In some ways the threats posed by privatization and globalization are the same around the world as are the best ways to fight back. But in other ways the struggle in Colombia is much more dangerous than what were facing in Canada. Thats the conclusion of two CUPE representatives who participated in a 30-person delegation to Colombia in August.
Governments focused on export-driven growth, rather than public services and human rights, are embracing corporate-driven water privatization, contracting out of municipal services and public-private partnerships both there and here.
In Colombia, at least 17 Canadian corporations are accused of human rights violations, trampling workers rights and human life in the rush to extract resources at any price. Canadian and American corporations have left behind a trail of destruction, using paramilitary violence and government-sponsored fumigation techniques to kill and oust indigenous landowners.
We visited whole towns that were massacred for being along a river that transnationals wanted for private hydro dams, says CUPE staffer Rhonda Spence from Vancouver. Survivors ran to us, eager to tell their stories and thankful we were there to observe.
For Edgar Godoy, a CUPE activist from Guelph, the situation in Colombia clearly shows the lengths to which governments and corporations will go to implement free trade agreements.
Its getting ugly in both worlds and we need to start making connections says Godoy, making the link with the violence in Seattle, Quebec City and Genoa.
One tactic that seems to be working is to take the fight for public services directly to local residents. Like public water victories in Canada, the public service union of Cali spent two years going into communities and building support to stop threats to services.
Facing terrible violence, its key that Colombian unions can count on the support of CUPE and other unions to keep an eye on the government and paramilitaries. In the coming months, CUPE will be following up on the recommendations of the delegation to ensure our sisters and brothers in Colombia get that support.