Politicians urge suspension of European trade with Colombia over abuses

Colombian and European politicians have petitioned the European Parliament to suspend trade deals with Colombia unless the Colombian government takes urgent action to address its poor human rights record. The proposal calls on commercial transactions between Europe and Colombia to take into account ‘the grave violations committed by the security forces in Colombia’.

The proposal was submitted by Luke Flanagan, an Irish member of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left movement which is formed of MEPs representing various progressive parties. It goes on to say that the ‘suspension can be partial and focus on economic sectors which benefit from the murder and displacement of the population, such as the production of palm oil and bananas.’ Other MEPs are encouraged to add their names to the proposal.

The move to pressure the Colombian government over its human rights record has also found political support in Colombia, specifically from the runner-up in the 2018 presidential election, Gustavo Petro. Currently a senator in the Colombian congress, Petro wrote to MEPs asking them to support the proposal and emphasising the European Parliament’s support for the peace process.

Petro also raised the recent killing of historian and political activist, Campo Elías Galindo, who was killed inside his home in Medellin on 1 October, as an example of just one of the hundreds of murders of social activists and human rights defenders since the peace agreement was signed just under four years ago.

State security forces have been implicated in multiple human rights abuses since President Iván Duque took office in August 2018. In regions such as Catatumbo, northeast Colombia, and Nariño, in the southwest, soldiers are accused of committing killings against civilians protesting the forced eradication of coca crops, a practice which appears to contravene the agreement’s stipulation on voluntary eradication. In November last year, defence minister Guillermo Botero was forced to resign following a military raid which killed at least eight minors. Earlier this year, the military was found to have been illegally spying on opposition politicians, human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists.

Most recently, security forces are accused of major violations during protests in Bogota on 9 and 10 September over the police killing of Javier Ordóñez. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said that police violence could have killed up to 13 people, while the mayor of Bogota, Claudia López, accused police of ‘shooting indiscriminately’ at civilians. The Supreme Court has also declared the police to have committed systematic violence and violated fundamental democratic rights in their attempts to suppress peaceful protest.