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CUPE members joined other union activists and people from human rights, church and community organizations on Parliament Hill on June 10th to protest against the Ottawa visit of Colombian president Alvaro Uribe and the free trade agreement that he is desperate to promote with Canada.

Uribe arrived in Ottawa on Wednesday to hold closed door meetings with Prime Minister Harper and later with the Liberal caucus.

Protesters held large puppets of Harper and Uribe and rolled out a blood red carpet to symbolize the welcome Uribe received. People dressed in black represented victims of violence in Colombia. A moment of silence was held for the 17 trade unionists murdered this year alone.

The Harper government signed a trade deal with Colombia in November 2008. The legislation to implement the deal was withdrawn, at least temporarily, following an intense lobbying campaign by unions, human rights activists and community groups.

The Canada-Colombia free trade agreement is a stain on Canada’s reputation. We cannot sign a free trade agreement with a country that allows murder and human rights violations to occur with impunity. Over 2,000 Colombian trade unionists have been killed in the last 23 years,” said CUPE National President Paul Moist, who attended the rally.

While the Conservatives are supporting the deal, the NDP and the Bloc have been very clear against it, and we are calling on the Liberal Party of Canada to reject it as well,” said Moist.

Also today, the International Trade Union Confederation said 76 trade unionists worldwide were killed in 2008 for trying to defend workers rights, including 49 in Colombia.