Today, LAWGEF joined labor, environmental, human rights, development and faith-based organizations in submitting written comments to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in response to a formal request to the public for opinions on the pending trade agreement. In their comments, these groups outlined the specific human rights and labor problems in Colombia, and urged the Obama Administration to insist upon seeing fundamental improvements on these issues before going forward with a free trade agreement. Violence against trade unionists and other obstacles to worker rights were outlined by the AFL-CIO and US Labor Education in the Americas Project. Some groups also outlined the potential impact of the trade agreement on the rural poor, including Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities.
The LAWGEF noted that “pervasive human rights problems in Colombia, including violence against trade unionists and human rights defenders, are not just a question of lack of capacity or resources, or an inability to control nonstate actors who perpetrate violence. State actors also contribute to these pervasive human rights problems, through direct violations as well as through a lack of political will to resolve them. Nothing has demonstrated this point more dramatically than the serious risks faced by human rights defenders; the Colombian intelligence agency’s illegal surveillance of human rights defenders, including trade unionists, and other actors important for the functioning of any vibrant democracy; and extrajudicial executions by members of Colombia’s armed forces.” The LAWGEF called for the US Trade Representative to work with other U.S. agencies to encourage sustained, measurable progress in addressing these problems before any trade agreement is considered.
Click here to read the press release from the coalition about their comments.
Click on the links below to read the individual comments from each organization:
- Latin America Working Group Education Fund (LAWGEF)
- Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
- Oxfam America and the US Office on Colombia (USOC)
- Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment (IWG)
- Human Rights Watch
- Network for Advocacy in Solidarity with Grassroots Afro-Colombian Communities (NASGACC)
- Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN)
- US Labor Education in the Americas Project (USLEAP)
- International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF)
- Escuela Nacional Sindical (ENS) and the Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ)