Latin America and Caribbean Community Center | 24 September 2008
Over 100 activists gather to protest Free Trade Agreement
On Friday, September 19, 2008, over 100 activists gathered in front of the National Press Club in Washington, DC to protest the efforts of Colombia’s president Álvaro Uribe to promote the Free Trade Agreement. One protester commented on the amount of different faces she saw at the protest, noting the growing coalition of activist joining together to oppose this agreement.
The organizers, Public Citizen, AFRODES, TransAfrica, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), and the Teamsters declare the event victorious in that they were able to raise awareness on trade issues with Colombia and the current humanitarian situation that the FTA would further deteriorate in Colombia if it were to pass. The demonstrators raised a few key points at the protest : the US should not pass the FTA because union leaders are being killed in Colombia, the environment is under attack by monocrop industries, and Afro and Indigenous Colombians are being violently displaced from their ancestral lands.
The groups sited that the FTA compromises human rights and self-determination of the most affected communities in Colombia. Protesters held up pictures of fallen union leaders and others who spoke up for their communities in Colombia. They also shared stories of family and friends who were violently displaced and continue to live in fear of their life. Despite these accounts, President Uribe contends that Colombia is safe. Carlos Quiroz of Muchikapaec Culture-Art-Community infiltrated Uribe’s swank luncheon and reported that Uribe insists “’there are no paramilitary in Colombia anymore’ and made it look like replacement of coca crops are being successful with the oil palm new ‘small farmers owned’ plantations. He also said the human rights are well respected in Colombia”.
In continuation with the misinformation campaign, Uribe only answered pre-approved questions, a shut out of free press. He had free reign to give his version of a successful Plan Colombia and dire need to pass the Free Trade Agreement with no opposing or challenging questions.
About 8 counter protestors were at the rally in favor of Uribe. Regardless of their small numbers, they received a lot of mainstream media attention. They seemed very startled to hear the protestors call Uribe a fascist and terrorist. They seemed very distant from the issues at hand, rather pro-Colombia and pro-Uribe. Patriotism for those who recognize the grave state of human rights in Colombia is shown in a different way. While some accept things as they are and turn a blind eye to violence, human rights violations, and environmental degradation, others choose to fight for a better Colombia.