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Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe met on Monday to discuss trilateral talks on a free-trade agreement with Peru. A release from the Prime Minister’s Office speaks of a new labour program for the Americas that “will foster dialogue among government, business and labour, and address health and safety issues”.

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The Prime Minister is making it look like a friendly conversation with the Colombian President will make everything alright,” said CUPE National President Paul Moist. “In a situation that has left thousands of union and human rights activists dead.”

According to Amnesty International, Colombia is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a trade unionist or a journalist. Paramilitary soldiers continue to target individuals who advocate for the poor, promote unionization, are against ‘free trade’ and privatization or who challenge the government and its pro-American policies.

Human rights must be on the agenda for any international talks, but Canada should be there for the people, not as an agent for business and the Americans.”

While the Uribe government has made some effort to curtail the violence and influence of the paramilitaries, recent police investigations have exposed the level of support the paramilitay gets from senior officials in the government. Trade unionists also say that the paramilitary forces have gone underground, not out of business and therefore are still a serious threat to union and human rights activists.

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For more information contact: Paul Moist, CUPE National President, 613-558-2873 (cell.); Audra Williams, CUPE communications, 902-225-2876