As Obama Administration carries on with it push for the Colombia FTA, a deteriorating human rights condition in Colombia persists. News continues to come in about the murders of Colombian activists, unionists, and teachers, including the recent death of a lands rights leader. And now, reports are surfacing of forced displacement in Afro-Colombia and indigenous communities. According to the United Nations Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 18,000 people were the victims of an armed strike by FARC guerrillas in May 2011. Of these 18,000 it is estimated 16,000 are Afro-descendents and 2,000 are indigenous. In a recent post, The Afo-Colombian Solidarity Network argues that, “When leaders are threatened and killed, movements can be silenced. In Colombia, if these movements cannot exercise their constitutional rights more displacement and violence is inevitable and these communities could vanish.”
The severity and persistence of these abuses are alarming, particularly in light of the Obama Administration’s plan to go forward with a NAFTA-style Colombia FTA without addressing the perilous human rights situation in Colombia.
We’ve previously brought attention to Obama’s woefully inadequate Action Plan on the Colombia FTA, which does not require murders or displacement to stop. A memo to the President by House Democrats outlined how to address these concerns, but it has apparently fallen to death ears at the White House.
It appears the pressures is growing for the public to take action and draw attention to the present atrocities as well as the future steps needed to ensure human rights are respected in any free trade agreement with Colombia.