Colombia’s labor laws do not meet international standards and killers of union activists enjoy a nearly total “impunity”, charges a 15-page letter sent by a U.S. Congressional representative to President Álvaro Uribe in advance of the head of state’s arrival in Washington Tuesday.
Democratic Representative George Miller, of California, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, is one of a score of U.S. officials Uribe will meet with during his three-day trip to the American capital to boost a free trade agreement which is held up by Democrats, mainly over human rights issues.
Judging from the letter, the Colombian president can expect a cordial but demanding meeting.
“Our two ally nations should work together to help Colombia improve its labor laws, decrease the ongoing violence, and finally put an end to the impunity enjoyed by those who have perpetrated thousands of anti-labor killings,” wrote Miller in the letter, after earlier noting he was “very pleased” to hear of Uribe’s visit and describing Colombia as “beautiful.”
Miller cites figures of the Escuela Nacional Sindical, a Colombian NGO, that nearly 2,700 Colombian union activists have been murdered since 1986. The vast majority of cases remain uninvestigated by the Colombian Attorney General’s Office, they say. This year killings have ramped up, with more in first eight months than all of 2007.
The U.S Representative spares no reprimands for his own government, noting that Congress approved $39 million last year to improve the rule of law and human rights in Colombia, including $5 million for Colombian prosecutors to address the backlog of murder investigations, but the Bush administration has “inexplicably” delayed the distribution of these funds.
Miller visited Bogota earlier in the year on a fact finding mission regarding the country’s labor situation. He met with a variety of union and government representatives, along with NGOs.