April 28, 2009

Hundreds call on Liberals to reject Colombia trade deal in advance of party convention in Vancouver


VANCOUVER, April 27, 2009 – Civil society organizations and individuals from across the Americas and Europe are calling on Canadian parliamentarians to halt the ratification of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. MINGAS-FTA, a transnational coalition of individuals, academics and organizations opposed to agreements like the Canada-Colombia FTA, faxed today a letter with over 400 signatures to the offices of more than a dozen Liberal Members of Parliament in advance of the Liberal Party Convention to be held in Vancouver later this week. The letter arrives as groups from diverse sectors plan demonstrations for the May 1 convention.

“The idea is to apply pressure on the Liberal Party in particular,” says Micheál Ó Tuathail, a member of MINGAS-FTA based in Vancouver. “Liberal politicians have flip-flopped between supporting and condemning the Colombian regime, one of the most brutal violators of human rights in the world. What the Liberals do on this issue will define their new leader’s vision for Canada, whether they will meaningfully stand by the Canadian values they once helped to promote and project in the world.”

The MINGAS-FTA letter states that the Colombian government is attempting to use Canada’s international reputation as political leverage in its failed attempts to influence US Congressional members to pass the US-Colombia FTA, stalled primarily due to human rights concerns.

It also urges politicians to stand by the recommendations of the Canadian Parliament’s Standing Committee on International Trade, which last year called for an independent human rights assessment and recommended that Canada not sign the agreement with Colombia.

In Colombia, human rights defenders and labour activists are persecuted and murdered with impunity. As US Congressional representatives have noted in a recent written statement to US President Barack Obama, “More than 460 unionists have been murdered in Colombia since President Álvaro Uribe took office in August 2002, including 49 in 2008 alone. This is a twenty-five percent increase from 2007, even as Colombia faced high levels of scrutiny related to the FTA."

On March 26, 2009, Canada’s Conservative government tabled legislation that would ratify the free trade agreement. The MINGAS-FTA argues that the Canada-Colombia FTA is not intended to benefit the average Canadian; rather, the Harper government is attempting to push the agreement silently through Parliament in order to provide President Uribe with the moral and political blessing he needs to address a backlog of numerous stalled agreements with other countries.

“We are joining with labour, indigenous and ethnic organizations, social movements, and literally thousands of average people from across North America, Europe and Colombia calling for an end to these so-called agreements made entirely behind closed doors,” says Ó Tuathail. “How is it that Canada is now running to the defense of the criminal regime in Colombia? Does this reflect the views and interests of average Canadians?”

To date, the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois have fiercely opposed the Canada-Colombia FTA.

To see the MINGAS-FTA letter and signatories, please see:


For more information, please contact:

Micheál Ó Tuathail, Mingas-FTA


maidc.otuathail [at sign] gmail [dot] com

Vancouver, BC

Angelica Quesada, Mingas-FTA


mangeliques [at sign] gmail [dot] com

Edmonton, AB

Raul Fernandez,

Social Sciences Professor, Mingas-FTA

University of California, Irvine


rafernan [at sign] uci [dot] edu

Irvine, CA



MINGAS-FTA (www.mingas.info) is a group of individuals from across the United States, Canada and Colombia who are concerned with promoting sovereignty and economic development, strengthening democracy and improving labour conditions in Colombia. The organization is integrated within the Hemispheric Social Alliance, a coalition of social movement organizations across the Americas, and is active in North America, where it works in coordination with the Washington-based Alliance for Responsible Trade.

Members of MINGAS-FTA are united in their support for social movements and rejection of terrorism, kidnappings, extortion and all acts of violence that have plagued Colombia. They are also unanimous in their rejection of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement and similar agreements and the neoliberal model of economic development.

April 27, 2009

The Canadian FTA with Colombia is best understood as a form of neo-colonization

By Stewart Vriesinga, Sunday April 26th, 2009

In some circles –and I must include Canada’s Prime Minister Harper here—the human rights situation in Colombia has greatly improved, and Colombia has entered a post conflict era. Colombian victims of ongoing violence, however, strongly disagree. Colombia’s traditional victims of violence continue to be the victims of death threats, mass displacement, and extrajudicial killing. How can the Canadian Prime Minister then arrive at such different conclusion about the conflict in Colombia?

Whether or not one considers the conflict to be resolved depends largely on how one was experiencing the conflict. If Prime Minister Harper saw the conflict as problematic primarily because it presented a problem to Canadian business interests –especially the Canadian mining industry—then he is correct in his assessment that things have greatly improved. Canadian mining corporations can now relatively safely enter the country and extract resources without fear of i) their workers being kidnapped or their property being destroyed by the left wing insurgency, or ii) having to meet cumbersome environmental, labour, tax and royalty requirements. The strength of the armed left-wing insurgency is greatly diminished, and foreign mining corporations can now count on military bases being built near their base of operations so there is little risk of having their personal kidnapped or their property destroyed. At the request of the Canadian government adjustments to Colombian laws have also been made that favour Canadian mining corporations.

Furthermore, the fact that Colombia has over 4 million internally displaced people, most of them displaced from the rural sectors, actually favours the mining industry. Many of the displaced were once occupying the very land that the mining corporations hope to exploit. Hundreds of thousands more –many of them small-scale artisanal miners and peasant farmers—face the prospect of future displacement when their mines and land is turned over to foreign mining interests. That the very same military charged with providing the foreign mining companies with security is under investigation for assassinating leaders of the organized artisanal miners, and has falsely accused them of being guerrillas and thrown them in jail; or that the leadership of artisanal miners and peasant organizations are still being threatened and assassinated by paramilitary organizations which have been shown to have ties with the Colombian government actually facilitates the corporate take-over of Colombian resources. Even the aerial spraying of peasant food crops –along with the occasional coca plant—serves to depopulate the country side to make way for mega projects like mineral extraction and palm oil cultivation. It is now clear that the victims of future violence are likely to be limited to those who non-violently resist the neo-colonization of Colombia’s wealth and natural resources, not the workers of Canadian and other foreign corporations. In this context it is not surprising that Prime Minister Harper and his government are not deterred by the overwhelming evidence of on-going human rights abuses in their rush to push through a free trade agreement with Colombia.

For Canadians and North Americans it is important to understand that this is a question of North-American-based corporations expropriating the wealth of Colombian campesino, Afro Colombian and First Nations’ communities –most of whom have never accepted neo liberalism, free trade or the western economic development model. Forcing them off their land is nothing short of cultural genocide. Prime Minister Harper may well believe that free market economics is the best development model for Canada, and insofar as an FTA with Colombia would allow Canadian firms to colonize the wealth of Colombia’s marginalized peoples, it may well be economically beneficial for Canada. But that does not justify the robbery and plunder of Colombia’s most vulnerable peoples. (Nor the continued robbery and plunder of Canada’s own First Nation peoples for that matter!)

The dispossessed and soon-to-be dispossessed peoples of Colombia know that a free market economic development model, whether or not it increases the GDP of the country as a whole, is no good for them. (The considerable economic activity of rural peasant societies does not register in the GDP of the country since it is largely subsistence and is not tracked or monitored in any way.) Their access to even the most basic necessities such as food is in jeopardy since they will lose direct access to food when they lose their lands, and will not be able to find adequate employment to meet their and their children’s food requirements in the cities. Today’s paper cites the following statistic:

92% of displaced people work in the informal sector, of which only 11% have an income equal to or greater than the Colombian minimum wage. –p. 51, the Espectador, Sunday April 26th, 2009.
In Colombia, as in much of the world, free market economics does not provide employment for the people it physically and economically displaces. The security and future of Colombia’s peasant, Afro and First Nation communities are clearly not served by this neo-liberal economic development model. They should have the right to refuse it. As long as that right is not being recognized –and it clearly is not—they should not be threatened, displaced, imprisoned or killed with impunity for their refusal to comply. Their culture and way of life should be respected and left intact. If the Canadian government or any other government disrespects that right it is complicit in cultural genocide.

April 24, 2009

Mobilizing against the Canada-Colombia FTA: 'Shame on You' for endorsing a murderous regime

By La Chiva Collective (and friends)
April 24, 2009

Over the past several weeks, trouble has been brewing for Canada’s Conservative and Liberal parties over their support for the ratification of the Canadian government’s Free Trade Agreement with Colombia.

A transnational peoples’ response to the Canada-Colombia FTA

Negotiated entirely behind closed doors and in defiance of the recommendations of the Canadian parliament’s own Standing Committee on International Trade, pressure from diverse sectors of civil society and citizens in North America and Colombia to reject the controversial agreement has been pointed and swift.

Mobilizations are being planned for May 1 (12 noon) to stop the Canada-Colombia FTA, and particular emphasis is being placed in the Liberal Party Convention, to be held at Canada Place in Downtown Vancouver. Diverse social sectors are coming together at noon to deliver a message to the Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party: ‘Shame on You,’ if they help the Conservatives absolve and make Canada complicit in the crimes of the Colombian government committed against its own people.

In addition to these demonstrations, ‘phone booths’ will be set up in various Canadian cities on Friday, April 24, where Canadians are invited to call their elected representatives and urge them to oppose the Canada-Colombia FTA and all that it implies.

The Council of Canadians launched a nation-wide Action Alert online, urging Canadians to get in touch with their MPs and speak out against the FTA in their communities.

Hundreds of emails, letters and phone calls have already been sent and made. If there is a concerned Canadian that has not done so, the time to act is now.

An uneasy alliance

Current events in Colombia are making the picture they paint of their closest Latin American ally difficult to sustain.

Notable is the recent news of the 22 April murder of Edgar Martinez Ruiz, a member of a small mining and agricultural association in the southern region of Colombia’s Bolivar department, FEDEAGROBISMOL, near San Pablo, just two minutes from a Colombian police checkpoint. Christian Peacemaker Teams has released a communique available in English.

The Colombian magazine Semana and the BBC have both reported that Colombian former paramilitary chief and drug lord, Diego Murillo, alias ‘Don Berna,’ who was recently sentenced to 31 years in US prison for drug trafficking, has revealed his financial support for President Uribe during his 2002 election campaign.

Accumulating pressure

In Alberta and British Columbia, several events have taken place over the past several weeks involving hundreds of participants. Gustavo Ulcué, an indigenous activist from Cauca, Colombia, has toured Western Canada sharing his community's experience of resistance to the FTAs. In 2005 his community held a popular consultation on the FTAs in which 98 percent of voters rejected the 'free trade' model.

In 2008, the indigenous of Colombia convened a popular mobilization involving 60,000 Colombians from diverse social sectors, the Social and Community Minga, which proposed a five point agenda, one of which was the rejection of the FTAs. Mr. Ulcué also participated in five radio interviews over the course of a week, some of which are available online: Radio Canada International, CJSF (Part 1, Part 2), and Coop Radio in Vancouver.

In Colombia, dozens of organizations and public figures sent a letter to Canadian parliamentarians urging them not to approve the FTA on the grounds that it would make Canada complicit in the numerous crimes and violations of human rights committed by the Colombian government. They note that this situation continues and will be exacerbated by Canada’s political support for Uribe government.

The office of Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe responded to this letter, affirming the Bloc's opposition to the FTA.

Mingas-FTA, a group of individuals across North America and Colombia aimed at promoting sovereignty and economic development, strengthening democracy and improving labor conditions in Colombia, has published a letter with an online petition directed at Canadian parliamentarians. In that letter, they point out that the Canada-Colombia FTA is not intended to benefit the average Canadian or Colombian but to further impose “the same failed economic model” responsible for the current global economic crisis. This petition has gathered over 300 signatures from around the world and is swiftly gathering support.

The Canadian Labour movement has acted strongly against the Canada-Colombia FTA through letters from Canadian public sector unions and letter campaigns from its members. CUPE, CUPW, PSAC, NUPGE, OPSEU, OSSTF, BCTF, CAW, USW and the CLC have been distributing a comic Top Ten Reasons why Canada should Not Ratify the FTA with Colombia to their members along with a petition calling for a human rights impact assessment.

The Council of Canadians is also circulating a letter directed at Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, demanding that the Canadian parliament follow the recommendations of its own Standing Committee, which called for an independent human rights assessment before ratifying the FTA with Colombia.

Opposition to the Canada-Colombia FTA cannot be ignored

Facing growing opposition, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was forced to address critics while at the V Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. Rather than address and substantiate how supporting the Colombian regime makes Canada a ‘third way’ for Latin American countries, Harper ‘agreed to disagree’ and implied that those who disagree with such initiatives “don’t like modern economic policy”.

It is unsure what the Prime Minister means by ‘modern’ when the Canada-Colombia FTA is a carbon copy of the 15 year-old NAFTA, from which average Canadians have seen little more than broken promises. What is sure is Harper's failure to understand that is was the free market fundamentalism of projects like FTAs that led us to the current crisis. Well, he's not the one losing his home and his job... not yet.

The massive effort across Canada, the United States and Colombia to oppose the Canada-Colombia FTA is gathering strength. This effort is having an impact at the highest places, where the Canadian government is having trouble responding to the contradiction of its reputation for the defense of human rights and its support of one of the most repressive regimes in the hemisphere, not to mention its defense of deepening the backward policies and culture of kleptocracy that got us into this economic crisis.

The Canada-Colombia FTA makes no sense for Colombians and Canadians. Bilateral trade is minscule, and Colombian products already enter Canada freely. This is nothing more than a political tool to absolve human rights abuses of the Colombian regime and to encourage the Democrats in the US to approve the FTA there. It will be stopped!

Phone, email and hound the MPs!

On May 1, North Americans and Colombian stand together to say “Shame on You!”

Not in our name will this murderous regime be endorsed!

South Bolivar Community Leader Assassinated

The following was circulated by Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) on 23 April, 2009. We join in this condemnation of violence and aggression against FEDEAGROMISBOL and social organizations in Colombia.
La Chiva.

The undersigned organizations wrote the following release in response to the assassination of EDGAR MARTINEZ RUIZ on Wednesday, April 22, 2009, in what is clearly yet another attempt to undermine local initiatives for peace and justice in the Middle Magdalena area. Mr. Martinez was a member of the Southern Bolivar Agricultural-Mining Federation, which CPT has accompanied for more than 3 years.

No more Victims in the Region

Statement to general public

Today at 10 AM in a place known as “Four” about 2 km from the urban center of San Pablo, Bolívar, hit-men assassinated 36-year-old community leader EDGAR MARTINEZ RUIZ, shooting him five times in the head and killing him instantly. EDGAR is one more on a long list of assassination victims of the south Bolívar region. [Authorities] have made no effort to control these actions that threaten peoples’ lives in the region.

EDGAR MARTINEZ RUIZ was an esteemed leader dedicated to the rights of the communities. Therefore he was attentive to forums and events which provided opportunities to defend the rights of rural and urban campesinos of south Bolívar and to draw attention to violations of domestic and International Human Rights. HE WAS AN AUTHENTIC HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER.

He was recognized as a leader that participated in various organizations and initiatives in the area, including: representative of the “El Retorno” Community Action Council, spokesperson for the Communities in the San Pablo Social Transformation Roundtable, president of the Association of the Integration of Agro-mining Communities of South Bolívar, and member of the Southern Bolívar Commission for Dialogue with the Government and Southern Bolívar Roundtable for Dialogue. In these he had the opportunity to confront State and national government institutions, not only about regional needs and problems, but also proposals for campesino development and protection of the civilian population. He was currently participating actively in the planning stage of a civil exercise of a process for Municipal Administration Accountability.

The campesino communities, social organizations, and community in general CONDEMN this assassination and all the violence that causes so much grief for civil society in San Pablo and the region. [We] DEMAND that these acts be investigated, brought to trial, and punished; TO GUARANTEE HUMAN RIGHTS, END IMPUNITY.

WE CALL ON all people in solidarity regionally, nationally, and internationally to DEMAND that the National Government take appropriate measures to GUARANTEE the protection of the Life and Fundamental Rights of the civil population.

San Pablo, Bolívar, April 22, 2009


Holistic Development Zone
Southern Bolívar Association of Farmers’ and Miners’ Communities
Association of Community Action Councils
Association of Farmers and Miners of South Southern Bolívar
Association of Community Stores
Program for Development and Peace in the Middle Magdalena (PDPMM)
Women’s Popular Organization (OFP)
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT)

Letter from Bloc Quebecois Against the Canada-Colombia FTA

Ottawa, 20 April 2009

To Colombian social organizations and Colombian public figures:

In the name of Mr. Gilles Duceppe, Member of Parliament for Laurier-Sainte-Marie and leader of the Bloc Quebecois, we acknowledge receiving your email of 15 April regarding the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

Like you, the Bloc Quebecois is concerned about the implications of signing a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia because of the deteriorating human rights situation in that country. We recognize that this agreement could be seen as support for the Colombian government and would make us complicit in the violations of human rights in that country.

The Bloc Quebecois worked closely in collaboration with human rights organizations for months in efforts to force the government to stop negotiating this agreement.

To that end, the Bloc Quebecois supported a motion in the Standing Committee on International Trade asking the government to stop negotiating with Colombia. The Conservatives and the Liberals have since rejected this motion, allowing the government to sign the agreement.

On many occasions, the Bloc Quebecois has expressed to our government fears regarding the consequences of signing this agreement. However, the Conservatives insist on ratifying it, in defiance even of the recommendations of the Standing Committee on International Trade.
With Colombia's current context in mind, the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to the ratification of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

Rest assured that Bloc Quebecois elected representatives will spare no effort in maintaining this position and at every moment will act responsibly and in the best interest of the nation of Quebec.

Please receive our respectful greeting.

Anne Allard
Assistant Coordinator for correspondence
Office of the Leader of the Bloc Quebecois, Gilles Duceppe.

Translation from Spanish provided by Mingas-FTA.

------ Español -------

Ottawa, 20 de abril de 2009

Organizaciones sociales y personalidades colombianas:

En nombre del Sr. Gilles Duceppe, diputado de Laurier-Sainte-Marie y Jefe del Bloque Quebequense, acusamos recibo de su correo electrónico de 15 de abril, sobre el Acuerdo de Libre Comercio entre Canadá y Colombia.

Al igual que ustedes, el Bloque Quebequense está preocupado por las implicaciones de la firma de un acuerdo de libre comercio con Colombia, por el deterioro en la situación de los derechos humanos en ese país. Reconocemos que tal acuerdo podría ser visto como un apoyo para el gobierno colombiano y nos hace cómplices de las violaciones de los derechos humanos en ese país.

El Bloque Quebequense trabajó en estrecha colaboración con las organizaciones de derechos humanos durante varios meses para forzar al gobierno a poner fin a la negociación del acuerdo.
En este sentido, el Bloque Quebequense apoyó una moción a la Comisión de Comercio Internacional, que pidió al gobierno poner fin a las negociaciones con Colombia. Esta moción ha sido rechazada por los conservadores y los liberales, lo que permite al gobierno firmar el acuerdo.

En muchas ocasiones, el Bloque Quebequense ha expresado a nuestro gobierno temores por las consecuencias de tal acuerdo. Sin embargo, los conservadores insisten en la aplicación de este acuerdo, incluso en contra de las recomendaciones de la Comisión Permanente de Comercio Internacional.

Teniendo en cuenta el actual contexto colombiano, el Bloque Quebequense se oponen a la aplicación de un acuerdo de libre comercio entre Canadá y Colombia.

Tenga la seguridad de que los representantes elegidos por el Bloque Quebequense no escatiman ningún esfuerzo para permanecer a su disposición y en todo momento actuar de manera responsable, en el mejor interés de la nación de Quebec.

Por favor, reciban nuestro distinguido saludo.

Anne Allard
Asistente de Coordinador para la correspondencia
Oficina del líder del Bloque Quebequense, Gilles Duceppe.

April 21, 2009

Letter from Canadian Public Sector Unions Against the Canada-Colombia FTA

Please find below the text of a letter sent by four Canadian unions representing over one million Canadian workers expressing their opposition to the Canada-Colombia FTA. The leaders of these unions visited Colombia in the summer of 2008, and (unlike members of the parliamentary Standing Committee on International Trade) ACTUALLY LEFT BOGOTA! Their reflections from that trip are made clear in the letter that follows...

April 20, 2009
Dear Member of Parliament
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

We are writing on behalf of more than one million members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the National Union of Public and General Employees and the Public Service Alliance of Canada to express our very deep concern about and opposition to the Canada- Colombia Free Trade Agreement that was tabled on March 26.

The same day when the Minister of International Trade Stockwell Day tabled the new Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement in the House of Commons, tactical squads of the Colombia police accompanied by armed tanks, water cannons, and tear gas surrounded the City of Cali’s sanitation and street cleaning company as the government moved to liquidate the assets of the municipal company, as part of its move to privatize all municipal services. A number of workers and a city councillor were injured as a result. This is business as usual in Colombia.

In July 18-25, we visited Colombia on behalf of our membership. What we saw and learned, confirmed that we are right to oppose this deal and to speak out against it on behalf of Colombian workers and their families. During this visit, we had the privilege of meeting with the Cali sanitation workers, many of whom had received death threats due to their opposition to the privatization efforts of the Uribe government.

We also visited the Colombian postal workers who suffered the same fate in 2006, when tactical squads and tanks were moved into position around all post offices in the country to effect the liquidation of Adpostal, the Colombian Postal Corporation. Workers, most of them women were dragged out into the soccer fields to be searched at gun point. Most unions in Colombia have suffered the loss of members and leaders through outright murder or exile. 2,690 trade unionists have been murdered since 1986; 49 trade unionists were assassinated in 2008, and another 9 murdered in the first 3 months of 2009.

In 2008, Colombia experienced the largest displacement of people outside of the Sudan, making this a humanitarian crisis of the first order. We visited with Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities who faced violent eviction from their land by para-military and military incursions to make way for agribusiness, mining corporations and others multinational corporations. These communities expressed their complete rejection of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement precisely because it endangers the survival of their ancestral cultures; already threatened by the encroachment of paramilitary and transnational corporations eager to stake claims over the potential oil, gas and mineral reserves and biodiversity on aboriginal lands.

Given the absence of democratic processes in Colombia and the scandalous levels of impunity that protect government and paramilitary forces, a Free Trade Agreement would only aggravate and irreparably compromise the rights of aboriginal and Afro-Colombian peoples.

Indeed, we were very disturbed by what we saw in Colombia. We attach our report for your information. But we are equally disturbed by the Canadian government’s decision to ignore the concerns of Amnesty International, the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, the International Trade Union Confederation, the International Labour Office, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, the International Commission of Jurists among other prestigious bodies who have raised concerns about the collusion of government forces in serious human rights abuses and murder in Colombia.

Attempts to disclose the connection between the human rights violators and the Uribe government have led to further threats and smear campaigns against journalists, human right defenders, and even magistrates and members of the Supreme Court of Colombia. In its 2008 report, the International Commission of Jurists outlined the grave and repeated attacks by the executive branch of government, and President Uribe in particular to try and discredit the Supreme Court of Colombia, placing a number of prestigious judges in danger of being murdered. In Colombia, impunity has no bounds.

We ask you to vote with your conscience and to say no to the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

Sincerely Yours,

Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)

Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC)

Harper Pushes the Canada-Colombia FTA, the People Fight Back

Written by Dawn Paley, Originally published at her Dominion blog, 21 April 2009

Since the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement was tabled on March 26th, people across Canada have been getting the word out and showing their opposition to the deal.

Popular rejection of the deal has spread far and wide, and has even reached Prime Minister Harper.

"There is a view in some groups that they don't like modern economic policy. They think you can make progress without it. They're entitled to their view," said Harper while in Trinidad and Tobago for the the Summit of the Americas.

Protest against the FTA is not limited to Canada. In Colombia, though the deal was essentially negotiated in secret, people are speaking out.

"To sign this deal would not only make Canada complicit in the innumerable crimes committed by the Colombian government, which crimes have been denounced by the United Nations and the Interamerican Court of Human Rights," reads a letter sent by dozens of Colombian organizations and individuals to MPs yesterday.

In the US, a Colombia solidarity organization known as Mingas has started a petition against the deal, which begins "As the global economic crisis deepens and the model of neoliberal economic development is being questioned in both Canada and the United States, it is shocking that the Canadian government would consider further entrenching these policies by ratifying this FTA."

In Vancouver, friends of Colombia are planning to deliver a letter against the FTA to Michael Ignatieff at the Federal Liberal Convention on May 1st, and marches on Ottawa are planned for early May.


Bogotá, April 20, 2009

Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Liberal Party.
Jack Layton, Leader of the New Democratic Party.
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada and Leader of the Conservative Party.
Gilles Duceppe, Leader of the Bloc Quebecois.

Copied to the Members of the Standing Committee on International Trade:

Liberal Party: John Cannis, Scott Brison, Mario Silva.
New Democratic Party: Peter Julian.
Conservative Party: Lee Richardson, Dean Allison, Ron Cannan, Richard M. Harris, Ed Holder, Gerald Keddy.
Bloc Quebecois: Serge Cardin, Claude Guimond.

Copied to all Members of Parliament.

Allow us to call to your attention something that has been of great concern to us, and also to present some important information regarding this matter.

As you are aware, the Conservative government presented the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement to Parliament on March 26, 2009 for ratification, though many Colombian and Canadian organizations have been opposing the deal for some time. The New Democratic Party (NDP), the Bloc Quebecois, and several Liberal Members of Parliament oppose this deal as well. In response, the Harper government has claimed that this deal would help both the Canadian and Colombian economies as well as require the Colombian government to improve the human rights situation in Colombia.

We would like to express our disagreement with the arguments put forward by the Harper government, in the light of the following information:

Numerous studies have shown that signing the Canada-Colombian FTA would have dramatic consequences on work conditions in Colombia and Canada, and jeopardize fundamental collective rights recognized by Canadian democracy, without demonstrating any economic benefit. Also, the FTA—which amply favours Canadian mining companies, who have not always followed accepted social and environmental regulations—would result in a worsened balance of environmental and human concerns.

To sign this deal would not only make Canada complicit in the innumerable crimes committed by the Colombian government, which crimes have been denounced by the United Nations and the Interamerican Court of Human Right; it would also fail to recognize the work that has been done to defend human rights, to which an important part of the Canadian community has committed itself.

How is it possible to discuss improving the human rights situation in Colombia when the report published by Amnesty International on October 28th, 2008 indicates that 1400 civilians were murdered in 2007, and 1300 murdered in 2006? During the first part of 2008, close to 270,000 people were forcibly displaced, which is equal to a 40% increase compared to the same period in 2007. There are serious indications that discredit the process of paramilitary demobilization and lead to two conclusions: paramilitary forces continue to threaten and assassinate innocent people and almost all of their crimes remain unpunished.

At the end of 2008, the scandal of extrajudicial executions took place (or “false positives”): the army systematically murdered civilians for the purpose of inflating the numbers of the victories gained in anti-guerrilla warfare, a scandal that has lead to the Alvaro Uribe Vélez government’s legitimacy to be seriously questioned. During the last two presidential terms, at least 1200 defenceless civilians have been assassinated, which deaths have then been reported as “killed in action.”

And these are only a few of the innumerable examples.

It is important to note that the Congress of the United States rejected the ratification of a FTA similar to the one presented to the Parliament of Canada, given the deplorable situation of the government of Colombia in the matter of human rights violations.

We believe that in the course of the last few years, Canada has been losing its international reputation and its tradition as a leader in the defense of human rights. For this reason, it is vitally important for Canada to follow the example of the government of the United States and reject the ratification of the Canada-Colombia FTA.

Accordingly, we ask that you give the greatest attention to the situation that prevails at the moment in Colombia and to actively denounce the Free Trade Agreement in Parliament, and oppose its ratification.

We trust that you will represent your electorate and the consensus of Canadians with dignity, opposing the ratification of the FTA, which will likely occur in the following weeks. We would appreciate any correspondence from you informing us about your position and any actions that you will undertake after receiving this request.

Cordially yours,

Central Workers’ Union - CUT
Union of Workers – USO
Colombian Action Network in Response to Free Trade - RECALCA
Colombian Federation of Educators – FECODE
National Indigenous Organization of Colombia– ONIC
Association of Campesinos of Cundinamarca - ADUC
Censat Agua Viva, Friends of the Earth Colombia
Sons and Daughters for Memory and Against Impunity
National Assotiation for Agricultural Preservation
Commerce with Justice Campaign, My rights are not Negotiable
Colombian Students’ Organization – OCE
Center for Studies of Work - CEDETRABAJO
Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca - ACIN
Center for Studies of Coal and Large Scale Mining
Seeds Group – Groupo Semillas
Raúl Eduardo Mahecha School for Union and Political Organizing
Federation of Miners of Santander - FESAMIN
José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective
Union of Energy and Mine Workers, El Paso Local
Association of Small and Medium Agricultural Producers of Cauca - AGROPEMCA
Association of Ranchers of the Municipality of Sucre - ASOGAN
Union of the Family Wellbeing Institute - SINBIENESTAR
National Union of Coal Industry Workers – SINTRACARBÓN
Colombin Committee for Struggle against the FTAA
Colombian Social Development Service Foundation
Popular Environmental Movement
Center for Teaching Studies and Research (CEID) of the Association of Instructors of Antioquia ADIDA
Local Cultural Council of the area Rafael Uribe Uribe
Environmental Roundtable of Bosa
National League of Users of Public Services, National League of Users and Defenders of Residential Public Services
Pro-Tree Committee
Alternatives to Violence Program
Central Workers’ Union, Boyacá Local

Colombian citizens:

Carlos Gaviria Díaz, President of Polo Democrático Alternativo (opposition party)
Carlos Bula Camacho, General Secretary of Polo Democrático Alternativo
Roberto Schmalbac, Member of Congress, Departament of Santander, Polo Democrático Alternativo.
Nestar Franco de Ferrer Member of Congress, Departament of Atlántico, Polo Democrático Alternativo.
Alonso Orozco Gómez, Member of Congress, Departament of Caquetá, Polo Democrático Alternativo.
Ramón Elí Támara Rivera, Member of Congress, Departament of Norte de Santander, Polo Democrático Alternativo.
Jose Ricardo López Caro – Senior Executive Member, Polo Democrático Alternativo, Boyacá Colombia.
Héctor Hernando Altamirano - Member of National Directors, Polo democrático Alternativo.
Roberto Serpa Florez, MD, University Professor, Profesor Universitario, Member of the Academy of Medicine of Colombia, Columnist in the Vanguardia Liberal de Bucaramanga.
Oscar Nascimento – Secretary of the International Assembly Peace in Colombia and the World, Aipazcomun Swiss Section.
Gonzalo Díaz Gaviria, Grassroots Academic Group, Polo Democrático Alternativo, Medellín. Member of the Municipal Executive Committee. Ex-Union Leader with TELECOM.
Isabel Caro López
Amanda Jiménez
Pío García
Maria Fernanda Morales Garzón
Maxinimio Garzón
Oscar Benavides Calvachi
Manuel Giraldo
Yolanda Castro
Zoraida Salazar
Harold Alvarez Alvarez
José Antonio Vaca Bello
Giovanni Narváez
David Ricardo Rodríguez Navarro
Helena Villamizar
Edgardo Antonio Jaraba Torres
Jairo Camelo
Dora Mariela Moreno Mora
Lina María Muñoz Gallego
Aidé Pachón
Rosario Rojas Robles
Claudia Joan Polindara Romero
Jorge Gómez
German Castaño Cárdenas
Kléber Calle
Rafael Ospina Cuervo
Andrés Schmalbach Ávila
Juan Diego Hernández Montreal
Gustavo Diego Yepes Garcés
Álvaro Posada Díaz
Álvaro Luna
Graciela Ibáñez
Jairo Calderón Rueda
Francisco Sánchez Jiménez
Alexander Barrera Mondragón
Olga Yaneth Trujillo Lara
Carolina Cano
Orlando Loaiza R
Marcela Isaza
Edwin Arturo Quintero Montoya
Melba Cuenca
Lina María González
Santiago Colmenares Guerra
Nini Johana Bedoya Cevallos
Alonso Cruz
Víctor Vásquez Quintero
Claudio Rodríguez Chaparro
Néstor Iván Gutiérrez González

April 17, 2009

The People's response to the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement

By La Chiva, April 17, 2009

Twenty-one days to make our voices against free trade with Colombia heard

Over the last two weeks, people across Canada and Colombia have mobilized in order to show their rejection of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Though there are only a handful of organizations in Canada dedicated to informing Canadians about bilateral trade agreements, friends of Colombia, working from their hearts and not their wallets, spoke out about the deal.

Gustavo Ulcué, a Nasa man from the Communications Network in Northern Cauca, Colombia, gave talks in Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer to students and addressed crowds about his concerns regarding the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

He shared his community's responses to Free Trade Agreements, such as the popular consultation of 2005 and the Social and Community Minga. Ulcué was interviewed on Radio Canada International and campus community radio stations.

While visiting the prairies, Ulcué also met with Colombians living in Canada, activists working on campaigns to shut down the tar sands, and people working in solidarity with Indigenous struggles.

Ulcué is currently in Vancouver, and will take part in a series of events in advance of the Liberal Party Convention at the end of April in Vancouver.

Folks in Sault Ste Marie held a "creativity jam" night of poetry, music and guest speakers; a film and discussion night; and a panel event on Colombia. THey also launched a postcard campaign targeting Liberals in Ottawa, and continued their ongoing political work supporting the NDP in their work against the free trade deal.

In Montreal, more than fifty members of the SOS Colombia Coalition protested the free trade deal in front of the Guy Favreau Complex. Members of SOS Colombia performed street theater and music to make their rejection of the deal clear.

Also in Montréal, the Salsa Descalza group did salsa-street theater to manifest their opposition to the deal.

In Kelowna, BC, activists confronted Conservative MP Ron Cannan, a member of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, about his support for the deal. They were forced out of his office, as Cannan defended himself by claiming that he did not have to address their concerns because they live outside of his riding.

Dr. Manuel Rozental, a Colombian surgeon and social justice activist, toured Vancouver Island, speaking to hundreds of people about the people's agenda and resistance to free trade. "In my talks, I help place the Free Trade Agreement in the context of a failed economic model leading to economic, ecologic crisis and a crisis of social reproduction and the reproduction of life," he said. Rozental was invited to Canada by the BC Teacher's Federation.

"People have been shocked to learn that on November 21st 2008, the day the Minga (an enormous peaceful mobilization against the neoliberal economic model and free trade agreements) arrived in Bogota, President Uribe and Prime Minister Harper signed the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement in Lima. That day, President Uribe offered to open 50 per cent of Colombian territory to mining and hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation before the end of his term in 2010," said Rozental.

Journalist Dawn Paley toured five cities in BC and spoke with hundreds of people about the links between Canadian mining, oil and gas companies operating in the Alberta tar sands and the Canada-Colombia FTA.

On the East coast, the Atlantic Region Solidarity Network did a letter writing campaign against the FTA, and in the US, the organization Mingas launched a campaign against the Canada-Colombia deal.

The Council of Canadians launched a nation-wide Action Alert online, urging Canadians to get in touch with their MPs and speak out against the FTA in their communities.

Press releases denouncing Bill C-23, within which lies the Canada-Colombia deal, were issued by CUPE and USW.

"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.

CUPE, CUPW, PSAC, NUPGE, OPSEU, OSSTF, BCTF, CAW, USW and the CLC have been distributing a comic Top Ten Reasons why Canada should Not Ratify the FTA with Colombia to their members along with a petition calling for a human rights impact assessment. Union members are sending letters to Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and key liberals and met with them in their home ridings during recess.

Upcoming events across Canada


Saturday, April 18
Film Presentation and Discussion:
"Country of the Peoples without Owners"
A documentary produced by the Communications Network of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN) about the recent popular mobilizations in Colombia. 45 Minutes; Spanish with English subtitles.
Speakers include: Doña Vicky (CIPO, Oaxaca), Manuel Rozental (Hemispheric Social Alliance, Polo Democratico Alternativo, Colombia) and Gustavo Ulcué (ACIN).
Location: UBC Robson Square (Downtown Vancouver), Room C215,
Time: 3-5pm

Presented by: CIPO, Grupo Atarraya, La Chiva Collective, and UBC Latin American Studies

Sunday, April 19, Time: 10am-5pm
Public Workshop - Colombia, the Conflicts and Beyond: Perspectives on a Canadian Ally
Location: SFU Segal School of Business (Downtown Vancouver), 500 Granville Street


Sunday, April 26, 2009, 10:00am - 7:30pm
Undermining Sustainability Conference, featuring Justin Podur of El Camino on the Canada-Colombia FTA
Earth Sciences, Room 1050 (ES 1050), University of Toronto, 5 Bancroft Avenue

Sault Ste Marie

Wednesday April 22, 8:00 pm
A Country of People without Owners
Arcadia Coffeehouse, 823 Queen Street East

Background on the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement

On March 26th, Member of Parliament Jay Hill introduced Bill 23 and Bill 24 to Parliament on behalf of International Trade Minister Stockwell Day.

Bill 23, called the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act is the enacting legislation for the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Bill 24 is the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, the enacting legislation for the Canada-Peru Free Trade Deal.

Following the tabling of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, NDP MP Peter Julian the following statement to Parliament:
More than a dozen human rights defenders and 46 trade unionists were killed by paramilitaries in 2008 alone, double the number in 2007... Thousands of paramilitaries with ties to the government are forcing poor peasants off the land and taking it over with the regime's complicity... More than 1,500 peasants have been massacred so far by the Colombia military as so-called “false positives”. This is no less than the cold-blooded murder of innocent people.... We oppose the blood that is on this agreement.

The fact that the bill was introduced immediately to Parliament instead of having the treaties tabled first, as was the case with the Peru Agreement, shows that Stephen Harper's Conservatives are keen to fast-track the deal. Less than a week after Bill C-23 was tabled, Members of Parliament went to their constituency offices for Easter Recess, leaving them with a few short days during which to oppose the deal when Parliament resumes again. All of this despite the fact that an all-party report about the deal written by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade last summer recommended not going ahead with a Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement until an independent human rights assessment is carried out.

The NDP has opposed the Canada-Colombia FTA since its inception. The Bloc Quebecois, while not opposed to "free trade" in principle, has gone on the record to say that they oppose a deal with Colombia. While the Liberals initially condemned the CCFTA, their new leadership appears to have had a change of heart. Scott Brison, Liberal member of the Standing Committee on International Trade, has demonstrated his support for the agreement. It is expected that other members of the Liberal party will follow suit and support the Conservatives.

Click here to read an exhaustive report on the devastating effects the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement will have if implemented.


Dear friends:

The Canadian Parliament is about to consider ratification of a “free trade” agreement with Colombia. The text of the agreement is nearly identical to the US-Colombia trade agreement and would have the same kinds of disastrous consequences for millions of Colombians.

We in the Mingas collective are in the midst of a campaign to convince the Canadian Parliament to reject the agreement. The Mingas collective is a group of individuals from across the United States, Canada and Colombia who are concerned with promoting sovereignty and economic
development, strengthening democracy and improving labor conditions in Colombia. We are integrated within the Hemispheric Social Alliance and are active in North America, where we work in coordination with the Washington-based Alliance for Responsible Trade.

We are united in our support for social movements and our rejection of terrorism, kidnappings, extortion and all acts of violence that have plagued Colombia. We are also unanimous in our rejection of the Canadian-Colombia free trade agreement and the entire neoliberal model of economic (mis)development.

We are especially concerned that the Colombian government is trying to pull off this deal with Canada as a form of moral and political blessing for the Uribe administration, so as to improve its chances of getting the US-Colombia FTA approved.

The Mingas collective is sending a letter to the Canadian Parliament, and we would like to ask you to join us in signing it, and to circulate it. Read and sign the letter here:

We are very grateful for your support.


The Mingas collective

Colombia Events in Vancouver!


For those of you in the Vancouver area, we are posting two FREE events planned for this weekend in Vancouver, BC on Colombia. Given the advancing (but stoppable!) ratification of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement in the Canadian Parliament -- an agreement with the sole purpose of absolving a regime of its crimes against its own people through the use of Canada's (highly disputable) reputation for human rights in the world -- we encourage your participation in these events.

Interpretation will be available in English and Spanish for both events!

Many thanks,
La Chiva

Saturday, April 18
Film Presentation and Discussion:
"Country of the Peoples without Owners"
A documentary produced by the Communications Network of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN) about the recent popular mobilizations in Colombia. 45 Minutes; Spanish with English subtitles.
Speakers include: Doña Vicky (CIPO, Oaxaca), Manuel Rozental (Hemispheric Social Alliance, Polo Democratico Alternativo, Colombia) and Gustavo Ulcué (ACIN).
Location: UBC Robson Square (Downtown Vancouver), Room C215,
Time: 3-5pm

Presented by: CIPO, Grupo Atarraya, La Chiva Collective, and UBC Latin American Studies

Sunday, April 19
Public Workshop -
"Colombia, the Conflicts and Beyond: Perspectives on a Canadian Ally"
For detailed information on speakers and panels, see: http://www.sfu.ca/las/news/ColombiaTheConflictsandBeyond.html
Location: SFU Segal School of Business (Downtown Vancouver), 500 Granville Street
Time: 10am-5pm

Presented by: SFU and UBC Latin American Studies, Latin American Studies Students' Union, Simon Fraser Students' Society, Graduate Students' Society (SFU), La Chiva.

April 12, 2009

Free Trade and Human Rights – SOS Colombia raises a cry of alarm

By GUY TAILLEFER, originally published in Le Devoir, April 9, 2009.
Translated by La Chiva.

The Coalition SOS Colombia is mobilizing to try and convince the Federal Parliament not to ratify the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, negotiated by the governments of Stephen Harper and Alvaro Uribe. The fifty members of the coalition of unionists and human rights organizations that held a demonstration yesterday in front of the Guy Favreau complex in Montréal claim that the agreement is less about free trade and more about “an open buffet of primary materials,” destined to protect Canadian commercial interests in Colombia, most of which are mining interests.

The accord signed last November is so inadequate in terms of environmental protection and the rights of workers, according to the Coalition, that its ratification would be the equivalent of a “permit for criminal actions” for Canadian mining companies in Colombia.

Federal Members of Parliament have until May 11th to pronounce themselves on the commercial deal. Members of the Bloc Québecois and the New Democratic Party are opposed to the agreement. The Liberals, who have asked for substantial modifications, are more ambivalent. If the Conservatives and Liberals ratify the deal, according to detractors, they will find themselves supporting incessant human rights violations, which the Colombian government is carrying out “in total impunity.”

SOS Colombia notes that through President Alvaro Uribe’s policy of so called “democratic security,” violations of human rights abuses and assassinations of activists have multiplied. Since Uribe’s arrival in power in 2002, political violence has resulted in more than 13,500 deaths. Unionists are particularly targeted.

Last week, fifteen Colombian opposition congresspeople and senators sent a letter to the Parliamentary International Trade Committee urging them to block the free trade agreement.

According to the letter, Uribe “would not pass a human rights test,” and the agreement would result in giving him absolution.

April 11, 2009


By Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo,

Bogotá -- April 3, 2009

Every State has the duty and the right to militarily confront those who illegally take up arms against it. Although increased spending on arms and training does tend to improve a military's combat capability, as can be seen by looking at what's happened in Colombia in recent years, at the same time this doesn't mean that the ends justify the means. Governments are entrusted with solemn obligations and under no circumstances should they violate the law. It's unacceptable to sacrifice national sovereignty to improve military performance, because a country that loses the capacity for self-determination will never be able to solve its own problems.

Andrés Pastrana, who was president of Colombia when Plan Colombia was hammered out, has confirmed that "the free trade agreement is a fundamental part of Plan Colombia" (Caracol Radio, 3/17/2008). The Plan also defines policy in every key aspect of the nation's economy. It affects fiscal and financial policy, the tax system, industry, salary rates, the environment, agriculture, health, education and foreign investment, in ways which are most beneficial to the North American elite. As if this weren't enough, in 2001 the Colombian finance minister, Juan Manuel Santos, signed a letter of intent titled "The IMF approves Plan Colombia". This alone, in a country less confused by government disinformation, would disqualify him as a presidential candidate (Santos plans to run for president in 2010).

If we consider just the economic losses caused by the importation of eight million tons of agricultural products --imports imposed by Plan Colombia of products that we can produce ourselves--, we realize how relatively small the sum of 7.814 billion dollars in U.S. military "aid" from 1999 to 2008 is. And while "aid" from Washington is small and short-term, "free trade" works on a large scale and is intended to be permanent. As history has shown, those who lose their national sovereignty also lose control of their economy. The systematic beautifying of Plan Colombia has sold the false notion that the Colombian military budget was largely covered by the plan's resources. But the money sent down from Washington represents only 13.7% of the total costs of the armed forces and the police, while we, Colombians, pay 86.3%. Also, it's false and misleading to say that Plan Colombia covers "social expenditures", when in reality not one U.S. cent is spent for that purpose.

The third declared objective of Plan Colombia is "to bring about negotiated peace agreements with the guerrillas". The weekly news magazine Semana (12/6/2007), quoting Caracol Radio and Channel RCN, reported that in the Foreign Relations Commission former president Andrés Pastrana said that the demilitarization of El Caguán, which Uribe sharply criticized at first, "was a demand made by the U.S. government", via Bill Clinton, who let him know that Plan Colombia would not be approved unless they sought a negotiated settlement to the armed conflict. The magazine also reports that Uribe, in response to Pastrana, could only come up with: "why didn't you say that from the beginning?" Neither the current president (Alvaro Uribe) nor any of the three preceding presidents (César Gaviria, Ernesto Samper, Andrés Pastrana) who were also present at the meeting denied what was reported in Semana. Even the withdrawal from El Caguán was ordered by Washington! Is it not imperialist for an anti-drug strategy to, on the one hand, force us to import the food that our agricultural workers and indigenous people can produce and, on the other hand, to have them sprayed like cockroaches, when these fellow Colombians are driven by poverty to plant coca? And it's obvious that the justification for Plan Colombia cannot be based on its results; even the U.S. State Department acknowledges that --after spraying more than a million hectares-- coca cultivation has increased from 122,000 to 160,000 hectares and the production of cocaine from 530 to 535 tons.

Furthermore, Plan Colombia also shows that the interests of Colombia and the United States can be --and in this case are-- quite different. The Plan's goal is not to eliminate drug trafficking but only to reduce it by 50%, as is stated in the text. Why? According to the architects of the Plan, when the supply of cocaine drops the price on the street will rise and the American youth consumer will have to "snort" fewer "lines". It's a market solution, as a neoliberal would say. But what's not mentioned is that if the consumer has to pay higher prices on the street, it's because the price drug traffickers can charge has also gone up; that's the way they maintain or increase their profits. It's clear that this doesn't benefit Colombia in the war on drugs.

Translation Mingas-FTA / Traducción Mingas-TLC

April 5, 2009

Showing Documentaries to a Community. A Crime to be Accused of?

Hello Friends,

As the Canadian government, with Liberal Party support, engages in shameful attempts to cover up and deflect criticism of its closest ally in the Andes -- all in the hopes of ratifying the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement for Canadian mining, oil and gas companies, the banks, and let's not forget Republicans in the US -- we are sharing the following communique sent to us by our friends at the Tejido de Comunicación in Northern Cauca. Compare this testimony, this proof of what Uribe's vision of democratic security really is, with those of Canada's Conservative and Liberal MPs, like Scott Brisson for example, who may have visited Colombia, but never beyong Bogotá. We will leave the judgment of credibility to you...

La Chiva

"We want to help build a new country by sharing the truth and showing realities"

Emilio Basto, Indigenous Communicator at Police Headquarters in Santander de Quilichao

This is the framework within which our Tejido de Comunicacion is under attack http://vimeo.com/3988570 and http://vimeo.com/3964962. Yesterday, Emilio Basto, a Nasa native who usually runs el rebusque, a morning show in Nasa and Spanish where he listens and exchanges with indigenous peoples from the fields, explains the process and the contexts, opensa debates oon critical issues, does interviews so that everyone at their homes understands the project of aggression and continues to think and resist, was arrested by the police in Santander de Quilichao. Emilio was coming back from Tacueyo, in the mountains of Cauca, where he was showing documentaries at one of the video fora, which are part of an agenda planned to "sweep" the entire territory to engage people in debating diverse issues. He carried "The revolution will not be televised", "Water, our life, our hope", "Sipakapa is not for sale". Two documentaries done in Colombia "The cost of Land" form the Pacific Coast and displacement for Palm Oil industries and our own "Country of the people without owners" that tells the story of the Minga, the National mobilization against the FTA and the economic model being imposed.

Emilio was accused of carrying subversive material and inciting to violence. He was interrogated for 2 hours without access to lawyers, phone calls or protection. His finger prints were registered as well as all information regarding his activities. There was talk about weapons, which he could not understand. He explained what he does and what we do. He demanded respect for his obligations as journalist, for the freedom of expression, for the indigenous process and rights. Finally, they let him go, but we do not know ehther there are charges against him or whether they will use this events in a judicial process against the communication network or in a physical attack against his life and the lives of all of the other members of our communication team in ACIN. This is the rule, the pattern and what we must expect, as you will be able to see on the videos attached below on Mario Murillo's note on the presentation at the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights.

The attack against Emilio was the latest in a series of attacks against ACIN's communication Tejido:

1. October 2008, during our coverage of the indigenous mobilization and while the armed forces of Colombia were shooting against unarmed natives, our website and listserve was blocked.
2. December 14th, 2008, Act of sabotage against the transmission equipment of Radio Pa'Yumat leading to the silencing of this radio station until now. Two days later, Edwin Legarda, the husband of indigenous leader Aida Quilcue was murdered by the Colombian Army in an attempted magnicide against her.

3. December 16th, 2008. Life radio interview on La W, a National radio station with massive audience. We had called in to break the news in Colombia and the world of the assasination of Edwin Legarda, with direct information from the ground. The anchor, Fernando Sanchez Cristo, called us back for the interview an hour after we gave him the facts and put us on during a section of recognition to the armed forces of Colombia in their war on terror. The Commande of the Third Brigade gave his version fo the facts firts: The vehicle refiused to stop at a police post and was suspected to be FARC. Manuel Rozental, on the line from Cauca, explained that the car had received 16 shots from automatic weapons, 14 of these in the front. A fact that denied the army commanders version. They shot him intentionally from the front. There was no police post. The general went off the air and Rozental was engaged in a life exchange with Sanchez Cristo on these lines:
JSC: You are the same Dr Rozental, a surgeon that works in Canada?
MR: Yes that's me
JSC: You are a close friend of the sons of the international representative of FARC there and you write for the Journal resistencia
MR: I know them well, as any Colombian engaged in solidarity efforts does. I have never written for Resistencia and what you are attempting to discredit a witness in the air in order to cover up a crime. I am not FARC, have never been and my life has been committed to a peaceful effort for social justice. I am part of an indigenous process committed to social justice, freedom and change through peaceful means. I hope we have not reached a stage where every journalist in commercial media serves a regime to silence the voices and rights of people
JSC: So do I Dr Rozental. You are right
MR: Who provided you with this false information against me?
JSC: A listener sent it on email, but don't worry about it.
Strangely, this interview was never posted on their webpage (all others are) and our request to obtain the copy of the interview and of the listener's message was never answered. All this points at Military Intelligence providing distorted information to discredit and threaten the witness on air.

4. February 7th, 09. Gustavo Ulcue. Nasa, member of the ACIN Communication network and webmaster, had just left his home in Santander de Quilichao, when two armed men arrived in a motorcycle, forced his brother to let them into their house at gun point and looked for Gustavo inside. They took away his laptop and told his brother Gustavo was lucky not to have been found as they came to kill him. Gustavo had to go into hiding. The armed men have been seen near his house since then. No police action was taken.

5. March 4th, 2009. Cambio (the equivalent of Time or Newsweek in Colombia) publishes a report against Hollman Morris, where it states falsely that Rozental and Morris are helping ELN (National Liberation Army) in their territorial struggle against FARC for the indigenous territory of Northern Cauca http://www.cambio.com.co/informeespecialcambio/818/ARTICULO-WEB-NOTA_INTERIOR_CAMBIO-4856712.html. These lies have been followed in the past by the assasination of those named. Rozental had to flee Cauca.

6. March 14th, 2009. For the second successive night, Hugo Dagua, arrives late at his modest ranch in Santander de Quilichao on his motorcycle. He had been conducting a video forum at an indigenous peoples encounter with participants from Ecuador and Colombia, where Country of the People without owners was launched. He noticed a motorcycle with two people following him and managed to escape. He is the main technician of the radio station and runs his own radio program. Hugo is under community protection measures and his wife and his year old son had to be moved out of town into their community in the mountains for safety.

Other threats and attacks against the communication process have been occurring. Now Emilio has been attacked. ACIN's communication network has been awarded the recognition as the best alternative media in Colombia in October 2007 and has become the strongest voice for a peaceful alternative in Colombia and an awareness raising and debate space for the base. This is a crime in Colombia. As the policement told Emilio yesterday: you are inciting violence with those documentaries. We will keep walking our word. Please see the following note and video

April 5th 2009
Manuel Rozental
Santander de Quilichao Cauca

See also the folliwng message from Mario Alfonso Murillo Ayala (MAMA):

Our friends at Center for International Policy, CIP, have reminded us once again of how Colombian President Alvaro Uribe continues to target journalists and human rights workers with veiled accusations about their actions. Below is a post I share with you, from their ongoing blog about Colombia:

Sometimes, reading translated transcripts isn’t enough.

Here is a video, with English subtitles, of some of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe’s more heated attacks on journalists and peace activists in Colombia. In many cases, the president accuses his targets, without evidence, of supporting the FARC guerrillas. The impact on press freedom of such words, from a popular president speaking on nationally broadcast television, is immeasurably chilling.

These clips come from a somewhat longer video prepared by several non-governmental Colombian human rights groups for presentation at the March 23 hearings of the OAS Inter-American Human Rights Commission. That video - in Spanish, with clips of interviews with experts and activists - is here.

Alvaro Uribe and Freedom of Expression from Adam Isacson on Vimeo.

April 3, 2009

Canada-Colombia FTA (Bill C-23) Tabled in Canadian Parliament

On March 26, 2009, the Harper Conservatives tabled the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement in the Canadian House of Commons (CCFTA). Several key Liberal Party members have expressed their support for the agreement, the success of which will depend on a Liberal-Conservative alliance.

Over the coming weeks, we will be increasing the pressure on representatives in Ottawa and building grassroots opposition to this FTA, which is covered in blood and RENDERS CANADA COMPLICIT IN THE CRIMES OF A MURDEROUS REGIME OF TERROR.

The NDP and the Bloc Quebecois continue to express their opposition to the CCFTA. We need to push the Liberals to prove they are not the same old Harper wolves in sheep's clothing.


For more information, see the following extensive analysis of the FTA text prepared by the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC) and its partners. Making a Bad Situation Worse: http://www.ccic.ca/e/docs/making_a_bad_situation_worse_long_version.pdf

Here are some very informative videos with key anti-FTA activists as well as Liberal MP Scott Brisson going on the record in support of the CCFTA and showing that he does not know Colombia very well (and he has definitely never read La Chiva's blog!): http://www.harperindex.ca/ViewArticle.cfm?Ref=00198

Peter Julian (NDP), MP for Burnaby-New Westminster, made the following statement in the House of Commons last week (Source: Hansard, March 26 2009):

"Mr. Speaker, just last week Amnesty International condemned the Colombia authorities for abusing the country's judicial system, "to undermine the legitimate work of human rights defenders". More than a dozen human rights defenders and 46 trade unionists were killed by paramilitaries in 2008 alone. Double 2007. According to testimony received today at trade committee, thousands of paramilitaries with ties to the government are forcing poor peasants off the land and taking it over with the regime's complicity. More than 1,500 peasants have been massacred so far by the Colombia military as so-called "false positives"; no less than the cold-blooded murder of innocent people. Incredibly, the Conservative government is pressing ahead with a Bush-style free trade agreement with the regime. What is more incredible is that the Leader of the Opposition is supporting this trampling of human rights in the name of powerful corporate interests. The NDP is standing on the side of millions of Canadians who oppose murder, torture and human rights abuses. We oppose the blood that is on this agreement."