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Death and Drugs in Colombia

In April, in response to mounting pressure from FTA supporters, President Obama announced that he would send the treaty to Congress for ratification once Colombia begins implementing a mutually agreed “action plan” to improve workers’ rights. Thanks to Republicans’ gains in the midterm elections, ratification is almost certain. Still, House Democrats disappointed with Obama’s action plan—which falls far short of the human rights requirements they had sought—are expected to make one final effort to use the FTA debate to press for progress on the crucial issues omitted from the plan.

The plan’s most glaring omission is any mention of the powerful armed groups, led largely by former AUC members, that continue to kill trade unionists and, increasingly, leaders of displaced communities seeking to reclaim their lands. These groups no longer present themselves as a national counterinsurgency movement, but they do continue to traffic illegal drugs and terrorize civilians the way the AUC once did. They are the legacy of Uribe’s approach to “justice and peace.”

Former Governor Arana and another Sucre official denounced by Mayor Tito Díaz were sentenced to lengthy prison sentences in December 2009. It took years to bring them to trial, and nine potential witnesses were murdered along the way. The following April, shortly after the birth of his first child, Juan David Díaz received a note signed by one of the new armed groups:

You can’t imagine what pleasure it gives us to remember that around this date seven years ago we killed your father…but we see the work is still not complete…. We have not forgotten you, on the contrary we think your [death] should be slow and painful and even worse than Tito’s. Greetings to your wife and your son and your sisters and your mother.

Juan David is back in hiding, far from his family.

—May 24, 2011

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