Saturday, March 28, 2009

Last Thursday our ruling Conservative government introduced a motion in the House of Commons calling for a free trade deal with Colombia. Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist, as the following story from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) makes plain.
CUPE to opposition parties: reject deal with Colombia:
This morning, Trade Minister Stockwell Day introduced in the House of Commons a free-trade agreement with Colombia.

“We are urging opposition parties to reject this bill. I cannot understand why Prime Minister Harper is prepared to sign agreements with a country that sees trade unionists murdered at a rate more than the entire world experiences in total, or with a country where the drug trade, and the paramilitary forces have a grip on a $6 billion illegal business,” said CUPE National President Paul Moist.

Moist, who visited Colombia with other Canadian public sector union leaders, is suitably convinced that the Colombian government does not respect human or labour rights.

Today, Jorge Enrique Robledo, a member of the National Senate in Colombia met with CUPE officials in Ottawa to ask for Canadians' support in denouncing the bill.

Harper says that workers’ protection has been written into the trade deals. But whether these stipulations will be enforced is another story. “More labour leaders are killed every year in Colombia than the rest of the world combined,” said Moist.

The Colombian government has consistently failed to investigate these murders, largely because most are committed by government-linked paramilitary death squads. The paramilitaries work on behalf of powerful land owners, the right-wing political establishment, and even some transnational corporations.

“I know CUPE will remain aligned with Colombian workers and we will not stop seeking the justice they so very much deserve,” said Moist.

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