Congressional Letter Opposing the U.S. Colombia Free Trade Agreement

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Support Human Rights in Colombia – OPPOSE the U.S. Colombia Free Trade Agreement

From: The Honorable Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr.
Current signers: Conyers, Moore (WI), Rush, Lee (CA), Payne, Grijalva, Michaud, Ellison, Hinchey, Jackson (IL)

Dear Colleague:
Please join me in signing the letter below supporting human rights in Colombia.  As we begin to debate the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Colombia, it is important to recognize the rights of Colombia’s Afro descendents and indigenous populations and the need for the FTA to be considered within this context.
Colombia’s Afro descendents and indigenous populations have long faced violence, persecution, and lack of opportunity that has perpetuated the cycle of poverty.  As the moral and economic leader of the world, the United States must support policies that break this cycle.  Unfortunately in its current form, the FTA will only exacerbate the problem.
I urge you to sign this letter to ensure that the voices of Colombia’s Afro descendents and indigenous populations will no longer be ignored.

If you have any questions, please contact our office at ext 5-1605.


Hank Johnson
Member of Congress

June X, 2011

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,

We write to express our deep concern for the rights of Colombia’s Afro descendents and indigenous populations, and to affirm that the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) should not be considered as drafted.  We believe that the United States and the Colombian Government should take immediate steps to strengthen Afro-Colombians’ territorial rights and prevent further displacement of Afro-Colombians.

We are concerned that the FTA would stimulate business development in Colombia at the expense of these vulnerable populations.  Colombia has the world’s largest population of displaced people, an estimated 5.2 million, and 26% of Colombia’s population is Afro-Colombian.  These populations already experience disproportionate inequality in the labor sector and face major obstacles to unionization. For example, Afro Colombian workers are often forced into “Associative Labor Cooperatives” (CTAs), a labor model where workers are hired through sub-contractors, which substantially undermines worker protections and results in preventing workers from unionizing. Today, economic interests, including large scale mono-culture crop plantations and mining, continue to be a cause of displacement in Afro-Colombian areas.  The FTA and the April 7thAction Plan do not adequately address these issues.  Without adequate protections, the number of displaced persons will continue to increase and economic opportunity will continue to be beyond the reach of these populations.

We appreciate the Administration’s efforts to grow the economies of the United States and Colombia but we must do so in a way that benefits the citizens of both countries.  We must not tolerate economic inequality or persistent violence against Afro Colombians and indigenous people.

As you know, Members of Congress have consistently denounced the systematic paramilitary persecution and assassinations of Afro-Colombian, indigenous and labor rights activists in Colombia. We are concerned that our voices on this subject are not being heard and our concerns are not being adequately addressed.  Full implementation of the Colombian Action Plan Related to Labor Rights, and the reform of the CTA model, are critical to any serious discussion of free trade with Colombia. We insist that the Ministry of Labor and Justice’s protection programs, which the Action Plan seeks to broaden, include protection for Afro-Colombian labor activists who face political persecution.

We appreciate your attention and consideration to these matters and look forward to working with you in ensuring that labor and minorities rights in Colombia are protected if entering into a Free Trade Agreement between this country and the U.S.