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April 06, 2011

Obama to advance Colombia trade pact without requiring union murders to stop

The Obama administration announced today that it would move forward with an Action Plan on the Colombia FTA, without requiring murders of unionists to stop.  

The plan does not appear to fully address any of the 27 labor rights metrics outlined by House Democrats that were necessary to be fully implemented and yielding results before the FTA should be brought to Congress.

Democrats and labor groups quickly criticized the Obama Action Plan. The six congressional Democrats criticized the plan for failing to require actual results on the ground, and said that the plan does not meet their list of concerns. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said that the federation was

“deeply disappointed that the Obama administration has signaled that will move forward to submit the proposed U.S.-Colombia Trade Agreement to a vote in the near future. In our view, the situation in Colombia remains unacceptably violent for trade unionists, as well as for human rights defenders and other vulnerable populations... We have no doubt that if 51 CEOs had been murdered in Colombia last year, this deal would be on a very slow track indeed."

Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world in which to be a trade unionist. In fact, the number of murdered unionists in the last three years – 52 in 2008, 47 in 2009, and 51 in 2010 – has exceeded the 39 killed in 2007, the year the FTA was signed. The 2008-2010 was the period when the Colombian government was under maximum scrutiny.

Indeed, in every year, more unionists are murdered in Colombia than in the rest of the world combined. According to Colombia’s National Labor School, the leading source on the topic, nearly 2,860 trade unionists have been killed since 1986.  Only six percent of these cases have resulted in any convictions. This is roughly a 94 percent impunity ratio. 

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