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CUPE National President Paul Moist told a parliamentary trade committee today that Colombia’s failure to hold a “free and fair” congressional election in March proves the government can’t be trusted to credibly report on its own human rights situation.

Colombia’s duty to report on human rights abuses is part of an amendment proposed by Liberal Trade Critic Scott Brison in order to achieve a free-trade agreement between Canada and Colombia (Bill C-2).

The current amendment falls short of what is needed – especially after a recent report by the International Election Observation Mission to Colombia revealed widespread corruption in the country’s most recent election,” says Moist.

The electoral observation mission reported that 35 candidates elected to the 102-seat congress are linked to paramilitary groups.”

The mission brought together 22 individuals with experience in electoral observation and was lead by Global Exchange, a U.S. NGO.

The report’s disturbing highlights show the involvement of illegal armed groups in the elections; vote buying and voter intimidation; illegal campaign financing including the use of drug-trafficking profits; and the manipulation of social program recipients who were told that their funding would end if they didn’t vote for a certain candidate.

The well-documented connection between government paramilitaries and narco-traffickers paints a grim picture of a failed state that is increasingly controlled by criminals. Canada must take every step to ensure that the human and labour rights of Colombians are respected. That means having an independent human rights assessment. Leaving it up to the Colombian government to write its own report card doesn’t go far enough.”

Moist toured Colombia two years ago to see for himself whether opposition to the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement was justified. What he saw and learned confirmed that CUPE is right to oppose this deal and to speak out against it on behalf of Colombian workers and their families.