Thursday, July 19, 2007

NUPGE opposes Colombia free trade deal

So far there does not seem too much publicity about the NUPGE opposition. I imagine some other unions probably oppose the deal as well. Harper is again following the Bush agenda. I wonder if the Liberals, Bloc, and NDP will oppose the deal as the Democrats have in the US-- at least until some conditions are met. What's next a free trade deal with Zimbabwe or Burma?

NUPGE says free trade talks legitimize violence in Colombia

Murder, threats, arbitrary detention, kidnapping, torture and disappearances associated with the Uribe government

Ottawa (18 July 2007) - Canada is putting economic considerations ahead of the well-being of the Colombian people by pursuing a free trade agreement that legitimizes the violent government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, says the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).

In a letter to Stephen Harper, NUPGE President James Clancy said the prime minister's visit to Colombia this week raises serious concerns about Canada's foreign policy priorities.
Stephen Harper and Alvaro Uribe

"We believe that in pursuing a Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, you are placing trade and investment concerns above the well-being of the people of Colombia," Clancy wrote.

"This also represents yet another example of Canada adopting the failed policy objectives of U.S. President Bush - this time in opposition to even that of the U.S. Congress."

Colombia in crisis

Clancy said the Colombian people are enduring a humanitarian crisis at the hands of the Uribe government.

"Since 1991, more than 2,245 trade union leaders and activists have been assassinated in Colombia. Furthermore, at least 8,000 have suffered threats, arbitrary detention, kidnapping, torture and disappearances," he wrote.

"The Uribe government has done little to quell the violence. Indeed, as recent reports from Colombia indicate, there is growing evidence of links between the government and right-wing paramilitary groups."

The CBC reports that two senators in Uribe's political party and one of his cousins have been closely linked to "right-wing death squads." Videotaped evidence also exists of Uribe associating with paramilitary leaders.

"Colombia's labour and civil rights movements oppose the negotiation of free trade agreements until the government takes meaningful action against the violence and intimidation," Clancy told Harper.

"It is inappropriate for the Canadian government to ignore the pleas for assistance from some of the most persecuted and embattled people in the world," he said.

"It is also surprising, and worrisome, that the Canadian government would pursue this course of action in light of the strong opposition in the U.S. Congress to a free trade agreement with Colombia."

U.S. Congress

On July 2, Nancy Pelosi and other senior leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives issued a statement saying "there must first be concrete evidence of sustained results on the ground in Colombia" before Congress could support a free trade deal with Colombia.

"It appears that your government, by pursuing a free trade agreement with Colombia, is attempting to bring us even further in line with the discredited foreign policy of U.S. President Bush," Clancy said.

He told Harper that NUPGE has joined the Canadian Labour Congress and the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia (CUT) in demanding that trade negotiations with Colombia be delayed until the Colombian government:

● completely severs all ties with paramilitary organizations and international criminal networks;
● provides meaningful and adequate protection for unions and trade unionists;
● makes significant advances in the investigation and prosecution of crimes against trade unionists;
● brings its labour laws into conformity with the International Labour Organization (ILO) core labour standards; and
● provides full support for the newly created ILO office in Colombia to monitor labour rights compliance and pursue the investigation of key cases of assassinations of trade unionists.

"The people of the Americas have traditionally looked to Canada as a voice for fair and just policies in the region," Clancy said.

"Your government, by embracing the failed foreign policies of the Bush administration, is severely eroding our reputation in our southern hemisphere. I urge you and your government to give this matter serious consideration." NUPGE

More information:
● Colombia: the struggle for justice and peace

Web posted by NUPGE: 18 July 2007

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