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OTTAWA – With a national election fast approaching, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is reminding the public of the dangers of the Conservative’s proposed free-trade agreement with Colombia.

Yesterday, during a session of its quarterly National Executive Board meeting, the union adopted a resolution opposing the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement. Widely opposed by Colombian civil society, Canadian unions and even the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade, this agreement “is tantamount to a death sentence for all who oppose the policies of the current Colombian government,” said Paul Moist, CUPE National President.

Add this agreement to the list of disastrous international policy decisions made by the Harper government. Finalized in secret last June, 2008, the agreement solidifies ties with the government of President Alvaro Uribe. His government is renowned for giving free rein to paramilitary groups terrorizing and assassinating large numbers of Aboriginal people, Afro-Colombians and union members.

An estimated 5 million Colombians, many of them women and children, have been forcibly displaced through land seizures benefiting corporate interests. “Free trade with Colombia will add fuel to the fire, as it indicates to multinationals that the brutal dispossession of Colombians will continue. The agreement also constitutes a thumbs-up from Harper to Uribe, whose atrocious human rights record is not improving. Colombia is the most dangerous place on earth for trade unionists: 41 have already been assassinated in 2008, and no fewer than 2,500 since 1986,” noted Paul Moist.

“The fact that Stephen Harper wants to be a close ally of the most repressive government in the Americas says a lot about his vision of foreign affairs. This agreement would be another nail in the coffin of the communities under persecution, not to mention Canada’s reputation. The best way for Canadians to remedy the situation would be to defeat the Harper Conservatives on October 14,” concluded Paul Moist, who represented CUPE on an observation mission to Colombia in July.

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See also CUPE’s international solidarity work in Colombia

Sébastien Goulet, CUPE Communications – 613 808-0675
Paul Moist, CUPE National President – (613) 558-2873