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of Past Special Reports and Features | Project
Testimony of Luis Gilberto
Former Governor, State of Choco, Colombia
Senior Fellow on International Policy
Phelps Stokes Fund
House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Subcommittee on the Western
Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member, Members of this distinguished Sub-Committee. My name is Luis Gilberto Murillo-Urrutia. I
am Colombian and now serve as Senior Fellow on International Policy at Phelps
Stokes Fund. Phelps Stokes Fund is a nearly 100-year-old organization that
seeks to promote justice through education and leadership in communities of
I am very
pleased to appear before this important Subcommittee. Let me first express my
appreciation to members of this Subcommittee for their leadership and ongoing
interest in Colombia.
Also, I am grateful to members of the Congressional Black Caucus for their
steadfast support to Afro-Colombians. As requested, my remarks this afternoon,
from an Afro-Colombian perspective, will focus on my assessment of the current U.S. policy toward Colombia,
the Colombian government’s efforts to reduce violence and to bring end to the
armed conflict, and the future of U.S.
assistance to Colombia.
1. The Armed Conflict in Colombia
Colombia’s current armed conflict has been going on for almost 50 years, though
many would say much longer. This conflict is rooted in inequality, poverty, and
the social, political and economic exclusion of disadvantaged social groups in
extensive geographic areas of the country. In the last three decades these
socio-economic and political conditions created the right environment for drug
trafficking to emerge as one of the main drivers of Colombian crisis. The
fighting between leftist guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN), the right wing
paramilitary, sometimes in collusion with the Colombian Army, has caught most
of the rural civilian population in the crossfire. Thousands Colombians have died as result of
this conflict. Furthermore, the illegal fighting factions hold about 11,000
child soldiers. Violence is the second leading cause of death for Colombian
children ages 5 to 14 years. The human suffering created by this armed conflict
is irreparable and unacceptable.
In addition, Colombia has the second highest number of
persons internally displaced by violence in the world, only second to Sudan. Between 2 and 3 million people have been
displaced by violence according to the UNHCR, while the Catholic Church’s
Social Ministry and the nongovernmental Consultancy on Displacement and Human
Rights (CODHES) estimates, since 1985, more than 3.5 million Colombians have
been forced to flee their homes, farms, churches and communities – by violence.
Women, children, and marginalized ethnic and racial minorities suffer the most
from displacement. Humanitarian
assistance and aid to transition internally displaced persons (IDPs) into
self-sufficient economic activity is far from adequate: a study by the
Colombian government’s Inspector General’s Office and the Ombudsman’s Office
revealed that just 30 percent of households individually displaced between 1997
and 2004 and 8 percent of families displaced in large groups received emergency
assistance. The United Nations calls the IDP crisis in Colombia the worst humanitarian catastrophe in
the Western Hemisphere.
experience violence in many ways. They are direct target of military and
related actions, including sexual attacks. They suffer when their husbands or
sons, or increasingly daughters, are killed or injured in combat. A large
numbers of girls are forcibly recruited by illegal armed groups and are forced
into slavery-like conditions. Women and children are increasingly becoming the
recognized face of poverty, violence, displacement and social exclusion in Colombia.
According to some statistics, more that 60 percent of internally displaced
women are unemployed and near 80 percent do not have health insurance. 44
percent of women internally displaced have suffered from intra-family violence,
18 percent during the pregnancy. The
Colombian conflict is disproportionately affecting women. Colombian society is
looking for ways to advance peace and attain the kind of security that will
really protect them.
2. The Impacts of Plan Colombia and Recent Political
towards Colombia has
expressed itself mainly through the multiyear Plan Colombia (Andean Counter-drug
initiative ACI) and the Andean Trade Preferences and Drug Enforcement Act. Plan
Colombia was passed into law
in 2000, with the stated objectives of strengthening democracy, promoting human
rights and the rule of law, fostering socio-economic development, and reducing
coca cultivation in Colombia.
This plan has evolved from being an exclusive anti-narcotics package to an
anti-terror strategy. The plan has had mixed results. By some measures, the
security situation has improved. The government maintains that the overall
numbers of murders and kidnappings have fallen.
While nearly 200 of Colombia’s
1,092 counties lacked a police presence in 2002, all now have at least a small
contingent of police.
welcome gains, the stated objectives of Plan Colombia have not been
achieved. A variety of deeply disturbing
trends illustrate this point. Eradication through aerial fumigation of coca
crops is the centerpiece of the U.S.
counter-drug strategy in Colombia.
Despite an unprecedented aerial spraying campaign, coca cultivation in Colombia, instead
of decreasing by 50 percent as projected, has increased. Cultivation is
spreading to new areas and returning to others previously cleared. This
situation suggests that a decrease in acres planted in one province, or indeed
in one country, is not a reliable indicator of drug policy success.
concern for Colombian society is the infiltration of Colombian institutions by
illegal armed groups. There are multiple credible allegations of links between
prominent national politicians, businessmen, and high-ranking military with
paramilitary groups. According to recent reports, there is serious body of
evidence of collaboration between members of the Colombian parliament,
governors, mayors, senior government officials, and paramilitary commanders. Apparently,
these alliances orchestrated fraudulent elections and then went about
infiltrating and stealing from hospitals and other public institutions while
assassinating hundreds of adversaries. Eight prominent members of Congress have
been jailed and many others are under investigation, including the speaker of
the House. While these investigations
are a good step, the United
States government should press for real
results, including suspension from their posts of those under investigation for
very serious crimes, and arrests and convictions.
number of national and U.S.
based companies has been accused of making payments to both paramilitaries and
guerrilla groups. Recently, Chiquita Brands
International admitted that it paid off a Colombian group on the U.S. terrorist
list. This has spotlighted a practice once denied in Colombia. Several other U.S.-based
corporations, including Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and the Alabama-based coal
company Drummond Co., face civil lawsuits alleging their Colombian operations
worked with an outlaw group to kill several trade unionists. This has focused
attention on the payoffs that Colombian and foreign companies make to the
illegal armed groups fighting the country's 50-year-old civil war, especially
in remote areas where those groups hold sway.
government is carrying out an ambitious process of demobilization of
paramilitary groups. Nonetheless, new paramilitary organizations are being
created in many regions of the country, or old groups never demobilized are
emerging with new names. This suggests
that the structural conditions for the existence of these criminal
organizations are not being addressed properly.
Nor has the Colombian government been effective enough about fully
dismantling paramilitary organizations.
It is essential that the U.S.
and Colombian governments take seriously the continued threats to communities
by the rearmed or never demobilized paramilitary forces. The persistence of the internal armed
conflict implies that there is not an easy military solution to the Colombian
Colombian government efforts, the situation for the most vulnerable Colombians
located in certain regions of the country has grown considerably worse. Both
the Colombian and the U.S.
governments in their rhetoric do now recognize poverty and inequality as
central dimensions of the Colombian security problem. The meeting of Presidents
George Bush and Alvaro Uribe with Afro-Colombian leaders in a recent trip to
Bogotá confirms this proposition. However, government policy prescriptions—both
Colombian government policy and U.S.
aid-- have not done enough to address these factors.
As we have
seen in other part of the world, military means alone are not sufficient. You
need to implement other political, economic, and social measures, and these
measures need to be sustained over the long term. This brings me to the issue
of Afro-Colombians as one of the best representative cases.
3. The Social and Economic
Conditions of Afro-Colombians
Race and ethnicity in Latin America
are a significant basis of social organization, status, and life chances.
Racial discrimination is a determinant factor of socio-economic inequality and
political marginalization. In this regard, Colombia is not an exception.
According to the limited quantitative data available in 1998, the Colombian
National Department of Planning stated that: “between 19 and 26 percent of the
44 million people in the country are African descendants. The World Bank put
this number between 20 and 25 percent. That is, between 8 and 11 million
Afro-Colombians. 82 percent of that population lives below the
poverty line of about 3 dollars a day, compared to the national average of near
50 percent. This population earns $500 USD per capita annually, compared to $1,900
USD for non-blacks. 74 percent of Afro-Colombian employees earn less than the
established legal minimum wage. Only 19 percent of Afro-Colombian households
have electricity, potable water and sanitation facilities, compared to a 62%
national average. In terms of health, 92 of every 1,000 Afro-Colombian children
die during the first year of life, compared to the national average of 20.”
With regards to education, the
situation is not better. According to a 2005 World Bank report, only 18.7
percent of the Black student population in the Pacific Coastal Region finished
secondary school in 1997. Of those students, just 17.8 percent entered a
university and only 2.8 percent finished. A report released by the United
Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Colombian government stated that, if
additional government efforts were not present, the largely Afro-Colombian area
of Choco would need 30 years to catch up with today’s Bogotá, in terms of
education and health indicators.
In addition, according to a recent study conducted by the Colombian
Government’s National Institute of Family Welfare and the University of Antioquia,
malnutrition is severe in Afro-Colombian communities. In the case of the
Pacific Region, 33.7 percent of children under 5 years old, and 33.5 percent of
women between 13 and 49 years old, suffer from anemia. Last week, Colombian
society was shocked with the news that 37 children under 5 years of age had
died of malnutrition since January this year. Afro-Latinos in general and
Afro-Colombians in particular are living in extremely difficult social,
political, and economic conditions that prevent them from enhancing their
talents, potential, and overall well being.
Afro-Colombians and the Armed Conflict: Implications for Development and Human Rights
As I mentioned before, the Colombian internal armed conflict disproportionately
affects Afro-Colombians. They are caught in the crossfire, as paramilitaries
and guerrillas struggle for control over key drug and weapons smuggling
corridors and economic assets. The most brutal massacres committed by
paramilitary and guerrilla groups have taken place in Afro-Colombian
territories and regions. According to the National Association of
Afro-Colombians displaced by violence, 40 percent of the Internally Displaced
Persons (IDPs) in Colombia
were Afro-Colombians, especially in the department of Chocó and the Pacific Coast. Just last week, more than 8,000
Afro-Colombians were violently displaced in the Municipality of El Charco
(Department of Narino) due to combats between FARC guerrillas, paramilitaries,
and the Colombian Army. 47 percent of those displaced in El Charco are
women. Many Afro-Colombians have sought
refuge in neighboring countries like Ecuador,
Panama, and even Costa Rica. In
2002, 119 Afro-Colombians, most of them children, were killed inside a church
by the leftist FARC in combat with right-wing paramilitaries.
Afro-Colombian future is being killed. In the municipalities of Tumaco and
Quibdo, and Buenaventura,
young Afro-Colombians are being either recruited by illegal armed actors or
killed. In April 1, 2005, twelve young Afro-Colombians, between 17 and 23 years
of age, were killed by paramilitaries (see the photo below) in Buenaventura, Colombia’s busiest port city. In
that Afro-Colombian city, bomb explosions and assassinations are a common
event. Just last week, 10 people died in the latest bomb explosion. According
to some non-governmental organizations, over 2,500 young Afro-Colombians were
killed between 2000 and 2005. Buenaventura well
could be called “the Baghdad
Young Afro-Colombians killed in a
massacre in Buenaventura,
on April 1, 2005
On a personal
note, last January 10th, my dear uncle Elacio Murillo, who was a very
well-known journalist and political activist was killed in cold blood by
emerging paramilitary groups that controls the region of San Juan Baudo in
Choco. This event was very painful for me and my family. Cases like this are
common in Afro-Colombian regions throughout the country. Afro-Colombians do not
feel more secured under democratic security policies. To the contrary, the security, human rights,
and humanitarian situation in Afro-Colombian regions have deteriorated.
During the past decade, Colombia has been experiencing the paradox of, on
the one hand, enjoying one of the most advanced constitutional frameworks for
the empowerment of citizenship rights in general and ethnic rights in
particular; and on the other hand, suffering from the drawn out effects of endemic
violence and armed conflict. The Colombian political armed conflict has severe
negative impacts on ethnic groups. The isolated yet strategic location of
Afro-Colombian collective territories made these areas suitable for illegal
armed groups’ military operations. In many cases guerrillas and paramilitaries
in collusion with the Colombian Army have used communities as human shield in
their combats, as a consequence, violating international human rights and
international humanitarian law. Afro-Colombians who defend their cultural and
territorial autonomy have been classified as subversive and therefore
persecuted, displaced, disappeared and murdered.
5. Afro-Colombians, Environmental and Natural Resources
point, descriptive information about the environment is necessary, in order to
understand some of the drivers of violence in Afro-Colombian communities. Colombia ranks
third in the world for the most biodiversity. It has 65 different types of
ecosystems and 18 eco-regions. The diversity of its birds, amphibians, and
vascular plants is unparallel on the planet. With just 0.8 % of global land, it
has 15 % of all known territorial species. Also, it has close to a thousand
permanent rivers, making the fourth largest water supply in the world.
wealth is disappearing for several factors: a) fighting factions in the armed
conflict protect illicit and illegitimate extractive activities; b) Colombia is
increasing dependant on extractive industries in order to finance its budget
deficit. This industrial sector is not well regulated, and even if it was,
these activities could have destructive impact on fragile ecosystems; c)
Perverse incentives in the agricultural sector have created a gap between the
actual vocation of the land and its use. This wealth of natural resources has
the potential to play a central role in poverty reduction, economic development
and a peaceful resolution of the conflict in ethnic territories, but at the
same time it could fuel violence and human rights violations.
the Afro-Colombian struggle for justice and freedom has made emphasis on
culture and territory. Land has been a centerpiece of this struggle. In the
1991 Colombian Constitution Afro-Colombian secured their cultural, territorial,
and natural resources rights. These constitutional provisions allowed
Afro-Colombian communities to control access to and management of natural
resources according to their cultural traditions and the social and ecological
functions of these territories. These rights were regulated through Law 70 of
1993, commonly known as The Black Community Law. As a result, Afro-Colombian
communities have legal ownership over 15 million acres of land in the rich Pacific Coast
of the country --that is, approximately 5 percent of Colombia’s total territory.
community collective lands are concentrated where most of the country’s natural
resources are located: tropical rainforest, biodiversity, water, oil, gas, and
mineral resources, such as gold. For example, 60% of Colombian natural
rainforest inventories are in ethnic territories (Afro-Colombian and
Indigenous). The presence of this natural resource wealth on ethnic territories
has led to conflicts with national and transnational entities.
military, and political interest are key factors in the displacement of
Afro-Colombians from their collective lands. According to several reports,
guerrilla and paramilitary groups in collusion with the Colombian Army have
displaced over 60% of the Afro-Colombian population from the collective
territories. For example 3,000 Afro-Colombians were displaced from the
communities of Curvarado and Jiguamiando from their communal land in Choco
(about 70,000 acres, equivalent to the urban area of Bogotá). Later the land
was taken over by palm oil companies with the support of paramilitaries. After
intense advocacy, the Colombian government, in an unprecedented decision,
committed to return the stolen land. However, this promise is far from
completely fulfilled, so international donors need to press the Colombian
government to keep its word.
suggest that the violence in Afro-Colombian regions can be explained as part of
the escalation and degradation of the armed conflict on the national level and
the increasingly fierce competition for territorial control; others add clear
economic interest in the resource and development potential of those regions. The armed dispute over Afro-Colombian
regions is not a coincidence; Colombia’s
natural resources have been one of the key factors fueling today’s armed
actors control several illicit and illegitimate extractive activities in the
oil, mining, timber, narcotics and agribusiness sectors. These activities drive
the loss of biodiversity due to the almost 221,000 hectares of tropical
rainforest deforested every year. A significant percentage of the rainforest
destruction is happening to clear land for growing coca, palm oil, and cattle
ranching. Even worse than that, the
current environmental, security, and humanitarian situation have created
serious negative barriers preventing Afro-Colombians from securing their rights
to sustainable development.
The “Balloon” Effect of Plan Colombia in Afro-Colombian Areas
focus of Plan Colombia
in the South of the country, created a “balloon
effect” that affects Afro-Colombian rural communities. The pressure of
U.S.-funded aerial spraying on the Putumayo Department, moved coca crops
further west and north to Afro-Colombian and indigenous territories. For
example: in 2000, only 2 municipalities (counties) in the department of Chocó
registered some sort of coca crops; today almost all 31 municipalities in that
region have coca cultivation. This situation is destroying the traditional
cultures of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities. We may say that in part, the current human security situation for
Afro-Colombian communities is an unintended consequence of Plan Colombia.
It is very impressive that despite the additional difficult situation
generated by the political violence, the Afro-Colombian social movements have
continued advancing their political agendas. Many of these processes happen
at the local and regional level. Afro-Colombians are increasingly assuming
leadership over their destiny within a very hostile environment. The creation
of nation-wide organizations like the Afro-Colombian National Conference, the
National Association of Afro-Colombians Displaced by Violence (AFRODES), the
National Association of Afro-Colombian Mayors (AMUNAFRO), the Washington D.C. –
based Afro-Latino Development Alliance, the Black Community Process (PCN), and
the AFROAMERICA XXI-Colombia, are examples of this vibrant emerging trend. This
creates the momentum for U.S.
policy to provide support for training emerging leaders, and strengthening the
current Afro-Colombian leadership. The United States now represents in global terms a
successful model for the inclusion of minorities into the mainstream of
society, there is much the United
States has to offer.
All this to
say that the there is a pervasive lack of attention to racial, ethnic, and
sub-national dimensions in the analysis of the Colombian human security crisis
and the U.S.
policy towards this country. Colombia
is a racially and ethnically structured country in which race was regionalized;
therefore, race and regions should be central to any analysis of the Colombia’s
7. Recommendations for a Future U.S. Policy towards Colombia
at a crossroads of profound transformations that can either go down the path of
more impunity, violence and social injustice, or help create a more peaceful
and just political, social, and economic system. Colombia is going through a
difficult political storm and US should sustain its support for the country,
but this Congress should make it clear that Colombian authorities need to put
their house in order and to clean up the country’s institutions infested by
paramilitary infiltration, seriously prosecute human rights violations at all
levels, and provide robust support to victims of the conflict.
No doubt that
the Colombian political landscape is changing rapidly. To ignore this shift and
these disturbing trends would be myopic. U.S.
priorities must shift too, if Plan Colombia stated goals bolstering
prosperity for all and reducing illicit drug production, strengthening human
rights and the rule of law, and fostering peace are to be attained.
Paraphrasing Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, U.S. assistance to Colombia
should focus on eliminating the most critical impediments to and catalysts for
long-term country progress; helping Colombians to move toward peace, freedom,
prosperity, and social justice. Police and military assistance, with the
highest human rights standards, is important to Colombian success, but it is
not sufficient. On that note let me suggest some recommendations. The United
States Congress should:
a. Plan Colombia –
Andean Counter-drug Initiative (ACI):
- In the short run, shift the
balance of the aid between the military and socioeconomic components. At
least 50 percent of the aid should be allocated to the latter, through
USAID. There is a need to respond to the roots causes of the conflict and
drug trafficking. The U.S.
government should scale up investment in the social and economic needs of
the Colombian population in neglected rural areas.
- In the medium term, conduct a
thorough evaluation of the impact of U.S.
policy towards Colombia
since 2000. This assessment should go beyond drug trafficking and
counter-terrorism and include other components like poverty and
inequality, peace building, human rights and humanitarian issues,
environment, natural resources, and institutional building. This
evaluation should be the basis for a new U.S.
policy towards Colombia.
A Congressional commission for
that matter would be helpful.
- In the long run, define a specific
pro-peace agenda that support Colombian society efforts to reach lasting
peace through multiple negotiations. A starting point would be to provide
support to the paramilitary disarmament, demobilization, and
re-integration, with tough conditions, as well to the peace process with
the ELN and eventually negotiations of a humanitarian accord with the FARC
- Make U.S.
foreign policy toward Colombia
consistent with the new realities on the ground and the interests of United States
and Colombian society. The paramilitary infiltration of the Colombian
political system is a fact that needs to be confronted vigorously. The
United States Government should give the highest priority to the provision
of political and financial support to the judicial system in Colombia
in order to implement anti-money laundering and the justice and peace laws
in order to effectively prosecute high profile cases of links between
political, business, and military elites with drug traffickers and illegal
- Fully recognize the magnitude of
the Colombian humanitarian crisis, particularly in regions like the Pacific Coast. It is necessary an extra
effort to locate and completely identified those who disappeared and were
killed by illegal armed groups. The U.S. government should
drastically increase and improve humanitarian assistance, and expand
protection, for internally displaced persons and refugees. Aid to
internally displaced persons (IDPs) is one of the most positive elements
of the current U.S.
aid program and should be continued and expanded. But the United States must use its
leverage to insist that the Colombian government improve the national
response to IDPs. It is important
that basic assistance programs targeting IDPs include assistance to the
urban poor living in the same areas as the displaced. To ensure that such programs effectively
meet their goals, leaders of IDP communities should participate in the
design and implementation of the programs. The U.S. and Colombian government
should strengthen meaningful consultation with IDP leaders in development
of overall policy. Lastly, within the framework of the paramilitary
demobilization, there must be an effective mechanism to ensure the return
of land or compensation to internally displaced persons.
- Expand and improve alternative
development within a comprehensive rural development strategy, and end
aerial spraying in order to address the crisis in rural areas. Effective
alternative development within a sound overall rural development strategy
is the most reliable approach for sustainable, long-term results in
drastically reducing coca cultivation. During the last two years Colombian
Government has scaled up manual eradication. Last year alone near 50,000
hectares were eradicated and it is planned to eradicate 60,000 this year.
Manual eradication should not proceed before viable development
alternatives are available. Any rural development strategy should be
designed, implemented, and evaluated in a participatory way.
- Focus law enforcement efforts to
combat illegal drugs up in the supply chain where profits are
concentrated, that is, on interdiction, disrupting processing inputs,
money laundering and trafficking, and destroying coca-processing plants.
Aerial spraying has weakened the Colombian government’s standing among
populations accustomed to living alongside anti-government groups. It is a
short-term fix with serious long-term costs, undermining rural
inhabitants’ trust in the state and increasing support for the illegal
armed actors. Moreover, aerial fumigations are creating serious problems
to the bilateral relations between Ecuador
- Encourage Colombian government to
strengthen civilian authorities in rural areas. The strategy of state
control over isolated areas is based on a military-only approach, without
a plan for extending civilian government presence in areas long abandoned
by the state. The United
States should encourage the Colombian
Government to plan for and invest in the extension of government services
to rural conflict areas – including rural police, courts, schools, public
health services, and infrastructure. Effective delivery of rural
development, health and education services would strengthen support for the
Colombian state among the rural population. In the long term, Colombia’s
major challenges of cutting drug production, permanently resolving the
conflict and reducing violence can only be achieved through equitable,
sustained rural development.
- Include Afro-Colombian and
Indigenous communities in the center of any debate about development,
peace, and security. The United States
should specifically encourage the incorporation of historically excluded
Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities into the design and
implementation of rural development policies. Census data collection
should be disaggregated by race to better develop public policy to address
the needs of ethnic minorities.
Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities’
constitutionally-mandated control over their territories should be
enforced. The communities’ capacity
to administer their territories should be strengthened. To that end,
support leadership training and other capacity building actions for Afro-Colombian
and Indigenous local governmental authorities and civil society leaders.
The United States
should also encourage and provide funding through the Afro-Colombian and
indigenous authorities and organizations to complete the land titling
processes and fully implement law 70/93 (the Black Communities Law).
b. Refugee and
- Reconcile refugee protection for
Colombians and drug policy and security concerns. This is one of the most
restrictive climates in the history of the international refugee regime.
Such restrictions undermine the institution of asylum. The US Patriot Act of 2001 and the REAL
ID Act of 2005 included the so called “material
support provision” that has prevented thousands of persecuted refugees
in need of protection to get asylum and resettlement in the United States.
The interpretation of this provision and its waiver has prevented many
eligible Colombian refugees, who fled the terror of FARC and
paramilitaries, to be resettled or receive asylum status. This situation
needs to be fixed. United
States can ensure their own security
while preserving and strengthening the institutions of asylum.
- Encourage the U.S.
administration to revisit the possibility of providing Temporary Protected
Status (TPS) for Colombians. Also, the U.S. government should stress with
Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela that all refugee returns
must be voluntary and should encourage them to work closely with the UNHCR
to strengthen refugee and asylum policy for Colombians. The United States
should increase its contribution to the UNHCR for Colombian refugee
c. Trade Policy and
the U.S. - Colombia Trade
- Continue with a unilateral trade
policy towards Colombia
reflected in the extension of the Andean Trade Preferences and Drug Enforcement
Act (ATPDEA). On August 24, 2006, President Bush notified the Congress of
his intention to sign the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA).
Some analysts argue that the labor and environmental safeguards included
in the negotiated are insufficient or inappropriate. If not modified, the
CTPA may benefit those in Colombia
who obtained land violently and those criminal networks that may have
infiltrated legal sectors of the Colombian economy. The CTPA should be
carefully evaluated and negotiations need to be re-opened to include
specific mechanisms to screen land and other productive assets that could
be obtained through human rights violations.
- Incorporate additional provisions
that reflect the particular situation of Colombia under the current
political and socioeconomic realities. There is concern that this
agreement did not incorporate the particular concerns of Afro-Colombian
and indigenous communities, given that they were never consulted.
Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities maintain that the (CTPA) as
negotiated will affect their ethnic and territorial rights, especially in
the area of intellectual property rights (biodiversity and traditional
knowledge), access to medicine, and labor standards (enforcement of
anti-racial and gender discrimination in employment).
- Make trade policy consistent with
drug eradication and human rights goals. There has been little
consideration of the agreement’s potential impact on overall policy goals
For instance: there is concern that the (CTPA) will generate and expansion
of palm oil cultivation in Afro-Colombian territories. There is evidence
that pal oil companies, taking advantage of the vulnerability of
Afro-Colombian people, have been taking over lands illegally.
needs to be thoroughly evaluated and restructured to include issues that have
been overlooked. Poverty, inequality, and inclusion of historically neglected
regions and disadvantaged groups, particularly Afro-Colombians and Indigenous,
should be incorporated. Also, a new policy towards Colombia should reflect the new
reality of a changed political and institutional context on the ground. This
policy should be mindful that the most potent challenge that Colombian society
has at this point is the need to clean the political and institutional system
from the pervasive influence of drug traffickers and illegal armed groups at
Thank you for
the opportunity. I would be pleased to
take your questions.
Choco, territory of peace. Government proposal, 1998
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