FRANK P. BELCASTRO Dubuque, IA
President Bush tried to use his final days in office to push through a free trade agreement with Colombia that would reward one of the hemisphere’s worst human rights abusers.
Human Rights Watch notes the country has “the world’s highest rate of killings of trade unionists. The violence there is so serious, and the lack of response by the authorities so overwhelming, that workers simply cannot exercise their rights,” such as the basic right to organize. The U.S. State Department’s annual human rights report also makes a case for not passing the deal.
The New York Times argues, “The new agreement would benefit American companies.”
So is opening up markets to U.S. companies in countries where violence against workers and impunity are the norm one of the “benefits” of free trade? When workers live in a “climate of terror” and are denied their right to organize so that they might be able to negotiate humane wages and working conditions, companies can keep wages and working conditions at inhumane levels.
It’s time to use human rights to guide our foreign policy. If that’s to be the case, Democrats can begin this process by voting down this agreement whenever it comes up for a vote.