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Statement from the Colombian Working Table:

With the Free Trade Agreement,

the Surrender of Colombia Continues...

On Tuesday May 22, 2012, in the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel, many multinational corporations, Colombian monopolios, and various ministers from President Santos’ government met at a Conference to confirm that Colombia is continuing on the path it started in the 1990’s: to give up its natural resources, forgo its internal markets and food sovereignty, and offer up its cheap labor force to guarantee the continuing enlargement of the coffers of the powerful economies of the continent.

This is the continuation of a neoliberal model that has brought so much poverty to Colombia (the third most unequal country in the world), Mexico, and Central America, and that has imperiled the economies of Europe and caused the economic crisis of the US, the only superpower on the planet.

The government policies of the last 20 years have been characterized by their tendency to facilitate the opening up of huge utilities for foreigners. Through 2009 the government has handed over 7,994 mining titles, covering an area of 4, 307,000 hectares, set up a system of association with a rate of 60 to 70% foreign control, low taxes and too little royalties for big oil and mining companies.

The privatization and sale of national patrimony initiated by these governments at miserable prices has pleased huge, powerful corporations, as verified by the Empresa de Energia de Bogota dominated by the Spanish multinational Endesa.

A work day from 6am to 10pm, the right to associate and the right to collective bargaining are negated. Assassination of trade unionists is permissible with impunity. Already 3,000 victims and the destruction of trade unions, all of these lead to a positive environment for investors. Among those who have taken advantage are the Enterprise Antioquia’s Group, the Group Aval owned by the Luis Carlos Sarmiento Group, and Group Exito under control of French Groupe Casino.

The oil company Pacific Rubiales Energy has faced the resistance of workers, who a year ago went on strike in a fight for their rights: to have a union, labor stability, to work only 21 continuous days not 59, to get paid 7 days to rest, that they have a copy of their contract, and that the pay stubs show total wages paid, the days put in by the worker and the overtime.^^Meta Petroleum, the enterprise that manages the fields of Pacific Rubiales has 12,644 workers and only recognizes 535. The rest (12,109) are hired by a third agency.

The Canadian company Rubiales, in the last few months of this year, laid off 5,000 workers for daring to claim minimal demands in accordance with the law. The company had support from the Colombian government during the strike and laid offs. The multinational Minister of Mines and the oil company of Rubiales will spoke at the panel: “Colombia the Oil Country.”

This situation demonstrates that the Labor Action Plan of Presidents Obama and Santos was nothing but a farce, intended only to win the approval of the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (Colombia FTA).

Daniel Aguirre founder and secretary of the National Trade Union of Sugar Cane Cutters, father of three children 4, 12, and 16 years of age, was assassinated on April 27. Daniel was the leader that proposed that the great plantations and companies recognize their workers not the cooperatives of associated work.

His principal demand was to modify the model of contracts that exist, in which the cooperatives of associated work contract thousands of workers, freeing the sugar cane companies of their responsibilities with the workers.

The Colombian monopolies were also well represented at this conference. The first panel "Infrastructure Development for Global Competitiveness," included Gropo Argos, part of the program called Clean Mechanisms for Development. The purpose of this program is to allow participation in the market of sales of bonds for the capture of carbon dioxide within an international sphere. This program is proposed by the United Nations.

In order to participate in Clean Mechanism for Development, onehas to accept ethical codes based on human rights. The problem is that the Argos Group’s ethical history is marked by the illegitimate purchase of 12,500 hectareas in the area called de Montes de Maria, at miserly prices, in a zone in which the paramilitares intimidated the people in the 1990’s.

The FTA is the continuation of the economic model imposed since the 1990’s, that caused the collapse of the agricultural economy to the point that 9 million tons of foodstuffs was imported, destroying almost all Colombian agriculture. But the Free Trade Agreement with the US will be the end of the entire agricultural sector. The peasants will continue to be motivated to grow illegal crops, the drug traffickers and the actors in the armed conflict will flourish, and the streets of the U.S. cities will continue to be flooded with cocaine.

Colombia will be forced to buy wheat, barley, corn, rice, and potatoes from the United States. The Colombian producers will have to compete with the largest agricultural, industrial, financial monopolies of this planet but not based on equal conditions. ^^At the same time Colombia has to give up any means of economic protection, the U.S. will continue to enjoy multi-million dollar subsidies and internal assistance that will allow their big producers to sell their merchandise at low prices.

No economic Colombian sector is able to compete the U.S. agriculture and industry. The supposed market of 300 million people will not fit a cup of coffee, or in one rose, or in one more banana.

As soon as the implementation of the FTA with the United States begins, the leaders in Colombia will not be able to take any measures that will affect the U.S. enterprises’ expectation of profits. These thing are considered  as an “unjustified obstacle to commerce.”Corporations will gain the ability to demand arbitration by the World Bank, controlled by the United States.

If Colombian leaders enact a law that will benefit domestic industries, or a law in defense of workers, or a law in defense of the environment or health, the American company has the right to take these disputes to the international tribunal. The FTA supercedes domestic Colombian law and the National Constitution of Colombia.

The people of Colombia are little by little coming to understand the causes of their misfortune, The opposition exists and grows in Colombia and the United States, and in any corner of the planet.

Our agenda is with the working people, the national producers from cities and the countryside that urgently develop the national economy to the benefit of the majority of the population to stop Colombia from becoming a colonial economy in service to multinationals.

Another World is Possible! 

Colombia Working Table


Movement for Peace in Colombia

Colombian Studies Group

Terraza 7


Diaspora Colombiana

Poeta Colombiano

May 22, 2012