Monday, March 31, 2008
You know, this video is very ironical, and yes it applies somehow to reality. But when it comes to labor abuse and unfair dominance over workers in the US, it is not about race only. It is true that most white people hold white-collar jobs and they never face the kind of treatment we see in the video, but once again --it's not about race, it is about money.
Once people get money, some of the old abused workers start doing the same to their own community. If you ask organizations that advocate for the rights of workers, immigrants, etc. they will tell you that most labor abuse cases come from latinos against latinos, immigrants against immigrants, and alike. Still, this video might make you laugh a bit.
A good friend sent me this photo. I don't know the author, sorry.
But the picture says a lot.
Hillary Clinton, after so many defeats, and all the lies. Why is she still running?
She got no shame. Or is Bill who keeps pushing her to waste time and money, instead of support Obama for once.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
May 9 – June 15, 2008
Capitol Plaza I
1200 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002
Metro stop: Red Line, New York Ave., M Street exit
Artomatic is a month-long multimedia arts event that draws together visual artists, musicians and performers and brings their work to the community without charge.
Artomatic 2008 registration opens March 27
Calling all artists: Time to wash off those paintbrushes and tune up your guitars. Registration will open online Thursday, March 27, at noon for artists who want to participate in Artomatic 2008.
The annual art extravaganza, to be held May 9 through June 15, 2008, will be the largest Artomatic to date. Hosted by the NoMa (north of Massachusetts Avenue) Business Improvement District (BID), Artomatic 2008 will be held on nine floors (more than 200,000 square feet) of the Capitol Plaza I building. The building is located at 1200 First Street, N.E., just one block west of the New York Avenue Metro station, in Washington, D.C.
Registration for Artomatic will be $90 per visual artist — such as painters, photographers, sculptors and graphic designers. Each visual artist is required to serve three volunteer shifts (approximately 15 hours total) to help stage the event. Artomatic is an unjuried show, so all artists are welcome to participate, from professionals to beginners. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis and will end once space is filled. Full details on registration, exhibit space, installation and hours of the event will be on the Artomatic Web site at www.artomatic.org.
Performers — such as those who present music, dance, theater or poetry — are also invited to register and take part in Artomatic. Details for performers will also be available on the Artomatic Web site at www.artomatic.org.
Artomatic is expecting about 1,000 local and regional artist participants and 50,000 visitors at this year’s event.
“We are looking forward to seeing what the creative energy of the area’s arts community can bring to the event and to the NoMa neighborhood,” said George Koch, chair of Artomatic.
Held regularly since 1999, Artomatic transforms an unfinished indoor space into an exciting and diverse arts event that is free and open to the public. In addition to displays and sales by hundreds of artists, the event features free films, educational presentations and children’s activities, as well as musical, dance, poetry, theater and other performances.
Performing Arts? Visual Arts? Event Management? Marketing and Development? There's a place for everyone!
For general inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org
For Performing Arts committee, email Perform@artomatic.org
For Visual Arts, email Visual@artomatic.org
For Marketing and Development, email Event@artomatic.org
For Events Planning and Management, email@example.com
© 2008 Artomatic, Inc. All trademarks and service marks are property of their respective owners. Artomatic is an event of Artomatic, Inc.
VIDEOS - ARTOMATIC
George Koch, Lynn Scheppers, and Walter Ratzat share their stories in front of the camera. These stories were presented in a short documentary format during Artomatic 2007 for you to see what the first Artomatic was like at the Manhattan Laundry, Washington DC in 1999
Peruvian-born artist Miki Fernandez talks about his "Doors of my Life" installation in Artomatic 2007
Saturday, March 29, 2008
In the images of this video you will see the other side of Lima, the contrasting capital city of Peru. This the Lima that you won't see when you visit the huge Peruvian capital, because tourists are kept away from slums of course. But unless you walk these streets yourself, than you won't understand Peru, Lima and Peruvians completely. Well, maybe you don't have to be there to feel my people's pain.
Oh, Peru. So much injustice, so much inequality. I don't understand.
Friday, March 28, 2008
The exhibition “Of Rage and Redemption: The Art of Oswaldo Guayasamín” opens in Washington, DC. The opening ceremony is this Friday April 4 at the Art Museum of the Americas located at 201 18th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006. This exhibit will be open from April 5 to May 29, 2008.
We are talking about the first U.S. exhibit in almost sixty years of Ecuadorean artist Oswaldo Guayasamín (1919-1999) one of the most highly regarded Latin American artists of the 20th century. It includes over 40 works from his early paintings in 1932 to the last ones by mid 1980s.
Curated by Joseph Mella, organized by the Center for Latin American and Iberian Studies at Vanderbilt University and the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery, the exhibit is being presented at the Art Museum of the Americas in collaboration with the Center for Latin American Studies at Georgetown University.
A special symposium, “The Life and Art of Oswaldo Guayasamín,” will take place on April 4, 2008 from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm at Riggs Library, Georgetown University, with the participation of experts on art history, Ecuadorian culture, and the life and art of Guayasamín including the artist’s son and grandson will also participate in the symposium.
A series of public events are planned along the exhibit, including film screenings, a gallery talk, and family workshops. You can see a complete list here.
If you want to explore the work of Guayasamín, you can visit the site of the Fundación Guayasamín.
GUAYASAMÍN SPEAKS ABOUT HIS WORK
Photo Alma Boliviana
AB members are young Americans of Bolivian heritage, and some of them are my friends. I admire the fact that being from the US, these guys keep their heritage, which mix Indigenous culture with African and European influences. Although I was born in Peru, but I found Bolivian cultures to be very similar to the ones from Peru. Obviously the border between our countries haven't divided our peoples completely.
When I hear this song, I feel a strong connection with my Native roots. Notice the little kid, he is a natural dancer. Hope you enjoy it:
Thursday, March 27, 2008
The Tibetan people remind me of the Andean indigenous peoples so much: physically and culturally both have many similarities and they live in high altitude lands, but also their history is alike: both ethnic nations are surviving under the political, cultural and economical rule of post-colonial and repressive governments: China and Peru.
Not coincidentally, the only world leader supporting China in the current Tibet crisis is Peruvian president Alan Garcia.
At least the Tibetans have been able to keep their religion and cultural identity in a better way, but after over 4 decades of Chinese occupation, all that is in danger. Tibetans are tired of waiting and they want their freedom now.
If you want to support them, you can sign an online petition that has over 1 million signatures already. This is an email I received today after signing a petition online by Avaaz (*)
I just signed an urgent petition calling on the Chinese government to respect human rights in Tibet and dialogue with the Dalai Lama. After nearly 50 years of Chinese rule, the Tibetans are sending out a global cry for change. Violence is spreading across Tibet and neighbouring regions, and the Chinese regime is right now making a crucial choice between tougher crackdown or dialogue. President Hu Jintao needs to hear that "Made in China" exports and the upcoming Olympics in Beijing will have the support of the world's people only if he chooses dialogue. But it will take an avalanche of global people power to get his attention. Click below to sign the petition--in just 7 days, the campaign is over half way to the goal of 2 million signatures! Thank you so much for your help - forward this email to friends!
click on the photo
(*) Avaaz means “Voice” in many Asian, Middle Eastern and Eastern European languages. Avaaz.org is a new global web movement that promotes stronger protections for the environment, greater respect for human rights, and concerted efforts to end poverty, corruption and war. This website runs in 13 languages. In just hours they can send hundreds of thousands of messages to political leaders. They have over 2 million members, and have begun to make a real impact on global politics. Avaaz.org was co-founded by Res Publica, a global civic advocacy group, and Moveon.org, an online community that has pioneered internet advocacy in the United States.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
FIESTA DC and the Latino Federation of Greater Washington
In celebration of Women's History Month
"Nuestras Voces, Nuestro Arte"
Roundtable • Awards • Music • Dances • Art
Saturday, March 29, 2008 6 PM - 10:30 PM
Free and open to the public
Carlos Rosario International School
11OO Harvard Street NW
Columbia Heights metro station
Parking available at the school and streets
Monday, March 24, 2008
Director Patricia Riggen with actors Kate del Castillo, Adrian Alonso and Eugenio Derbez
I particularly don't fall for R-13 movies that search for pity or sympathy in behalf of certain group of people: they make me sleepy and bored.
Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna in Spanish) from screenwriter/executive producer Ligiah Villalobos, was premiered last weekend and is already getting fair reviews no to forget it made it to the top ten box office last weekend. Although the film looks kinda tacky and out of reality to me -when have you seeing Chicano college students trying to smuggle immigrants so they can pay for their tuition? - but those students are my favorites Jesse Garcia and America Ferrera, so I might go see it.
And not to be racist, but aren't there any Indigenous native actors in Mexico that could have done the parts? Because, yes Latin Americans are from different races, but this movie is about Mexican undocumented immigrants who are brown native peoples mostly. And besides Los Tigres del Norte there are not many short dark-skinned Mexicans playing the main roles of this movie.
Kate del Castillo
Who are the people crossing the border from Mexico, not the white actors of Mexican movies. Who were the people that rallied on the streets all over the US in 2006. Immigrants certainly don't look like the actors in this movie, regardless of the efforts to present them that way. And don't get me wrong, that kid Adrian Alonso is super talented and the rest of the casting too.
But I just wonder, when are we the dark skinned people from the South will ever be portraited as the good nice people we can be? Honestly, the trailer of this movie reminded me of the racist media of Mexico, a country where the rich and most politicians don't really give a thing about the fate of their undocumented migrants in the US, as long as they keep getting remittances. That's right.
Now, let's see this photos published by The NY Times, from the 2006 immigration rallies and the trailer of the film.
Please get involved and decide for yourself.
Photo by Association of Indigenous Townships of Northern Cauca
VIDEO - WHY THE US-COLOMBIA FTA MUST BE REJECTED
If passed, the U.S.-Colombia FTA will cause these immediate negative effects.
Undermine human rights and fuel the fires of conflict. Colombia is still a country at war. Its record on human rights is dismal. Attacks on civil society, union leaders, Afro-Colombians and Indigenous people continue with impunity. The FTA will deepen the economic disparity, which is a root cause of the conflict, and diminish human rights.
Destroy small farmers. The agreement will favor only a small sector of Colombia’s large industrial farmers who export to the U.S. Overall income for small farmers would drop by more than 50%, whipping them out as happened in Mexico where 1.3 million farmers have been displaced since NAFTA. Farmers forced off land will add to Colombia’s 3.8 million internally displaced people, which is already second only to the Sudan, and disproportionately impacts Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities.
Harm poor consumers. A corporate monopoly on basic grains as a result of the FTA could provoke a steep price climb in food staples, as occurred in Mexico in the case of tortilla as a result of NAFTA.
Lock in corporate take over of Indigenous and Afro-Colombian territories. The internal conflict has disproportionately displaced Afro-Colombian and Indigenous peoples from their resource-rich, ancestral territories, violating their constitutional and legal rights. Laws put in place in anticipation of the FTA to attract investment dismantle these legal rights. For example, the Rural Development Law allows displaced people’s land that is claimed by corporate interest and their armed backers to gain legal title if occupied for five years. FTA investment rules will make it too costly to reverse these legal reforms.
Harm workers and environment. Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world for union and labor organizers. There is little that the labor chapter can do to address the continued violence and impunity in the country. Moreover, the government has demonstrated little will to promote the labor laws and policies which are necessary for the full exercise of the international core labor rights
Hinder access to life-saving medicines. People in developing countries need affordable access to essential medicines, not only for pandemic diseases like HIV/AIDS, but for a whole variety of serious health conditions. The Colombia FTA undermines the right to affordable medicines. This will further weaken the Colombian health system that only covers 10% of Afro-Colombians.
Increase the burden on women, children, and the poor. The FTA promotes the privatization and deregulation of essential services such as water, healthcare and education. As rates increase, these services become less accessible, women and the poor.
Undermine U.S. and Colombian sovereignty. Like NAFTA, this FTA allows corporations to sue governments that pass environmental and public health laws that might reduce corporate profits.
Threaten the Amazon and wildlife. The FTA will stimulate an increase in logging and other extraction projects in the Colombian Amazon rain forest that mostly reside in Afro-Colombian and Indigenous territories. This will further endanger the lungs of the globe and precious species.
Pirate traditional knowledge. The FTA will pave the way for large pharmaceutical and agribusiness corporations to patent traditional knowledge, seeds, and life forms. This opens the door to bio-piracy of the Andean-Amazon region and threatens the ecological, medicinal and cultural heritage of Afro-Colombians and Indigenous peoples.
In the U.S. the FTA will:
Increase drug trafficking. Colombia is the world’s largest producer of cocaine. Corporate monopoly over Colombia’s basic grain market will leave some small farmers with no other alternative than to join the lucrative drug trade.
Increase forced immigration to the U.S. Almost all people everywhere want to stay in their home country. However U.S. government economic and military policies are a critical factor in uprooting people from their homes and livelihoods. In the context of 3.8 million internally displaced, the FTA will increase forced migration abroad and to the U.S.
Expand export-driven agriculture. The FTA benefits U.S. corporate agribusiness and industrial farms, accelerating agricultural consolidation and further undermining family farmers in the U.S. and in developing countries.
The Bush Administration is using “national security” arguments to force a vote on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) immediately after the March recess over the objection of Congressional leadership.
The Bush Administration’s all out campaign to ensure the FTA is voted on by the 110th Congress has reached a new level using “national security” as their primary justifications.
The Bush Administration insists Colombia needs the FTA to fight guerilla forces and neighboring Venezuela, offering Congress a choice to either support the FTA, showing support for Colombia, a U.S. ally, or vote against it and by default, support Venezuelan President Chavez.
This campaign is clearly ignoring these facts:
- The 3.8 million displaced people forced from their homes, a disproportionate number are Afro-Colombian and Indigenous people.
- The systematic extermination of the Colombian labor movement, with roughly 50 union members murdered in 2007-08, several attempted murders, hundreds of death threats, and a routine and systematic failure of the government to guarantee the exercise of fundamental labor rights.
- Purportedly demobilized paramilitaries resurfacing with new names and intimidating those in the act of defending human rights.
- Increased extrajudicial executions of civilians by members of the Colombian armed forces.
Approving the FTA in a country engaged in a five decade conflict will perpetuate the violent intersections of commerce and conflict. To learn more how these intersections have resulted in human rights violations read and download our new report targeted to Congress entitled The Violent Intersections of Commerce and Conflict: Examining the U.S.-Colombia FTA and Plan Colombia.
People all over the world are calling for international trade and investment systems that respect and promote the dignity of the human person, ensure the development and well-being of people in all nations, foster gender and racial equity and lead to environmental sustainability. However, the U.S.-Colombia FTA takes us far away from this goal.
Call or visit your members of Congress while they are home these next two weeks and ask them to oppose the President introducing the U.S. Colombia FTA.
A few calls can sway your members of Congress to take a public stand. Its easy. Here is how.
- Call (202) 224-3121 and ask the Capitol Switchboard operator to connect you to your member of Congressoffice. Visit www.congress.org to find out who represents you in Congress.
- Talking points: Please stop President Bush from forcing a vote on the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement by taking a public stance against it.
- Call 1-202-224-3121 again and ask for one of your two senators. Repeat the message, then call your other senator.
Source: White House
March 18, 2008
2:13 P.M. EDT
"You know, one of the interesting signs of strength is that we're the world's leading exporter of goods and services. I'm not saying we're second place or third place; we're the world's leading exporter. And that's positive, particularly if you're somebody whose job depends upon trade.
Now, we're in the middle of a debate here about trade, whether it's good or not. Well, anybody wondering about the stakes in the trade debate ought to come right here to Jacksonville, Florida, to the docks to see whether or not trade makes sense. (Applause.) According to the most recent data, you move more than 8 million tons of cargo each year. This cargo doesn't move itself; somebody has to move it from port to port.
I'm sitting in -- standing in front of people that are all part of the process, good, hardworking Americans that are putting food on the table for their families because of trade. You handle most -- more than -- more automobiles than any American port. I don't know if the people in Jacksonville understand that. Think about that. More automobiles are handled at this port than anywhere in the United States of America. You help support more than 45,000 jobs. (Applause.) This port serves as a vital commercial and strategic link to our neighborhood, to our neighbors in Latin America and the Carribean.
Opening trade has been one of the high priorities of my presidency. See, I believe trade leads to good jobs. I believe trade is in our interests. When I took office, America had free trade agreements in force with three countries. Today we have agreements in force with 14 countries. (Applause.) And there are three more agreements pending this year: Colombia, Panama and South Korea. All three of these agreements are important, and the one with Colombia is especially urgent. And I want to spend a little time talking about the free trade agreement with Colombia, and what it means for our national security, and what it means for your job security.
We have worked closely with leaders in Congress to seek a path to bring the Colombia agreement up for approval. And we've got a good model to go on. Last year we worked out a bipartisan approach on a bill implementing a good free trade agreement with Peru. And it was a good bill. And it was one of those bills where people, when they stepped back from politics, realized it made good sense, and overwhelmingly approved it; both Republicans and Democrats voted for that, two of whom happen to be sitting right here.
The Colombia agreement is almost identical to the agreement with Peru, except that the Colombia agreement has even greater economic potential because Colombia has a larger GDP, and even greater national security importance because of Colombia's strategic location. The lesson is clear: If Congress can find a way to vote on and improve the Peru agreement, there's no reason it can't do the same for Colombia.
Now, why is it important? Before I get to the importance I do want to tell you the time is urgent. There must be a vote on Colombia this year. And this agreement is too important to be delayed any longer. So I am reiterating my call on leaders in Congress to act with urgency. I ask members of both parties to ensure that politics do not get in the way of a vital priority for our nation, and frankly, a vote that will help people who are working here on the docks. You can think in terms of national security interests, but if that doesn't interest you, think about terms of helping folks just like this make a living. (Applause.)
Let me talk a little bit about the national security implications from this vote. In Colombia, President Uribe is waging an active battle against terrorists who are seeking to overthrow his nation's democracy. This terrorist network is known as FARC. It pursues Marxist objectives through bombing, hostage taking, and assassination. Much of its funding is derived from drug trafficking. Attacks by the FARC have killed or injured more than a thousand civilians since 2003. These are brutal people, and they're ruthless people. And they'll use all kinds of means to achieve their objectives. FARC terrorists have held three American citizens hostages in jungle camps for more than five years, making them the longest-held American hostages anywhere in the world.
The challenge posed by these terrorists is compounded by the hostility and aggression of some of Colombia's neighbors. The regime in Caracas has railed against America, has forged an alliance with communist Cuba, has met with FARC leaders in Venezuela, has deployed troops to the Colombian border. In the process, regime leaders have squandered their oil wealth and left their people to face food shortages.
Recently when Colombian forces killed one of the FARC's most senior leaders they discovered computer files that suggest even closer ties between Venezuela's regime and FARC terrorists than we previously knew. Colombia officials are investigating the ties, but this much should be clear: The United States strongly supports, strongly stands with Colombia in its fight against the terrorists and drug lords. (Applause.)
President Uribe has remained focused on strengthening Colombia's democracy. Over the past six years, kidnappings, terrorist attacks and murders of labor activists have all dropped by more than 75 percent. Police are on the streets. Tens of thousands of paramilitary fighters have been demobilized, and Colombia's murder rate has fallen substantially.
At the same time, Colombia's economy has shown strong growth. Poverty and unemployment have declined; trade and investment have increased substantially. That's what we want. We want less violence in our neighborhood, and more prosperity in our neighborhood. We want our neighbors to be prosperous.
President Uribe has been an unshakeable partner for the United States. He's answered hundreds of requests to extradite criminals to our country. And with the assistance from Plan Colombia, a program first supported by President Bill Clinton, and continued under my administration, he's cracked down on drug trafficking. He constantly speaks out against anti-Americanism. By any measure, he has been one of our most reliable and effective allies. And this trade agreement is the way to signal our strong support for President Uribe. It's the way to help this country develop more momentum toward peace.
Despite the record of success, some in Congress claim Colombia needs to do more before a treat -- the trade agreement can be approved. But this is unrealistic. And it is unfair. If members of Congress truly want Colombia to make further progress, then it makes no sense to block the very measure that would make progress more likely.
Our fellow citizens have got to know that across the hemisphere and across the globe, people are waiting to see what the members of Congress will do. In other words, this isn't just one of these isolated votes that gets no attention outside of Washington. This is a vote that is being observed very carefully by people across the world. Voices from near and far are urging Congress to make the right decision. Members of Congress from both parties travel to Colombia; they have seen firsthand the progress that President Uribe is making. Business leaders from many backgrounds, along with current and former senators, congressmans [sic], mayors, diplomats, national security council people, Cabinet members from both parties -- I emphasize, from both parties -- support this agreement.
In other words, it's just not me talking. There's a lot of people who understand the importance of this agreement. Our allies have made their position clear. I want the members of Congress to hear what the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, said. He said, "If the U.S. turns its back on its friends in Colombia, this will set back our cause far more than any Latin American dictator can hope to achieve." Those are wise words, and words worth listening to. Congress needs to listen to the voices, and they need to pass this important piece of legislation.
The national security benefits are only part of the cause for this agreement. Both our economies stand to gain, as well. Today, virtually all exports from Colombia enter our country duty-free. And yet, many U.S. exports going to Colombia face heavy tariffs. Goods coming from Colombia, duty-free; our goods going to Colombia get taxed. That doesn't seem fair to me. I know the folks here understand that if you reduce tariffs, it's more likely we'll send more goods. Doesn't it make sense for Congress to say to Colombia, treat America the way we treat you -- which is precisely what this trade deal does.
A banana grown in Colombia enters the United States duty-free; an apple grown in Pennsylvania, or an orange grown in Florida is subject to a 15-percent tariff when it's exported to Colombia. Doesn't it make sense for the federal government to try to eliminate that tariff? I think it does. If you're growing oranges, it does. If you're growing apples, it does. And if you're shipping goods and services -- or goods from this port to Colombia, it makes sense to make it easier to ship more goods. (Applause.)
That's why I talk about level the playing field. They estimate this will help 9,000 U.S. companies export to Colombia, most of which are small and mid-sized companies. Level the playing field is going to help hundreds of thousands of employees who work at these companies. And level the playing field will create new opportunities for exporters and dock workers who ship heavy machinery, and glass, and chemicals, and electronics, and paper and other products to Colombia from this port -- people just like the folks seated right here.
Earlier today I had a chance to tour this company with Magnus Lindeback -- Captain Magnus Lindeback. (Applause.) The man is living the American Dream. You talk to Magnus, he's about as proud an American as you can find. He might not have been born here, but he loves it here. And he loves the people that work with him, and he's very proud of the fact that this company has grown from two employees to over 250. And he cares about each and every employee. (Applause.)
And here's why the Colombia free trade agreement matters to a -- are you small or mid-size? I call you -- oh, mid-size. You say small, I say mid-size. Okay, small. (Laughter.) Here's why it matters to a small-sized/mid-sized company like Coastal Maritime. (Laughter.) Coastal Maritime -- about a quarter of its cargo goes to Colombia. So, in other words, if you're somebody wondering whether you're going to have a job, and a fellow comes along and says, "Would you like to be able to sell more goods to Colombia? After all, a quarter of your revenues go to Colombia," I think the answer ought to be, yes, we want to be able to access more of Colombia. We're good at what we're doing now.
They send, by the way, mining equipment, bulldozers and cranes. Magnus doesn't make the cranes and bulldozers and mining equipment; he just ships it. But somebody in America is making the cranes, and somebody in America is making the bulldozers. And so when you think about trade, you're not only thinking about dock workers who are working good jobs because of trade, but somebody has got to make the products that the people in Colombia are buying, as well.
If Colombia approves the free trade agreement, Coastal Maritime estimates that the volume of products they ship to Colombia would increase by 20 to 50 percent in a short period of time. Magnus says he's going to use the extra revenues for two purposes: to re-invest in technology and equipment -- like that crane we -- a guy tried to get me to drive over there -- (laughter.) I told him I was a history major -- (laughter.) And he wants to raise wages for his workers. (Applause.)
I want to quote Magnus: "Trade is our entire business. All our workers depend on it. An increased volume of cargo to Colombia would be tremendous from us because the more cargo we have to handle, the more revenue is generated."
American exporters aren't the only ones who will benefit. The free trade agreement will guarantee permanent duty-free access to the U.S. market for businesses in Colombia. Why is that important? Because it will help them attract investment and stimulate growth. It will lead to additional opportunities at a port such as this. The more prosperous our neighborhood, the more commerce there will be. And the more commerce there is, it's more likely to pass through a port just like this. We want people doing well. We want programs that are good for small businesses and farmers. And that's exactly what this vote will be. And it's important. And it's an important vote for the United States Congress to understand. It's in our national security interests and economic security interests.
And during this time of economic uncertainty, when consumer spending and investment is slowing down, it's important to understand the role trade has made for our economy. Last year exports accounted for more than 40 percent of our total growth. That's good news. Export is continuing. This January, exports were up more than 16 percent over last January. If you're worried about the economy, it seems like you ought to be sending a clear signal that the United States of America will continue to trade, not shut down trade. And that's what this Colombia vote says. (Applause.)
And once Congress approves the free trade agreement with Colombia, then they can approve one with Panama. And once they finish one with Panama, then they can do one with South Korea. All these agreements are important. These agreements are important to enhance our friendship, but these are good for our economy.
Now, I fully understand that trade makes people nervous. It doesn't make these folks nervous because they understand the benefits firsthand. And in a political year, you hear all kinds of things about trade. One of the things people say is that people lose their jobs because of trade. Well, in the manufacturing sector, sometimes that's right, but a lot of times it's a result of productivity increases. In other words, technology changes and one worker can produce three times as much as he or she used to be able to, and therefore, same output with fewer workers.
But whatever the case is, the question is, what should we do about people who aren't working? One alternative is to say, it's all because of trade; let's quit trading. Then people here lose work. The other opportunity is to focus on good educational programs. You know, we could cut ourselves off, or we could have faith in our capacity to compete, and focus on helping individuals. I choose the latter.
I believe strongly that we can help people gain extra skills with smart programs. That's why my budget requests $3 billion to educate and prepare workers for the 21st century. I'm a big believer, Governor, in community colleges. I think our community colleges are great places for people to gain the skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century. So rather than resort to protectionism and say let's shut down our trading opportunities, why don't we resort to education, to give people the skills necessary to fill the jobs for the 21st century here in the United States of America? (Applause.)
Now, you'll hear the word "trade adjustment assistance" talked about in Congress. And these two Congress folks understand what I'm talking about. That basically says that we're going to have education programs aimed at helping people find skills. And I'm a supporter. And I believe it's important that trade adjustment be a component of our trade policy. I look forward to working with Congress to reform it and to reauthorize it, to make sure it does the job that it could -- is supposed to do -- just like I'm looking forward to signing those trade bills, particularly starting with the one from Colombia.
I -- so I've come here as a vivid reminder to people in Congress who wonder whether or not trade is positive for America. It is. It's economically a good deal for our country. And I do have confidence that Congress will get it right. It may take a little persuading. (Laughter.) It's going to take a lot of hard work. Oh, it may take some of you having to write letters to your senators and congressmen to remind them that trade is good. Confident nations are free traders.
But trade also means making sure we get treated right; that they treat us the way we treat them. That's all we're asking. That's what this agreement says: Just treat us fairly. Because America can compete with anybody, any time, anywhere, as long as the playing field is level. (Applause.)
And so I've come to talk about our economy and a key issue facing you. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to be in your midst. I'm proud of the work you do here. And may God bless you, and God continue to bless the United States of America. (Applause.)"
February 7th, 2008
Marino Cordoba, founder of the Association of Internally Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES), submitted this post as a guest blogger for The Hill.
The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement is considered a non-starter in the U.S. Congress because the country is the world’s deadliest for union activists. Less known, but equally disturbing is the systematic violence now confronting Afro-Colombians.
African descendants comprise 26% of Colombia’s population. As with other African descendants, we face racial discrimination which results in economic hardships far worse than those experienced by the average Colombian. However in Colombia, a vibrant 1980s civil rights movement won full recognition of our cultural rights and collective ownership and community control of our territories and natural resources. The 1991 Colombian Constitution and the landmark Law 70 explicitly enshrine these rights and recognize official democratic Afro-Colombian governance structures, similar to those of your Indian tribes.
The administration of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has worked consistently to undermine our hard-won civil rights and our control of our territories. Systematic violence against our people and assassinations of our leaders continue unabated to this day.
At the end of 2007, angered by the strong opposition of the majority of Afro-Colombian communities to the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA,) Uribe created a new Commission in Colombia that directly challenges our legal governance structure.
Cynically dubbed the Commission for the Advancement of Afro-Colombian People, it would undermine our communities’ ability to advance development strategies chosen by our people that comport with our needs and that help even the economic playing field.
Obviously, our official governance structure and our grassroots organizations oppose this new Commission. Despite this, President George Bush and other U.S. Uribe allies, such as Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), and the vast array of lobbying firms hired by the Uribe government are now trying to tout this outrageous Commission as evidence that Afro- Colombian concerns are being addressed as they push to pass the FTA.
Don’t be fooled. President Uribe, the Bush Administration and Congressman Meeks may not like what authentic Afro-Colombian representatives are saying, but our legitimate governing bodies vigorously oppose the FTA, as well as other efforts by Uribe to impose natural resource exploitation projects in our territories without our consent.
Because the Colombian law is on our side, wealthy interests have employed illegal means to physically remove us. Joint operations between the Colombian military and illegal terrorist paramilitary organizations like the “Operation Genesis” in the Afro-Colombian Chocó region have targeted our leaders with assassinations while the Colombian military has aerially bombarded our communities.
Tens of thousands of us have been forced to flee. These attacks clear the way for the entry of oil palm plantations, logging operations, and mining projects advanced by allies of the Uribe Administration.
Colombia has more than 3 million internally displaced peope. This kind of forced displacement is now occurring in port communities and other regions supporters of the FTA seek to develop. None of our lands have been returned to our control.
Accompanying these physical attacks has been a legal assault aimed at formalizing the theft of our land. The Uribe government passed new Forestry and Rural Development Laws and has amended the Mining Law to extinguish our rights and empower oil palm, logging and other companies that have utilized the services of paramilitaries to occupy our territories.
Our communities have vehemently opposed these laws as unconstitutional. Recently the Colombian Supreme Court ruled against the Forestry Law, which would have removed our control of the forests on our land. Our Supreme Court ruled that under international and Colombian law, the Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities that strongly opposed the law should have been consulted * which they were not.
The Colombia FTA is the same situation. It is a proposal that our communities oppose, about which our traditional authorities were not consulted, and which would lock in the paramilitary-financiers control of our land. Specifically, the FTA’s expansive foreign investor rights would empower multinational corporations investing in these projects with protections that would make restoration of our lands extremely difficult, even when we win in our courts.
Recognizing our opposition, Uribe and his allies devised this new Commission, which is stacked with Uribe supporters and individuals known to support the FTA, to feign “consultation” with Afro-Colombian communities and issue a determination that the FTA is good for us despite our communities’ contrary conclusions.
Rather than a positive development, this new Commission is a sophisticated ploy to undermine Afro-Colombian rights and is a part of a broader strategy to elevate unrepresentative and illegitimate pro-FTA individuals against the stated interest of Afro-Colombian communities themselves.
Congress can help Afro-Colombians by demanding that President Uribe respect the Colombian Constitution and terminate this Commission that challenges our civil rights. And, Congress should pass House Resolution 618 sponsored by Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) on the plight of Afro-Colombians.
Marino Córdoba is the founder of the Association of Internally Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES). He played a key role in the struggle to secure Colombia’s progressive Law 70, which grants land rights to Afro-Colombian communities. After surviving many attempts on his life, Mr. Cordoba has been forced to live in exile in the United States.
"NEW DOGS IN OUR BACKYARD"
HON. TED POE
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Mr. POE. Madam Speaker, our own backyard is in jeopardy. Recently Colombia, our ally in the war on drugs and in combating Marxist rebels bent on undermining democracy in the Americas, was threatened with military action by its neighbors Venezuela and Ecuador. Colombia had taken the military initiative to eliminate a FARC commander across the border in Ecuador in order to maintain its own security. Yet the leftist and anti-U.S. leaders from Venezuela and Ecuador took grave offense to the killing of one of their comrades in arms, and rolled up tank battalions to the border to try to intimidate Colombia. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed in this round, yet the United States should be concerned from some emerging big dogs in our own backyard.
With our attention turned elsewhere around, other nations and interests have been undermining US influence in the Americas. As seen already, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been trying to gather support of other Latin American leaders to oppose the U.S. This latest incident in threatening our ally is a prime example.
Yet there is an even bigger dog, and it is hungry. China is growing in influence in Latin America. Seeking trading, political, and military ties with Latin America nations, China’s hunger for expansion is part of its goal to be a chief player in world politics. As China seeks greater ties and influence in South America, it will naturally rely on its Communist ties with Marxist and leftist leaning groups.
What is the result of these two big dogs in our backyard? US influence is lessening in Latin America. For decades we stood by and militarily backed our Monroe Doctrine. In essence, we claim that the Western Hemisphere and the Americas is our sphere of influence. While we were able to keep Europe out, we are failing to keep the Far East and Communism out. Theodore Roosevelt added his corollary to the Doctrine, stating that the US reserves the right to intervene in Latin America. American foreign policy should take notice of this situation. While we have our chickens outside grazing, the coop is empty and under threat. We should hold fast to our Monroe Doctrine, and include all emerging threats, whether from Europe, the Far East, or ideas such as Communism and radical Islam. Strangers in one’s backyard do not make for a secure household.
And that’s just the way it is.
Source: Government Printing Office
From CQ Congressional Record Service
Providing government documents on demand, in context.
©2008 Congressional Quarterly Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Until Worker's Rights Are Respected
Executive Council Statement
March 04, 2008
The AFL-CIO, together with many respected human rights, development and religious organizations, has spoken out forcefully against rewarding the Colombian government with a free trade agreement at a time when Colombia’s labor movement is under attack, both through legal channels and through violence, intimidation and harassment.
Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world in which to be a union member—39 trade unionists were murdered in 2007, and another five to date in 2008. Of the more than 2,500 murders of trade unionists since 1986, only about 80 cases—around 3 percent—have resulted in convictions. According to a comprehensive report released by Colombia’s four national labor centrals and the respected Colombian human rights group, the National Labor School (known by its Spanish acronym, ENS), the majority of the union murders are linked to labor conflicts and are part of “strategic and systematic actions obeying specific interests and seeking to weaken union efforts to demand and defend labor rights.”
But beyond the violence and the impunity, Colombian unionists face equally daunting daily legal challenges to their rights to organize and bargain collectively—challenges that threaten the very existence of the Colombian labor movement. Union density in Colombia today is less than 5 percent, and fewer than 1 percent of Colombian workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements—down from 15 percent twenty years ago. Mass firings and privatization of large segments of the public sector have put bargaining rights out of reach for most workers. This is the worst collective bargaining coverage in the western hemisphere – even worse than the United States’ dismal record.
In mid-February, Linda Chavez-Thompson, AFL-CIO executive vice president emerita, and Larry Cohen, president of the Communication Workers of America, led a union fact-finding delegation to Bogotá, Colombia. The delegation also included Dan Kovalik, associate general counsel of the United Steelworkers, representing President Leo Gerard. The delegation’s objectives were to express solidarity with our union brothers and sisters in Colombia, to help them in their struggle to rebuild their labor movement and protect their rights to organize and bargain collectively and to gather information from all sources on the situation confronting workers and unions in Colombia.
The delegation spent many hours with both leaders and rank-and-file members of Colombian unions, listening to their stories of struggle against unscrupulous employers and often-hostile government bureaucrats. Trade unionists from all over the country and from dozens of sectors—including oil, flowers, health care, education, telecom, taxi drivers, municipal workers, retail, transport and bananas, among others—came to Bogota to share their anger, their frustration and their reality with the AFL-CIO delegation.
The Colombian workers told heart-breaking stories of trying to form unions through legal channels, going through the prescribed steps of holding national assemblies and filing required paperwork, only to be told repeatedly that they had fallen short on ever-shifting and arbitrary criteria. They told of the abuses of the “collective” system, in which employers can declare their workplace a collective, and the employees “owners,” thereby depriving workers of the right to unionize. They told of receiving death threats for their union activity and of losing friends, family and colleagues to murder. And they told of mass firings of union leaders and the government’s failure to hold law-breaking employers accountable.
A striking common theme was heard from the Colombian unionists who spoke to the AFL-CIO delegation. They all agreed that the six years of the Uribe administration had seen a systematic attack on workers’ rights and on unions. “They are not just murdering union leaders,” said one unionist. “They are murdering the unions.” Others spoke of the slaughter, genocide, extermination and destruction of the union movement by the Uribe government.
During the visit to Bogotá, the delegation had the opportunity to meet with President Uribe and several of his cabinet members, as well as with the attorney general, the Constitutional Court judges, representatives of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and leading members of Congress. The presidents of the four major Colombian labor federations accompanied the AFL-CIO delegation to most of the meetings.
President Uribe argued that his administration had taken extraordinary steps to counter the violence against trade unionists and had devoted substantial new resources to bringing perpetrators of the violence to justice through the allocation of three judges to address labor cases and additional funding to the attorney general’s office for investigation and prosecution.
While the AFL-CIO delegation expressed its appreciation for the additional resources the Uribe administration has dedicated to protecting union members and addressing impunity, continued serious concerns remain on several important fronts.
First, one of the three judges assigned to prosecuting labor cases has been removed, without an adequate explanation, leading to questions of whether political influence had led to his removal. This is the same judge who issued a legal ruling finding that officers of the 18th Brigade of the Colombian army had altered the crime scene of slain union leaders by placing guns in their hands to make it look like the victims were members of the guerrilla organization, ELN.
Second, the delegation expressed concerns about continued reports of an increase in extra-judicial murders by the Colombian army, especially in rural areas.
Third, and most troubling, the Colombian government’s failure to reform its labor laws to comply with ILO standards and its poor record of enforcing the laws against anti-union discrimination call into question its commitment to genuinely protect the rights of workers to freely form unions and bargain collectively.
The AFL-CIO stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Colombia in opposition to violence against trade unionists, for justice and for the rights of workers in both Colombia and the United States to organize and bargain collectively without fear of firing, without fear of retribution and certainly without fear for our safety.
The AFL-CIO remains strongly opposed to the Colombia FTA. Should it come up for a vote this year, we will mobilize the unions and the resources of the federation to defeat it.
The Sierra Club on the Colombia FTA
In November of 2006 the President signed a free trade agreement with Colombia, which now awaits vote by Congress. Like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) before it, the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) eliminates barriers to trade in an effort to increase the flow of goods and services between countries. While the agreement does require both parties to adhere to international environmental agreements and labor standards, it contains insufficient guarantees that domestic environmental laws won't be trumped by corporate interests while also ignoring Colombia's continued failure to enforce labor and human rights.
Colombia, which encompasses vast tracks of Amazon rainforest, is a country with tremendous biodiversity and natural resources that would be opened up to corporate plunder without sufficient environmental safeguards. It is also the worst place in the world to be a trade unionist, with 2200 labor assassinations since 1991 and 72 in 2006 alone. Unfortunately, the Colombian government does little to punish or prevent rampant crimes against organized labor, creating a culture of impunity that the Columbia FTA would only further encourage. For example, many Colombian coffee workers receive meager wages and endure considerable persecution, yet a free trade agreement would encourage American investment in this industry.
As written, the agreement puts the profits of foreign corporations before domestic environmental and health regulations. The agreement weakens the screening process for imported food while at the same time increasing the monopoly of US drug companies, making access to life-saving drugs even more difficult in Colombia.
All told, a free trade agreement with Colombia is the same old story; protections for corporations to ensure profit at the expense of workers and the environment.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
"BlackTree Media presents a special edition of the BET NEWS special, HIP HOP vs. AMERICA.
Watch clips featuring the dynamic panel discussion, prolific interviews, and history in our making. Hip-hop culture and controversy have always made for familiar bedfellows. Yet, in the wake of the Imus controversy and in a year when the genre's sales have tumbled, hip-hop finds itself under an exceptional amount of scrutiny and pressure - and the stakes have never been higher.
BET NEWS takes a powerful and compelling look at the state of hip-hop today in a three-part series titled HIP HOP vs. AMERICA. Hosted by BET's own Toure and Jeff Johnson, this special showcases a candid, heated forum that will allow audiences to hear the opinions of prominent leaders in the hip-hop industry, the political realm, academia and the Black church."
Friday, March 21, 2008
Raul Arboleda / AFP/Getty Images
While growing up in Peru in the 1980's and 90's I was detained by Peruvian police and incarcerated more than once just because I "looked Indigenous and poor" while walking around fluent neighborhoods of Lima or traveling by the Andean little towns. Being young and non-white made me a suspect of being a guerrilla member.
So I relate very well to the injustice that Colombians are facing today, although some of them were not as lucky as myself to survive and tell the story.
LA Times reports today:
- Extrajudicial slayings on rise in Colombia
Soldiers, under pressure to show progress in a U.S.-funded war, allegedly are killing civilians and passing them off as rebels.
By Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
March 21, 2008
GRANADA, COLOMBIA -- Street vendor Israel Rodriguez went fishing last month and never came back. Two days later, his family found his body buried in a plastic bag, classified by the Colombian army as a guerrilla fighter killed in battle.
Human rights activists say the Feb. 17 death is part of a deadly phenomenon called "false positives" in which the armed forces allegedly kill civilians, usually peasants or unemployed youths, and brand them as leftist guerrillas.
A macabre facet of a general increase in "extrajudicial killings" by the military, "false positives" are a result of intense pressure to show progress in Colombia's U.S.-funded war against leftist insurgents, the activists say.
Rodriguez's sister Adelaida said he had served three years in the army and was neither a guerrilla nor a sympathizer. "He never made any trouble for anyone," she said, adding that she believed the army killed her brother to "gain points."
Such killings have spread terror here in the central state of Meta. Last year the state led Colombia in documented cases of extrajudicial killings, with 287 civilians allegedly slain by the military, according to the Colombian Commission of Jurists, a human rights group. That's a 10% increase from the previous year
Although there appear to be no official -- or unofficial -- tallies of "false positives," human rights activists say they believe such incidents are on the rise, along with the overall increase in killings by the military, based on their discussions with victims' families and analyses of circumstances surrounding individual cases.
"It's quite likely, because the same scenario appears over and over again in the cases I review," said John Lindsay-Poland of the New York-based Fellowship of Reconciliation. "Victims last seen alive in civilian clothing later are found dead dressed in camouflage and claimed as guerrilla casualties."
The killings have increased in recent years amid an emphasis on rebel death tolls as the leading indicator of military success, the human rights groups say. Even Colombian officials acknowledge that soldiers and their commanders have been given cash and promotions for upping their units' body counts.
Since President Alvaro Uribe took office in 2002, the military has scored notable successes in winning back territory from leftist rebel groups and improving security, buoyed by billions of dollars in military aid from the United States under Plan Colombia, the program that fights drug trafficking and terrorism.
But at the same time, the military's human rights record is getting worse, charged a coalition of Colombian and international human rights groups.
And new research by two U.S. peace groups into the killings raises serious questions about whether the United States is doing enough, as required by law, to bar U.S. funding to Colombian military units that have elicited allegations of killings and other human rights violations.
Amnesty International USA and the Fellowship of Reconciliation have found that the U.S. government "vetted" or approved military assistance to at least 11 Colombian armed forces units last year despite "credible allegations regarding killings, disappearances and collaboration with outlawed paramilitary forces," Renata Rendon of Amnesty International USA said in Washington this month.
"It's outrageous this is happening. It's up to the [U.S. government] to ensure that we are not providing aid to abusive units," Rendon said.
While not responding specifically to the claims, an official at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota said this month that Colombian armed forces' killings of civilians were a "serious problem, a serious concern."
"It's something we take very seriously. If you're going to win a war like this, a big part is establishing rule of law and winning the people's confidence in your legitimacy and commitment to legal institutions," said the official, who was not authorized to speak for attribution. He defended the vetting process but said it was complicated by the fact that allegations of human rights abuses often were "not sufficiently specific or verifiable."
To address the issue of impunity, Colombia's attorney general last year set up special investigative teams in Meta and Antioquia states, which had the highest numbers of alleged abuses by the military. In November, Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos sent a directive to military commanders ordering major changes, including giving civil courts more jurisdiction in investigating incidents.
But the killings are still spreading terror here in Meta state. Ramiro Orjuela Aguilar, a Bogota human rights attorney representing 20 families of suspected "false positive" victims in Meta, blamed the military's use of paid informants or demobilized guerrillas for many of the killings.
"They have an incentive to name people as rebels because they are paid for information whether it's correct or not," Orjuela said.
Several of the Meta victims last year were youths living in and around Granada, the hub of a cattle and farming region that has been fiercely contested in recent years by leftist guerrillas, the armed forces and right-wing paramilitary troops. It is also home to the army's 12th Mobile Brigade, a unit that Orjuela says is implicated in many of the killings.
Orjuela alleges that the army is engaging in "social cleansing" in Meta, home to four of the five municipalities that made up the so-called neutral zone occupied by Colombian guerrillas from 1998 to 2002. Killings and mass displacements of residents here are efforts to deprive guerrillas of sympathizers, Orjuela said.
"They are trying to deprive the fish of its water," he said.
Kidnapped on an outing to the Ariari River, Rodriguez, the street vendor, may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, relatives theorize, caught by a band of police officers or soldiers who were on a "fishing trip" of their own for victims.
Orjuela said cases involving alleged "false positives" seemed to decline after the Colombian army issued the November directive to all commanders ordering that officers and the rank and file be made aware that the most important standards of success are demobilizations and captures of guerrillas, and then body counts. But he said he had noticed a resurgence lately, noting the Rodriguez killing.
Adelaida Rodriguez said that despite the government's initiatives, she and her family were reluctant to press for an investigation. Referring to her brother, she said, "If we make noise, we'll end up like him."
Your money is in Colombia my friends
While the US economy is entering recession, Bush keeps sending your money to Colombia. And they don't even bother to tell you.
Map by Alice Kreit, NPR
By March 1, Colombian military forces invaded Ecuador and killed 16 members of the Colombian leftist guerrilla FARC, and 4 Mexican college students who were taking part of a clandestine research trip.
NPR reported last week:
- Tensions Ensue in Andean Conflict
NPR - March 14, 2008. Just weeks ago, Colombian president Alvaro Uribe's sent commandos nearly a mile into Ecuador to attack an anti-government rebel encampment. The raid, which was accompanied by a bombing campaign, succeeded in killing a top commander of the rebels, known as FARC.
But the raid also set off a diplomatic confrontation with neighbors Ecuador and Venezuela, who not only broke diplomatic ties with Colombia, but mobilized troops along the border. Although the rhetoric has since cooled, the raid exacerbated existing tensions in the region. The activity has also attracted the attention of the U.S., an ally of Colombia and a frequent critic of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
NPR correspondent Juan Forero, stationed in Bogota, Colombia, is joined by Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, to discuss the conflict.
Listen Now [12 min 24 sec]
The US government waited 2 days to express its position on this conflict, and asked Ecuador and Colombia to resolve it bilaterally or through the OAS. The State Department asked Venezuela to stay away from the problem. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that Colombian "can take care of themselves" in a possible conflict.
Gates knew well what he meant by saying that, but he didn't bother to mention the US participation on the attack to the FARC camp as some sources say it was done from the US military base in Manta, Ecuador.
Colombia is the second country in the world that receives most military funds from the US, after Israel. The Bush administration has sent over $ 750 million dollars every year to support the Colombian government in their 50-year old armed conflict and to fight drug trafficking. But instead of spreading peace, more violence and clandestine deaths are occurring, paramilitary groups are getting stronger, union leaders are being tortured and killed, people are being displaced and drug production is not only at high levels, but its influence in Colombian politics and official institutions is more powerful than ever.
Read the following article:
Uribe, U.S. Should Step Up Hostage-Release Efforts, Groups Say
Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the U.S. government should step up efforts to win the release of hostages held by the country's biggest rebel group, advocacy organizations and the mother of one of the captives said today.
The U.S. could leverage its aid to Colombia to press for more action on the approximately 750 people held captive by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said Gimena Sanchez, a senior associate with the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights group.
An exchange of hostages for two members of the Marxist FARC group held in the U.S. is another option, said Jo Rosano, whose son, Marc Gonsalves, has been held with two coworkers by the rebel group since 2003.
"The United States says they hold the FARC responsible for the fate of the Americans,'' said Rosano, who was brought by Sanchez's group from her home in Bristol, Connecticut, for a news conference in Washington today. ``I hold the United States responsible for the fate of all the hostages.''
The U.S. organizations, working with Colombian opposition Senator Piedad Cordoba, are seeking to intensify pressure on Uribe after videos seized Nov. 29 from three guerrilla members in Bogota showed at least some of the hostages, including three American contractors, are alive. The groups are critical of Uribe's decision last month to end support for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's efforts to win the captives' freedom.
The TransAfrica Forum, a Washington-based social justice advocacy group, is sending a letter to Colombia to praise Cordoba's role and to Chavez to applaud his efforts, said Joseph Jordan, a professor at the University of North Carolina.
Cordoba "played a pivotal role in moving things forward at a point in time when things seemed to be at a standstill,'' Jordan said. The organization's advocacy work includes a focus on the rights of Afro-Colombians.
Rosano choked up as she showed photos of her son and read a letter from a friend referring to the video segment of him in a jungle setting.
"My world consists of depression, sorrow, of panic attacks, anxiety attacks, sleepless nights,'' Rosano said. "I wonder either when my son can come home or will my life ever be normal.''
Uribe's government would contribute to an effort to end the internal conflict by going beyond an agreement on a demilitarized zone, Sanchez said in an interview after news conference.
"The Colombian government can show good will,'' Sanchez said. "But more than that, they need to stop the rhetoric. They need to stop saying negative things about anyone who is trying to push this process forward.''
The U.S. Congress also can help by exerting political pressure, she said.
"The U.S. has given more than $700 million to Colombia each year for the past six years, and the majority of that money has been military aid,'' Sanchez said. "That has not resolved the conflict in Colombia.''
In order to hide what really is going on and to fake a successful use of the funds received, the Colombian military is killing just about any innocent person they run into.
Contact your Congress member and ask about their position on the Colombia armed conflict and why is your tax-money funding this kind of abuses.
Ask your House and Senate member to condemn the illegal actions of the Colombian government and to push the Alvaro Uribe government take a politically negotiated path toward peace in the region. Demand that U.S. military funding for Colombia stops until the Uribe administration guarantees the human rights of every Colombian citizen. Uribe has "one of the worst human rights records in the world" according to Human Rights Watch.
To find out who represents you in Congress, please type your address in here.