U.S. Congress should see that human rights commitments made by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos are “vigorously enforced,” Human Rights Watch said after Santos and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama announced progress towards a free trade agreement between the two countries.
“The Obama administration has rightly recognized the need to condition FTA ratification on protections for Colombian trade unionists, who have for decades been killed in record numbers,” said José Miguel Vivanco, director of The Americas at Human Rights Watch. “But today’s commitments, while very important in some areas, avoid an issue at the heart of the problem: the continued operation of the powerful armed groups behind the bulk of anti-union violence and other abuses,” he added.
Vivanco demanded that an action plan, presented by Bogota and Washington on Friday, “will need to be vigorously enforced, with compliance measured in terms of concrete results.”
The Americas director of HRW also demanded the Colombian government act against neo-paramilitary groups.
“While the Santos government has announced a new strategy to go after these groups, the omission of this issue from the Action Plan has eliminated an important incentive for following through,” Vivanco said.
Obama and Santos met Thursday in the White House to discuss the steps that follow an agreement on labor laws and violence in Colombia. The labor agreement was a fundamental demand of the Obama administration before introducing a free trade pact to Congress.