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alp227 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 09:48 PM
Original message
U.S. and Colombia Near Trade Pact
Source: The New York Times

With the announcement on Wednesday that it has extracted labor rights concessions from Colombia to advance a trade deal, the Obama administration is now two-thirds of the way toward meeting Republican demands that three languishing trade agreements be sent to Congress for approval.

Senior administration officials hailed what they called an action plan in which Colombia promised to expand its protection program for labor union leaders, to enforce its labor laws more vigorously and to hire 480 more labor inspectors over four years. The White House announced that Colombias president, Juan Manuel Santos, would travel to Washington on Thursday to formally announce the agreement with President Obama.

Ron Kirk, the United States trade representative, said he believed the plan would set the stage for a very strong vote in Congress on the trade deal. But neither he nor Michael Froman, the White House international economic affairs adviser, would say when that vote might happen, partly because Republicans want to see another trade pact with Panama completed before taking up any more votes on trade. That holdup also includes action on confirming a successor to Gary F. Locke as commerce secretary. Mr. Locke was nominated last month by the president to become ambassador to China.

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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 11:12 PM
Response to Original message
1. Congressional Democrats, with a few wretched exceptions, have steadfastly opposed this deal
due to excessive, mostrous actions toward the working people of Colombia, whose torture, kidnappings, murders have never been considered important enough for the Colombia government to investigate.

From Canada, regarding their much loathed FTA:
OPSEU urges abandonment of Colombian trade deal

'Why is Canada supporting murder, human rights violations and forced displacement in Colombia?'

Toronto (12 March 2010) - The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) has joined other unions and social justice organizations across Canada in demanding the Harper government immediately stop the Canada - Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

The Harper Conservatives plan to move ahead with the agreement and to pursue free trade policies in general.

How can we allow our government to collaborate with a regime that allowed 45 trade union leaders to be killed last year, 114 indigenous leaders murdered and thousands of people displaced?" asks OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas. "We demand that Ottawa listen to the voices of ordinary people here and in Colombia and stop this deal before its too late.


Obama & Colombia: The Great Betrayal
Posted on March 14, 2011 by openveinsblog

When trying to win the hearts and minds of the American Left, Barack Obama the Candidate curried favour with liberals, Latinos and trade unions by hailing the North American and Central American Free Trade Agreements (NAFTA and CAFTA respectively) as failures, or at the very least in dire need of reform. This was not a particularly controversial view. Even pro-business commentators now admit that NAFTA has had a devastating effect on Mexican farmers as cheaper, subsidised US exports have flooded Mexico and put over a million people out of work. At the same time, manufacturing jobs have fled the US and kept wages low for American workers.

Obama the Candidate said that he opposed the signing of the NAFTA agreement in 1994 and voted against CAFTA ten years later. He even said that if elected president, he would resist a similar golden handshake with Colombia, in part because the violence against unions in Colombia would make a mockery of the very labour protections that we have insisted be included in these kinds of agreements. Strange then that since taking office, he has been championing the Colombian Free Trade Agreement, which business elites in both countries have been pushing for relentlessly, particularly after much of South America vetoed an all-encompassing Free Trade Area of the Americas in 2005.

Colombia, which is one of Washingtons closest allies and has long held the worst human rights record in Latin America (the two are not mutually exclusive), reached a dubious landmark recently when, according to human rights groups, it surpassed Sudan in having the largest number of internally-displaced persons (IDPs) in the world over 5.2 million internal refugees, or 12% of its population. Most of these refugees originate from rural areas of Colombia (by that, read indigenous or Afro-Colombian), and most lost their homes and land when multinational corporations arrived looking for mining, drilling and cultivation opportunities a phenomenon that would only intensify under the Colombian Free Trade Agreement.

Trade unionism doesnt mean much in Colombia where 51 trade union members were murdered in 2010 alone. The countryside, where most of the killings take place, are patrolled by paramilitary gangs bankrolled by the Colombian government, which in turn is bankrolled by the US. Since 1999, the US has given Colombia over $7 billion of aid to fight drug-trafficking, but much of it follows the trickle-down theory so popular among Washington economists that is, trickling straight down to the paramilitaries. Their job is to suppress political protest and intimidate local groups opposed to the appropriation of land by mining corporations, oil giants, and US agribusiness.

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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 11:21 PM
Response to Original message
2. U.S.-Colombia Deal on Labour Rights Met with Scepticism
U.S.-Colombia Deal on Labour Rights Met with Scepticism
By Aprille Muscara*

Largely hailed by Republican lawmakers, the preliminary details of the deal, dubbed an "Action Plan for Labour Rights", were received sceptically by some Democrat representatives, while labour and rights groups noted that they lacked breadth, depth, and accountability measures.

The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was negotiated under the last George W. Bush administration and has been log-jammed in the pipeline since due to serious concerns about the South American country's lax labour laws, history of violence against union leaders, and shaky human rights record.

"Trade union and labour rights violations are taking place within a broader context that is not addressed by this action plan," Gimena Sanchez, an Andean expert at the Washington Office on Latin America, told IPS.

"That context includes a continued internal armed conflict, re-grouped and reconstituted paramilitarism that operate throughout the country, and alarming impunity on labour and all other human rights cases," she explained.

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rabs Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 11:37 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Santos is to meet Obama tomorrow (Thursday)
Edited on Wed Apr-06-11 11:37 PM by rabs

Maybe we will see if the u.s. president turns a blind eye to the human rights abuses that are still on-going in Colombia.

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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 11:57 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Afraid to hope he'll do the Democratic thing over this. What are the chances?
We should have a pool going before the verdict!
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rabs Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 12:40 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. Chances for Obama's Democratic thing? Zilch.

Obama has said he wants the FTA with Colombia.

Plus, he and JuanMa have things in common.

They are both left handed.

They both attended Harvard.

So they are buddies.

Only true-blue Dems in Congress can block it.
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 01:12 AM
Response to Reply #5
7. It would be good to see Democrats respecting Democratic principles, for a change, wouldn't it?
The U.S. President and JuanMa have another thing in common: tons of right-wing people they listen to in Miami.
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Hulk Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 01:12 AM
Response to Original message
6. Maybe they could include their cocaine trade as well....
Then we can let Mexico return to Mexico..and the Colombian thugs can freely let their drugs flow in to the USA via air/sea routes.
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yngdip Donating Member (33 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 01:49 AM
Response to Original message
8. FTAs stink
no matter which country they are with. They are all currently modeled after NAFTA. They legislate how corporations can screw people, their land, and their rights here and abroad. The POTUS will sign onto it though, probably because he thinks trade is one of the last issues where he can easily build bipartisan consensus. I hope the Congressional Dems and Lori Wallach and Pub Cit. will give them hell.
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Peace Patriot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 12:30 PM
Response to Original message
9. Our $7 BILLION in U.S. military aid to Colombia bought the murders of thousands of trade unionists,
teachers, community activists, human rights workers, political leftists, journalists, peasant farmers and others, and the displacement of 5 MILLION peasant farmers from their lands--during the Alvaro Uribe reign of terror. Basically, our money bought the decapitation of grass roots activism in Colombia and ripped the place open for the U.S. "free trade for the rich." The Obama administration has been actively, vigorously, protecting Bush Junta tool Alvaro Uribe for his direction of this dreadful carnage and mayhem. Now U.S.-based transglobal corporations and war profiteers stand to benefit from it all.

Note: Amnesty International attributes HALF of the murders of trade unionists to the U.S.-funded and trained Colombia military itself and the other half to their closely tied rightwing paramilitary death squads. And in addition to these thousands of murders, the U.S.-funded and trained Colombia military had a POLICY of luring young men with offers of jobs, murdering them and dressing their bodies up as FARC guerrillas, to up their "body counts," to earn bonuses and to impress U.S. senators.

This is a heinous and dreadful story but it is only the visible part of the story (graspable if you pay close attention to the corpo-fascist press and other news sources). The hidden part is the cocaine trade. I believe that part of Alvaro Uribe's mafia-like role was to consolidate the trillion dollar-plus cocaine revenue stream into fewer hands, and direct it into the coffers of the Bush Cartel, the CIA and U.S. banksters, under cover of the U.S. "war on drugs." And this shadowy "war" is part of why the Obama administration (including CIA Director Leon Panetta) is protecting and even coddling Uribe--not only using extradition and asylum to remove witnesses against him from Colombia and out of the reach of Colombian prosecutors (--and over their objections), but also HONORING him--"laundering" his image--with cushy academic sinecures at Georgetown (George Tenet's alma mater) and Harvard, and appointment to a prestigious international legal committee.

And the other reason for protecting Uribe is likely U.S./Bush Junta war crimes in Colombia. The hints have been the recent (circa Feb '11) U.S. State Department "fine" of Blackwater for "unauthorized" "trainings" of "foreign persons" (don't know who) IN COLOMBIA "for use in Iraq and Afghanistan," the La Macarena massacre (500 to 2,000 bodies in a mass grave) in a region of Afghanistan-like USAID/Pentagon ops in Colombia, and the secret negotiation and secret signing (by Uribe) of a U.S./Colombia military agreement ('09) which included total diplomatic immunity for all U.S. military personnel and all U.S. military 'contractors' in Colombia.

Colombia's soil is drenched in the blood of innocents--people merely trying to exercise their democratic rights, or trying to farm their small plots to feed their families. The survivors have been subjected to massive state terror. This is the death-fertilized ground--the terrorized ground, the raped ground-- for U.S. corporate/war profiteer plundering of oil, land and slave labor.

Colombia's current "president," Manuel Santos, was (in my opinion) hand-picked by Leon Panetta, and sent to CIA "smiley school," to accomplish this "laundering" of Colombia for Drummond Coal, Chiquita*, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Dyncorp & brethren "free trade for the rich." Santos is Uribe's former Defense Minister, who was running the Colombian military during several years of this reign of terror (which is not over, by the way--on-going murders). He is now smearing some cosmetics over this horror but, really, the blood literally seeps out of the ground. In La Macarena, how the mass grave was discovered was that local children became sickened by drinking the local water, which had been poisoned by all the bodies upstream.

The Bushwhacks kill. The Democrats hand out goodies from the kills. That's what I'm seeing. And I can't tell you how sick it makes me feel--a lifelong Democrat--to admit that this horror is a POLICY of the Democratic Party leadership. Like their silence on 'TRADE SECRET' voting machines, here--machines spread like a plague all over the U.S., run on 'TRADE SECRET code that is owned and controlled largely by one, private, far rightwing connected corporation (ES&S, which just bought out Diebold**)--it is simply mind-boggling how completely our party leaders have betrayed us.

If you are wondering why we, as a people, are so helpless to do anything about any of this, why it doesn't matter what we think, why a largely progressive people have such a scumbag, fascist Congress (and governors), why the Forever War goes on and on and on, no matter what we think or who we vote for, and why and how we are being repeatedly and massively robbed by corporations, banksters and war profiteers, we have only to look as far as the "polling booth" down the street, where ES&S is "tabulating" all our votes with code that "we, the people" are forbidden to review and with virtually no audit/recount controls.

The corpo-fascists who are running things FEAR us, they really do.


*(Obama's pick for U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, was Chiquita International's private lawyer--the one that got Chiquita execs off with a handslap for hiring death squads to murder labor activists on their farms in Colombia. There is another case about the Colombian death squads that Drummond Coal hired, with the Obama administration recently advising the federal judge to lay off master criminal and CIA pet Alvaro Uribe as to his testifying.)

**(Diebold aka Premier, in case you are looking into your state's voting system. But even if it ain't ES&S/Diebold (Premier), it's bad, bad, bad, because it's all run on 'TRADE SECRET' code.)
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-08-11 03:27 AM
Response to Original message
10. From the National Security Archive, just released, "The Chiquita Papers"
April 11, 2011
The Chiquita Papers

Bogot, Colombia, April 7, 2011 - Confidential internal memos from Chiquita Brands International reveal that the banana giant benefited from its payments to Colombian paramilitary and guerrilla groups, contradicting the company's 2007 plea agreement with U.S. prosecutors, which claimed that the company had never received "any actual security services or actual security equipment in exchange for the payments." Chiquita had characterized the payments as "extortion."

These documents are among thousands that Chiquita turned over to the U.S. Justice Department as part of a sentencing deal in which the company admitted to years of illegal payments to the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)--a State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization--and agreed to pay a $25 million fine. The Archive has obtained more than 5,500 pages of Chiquita's internal documents from the Justice Department under the Freedom of Information Act and is publishing the entire set online today. Key documents from the Chiquita Papers are included in the recently-published document collection, Colombia and the United States: Political Violence, Narcotics, and Human Rights, 1948-2010, now available as part of the Digital National Security Archive from ProQuest.

The documents provide evidence of mutually-beneficial "transactions" between Chiquita's Colombian subsidiaries and several illegal armed groups in Colombia and shed light on more than a decade of security-related payments to guerrillas, paramilitaries, Colombian security forces, and government-sponsored Convivir militia groups. The collection also details the company's efforts to conceal the so-called "sensitive payments" in the expense accounts of company managers and through other accounting tricks. The Justice Department investigation concluded that many of Chiquita's payments to the AUC (also referred to as "Autodefensas" in many of the documents) were made through legal Convivir organizations ostensibly overseen by the Colombian army.

New evidence indicating that Chiquita benefited from the illicit payments may increase the company's exposure to lawsuits representing victims of Colombia's illegal armed groups. The collection is the result of an Archive collaboration with George Washington University Law School's International Human Rights and Public Justice Advocacy Clinics and has been used in support of a civil suit brought against Chiquita led by Earth Rights International on behalf of hundreds of Colombian victims of paramilitary violence.

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