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Letter to Barack Obama - Columbia Free Trade Agreement

Dear Mr. President,

We write to express our deep concern for the rights of Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) should not be considered as drafted. We believe that the United States and the Colombian Government should take immediate steps to strengthen Afro-Colombians' territorial rights and prevent further displacement of Afro-Colombians.

We are concerned that the FTA would stimulate business development in Colombia at the expense of these vulnerable populations. Colombia has the world's largest population of displaced people, and estimated 5.2 million, and 26 percent of Colombia's population is Afro-Colombian. These populations already experience disproportionate inequality in the labor sector and face major obstacles to unionization. For example, Afro Colombian workers are often forced into "Associative Labor Cooperatives" (CTAs), a labor model where workers are hired through sub-contractors, which substantially undermines workers protections and results in preventing workers from unionizing. Today, economic interests, including large scale mono-culture crop plantations and mining, continue to be a cause of displacement in Afro-Colombian areas. The FTA and the April 7th, 2011 Action Plan do not adequately address these issues. Without adequate protections, the number of displaced persons will continue to increase and economic opportunity will continue to be beyond the reach of these populations.

We appreciate the Administration's efforts to grow the economics of the United States and Colombia but we must do so in a way that benefits the citizens of both countries. We must not tolerate economic inequality or persistent violence against Afro Colombians and indigenous people.

As you know, Members of Congress have consistently denounced the systematic paramilitary persecution and assassinations of Afro-Colombian, indigenous and labor rights activists in Colombia. We are concerned that our voices on this subject are not being heard and our concerns are not being adequately addressed. Full implementation of the Colombian Action Plan Related to Labor Rights, and the reform of the CTA model, are critical to any serious discussion of free trade with Colombia. We insist that the Ministry of Labor and Justice's protection programs, which the Action Plan seeks to broaden, include protection for Afro-Colombian labor activists who face political persecution.

We appreciate your attention and consideration to these matters and look forward to working with you in ensuring that labor and minorities rights in Colombia and protected if entering into a Free Trade Agreement between this country and the U.S.

Sincerely,

Hank Johnson
Member of Congress

John Conyers
Member of Congress

Gwen Moore
Member of Congress

Bobby Rush
Member of Congress

Barbara Lee
Member of Congress

Donald Payne
Member of Congress

Raul Grijalva
Member of Congress

Michael Michaud
Member of Congress

Keith Ellison
Member of Congress

Maurice Hinchey
Member of Congress

Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Member of Congress

Sheila Jackson-Lee
Member of Congress

Lynn Woolsey
Member of Congress

James McGovern
Member of Congress

Bob Filner
Member of Congress

Dennis Kucinich
Member of Congress

Maxine Waters
Member of Congress

Jan Schakowsky
Member of Congress

Marcy Kaptur
Member of Congress

Bennie Thompson
Member of Congress

Chellie Pingree
Member of Congress

Emanuel Cleaver
Member of Congress

Elanor Holmes Norton
Member of Congress

Danny Davis
Member of Congress


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