CIP Intern Gareth Smail took good notes at the Capitol Hill press conference hosted this morning by several labor and human rights groups, and attended by five members of Congress (including two first-termers). Here they are:
Uribeâ€™s Return to Washington Puts Focus on Human Rights in Colombia
10:30 AM Thursday, June 07, 2007
Congressman Phil Hare (IL-17th)
- He is a former union leader and would be dead himself if he were Colombian.
- Uribe has poor labor rights record:
- Killings and disappearances of leaders are still high with few convictions.
- Numerous high officials have paramilitary connections and histories of labor rights abuses. Still, Uribe is willing to exonerate them.
- He will not support FTA unless there is change. Such a deal without progress would be unfair to both American and Colombian workers.
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-9th)
- â€œCome back next year, Mr. Uribe.â€
- Uribe has come back so soon asking for more assistance, but the country shown little improvement.
- She needs better results before she would support an FTA. Uribe must take concrete steps to stop human rights abuses, union leader assassinations, and political-paramilitary connections.
Congresswoman Linda Sanchez (CA-39th)
- She has concerns about the FTA:
- Hurts legitimate industries
- Union leader deaths
- Any agreement should include a stipulation that Colombia show improvement with coca irradiation.
Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-3rd)
- Uribe keeps getting the same message from U.S. Congress: â€œhuman rights, human rights, human rights.â€
- These are real concerns and he is going to continue to hear them:
- The para-politics scandal.
- Congress wants to see real, concrete change.
- Congress needs accountability to human rights for and FTA.
- There are specific examples of unionistsâ€™ deaths.
- Every Colombian citizen should have the right to criticize public officials and call for their resignations.
- We need real progress for an FTA
- It is â€œtime to take action.â€ More talk will not suffice.
Jose Miguel Vivanco, Human Rights Watch
- Uribe is proposing to exonerate undeserving criminals:
- He wants to release of paramilitaries who only tell the truth.
- He wants to release FARC prisoners who never even demobilized.
- There is no good reason for these pardons.
- â€œImpunity itself is a central component of the Colombian tragedy.â€
John Jairo Garces, OrganizaciÃ³n Un DÃa de Esperanza
- He relates his personal struggle:
- He was forced to flee Colombia.
- His father was killed.
- He cannot escape this pain. The rest of his family is still in Colombia.
- The Government of Colombia needs to guarantee human rights for its people.
- Any FTA or Plan Colombia needs to include human rights as a basic stipulation.
- He points out that many applaud Colombia for its security progress but asks: â€œis security really better? In what cities?â€ In his experience, Afro-Colombians all over the Pacific Coast are just as threatened as before.
- The U.S. needs to be aware.
Renata RendÃ³n, Amnesty International
- How should U.S. respond to para-politics scandal? With an FTA?
- Some things are better (kidnappings, justice system).
- But human rights abuses by the Colombian Army are increasing.
- Cites examples of farmers forced out of their homes by the Army, killed, and presented as dead guerrillas.
- These examples are randomly selected from a long list of similar cases.
- Colombians deserve justice.
Congresswoman Betty Sutton (OH-13th)
- Violence in Colombia is appalling and deserves rebuke.
- Where is the outrage in the U.S.?
- What kind of message does an FTA send?
Nicole Lee, TransAfrica Forum
- Colombia has the 3rd largest Afro population in the Western Hemisphere.
- Unionist deaths are deplorable.
- Afro-Colombians do not receive government aid
- Why should the U.S. Government fund that aid?
- FTA should not be passed.
- Colombian people are saying, â€œNo.â€ We should too.
Jeff Vogt, AFL-CIO
- The Uribe administration is not deserving of an FTA.
- In the para-political scandal, 12 or more politicians implicated, most of who come from Uribeâ€™s own party.
- Unionists are being murdered.
- Government is trying to play with numbers to make things look better
- Congress should not pass an FTA.
- Uribe is spending $100,000 every month on lobbyists to make the country look better. This money should be spend on supporting justice to make the country actually better.
- â€œThe FTA is not going anywhere.â€
- Congress needs to see concrete changes in Colombian impunity and human rights abuses.
- To actually make this change happen, he would like changes in Plan Colombia:
- The 80/20 military to economic aid ratio is unacceptable.
- He â€œbelievesâ€ that the Foreign Operations budget will include as significant shift in spending distribution.
- It is concerning that an FTA could even get to the floor given poor human rights record of Colombia
- â€œUribeâ€™s real challenge is in Colombia.â€
- He should not come here looking to change things. Congress wants to see change in Colombia before it will support an FTA.