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Nestlé’s Colombian Problem: Top Managers Implicated in the Murder of Union Activists

Nestle's Kitt Katt product
Photo by Howard Lake.

By Maddy French
Switzerland’s highest court is about to decide whether top managers at Nestlé—by revenue the world’s largest food company—will be investigated in connection with the murder of a former employee in Colombia.

Paramilitary thugs tortured and killed trade union activist Luciano Romero in 2005—just before he was to testify at the Permanent People’s Tribunal on Nestlé’s corporate and trade union policies.

Luciano Romero, murdered Nestlé trade union activist.

Lower Swiss courts have ruled against an investigation of the company despite recommendations from a Colombian judge, but his widow launched an appeal earlier this year to the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland.

The death of Romero, who worked for Nestlé’s subsidiary Cicolac for twenty years, was an all too familiar reminder of the dangers faced by trade unionists in Colombia. Right wing paramilitary groups—often encouraged by public officials—have frequently attacked labor organizers.

Courageous Judge Forced into Exile

Romero’s case drew international attention when a Colombian judge sentenced his killers to prison—a rarity in a country where justice typically bows to political and economic power.  And that judge, José Nirio Sanchez, said there should be further investigation—both at the local and international levels—into the role of Nestlé. But the judge himself was forced into exile in the United States after the ruling.

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