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Press Statement
May 8, 2008

Torontonians protest presence of Colombia V.P. and reject his pitch for ‘free trade’

TORONTO -- Common Frontiers in conjunction with the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, and the Colombia Action Solidarity Committee (CASA) held a rally on Thursday, May 8th in Toronto to protest the presence of Colombian Vice-President Francisco Santos Calderon.

Dozens of unionists, church representatives and community members marched outside the front doors of the Albany Club chanting ‘No free trade with Colombia’, an allusion to the Colombian V.P.’s mission to Canada to sell a trade deal with Canada. The ‘No business before human rights’ chant spoke to the fact that Colombia has the dubious record of being the world’s most dangerous place for trade unionists. In the first 4 months of this year the rate of unionists being killed is up 72% over 2007.

The protesters also called on the Harper government to put Vice President Santos on the Canadian terrorist “No Fly List” given that Colombian narco-paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso identified Mr. Santos as having been in on the discussions to establish the paramilitary squad Bloque Capital which observers say has killed more than 1,500 people in the poor barrios of Bogotá.

Speakers at this protest rally questioned Ottawa’s dealings with Colombian politicians with ‘blood on their hands’, and pointed out that to date (in a widening scandal) some 70 elected members of the Colombian congress are under investigation for presumed links to the paramilitaries. Most of these ‘dirty’ politicians are close allies of President Uribe Velez. The speakers also questioned the Canadian government’s motives for moving to ‘fast-track’ Canada-Colombia FTA negotiations when the US Congress has just put their own FTA dealings with Colombia on hold given the deteriorating human rights situation in that country.

While the Colombian Vice President and his well-heeled audience were breakfasting in the exclusive confines of the Albany Club, a local merchant, in a show of solidarity with the protesters, placed a tray of coffee down on the sidewalk outside and left giving one and all a two thumbs-up.

Speakers at this May 8th protest rally were:

• Marie Clarke Walker – Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress(CLC)
• John Cartwright – President of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council
• Iliam Burbano - member of the Colombia Action Solidarity Alliance(CASA)
• Rick Arnold – Coordinator of Common Frontiers


For more information contact Rick Arnold at 905-352-2430, or visit www.commonfrontiers.ca