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Cablegate: Ambassador Meets with Prominent Labor Leader

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #3343/01 3141754
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 101754Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0802
INFO RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0167
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0639
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS BOGOTA 003343

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
USTR FOR EISSENSTAT AND HARMAN
DOL FOR ZOLLNER AND QUINTANA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB EAID ETRD PGOV PHUM PREL USTR LAB CO
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH PROMINENT LABOR LEADER

REF: BOGOTA 3027; BOGOTA 2958; BOGOTA 3031

SUMMARY

-------

1. (U) The Ambassador expressed USG support for the essential role
unions play in healthy democratic societies in an October 29
meeting with the General Confederation of Workers (CGT). The CGT
is one of the three main labor confederations in Colombia, with
270,000 members organized into approximately 180 unions
representing the cut-flower, sugar cane, steel, and hotel and
restaurant sectors. The meeting, which evolved into a critical
discussion of U.S. trade and military policies with Colombia, was
part of Post's proactive human/labor rights strategy (reftels).
Immediately following their discussion, the Ambassador repeated his
message to the press, although journalists were more interested in
hearing about the U.S.-Colombian Defense Cooperation Agreement
(DCA). End Summary.

AMBASSADOR AND CGT AGREE TO DISAGREE

------------------------------------

2. (SBU) CGT General Secretary Julio Roberto Gomez took advantage
of a cordial October 29 meeting with the Ambassador to criticize
the U.S.-Colombian Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) and the DCA.
He argued that the CTPA would cause contraction in important
Colombian sectors and lead to higher unemployment, given the
asymmetries that existed between the two economies. He added that
the DCA was fueling a regional arms race precisely when economic
circumstances called for greater public investment in social
programs, not weapons. Both initiatives were bad for workers, he
stressed. The Ambassador said the CTPA would boost overall
economic activity and employment, with exceptions in some limited
sectors. The GOC's and USG's role was to support what was best for

the majority of their citizens while compensating the losers. The
DCA simply updated existing bilateral agreements concerning
cooperation against illicit trafficking, illegal armed groups, and
terrorism, the Ambassador explained.

OTHER AREAS FOR COOPERATION

---------------------------

3. (U) The Ambassador proposed greater cooperation on demining the
Colombian countryside, and stressed the importance of the CGT's
continued participation in a UNDP-led Labor Violence Study (reftel
c) that aims to analyze the root causes of labor violence in
Colombia. He said it was important to arrive at a baseline
conclusion regarding labor violence that everyone -- including the
GOC, business groups, labor, and the international community --
could agree on. Gomez was amenable to greater cooperation on
demining. He also pointed out that the CGT was the first labor
confederation to sign on to the UNDP study, and that it intended to
remain fully engaged.

PRESS COVERAGE FOCUSES ON DCA

-----------------------------

4. (U) Following their meeting, the Ambassador and Gomez addressed
the media. The Ambassador gave brief remarks, stating that "strong
and independent unions are essential, crucial elements of
democracy." Media outlets covered the meeting, but largely focused

their reporting on the Ambassador's responses to questions about
the DCA. Still, national outlets including El Tiempo (the leading
national newspaper with 1.4 million readers) and Telepais (a
national TV news program, estimated 507,000 viewers) ran stories
that touched on the Ambassador's human/labor rights message.
Moreover, the National Union School (ENS) widely disseminated a
press summary to Colombian human rights and labor circles. The
Embassy also released a press statement on the meeting.
BROWNFIELD

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