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Colombia: News & Updates

Colombia has the world’s second largest population of internally displaced persons (five million) due to the half-century internal armed conflict—the longest-running war in the Western Hemisphere (since 1964). Control for territory and popular support among the three main groups (left-wing rebel forces FARC & ELN, right-wing paramilitaries, Colombian police/military) has left 220,000 killed, 75% of them non-combatants.  Since 2000, the US has exacerbated the violence by sending more than $9 billion in mostly military assistance. Colombia, which has both Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, holds strategic interest for the US for global trade and military posturing.


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More than 1,000 palm oil workers on strike outside San Alberto, Colombia are seeking recognition as employees. As subcontracted workers, they have no rights under Colombia’s labor laws, including freedom of association and the right to negotiate working conditions.

The workers walked off the Indupalma plantation on Thursday, after 668 out of 682 palm oil workers cast their ballots for a strike in a vote observed by the regional director of the Colombia Ministry of Labor.

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The US Department of Labor issued a progress assessment calling on Colombia to more fully comply with obligations outlined in the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement [of 2012], noting “lack [of] a national inspection strategy” and neglect of “associational rights of workers.” “Today’s update merely calls for continued consultation, monitoring, and assessment over the upcoming year – this is simply not good enough, given the depth of the problems and how long they have been festering. We need more proactive action and for this Administration to focus and engage with Congress to ensure all our trading partners have fair labor standards.” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), member of the Colombia Monitoring Group of the House Ways & Means Subcommitte on Trade, US Congress
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In the last year, 170 leaders and social activists known for their various missions in defense of indigenous rights, coca rights substitution, Afro-Colombian rights, labor rights, and LGBTQ. The majority of violence has erupted in sectors left vacant by the guerrilla groups, which have since been invaded by paramilitary groups. Of all of these, trade unions have risen to the top in the number of the nation's homicides and victims of violence and death threats, making Colombia the most dangerous nation for union members in the world. Over the last 20 years, about 3,000 unionists have been murdered with an outrageous rate of impunity at 87 percent, with thousands of death threats never being investigated.