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Global Exchange's Labor Delegation to Colombia
November 10-18, 2001
(dates have changed)

Please take a moment to look over this invitation and note that the dates have changed. Get in touch with me for any questions.
--
Sandra C. Alvarez
Global Exchange
Colombia Program
sandra@globalexchange.org

2017 Mission Street #303
San Francisco, CA 94110
415.255.7296 ext.228 or
800.497.1994
415.255.7498 fax

As you may be painfully aware, labor activists in Colombia are being targeted for murder. In the last 18 months 200 union members have been assassinated in the South American nation. This tragedy means more trade unionists are being slain in this single country of 40 million people than in all other countries of the world combined. In addition, International Monetary Fund-sponsored cuts sparked protests of hundreds of thousands teachers and healthcare workers across the country in May and June. If ever there were a moment when international labor solidarity is needed, the moment is now.

In July, the CUT (Confederation of Trade Unionists), Colombia's largest union federation, requested that Global Exchange organize a delegation of US labor union activists from the United States to meet directly with Colombian unionists and their allies. We have enthusiastically taken up this challenge because we agree that US citizens and especially labor unionists have an important role to play in informing US public opinion and shifting US policies that are dangerously fueling Colombia's conflict.

The CUT has requested the visit because of their awareness of the political influence that labor wields in the US. The AFL-CIO adopted a strong resolution last year opposing US military support for Plan Colombia. It is important that this resolution become as widely known as possible and that activists see for themselves the impacts of US military aid on trade unionists.

In addition to this request for your participation in a delegation to Colombia, there are many actions that can be taken, including getting your union to pass a similar resolution and contacting your representatives with these statements. Colombian unionists are looking to people like you to educate your fellow workers and take the lead in pressuring Congress to reevaluate our misguided militarized policies toward their country.

CUT leaders are convinced, as are we at Global Exchange, that a firsthand visit to Colombia is the best way for US unionists to meet their fellow trade unionists, show their solidarity and to really understand the impact of US military aid on Colombia. In recent visits to Colombia we have been inspired by the bravery of Colombian unionists and human rights advocates who struggle for peace and justice in the face of daunting obstacles. The complex conflict in Colombia victimizes the entire population‹trade unionists are by no means its only victims. Human rights defenders, educators, journalists, Indigenous, Afro-Colombians, peace communities, student leaders and women's groups have also been targeted. In the last 10 years over 35,000 Colombians have perished in political violence that is overwhelmingly carried out by well financed, right-wing paramilitary organizations with links to the drug trade and the US-supported Colombian military.

Based upon the invitation from the CUT and the interest in Colombia expressed during conversations with other union activists or labor-focused organizations based in the US, we are preparing a delegation for November of 2001. The delegation will not only meet with different trade unions, but also with other peace advocates, non-governmental organizations, and human rights groups that are working to promote negotiated, democratic alternatives to the downward spiral of violence in Colombia. We believe that these groups collectively represent a "peace offensive" that is absolutely crucial for the construction of peace with justice in Colombia, and that it merits the full support of labor and peace activists in the United States.

Our recent trips to Colombia have made it clear to us that with routine security measures (primarily to minimize the threats from ordinary crime) Americans are relatively safe in Colombia. The CUT and Global Exchange are taking the necessary precautions to insure the safety of participants on the delegation. In fact, our presence also gives higher profile and a degree of protection to threatened union activists who we visit.

As well, we can assure you that the "Colombia" portrayed in the US through widely-held, stereotypical misconceptions is not the Colombia that you would visit. Colombia is, in fact, a remarkable nation‹culturally rich and diverse, physically beautiful and with a strong sense of self‹as are the Colombian people, a truth that makes the country¹s current situation even more painful. Know that your visit could help to create the solution that is the end to Colombia¹s pain.

The following proposed itinerary outlines the meetings and events we anticipate attending. However, we welcome your input in the construction of the itinerary.

The itinerary includes:
  • Overview of the Colombian political system and grassroots efforts to create a more open and true democracy

  • Visits to union halls, government offices and work sites.

  • Meetings with trade unionists from a variety of sectors, including Sinaltrainal, the union representing bottling plant workers in Colombia for Coca-Cola, and FECODE, the main teachers union.

  • Meetings with human rights and peace groups


The cost of the delegation is $1000 per person, which will include travel inside Colombia, accommodations, meals, translation, and reading materials beforehand. Attached is an application form to complete and return to our office September 15th with a deposit of $150. Please direct the application to Sandra Alvarez, Global Exchange, 2017 Mission St. Suite 303, San Francisco, CA 94110.

Tentative Itinerary

Day 1--Arrive in Bogotá.
Late afternoon: Meeting with member of Witness for Peace, on the ground delegation partners ­ introduction, orientation, logistics, safety.

Day 2--Bogotá
Morning: Welcome breakfast, orientation with CUT, the largest confederation of trade unionists in Colombia. Noon: Meeting with Ricardo Esquivia, Director of Justapaz, member of Concejo Nacional de Paz ­ introduction, political climate of Colombia, peace process.
Afternoon: Meeting with Beethoven Herrera, economist ­ discussion of Colombian economy, national economic policy.

Day 3--Bogotá
Morning: Meeting with United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
Noon: Meeting with union members of USO (oil workers union), SINTRAINAL (Coca Cola bottlers currently suing Coca Cola), union of journalists.
Afternoon: Meeting with representative of the ILO.

Day 4--Bogotá
Morning: Meeting with Ricardo Vargas, Accion Andina ­ discussion of the failure of US drug policy in the Andes, especially Colombia.
Afternoon: Meeting with member of FEDEGAN, national federation of cattle ranchers ­ presentation of their conservative viewpoint and reasons for supporting Plan Colombia.

Day 5--Bogotá
Morning: Meeting with the Colombian Secretary of Labor Afternoon: Meeting with member of ONIC, National Organization of Indigenous Peoples of Colombia - discussion of conflict and natural resources of Colombia and the impact this is having on indigenous populations.

Day 6 and 7‹Medellín or other city
Meetings and site visits with unions
Discussions with workers about labor movement, US policy and international support needed
Prepare for meeting at Embassy and possible press conference

Day 8--Bogotá
Morning: Meet with US Embassy.
Afternoon: Press conference (possibly)
Evening: Group discussion of follow up

Day 9
Leave for home destinations.

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