WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
10 May 2012 | News

U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Enters into Force

On April 15 President Obama announced at the Summit of the Americas that Colombia had made sufficient progress on labor rights and that the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement would begin on May 15, 2012. What got lost in the rush of the announcement is that threats and harassment of labor leaders continue unabated. In the one month since President Obama’s announcement, more than a dozen labor leaders received death threats and the secretary general of a major sugarcane cutters' union was murdered.
WOLA urges reporters to note the following facts in stories relating to the May 15 implementation of the Free Trade Agreement.
Facts about attacks against Colombian labor leaders:

  • On April 27, 2012, Daniel Aguirre, Secretary General of SINALCORTEROS—a major sugarcane cutters' union—was shot and killed while he was walking home in Valle del Cauca, Colombia. Death threats along with a decapitated rat were left on Mr. Aguirre’s doorstep in the days leading up to his murder.
  • On April 21, one week after President Obama’s announcement in Colombia, the leaders of SINTRAEMCALI—a public-works union—received a death threat from the Black Eagles paramilitary group in the form of an invitation to their own funeral. See photos and more info here.
  • Since April 15 there were at least 13 death threats against trade unions and Henry Diaz—a member of the SINTRAINAGRO agriculture union—was disappeared.
  • Since Presidents Santos and Obama signed an action plan to ensure the protection of labor rights a year ago on April 7, 2011, over 28 trade unionists have been killed, 2 have been disappeared, and there have been more than 500 death threats.
  • The Colombian government has not taken adequate steps to guarantee protection for trade unionists and activists, nor has it effectively addressed the fact that the perpetrators of killings have not been adequately prosecuted or investigated. The alarming levels of impunity—95 percent in cases of murdered trade unionists since 1986—embolden perpetrators.


Kristel Mucino
WOLA Communications Director
+1 (202) 797-2171, [email protected]