Afrocolombians Call on Obama to Rethink FTA with Colombia

News from Colombia | on: Thursday, 5 May 2011

The Black Communities Process (PCN) of Colombia has declared its opposition to the steps taken in early April by President Barack Obama and President Santos in moving forward the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The afrocolombian organisation has rejected the proposed 'Action Plan', presented by the administrations as a solution to human rights concerns, claiming it completely ignores the “critical human rights situation” of the afrocolombian and indigenous population of Colombia.

Whilst acknowledging that there has been official concern expressed regarding human rights, the PCN has expressed its “deep disappointment” in Obama’s opening up to Colombia, despite considerable opposition to the FTA in both the USA and in Colombia. In their statement, the PCN highlighted that the negative impact of the FTA will severely affect the territorial, social, cultural, and human rights of the population, and be felt far beyond just the arena of labour relations.

The afrocolombian organisation noted that whilst Obama has celebrated the human rights improvements made under President Santos; afrocolombian communities and their leaders continue to live under constant threats and aggression. According to reports, on February 28th troops of the Colombian navy burnt down the houses of 119 people in Bajo Calima near the port of Buenaventura. The PCN has accused the army of committing the crime with the aim of forcing local residents to leave the area in order to create a new port needed once the FTA is ratified. In the same region the PCN reported that 3500 afrocolombian families have been dislpaced from Bajamar due to the construction of another port and tourism infrastructure, adding to the more than 1.5 million internally displaced afrocolombians.

The PCN has reported that at least 100 afrocolombian organisations and leaders have been threatened with assassination by paramilitaries, and more than 50 afrocolombian leaders have been killed in the last 10 years, with nobody convicted of these crimes.

The PCN statement reiterates the opposition of Colombia's afrocolombian communitties to the FTA until there have been mechanisms put in place to respect the rights of their and indigenous communities. The PCN also demanded that the Colombian government take “concrete actions” to show that it has the political will to respect human rights.

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