The Killing Continues as US Doubles Down on Failed Trade Policies

News from Colombia | | credit: Counterpunch on: Tuesday, 7 June 2011
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The Killing Continues as US Doubles Down on Failed Trade Policies

By DAN KOVALIK

A number of notable events took place in the past week which underscore the U.S.'s continued failed policies in Latin America. And of course, these notable events were almost totally ignored by the mainstream of the U.S. press.

First, Joel Hernandez Godoy, the Finance Secretary of the SITRABI union in Guatemela, was murdered by two gunmen on motorcycle. Mr. Hernandez is the second SITRABI unionist killed this year in Guatemala. SITRABI represents Del Monte banana workers, and, along with the AFL-CIO, is a party to a pending labor complaint against Guatemala filed under the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). This labor complaint involves serious claims of labor abuses in Guatemala -- now the second most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists after Colombia which has held the number one spot for years. Among the labor abuses charged in this CAFTA complaint is the murder of another SITRABI leader, Marco Tulio Ramirez.

Guatemala had promised, as a condition of CAFTA, to deal with the problem of anti-union violence within its borders and had even brought the union murder rate down to zero for the two consecutive years leading to CAFTA approval. However, as USLEAP has noted, once CAFTA was passed, the rate skyrocketed again, with 9 unionists killed in 2008 and 16 unionists killed in 2009.

This should be a lesson to those hoping for Colombia to ensure protection for unionists once the Free Trade Agreement with that country is passed.

Meanwhile, in Colombia, at least a dozen unionists have been killed in that country so far this year, with two union teachers killed within recent days, including one in the city of Cali. Another unionist, Carlos Arturo Castro, an engineer, was also killed in Cali on May 23. Mr. Castro was with the union SINTRAEMCALI, a union of public sector workers in the city of Cali. A couple of weeks before Mr. Castro was killed, a lawyer for SINTRAEMCALI, Hernan Dario, was himself shot five times in the city of Cali. Sadly, Mr. Dario passed away in the hospital from these wounds on June 2.

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