CQ TODAY ONLINE NEWS. April 18, 2008 – 2:05 p.m. By Timothy R. Homan
Colombia’s top officials have received no assurances that the pending free-trade agreement will come up for a vote this year, following last week’s House vote to suspend action on the pact’s implementing legislation.
Inside US Trade - April 15, 2008
Union presidents from the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win coalitions late last week urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) not to have a vote on the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement this year, even if the Bush administration offered to cooperate on other Democratic legislative priorities, according to sources familiar with the meeting.
blog.aflcio.org, by James Parks, Apr 15, 2008
The union movement, members of Congress and human rights leaders vowed today to keep the pressure on the Colombian government to get serious about ending the violence against trade unionists and prosecuting paramilitary death squads. Until that happens, they say they will continue to fight to defeat the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
By a 224–195 vote April 10, the House removed the 90-day deadline under Fast Track trade-promotion authority for an up-or-down vote on the Colombia FTA. The vote will delay consideration of the deal indefinitely, probably until after Bush leaves office in January. In fact, Bush told reporters Monday that the deal is dead unless House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) schedules a vote.
Washington Post, by John Sweeney. Monday, April 14, 2008; A15
Last Sept. 27, 16-year-old Andres Damian Florez Rodriguez was on his way home from school when he was forced into a van by three armed men. Andres is the son of Jose Domingo Florez, a leader of the Coca-Cola bottling union in Santander. The assailants drove along, beating the boy while they received radio instructions. Then they gave him a message to convey: "Tell your papa that we won't rest until we see [the union leaders] quartered in pieces."
On March 22, Adolfo Gonzalez Montes, a member of the Barrancas local Union of Coal Miners, was found dead in his home, tortured and shot, after his union received death threats during a union conflict.
On March 9, Carlos Burbano, vice president of the National Hospital Workers' Union in Colombia, was murdered in San Vicente del Caguán after leading a local peace march. His corpse was found in the city dump, his face disfigured with acid. He was one of four Colombian trade unionists killed in a single week. Their deaths were not random crimes in a dangerous country. Rather, the Colombian government has falsely denounced union activists as guerrilla sympathizers, opening the door for paramilitary groups' death threats.
And these assassinations are not anomalies. Seventeen unionists have been murdered since Jan. 1 -- up 70 percent over last year at this time -- according to the National Labor School, a respected nongovernmental organization.
Against this backdrop, President Bush has sent the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement to Congress for ratification, over the opposition of the Democratic congressional leadership. What, then, is the fundamental test of globalization? Is it corporate profits alone?
April 11, 2008
“Three years later, like us, you said no to the Colombia-US FTA”
Dear Representative Pelosi and Congress of the United States of America:
First, we would like to express our joy and gratitude for the decision made yesterday, April 10, 2008, in the United States Congress. With 294 votes in favor and 195 against, the House of Representatives, over which you preside, decided to indefinitely freeze the FTA between Colombia and the US. We know that this is but one step on a long path, but the result is profoundly meaningful for our peoples, and it opens a window through which we can breathe with strength and rejuvenated spirits. With this letter, beyond expressing our recognition and appreciation as peoples, we seek to open a space for communication between us, because we feel that we deserve the right to be heard and respected. It is long overdue that Democratic Party members of Congress under your leadership should become aware of our democratic decision and analyses, all of which are rooted in dignity and respect for life.
by Bob Burton, prwatch.org, on Friday 04/11/2008
Clumsy maneuvering by Burson-Marsteller CEO Mark Penn -- who met with Colombian officials about the U.S. - Colombia Free Trade Agreement while serving as the chief campaign strategist for trade deal opponent Hillary Clinton -- drew unwanted publicity to the controversial pact.
Colombia's $300,000 a year contract (pdf) with Burson-Marsteller stated the PR firm would "provide ongoing strategic communications counsel to the Ambassador and key Embassy officials"; develop "key messages, talking points and briefing materials"; give "advice and communications counsel to the Ambassador and Embassy staff"; and "co-ordinate media interviews and public events with relevant news media in Washington D.C. on behalf of the Embassy."
Colombia ended the contract after Penn described his meeting as "an error in judgment." But the country isn't hurting for lobbying power in Washington, D.C. -- especially among Democrats.
Watch Clinton laugh off a question on Colombia (April 10, 2008).
blog.aflcio.org, by Mike Hall, Apr 10, 2008
The U.S. House of Representatives, this afternoon, told President Bush there will be no Fast Track for his flawed U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA). By a 224–195 vote, the House removed Fast Track’s 90-day deadline for an up or down vote on the deal.
The vote will delay consideration of the deal indefinitely, probably until Bush leaves office in January.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says the time limit should be lifted because Congress and the president should be focusing their energy on the needs of America’s working families as the economy staggers toward a recession, not on the flawed trade deal.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 10, 2008
CONTACT: Greg Denier
WASHINGTON, DC – The following is a statement from Change to Win chair Anna Burger regarding U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announced plans to delay a vote on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
April 10, 2008.
The House has just passed a rule to suspend the requirement that the Colombia Free Trade Agreement be considered within 90 legislative days by a vote of 224-195-1 — giving Congress the prerogative in scheduling a vote. This change is necessitated by the President’s partisan actions. Instead of working with Congress on the economic concerns of the American people, on Tuesday, the President took the unprecedented step of sending up the Colombia Trade deal without following established protocols of Congressional consultation. His actions were political and counter-productive. This rule would remove the fast-track timeline for the Colombia free-trade agreement — simply returning to Congress the rightful constitutional role in scheduling consideration of measures. The Fast Track law (PL 107-210) expressly recognizes “the constitutional right of either House to change the rules (so far as relating to the procedures of that House) at any time, in the same manner, and to the same extent as any other rule of that House” and that is what the House is doing.