November 2, 2007

Colombia lobbying for a trade deal

Congressional Democrats who are delaying action on a proposed trade deal with Colombia, saying violence against labor leaders there too often goes unpunished, are acting mostly for "domestic politics," according to Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos.

Santos said Colombia, which has been embroiled in armed conflict for four decades, has made great progress in recent years reducing violence, including against union leaders. And he disputed claims that most of the roughly 300 killings of labor leaders the past five years were linked to their union activities. This year, for example, 15 of 16 murders of union officials that were prosecuted stemmed from "common criminal issues," he said. Following a speech to the Council of the Americas, are part of an ongoing Colombian lobbying effort to save the embattled trade deal, one of four agreements awaiting congressional action. A trade deal with Peru is expected to face a House vote early next week. Congress will not take up proposed treaties with Colombia, Panama or South Korea before 2008.

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