By Stephen Coats, Executive Director, USLEAP
This week we saw the great contradiction between the Obama Administration’s unrelenting push for a free trade agreement with Colombia, come hell or high water. On June 8, the International Trade Union Confederation released its 2011 Annual Survey of Trade Union Rights which reported that not only are more trade unionists murdered in Colombia than in any other country but that more trade unionists were murdered in Colombia in 2010 than in the rest of the world combined.
So it was a bit jarring to see US Trade Representative Ron Kirk issue a glowing report on June 13 saying that Colombia is making great progress in addressing worker rights concerns, giving the Colombian government a straight A report card for meeting every single step set out in a Labor Action Plan signed in April.
It’s so wonderful that USTR believes that the Colombian government has demonstrated in the past two months that it is turning around on a dime to end violence and impunity and respect the basic rights of workers in Colombia after two decades of being the most dangerous country in which to be a trade unionist. Oh, wait, maybe USTR is thinking about getting the free trade agreement passed and maybe it’s not an unbiased assessment. The Obama Administration can’t argue that violence against trade unionists has declined since Candidate Obama defended his opposition to the Colombia trade agreement precisely because of the violence. Now the Administration has put forth a Labor Action Plan that doesn’t actually require concrete progress in reducing violence and impunity before getting a thumbs up from USTR. Check out Citizens Trade Campaign, the Latin America Working Group and others who are helping lead the fight against the Colombia free trade agreement.