Colombia is starting a public relations offensive in Washington D.C.
to change the perception of the country in the United States’ political
According to television network Bloomberg, Colombia will put 40 eight-foot-high, three-dimensional fiberglass heart
sculptures around downtown. At Union Station near the Capitol,
visitors will also be able to download free Colombian music,
sample the country’s coffee and see pictures of buildings in
Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena.
The offensive, worth US$800,000, is funded by the Colombian government and wealthy associations like that of flower and coffee growers who hope to benefit from a free trade agreement with the U.S.
The trade pact was signed by former U.S. President George W. Bush, but is stalled in Congress.
Current President Barack Obama said he has instructed U.S. Trade
Representative Ron Kirk to negotiate changes to the agreement
that would allow Congress to approve it. Those talks began in
Washington last week. Colombia also was told to visibly improve the situation of labor rights workers and fight impunity for those who commit crimes against labor rights organizations.
Democrats such as Representative Phil Hare of Illinois and
unions such as the AFL-CIO federation oppose the deal, saying
the government of President Alvaro Uribe tolerates murders of
labor leaders and hasn’t made necessary changes to improve the
rights of workers.
“This is an enormous waste of money and time,” Thea Lee,
policy director of the AFL-CIO, of the Colombian public
relations effort in a phone interview with Bloomberg Friday. “They should
instead use these resources to address the very serious issues
with respect to violence and labor law reform.”