COLOMBIA URGENT ACTION: Oppose the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement

CPTnet  
20 November 2008
COLOMBIA URGENT ACTION: Oppose the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement

by Stewart Vriesinga

[ Note for U.S. citizens: Analysts have speculated that the Canada–Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was a gift from the (Canadian) Harper administration to the Bush administration to help push an U.S.–Colombia FTA through a democratic congress.  (See http://www.canadians.org/integratethis/workers/2008/Mar-3.html)]

The Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is likely to come before Parliament late this fall or early winter.  Canadian citizens should oppose its ratification and any notion of pushing it through without a Parliamentary vote.

The signing of a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia at this time would make Canada and Canadians complicit in the perpetuation and exacerbation of on-going violence and injustice in Colombia.  As Canadians, we must insist that our government promote peace and justice in Colombia—not encourage, reward or lend legitimacy to the policies of the current Colombian administration.  Instead, the Canadian government should firmly pressure and assist it to take the necessary steps towards creating the conditions for justice, peace, and prosperity for all Colombians.

Act now

  • Circulate petitions (Use talking points below to create petition).
  • Write letters to the editor in national or local newspapers
  • Contact your Members of Parliament.  (Meeting with her/him in person is best.  Writing a letter with a follow-up phone call is good, faxing and emailing are also options.  Bring/mail/fax your petitions if you have them.)

How to find your Member of Parliament using your postal code:
http://www2.parl.gc.ca/Parlinfo/Compilations/HouseOfCommons/MemberByPostalCode.aspx?Menu=HOC

or by the name of your Member of Parliamenthttp://webinfo.parl.gc.ca/MembersOfParliament/MainMPsCompleteList.aspx?TimePeriod=Current&Language=E


Additional Talking Points:
  • Signing a FTA with Colombia at this point would send an unconscionable message to the Colombian government.  
  • Although Canadian mining companies operating in Colombia feel the Colombian Armed Forces are protecting them, the civilian population does not.  A little over a week ago—29 October 2008—President Uribe dismissed twenty of his top army officers for their complicity in the extrajudicial killing of civilians (See http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5if2kr7AsKJU2bAkb8E-wcJ1dIgUQD94893PG0) whom, post-postmortem, the armed forces dressed up as FARC revolutionaries and presented them as guerrillas who had died in combat.
  • This phenomenon is systemic.  Human rights groups have reported hundreds of such extrajudicial killings purportedly committed by the Colombian military in recent years.  CPT has reported on the military's extrajudicial killing of the Alejandro Uribe (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cptcolombia/message/132) a spokesperson of the Small Miners Federation of southern Bolívar struggling for survival in the face of the encroachment of huge multinational mining conglomerates.
  • Rather than negotiating for peace, the Uribe government opts for using violence to deal with dissidents.  One example occurred in October when thousands of indigenous demonstrators marched and blocked traffic in a bid to force dialogue and safeguard native rights, including rights to their territory in the face of, amongst other things, mining concessions the government granted to multinational mining corporations.  (http://www.indiancountrytoday.com/global/33635064.html)
  • The current Uribe government remains deeply embroiled in the Parapolitics scandal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006%E2%80%932007_Colombian_parapolitics_scandal#Judicial_branch_scandal).  This scandal has resulted in the conviction of party members, congressional representatives, the head of the secret police, military officials, provincial governors, and mayors for collaborating with the right wing paramilitary death squads responsible for the killing of thousands of Colombian civilians.  (See Amnesty International Report http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=17758).
  •  The victims of paramilitary human rights violations have yet to be compensated, while paramilitaries continue to issue death threats and kill civilians.  Millions of Colombians have lost their land and livelihood through forced displacements, and today many face economic displacement.  Displaced people often resort to hawking wares on the street.  In an effort to "reclaim public spaces," municipalities are now forcing the displaced street vendors from the sidewalks and parks of their cities.  Violent forced displacement also continues (http://wolablog.typepad.com/weblog/2008/10/colombias-displacement-crisis.html).
  • Since the restructuring that is part and parcel of all FTAs and neo-liberal development models does not provide a specific role for landless peasants or large numbers of unemployed people, a Free Trade Deal would only aggravate the problem through further economic displacement, thereby increasing social unrest through the marginalization of the poorest segment of the Colombian population.

Note: In Canada, unlike the United States, an FTA can be ratified by the Federal Government without the democratic encumbrance of holding a vote in the House of Commons.  On Saturday, 7 June 2008, the Canadian government announced that it had wrapped up negotiations with Colombia for a Canada-Colombia FTA.

According to Liberal International Trade Critic Navdeep Bains, "By making this announcement only days before the Standing Committee on International Trade report would have been completed, the government is clearly saying that it does not respect the work of parliament."   (http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/2037)

However, if promises are kept (http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/agr-...) the agreement will be tabled for twenty-one days in Parliament, most likely shortly after Parliament reconvenes on 18 November 2008.  That does not necessarily mean the FTA with Colombia will go to a vote, or if it does, that that vote would be a free vote—party discipline may force Conservative MPs to vote with their party in favour of the agreement.