November 13, 2008



Colombian delegation visits Ottawa and Montreal


Colombia delegates in Liberal leader Stephane Dion's office

OTTAWA: On November 13, 2008 three Colombians participated in several meetings in Ottawa organized by Interpares, the Americas Policy Group (APG) of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation(CCIC), and Common Frontiers. The Colombians spoke with representatives from the three Opposition Parties in Canada’s Parliament and called on all Canadian legislators to speak out against Prime Minister Harper’s intention to speed a hastily negotiated free trade deal through the House in 21 days [to be followed in short order by an Executive Branch decision on ratification].

At a noon-time meeting hosted by Interpares, the visitors had the opportunity to discuss the serious impact that Canadian mining is having on communities in Colombia. In the afternoon there was an open meeting at CCIC attended by NGO representatives. The speakers focused most of their comments on the abysmal human rights record of the Uribe regime and this provoked discussion on next steps to take to affect policy making re. Colombia. Discussed towards the end of this meeting were preparations being made by popular movements throughout our hemisphere to attend the April 17-19 Peoples Summit in Port of Spain, Trinidad [running parallel to the V Summit of the Americas that will bring the continent’s heads-of-state to the island nation on the same dates].

MONTREAL: On November 14th the Colombians were in Montreal to participate in a colloquium entitled, Canada-Colombia FTA: Popular Sector Resistance which was organized by SOS Colombia - a coalition of several Quebec organizations, including the Committee for Human Rights in Latin America(CDHAL), and the Quebec Network on Continental Integration(RQIC). In the morning the three speakers had time to elaborate on the unacceptable situation being faced today in Colombia, and to provide a 'big-picture' of Colombia as a pseudo-democratic state, buttressed by systematic and deadly repression of the popular movements, that represented an exportable neo-liberal 'model' to be used to counter the recently formed UNASUR bloc.

In the afternoon colloquium participants broke into three groups charged with identifying the main challenges to be faced in each of three thematic areas, followed by an outlining of strategic directions for the work in order to overcome the challenges previously identified. In the three reports back to the final plenary it was clear that several interesting options had been identified for further collaborative work, along with key dates for action. There was general agreement that both in Quebec and in Canada we had to take a page from the horizontal and inclusive MINGA mobilization in Colombia to be able to have the greatest impact possible on public opinion and policy, in order to defeat the pending Canada-Colombia free trade deal.

On the Colombian delegation were:

- Enrique Daza is a psychologist and economist from Colombia’s National University. He is the coordinator of the Colombian Action Network against Free Trade (RECALCA). He is also the Secretary for the Hemispheric Social Alliance (H.S.A.), a continental alliance encompassing national-level networks from almost every country in the Americas. The H.S.A. Secretariat is headquartered in Bogotá from where it coordinates collective strategies to bring about an alternative model for trade while at the same time opposing continued efforts by countries such as Canada and the US to impose a ‘free trade’ straight jacket on nations from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.

- Clara Elena Gomez Velasquez is a graduate in the field of Education and Human Development from the University of Manizales. She is currently a director of the National Trade Union School (ENS) in Medellin where she heads up the Department of Women and Work. She has authored several publications including one on the banana industry and its impact on women, and another on women in the cut flower industry. In Ottawa and Montreal she spoke on behalf of the Colombian organization Trade Justice: Our Rights are not Negotiable.

- Manuel Rozental is a surgeon who divides his time between Colombia and Canada. He has been collaborating for more than 10 years with the Association of Autonomous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN). Currently Adjunct Professor of Research at the University of Algoma, his areas of teaching include, among others, globalization and the architecture of global power, propaganda and persuasion, the environment and community action.


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