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“Kumbaya” and Bullets: The Few Winners and Many Losers with the US-Colombia Free-Trade Agreement


Originally signed five years ago, the US-Colombia “free-trade” agreement, or FTA, has now passed the US Congress, along with similar FTAs with South Korea and Panama. The Bush and Obama administrations expended no small effort promoting the deals, despite Obama’s stated opposition to all three agreements as a presidential candidate and his 2008 denunciation of “leaders [who] change their positions on trade with the politics of the moment” [1]. On October 3rd Obama submitted the FTA legislation to Congress, where the agreements quickly passed despite the opposition of many in the president’s own party.

 
“Free-trade agreement” is convenient shorthand, but it is misleading. Such agreements do not make trade totally free, much less fair. They do not eliminate governments’ role in markets, since US agricultural subsidies and other forms of assistance to corporations are allowed to continue. And while they increase the freedom of corporations and banks to shift around money and offshore their operations, they certainly do not increase the freedom of workers to seek better wages and working conditions by relocating across borders, as in a truly liberalized global economy—indeed, US anti-immigration measures seem to become more draconian and xenophobic every day.
 
Such realities reflect the larger impetus behind FTAs, which have historically proven to produce a few big winners and many millions of losers in all countries involved. The most controversial of the three agreements, the US-Colombia FTA, is an illustrative case, driven by the intertwined interests of corporate profits and US geopolitics.
 
 
Humming "Kumbaya": Corporations euphoric
 
Large US corporations have made little secret of their joy over the FTAs. Big-business organizations like the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Business Roundtable all greeted the introduction of the legislation with gleeful public statements. Agro-business interests like the National Pork Producers Council, theNational Association of Wheat Growers, and U.S. Wheat Associates did likewise. The list of individual corporations that have been lobbying for the FTAs includes many familiar names: General ElectricIBMWal-MartCitigroupCaterpillar. A recent Business Week story on the US-Colombia FTA noted that “companies such as GE, Wal-Mart, and Citigroup” are likely to be “big beneficiaries” from the deal. Last April Caterpillar’s lead lobbyist, William Lane, expressed an optimism about the FTA’s passage and effects that is evidently widespread among corporate lobbyists. “I’m not saying we’re all singing Kumbaya,” he said, “but we’re starting to hum it” [2].
 
Lane’s optimism is well-founded. Large companies in the US technologymining, agribusiness, retail, and finance sectors are likely to make out particularly well under the deals. US corporations will enjoy easier access to the Colombian, Panamanian, and Korean markets, and will often be able to offer lower prices than domestic competitors in those countries. These corporations have strong allies in Congress and the Obama administration, who have assumed the role of salespeople for them overseas. Max Baucus, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, writes in the journal Foreign Policy that Colombia is “a large and growing market for the exports of U.S. farmers, ranchers, and entrepreneurs…It is the second-largest market in South America for U.S. farmers and the third-largest market for U.S. manufacturers,” including those from his home state of Montana. Economist Matías Vernengo points out that the Colombia FTA will also deregulate financial flows in and out of Colombia, greatly increasing the freedom of foreign corporations, financial institutions, and speculators to repatriate profits and financial assets when they please—a formula that has been proven to endanger long-term stability and restrict the power of local governments “to pursue the goals of full employment, higher growth, and better income distribution.” Additional benefits to corporations that move abroad will include increased freedom to pollute, fewer obligations to purchase materials from local sources or to invest money back into local economies, and the ability to sue over government regulations that impede “expected future profits” [3].
 
Of course, lobbyists and politicians tend to be most candid when speaking to the business press and elite foreign policy journals, which they know average people ignore. High-profile public statements instead emphasize the alleged “job creation” motives behind the FTAs, with corporate lobbyists depicted as magnanimous and patriotic citizens rather than profit-driven capitalists. The Business Roundtable, for one, urges passage of the FTAs in order “to help keep the United States competitive and promote U.S. economic growth and jobs…These three trade agreements will also create an estimated 250,000 jobs, which are much needed at a time when more than nine percent of Americans are out of work” [4]. The selfless sympathy for the plight of the US working class on the part of the richest one percent is truly admirable.
 
Underlying all the public statements about exports and job creation is the implicit claim that “what’s good for CEOs and shareholders is good for workers and the general public.” Like cutting taxes for corporations and millionaires, free-trade agreements benefit all parties in society. They are natural, rational, common-sense. According to GE senior counsel Del Renigar, who co-chairs a business lobby known as the Latin America Trade Coalition, “The simple fact is that free trade agreements work” [5].
 
They do indeed work, though for a rather small fraction of the population in each country involved. Sometimes this fact is quietly acknowledged. Veteran financial consultant Joseph Hogue, in an October 4th online posting entitled “How to Profit from the Forthcoming Free Trade Deals,” observes:

 

Though the agreement with South Korea is by far the largest, it is doubtful that even the estimated $10.9 billion boost to exports in the first year of free trade will move the needle on a sluggish economy in the red, white, and blue. It could have a more important effect on your portfolio, especially the portion devoted to emerging markets.

 
Candor seems to come more easily to financial analysts than to politicians and corporate PR specialists. Unencumbered by concerns about public image, and clearly writing for readers with a substantial “portfolio,” Hogue apparently feels no need to perpetuate the silly notion that CEOs and shareholders have the same interests as their janitors.
 
Recent historical experience with free-trade agreements corroborates Hogue’s observation, and also illustrates the negative effects for large swaths of society in each country involved. Nearly two decades of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) provide the best predictor of what the three current FTAs will bring. Contrary to the promises of the US government, corporations, and allied economists prior to 1994, NAFTA has in fact hurt the workforce in all three countries involved [6]. While the expansion of US exports technically did support job creation in the United States, the number of jobs created was less than the number of jobs displaced as a result of corporations shifting their operations to Mexico and the expanding trade deficit that resulted from the agreement; the net loss by 2010 was nearly 700,000, mainly in the manufacturing sector. Displaced workers have joined the ranks of the unemployed or been forced to accept more precarious employment at lower wages. An expanding trade deficit, resulting in a net loss of jobs, is a common result of the seventeen FTAs in which the United States is involved. Free-trade agreements not only fail to help US workers, as Hogue observes, they also actively harm them
 [7].
 
Mexico has fared even worse under NAFTA, losing around 2.5 million jobs linked to agriculture by 2005, due largely to the massive influx of cheap (and highly-subsidized) US grains into the Mexican domestic market. Many new jobs were created during the 1990s and 2000s, but this fact alone is misleading. First, the jobs created did not necessarily outnumber the jobs eliminated in agriculture and small business due to US imports [8]. Second, the average annual rate of job creation declined significantly in the early 2000s compared to the 1990s rate. Third, the jobs created in the maquiladora industry and other sectors have tended to be highly precarious, with low wages and few or no social benefits. Average real wages by 2004 were much lower than they were a decade earlier in most sectors of the economy. As Mexican economist Carlos Salas notes, the Mexican economy as a whole has become more reliant on “product assembly based on imported inputs with little to no link to the rest of the nation’s productive apparatus,” with low wages rather than a skilled labor force the country’s main comparative advantage. The decent-paying jobs that disappeared from the United States did not re-appear in Mexico, but rather vanished completely. The flow of Mexican migrants to the United States also increased dramatically after 1994, another testament to NAFTA’s wondrous achievements in the realm of job creation [9].

In all three countries, NAFTA has resulted in a tremendous increase in the leverage of transnational corporations, which never cease to use the threats of relocation or withdrawal of assets to keep wages and taxes low, working conditions miserable, and environmental standards lax. The dual results are higher corporate profits and power coupled with an accelerating “race to the bottom” among the countries involved, meaning a progressively lower quality of life for the general population in each country. Although the Colombia FTA will not have as large an impact as NAFTA, the history of NAFTA and similar free-trade agreements helps explain the chorus of “Kumbaya” coming from corporate elites [10].

 
Geopolitical benefits
 
Corporate lobbyists and campaign donors are not the only forces behind the trade agreements; the US government’s geopolitical objectives in Latin America also play a key role in the Panama and Colombia deals. For the last decade, the main geopolitical threat to US dominance in Latin America, in the words of US intelligence officials, has been a series of “radical populist governments” which, under pressure from impoverished populations demanding a better life, have promoted “statist” alternatives to “market capitalism” which “directly clash with US initiatives.” For the Obama administration, promoting a “return to a free market economy” in Venezuela, Cuba, and elsewhere is a high priority, especially given the fact that Latin America is the foremost source of oil for the United States. This economic objective is inextricably linked to the geopolitical objective of promoting US-subservient governments that won’t challenge US power or policies. Not just Venezuela and Cuba, but also a host of less radical governments like Brazil’s, have become increasingly critical of US policies and have rejected US ownership over the hemisphere. In this hostile atmosphere, cultivating allies is crucial not just for reasserting control over the region that the US government has long considered its “backyard,” but also for maintaining power and prestige elsewhere. As the National Security Council advised in 1971, maintaining US control over Latin America is almost a prerequisite “to achieve a successful order elsewhere in the world” [11].

Politicians from both parties seem to understand the role of the Colombian and Panamian FTAs in furthering this goal. Democratic Senator Max Baucus notes that Colombia is a strong “strategic ally in an often-troubled region of the world,” while the Republican Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, known for her strident criticisms of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments, speaks of the need to “demonstrate our ongoing commitment” to “key U.S. allies” in the region. In 2007 a group of high-profile Democrats, including current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, sent a letter to Congressional Democrats warning that “U.S. regional influence is at risk” due to governments that are “aggressively promoting an alternative vision for Latin America and the Caribbean.” The letter argued that the passage of FTAs with Peru, Colombia, and Panama “would directly support fundamental relationships and interests in the region.” The right-leaning editors of the Washington Post, meanwhile, have predicted that “the political benefits will be far more significant” than the economic, and a recent New York Times report says that the passage of the FTAs “is important primarily as a political achievement, and for its foreign policy value in solidifying relationships with strategic allies. The economic benefits are projected to be small” [12].

 

The promotion of bilateral FTAs has been a central strategy of the US government in Latin America since the defeat of the Bush administration’s “Free Trade Agreement of the Americas” proposal in 2005. The enactment of the Central America Free Trade Agreement soon after, and of the US-Peru FTA in 2009, have helped ensure corporate-friendly trade regimes in a string of countries stretching from Mexico down the Pacific coast of Central and South America. The passage of the Colombia and Panama FTAs further consolidates this bloc. Not only do such agreements counter the alternative economic integration projects of countries like Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, and Argentina, they also effectively lock in Latin American governments to policies that won’t be easily abrogated by any left-leaning presidents elected in the future [13].
 
 
What “the Colombians” think
 
The benefits of a free-trade agreement are “very clear to Colombians,” according to a 2008 report from the Cato Institute. As evidence, the report’s authors cite a former mayor of the city of Medellín, Sergio Fajardo, who expresses a desire for the United States to “help us solve the problems” in Colombia [14]. Other Colombians besides Fajardo have also been staunch advocates of the FTA. They include Presidents Alvaro Uribe and Juan Manuel Santos, who have shelled out at least several million dollars to multiple lobbying firms in Washington on behalf of the deal. Colombian business executives whose corporations export goods to the United States have also urged passage of the deal. On the continental level, the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America (AACCLA) applauded the Obama administration for sending the FTA to Congress [15].
 
Mayors, presidents, and business executives may seem like a very slim portion of society to the average observer, but to the well-trained pundit and mandarin intellectual they are the Colombians who matter.
 
 
Free trade is killing us as much as bullets are: Some “parochial concerns” 
 
While the many advantages of the US-Colombia FTA are “very clear” to nearly all reasonable people in both the United States and Colombia, only a few labor bureaucrats and Democratic lawmakers with “parochial concerns” have opposed the deal, according to the Cato Institute and other right-wing commentators [16]. For the sake of curiosity, let’s review some of those parochial concerns.
 
Colombia is the worst human rights violator in Latin America, and has been for two decades despite some significant competition. In its June 2011 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights, the International Trade Union Confederation reports that “persecution of trade unions and trade union activity remains systematic” inside the country. Colombia retains its distinction as the country with the most murders of trade unionists in the world, comprising over half (51) of the global total in 2010 (Panama came in third in the Americas, with six trade unionists killed; US ally Guatemala was second with ten). A recent Human Rights Watch report notes a “chronic lack of accountability for cases of anti-union violence.” The same report also observes that most anti-union killings occur at the hands of right-wing paramilitaries (a finding confirmed by other recent studies), and that frequently there is evidence of collaboration with “members of the security forces or intelligence services.” In the past several years there have also been dozens of peasant murders and ongoing forced displacement of rural communities, to the tune of 200,000 people each year, likewise amidst an atmosphere of “generalized impunity,” according to a March 2010 UN report. Sexual violence is widespread, reflecting in part the “endemic failure” of the Colombian state to prosecute assailants, who enjoy a climate of “deeply-entrenched impunity,” according to a September report by Amnesty International. Priests are frequently murdered for speaking out against poverty and oppression [17].

 

One of the key enablers of this violence is, of course, the US government. Colombian military and police forces, which have long been known to collaborate with right-wing paramilitaries, have received over $2.2 billion in US aid over the past five years. Moreover, there is a direct correlation between US aid and paramilitary violence, as recent studies by the Center for Global Development and the Fellowship of Reconciliation and US Office on Colombia have concluded [17]. President Juan Manuel Santos, inaugurated in 2010, has done little to improve the situation, despite effusive praise from Washington for “notable improvements in the human rights situation.” The trade agreement with Colombia will only reinforce this signal from Washington [18].
 
Colombia’s horrible human rights record has gotten some attention from liberals, but the negative consequences of the FTA go far beyond simply encouraging right-wing violence. Colombian unions and grassroots movements representing workers, peasants, women, and ethnic minorities often argue that neoliberal economics is just as harmful as military and paramilitary violence. According to Gustavo Triana of the CUT, Colombia’s biggest union federation, “Free trade is killing us as much as bullets are” [19].
 
Figures from Colombia’s own Ministry of Agriculture speak to this parochial concern. In 2004 the Ministry estimated that the full elimination of tariffs on agricultural products—required under the FTA for Colombia, though not for the United States—would reduce employment by 35 percent. The same study noted that a free-trade agreement with the United States would leave many peasant farmers with three choices: “migration to the cities or other countries (especially the United States), working in drug cultivation zones, or affiliating with illegal armed groups.” The situation in the Colombian countryside is already dire, with 1.15 percent of landowners controlling 52 percent of the land and three-quarters of the country’s rural residents, or about 11 million people, living in poverty. But there is always room to get even worse [20]. 

 
An April 2011 open letter to Presidents Obama and Santos from two dozen peasant, indigenous, and environmental organizations in Colombia further elaborates on Triana’s parochial concern. The signatories warn that the FTA “will have grave consequences on our lives, our existence and territories,” and “will only lead to a deepening of human rights [violations], environmental degradation, and irreparable environmental damage, extinction of indigenous communities, internal displacement and unjust labor practices. As such, this decision will become a new destabilizing factor that will just lead to increased environmental and food crises.” The letter also observed that paramilitaries throughout the country “continue to act in collusion with the security forces,” with “companies and industrialists” the “beneficiar[ies] of paramilitaries and para-politics.” A similar letter from over fifty of Colombia’s largest unions and social movement organizations denounced “the FTA’s greatly damaging aspects regarding [the] economic and social rights of the Colombian population” such as “the flooding  of  agricultural imports into our domestic market” and the likelihood that pharmaceutical corporations will use intellectual property laws to deprive Colombians of access to essential medicines. A statement from Colombia’s national indigenous federation echoed many of the same concerns, while the Black Communities’ Process of Colombia (PCN) titled its letter on the FTA “Expropriation, Repression, and Death” [21].

Public opinion polls inside Colombia tend to be unreliable, since pollsters often focus on relatively well-to-do urban Colombians with telephones to the exclusion of the millions of rural farmers and communities who will be most hard-hit by the FTA. Even so, some polls suggest that more Colombians oppose the FTA than support it [22]. But such evidence is irrelevant to mainstream commentators. Colombian elites tend to support the FTA, so therefore “Colombians” support it.

Likewise in the United States, where the interests and wishes of government leaders and economic elites are routinely portrayed as those of the general public. But the actual poll evidence is interesting. A September 2010 poll by two news outlets with close ties to corporations that will benefit from the current FTAs—NBC and the Wall Street Journal—found that 53 percent of the public thinks free-trade agreements “have hurt the United States,” while only 17 percent think they have helped. Sixty-nine percent think that free-trade agreements have “cost the U.S. jobs.” Other polls from recent years have yielded approximately similar results, with public aversion to “free trade” apparently on the rise [23]. In other words, many of the parochial concerns mentioned above are actually shared by a majority of the US public, and perhaps by most Colombians too.

Even though the three current FTAs have now passed, large coalitions of grassroots organizations in the three respective countries, and a small but growing movement here in the United States, have established the foundations for the protracted struggle that will be necessary to mitigate the deals’ negative effects and to build a more meaningful democracy in our respective societies. In many ways the transnational opposition to the current FTAs echoes the pro-democracy movements that have sprung up around the world during 2011, from the Arab world to Europe to Wisconsin, to the current occupation of Wall Street by thousands of students, union members, unemployed, and community activists. All these movements are united by the simple premise that people, rather than unaccountable institutions, should have control over the decisions that impact their own lives. Like the protesters on Wall Street or the pro-democracy demonstrators in the Arab world, those parochial interests who have opposed the free-trade agreements stubbornly refuse to accept the unspoken argument conveyed by politicians, corporate leaders, and mainstream commentators: that some people matter, and most people don’t.

 
 
 
Notes
 
*This article was originally written prior to the FTAs' passage, but has been updated to reflect their approval by the US Congress.

[1] “Barack Obama’s Feb. 12 Speech,” New York Times, February 12, 2008, quoted in Matías Vernengo, “The Colombia FTA: Only Corporations Win,” NACLA Report on the Americas 44, no. 3 (May/June 2011): 47. See also Laura Carlsen, “The Audacity of Free Trade Agreements,” Foreign Policy in Focus, July 14, 2011. On some of the potential effects of the Panama deal, see Tereza Coraggio, “Panama: Free-Trade Tax Haven,” FPIF, September 14, 2011.
 
[2] According to Wikipedia, the origins of the song Kumbaya are unclear, but it “was originally associated with human and spiritual unity, closeness and compassion”—evidently Lane’s sentiments toward his fellow corporate leaders. See Mark Drajem, “The Benefits of a U.S.-Colombia Free-Trade Deal,” Business Week (April 14, 2011).
 
[3] Baucus, “A Market for Good: Why American Workers Need the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement,” Foreign Policy (April 22, 2011); Vernengo, “The Colombia FTA: Only Corporations Win,” 48. On financial deregulation requirements and the provision that allows corporations to sue, see also Public Citizen, “Talking Points: Colombia’s Horrific Labor Abuses Are Among a Long List of Reasons to Oppose the Colombia FTA,” April 7, 2011, pp. 3-5.
 
[4] “Business Roundtable Statement on White House Submission of the Trade Agreements to Congress,” October 3, 2011.
 
[5] LATC, “Business Coalition Welcomes Next Steps for U.S.-Colombia and U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreements,” October 3, 2011.
 
[6] Robert E. Scott, Carlos Salas, and Bruce Campbell, Revisiting NAFTA: Still Not Working for North America’s Workers, Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper #173 (September 26, 2006). One indication of the US media's cheerleading for the FTAs comes in an October 27 New York Times op-ed by political scientist Layna Mosley, who argues that the FTAs will lead to higher wages, more jobs, and stronger labor protections in all the countries involved ("Free Trade Can Lift Labor Standards Abroad"). Mosley could just as plausibly have maintained that gnomes and leprechauns would take over the world.
 
[7] Robert E. Scott, “NAFTA’s Legacy: Rising Trade Deficits Lead to Significant Job Displacement and Declining Job Quality for the United States,” Part 1 in Revisiting NAFTA, 4, 11, 13; Scott, Heading South: U.S.-Mexico Trade and Job Displacement After NAFTA, EPI Briefing Paper #308 (May 3, 2011), 5; Public Citizen, “Talking Points,” 5.
 
[8] Carlos Salas discusses the difficulty in determining exactly how many jobs were created in the maquiladora industry due to NAFTA in “Between Unemployment and Insecurity in Mexico: NAFTA Enters Its Second Decade,” in ibid., 44 (on job loss/creation, see pp. 42-46). The figure of 2.5 million is cited in John B. Judis, “Trade Secrets: The Real Problem with NAFTA,” New Republic (April 9, 2008).
 
[9] Ibid., 40-49. See also David Bacon, Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Boston: Beacon Press, 2008); Collin Harris, “NAFTA & [the] Political Economy of Immigration,” Z Magazine 23, no. 7 (July 2010).
 
[10] On the Central America Free Trade Agreement, see the Stop CAFTA Coalition’s Third Annual Monitoring Report, DR-CAFTA: Effects and Alternatives (n.d. [ca. December 2008]).
 
[11] For citations see my “Two, Three, Many Colombias: The Logic and Consequences of the US Vision for Latin America,” Foreign Policy in Focus/ZNet, December 29, 2010/January 13, 2011.
 
[12] Baucus, “A Market for Good”; “Ros-Lehtinen Welcomes Announcement that Long-Delayed Trade Pacts Will Be Sent to Congress…” House Foreign Affairs Committee, October 3, 2011; Panetta, et al., “Open Letter to Congressional Democrats,” Latin Business Chronicle, September 24, 2007. The authors of the latter apparently miss the extreme irony in their denunciation of those who promote “an alternative vision for Latin America and the Caribbean,” long the globe’s most unequal region and the most dangerous region of the world for union activists—to cite just two telling indicators of the historic and ongoing achievements of imperialism, capitalism, and racism. “Mr. Obama’s Free-Trade Deal with Colombia,” Washington Post, April 6, 2011; Binyamin Appelbaum and Jennifer Steinhauer, “Trade Deals Pass Congress, Ending 5-Year Standoff,” New York Times, October 13, 2011. 

[13] See Vernengo, “The Colombia FTA: Only Corporations Win,” 47-48; Greg Grandin, “Muscling Latin America,” Nation (January 21, 2010).

 
[14] David Griswold and Juan Carlos Hidalgo, “A U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement: Strengthening Democracy and Progress in Latin America,” Free Trade Bulletin no. 32 (CATO Institute, February 6, 2008). The Fajardo quote actually comes from David J. Lynch, “Colombia Works to Escape Its Past,” USA Today, October 4, 2007; Griswold and Hidalgo cite another portion of the quote.

[15] Eric Lipton and Steven R. Weisman, "Wide Net Cast by Lobby for Colombia Trade Pact," NYT, April 8, 2008; Kevin Bogardus, "Colombia Boosts Lobbying for Trade Deal," The Hill, May 15, 2011; Lynch, "Colombia Works to Escape Its Past"; "AACCLA Cheers the Obama Administration on the U.S.-Colombia and U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreements," press release, October 3, 2011.
 
[16] Griswold and Juan Carlos Hidalgo, “A U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.”
 
[17] Different organizations give slightly different figures for the number of unionists killed in 2010. The June 2011 ITUC report originally said 49, which has apparently since been revised to 45; I cite the figure of 51 from the Colombian Escuela Nacional Sindical because of the organization’s closer proximity to Colombian politics and its proven reliability over the years. See also US Labor Education in the Americas Project (USLEAP), “Violence Against Colombian Trade Unionists: Fact vs. Myth,” June 2011; Public Citizen, “Talking Points," 1-3; James Jordan, “The Pending US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement: False Claims Versus Hard Realities,” Upside Down World, September 6, 2011; website of the Latin America Working Group. On paramilitary responsibility see AP, “Study: Colombia Anti-Union Violence Undeterred,” October 2, 2011; Fiscalía General de la Nación (Colombia), Judicialización de los crímenes contra sindicalistas: análisis de las sentencias proferidas de 2000 a 2011 por la justicia colombiana (undated [September or October 2011?]), 42. The last study compiled data on 315 murderers, 64 percent of whom (201) belonged to the right-wing paramilitary group AUC and/or Colombian security forces. US multinationals like Drummond, Chiquita, and Coca-Cola have been implicated in many such murders. On sexual violence see Amnesty International, “This Is What We Demand. Justice!” Impunity for Sexual Violence Against Women in Colombia’s Armed Conflict (September 2011). On the six priests killed thus far in 2011, see “Van seis sacerdotes asesinados en lo corrido del 2011,” El Tiempo (Bogotá), cited in Dan Kovalik, “In the Lion’s Den: US and Colombia Escalate Attacks on Liberation Church,” Counterpunch, September 14, 2011.


[18] “U.S. Government Recognizes Significant Progress on Human Rights in Colombia,” Undated press release posted on Embassy of Colombia website, quoting the State Department’s latest annual human rights report; Carlsen, “The Audacity of Free Trade Agreements.”For more information and citations regarding US military/police aid and knowledge of death squads, see my “Two, Three, Many Colombias: The Logic and Consequences of the US Vision for Latin America.” 
 
[19] Quoted in Lynch, “Colombia Works to Escape Its Past.”
 
[20] Ministry of Agriculture study and FAO rural poverty statistic (from 2006) cited in Public Citizen, “Talking Points,” 5-6, 8; I was unable to obtain more recent FAO data due to a problem with the organization's website. On the inequality of land ownership (one of the worst in the world) see the recent report by the UN Development Program in Colombia (PNUD), Colombia rural: Razones para la esperanza (September 2011), discussed in “Tierra concentrada, modelo fracasado,” Semana (Bogotá), September 25, 2011. It’s important to note here that poverty statistics can be highly politicized, and different means of measuring Colombian poverty yield drastically different results. By government measures, Colombia’s official overall poverty rate (by income) is 64 percent. One World Bank estimate from 2009 says 46 percent, while an apparently different estimate for 2009 in the World Bank’s “databank” says 40 percent, and a statistic from what seems to be a still different World Bank set of measurements says 28 percent as of 2011. USAID figures as of 2011 say “approximately half” of the population. Last year Colombia established a “multidimensional poverty index” according to which the poverty rate is only 9 percent. See World Bank, “Country Brief: Colombia” (accessed October 7, 2011); Jonathan Glennie, “Colombia’s New Index to Measure Poverty Merits a Cautious Welcome,” Guardian, August 30, 2011; USAID, Colombia Country Profile (accessed October 7, 2011).
 
[21] Asociación de Zonas Humanitarias y de Biodiversidad de la cuenca del Jiguamiandó, y Curvaradó-Chocó, et al., to Obama and Santos, April 13, 2011 (English translation by the Washington Office on Latin America), 2-3; Red Colombiano de Acción frente al Libre Comercio/Colombian Action Network on Free Trade, “Open Letter to President Juan Manual Santos,” May 30, 2011; Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia/National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), “Press Release on the FTA,” April 11, 2011; Proceso de Comunidades Negras/Process of Black Communities of Colombia (PCN), “Expropriation, Repression, and Death: The Colombia-U.S. FTA and the Rights of Afro-Colombian Communities,” April 11, 2011. See also the recent (June 2011?) letter from 431 organizations in the US and Colombia to members of the US Congress and Obama administration.
 
[22] Garry Leech, “Despite FTAA Defeat at Americas Summit, Free Trade to Be Imposed on Colombians,” Colombia Journal, November 7, 2005.
 
[23] John Harwood, “53% in US Say Free Trade Hurts Nation: NBC/WSJ Poll,” CNBC, September 28, 2010; other polls listed at www.PollingReport.com/trade.htm.

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