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Public Statements

Letter to Juan Manuel Santos Calderon, President of Colombia

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and seven Members of Congress sent a letter to President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia this week thanking him for his commitment to address labor rights in Colombia and establishing a Congressional Monitoring Group on Labor Rights in Colombia that will work with the Obama Administration and others to ensure that progress is made on labor rights in the coming months.

Below is the full text of the letter.

November 16, 2011

Juan Manuel Santos Calderon
President of Colombia
Casa de Nariño
Bogotá, Colombia

Dear President Santos:

Thank you for your commitment to improve the protections and conditions of labor and human rights for the people of Colombia. There is no question that Colombia has been and will continue to be a staunch ally of the United States in our shared efforts to promote security, prosperity and democracy in Latin America.

As Members of the U.S. Congress who voted both for and against the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, we are united in our commitment to help the working people of Colombia and to help you in your efforts to make progress for your country.

To that end, we have established a Congressional Monitoring Group on Labor Rights in Colombia that will work closely with the Obama Administration, U.S. and Colombian labor organizations and non-governmental organizations, and, with your support, the Colombian government. Our goal is to ensure that both the U.S. and Colombia continue to make progress on labor rights including the commitments and timelines announced in the Colombian Action Plan Related to Labor Rights. We support the commitment outlined in the Action Plan "to protect internationally recognized labor rights, prevent violence against labor leaders, and prosecute perpetrators of such violence."

Under your leadership, the Colombian government has taken important steps to help address Colombia's labor and human rights conditions including:

* Passing legislation to establish a Labor Ministry to provide better capacity to protect and institutionalize labor rights;

* Committing to improve legal provisions and regulations associated with labor cooperatives and other employer relationships that undermine workers' rights, including already accelerating the effective date of sanctions on the misuse of labor cooperatives;

* Expanding coverage of the union leaders' protection program and, in consultation with teachers' union representatives, strengthening the separate teacher protection program;

* Passing the Victims and Land Restitution Law that offers compensation to as many as four million victims and restitution of two million hectares of land over the next ten years to over 460,000 families displaced due to the internal armed conflict;

* Starting the process to hire and train the first 100 of 480 additional labor inspectors over the next four years as part of the commitment to mobilize resources and strengthen enforcement of a system to protect labor rights; and

* Committing to formally partner with the International Labor Organization to "significantly strengthen the presence in Colombia in order to help implement the measures outlined in the Action Plan."

In the coming months, there is more work to be done to protect labor rights in Colombia and to fully accomplish the objectives in the Action Plan. We look forward to working with you to ensure, among other priorities, that significant progress is made to:

* Reduce violence and threats of violence against trade unionists and human rights defenders, including the high number of assassinated union leaders in recent years;

* Prohibit the abuse of cooperatives and any other contractual employment relationships that curtail worker rights and ensure they are not replaced by similar entities;

* Ensure that Colombian law protects the ability of Colombian workers to exercise core labor rights;

* Establish regular and meaningful consultation with labor unions and the Escuela Nacional Sindical to address the backlog of cases related to murdered unionists, and establish similar consultations that include individual beneficiaries of protection over the development and implementation of protective measures;

* Produce results in the investigations and prosecutions of cases of anti-union violence, including threats, attacks and assassinations; and

* Effectively implement the Victims' and Land Restitution Law and ensure protection to returning communities and victims' and land rights leaders.

We understand the challenges to addressing the labor rights situation in Colombia. This critical work squares fully with your own stated priorities to end Colombia's culture of impunity, promote human rights, strengthen democratic institutions and reduce Colombia's grave inequities.

It is in that spirit of commitment that we look forward to working with you to build a more prosperous future for the people of Colombia. Thank you for your leadership.

Sincerely,

Nancy Pelosi
House Democratic Leader

George Miller
Member of Congress

Sander M. Levin
Member of Congress

Rosa L. DeLauro
Member of Congress

Sam Farr
Member of Congress

James P. McGovern
Member of Congress

Joseph Crowley
Member of Congress

Michael H. Michaud
Member of Congress


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