Trade deal, the problem is human rights

· Conflict, Violence

Washington | Colombia Passport. The issue on the approval of a US – Colombia free trade agreement stops in a big red “traffic light”: The problem of human rights in the South American nation. Discussions can be done about the importance of the deal for both countries, but the fact is that human rights will continue being an obstacle to it, as much as it is not clarified by the Colombian part. As elected president Barack Obama put his view on the table already, the “traffic light” would become more intensive during the next years to come that what it was under the Colombian-friendly administration of George Bush.

The leaving US government put the issue on the move this week again. Last Monday, during the last press conference, president Bush said “A disappointment — not a mistake, but a disappointment — was not getting the three trade bills out of Congress on Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

But Colombia came on the news again when president Bush chose Uribe to receive the Medal of Freedom, the highest recognition for a civilian in US.

To this, Keneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, declared in Washington that he opposed to a free trade agreement with Colombia, because he is worry for what the Farc and the government are doing in relation with human rights.

About Farc, Roth said that he is worry for the current retention of hostages, the use of landmines, child soldiers and other serious crimes. He invited Farc to stop that situation and a judge for the responsible individuals.

By the other part, the human rights leader pointed that in the 2009 World Report, Colombia is denounced for extrajudicial executions of civilians by military and paramilitary groups.

Human Rights Watch said that Colombia needs to do much more to address its human rights problems before it is considered the sign of a trade agreement with US.

In a letter that Roth sent to Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, to Representative George Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor and to Representative Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, on 20th November 2008, he said:

“Under US pressure related to the FTA, Colombia has started to take some positive steps on impunity for anti-union violence. But those steps are limited and incomplete, and in other areas (such as the rate of violence), Colombia has been sliding back this year.”

The discussion will continue until Colombia would not take another approach of the situation. To prepare the country to face the responsibilities of a free trade agreement could be easy in what it has to see with taxation, building of new infrastructures and even a new culture of market and production. But a condition like the human rights guarantee has proven more difficult for a country that has endured more than half century of violence.

The improvements in the reduction of kidnapping, murders and terrorist attacks is real and promising. It is also real that the improvements in the protection of human rights have taken progress, according to the same Human Rights Watch, thanks to the action of judicial institutions that are investigating and reducing impunity. But it is also true that Colombia must work united to resude to zero any violent action against its own citizens by concern of ideologies or social belonging.

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