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Sample Op-ed Opposing U.S.-Colombia FTA

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Write an op-ed to spread the word about the movement to stop the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement!

Below you will find a sample op-ed that you can adapt to submit to your local newspaper. Remember that op-eds need to be original, so feel free to use all these points, but adapt it so it sounds like you!

Sample Op-ed
In an effort to advance the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, the Obama Administration and congressional leaders have been telling people that the violence in Colombia isn’t as bad as we think and that union murders are on the decline. They say there is no reason to block this trade agreement.

(You/your organization) along with over 400 organizations and individuals in the United States and Colombia—including SEIU, Amazon Watch, the Presbyterian Church USA Office of Public Witness, Public Citizen, and the Latin America Working Group—wrote a joint letter to Congress with a different message this week. We joined together to ask Congress to oppose the passage of this agreement until there are major improvements in human rights and labor conditions in Colombia.

If passed now, the U.S.-Colombia FTA would harm the Colombians already most brutally affected by decades of war:  poor farmers in conflict zones, Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, and internally-displaced families seeking to return to their lands. Colombia now endures the largest internal displacement crisis in the world, even greater than that of Sudan, with more than 5 million people living in desperate conditions after being violently robbed of their lands. A Free Trade Agreement at this time would only exacerbate Colombia’s humanitarian crisis by encouraging more large-scale agricultural and resource extraction projects that would push more communities off their ancestral lands and into greater poverty.

Nearly 400,000 small farmers would lose at least half of their income, making it even harder for them to produce enough to survive without turning to illicit coca production. Is that what we want? More cocaine produced than ever before?

Major labor groups in the United States and Colombia have come out strongly against this FTA because Colombia still remains the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist.  51 trade unionists were killed in Colombia in 2010 alone. While the Obama Administration’s “Labor Action Plan” calls for some labor rights improvements, it falls far short of promoting even internationally accepted labor standards. And since it is not legally binding, it rewards intentions rather than results.  The same number of trade unionists could be killed in Colombia in 2012, and the FTA would remain in place forever. 

The last six months have seen an increase in attacks and threats against community leaders, unionists, and human rights defenders by illegal armed groups. However, the Action Plan does not include any steps to dismantle the paramilitaries and successor armed groups that are the source of so much of this brutal violence.

In Colombia, human rights defenders, Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, trade unionists, millions of displaced people, struggling small-scale farmers, and many others are calling on us in the United States to protect them from the devastation this trade agreement would bring to their lives and their country.

President Obama promised in his 2008 campaign to stand up for human rights and oppose this deal until conditions improved in Colombia. They haven’t. Although he and many of his congressional colleagues are under pressure to flip-flop on this issue, which for many Colombians means the difference of life or death, we hope they will do the right thing and say no to this FTA right now.

P.S. Here is the link to the letter if you would like to include it: http://www.wola.org/sites/default/files/downloadable/Andes/Colombia/2011/June%2021/FTALetterFinal.pdf