Recuperado de: https://www.laprogressive.com/free-trade-colombia/
There has always existed a debate about how beneficial is the presence of the U.S in our country. The debate has always been in favor of American investment in our territory. However, in the recent years, with the terrible realization that despite the American millionaire investment, the poor population is still being marginalized. In most cases we only export the raw material and not the final product (which is the real gain), and that our products have not been valued, the balance has inclined its weight a bit against this U.S aid policy. We have realized that we are not "Americans, working for the development of America as a whole continent", but we are just a Latin American country working to increase the economic growth of North America. In addition, the Colombian government allows the U.S companies to participate in the Colombian market with their own employees, which means fewer new job opportunities for Colombian citizens. Moreover, Colombian farmers are obligated to sell their products at a low price, while the American companies insert their manufactured goods (made with Colombian raw material) and sell them at an extremely high cost. As if that weren't enough, all the American companies seem to forget the basic principle of "environmental responsibility". They come to our country and leave behind a stele of contamination, which clearly affects the health of our people. These are not isolated acts, these are clear and systematic violations of human rights.
Since the beginnings of the relations between North America and Colombia, there has been a great interest from the U.S to promote economic development in Colombia. An interest that has not been cataloged as altruistic and selfless.
This interest and the aid they have provided are, as the popular saying recalls: a wolf in sheep's clothing. Like all developed countries, the United States offers to a certain type of aid to the developing world, which apparently seeks to help stimulate their economic growth and to implement or improve the democratic model of governance. However, this aid is actually a financial strategy called "tied aid", which seeks to promote U.S. economic interests, not the interests of the country that is receiving the "treasured aid", not even the interests of both countries equally.
Colombia is a rich country in natural resources with a huge political inclination for doing millionaire long-term agreements with the North Star. This one is a policy better known by the experts as Respice Polum. Its definition is:
The tendency to align Colombia's economic interests with those of Washington. This term, coined by President Suarez himself, implied that the country should direct its foreign policy toward the "Polar Star" of the North, the United States, which led the country to adopt a pragmatic position of subordination toward the United States. (Tickner, 2003).
Colombia is one of those countries, which opens its boundaries to the North American investment with the purpose and the hopes of promoting its prosperity and economic development. However, in return it receives a "tied aid", that according with the Official Website of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) means: "offering aid on the condition that it be used to procure goods or services from the provider of the aid, which increases the costs of a development project and creates a net expansion in the volume of the donor's exports.", that just represents an opportunity to the U.S to increase even more its wealth, without truly searching the benefits of Colombia and its citizens.
At this point, it is pertinent to cite the position of the U.S. government regarding US- Colombia trade agreements. It is eloquently expressed in the official website of The Office of the United States Trade Representative, and states:
The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement increases investment opportunities for U.S. companies in Colombia by providing them market access, strong investor protections, and a way for investors to enforce their rights. The Agreement does not provide Colombian investors in the United States any more investment protections than U.S. law gives American investors here, and it ensures that the U.S. Government and our state and local governments can continue to regulate in the public interest, including to protect public health, public safety, and the environment.
This statement is very important because it mainly confirms two ideas: first, The U.S. interests not only prevail over Colombia's interests, they are the only ones who actually matter. Throughout the statement the U.S. government has not mentioned how much these agreements are going to benefit our country. Second, the U.S. demands the Colombian government to implement the necessary measures to protect American investors and their rights, but not the rights of the recipient city and its population. Colombia is a specialist on the creation of any type of measure to protect the interests and rights of everybody, except the ones of its own people.
In accordance with what has been stipulated in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Colombian government is violating the following human rights:
The Article 23. (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work (…). And, the Article 25. (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
The Colombian state allows the foreign companies to take the place of Colombian companies, it does not demand certain measures to assure that Colombian ad foreign laborers can enjoy an equal pay for an equal work, or the required measures to ensure job opportunities to its residents, Moreover, it does not ensure the protection of its citizens faced with unemployment, nor allow Colombian people to enjoy an adequate standard of living. The state systematically violates the rights of its citizens.
These violations grew with the Free Trade Agreement signed with Washington, and with the implementation of the Law 970, in 2010. With this,
Bogotá is required to provide legal monopoly rights over seeds sold by US corporations as an incentive for them to invest in Colombia. Farmers who are caught selling farm-saved seeds of such varieties, or simply indigenous seeds which have not been formally registered, could face fines or even jail time. (GRAIN. International Non-profit Organization., 2013).
A clear example of these acts of injustice happened in 2011, when "the Colombian government authorities stormed the warehouses and trucks of rice farmers in Campoalegre, in the province of Huila, and violently destroyed 70 tons of rice that it said were not processed as per the law." (GRAIN. International Non-profit Organization., 2013). This act was not only a violation of Article 27, of The Universal Declaration of Human rights: "(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests (…)", but also, because of the acts of violence and the intrusion into its property, Articles 5: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.", and 12: "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon its honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."
As a result of the destruction of some crops, considered illegal by the Colombian authorities, of some foreign companies that don't respect the environment and some prejudicial products that these companies, such as Monsanto, sell to the Colombian farmers to "protect" the crops, there is also a violation of the Article 11, of the Additional Protocol to the American Convention, the "Protocol of San Salvador", which says: "1. Everyone shall have the right to live in a healthy environment and to have access to basic public services. 2. The States Parties shall promote the protection, preservation, and improvement of the environment." (Organization of American States, 1988).
A great example of this is the use of glyphosate made by Monsanto Company, not just to eradicate the cocaine crops, but also used for Monsanto to make some pesticides and herbicides to protect the normal crops. There are many adverse effects of the Monsanto products, including: "loss of soil fertility, widespread deforestation, destruction of crops grown for food, water contamination, and a plague of human ailments. Anecdotal evidence suggests increased rates of cancer and birth defects." (Whitney Jr, 2015), In addition, there is a forced movement of rural families, from their homes and landholdings to the big cities, where they live in poverty or extreme poverty.
Finally, the statement says the U.S does not provide Colombian investors with any more investment protections than U.S law gives American investors, but there is not specified if these investment protections are actually less than U.S law gives American investors. It's not a secret that just a little portion of Colombian products is allowed access to the American market, so there is practically little Colombian investment that needs to be protected.
In other words, U.S aid to Colombia cannot be considered as an opportunity to increase our economic growth. These US- Colombia Trade Agreement cannot be called as bilateral agreements, because the profit flows in only one way, towards the U.S economy and in the hands of a few wealthy Colombians, while the rest of the Colombian population lives in extreme poverty. Any Free Trade Agreement, between Colombia and a developed country, is not really going to work, if the Colombian government does not take the required measures to protect our people, our rights and our interests.
By: Jahel Mendoza
GRAIN. International Non-profit Organization. (2013, September 6). GRAIN. International Non-profit Organization. Retrieved from https://www.grain.org/article/entries/4779-colombia-farmers-uprising-puts-the-spotlight-on-seeds
Organization of American States. (1988, November 19). Organization of American States. Retrieved from http://www.oas.org/juridico/english/treaties/a-52.html
The Office of the United States Trade Representative. (n.d.). The Office of the United States Trade Representative. Retrieved from https://ustr.gov/uscolombiatpa/investment
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. (n.d.). The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Retrieved from www.oecd.org
Tickner, A. (2003). Colombia: U.S. Subordinate, Autonomous actor, or in Between? In F. Mora, & J. Key, Latin America and Caribbean Foreign Policy. (p. 169). Rowman & Littlefields Publishers, INC.
United Nations General Assembly. (1948, December 10). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Whitney Jr, W. (2015). Colombia and world cope with Monsanto's toxic herbicide. . People's World., 1.