Colombia: Rice pushes “free trade” accord

US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice visited Colombia on Jan. 24 and 25, meeting with right-wing president Alvaro Uribe in Medellín at the end of the trip. The high-level delegation, including US legislators, was intended to show support for Uribe and to push for ratification by the US Congress of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA, or TLC) between the two countries. In Medellín, Rice also met with former right-wing paramilitaries who had demobilized under a plan sponsored by Uribe; she visited a flower cultivation business where ex-paramilitaries are employed. At a meeting between the delegation and Colombian unionists, Carlos Rodriguez of the Unitary Workers Confederation (CUT) said 40 leaders of the union federation had been murdered in 2007, bringing the number of unionists murdered in the last 22 years to 2,574. Many were killed by paramilitaries. (La Jornada, Jan. 26 from AFP, DPA, Reuters)

According to Colombian Communist Youth (JUCO), two unidentified men murdered Colombian student Alirio Qui√Īonez, a member of JUCO’s central committee, on Jan. 19 in Guasdualito, in the western Venezuelan state of Apure near the border with Colombia. The two men fired repeatedly on Quinonez, who was living in Venezuela “due to persecution by the Colombian Army and the intelligence agencies.” JUCO said the murder was the “responsibility of the Colombian state” and that members of JUCO and the Colombian Communist Party (PCC) now in the leadership of the center-left Democratic Alternative Pole (PDA) have been “turned into military objectives.” (Rebeli√≥n, Jan. 23)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 27

See our last post on Colombia.