Activists protest Colombia FTA outside White House

Close to one hundred activists gathered outside the White House Monday,
asking President Obama to make a radical change to the U.S.’s political relationship with Colombia. The activists sought to attract attention to the humanitarian crisis of mass displacement caused by the armed conflict in Colombia.

The activists claim that 4 million people have been displaced in Colombia. The south American nation is believed to have the second highest incidence of displacement caused by internal armed conflict in the world, after Sudan.

During the protest activists held up banners covered with 4,000 multi-color paper dolls, one for each 1,000 displaced people. They also held banners protesting against the free trade agreement with Colombia and against the continuation of Plan Colombia. They believe these initiatives will only worsen the crisis.

At the Fifth Annual Summit of the Americas held in Trinidad and Tobago over the weekend, President Obama promised a new era of cooperacion and team work with Latin America.

Ben Beachy, a member of U.S. organization Witnesses for Peace told El Espectador that if Obama is serious about change in the region, then there is no future for either Plan Colombia or the free trade agreement.

Witnesses for Peace say Obama needs to make a radical change to policies on Colombia. The group has mounted a national campaign to pressure Congress and the White House through letters and emails to set a new political goal for Colombia, which prioritize social and humanitarian aid.

Executive Director of Witnesses for Peace Melinda St. Louis said that
simultanous protests had been organized in Washington, New York,
Chicago, Portland, San Francisco and Los Ángeles.

Obama, who expressed concern in the past over human rights abuses and anti-union violence in Colombia, instructed his Trade
Representative Ron Kirk to begin free trade talks last Friday
.

Colombia, which has hosted several delegations of U.S. senators recently, signed the agreement with the U.S. in 2006. It’s ratification has been blocked by the Democrats in U.S. congress.

Kirk will meet with Colombian Minister for Commerce, Industry and Trade Luis Guillermo
Plata next week to analyze the pending obstacles to the agreement.

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