This post was written by The Nation’s DC intern, Cal Colgan.
Earlier this week, Congress passed trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, and the president will undoubtedly sign them into law. The Obama administration claims the agreements will increase exports by $13 billion and support tens of thousands of US jobs. The deals were stalled in Congress for five years over concerns they would hurt American jobs, but many centrist Dems lent their support when the House proposed a bill to protect workers hurt by foreign competition.
But for all rhetoric about protecting American workers, most mainstream media outlets only had passing mention of the Colombia deal’s actual effect on that country’s labor movement. A few paltry sentences in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and CNN were all the non-savvy news consumer got about the issue.
The truth is that despite the claims of Angelino Garzón, the former Communist Party leader-turned-vice president, there have not been many improvements in the Colombian government’s treatment of union activists.
True, if one were to measure the carnage by Colombian standards, the murders of union activists have dropped significantly, as the Miami Herald reports:
During the first nine months of the year, there were 22 union-member assassinations in Colombia. In 2010, there were 51 murders. While it’s still a global record, it’s down dramatically from 1996 and 2002, when there were 281 and 201 union-member homicides, respectively.
But twenty-two assassinations is still a large number for a country that—in the words of Garzón—claims to be making “tremendous progress in defending human rights and in protecting and working with unions.”