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Cablegate: Secretary Gutierrez and Chao Delegation Meets With

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UNCLAS BOGOTA 000970

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER PGOV PREL ECON SOCI CO
SUBJECT: SECRETARY GUTIERREZ AND CHAO DELEGATION MEETS WITH
COLOMBIAN LABOR LEADERS

1. Participants:

UNITED STATES

Secretary Carlos Gutierrez

SIPDIS
Secretary Elaine L. Chao

SIPDIS
Steven Preston, Administrator, Small Business Administration
Ambassador William R. Brownfield
Senator Bob Corke, R-TM
Representative Tom Davis, R-VA
Representative Edolphus Towns, D-NY
Representative Fred Upton, R-MI
Representative Peter Roskam, R-IL
Representative Jim Mathewson, D-UT
Representative Paul Ryan, R-WI

Bob Manogue, ECON
Kelly Carrillo, POL (note-taker)

COLOMBIA

Anti-FTA

Carlos Julio Diaz, United Workers' Confederation
Jose Joaquin Vasquez, United Workers Confederation
William de Jesus Ramirez Ortiz, Colombian Workers'
Confederation
Ruben Dario Gomez, Colombian Workers' Confederation
Jorge Iban Diez Belez, Colombian Workers' Confederation
Jose Luciano Sanin, National Union School

Pro-FTA

Gerardo de Jesus Sanchez Zapata, Rionegro Textile Workers'
Union
Walter David Navarro Giraldo, Public Business Professionals'
Union
Carlos Sierra, First Thought Colombia Foundation
Luis Fernando Cadavid Mesa, Textile and Garment Union of
Antioquia
Jose Gustavo Palacio Moreno, Mining and Energy Workers' Union

2. SUMMARY: On March 1, a congressional delegation led by
Secretary Gutierrez and Secretary Chao met with

SIPDIS
representatives of two of Colombia's largest labor
confederations--the United Workers' Confederation (CUT) and
the Confederation of Colombian Workers (CTC)--as well as the
Director of the National Unionists' School (ENS). The groups
said they oppose the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement
(CTPA), because it would lead to higher unemployment and
weaker labor rights. They called for more progress on
prosecuting perpetrators of violence against unionists. The
delegation also met separately with members of unions that
support the CTPA. who said CTPA passage would boost the
Colombian economy and help workers. The pro-CTPA unions also
claim that the unions opposed to the CTPA do so for political
rather than economic reasons. END SUMMARY.

3. Secretary Gutierrez and Secretary Chao, along with a
Congressional delegation, met with two labor federations and
the ENS on March 1. CUT, CTC, and ENS representatives did not
offer specific suggestions to improve the CTPA or to bolster
labor rights. They called on the GOC to address impunity
related to violence against trade unionists, continue labor
reforms, and improve "social dialogue" between unions and the
government. When asked directly by Secretary Gutierrez if
any of the leaders would support the Agreement if it were
modified to meet their concern, they all responded no, saying
that they could not envision any changes that would make the
CPTA acceptable to them.

4. Ruben Dario Gomez of the CGT said the three labor
confederations ideologically oppose the CTPA, which he said
would allow U.S. corporations to "invade and conquer"
Colombia's markets. He stated that the TPA would produce
substantial job losses, with only job creation occuuring
among low-paying, manual labor jobs. This would cause social
and economic decline. The labor groups claimed the CTPA
would infringe Colombian sovereignty, especially in regard to
the production of medicines due to intellectual property
protections. They said the CTPA would also endanger
Colombia's domestic corn and rice industries, making it
dependent on food imports.


5. Jose Luciano Sanin, Director of the ENS, said unions are
"disappearing" because of the GOC's failure to enforce
existing laws and to guarantee workers' rights. He
complained that Colombian firms often fire unionized workers
and replace them with non-unionized workers. Carlos Julio
Diaz of the CUT said workers under temporary contracts fear
their contracts will not be renewed if they organize or
attempt to bargain collectively. He distributed a complaint
written to the Ministry of Social Protection (MSP) by the CUT
on behalf of the workers of Colvanes, a messenger service
company. It complains of intimidation, bribery, and
mistreatment of workers to discourage them from starting a
union. The Ministry of Social Protections (MSP) is
investigating the case.

6. Senator Corker asked whether the unionists would ever
support the TPA, especially given that the CPTA would help
Colombia attract U.S. businesses with have excellent labor
rights records. The unionists replied that foreign
businesses in Colombia do not respect labor rights, citing a
history of labor problems at Carrefour--a French-owned retail
chain. The union leaders admitted that violence against
unionists has fallen, but said more should be done on
impunity. He urged the USG to continue support to the
Prosecutor General's office (Fiscalia) so that more cases of
violence against unionists are prosecuted.

7. At a separate meeting, union leaders in favor of the
Agreement said the CTPA was crucial for Colombia's flower,
mining, textile, garment and gold industries. It would
guarantee a market for Colombian products, boosting foreign
investment. Carlos Sierra noted that the CTPA would not be a
"panacea", but it would provide opportunities for job and
investment growth. They recognized the important steps the
GOC has taken to combat union-related violence, noting that
the deaths are not always related to union affiliation.

8. They said the main labor confederations represent only 4%
of all Colombian workers, and that 60-70% of their members
represent the public sector--where the CTPA would make no
difference. They claimed to represent 45,000 workers, almost
all from the private sector. Jose Gustavo Palacio Moreno
from the Mining and Energy Workers' Union said "a vote
against the CTPA would be a vote for Chavez". Sierra noted
that the pro-CTPA unions have reached out to the unions
opposed to the Agreement, such as the AFL-CIO, but their
requests for meetings have been rejected.
Brownfield

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