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
2017 Mission Street #303
San Francisco, CA 94110
415.255.7296 ext.228 or
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
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.
Day 1--Arrive in Bogotá.
Late afternoon: Meeting with member of Witness for Peace, on
the ground delegation partners introduction, orientation, logistics,
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,
Afternoon: Meeting with Beethoven Herrera, economist discussion
of Colombian economy, national economic policy.
Morning: Meeting with United Nations Commission on Human
Noon: Meeting with union members of USO (oil workers union),
SINTRAINAL (Coca Cola bottlers currently suing Coca Cola), union of
Afternoon: Meeting with representative of the ILO.
Morning: Meeting with Ricardo Vargas, Accion Andina
discussion of the failure of US drug policy in the Andes, especially
Afternoon: Meeting with member of FEDEGAN, national federation of
cattle ranchers presentation of their conservative viewpoint and
reasons for supporting Plan Colombia.
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
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
Morning: Meet with US Embassy.
Afternoon: Press conference (possibly)
Evening: Group discussion of follow up
Leave for home destinations.