Monday, March 24, 2008

Alert: Take action through March 30 to stop the US-Colombia FTA vote

President Bush is threatening to force a vote on the Free Trade Agreement over the objection of Congressional leadership! Most recently, the Administration has said that it will be introduced immediately after the March recess.

Call or visit your members of Congress while they are home these next two weeks and ask them to oppose the President introducing the U.S. Colombia FTA.

Our collective energy has stopped the FTA for a year, but the threats by the Administration are getting louder. They have launched a powerful all-out campaign, together with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. With six official U.S. Congressional delegations already sent to Colombia to experience carefully staged tours highlighting the efforts supposedly undertaken to end the systematic assassination of Colombia labor leaders, five more are scheduled.
These delegations are clearly not seeing:

  • the 3.8 million displaced people forced from their homes, a disproportionate number are Afro-Colombian and Indigenous people;
  • the systematic extermination of the Colombian labor movement, with roughly 50 union members murdered in 2007-08, several attempted murders, hundreds of death threats, and a routine and systematic failure of the government to guarantee the exercise of fundamental labor rights;
  • purportedly demobilized paramilitaries resurfacing with new names and intimidating those in the act of defending human rights; and
  • increased extrajudicial executions of civilians by members of the Colombian armed forces.
  • Approving the FTA in a country engaged in a five decade conflict will perpetuate these abuses and exacerbate the humanitarian crisis lived out every day. Neither we nor the people of Colombia can afford another "free" trade agreement that will cause more displacement and suffering.

The Bush administration has argued that FTA is a national security issue and that our nation's standing in the region depends on its passage. For a refutation of this arguments, see this report by the Center for International Policy's Colombia Project.

People all over the world are calling for international trade and investment systems that respect and promote the dignity of the human person, ensure the development and well-being of people in all nations, foster gender and racial equity and lead to environmental sustainability. However, the U.S.-Colombia FTA takes us far away from this goal.

A few calls can sway your members of Congress to take a public stand. It’s easy. Here’s how.

Call (202) 224-3121 and ask the Capitol Switchboard operator to connect you to your Representative's office. (Visit if you don't know who your representative is.) Ask him or her to please stop President Bush from forcing a vote on the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement by taking a public stance against it.

Call 1-202-224-3121 again and ask for one of your two senators. Repeat the message, then call your other senator.

U.S.-Colombia FTA talking points
If passed the U.S.-Colombia FTA will:

  • Undermine human rights and fuel the fires of conflict. Colombia is still a country at war. Its record on human rights is dismal. Attacks on civil society, union leaders, Afro-Colombians and Indigenous people continue with impunity. The FTA will deepen the economic disparity, which is a root cause of the conflict, and diminish human rights.
  • Destroy small farmers. The agreement will favor only a small sector of Colombian farmers who export to the U.S. The Colombian Ministry of Agriculture estimates that if tariffs on agricultural imports from the U.S. were eliminated, overall income for farmers would drop by more than fifty percent. This would wipe out local farmers—as happened to the 1.3 million who have been displaced in Mexico since NAFTA passed 12 years ago. This will only add to Colombia’s 3.8 million internally displaced people.
  • Increase drug trafficking. Colombia is already the world’s largest producer of cocaine. The FTA will threaten livelihoods and displace small farmers leaving, for some, no other alternative than to join the drug trade.
  • Harm Indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombians. The internal conflict has disproportionately displaced Afro-Colombian and Indigenous peoples from their resource-rich, ancestral territories, ignoring their constitutional and legal rights. Laws put in place in anticipation of the FTA to attract investment dismantle the legal rights related to territory, mineral and forest resources of these communities. Once the FTA is in place, under its investment rules, multinational corporations benefiting from these legal reforms will be able to sue the Colombian government for compensation for future lost profits if the laws are revoked.
  • Hinder access to life-saving medicines. While the amended text of the Colombia FTA removes the most egregious, CAFTA-based, provisions limiting the access to affordable medicines, it still includes NAFTA provisions that undermine the right to affordable medicines. This will further exacerbate a failing system in Colombia that only covers ten percent of Afro-Colombians.
  • Harm workers and environment. Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world for union and labor organizers. There is little that the labor chapter can do to address the continued violence and impunity in the country. Moreover, the government has demonstrated little will to promote the labor laws and policies which are necessary for the full exercise of the international core labor rights.
  • Increase the burden on women, children, and the poor. Provisions promoting the privatization and deregulation of essential services such as water, healthcare and education are written into this trade agreement. As these services become less accessible, women and the poor would have suffer the consequences of increases in prices of these services.
  • Undermine U.S. and Colombian sovereignty. The Colombia FTA contains a NAFTA-style foreign investor chapter that allows corporations to sue governments that pass environmental and public health laws that might reduce corporate profits.
  • Threaten the Amazon and wildlife. The FTA will stimulate an increase in logging and other extraction projects in the Colombian Amazon rain forest that mostly reside in Afro-Colombian and Indigenous territories. This will further endanger the lungs of the globe and precious species and will be reinforced by investor rules that allow corporations to sue the Colombian government when enforcement of environmental laws results in lost corporate profits.
  • Pirate traditional knowledge. The FTA will pave the way for large pharmaceutical and agribusiness corporations to patent traditional knowledge, seeds, and life forms. This opens the door to bio-piracy of the Andean-Amazon region and threatens the ecological, medicinal and cultural heritage of Afro-Colombians and Indigenous peoples.

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