Right now, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe is giving a talk at the Center for American Progress here in DC. As he speaks, a throng of protesters (including human and labor rights activists and students) is picketing outside, sending the message that the Bush administration should not be making deals with human rights abusers like Uribe.
We've already posted on how Uribe's administration has stood virtually idle amidst the murder of hundreds of trade unionists. The Uribe government has also been rocked by multiple scandals related to the links of close Uribe associates with right-wing paramilitary groups responsible for the majority of the human rights abuses in Colombia. Many of Uribe's political allies, advisors and cabinet members have resigned or been arrested, including his Foreign Minister, his intelligence director, and Senators that are key supporters of his in the Colombian Congress. Additionally, leaked information from the CIA revealed in March that the head of the Colombian army has colluded with paramilitary groups.
Despite these scandals rocking the Uribe administration, the Bush administration went ahead and signed a "free trade" agreement with Colombia and is now asking Congress to consider approving it. In response, a wide array of speakers, including labor leaders, Colombian ex-pats, human rights activists and others, are giving statements to the media while protesters line the street chanting and holding signs with the message "No FTA with human rights abusers!" The protesters will also stage a "die-in," lying in body bags on the street to symbolize those who have been killed under Uribe's regime.
The full list of speakers:
- Robert Baugh, Executive Director, Industrial Union Council, AFL-CIO
- Deborah Schneider, Change to Win and Director, SEIU Global Organizing Partnerships
- Nicole Lee, Executive Director, TransAfrica Forum
- John Jairo Garces, Un Día de Esperanza, Colombian exile whose father was killed by paramilitaries
- Gerardo Cajamarca, Colombian City Councilman in Exile, SINALTAINAL, member of the Steelworkers Global Justice Team
- Marino Cordoba, Association of Internally Displaced Afro-Colombians - USA, AFRODES-USA
- Heather Hanson, Executive Director, U.S. Office on Colombia
- Christina Lizzi, Student Trade Justice Campaign, George Washington University
Stay tuned for photos (and potentially video) of the event, which we'll be posting later this afternoon.