De el Providence Journal: el Acuerdo de Libre Comercio con Colombia pueda significar más cocaina en los E.U.
one Colombian industry that can potentially employ workers who would
lose their job in the wake of a free trade deal.
By Jess Hunter-Bowman To read the article in the Providence Journal, click here.
Esteban Tejada was a teacher in the Colombian province of Cordoba, near
the Panamanian border. Unfortunately for him, he was also a union
member. On January 10, paramilitary gunmen broke into his house at 6
a.m. and shot him multiple times, killing him.
Tejada was the
first trade unionist killed in Colombia in 2011, but not the last. At
least five more have already been killed this year. Colombian and
international labor officials report that 51 unionized workers in
Colombia were killed in 2010--25 of them teachers. More union members
were killed in Colombia last year than in the rest of the world
The fact that Colombia is the most dangerous country
in the world to belong to a union hasn't kept President Barack Obama
from backing a free-trade deal with the South American nation that
would further erode labor rights and wages.
Obama and Colombian
President Juan Manuel Santos recently announced a labor rights "action
plan" as a ploy to gain congressional votes in favor of the
controversial deal. The Obama administration hopes this effort, which
would do virtually nothing to deal with the violence targeting labor
leaders, will convince some Democrats to hold their noses and vote for
the trade deal, despite Colombia's deadly labor track record.
days before the two leaders made their announcement, Hector Orozco and
Gildardo Garcia--farm workers who belonged to a union--were murdered.
Business as usual in Colombia.
It's no surprise that Washington
would sacrifice labor rights in the rush to secure this free trade
deal. But Colombia isn't only the world's leader in union murders--it's
also the world's leading cocaine producer. Although efforts to stamp
out drug trafficking have dominated the U.S.-Colombia relationship for
decades, this trade deal would likely boost cocaine production.
trade deals scrap tariffs and quotas on imports. Countries that enter
such agreements can no longer protect strategic industries and sectors
to ensure they are competitive. And no one in Latin America can compete
with U.S. grain farmers. The technology, mechanization, and subsidies
at U.S. famers' disposal make grain production in the United States
extremely cheap relative to Latin America.
For example, once
Mexico eliminated corn tariffs and quotas under NAFTA guidelines, an
estimated 2 million Mexican corn farmers went bankrupt. They simply
couldn't compete with U.S. corn prices.
Research has shown that
1.8 million Colombian farmers will see their net income fall 17 percent
if the U.S.-Colombia trade deal is enacted. An estimated 400,000 will
see their net incomes fall by between 48 percent and 70 percent.
Caterpillar (which wants to sell bulldozers to Colombia), Walmart
(which wants to resume tariff-free purchases of Colombian flowers), and
other large U.S. corporations stand to profit handsomely from the
U.S.-Colombia free trade deal.
Free traders in Congress and the
corporate lobbyists who are pressuring them insist that the trade deal
will create new jobs, absorbing people from sectors without a
"comparative advantage." That's a boldface lie. Since the early 1990s,
nearly all Colombian exports have entered the U.S. tariff-free under
the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act. Any jobs created
in Colombia by gaining unfettered access to U.S. markets were created
But there is one Colombian export market that can
always absorb new workers: the cocaine trade. When Colombian farmers
are pushed out of grain farming due to cheap U.S. imports, expect them
to face a terrible choice. They'll either lose their farm, join the
vast ranks of Colombia's unemployed, and watch their children drop out
of school and become malnourished--or switch to farming coca crops to
stay on their farm, keep their kids in school, and put food on their
Colombian farmers want out of coca farming because it
doesn't pay very well and violence often dogs coca production. But the
U.S.-Colombia trade deal will leave them with virtually no other choice.
pushing it forward, Washington is catering to corporate interests
instead of heeding Colombia's human rights crisis and seriously
considering its impact on illegal drug trafficking. We can only hope
that there are enough lawmakers willing to recognize that this deal
isn't worth the costs to us or to Colombians.