Remember during the debate over the Colombian trade deal when the Administration swore up and down that they would, as a condition of putting the free trade agreement forward, insist on an “action plan” that would end the murder of trade unionists in Colombia and bring about justice for those already killed? Yeah, so, we’re several months beyond the passage of those trade deals – Obama highlighted them in the State of the Union on Tuesday. So how’s that action plan going? Not so well, Human Rights Watch says.
In its World Report 2012, the human rights organization stated that Washington “provided approximately US$562 million in aid, about 61 percent of which was military and police aid. Thirty percent of US military aid is subject to human rights conditions, which the US Department of State has not enforced.”
The report also criticized the U.S. for failing to “address the paramilitary successor groups believed to be responsible for a large portion of anti-union violence,” as promised in the April 2011 Labor Action Plan. Improving the situation of labor rights for Colombian workers was a condition for the Democrats to ratify the free trade agreement with the South American country.
While stressing Colombia remains the most dangerous country for labor rights workers, HRW did recognize a sharp drop in the killing of unionists in 2011.
“51 trade unionists were murdered in 2008, 47 in 2009, 51 in 2010, and 26 from January to November 15, 2011, according to the National Labor School (ENS), Colombia’s leading NGO monitoring labor rights,” said the human rights organization.
If someone wants to paint the murder of 26 trade unionists for no other reason than trying to organize workers as a good thing, go ahead. It’s still the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist, even after a trade deal with the United States.
But the other problem here is that there has been no accountability for any of the other murders. Practically nobody has been prosecuted for committing acts of violence against unionists, or even for making threats. There have been 195 trade unionist murders since 2007 and just 6 convictions, and zero convictions on any attempted homicides or threats, which number in the thousands.
There’s an amendment called the Leahy amendment which is supposed to ban foreign aid to the militaries of countries that abuse human rights. The US is operating in direct violation of this. Dan Kovalik has more on that. But I’m keying in on the labor violations. This was the signature part of the Colombia free trade agreement that it would finally make trade unionism safe in the country. That has not happened. Unionists still face intimidation and threats. The only people making out are the elites.