Two More Banana Workers Murdered in Colombia as Free Trade Agreement is Debated in DC

by Paul Garver

The AFL-CIO remains strongly opposed to the proposed U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement “until Colombia takes sustained, meaningful, and measurable action to change the culture of violence that plagues those who work to better their lives.” It is too soon to know if the promises made in the Labor Action Plan (a side agreement not part of the proposed trade treaty) will rise above the level of good intentions to benefit Colombia’s workers.

In an August 4 letter, AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka stated:

“Congress should not act prematurely on the first signs of good intentions, but should rather wait for clear and convincing evidence over a sustained period of time that the facts on the ground have changed before acting on the Colombia Trade Agreement.”

The assassination of two more banana workers’ union members underscored the weakness of the “Labor Action Plan” by which the government of Colombia has promised to end the decades-long violent assault on the labor movement. On 31st July two banana workers’ union members were murdered in the municipality of Apartadó, Wilmar Serna, banana worker and workers committee member, and Eduardo Fabian Zúñiga Vásquez, also a banana worker. Their union SINTRAINAGRO is one of the few remaining private sector unions in Colombia, and the only one with a national bargaining agreement.

SINTRAINAGRO, the national agro-food federation UNAC, and the CUT labor confederation have repeatedly alerted the authorities to threats directed at SINTRAINAGRO by the FARC guerilla forces and by paramilitary groups seeking control of the region through violence. SINTRAINAGRO is a target because of its work in support of the victims of violence in Urabá and in support of social stability through agreements involving the Federal Government, state and regional authorities, enterprises, trade unions and human rights organizations.

The CUT confederation and the International Union of Food Workers (IUF) are demanding that the  Government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the Minister of Justice, Germán Vargas Lleras, stop making merely rhetorical policy statements on the security of trade unionists and finally take real, effective action to put an end to the violence against human life and to eliminate human and trade union rights violations.

ACT now! – click here to send a message to President Juan Manuel Santos, Vice-President Angelino Garzón, and Interior and Justice Minister Germán Vargas Lleras.

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