The Colombia Free Trade Agreement is best summed up as a proposal to formalize U.S. support for the assassination of labor union organizers by death squads, impoverishment of workers and the undermining of farming operations that will leave more landless peasants with no alternative but to immigrate to the United States seeking work.
The Wisconsin-based Colombia Support Network, which has led the campaigning by U.S. activists to support human rights in that South American country, says without equivocation that the Colombia FTA “would solely benefit US transnational companies.”
The Colombia Support Network is highlighting opposition on the part of labor, farm and human activists in Colombia to the trade deal now being promoted by the Bush administration. That opposition is echoed by U.S. labor, farm and human rights groups, which have united in their efforts to block congressional approval of the pact.
Colombian union federations say they opposed the pact not just because it would weaken domestic industries and jeopardize employment but because it would make it harder to advance the cause of human rights in a country where more than 2,500 trade unionists have been murdered over the past two decades.
While President Bush and his allies attempt to suggest that Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez has made progress in promoting human rights, honest political players in that country say the opposite. “(Uribe) has not responded adequately to the violence that plagues Colombians and particularly union leaders and human rights activists, as is demonstrated by the alarming figures from last month, in which four union leaders were murdered,” explains Carlos Gaviria Diaz, the Harvard-educated constitutional lawyer who serves as president of Colombia’s Polo Democrático Alternativo political party.
The former president of Colombia’s Constitutional Court has deep concerns about the treaty because of the threat it poses to human rights campaigning in his country, but Gaviria’s worries do not stop there.
“The fundamental problem with the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the United States and Colombia is that it has been reduced to an agreement between winners and losers,” he says. “Unfortunately, we Colombians are the losers, because we lose any possibility of achieving prosperous development. Likewise, many have also indicated correctly that this FTA benefits only a select minority in the United States, not the general population. For example, the destruction of Colombian agriculture caused by the FTA will stimulate the planting of coca in Colombia and more drug dealing in the streets of American cities.”… [emphasis added]
Inserted from <The Nation>
There has been some consternation in Congress over this. Progressives, both Democratic candidates for President, and the American people are opposed to it. On the other hand, greedy corporations stand ready to donate and bundle huge caches of campaign cash in return for its passage. While it appears to be a time to celebrate, there may be a foul plot afoot.
This just off the Reuters wire:
The House of Representatives will decide on Thursday whether to put off indefinitely a vote on the Colombia free-trade agreement that President George W. Bush submitted to Congress this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. Pelosi, announcing the move to reporters on Wednesday, would not give a time frame for when the trade pact might be debated and put up for a vote on passage in the House. The vote on Thursday would change rules for considering the deal by eliminating a 90-day deadline for Congress to approve the Colombia trade deal.
This is good news, bad news and potentially ugly news.
The good news: Finally, a Democratic leader is trying to use some modicum of legislative power to halt our economically destructive and wildly unpopular trade policies. It’s a start.
The bad news: Pelosi has yet to say she will work to kill the pact outright. In fact, she issued a press release earlier this week merely worrying that Bush’s tactics jeopardize the final passage of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Meanwhile, other top Democrats like Jim Clyburn have gone on record saying they want this deal to pass (Clyburn has since amended his statement – but sometimes the truth is in the first reaction).
The potentially ugly news: Is Pelosi throwing America’s fair trade majority a meaningless bone that ends up helping lobbyists pass this deal?
While it certainly is good in the short-term that Congress is postponing passage of the Colombia deal, if Democrats are ultimately aiming to pass it anyway, then the delay may actually be a bad thing, in that it would serve to give K Street lobbyists more time to pressure Congress to pass it. It’s quite possible (probable, really, based on the Democrats willingness to sell out on this issue) that this postponement (if it passes) will let them cut a deal with Bush to modestly increase Trade Adjustment Assistance funding in exchange for the free trade deal. That would be a terrible bargain for workers, giving them a few crumbs while robbing yet another loaf of bread out of their hands.
In fact, Pelosi’s press release this morning seems to suggest she still wants this bill to pass:
“I thought there was a risk, the President sending it to the Congress now. If brought to the floor immediately, it would lose. And what message would that send?”
See that? Her big fear is not the deal passing, thus hurting American workers and validating the murderous Colombian government. No, her big fear is that the deal would NOT pass right now.
If Pelosi is successful in engineering this rejection of fast track – rather than the rejection of the Colombia FTA – it puts the timetable for the vote firmly in her hands… [emphasis added]
Inserted from <Open Left>
The buzz I’m hearing from several sources, but none sufficiently reliable to state with reasonable certainty is that Pelosi intends to hold off until after the November elections and push it through in the lame-duck session of Congress then, when Reps no longer need fear the effects that passage might have on their reelections. Pelosi’s propensity to sell out progressives and the American people with such double dealing is why I have repeatedly called for her replacement as Speaker and continue to do so.
Cross-posted from Politics Plus