The Colombia FTA is a threat to Afro- Colombian Rights

Message received from Madison Fair Trade Acion Alliance ( MFTTAA)


Take Action to Stop the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA): The FTA is a Threat to Afro-Colombian Rights. Afro-Colombian grassroots organizations are opposed to the FTA.

As President Bush rushes to pressure the U.S. congress for a favorable vote on the U.S.-Colombia FTA, under the guise of national security, we need you to take action and let your representative know that approving the FTA will sentence Indigenous and Afro-Colombians communities to a live of poverty and exclusion.
While the Bush administration tries to mislead Congress and public opinion on Colombia’s advancements on peace and justice, the paramilitaries, military and guerrillas carry on threatening, terrorizing and assassinating union leaders and Afro-Colombian and Indigenous peasants.  Impunity continues unabated and President Bush’s FTA campaign ignores the real threats to national security: injustice, impunity, lack of governance, and disrespect for human rights. Trade alone will not resolve these threats and in fact there are vital conditions that need to be met to ensure just trade.  
We join people all over the United States who are calling for international trade and investment systems that respect and promote the dignity of Afro-Colombians and Indigenous peoples, ensure the development and well-being of these vulnerable populations, foster gender and racial equity and lead to environmental sustainability.  The current FTA fails to do that, and will only increase the plight of Afro-Colombians:  
1.    A Threat to Ethnic and Human Rights The FTA was conceived by violating the rule of law.  It was not consulted with Afro-Colombians or Indigenous Peoples as required by the Colombian constitution and ILO convention 169. These laws were created to protect Indigenous and Afro-Colombian’s rights to territory, environment, food security, and to self determination. The FTA violates these laws and is therefore a threat to their rights.
2.    A Threat to Land Ownership and a Dignified Life Land is a principle of life and strengthens identity for ethnic groups in Colombia. As land is threatened, the right to life is threatened. Systematic human rights violations including murder, terror, and forced displacement, are used on a daily basis to take over Afro-Colombian and Indigenous lands that are rich in natural resources. Of the Afro-Colombians who held title to their land 79% are currently homeless due to this violence.   In Mexico, the North American Free Trade Agreement caused the displacement of 3 million rural farmers, Colombia’s ethnic and rural populations cannot afford further displacements.   The FTA cannot be discussed or voted on until Afro-Colombians and Indigenous are able to safely return and live on their lands.
3.    A Threat to the Environment The FTA contains an ambitious project to supply the world with bio-fuels produced from Oil Palm, sugar cane and corn’s large scale cultivation. Large scale monocrops target the best lands, most of which are collectively and individually owned by Afro-Colombian grassroots communities. Oil palm cultivation has been linked to massacres and expropriation by paramilitaries in Chocó, Nariño, South of Urabá and the East Llanos region. Nevertheless, the Colombian government aspires to grow 6 million hectares of this product by 2020. The cultivation of just 456 hectares of African palm requires 86 kilometers of drains and 11 kilometers of roads. This type of infrastructure has extremely high cultural, social and environmental cost for the communities, the nation and the world. To approve the FTA is to approve large scale monocrops that will devastate environmental heritage of humanity.
4.   A Threat to Colombia’s National Sovereignty The FTA will undermine Colombia’s sovereignty by allowing corporations to sue governments that pass environmental and public health laws that might reduce corporate profits. The to pre-emptive legal changes the Colombian government made in preparation for the FTA negotiations, undermine the rights to self determination and governance of the ethnic groups, particular those rights that Afro-Colombians, gained through a legal framework created by Law 70/93.  These pre-emptive changes consequently jeopardize their cultural rights and their rights over traditional knowledge and natural resources.  In the same way, while the US advocates for protection of the US population’s food security, the U.S. and Colombian government put Colombia’s food security at risk by promoting extractive industries and large scale monocrops, increasing food imports, and adopting public and economic policies that contribute to the most unequal distribution of land in Latin America. Arguing that the FTA is a matter of national security to approve it undermines Colombia’s ethnic groups’ most basic right, the right to be fed.
5.   A Threat to Labor Rights President Bush and President Uribe along with FTA supporters insist there is improvement in the situation for labor unions and that the FTA will bring more employment.  But they forget that plantation based economies have a well known history of labor rights violations. Indeed, sugar cane, African oil palm, plantain plantations in the past and the present have been characterize by violent expropriation of land, slave like labor conditions, and labor union repression. As Colombia moves toward agricultural imports while using rich and productive lands for bio-fuels, subsistence farmers are violently forced to migrate and urban workers face the threat of lower wages as competition increases. Since Afro-Colombian communities have an agricultural vocation and strong network of support based on rural extended families, their lost is greater in terms of productivity, labor and employment.  And Afro-Colombians face additional racism and discrimination in the labor market which leads to unequal opportunities and ignores their existence, contributions and struggles within the larger society.
Under these circumstances, considering the US-Colombia FTA is a threat to the security of a population that is a third of the Colombian population and a significant part of the African Diaspora.

A few calls can sway your members of Congress to take a public stand. It’s easy. Here’s how:

  1. Call (202) 224-3121 and ask the Capitol Switchboard operator to connect you to your member of Congress’ office. Visit <>  <> to find out who represents you in Congress.
  2. Talking Point: Please stop President Bush from forcing a vote on the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement by taking a public stance against it. Or select one of the above talking points.  
  3. And Call 1-202-224-3121 again and ask for one of your two senators. Repeat the message, than call your other senator.

—— End of Forwarded Message

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