MADRE: The US-Colombia Unfair Trade Agreement

April 2, 2008

This info and action alert comes from MADRE:

The US-Colombia Unfair Trade Agreement: Just Say No!

Link to petition:

With Congress back in session, the Bush Administration is pushing hard to pass another trade agreement based on the failed NAFTA model, this time with Colombia. The Administration is in a race against public opinion, which is quickly turning against the kind of neoliberal trade deals that have worsened poverty and inequality in every country where they have been implemented and led to a massive loss of jobs in the United States. The proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Colombia promises more of the same. The deal will also strengthen Colombia’s government, which is responsible for severe human rights violations.

With more and more people–in Latin America and in the US–becoming aware of the repercussions of unfair trade rules, now is the time to take action and demand change.

Please sign our petition asking Congress to vote No on the US-Colombia FTA. Let your representatives know that a vote for this trade agreement is a vote for:

1. Worsening Rural Poverty and Hunger

The FTA cuts tariffs on food imported from the US but benefits only the few Colombian farmers who export to the US. Moreover, the deal bars the Colombian government from subsidizing farmers, while large-scale US corn and rice growers enjoy billions in subsidies. These double standards guarantee that US agribusiness can undersell Colombian farmers, who will face bankruptcy as a result. Many of Colombia’s small-holder farmers are women and Indigenous Peoples who are losing their livelihoods and being forced off their lands.

2. Fueling Armed Conflict and Drug Trafficking

The intertwined crises of poverty, landlessness and inequality are at the root of Colombia’s 50-year armed conflict. The FTA will further concentrate wealth in the hands of a few while worsening poverty for millions of people. Many Colombian farmers, whose livelihoods will be destroyed by the FTA, will be compelled to cultivate coca (the raw material for producing cocaine) to earn a living.

Continuing a trend begun in the wake of 9-11, the US has cast the FTA as a matter of its “national security,” and the Colombian government has followed suit by treating anyone opposed to the deal as a terrorist. Colombia’s workers, Afro-Colombians and Indigenous Peoples have taken a clear position against the FTA. Their peaceful protests have been met with severe repression, including murder.

3. Repressing Labor Rights

Colombia is already the world’s deadliest country for trade unionists, with more than 2,000 labor activists killed since 1991. The FTA does not require Colombia to meet international core labor standards; it merely calls on the government to abide by its own weak labor laws. Without enforceable labor protections, the trade deal will put more workers at risk. US workers’ power to negotiate better wages will also be weakened by a deal that allows corporations operating in Colombia to keep labor costs down through sheer violence.

4. Exacerbating Climate Change and Threatening Biodiversity

The FTA will increase logging in the Colombian Amazon, weakening the rainforest’s capacity to stabilize the Earth’s climate. Under provisions sought by the US, corporations that have bought the rights to a country’s forests, fishing waters, mineral deposits or oil reserves can totally deplete these resources, with grave consequences to ecosystems and the many species that inhabit them. Small-scale farmers and Indigenous Peoples who depend directly on these natural resources will be the first people to suffer.

5. Subordinating National Sovereignty to Corporations

By allowing corporations to sue governments for passing laws that could reduce profits, the FTA erodes Colombia’s prerogative to regulate foreign investment and undermines citizens’ chances of improving health, safety and environmental laws. In anticipation of the FTA, the US pressed Colombia to pass a law that would expropriate land from Indigenous and Afro-Colombians and allow multinational corporations to gain control of millions of hectares of rainforest. The forestry law was part of a series of constitutional “reforms” undertaken to meet the conditions of a US trade agreement. In January 2008, Colombian civil society won an important victory: the forestry law was struck down as a violation of Indigenous rights. Had the FTA already been in place, US corporations would now be allowed to sue the Colombian government for “lost future profits.”

6. Deteriorating Public Health

By extending patent rights on medicines produced in the US, the FTA hinders the use of far cheaper generic drugs and puts life-saving medicines out of reach for millions of Colombians. Women, who are over-represented among the poor and primarily responsible for caring for sick family members, are particularly harmed by this provision.

7. Loss of Vital Public Services

The FTA requires the Colombian government to sell off critical public services, including water, healthcare and education. Elsewhere in Latin America, this kind of privatization has resulted in sharp rate increases by new corporate owners that deny millions of people access to essential services. Women are hardest hit because it is most often their responsibility to meet their families’ needs for such basic services.

8. Harming Indigenous Women

The FTA would enable corporations to exploit Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge by allowing companies to patent seeds, plants, animals and certain medical procedures developed and used by Indigenous women over centuries. Under the FTA, Indigenous women could lose access to important medicinal plants and agricultural seeds unless they pay royalties to patent holders. Indigenous women’s role as the protectors of their community’s natural resources and traditional knowledge would be eroded, threatening Indigenous cultures and women’s status within the community.

There Are Viable Alternatives to Free Trade Agreements

Despite more than a decade of failed NAFTA-style trade deals, the US continues to insist that its trading partners adhere to rigid neoliberal economic policies. But Latin America’s social movements are articulating viable alternatives for regulating trade and economic integration in ways that benefit women, families, communities and the environment. The women of MADRE’s sister organizations in Colombia and throughout Latin America affirm the need for Fair Trade Agreements that:

1. Are negotiated through democratic processes with effective participation from communities that will be impacted, including women’s organizations.
2. Ensure that life-sustaining resources such as water, food staples and medicinal plants are guaranteed to all people and not reduced to commodities.
3. Ensure that access to basic services, including health care, housing, education, water and sanitation, are recognized as human rights that governments are obligated–and empowered–to protect.
4. Institute the region’s highest, rather than lowest, standards for labor rights and health, safety and environmental protections.
5. Adopt principles of “fair trade,” including social security and development assistance programs that protect small farmers and workers and that recognize the economic value of women’s unpaid labor in the household.
6. Require foreign investors to contribute to the economic development of the communities where they have a presence.
7. Promote policies that respect local cultures and collective Indigenous rights and that preserve traditional agricultural techniques and biodiversity in agriculture and nature.
8. Recognize the links between economic growth, environmental sustainability and building peace.

Ecuador’s Yasuni Park: Oil Exploration or Nature Protection?

March 22, 2008
Holding Corporations Accountable
Ecuador’s Yasuni Park: Oil Exploration or Nature Protection?
Agneta Enstr�m
March 20th, 2008

Permission for Petrobras of Brazil to drill for oil in Yasuni National Park, one of the most biologically diverse places in the world, has been suspended, but some damage has already been done by Swedish construction giant Skanska. Unless new money is found to protect the forest, exploration may resume.



US: Fighting on a Battlefield the Size of a Milk Label

US: Families Sue Chiquita in Deaths of 5 Men


US: When a Corporate Donation Raises Protests


US: CALIFORNIA $100 million tip for Starbucks servers

US: Workers Sue Gulf Coast Company That Imported Them


US: Study says diesel emissions raise cancer risk

US: Pollution Is Called a Byproduct of a ‘Clean’ Fuel


US: Eli Lilly E-Mail Discussed Unapproved Use of Drug


US: A Push to Limit the Tracking of Web Surfers’ Clicks


IRAQ: Forbidden fields: Oil groups circle the prize of Iraq’s vast reserves

IRAQ: KBR Faulted on Water Provided to Soldiers


Bye, America

Making Company Data Truly Public

Spitzer versus Schwarzman


Support Corpwatch’s work to hold corporations accountable on human rights, labor rights and environmental justice issues through investigative journalism, education and activism.

Small victory for justice in Guatemala

February 29, 2008

Good news: President Alvaro Colóm announced on February 25 that he will open Guatemala’s military archives to the public. These archives will help bring Ríos Montt to justice.

Watch Amnesty International’s documentary “Justice without Borders” and get the full story on Ríos Montt and other international human rights criminals.

President Alvaro Colóm announced on February 25 that he will open Guatemala’s military archives to the public. These files are believed to contain crucial information on human rights abuses committed during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict (1960-1996).

The release of the files is the realization of a key objective in Amnesty’s campaign to bring to justice ex-president General Efraín Ríos Montt and other former officials accused of genocide, torture and other crimes against humanity. We believe that the files contain information that will eventually help to convict them.

Amnesty International welcomes the opening of the military archives as a very positive step, although the real test will be whether this development results in prosecutions. AI researchers are currently organizing a mission to Guatemalan for early March, during which they will be gathering information to determine next steps in our campaign.

THANK YOU to all who have sent messages to the Guatemalan government urging the release of the files. Thousands of you have taken action, and today we can see what is possible when we join forces with the brave human rights defenders in Guatemala who every day risk their lives just to demand justice.


Vienna Colucci
Director, Program for International Justice and Accountability
Amnesty International USA

Watch AIUA’s documentary film “Justice Without Borders”
A day of action in support of justice for genocide in Guatemala
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See the latest entry from an observer of the Fujimori trial in Peru
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AIUA’s documentary film “Justice Without Borders” features a very powerful story segment on the long struggle to bring Efraín Ríos Montt to justice. ©ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images Take action!


Climate, AIDS and Efforts Towards Peace

December 9, 2007

The Week with IPS


Here are some of the most-read stories of the past week — and stories you shouldn’t go without reading:


MIDEAST: Olmert Walks Razor’s Edge in Peace Talks

Analysis by Peter Hirschberg

JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has issued a dire warning to his people. Failure to reach a negotiated two-state settlement with the Palestinians, he has declared, will mean the end of the State of Israel.




JAPAN: Looking to Play a Key Role in Bali

Catherine Makino

TOKYO – Japan expects to play a key role at the 11-day conference which begins Monday on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, under the aegis of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCC). “Climate change and environmental issues are opportunities for Japan to promote positive ‘trans-border’ relations with its neighbors.”


Latin America Wants Rich Nations to Foot the Bill

Mario Osava – Tierramérica

RIO DE JANEIRO – At the global conference in Bali starting this week, Latin American governments will call for greater commitments from industrialised countries to curb climate change and to provide financial support for developing countries to deal with its effects.


Q&A: ‘Emissions Trading Can Raise Billions To Combat Climate Change’

Interview with German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul

BERLIN – Developed countries have a “moral duty” to help the world’s poorest countries combat the consequences of climate change to which they have contributed the least, says German Development Cooperation Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul.

Confronting Climate Change – More IPS News




KENYA: Many Firms Still Ignoring the Bottom Line on HIV

Kwamboka Oyaro

NAIROBI – HIV/AIDS cuts workers down in their prime, taking to the grave a wealth of training and experience that companies can ill afford to lose. Lower productivity, absenteeism from work and increased medical bills exact a further toll on the private sector — all of which begs the question: are employers being sufficiently active in helping to fight AIDS?


Racism, Gov’t Apathy Fuel U.S. Epidemic

Adrianne Appel

BOSTON – The United States has slashed the AIDS death rate among white and wealthy U.S. citizens, but the disease continues to ravage the black community at full force, leaders say.

More IPS News on HIV/AIDS


PERU: President Brandishes His Own Terror Threat

Ángel Páez

LIMA – Fear has struck again, chilling the hearts of hundreds of Peruvians who were sent to prison on false charges of belonging to the Maoist Shining Path guerrillas or the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) during Peru’s 1980-2000 civil war.


U.S.: Civil Libertarians Warn of “Patriot Act Lite”

William Fisher

NEW YORK – Civil libertarians are worried that a little-known anti-terrorism bill now making its way through the U.S. Congress with virtually no debate could be planting the seeds of another USA Patriot Act, which was hurriedly enacted into law after the al Qaeda attacks of Sep. 11, 2001.


PHILIPPINES: Aerial Spraying Issue Turns Seesaw Court Battle

Brad Miller*

DAVAO CITY – The villagers in the mountains surrounding Davao city are bracing for the day the crop-dusting planes resume dropping fungicide on the banana plantations — and the wind blowing toxic fog over their houses, water supply and children.


HELSINKI PROCESS: Farewell to a Unique Forum for Dialogue

Analysis by Alejandro Kirk

DAR ES SALAAM – The Helsinki Process on Globalisation and Democracy was launched five years ago by Finland and Tanzania with the aim of addressing international divisions, to achieve an inclusive globalisation process based on human and environmental security. However, at a conference held here to review the second phase of the process, it was sentenced to die young.


And much more global news at:


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DN!: Is CIA Fomenting Unrest to Challenge Chavez Referendum?//Fmr Black Panther Details Brutal Police Torture

November 30, 2007

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* Tens of Thousands Protest Chavez Proposals, Is CIA Fomenting Unrest to Challenge Referendum? *

In Venezuela, tens of thousands of protesters marched through Caracas Thursday to oppose constitutional changes proposed by President Chavez that come to a vote on Sunday. Citing a confidential memo, the Venezuelan government is claiming the CIA is fomenting unrest to challenge the referendum.


* Giuliani, Romney Clash Over Immigration at GOP Debate *

Immigration was the key issue at Wednesday night¹s Republican debate hosted by CNN and YouTube. Republican presidential hopefuls sparred over sanctuary cities, driver¹s licenses, border security and education. We play an excerpt of the debate.


* Former Black Panther Details Brutal Police Torture to Extract Confession in 1971 Murder Case

Two Nobel Peace Prize laureates are calling for all charges to be dropped against eight former Black Panthers arrested earlier this year for allegedly killing a San Francisco police officer over 35 years ago. Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mairead Maguire said the charges against the San Francisco Eight should be dropped because the case is based in part on statements made under torture. Harold Taylor, one of the co-defendants, gives a detailed and powerful account of the abuse he endured while in police custody. We also speak with Ray Boudreaux, another of the San Francisco Eight as well as their attorney.


* Headlines for November 30, 2007 *

* Musharraf Gives Date for Lifting Emergency Rule

* Bush Warns of Pentagon Layoffs in War-Funding Row

* Iraqi Lawmakers Protest U.S. Treatment

* Philippine Officers Stage Failed Coup

* Thousands Rally Against Chavez-Backed Reforms

* Admin Ordered to Release Telecom Lobbying Docs

* Milwaukee Officers Sentenced Over Beating


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‘Judicial Activism’ and Pakistan Emergency

November 6, 2007

The Week with IPS


Here are some of the most-read stories of the past week — and stories you shouldn’t go without reading:


PAKISTAN: ‘Judicial Activism’ Triggered Emergency

Analysis by Beena Sarwar

KARACHI – By taking a stand on crucial constitutional issues, implicit in cases before it, the Pakistan Supreme Court may have raised the political temperature to a point where, in order to remain in power, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf felt compelled to declare emergency Saturday.


Q&A: ‘We Need Partners, Not Masters’

Interview with Evo Morales, President of Bolivia

ROME – Bolivian President Evo Morales visited Italy this week to receive a special award for his government’s commitment to social and health issues. He has made these issues a “political priority.”


IRAQ: Where Better Security Brings No Reassurance

Ahmed Ali*

BAQUBA – The much touted “surge” of U.S. troops in Baquba has caused more problems than it has solved, residents say. This has long been a volatile city plagued by rampant violence and administrative chaos.


AFRICA: HIV and TB – An Ever Deadlier Combination

Miriam Mannak

CAPE TOWN – The prevalence of tuberculosis (TB) amongst people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa has reached crisis levels and will escalate further if decisive steps are not taken, says a new report by the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research — ‘HIV-TB Co-Infection: Meeting the Challenge’.


Pawns of Colombia’s War – The Hostage Crisis

Analysis by Ana Carrigan

LONDON – “Mr. President, we who are going to die send you our greetings.” The Sept. 26, 2006 message, addressed to Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, came from a hostage held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), along with eleven other provincial legislators, since April 2002.


Death Penalty Threatens to Split World Body

Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS – The 192-member U.N. General Assembly is expected to vote, perhaps by early or mid-November, on one of the most divisive political issues before the world body: a moratorium on the death penalty.

More IPS News about the Global Death Penalty Debate


Pro-Taliban Militants Grip Swat Valley, Defy Army

Ashfaq Yusufzai

PESHAWAR – Violence has escalated this week in Swat, a high valley in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) bordering Afghanistan, where a tenuous ceasefire was broken by brazen attacks on government targets by pro-Taliban militants.


NICARAGUA: At-Risk Pregnancy Means Death or Prison

José Adán Silva

MANAGUA – Nearly 90 women have died in Nicaragua as a direct or indirect result of the repeal, one year ago, of the legislation permitting abortion in cases of risk to the mother’s health, according to women’s and human rights groups.


KENYA: Court Bid to Stop EPA ”Human Rights Violations”

Rosalia Omungo

NAIROBI – An unexpected challenge has been directed at the economic partnership agreement (EPA) being negotiated between the European Union and the east and southern African group. Two lobby groups have filed a law suit in Kenya to halt the signing of the EPA, citing human rights violations.

EPAs – Opportunities and Risks


Toxins Threaten to Uproot Entire U.S. Town

Mark Weisenmiller

TAMPA – The quiet village of Tallevast in Florida’s Manatee County traces its roots back to the 1890s, when a community of shacks was built there for African-American labourers who worked tapping sap from the local pine forests to make turpentine and grew sugarcane, celery and strawberries in the fields.


COLOMBIA: A Painful Pilgrimage

Diana Cariboni and Constanza Vieira*

BELLAVISTA – “Father Antún! Father Antún is back!” were the happy, surprised shouts heard by the IPS news team accompanying Catholic priest Antún Ramos as he returned to his former parish in the village of Bellavista in northwestern Colombia.


IPS Washington bureau chief Jim Lobe’s take on U.S. foreign policy and the story behind the story.


And much more global news at:


Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS), the world’s leading provider of information on global issues, is backed by a network of journalists in more than 100 countries. Its clients include more than 3,000 media organisations and tens of thousands of civil society groups, academics, and other users.

IPS focuses its news coverage on the events and global processes affecting the economic, social and political development of peoples and nations.


Visit Inter Press Service at

IPS: Pygmy Lands v. World Bank Logging

October 27, 2007

Indigenous peoples around the globe are making themselves heard in international arenas and at the national level. But many challenges remain in the fight for full recognition of all their rights.


World Bank Confronts Pygmy Challenge Over Logging

Abid Aslam

WASHINGTON – The World Bank is scrambling to respond to complaints that it broke its own rules to support commercial logging at the expense of Pygmy lands and livelihoods in the war-wrecked Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).


Indigenous People See Common Ground in Struggles

Stephen de Tarczynski

MELBOURNE – Indigenous people around the world are finding common cause in their struggles to retain their identities and their land.

“A Mapuche person without land can’t be a Mapuche,” said Cristian Qechupán Huenuñir, a Mapuche activist from Chile, at a plenary session on Indigenous Struggles and Resistance at the Latin America and Asia Pacific International Solidarity Forum.


Indigenous Congress Demands Teeth for UN Declaration

Franz Chávez

LA PAZ – Indigenous leaders held a regional congress in Bolivia to discuss strategies to oblige governments to make state policy the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 13.

The congress, Nobel Peace laureate Rigoberta Menchú said, is a way of demonstrating support for the work of Bolivia’s leftwing indigenous President Evo Morales, who convened a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution to recognise indigenous peoples’ cultural values, customs and right to land and self-determination.


Indigenous People Make Best Forest Custodians

Marwaan Macan-Markar

CHIANG MAI, Thailand – The millions of indigenous people living across Asia and the Pacific are finally gaining recognition for the key role the play in forest conservation.


NICARAGUA: Of Forests, Floods, Fatalities and Famine

José Adán Silva

MANAGUA – The forces of nature are giving Nicaragua no respite. After the hurricane that devastated the country’s northeastern Caribbean coast in September, weeks of torrential rains have claimed lives and caused economic damages, and now the FAO is warning of famine.


INDIA: Tigers Lose in Park vs People Conflict

Malini Shankar

SARISKA, Rajasthan – Three years after 22 tigers were brazenly hunted down by poachers in the Sariska Tiger Reserve, a protected park in the Aravalli hills of northwestern India, the blame game has not ended.


Q&A: “We’ve Stopped Believing in Ourselves”

Interview with Michael Byers, Canadian author and political analyst

VANCOUVER – Dr. Michael Byers, a professor of politics and international law at the University of British Columbia, recently released a provocative book titled “Intent for a Nation – A Relentlessly Optimistic Manifesto for Canada’s Role in the World.”

He spoke with IPS about Canada’s efforts to thwart the Universal Declaration on Indigenous Peoples.


SRI LANKA: Tamils Traumatised by War, Tsunami – Study

Feizal Samath

COLOMBO – Residents of war-wracked Jaffna city in northern Sri Lanka are a community on the run; every family has a bag packed with essentials, ready to flee at a moment’s notice, a new research study reports.


Peruvian Government Accused of Poor Track Record

Milagros Salazar

LIMA – The Peruvian government will be asked to explain Friday to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) decrees that human rights groups say are aimed at clamping down on social protest, and what it has done to protect the rights of uncontacted indigenous peoples.


CANADA: Native Way of Life Vanishing into the Clear-Cut

Am Johal

VANCOUVER – As the Ontario election draws to a close on Wednesday, a long-running land rights battle continues in the east-central Canadian province between First Nations groups and mining and logging interests that have been granted concessions to exploit the resources in a vast boreal forest known as Grassy Narrows.


PERU: New Census to Make Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Count

Milagros Salazar

LIMA – The Peruvian state will repay a longstanding debt to indigenous people in the country’s Amazon region by including them in a national census in a way that pays attention to their particular social, economic and cultural characteristics. But experts say this is only a first step.


You’ll find more IPS indigenous news and links at:


Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS), the world’s leading provider of information on global issues, is backed by a network of journalists in more than 100 countries. Its clients include more than 3,000 media organisations and tens of thousands of civil society groups, academics, and other users.

IPS focuses its news coverage on the events and global processes affecting the economic, social and political development of peoples and nations.


Visit Inter Press Service at