WOLA: The U.S. Should Not Move Forward on Colombia FTA

News from Colombia | | credit: Washington Office on Latin America on: Friday, 24 June 2011
Original source: Click here for original article

Washington, D.C.-Today, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), along with more than 400 other organizations, academics, and individuals from both the United States and Colombia, sent a letter to the U.S. Congress asking representatives to vote no on the pending U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement (FTA). Human rights violations in Colombia – abuses against labor activists, Afro-Colombians, human rights activists and others – continue to take place at alarmingly high levels. In this climate, it would be a mistake to approve the FTA.

Human rights abuses are widespread and touch many sectors of Colombian society. The Labor Action Plan approved several months ago by the Colombian government in discussions with the United States has not stopped new violence directed against trade unionists and labor activists, nor has it banned the third-party contracting that obstructs workers’ ability to unionize. Colombia’s internal armed conflict is generating violence and new displacements. Illegal armed groups exert influence, often through violence, over legal sectors of the economy including extractive industries, oil palm, mining, and development projects. Given the continuing climate of human rights abuses, approving the FTA on the grounds that the first formal steps in the Labor Action Plan have been implemented, ignores the deeper issues, and by doing so will contribute to further violence and displacement.

The Obama Administration has been very focused on addressing labor concerns with the U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan; WOLA recognizes these efforts. Nonetheless, it joins over 400 U.S. and Colombia civil society groups in recognizing that much more needs to be done to address labor rights and the broader human rights situation. The Plan fails to take into account the country’s broader context and issues that generate violence against workers, human rights defenders, and activists. In 2011 alone, more than 20 human rights defenders have been killed and approximately 100 threatened.

To read the rest of WOLA's letter click here.

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