Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Obama: Human rights must be a part of trade agreements

McCAIN: Free trade with Colombia is something that's a no-brainer. But maybe you ought to travel down there and visit them and maybe you could understand it a lot better.

OBAMA: Let me respond. Actually, I understand it pretty well. The history in Colombia right now is that labor leaders have been targeted for assassination on a fairly consistent basis and there have not been prosecutions.

And what I have said, because the trade agreement itself does have labor and environmental protections, but we have to stand for human rights and we have to make sure that violence isn't being perpetrated against workers who are just trying to organize for their rights, which is why, for example, I supported the Peruvian Free Trade Agreement which was a well-structured agreement.

April, 2008:

More than 2,500 union members in Colombia have been killed since 1985, and fewer than 100 cases have a conviction, according to the National Labor School, a labor research group in Medellín.

Now these killings are emerging as a pressing issue in Washington as Democrats and Republicans battle over a trade deal with Colombia, the Bush administration's top ally in Latin America. The Colombian government is already struggling to recover from the latest salvo in the fight, a vote by U.S. House Democrats on Thursday to snub President George W. Bush and indefinitely delay voting on the deal.

Since President Álvaro Uribe took office in 2002, there has been a marked decline in union killings, accompanying a broader decline in overall murders and kidnappings. Still, 400 union members have been killed since then, and dozens of his supporters in the Colombian Congress and his former intelligence chief are under investigation for ties to rightist paramilitary death squads, which are classified as terrorists by the United States and responsible for some of the union killings.

Here's Amnesty International's report :

Killings, arbitrary detentions, and death threats -- the reality of trade unionism in Colombia

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