The U.S.-Colombia trade agreement was held up for an unprecedented five years over human rights and labor rights concerns. It was passed today, October 12th, but over strong and passionate opposition from many members of Congress, and from a broad range of civil society organizations in the United States and Colombia, including labor unions, human rights groups, faith-based organizations, environmental groups, and Afro-Colombian, indigenous and small-scale farmer associations.
“Why do we care so much about this?” said Lisa Haugaard, Executive Director of the Latin America Working Group (LAWG). “Because we believe that passage of this agreement will make it harder to encourage the Colombian government to protect its trade unionists, who are still murdered with impunity today—23 so far this year. Because we believe the flood of agricultural imports from the United States will undermine Colombia’s small-scale farmers, including Afro-Colombians and indigenous people, who have suffered so much in Colombia’s civil war. And because it will boost the kinds of large-scale investment, such as mining and biofuel, that has helped to fuel the violence in a conflict that still grinds brutally on.”
“President Obama has promised that he will delay implementation of the Colombia FTA until Colombia has fully implemented all provisions of the Labor Action Plan,” said Vanessa Kritzer, LAWG’s Colombia Program Associate. “The least he could do to temper the damage that was done today is keep this promise.”
“The Latin America Working Group expresses a heartfelt thank you to the many U.S. and Colombian citizens, partners, and members of Congress who spoke out against this flawed agreement, and who work so hard to support human rights in Colombia,” said Haugaard.