Colombian Community Members, Human Rights Activists, and Environmentalists Protest Rep Crowley, Colombian Ambassador Support for Colombia Free Trade Agreement
at Community Forum

Colombian immingrants Julian Monroy and Carlos Salamanca express their opposition to the trade agreement to Representative Joseph Crowley.

 

On Monday, June 20th, activists from Global Justice for Animals and the Environment,  Mingas New York, and other groups opposed the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement staged a demonstration at a Colombian community forum with Congressman Joseph Crowley and Colombian Ambassador Gabriel Silva at the Centro Civico Colombiano in Elmhust, Queens.  Trade agreement opponents also attended the event to voice their objection to the trade agreement, but were denied the opportunity to ask questions or express their views.

 

At the event, Crowley expressed that he has not yet decided how he intends to vote on the trade agreement, but opponents of the agreement expressed skepticism regarding these comments.  According to GJAE’s Adam Weissman, “Representative Crowley is a longtime apologist for the Colombian government’s complicity in human rights atrocities and a staunch supporter of free trade agreements that place corporate profits above the public interest.”  While Crowley voted against the US-Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement in 2005, he was one of only two NYC Democratic Congressmembers to vote for a free trade agreement with Oman in 2006, an absolute monarchy where labor unions are illegal.  In 2007, he ignored the warning of human rights and environmental groups and voted for the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement, which served as a pretext for the Peruvian government to open indigenous lands to exploitation by environmentally devastating extractive industries and violently repress indigenous resistance to the land grab in the infamous Bagua Massacre of June 2009.

 

As head of the conservative, pro-corporate New Democrats Coalition, Representative Crowley has been among the most ardent voices in the Democratic Party calling for the passage of the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.  Activists believe that Crowley is acting in the interest of corporations like Citigroup, Bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase, his fourth, ninth, and twelfth largest campaign contributor in the last election, while ignoring the view of human rights organizations, indigenous rights organizations, AIDS activists, labor  rights advocates, environmentalists, animal rights advocates, and his own Colombian-American constituents who believe the passage of the agreement will have disastrous consequences for their  native country.  Citigroup, Bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase are members of the Latin American Trade Coalition, an alliance of corporations that have joined forces to lobby Congress in support of the free trade agreement.

 

Congressional Democrats appear poised to strike a deal with Republicans to pass the agreement if Republicans agree to renew Trade Adjustment Assistance, a federal program intended to offer retraining for new careers to workers who lose their employment to job outsourcing or import competition.  But trade agreement foes argue that retraining to prepare workers for the possibility of future jobs is no substitute for employment, especially given the replacement jobs are likely to be lower paying and non-union 

Opponents of the agreement also point to the failure of the much-touted Labor Action Plan (LAP), a series of reforms intended to address ongoing and long-standing human rights atrocities against workers and labor organizers in Colombia, the country with the highest rate of assassinations of union organizers on the planet.   According to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumpka “The action plan does not go nearly far enough in laying out concrete benchmarks for progress in the areas of violence and impunity, nor does it address many of the ways in which Colombian labor law falls short of international standards.”  He said the action plan would leave the U.S. with “no leverage whatsoever” to enforce its terms once Congress ratified the trade deal and  we remain strongly opposed to the Colombia trade agreement.”  51 union organizers were killed in Colombia in 2010.  Even after the plan was announced in April, anti-labor violence has continued.  On May 13, Colombian labor rights lawyer Hernán Darío, a supporter of striking sugar workers was shot five times in downtown Cali.

Critics also argue that the plan fails to address the wide range of humanitarian issues in Colombia beyond labor rights violations, including the internal displacement of 5.2  million people – the highest rate of internal displacement on the planet -- including indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities pushed off their lands by terrorist paramilitary groups with close ties at the highest levels of Colombian government, who use the land for export crops like African palm.  Laws put in place in anticipation of the FTA to attract investment dismantle the legal rights related to territory, mineral and forest resources of these communities. Once the FTA is in place, under its investment rules, multinational corporations benefiting from these legal reforms will be able to sue the Colombian government for compensation for future lost profits if the laws are revoked

Global Justice for Animals and the Environment is a project of Wetlands Activism Collective focused on resisting trade agreements that endanger animals, the  environment, and the human rights of communities engaged in environmental defense struggles. Visit GJAE’s website  at http://gjae.org.

Mingas is a group of individuals from across the United States, Canada and Colombia who are concerned with promoting sovereignty, strengthening democracy and improving labor conditions in Colombia. Visit the Mingas website at http://www.mingas.info


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