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Stop the Colombia Free Trade Agreement

The Obama administration is pushing a vote on the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement this summer, maybe as early as the end of June.

That’s unwelcome news for small-scale farmers, human rights defenders, indigenous communities, Afro-Colombians, union leaders and millions of displaced people who live on the economy’s fragile edge and who say that the risks are too great to go forward with the agreement in its present form. Undercutting the livelihoods of small farmers may well exacerbate violence and escalate the production of coca, rather than food.

“A great many people here in Colombia think this is a done deal,” says the Rev. Diego Higuita, the executive secretary of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, who says that Colombians need more time to work for changes in the troubling parts of the agreement, particularly the risks to the survival of small-scale farmers.

In a statement issued by the church last month, it said that it opposes the agreement in its present form since it may “exacerbate the humanitarian crisis we are experiencing in light of our internal conflict.”

“We want to thank very much the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for its efforts on behalf of the Colombian church here with regard to the FTA. And we are pleased and excited with the (June 5-12 fast) that Presbyterian Peace Fellowship is organizing to work to stall the Colombia FTA in its present form.”

Peace Fellowship is also pushing for Presbyterians to telephone the White House call line to urge President Obama to delay the Colombia agreement. Callers are urged to register on the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship website to obtain a script and to tally callers.

The PC(USA) Office of Public Witness in Washington is working with other denominations and faith groups in Washington, D.C., meeting with both members of the Obama administration and the Congress. “We’re working to urge the administration and the Congress not to pass this until these concerns are addressed,” said Catherine Gordon, associate for international issues, citing human rights violations, continued displacement of people and violence against labor leaders.

The Presbyterian Hunger Program is currently organizing Presbyterians in more than 40 presbyteries through the efforts of the Joining Hands Networks and the Hunger Action Enablers to enable the church to speak with its collective voice. For more information about joining this effort, contact PHP by email.

If you want to link your voice with others in the PC(USA), please click on the links below to obtain further information, letters, talking points and the full text of the statement of the Colombian church. Contact any of the above links for further assistance, as well.

Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment Key Issues:

  • Violence against trade unionists and human rights defenders in Colombia remains unacceptably high.
  • Agriculture provisions in the agreement will accelerate displacement and push people into illicit crop production.
  • Investment provisions will allow foreign investors in extractive industries to displace poor Colombians and undermine Colombian national sovereignty.

Download the full statement

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