be dearly missed by his family, friends and colleagues. The trade union movement lost one of its great and charismatic leaders.
May he rest in Peace.