Colombia In The Shadow Of
Human Rights Abuses
A Special Report by the Colombia Working Group (CWG)
A special section filled with useful resources and information on the historic relationship between Canada and Colombia.
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By Pierre-Yves Serinet
Coordonnateur national du Réseau québécois sur l’Intégration continentale
Suivant l'accord de principe d'un Partenariat transpacifique (PTP), annoncé le 5 octobre dernier après plus de cinq années de négociations secrètes, les ministres des 12 pays du PTP se sont réunis le 4 février, à Auckland en Nouvelle-Zélande, afin de procéder formellement à la signature de l'accord. L'évènement revêt son importance, car il marque le coup d'envoi pour que, dans chaque pays, s'enclenche le processus de ratification législative.
Or, le gouvernement libéral de Justin Trudeau s'est engagé à la transparence et à réaliser un débat approfondi et ouvert avant que le processus de ratification ne débute, de façon à ce que la population canadienne soit consultée.
Depuis son entrée en fonction, la ministre du Commerce international, Chrystia Freeland, s'est lancée dans une série de rencontres avec un nombre limité d'intervenants triés sur le volet, tout en invitant les Canadiens à soumettre leurs observations et commentaires dans une boîte électronique. Ceci n'est pas sans rappeler la façon de faire des libéraux sous le règne de Jean Chrétien lorsque se négociait la Zone de libre-échange des Amériques (ZLÉA) il y a 15 ans. Un tel procédé n'a de consultation que le nom.
La ministre Freeland prétend être en mode écoute, elle soutient que son gouvernement n'a pas encore pris une décision concernant l'entente. Mais son intention affirmée de signer le PTP et sa réticence à consulter les grands réseaux sociaux multisectoriels au pays - dont le Réseau québécois sur l'intégration continentale (RQIC), Common Frontiers et le Réseau pour un commerce juste - envoient un tout autre signal. Ceux-ci se désolent par ailleurs du fait que la ministre n'ait pas non plus daigné répondre à l'invitation du Sénat mexicain à participer, le 28 janvier dernier, à un dialogue international entre parlementaires sur le PTP avec des législateurs des États-Unis, du Pérou et du Chili, réunis à Mexico. Cet évènement s'inscrivait dans le cadre d'une rencontre internationale plus large qui rassemblait les mouvements sociaux et populaires des pays du PTP dans les Amériques qui sont inquiets des répercussions de cet accord mammouth.
En procédant à la signature d'un accord dont les bienfaits sont plus qu'incertains, le gouvernement canadien accepte des restrictions importantes à la capacité de l'État de réguler pour l'intérêt public dans des domaines qui ne sont pas directement liés au commerce, comme la qualité de la production alimentaire, l'accès aux médicaments, la santé publique, les droits sur internet, l'environnement, les mesures de mitigation du changement climatique et les normes du travail.
L'accord ouvre la porte à un nivellement par le bas des salaires et des conditions de travail, à une accélération des délocalisations et de la sous-traitance, contribuant ainsi à l'accroissement des inégalités au Canada et au sein des autres pays du PTP.
Le PTP inclut également le mécanisme controversé et antidémocratique de résolution des différends entre investisseur et État (RDIÉ) qui permet aux multinationales de poursuivre les gouvernements lorsqu'ils adoptent des politiques et réglementations d'intérêt public qui affectent leurs profits escomptés. De telles poursuites ignorent nos institutions juridiques et sont entendues devant un tribunal international de trois arbitres, non imputables et chèrement rémunérés, qui imposent d'énormes amendes aux gouvernements élus sans que l'on puisse faire appel de leurs décisions. Ces dispositions de protection excessive des investisseurs menacent la démocratie et les droits constitutionnels, outrepassent et effritent notre système de justice, et coûteront aux contribuables des dizaines de millions de dollars en compensations versées aux entreprises étrangères qui se prévalent du mécanisme RDIÉ. D'ailleurs, selon le rapport de l'expert des Nations-Unies pour la promotion d'un ordre international démocratique et équitable, Alfred de Zayas, le RDIÉ contrevient à l'obligation des États de donner préséance aux droits humains et devrait être banni de tout accord commercial.
Le PTP est aussi un recul en ce qui concerne la protection de l'environnement. Le chapitre en la matière présente des objectifs peu ambitieux et n'inclut aucune obligation contraignante, à l'instar des accords de libre-échange de mouture plus ancienne. En effet, les libellés environnementaux sont vagues et sans mordant, bien en deçà des mesures solides que les pays doivent adopter pour mettre fin aux pratiques économiques néfastes pour l'environnement et protéger la terre, l'air, l'eau et la faune. Pire encore, l'accord a pour effet de rendre les gouvernements frileux au moment d'adopter de nouvelles politiques visant à contrer le réchauffement climatique.
Les organisations sociales du Canada et du Québec sonnent ici l'alarme devant l'empressement du gouvernement d'aller de l'avant en signant le PTP, malgré les graves inquiétudes de la société civile face aux impacts du PTP. Une récente étude de chercheurs de l'Institut sur le développement mondial et l'environnement de l'Université Tufts révèle que l'accord engendrera au Canada la perte de 58 000 emplois et creusera les inégalités de revenus. De son côté, le plus grand syndicat canadien dans le secteur privé, Unifor, signale que l'entente menace 26 000 emplois dans le secteur automobile de l'assemblage et dans celui des pièces automobiles. Le PTP est un mauvais accord pour le Canada et sacrifie l'intérêt public.
Après sa signature officielle, le PTP ne peut être ratifié que tel quel sans possibilité d'amendements, et aura pour effet de restreindre pendant des décennies les pouvoirs du gouvernement et des élus d'agir dans l'intérêt du public. En définitive, la nouvelle génération d'accords de libre-échange et d'investissement comme le PTP visent moins à favoriser les échanges commerciaux qu'à ériger un nouveau système de règles qui accorde toujours plus de «droits» aux entreprises transnationales. Ils transforment profondément les rapports de force dans nos sociétés en opérant un glissement du pouvoir souverain des États et des institutions juridiques vers les puissants de ce monde.
Co-auteurs: Raul Burbano (coordonnateur de Common Frontiers Canada) et Larry Brown (co-président du Trade Justice Network)
MP Tracey Ramsey's video message to the International Parliamentary Dialogue on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that took place January 28, 2016 in the Senate of Mexico.
From the Council of Canadians
On October 5, 2015, Canada, the United States, Mexico and nine other countries – together representing more than 40 per cent of the global economy – announced the conclusion of negotiations on the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership “free trade” deal.
The Council of Canadians opposes this deal because it includes an investor-state dispute settlement provision that allows transnational corporations to sue governments over legislation or policies made in the public interest, it extends the patent length (and profits) of pharmaceutical corporations by delaying the introduction of lower cost generic drugs, it slashes the domestic content requirement for automobiles, putting thousands of autoworker jobs at risks, and it undermines family farmers by opening up the Canadian dairy market to imports without creating new export markets for Canadian farmers.
The TPP could be voted on in the new Parliament early in 2016 and is expected to face a U.S. Congressional vote in the spring of 2016.
By Scott Sinclair
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
This study examines the effects of the TPP on the Canadian public health care system. It finds that the TPP investor protections would make it more difficult and costly for Canadian governments to establish new public health programs, including pharmacare, which is on the agenda of ongoing federal-provincial health talks.
The overarching impacts of the proposed treaty would be to weaken the Canadian public health care system, undermine health regulation, and obstruct efforts to renew and expand public health care in the face of new challenges.
Ottawa – Canadian organizations representing 268,000 K-12 as well as post-secondary educators across the country are adding their voices to the global teacher unions’ call to their governments to carve out education from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Education International (EI) affiliate organizations in the 12 countries involved - Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam - have written their governments demanding to carve education from the deal.
The Canadian letter signed by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) and the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) to the Minister of International Trade is posted here: http://wwww.ctf-fce.ca/en/news/Documents/2016/Education-and-the-TPP-Letter.pdf
A meeting with federal officials in Canada is expected mid- February.
The CTF and CAUT share EI’s concerns about the potential impacts of the TPP for the education sector as there is no explicit exclusion of education, which exposes the sector to greater risks of privatization and commercialization and threatens free, public, high-quality education.
Teacher trade unions are making a final push to keep education off the table as the wide-reaching trade pact that covers 40 per cent of the global economy is expected to be signed Feb. 4, in Auckland New Zealand,
The CTF is a national alliance of Member organizations representing nearly 200,000 teachers across Canada.
The CAUT is the national voice of 68,000 academic and general staff at more than 100 colleges and universities across the country.
As the largest professional federation, EI represents 400 teacher organisations and unions in 171 countries with more than 32 million members.
Canadian Association of University Teachers: Angela Regnier, Communications Officer, email@example.com 613-726-5186; 613-601-6304 (cell).
Canadian Teachers’ Federation: Francine Filion, Director of Communications firstname.lastname@example.org , 613-688-4314 or 613-899-4247 (cell)
Education International: Andrew King, Media and Communications Coordinator at Andrew.email@example.com
GENEVA (2 February 2016) – United Nations human rights expert Alfred de Zayas called on Governments not to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) without reaffirming their human rights treaty obligations and their recent pledges to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
“The TPP is fundamentally flawed and should not be signed or ratified unless provision is made to guarantee the regulatory space of States,” said the UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order in a statement* made public today.
Mr. de Zayas called for a new generation of trade agreements for the 21st century, which would incorporate human rights and development into their provisions, stressing that “the TPP is based on an old model of trade agreements that is out of step with today’s international human rights regime.”
The expert’s appeal comes on the eve of the gathering of the trade ministers in Auckland, New Zealand, on 4 February 2016, to sign the TPP, a trade agreement among twelve Pacific Rim countries that will strengthen the position of investors, transnational corporations and monopolies at the expense of the public, and will impact negatively on labour standards, food security, health and environmental protection.
Mr. de Zayas reiterated his call on the UN system and Governments across the world “to put an end to free trade and investment agreements that conflict with human rights treaty obligations,” made last year during the presentation of a report on free trade and investment agreements to the UN Human Rights Council.
“Trade is not an end in itself, but must be seen in the context of the international human rights regime, which imposes binding legal obligations on States, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” he said.
“Trade agreements are not ‘stand-alone’ legal regimes, but must conform with fundamental principles of international law, including transparency and accountability,” Mr. de Zayas stressed. “They must not delay, circumvent, undermine or make impossible the fulfilment of human rights treaty obligations.”
In his statement, the Independent Expert expressed concern that, despite “enormous opposition by civil society worldwide, twelve countries are about to sign an agreement, which is the product of secret negotiations without multi-stakeholder democratic consultation.”
“The options are not to sign the TPP as it stands, as civil society demands, or not to ratify it, which is the responsibility of democratically elected parliaments,” the expert noted. “Should the TPP ever enter into force, its compatibility with international law should be challenged before the International Court of Justice (ICJ)”.
“If a public referendum were held in all twelve countries concerned, it will be solidly rejected,” Mr. de Zayas stated.
(*) Check the Independent Expert’s public statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=17005&LangID=E
Mr. Alfred de Zayas (United States of America) was appointed as the first Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order by the Human Rights Council, effective May 2012. He is currently professor of international law at the Geneva School of Diplomacy. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IntOrder/Pages/IEInternationalorderIndex.aspx
Read the Independent Expert’s 2015 report to the UN Human Rights Council (A/HRC/30/44): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session30/Pages/ListReports.aspx
Read the Independent Expert’s 2015 report to the UN General Assembly on the incompatibility of ISDS with human rights norms (A/70/285):
The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal – After more than five years of secret negotiations and the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations in the middle of the federal election 2015, Ministers from the 12 TPP countries now plan to meet in Auckland New Zealand on February 4th to formally sign the deal. The timing for the signing matters because it allows countries to begin ratification through their legislative processes.
The Liberal government has committed to being “transparent, open and consultative” with Canadians prior to ratification. As part of this commitment, Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland has embarked in a series of meetings with limited stakeholders while welcoming Canadians to submit suggestions and comments on a government website. The Minister should undertake a rigorous public debate on the impacts of the TPP, including holding public hearings in each province and territory across Canada.
Minister Freeland has said the government has not taken a decision yet, but signing the deal and her reluctance to engage in thorough consultations with some of the largest multisectoral networks in the country does not bode well for the process. These coalitions, the Trade Justice Network (TJN), Common Frontiers and the Quebec Network on Continental Integration (RQIC), are disappointed at Minister Freeland lack of response to repeated invitations from the Mexican Senate to participate in an International Parliamentary dialogue on the TPP along with legislators from United States, Peru, and Chile in Mexico on January 28th. The meeting forms part of a larger international gathering that brings together popular social movements from TPP countries in the Americas who have concerns with the mammoth deal.
By signing this deeply flawed agreement, the Canadian government will take one step closer to increasing restrictions on the ability of governments to regulate in the public interest. These restrictions will cover areas not directly related to trade like quality food production, access to medicines, health care, the internet and digital rights, environment, climate action and labour regulations. The accord will drive down wages and labor conditions; encourage further outsourcing and offshoring, thus contributing to the widening gap of income inequality in Canada and other TPP countries.
The TPP also includes the anti-democratic investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism that allows multinational corporations to sue governments over regulations and policies they feel impact their investment. Such suits are not heard in domestic courts but rather are decided by unaccountable commercial arbitrators. The arbitrators can impose enormous fines against elected governments, and there is no right of appeal. The ISDS threatens democracy constitutional rights, sidesteps and threatens our judicial system, and will cost tax payers tens of millions in awards to corporations suing under ISDS. According to the report of United Nations Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, ISDS threatens human rights and should be banned.
The TPP would also be a step backward on environment protections. With minimal requirements and no enforcement mechanism, the environment chapter - as in previous trade deals - is unenforceable. The chapter includes vague and toothless language that falls short of requiring countries to adopt sound measures against harmful environmental practices and lacks protections for land, air, water, and wildlife. Worse, the accord creates a serious chill effect on governments who will hesitate to enact new legislation to confront challenges like Climate change.
Civil society organizations in Canada and Quebec are alarmed by the fact that despite widespread civil society opposition to the TPP, all signs point to the Canadian government moving ahead and joining the TPP. A report by researchers at Tufts' Global Development and Environment Institute reveals that the deal will cost Canada 58,000 jobs and increase income inequality. Similarly, Canada’s largest private sector union, UNIFOR, says the deal threatens more than 26,000 Canadian auto jobs in both assembling and parts-making. The TPP is a bad deal for Canada and puts the public interest at risk.
Because the entire deal must be ratified as agreed, and no modifications are allowed, it will tie the hands of the Canadian government and legislators for decades. Trade and Investment deals like TPP are only superficially about trade – they are mostly about increasing corporate rights. They seek to fundamentally change the power structures in countries by shifting power to the world’s plutocrats and away from elected governments and domestic courts.
Larry Brown, firstname.lastname@example.org / Trade Justice Network / cel. 613-228-9800
Pierre-Yves Serinet, email@example.com / Réseau québécois sur l’intégration continentale / cel. 438-396-6284
Raul Burbano, firstname.lastname@example.org / Common Frontiers / cel. 416-522-8615
The sale by the Colombian government of its majority stake in power generator Isagen to a subsidiary of Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management raises serious concerns. Medellin- based Isagen is one of Colombia’s biggest power companies with six hydroelectric plants and generates about 16% of the electricity used in Colombia. The sale puts the electrical sovereignty of the country at risk and into the hands of multinational corporations, according to the countries labour groups who are preparing a national strike to protest the sale. This massive privatization of essential public services further entrenches the neoliberal policies that have wreaked havoc on the country. Policies that will lead to increases in the price of water, long term loss of revenue by the state, cuts in public services and further unemployment.
Former Bogotá mayor and past presidential candidate, Gustavo Petro referred to the privatization of ISAGEN as equivalent to privatizing water. An unwise move at a critical time when the country is suffering water shortages in over 238 municipalities and experiencing the impacts of climate change and El Niño. The sale would considerably weaken Colombia’s capacity to develop future energy infrastructure and its control over the energy market and gas self-sufficiency.
With the high level of corruption in Colombia, opponents fear President Santos will use the money to plug a fiscal hole in a country that has seen oil investment stall and the peso fall about 35% in a year.
The move also goes against the spirit of what is being discussed at the negotiation table in Havana and civil society’s call for peace with social justice and the need for state assets to benefit the majority of Colombians, not just multinational corporations.
In Canada we understand the consequences of privatization. The Province of Ontario plans to sell part of its wholly owned electricity transmission and distribution company, Hydro One. Ontario’s independent budget watchdog confirmed the plan is a terrible financial deal for the government and for the people of Ontario. Like Colombians, a large majority of Ontarians oppose the privatization of Hydro One. Hundreds of municipalities across the province and over 40 Chambers of Commerce have passed resolutions opposing the provincial governments plan.
We stand in solidarity with Colombian labour, the Comptroller General, the sixty four Senators, and many in civil society who oppose the deal. Protest grows as thousands have taken to the streets across the country or picketed the Colombian stock exchange in Bogotá.
British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union
Canadian Union of Postal Workers
The Canadian Union of Public Employees
Colombia Working Group
La Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec
Ontario Public Service Employees Union
Public Service Alliance of Canada
Projet Accompagnement Solidarité Colombie
Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation
For more information contact:
Ani Jubinville – Coordinator - Projet Accompagnement Solidarité Colombie, 514 966 8421, email@example.com
Raul Burbano – Program Director - Common Frontiers, 416 522 8615, firstname.lastname@example.org
by Janet M Eaton, PhD
This educational power point presentation with photos, quotes, and references was created to provide historical and contextual knowledge on Corporate Globalization, free trade agreements, and the mega-trade agreements like TPP, TTIP, and CETA as well as information on the nature and specific impacts of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).
Clickable links to video clips provide current audiovisual analysis of subjects covered in the presentation as well. The power point concludes with information on the government’s promises to consult citizens and groups before signing the TPP and makes recommendations for influencing government and becoming engaged in government consultations on the TPP.
By Eva Golinger
Original published at Telesur
Henry Ramos Allup is described as "rude," "repellent" and always "asking for money" in a secret U.S. document.
In a document* classified as secret by the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, Ambassador William Brownfield had strong words about the newly elected president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Henry Ramos Allup. “Accion Democratica’s main problem has a name: Henry Ramos Allup," the document reads. Brownfield, who was ambassador to Venezuela from 2004-2007 called Ramos Allup "crude, abrasive, arrogant and thin-skinned“.
The secret embassy cable was sent on April 17, 2006, eight months before the presidential elections in Venezuela that resulted in the reelection of Hugo Chavez. During the previous year, Ramos Allup had led opposition calls for abstention in the parliamentary elections that took place in December 2005. Brownfield stressed in his text that "Ramos Allup has become perhaps the most vocal advocate of electoral abstention ... Ramos Allup said those who advocated participation in the December 2006 presidential elections would be voting 'with their pants around their ankles. " He has disparaged those who have declared themselves as candidates.”
It’s ironic that the same electoral process Ramos Allup boycotted and denigrated in 2005 has today enabled him to lead parliament.
Accion Democratica, one of the traditional political parties in Venezuela known for corruption, clientelism and neoliberalism has been a major recipient of international financing, violating Venezuelan law that prohibits foreign financing of political parties in the country. Ambassador Brownfield criticized Ramos Allup's reliance on international support. In a section of the secret document entitled "Solve Our Problems For Us," Brownfield wrote, “Rather than court Venezuelan voters, Ramos Allup’s principal political strategy has been to seek help from the international community." Brownfield also revealed that representatives of Accion Democratica (AD) "have explicitly and repeatedly sought funds and favors from the Embassy. When refused by one Embassy official, they ask another."
In his text, Brownfield cites a specific example:
“AD first vice president, Victor Bolivar, who solicited funding from political officer (poloff) organized a meeting in December 2005 with the political counselor (PolCouns) to make the same pitch. When PolCouns changed the subject, Bolivar and his fellow AD officials made the same long, detailed request in English, in case poloff did not understand."
Ambassador Brownfield then recalled more examples of AD’s constant requests for money and favors from the US government: "Former AD National Assembly deputy Pedro Pablo Alcantara calls and visits the Embassy regularly with requests for visas, scholarships for friends, etc. He calls different sections of the embassy if he does not receive what he requests."
Although Henry Ramos Allup has only been the new president of the National Assembly of Venezuela for two days, his authoritarian tendencies are clear. Ramos Allup already flagrantly violated a decision by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) regarding the election of three legislators from Amazonas state, swearing them into office while the election results are still under review. The opposition leader has also abruptly shut off the microphones of socialist legislators, removed the paintings of Simon Bolivar and Hugo Chavez from the National Assembly grounds and has indicated that his main objective is ousting President Maduro within the next six months.
His dictatorial propensity is well known by the US government. Ambassador Brownfield underlined that Ramos Allup "does not support alternative views ... Not only is AD extremely vertically organized, it is also dictatorial."
Finally, Brownfield referred to Ramos Allup in his secret cable, which was sent to the US Secretary of State, the US Southern Command and over a dozen US Embassies in Latin America and the United Nations, as "delusional" and "a relic of the past".
Unfortunately for Venezuela, it’s a past that has returned to haunt the present.
Despite full knowledge of Henry Ramos Allup’s dictatorial and anti-democratic intentions, the State Department congratulated the new “democratic” National Assembly of Venezuela and its "important role advancing and promoting a national dialogue." Far from promoting dialogue, what Ambassador Brownfield described in his cable indicates that Henry Ramos Allup's National Assembly will further divide and destabilize Venezuela.
It’s not new for Washington to support dictatorships and authoritarian governments and leaders in Latin America, so long as they serve US interests and are subordinate to US agenda. Through USAID and NED, the US government has invested millions of dollars in Henry Ramos Allup’s party and his opposition coalition. Never mind if he’s a "delusional", "repellent" and "crude" dictator, because he’s Washington’s delusional, repellent and crude dictator.
The below-signed organizations express our deep anger and solidarity with the people affected by the socio-environmental crime that took place on November 5, 2015 in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. This tragedy was provoked by the rupture of a tailing dam administered by the company Samarco, jointly owned by the Brazilian company Vale and the British-Australian firm BHP Billiton.
This accident, one of the biggest environmental disasters to have occurred in the country, is responsible for the death of an uncountable number of lives, including a number of human lives. The socio-environmental impacts continue to be felt and the full extent of this catastrophe is as of yet unknown, having completely altered the local ecosystem, destroying lives that depended on the Doce river and its surroundings.
We are angered by the death and disappearance of a number of people, including children, and by the social and environmental impacts that are affecting a large part of the population. While compensation for such harms is needed, much of the damage will be irreparable and will have lasting impacts for future generations.
Similarly, this tragedy was not simply an accident, but rather the result of a development model based on the logic of extractivist capitalism that is common in Latin America and in other parts of the world. This model frequently gives rise to serious human rights violations and irreversible environmental impacts from the mining industry. What took place in Minas Gerais is the result of a means of mineral extraction that produce riches for a few, while the lives of thousands of people are negatively impacted from the socio- environmental impacts of these activities.
read more by clicking on one of the links below:
Original document signed by Common Frontiers and 34 other organizations.
Pittsburgh (Dec. 10) – The International Executive Board of the United Steelworkers (USW) today adopted a formal resolution urging rejection of the proposed 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal by both the U.S. Congress and the Canadian federal government.
USW President Leo W. Gerard said the resolution is intended for wide distribution to the union membership in both the U.S. and Canada, setting forth the basis of a fully-engaged TPP rejection campaign in each country.
“The USW is the largest industrial union in North America representing 1.2 million active and retired members who would all be impacted by TPP,” Gerard said. “These workers with family-supportive jobs are employed in virtually every tradable sector: mining, metals, glass, rubber, paper and forestry, automotive and aerospace products.”
Upon release of the USW policy statement, he said it exposes the TPP as bad trade policy with no real enforcement, misplaced priorities and that working families had already suffered far too long from previous free trade deals.
The USW resolution highlighted the union had an earnest expectation workers’ needs in any trade deal would be met. “When negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership began, our union engaged with the negotiators and policymakers with the hope of forging a new approach.”
The statement said the USW sought a trade agreement for the U.S. and Canada “that would lift wages up, rather than pushing them down, one that would reduce our nations’ accumulated trade deficits that continue to mount, one that would promote domestic manufacturing and employment rather than more outsourcing and offshoring, one that would begin to reverse the widening gap of income inequality.”
Venezuelans will go to the polls on December 6 to elect deputies to the National Assembly. A combination of factors have made this one of the most difficult challenges the Bolivarian Revolution has faced in the 17 years since President Chávez was first elected in 1998. In addition to the usual challenges of a profoundly undemocratic opposition and belligerent imperialist provocations we have to add a combination of national and international economic factors which have put Venezuela in a very tight spot and which lead to one conclusion: either the revolution is completed, or it will be defeated.
The collapse in the price of oil, the failure of the attempt to regulate the capitalist market, and open sabotage by the capitalist class have put an end to a situation in which the government was able to implement wide-ranging social reforms without fundamentally taking on the capitalist ownership of the means of production. Those in the Bolivarian leadership who refuse to move in the direction of abolishing capitalism are preparing the movement’s defeat.
The last three years have seen a sharp deterioration of the economic situation in Venezuela. The price of Venezuelan oil in the world market has collapsed. It hovered around $100 a barrel in 2013, went down to $88 in 2014, and has averaged $47 during 2015 so far. In the second week of November it further decreased to $37 a barrel. This has severely constrained the ability of the government to invest money in social programs as well as that of importing food and other products from the world market.
On Friday, November 27th, Garifuna community leader Vidal Leiva was shot three times in Trujillo, Honduras. Leiva survived and is in stable condition but has nevertheless sustained serious injuries to his liver and one of his lungs. Canada-US solidarity organisation Rights Action is collecting emergency funds to support Leiva’s treatement and recovery (click here to donate, a long-time donor will match all donations in December).
Vidal Leiva is the president of the Land Defense Committee of the Garifuna Community of Río Negro y Cristales, which is located in the municipality of Trujillo on Honduras’ Caribbean coast. The community’s ancenstral lands, in theory protected by both Honduran and international law, have been grabbed by various investors over the years, most notably Canadian tourism developers, one of whom - Randy Jorgensen - recently had to appear in court to face charges of illegal land purchases and land usurpation.
OFRANEH, the Black Fraternal Organisation of Honduras, which is helping organise Grifuna communities like Río Negro y Cristales, links Leiva’s shooting to Jorgensen (see full statement here, in Spanish). Joel Ruiz, aka “Cayo”, known by locals to be Jorgensen’s “henchman”, was seen taking pictures of people and leaders who had gathered outside the courthouse to protest during Jorgensen’s court appearance. Jorgensen has also been very friendly with politicians linked to the regime brought to power by the military coup in 2009. Since the trial, members of the Land Defense Committee have recieved anonymous death threats and Leiva’s shooting was carried out one block away from a military outpost.
Despite the climate of fear created by threats and now this shooting, the communities vow to keep on fighting in defense of their ancestral territory, whether the threats are coming from Randy Jorgensen or others like him.
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