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EN EL REBUSQUE: THE INITIAL EFFECTS OF THE US COLOMBIA TRADE PROMOTION AGREEMENT ON LABOR RELATIONS IN COLOMBIA BY: BARBARA SUAREZ A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requ irements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Dr. Sarah Hernandez Sarasota, Florida May 2013
ii Esta tesis esta dedicada a la lucha incansable de lxs trabajadorxs colombianxs, por un futuro en el cual el derecho laboral y la dignidad humana sean respetados sobre la codicia del poder.
iii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Id like to recogniz e the crucial role Professor Hernandez has had throughout my time at New College. Thank you, Sarah for supporting and challenging me through my endeavors, both within academia and outside. I would not have made it through this whole process without your pa tience and guidance. My utmost gratitude goes out to Professors Fairchild, Portugal, and Andrews for all their valuable feedback, and always being willing to help me out. Thank you to Professor David Brain for a greeing to be on my committee. Quiero agra decerle a mi familia; a mi Mam, mis abuelos, Dylan, Mateo, Diego, a mi Compa, y a Liz por todo su cario y apoyo. Aunque estemos lejos, son mi inspiracin en todo lo que hago. Esta tesis no existira si no fuera por la ayuda y colaboracin de las y los trabajadores entrevistados. Gracias por su dedicacin a la defensa del valor de la vida humana. Thank you, Lewis for believing in me and being my rock for these past three years. Youre the most wonderful partner I could have ever asked for. A mi Mar, aunque el futuro nos separe, siempre seras mi amiga del alma. Thank you for showing me how to take myself les s seriously. 786 till we die. To Nathan, Derek and Peter for being my home away from home, and always being willing to engage with and challen ge me. You are all one of my gr eatest sources of inspiration. I would not have made it through the thesis process had I not been blessed by B dorm and its residents. Emma, Toms, Leah, Niko, Becca thank you for all the laughter and nonsense; you have mad e my last year at New College truly exceptional. Eilis, all your care and support was essential to me accomplishing anything this year. Many thanks to Kristi Fecteau for being so sweet and accommodating and to Matt Cutler for helping me push through the final pages of this project.
iv TABLE OF CONTENTS Dedication...ii Acknowledgementsiii Table of Contentsiv Abstractv Chapter I: Introduct ion Chapter II: Globalization, Development, and Colombias History of Violence.................12 Globalization & Development Globalization & Labor Colombias Historical Context Paramilitarism Leftist Guerrillas El Bogotazo & La Violencia Chapter III: Methods..32 Chapter IV: Analysis...37 Asymmetric Economies CTAs, SAS, & Continued Flex ibilization El Rebusque Hecha la ley, Hecha la trampa Responses to Continued Human Rights Violations Chapter V: Conclusion: The CTPA as a Step in a Process References.62
v EN EL REBUSQUE: THE INITIAL EFFECTS OF THE U.S. COLOMBIA TRADE PROMOTION AGREEMENT ON LABOR RELATIONS IN COLOMBIA Barbara Suarez New College of Florida, 2013 ABSTRACT The United States Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) was signed into law by the United States Congress on October 12, 2011. In the years leading up to its ratification, the trade agreement faced great opposition from human rights activists due to the nation's longstanding history of labor rights violations. In response. the Colombian governm ent presented a Labor Action Plan to address some of the key concerns presented by the trade agreement's dissenters. My research examines the repercussions of this free trade agreement on labor relations in Colombia. I examine this through interviews with ten Colombian union leaders working in different sectors of the economy. Participants' responses indicate both neglect and aggression from the Colombian state, paramilitary organizations, and multinational corporations towards the nation's workers. Existi ng quantitative data supplements these findings, and suggests continued difficulty for workers as well as problems with employment measures. My methods permit a closer analysis of the role of the local political interests in sustaining this kind of economi c policy. This work contributes to an understanding of the interaction of the unequal economies of the United States
vi and Colombia, highlighting an uneven exchange of products and a continuation of anti union violence. Dr. Sarah Hernandez Division of Social Sciences
1 1. INTRODUCTION The global economy is being heavily influenced by the ongoing trend to privatize enterprises and promote and implement free trade. Since the turn of the century, the United States has signed twelve different free trade agreements with nations around the world including eleven Latin American countries (Office of the US Trade Representative). Among them, and the most recent within Latin America, is The United States Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA). Due to the fact that since the 1980s, Colombia has been internationally recognized as the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists (ITUC 2012), Colombia's experience with the CTPA presents a complex scenario where the interactions between free trade, economic development, and labor rights can be further explored. Analysis on the impact of free trade agreements tends to center on a purely economic perspective, my approach aims towards an incorporation of the social impact on the discussion of trade policy. In order to study the repercussions of this trade agreement, I examine the effects of the signing and implementation of this legislation on working conditions in Colombia. I weave statistical data with background information and personal interviews with union leaders, offer ing a more elaborate understanding of the repercussions free trade has had on the lives of workers in Colombia. According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), in 2011 at least 76 workers around the world were murdered due to union activity, with more than half of the deaths occurring in Latin America. Twenty nine of these murders 76% of those in Latin America and 38% of those worldwide happened in Colombia, a country
2 that since 1986 has witnessed the assassination of close to 2800 union leaders (ILO). This longstanding history of human rights abuses played a part in thwarting negotiations in the years leading up to the signing of the Trade Promotion Agreement. The Colombian government, having ratified the agreement in 2007, eagerly ca mpaigned for the United States to push the agreement through Congress; presenting in April 2011 a Labor Action Plan (LAP) meant to address several of the grievances expressed by human rights activists in the country and internationally. The plans ultimate goal was to ratify Colombias commitment to human rights by creating structural venues to ensure the protection of the rights and well being of the nations workers. On paper, the plan proposed the creation of a Labor Ministry designed exclusively to both ensure the regulation of workplace violations as well as to address the current 98% rate of impunity of crimes against unionists in Colombia. Once presented, the LAP was greeted with great skepticism by labor rights activists in the country, who saw the plan as insufficient and superficial in its approach to anti union violence. Although the LAP should be implemented immediately, many of the measures it proposed have yet to be enforced. Nevertheless, the LAP served its purpose in convincing members of the US Congress to pass the agreement on October 2011. Six months later, in May 2012 President Obama reviewed Colombias case and determined the country had a clean bill of health which allowed the Trade Promotion Agreement to be implemented later on that mon th. Many of Colombias labor activists did not agree with the assessment offered by the Obama administration. The Escuela Nacional Sindical (ENS), Colombias leading labor rights think tank, presented a report on Colombian labor relations in 2011 that refl ected a decrease in the number of
3 assassinations of unionists but a spike in the other intimidation tactics, such as death threats, arbitrary detention, and forced displacement. When speaking to the probable effects of this free trade agreement on Colombi an labor relations, it is important to take into account the strong position the United States has in influencing Colombia's actions. The United States is Colombia's largest trading partner having imported $23.11 billion in goods during 2011, accounting fo r close to seven percent of the country's annual GDP (World Bank). The United States also has a strong presence in Colombia through foreign aid programs, providing Colombia with the largest aid package in the region, totaling $836.2 million (USD) in 2011 and 2012 combined. The leverage the United States has in Colombian politics could potentially be used to push for an improvement in labor relations, a change that yet remains to be seen with the implementation of both the LAP and the CTPA. Often cited in discussions regarding free trade agreements is their effect on the division of labor among participating countries. World Systems analysis addresses this process (So 1990), providing a basis for the discussion of the factors currently affecting the lay out of the Colombia economy and consequently the countrys labor relations. This method of analysis would qualify the United States as a core nation, which means their economy is based on high skill labor and capital intensive production. Colombia, on the other hand, best fits into the category of semi peripheral nation which typically provides raw materials and cheap labor in the global exchange of commodities. This global exchange of commodities is predicated on a free flow of capital. As a semi periphe ral nation, from a World Systems perspective, Colombias government is able to use it power to implement policy that may help it take advantage of
4 particular historical moments so as to improve its economic output and/or improve the quality of life for its people. Yet, this capacity of decision making is limited by the pressures placed from the political and economic interests of the core nations. Last (1987) and El Ojeili (2006), note that the more recent shape of this world system, what we now call the gl obal economy, implies an important shift in the power and role of the state. While in earlier analyses of global exchange done by World Systems scholars, the government played an important role in regulating the economy, and the new expression of globaliza tion and its extreme commitment to unregulated free trade imply a shift from organized to disorganized capitalism. World Systems Theory displays a shift in its character, where governments willingly or unwillingly reduce their regulatory power over the mar ket. Organized capitalism is presented as predominating through most of the twentieth century, emphasizing a capitalist development that relied heavily on state intervention and regulation of economic affairs. Disorganized capitalism denotes a stage where national borders become increasingly less important as the unregulated flow of capital is prioritized. This free flow of capital means that multinational corporations are able to relocate their manufacturing centers as they see fit. This often results in multinationals opting for nations with lower labor standards. This is good for their profits but proves devastating for the citizens of peripheral nations, particularly regarding the application of their rights and their quality of life. The importance of applying World Systems theory to my research lies in its ability to highlight the ways that current approaches to development might result in a reification of global divisions of labor, rather than a broad based inclusive development. This issue is just one example of the widening gap between most
5 the nations population and the elite minority. Colombia is a country where the poorest twenty percent of the population accounts for less than three percent of earnings, while the wealthiest twenty percent represent sixty four percent of annual earnings (Damme 2010). Under these conditions, promoting free trade is likely to result in an exacerbation of an already precarious situation for a majority of the population. In order to better understand the relationshi p between the free trade agreement and working conditions in Colombia, I use a multi method approach. I use economic statistics to illustrate the broad conditions and shifts in the economy, and rely on interviews with union leaders to present the lived experience of the labor activists and their understanding of the effect of the agreement on the workers overall labor conditions and human rights. As part of my analysis, I looked at statistics regarding labor rights violations; this includes, but is not li mited to: number of death threats/attempts made against a union member, and other statistics which report various types of workplace abuses. These figures serve as a way to gauge whether there has been a change in the level and forms of persecution Colombi an unionists face. As part of my research, I conducted interviews with ten union leaders from various syndicalist organizations in the Bogot area. These unions represent workers from the private, public, service, and manufacturing sectors. Contributors to this thesis and their respective organizations are not identified considering the dangerous nature of labor rights activism in Colombia. This thesis contributes to the ongoing dialogue on globalization and the changing structure of the global economy. By combining the figures legislators and economists often point to as indicators of economic growth with the accounts of workers on the
6 frontline of the labor rights struggle, I provide a more intricate understanding of the repercussions that neoliberal poli cies have on already weakened labor regulation. In reports issued between the enactment of the LAP and the implementation of the CTPA, it was clear that the measures outlined on the LAP were never fully employed. The majority of the time the problem was linked to a lack of sufficient funds to hire and train enough government agents to oversee and investigate claims of labor rights abuses or instances of worker harassment. In a global economy where transnational corporations development model predicates its elf on the race to the bottom, it is an imperative for academics to explore the factors that contribute to the continuation of this oppressive and dangerous cycle. Cases like the Killer Coke campaign, where Colombian union workers have brought forth evidence linking Coca Cola to the murders of various SINTRAINAL union leaders, present an example of the risks that come when powerful transnational corporations are provided with the leniency of already weakened labor rights regulations. In 2012 alone, 35 uni on leaders in Colombia have already lost their lives due to their involvement in labor rights activism (ITUC 2012). Implementing a free trade agreement goes a step beyond dropping most trade barriers/tariffs between the US and Colombia, to include weakenin g regulation on labor conditions. This creates a scenario with an increased likelihood of human rights violations, enticed by profits to be made by multinational corporations. Juxtaposing economic growth indicators with the accounts and experiences of lab or union leaders allows me to illustrate not only the continued violence labor leaders endure, but also the continued deterioration of working conditions and wellbeing of the broader population. The shift from organized capitalism to disorganized capitalis m
7 represents an increase in the instability and insecurity of the labor market. Ongoing irregularities in the job market lead to a flexibilization of labor, a process that denotes a push for workers to conform to part time or seasonal jobs, limited contracts and casual work. The informal sector of the economy is characterized by precarious work that does not provide secure working conditions or often even the option of a living wage. Colombias current employment statistics present a clear example of this trend. Unemployment is at an alltime low for the past eleven years, reaching singledigit levels at 9.7% (DANE Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadisticas). A low level of unemployment draws a picture of a thriving economy where more and more workers are finding employment options that ensure they are able to support themselves and their families. If we include in this analysis that 43.3% of Colombians describe themselves as self employed the once clear picture of prosperity becomes more nuanced. The term self employed can be used to describe a thriving business entrepreneur, but it can also apply to a street vendor struggling to secure any pay for a whole days work. In a country where the average income is less than half of the global average, workers are increasingly unlikely to be facing fair/livable working conditions. In the second chapter of this thesis I address the larger debate on the nature of globalization and its interaction with economic development. After this I go on to lay out the theoretical approach I use for my analysis. Due to the historically complex nature of Colombian labor relations, I include an overview of the countrys particular context providing a backdrop for the conditions under which labor rights organizations operate today. In the methods chapter I outline the economic growth indicators used in my analysis, later on explaining my approach to gathering data through interviews with
8 union leaders. Chapter four provides an analysis of the data gathered by weaving statistical information with the responses from participants in order to present a more complex understanding of the effects of the CTPA in the lives of Colombians. The concluding chapter provides a summary of the current climate surrounding the CT PA today, arguing for an understanding of the trade agreement as a formalization of a process that began in the early 1990s.
9 2. GLOBALIZATION, DEVELOPMENT, & COLOMBIAS HISTORY OF VIOLENCE Negotiations surrounding legislative project s such as free trade agreements tend to be based on economic theory and its application to developing nations, a practice which leaves out the particularities of each nations own sociopolitical context. This thesis addresses the effects of free trade agr eements on Colombias labor relations; therefore, it requires the discussion of various topics including globalization, free trade, labor rights, and the history of Colombia that contextualizes the particularities of the US Colombia Trade Promotion Agreeme nt (CTPA). I begin by addressing the debate on the nature of globalization within the framework of World Systems theory. From there, I discuss Colombias history, specifically concerning labor rights and trade union organizations; this section includes an outline of the actors/groups that have shaped the landscape of labor relations in such a historically violent context. I conclude with a general overview of the trends presented throughout Colombias history and the resonance that these have concerning the expected repercussions of the US Colombia free trade agreement on the layout of labor relations within the country. Globalization & Development Due to the popularity of the term, and the complexity of the processes globalization tries to encompass, gr eat debate exists around the meaning of the word itself. Globalization tends to be defined in purely economic terms, though the process
10 itself encompasses a wide range of issues. Although mainstream discourse revolves around the economic impact of globaliz ation, it also denotes cultural, environmental, and social transformations. In this analysis, I will focus my attention on two aspects of this complex process, the economic and political. Regarding the economic, I refer to the underscoring of capitalism as the free market models application is expanded to developing nations around the world (El Ojeili et al 2006). Scholarship on globalization provides us with a rich debate on the economic, social, political, and cultural repercussions that this process has on industrialized and developing nations. Joseph Stiglitz and Andrew Charlton (2005:11) refer to the arguments presented by advocates of globalization, globaphiles, who see it as a modernizing process that will ensure the flow of cheaper, better quality g oods; eventually raise the level of developing nations to match those of economically developed nations. Since the 1990s, Colombia's government has made a clear and consistent push towards globalization as propelled by economic liberalization. Csar Gaviri a Trujillo, a liberal economist, took office as Colombia's thirty sixth President on November 1990. During his administration, the nation did away with the 1886 Constitution, shifting away from the protectionist policies of previous decades (So 1990). Neo liberalism, which some scholars see as emanating from the United States and England during the 1980s, bases itself on a strictly hierarchical approach whereby the expert knowledge of economists is applied directly to the policies of predominantly developing countries (Harvey 2007). This model focuses primarily on the repercussions of liberalization in economic terms, ignoring the social and cultural effects of implementing policies like austerity measures and free trade agreements on the unstable
11 economies of developing nations. International lending institutions, such as the World Bank and the IMF, are in charge of ensuring the enforcement of austerity policies which disproportionately affect the popular sectors of a nations economy, seeing as they imply a cut in federal spending mainly in the form of social services (Green 2003). Saskia Sassen (2002) illustrates the negative effects that economic liberalization has had on developing economies like Colombia's. According to Sassen, the opening up of a peri pheral country's economy is tied to Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) which are most commonly imposed by the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF), institutions in charge of providing loans to developing nations. These programs usually gear around cutting back social spending, usually affecting social programs and by extension the wage and livelihood of lower income citizens who often supplement their minimal wages with these programs. She finds these policies create higher rates of unem ployment, contribute to the increase of national debt, and severely and disproportionately affect small and medium sized businesses which provide commodities for national consumption. This was definitely the case with the agroindustry in Colombia, which s aw itself heavily affected by the economic liberalization of the 90s; mainly in that it struggled to compete with the prices of larger competitors in the United States. As a result, several of the industrial manufacturing firms disappeared from the Colombi an economy, contributing to the increase in unemployment (Cruz 2010:271). This initial excursion into the 'open' global market helped to illustrate the gap between the projected benefits presented by Colombia's federal government and the actual effects of these policies; many of which in practice, only benefitted the upper echelons of the nation's population.
12 Regarding the external debt that Sassen refers to, former President Uribe's administration oversaw the steady increase of the nation's foreign debt from $32.35 billion (US Dollars) in 2006 to the current $68.76 billion (US Dollars) total debt. Table 1 corroborates Sassen's argument, illustrating the direct and drastic effects that such an abrupt turn towards economic liberalization has had in Colombia This more direct approach is exemplified by the stream of free trade agreements Colombia's government has been negotiating and/or signing in the past twenty years (United States, European Union, South Korea, Canada, etc). In 2006 we also see Alvaro Uribe 's re election, an event that was only made possible through a referendum that amended the Colombian Constitution; which previously did not allow for a President to serve more than one term consecutively. This same year the Colombian Congress signed into l aw the United States Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement; from then on the chart shows a steady increase in Colombia's foreign debt which in the previous six years had actually dropped close to $3 billion (US Dollars). This definite step towards a more libe ralized economy also brings along an increase that leaves Colombia owing almost twice what it did in the year 2000. Colombia's Foreign Debt This graph presents the progression of Colombias external debt in the past decade, the units are presented as mi llions of USD.
13 (source: http://www.indexmundi.com/g/g.aspx?c=co&v=94 ) Table 1 After taking office in August of 2002, Uribe started to implement across the board cuts on social spending, relying on the frugal and hardworking ethic often applied to Antioqueos, or Paisas the region Uribe hailed from (Hylton 2010:341). Uribe's policies also included privatization of national industries, and an increase in taxes and a decrease in pen sions. Along with the austerity measures implemented, Uribe is also responsible for initiating dialogue on the possibility of joining regional trade agreements (Garc a 2004). Though Uribe is constantly recognized as having unprecedented rates of approval a mong the Colombian population, his economic policies were not received well throughout the lower echelons of Colombian society. October 12, 2004 presents an example of the disconnect between the policies of the Uribe administration and their effect on the lives of working class Colombians. This day thousands took to the streets all over the country calling for a general 24hour strike, which included workers from the private and public sectors manifesting their frustration at the recently implemented auster ity programs. In August 7, 2010 Juan Manuel Santos was elected to be Uribes successor, a process that for many meant the continuation of Uribes policies seeing as Santos served as Minister of National Defense during Uribes second administration. As Pre sident, Santos has tried to push through several austerity policies aimed at slashing funds for
14 social programs. December 5, 2012 witnessed thousands of Colombia's workers flooding the streets as part of a 'cacerolazo', a protest whereby citizens express d iscontent by loudly banging pots and pans. Some of the forefront issues surrounding the nationwide protests are the recently reinitiated peace dialogues between the government and the FARC, which many feel is a publicity stunt detracting from addressing mo re pressing matters; another major source of discontent are the proposed tax reforms which would slash programs that provide free education to over sixty thousand lower income youth around the country. In many ways, Santos seems to be a continuation of Uri be's regime which brought on increased economic liberalization while compromising the quality and stability of lives of millions of Colombians. Globalization & Labor Advocates of trade liberalization base their claims on the notion that free trade enha nces the average efficiency of a country (Stiglitz and Charlton 2005); under this rationale, imported goods will push inefficient local industries out of the market in order to make way for a more efficient use of resources. This transition would reallocat e resources from low productivity protected sectors into highproductivity export sectors (Stiglitz et al 2005:25). However, this line of reasoning ignores the varying levels of productivity between nations, particularly in the case of the industrialized U nited States vis a vis Colombias developing economy. The fact that Colombia has one of the highest unemployment rates in the region points to the large chasm that characterizes the expected effects of a free trade agreement with the United States (World B ank 2010). Economic liberalization skeptics highlight the fact that often times, local industries will
15 suffer from competition from abroad while national export industries might not have the required capital to expand their enterprises, resulting in a lose lose situation for nations like Colombia (Stiglitz et al 2005). This trend is particularly relevant when analyzing the effects on labor relations whereby employment options will narrow as low productivity protected sectors go out of business and no new sources of employment are created for workers domestically. By addressing the international division of labor, World Systems theory serves as an important analytical tool in uncovering the social effects of economic liberalization projects like the US COL T PA. World Systems theory argues that the best way to understand economic development is through a worldhistorical approach. One the theorys main proponents, Immanuel Wallerstein, observes that the global economy is composed of three levels (or categories ) of national development, with core, semi periphery, and periphery. Each of these layers is engaged in particular power relations among themselves that shape and recreate conditions of underdevelopment for nations in the semi periphery and periphery. Colombia, being a semi peripheral nation is economically dependent on the United States, a core nation whose trade flow with Colombia is much more important as a means to solidify their influence than in general economic terms (trade with Colombia makes up les s than 1% of the US annual GDP). The United States trade with Colombia is largely based on the extraction of raw materials (Ministerio del Interior 2012), a practice which ensures the continuation of Colombias underdevelopment as it does not bring new tec hnology into the country or invest in infrastructure or human capital. This practice, in turn, affects labor relations by providing
16 jobs that are low skill, minimum wage, and which often rely on a flexibilized1 labor practices. In the case of Colombia, rei nforcing labor regulations is especially important due to the high levels of informalized labor in the country (more than 60% of the countrys work force) and the governments poor record regarding the assurance of human and labor rights. Colombias condit ion of dependency and status as a semi peripheral nation can be traced back to the colonial era, whereby development was geared around facilitating the export of raw materials to core nations without an implementation of labor standards or the creation of advanced domestic industries. In this work, I combine the core periphery approach of World Systems theory with post development theory in order to provide a critical analysis of the impact free trade agreements have on vulnerable populations like Colombia n unionists. Post development theory posits the importance of looking beyond the structural perspective presented by expert knowledge, and towards the human experience of development projects as a more on the ground way to understand processes of developme nt (Escobar 2006). This theory argues for a re valorisation of vernacular cultures and emphasizes the need to focus more on peoples vision of development over the dominant perspective dictated by expert knowledge. The role of vernacular cultures is emphas ized in the qualitative data gathered, most of which presents particular expressions regarding the organization of informalized labor and corruption that are inherently Colombian and which do not necessarily line up with the expression of these same proces ses in other countries of the region. 1 Flexibilized labor refers to unstable and precarious work whereby workers no longer have an indefinite contract, which includes benefits, ensures a steady income, and operates within regulated labor conditions.
17 This thesis uses both the dominant discourse on economic liberalization, as dictated by economic growth indicators and a cultural analysis of economics, as provided by the narratives of union leaders. I supplement this information with reports on incidences of labor rights abuses, and labor unrest in the period of time leading up to, and after the implementation of, the free trade agreement. The economic growth indicators present a picture that is much more optimistic than the reality experienced by Colombian workers. This contributes towards the call for a more grassroots approach to development that humanizes the experiences of those who are most directly affected by economic growth projects, rather than focusing sol ely on the expert perspective used in the negotiations and discussions of free trade agreements. My findings indicate a progressively worsening condition for workers throughout Colombias economy, many of whom are operating in an increasingly unstable mark et that is gradually turning towards flexibilized labor as the sole form of employment. Colombia's Historical Context In order to understand the effects of free trade on working conditions, one must have a broader understanding of the political process es that precede these agreements and current labor relations. In this section, I offer such historical overview, but do so through a presentation of the key players in Colombias 20th century history. In this section I describe the historical background of paramilitary and leftist guerrilla organizations because of their clear connection to the armed conflict in Colombia and the fact that this ongoing war often bleeds into activist efforts, particularly trade union organizations. Due to the complexity and s heer denseness of Colombian history, I provide overviews of each group offering a general sense of the role that they play, particularly relative to labor
18 relations, trade unionists and their cause. Colombias history, dating back to the colonial era, is marked by a condition of dependency that has kept the country in the periphery up until today. During the initial occupation of territory by Spanish conquistadores, the country was relegated to be a satellite for the creation of wealth for the then core economy. When Colombia was colonized, its populations were relatively sparse, scattered throughout the territory in disconnected communities. As infrastructure began to develop for the extraction of materials from the country, the railways were built with s tate funds (Safford & Palacios 2002). These railroads began contributing the countrys external debt, but were not designed for national integration, or the use by the majority of the population. Instead these railways were aimed towards the port of Cartag ena, solely contributing to the facilitation of commodity exportation. This example illustrates the beginning trends of a system that has characterized Colombian economic development, leaving out m ost of the populations interests in order to cater to the demands of core economies. The nations status of dependence on the United States began to develop after it gained its independence from Spain, when US investments started to flood the Colombian economy geared mainly around the extraction of raw material s2 (Safford et al. 2002). With the advent of the coffee boom, Colombias economy centered largely on the one commodity making the nation highly susceptible to the fluctuations of the market. During the 1920s, United States investors flooded the coffee market taking over the ownership of the corporations that would export the commodity, leading some to refer to them as the claws of Yankee imperialism (Safford et al 2002). Yet the dynamics 2 Some of Colombias main c ommercial exports include emeralds, palm oil, flowers, coal, and oil.
19 regarding the internal ownership of the coffee market have shifted b ack towards domestic ownership (Safford et al. 2002). Coffee has for a long time played a crucial role in Colombias international trade, a fact that reflects a developing country with very little industrial growth. The lack of development of national industrial sector is reflected i n Saffords (1976) work that speaks to the nations inability to create a technical elite. Part of the argument presented in this thesis has to do with the countrys tendency towards having higher education programs geared towar ds hightech education, but having an absence of the industries that require these skills domestically. This process allows for an outpouring of skilled workers into the global market seeking for nations whose level of development matches their technical abilities. This short section serves to create an overview of the historical trends that have marked Colombias condition in the global periphery, some which today continue to relegate the nation to a semiperipheral status. It is important to understand the historical underlining of Colombias condition, particularly when incorporating a World Systems perspective, the nations current status in terms of economic development is highly affected by centuries of underdevelopment and foreign intervention. Pa ramilitarism The 1928 massacre of United Fruit Company banana workers that took place in Cinaga, Colombia has reverberated throughout history. The whole ordeal began after workers decided to strike demanding better working conditions and an increase in w ages. In order to end the monthlong strike, the federal government sent in troops from the Colombian army who opened fire on a group of strikers in the center square of town.
20 Congressman Jorge Elicer Gaitn, who was later assassinated during his presiden tial campaign, spoke out against the massacre pointing out that the military mobilization occurred under orders given by directors of the United Fruit Company (Cohen 2012) General Corts Vargas, responsible for ordering troops to shoot at the strikers, la ter argued that his decision was based on information he had received on the threat of a United States Marine invasion through Colombian ports if the financial interests of US based corporations like United Fruit were not looked after properly. Though most scholars point to Colombia's paramilitary movements as emerging decades after the massacre, this development provides an example of the far reaching and long standing history of collaboration between state officials, both national and foreign militaries, and international corporations in repressing workers' movements through time. 'Matanza de las bananeras' (the Banana massacre) survives as part of Colombia's history not solely as part of continued leftist political discourse, but also as the basis for one of the country's most renowned literary legacies. Gabriel Garca Marquez's Cien aos de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude) reflects how the history of state violence towards its citizens shapes even the layout of Colombia's cultural understanding of the conflict. Edgar de Jess Velsquez Rivera (2007) describes the history of paramilitarism in Colombia and analyzes it as a part of the political operations of the state in its counterinsurgency initiatives. Scholars like Velsquez Rivera (2007) and Da niel Garca PeaJaramillo (2007) note that there are numerous examples in the early to mid twentieth century of organizations that preceded paramilitary armies, all of them emanating from the elite classes as a violent effort to ensure the protection of their property. International intervention has also played a key role in ensuring the propagation
21 of paramilitaries in Latin America. Countries like France, known for their use of paramilitaries and counterinsurgency tactics on revolutionary efforts in thei r colonies of Indochina and Algeria, sent expert veterans to Washington where they were to disperse themselves through different military schools in order to share their military knowledge (Gill 2004). A clear example of this collective sharing of counteri nsurgency information is the case of Dan Mitrione, a United States agent trained by the CIA on methods of torture. Mitrione, who was sent to Uruguay to lead efforts against popular movements, was recognized for the phrase: The precise pain, in the precise place, in the precise amount, for the desired effect (Gill 2004). These and many other counterinsurgency tactics would become a part of the regular curricula in military training facilities such as the United States Army School of the Americas (USARSA) This particular institution is recognized for its involvement in training hundreds of thousands of Latin American militaries since the 1950s. The 1960s saw the rise of Colombia's second generation of cocaine capos, among them the notorious Pablo Escobar who during the early 1980s was able to run for office through the Liberal Party regardless of his blatant ties to contraband (Hylton 2006:68). Many of these wealthy narco traffickers would fund paramilitary organizations meant to confront leftist guerrilla s and terrorize any of their potential sympathizers. These 'potential sympathizers' usually refer to any individual who involves themselves in popular movements in Colombia. This tendency to equate community or workers' rights organizing to guerrilla activ ity usually results in the state condoning the murder of activists under the assumption that they were collaborating with guerrilla armies, an accusation that more often than not tends to be false.
22 During the 1980s several sectors within Colombia's elite expressed concern over an exacerbation of continued concessions to insurgent groups. This continued push resulted in a rise in the number of paramilitary armies operating throughout the country. As cocaine surpassed coffee as Colombia's main export, narco traffickers were able to provide more resources to paramilitary organizations (Hylton 2006:68). One of the paramilitary armies that emerged during this time was Muerte a Secuestradores ( Death to Kidnappers) (MAS), their name refers to the common practice of guerrillas to kidnap wealthy individuals in order to fund their own operations. One of the leaders of this organization, Alejandro Alvarez Henao a USARSA graduate, has been described by many of those active in the paramilitary movement as the 'father of paramilitarism in Colombia'. The creation of MAS is recorded to have involved not just major Colombian capos such as Escobar, the Ochoas, and Victor Carranza, but also former and current military officials, leaders of the most prominent political parties, and police officers. The example of MAS clearly illustrates not only the United States involvement in the creation and strategic formation of paramilitaries in Colombia, but also the alliance they created between political leaders, military officers, and narco traffickers. A more current and notorious instance of reported collaboration between state officials and paramilitary organizations is the case of former President lvaro Uribe V lez. Prior to being elected president in 2002, Uribe served as governo r of his home department of Antioquia. During his time as governor, he advocated for legislation that would implement a nationalized program of licensed private securities named CONVIVIR. These private armies were meant to collaborate with the military in order to counteract guerrilla movements in different regions of Colombia, mainly funded by large
23 landowners who openly rejected the policy of expropriation that the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia Ejercito del Pueblo (FARC EP) and Ejrcito de Liberacin Nacional ELN condoned. In November of 1997, the Colombian Constitutional Court made a ruling that deemed it unconstitutional for the CONVIVIR armies to use military grade equipment or government intelligence for their privately funded operations. This resulted in an eventual disbanding of the CONVIVIR armies, many of whose members ended up joining up with organizations that referred to themselves as paramilitary, particularly the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). Paramilitary organizations, such as the AUC have been linked to the assassination of many labor organizers since the 1980s. During his first term, Uribe initiated peace talks with the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) aiming towards a complete demobilization of all their membe rs (Nieto and Garcia 2008). Negotiations provided AUC members with great advantages including a maximum of eight years if sentenced, along with ensuring that their sentences will only be served in private farms rather than federal prisons (Goffman 2005). A UC members were also allowed to keep any profits or commodities they acquired during their time as an active armed group, as well as not being required to do away with the hierarchy they had created for their group. Though Uribe presented these processes a s a glimmer of hope for peace in Colombia, many human rights activists both in Colombia and abroad denounced the nature of these negotiations seeing as they did not allow victims to receive any remuneration for the crimes committed by members of the AUC, p roviding terrorists with an ability to walk away from their crime with minimal social or legal repercussions (Nieto et al 2008, Damme 2010). Though the process of demobilization is said to have
24 ended in 2006, a 2010 report from the United Nations points to the fact that many demobilized members of the AUC who through amnesty were pardoned from their crimes, were able to continue their paramilitaries activities postAUC as part of other organizations. Some of the major paramilitary organizations that are now active and continue to stage a resistance against leftists guerrillas, as well as perpetrate murders of social and labor activists include Aguilas Negras (Black Eagles), Rastrojos, and the Urabeos (Rozema 2007). Leftist Guerrillas When discussing the history and complexities of labor relations in Colombia, it is impossible to ignore the important role that leftist guerrillas have had in shaping the political and economic climate within which worker relations play out. Though the official emergence of leftist guerrilla comes in the 1960s, there are scholars who point to processes that were set in motion decades prior to insurgent militias (Medina 1992:7). The 1926 emergence of the Partido Socialista Revolucionario (PSR) represents the emergence of a Ma rxist political party in the Colombian political arena. PSR was a direct precursor to the Partido Comunista Colombiano (PCC) which played a key role in the development of class consciousness and labor movements throughout Colombia. Their approach was based on a dual strategy aimed to incorporate members of the urban and rural working class in order to create a cross cultural and geographic class linkage between city and the countryside (Brittain 2010: 2). Bogotazo & La Violencia
25 Building tensions betwe en the two main parties (Liberal and Conservative) had been escalating during the 1930s and through the 1940s, culminating in an eruption of nationwide violence after the assassination of Jorge Elicer Gaitn Ayala in 1964. As presidential candidate for th e Liberal Party, Gaitn3 enjoyed great popularity among the lower classes as he stood for a form of leftist populism that greatly appealed to the masses of disenfranchised laborers; most of whom, prior to his emergence in the political arena, had opted to abstain from the political process (Medina 1992:14). Immediate reactions to Gaitn's murder took the form of a large riot referred to as el Bogotazo, which brought to light a radicalized leftist movement (Hylton 2006:41). The period of widespread violenc e that built on the events of el Bogotazo, is known as La Violencia and is recognized by various scholars as the direct precursor to the establishment of guerrilla movements in rural areas (Brittain 2010; Gamboa and Zackrison 2001:95). Though this developm ent came directly after the death of Gaitn, factors like the crisis of the coffee industry, issues of land ownership, and a lack of a strong central government contributed to the overall instability that allowed for the violence to spread and sharpen (Hyl ton 2006:39). During this period, there was a rise in the number of small enclaves of peasant communities who thought of themselves as autonomous and generally identified with radical leftist politics, a clear precursor to the formation of official guerril la movements4. One of the members of these Gaitanista 3A distinction should be drawn between the Liberal Party and neoliberal economic policies; the former refers to a political party centered on leftof center societal goals, while the la tter represents a conservative economic theory arguing for a move towards free markets in the form of deregulation, privatization, and free trade. 4The term guerrilla throughout this thesis is used to describe Marxist Leninist rural armies that emerged in Colombia during the mid twentieth century. The term guerrilla is meant to describe their combative
26 guerrilla fronts was Manuel Marulanda V lez, a fighter who would go on to lead Colombia's largest leftist military movement Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC EP) (Hylton 2006:43). Due to the inherent challenge that Gaitanistas posed to the standing social hierarchy, these resistance movements were met with a strong and brutal repression on behalf of the state. This type of repression is exemplified by Governor Nicolas Borrero in Valle d el Cauca, who would allow for Los Pajaros (privately hired ultra right death squad) to go through and kill Gaitanistas, setting up a precedent of state condoned human rights violations that continue to happen today (Hylton 2006:43). During this period, organized labor established revolutionary juntas in major urban centers. Due to the slow buildup of urbanization in Colombia along with continued violence, they eventually vanished. The proliferation of guerrilla contingents caused unrest among the politica l elite, both Conservative and Liberal, which lead them to support the Rojas Pinilla coup of 1953. Rojas Pinilla decides to address the issue of rural insurrectionists by offering them a truce which is met with wide demobilization of guerrilla groups throu ghout the southern and eastern areas of Colombia (Medina 1992:21). Those who chose to abstain, mainly groups with communist ideologies, were met with severe military repression. This period saw violence concentrated in Afro Colombian majority communities w hich were made up of organized railroad workers, miners, and other trade unions which supported radical insurgency (Hylton 2006:45). Rojas Pinilla's military dictatorship did little to qualm the social unrest and political instability that plagued Colombia during this time. This led to its fall at the hands of a liberalconservative coalition headed by Laureano approach, whereby attacks are spontaneous and scattered, taking advantage of their knowledge of the terrain.
27 G mez and Alberto Lleras Camargo. This coalition gave birth to the Frente Nacional, a bi partisan agreement between Liberals and Conservatives to sh are political power by dividing administrations into four year installations over a period of sixteen years, from 19581974. The advent of the Frente Nacional presented a direct attack on the political voice of popular movements seeing as its provisions re adjusted the political structure by eliminating the possibility of there being a multiparty system (Brittain 2010:6). The closing up of the political structure represented by the emergence of the Frente Nacional, set up for the radicalization of various popular movements around the country, many of which became part of popular urban militant groups. Trade unionists and peasants living in the rural areas of the country also joined up leftist armed forces as the violent repression of the state escaladed (Hy lton 2006:48). These coalitions are the beginning of a continued narrative, whereby the ruling classes have emphasized the ties that at some point in history different leftist movements have had to one another and which serve in justifying the death of the ir members, such is the case with hundreds of murdered trade unionists whose death is explained by their alleged ties to leftist guerrillas. One of the most marked collaborations Colombia has seen between leftist activists from civil society and guerrilla organizations was the creation of the Unin Patritica, or Patriotic Union, during the nineteen eighties. This coalition of leftist political and armed movements was meant to present an alternative for those who felt disenfranchised by the political disco urse of the time, including those who had opted for the armed struggle because of their disillusionment with the Frente Popular. The main founders of this political party were the FARC and the Communist Party of Colombia
28 (PCC) during a time where the conse rvative administration of President Belisario Betancurt was hoping to reach a peace agreement with the leftist fighters. When it came time for election, the Unin Patritica ended up receiving an unprecedented level of support for a newly created third par ty. Unfortunately, all of the members of the party who were elected to represent the party nationally received death threats almost immediately; this process of harrassment culminated in the deaths of thousands of the party's affiliates, including their Pr esidential candidate, renowned trade union leader Jaime Pardo. Three years after the official creation of the Unin Patritica, the party announced that approximately 500 of its members had been killed or disappeared since their incursion into the politica l arena. Many of these assassinations and disappearances have been linked back to narcotrafficking rings and paramilitary organizations. The case of the Unin Patritica presents a clear example of the lack of political freedom and overall persecution thos e who espouse leftist beliefs. Their example also highlights the likely role that paramilitaries and narco traffickers have in perpetuating the violence against trade unionists like Jaime Pardo. While the inability to do serious investigation of the cases leaves unanswered who were the perpetrators of this violence, it is indeed very likely that narco traffickers and other paramilitary groups have been behind such repression, as they have in the past. Juan Manuel Santos Caldern served as Minister of Defen se from 2006 to 2009 as part of lvaro Uribe's second term President Cabinet. During this time, a scandal referred to as 'False Positives' broke out, which unveiled ongoing human rights violations on behalf of the Colombian army; whereby homeless citizens, activists, and other groups were targeted by members of the military and assassinated. These individuals would then
29 be disguised as guerrilla members and reported as so in order to increase the statistics on guerrilla casualties during the country's ongoi ng civil war. Though as Minister of Defense Santos recognized the veracity of these claims, he did not take responsibility for them and went on to lead a successful presidential campaign under the tutelage of lvaro Uribe. The federal government itself has been tied to the extrajudicial killings of 49 unionists since 1986, a fact that compounded with cases like the False Positives points to a systematic condition involving different sectors of Colombian society in the perpetuation of anti union violence (Damme 2010). The case of the Unin Patritica is also a reminder of the link that once existed between trade unionists and leftist guerrilla organizations; a link that governmental forces often point to as justifying the deaths and persecution of trade unionists. Alvaro Uribe himself would often describe unions in Colombia as the political representation of the armed insurgency (Damme 2010). Links between transnational corporations and paramilitary organizations have always proved hard to substantiate for those accusing these corporations of human rights violations. The case of Chiquita Brands presents an example of a transnational corporation that was sued for allegedly paying both the FARC and paramilitary AUC during extended periods of time for prote ction of their plantations. In 2007, Chiquita Brands was required to pay $25 million (US Dollars) for contributing to the torture and massacre of close to one thousand people in the banana growing region of Uraba. Chiquita was reported to have paid $1.7 mi llion (US Dollars) to the AUC between 1997 and 2004 for the protection of their territories. Towards the end of 2012, Colombia's Prosecutor General announced he would re open the case against Chiquita Brands International; the case was closed in March due to claims that the directors of Chiquita
30 were making payments against their will (Fox 2011). Recent evidence, including testimonies from AUC leaders, points to the fact that Chiquita Brands initiated the business interaction in which the US company would a llow the organization to send and receive shipments of illicit drugs as well as provide them with cash payments (Fox 2011). The Chiquita Brands case exemplifies the continued collaboration between Colombia's armed actors and transnational corporations, a l ink that is very likely to be strengthened by the passing and implementation of legislation like the US Colombia free trade agreement. This overview of Colombias historical context places the unionist struggle within the socio political environment th at the nations ongoing civil war has created. As evidenced throughout the chapter, unionism has been targeted by different actors at different points in the history of the Colombian conflict. Colombias history with the implementation of policies promotin g development has not represented an improvement in the standard of living of Colombias popular sectors. This consistent marginalization of the nations working class has created a broad base of dissidents, some of which have incorporated themselves to the armed struggle. The passing of the free trade agreement presents a continuation of the neoliberal policies that working class sectors have resisted since the Gaviria era. As this chapter has outlined, Colombia's history of armed conflict has been linke d to the perpetuation of violence towards the country's civilian population, especially affecting social justice actors. My research question what effect does free trade have on working conditions is motivated by the complex relationship between state r epresentatives, multinational corporations, guerrillas, paramilitaries, narco traffickers,
31 and social sector activists such as labor unions. As Sassen points out, economic liberalization often affects the lower echelons of society the hardest; how does thi s reflect in a society with such a long standing history of violence, neglect, and abuse? This thesis aims to analyze the effects of economic liberalization, as represented by the US Colombia Free Trade Agreement, in the lives and relations of majority of the workforce and the state.
32 3. METHODS Part of my analysis is based on the information provided by statistical data, some of which presents a broad overview of the Colombian economy. This information is combined with a more qualitativ e approach whereby I analyze the impact of the CTPA from the perspective of union leaders. In order to gauge the initial impact of the US Colombia TPA on Colombias economy, I looked at the following economic growth indicators: Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Gross Domestic Product growth (annual percentage), Gross National Income per capita (GNI), Gross National Income growth (annual percentage), imports of goods and services (percentage of GDP), imports of goods and services growth (annual percentage), exports of goods and services (percentage of GDP), exports of goods and services growth (annual percentage), Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), Debt Service payments, and Unemployment Rates (UR). GDP figures reflect the market value of all the goods and services produced within the national boundaries of a country, a statistic meant to provide a general overview of the productive power of a nations economy. Analyzing GDP serves to draw a broad picture of the general trends Colombias economy had in the years le ading up to, and during the first year of the agreements implementation. The annual growth of GDP is important in determining the initial impact of the US Colombia TPA, particularly considering its advocates ensured a dramatic increase in national product ivity. GNI per capita is included in order to gauge whether the distribution of wealth has experienced changes through the implementation of the free trade agreement. Colombias government pushed through the signing of the trade agreement on the basis of promoting
33 broad based development (Colombian Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism 2011). The main argument for this push being that an increase in national productivity would see itself reflected in the income of majority of the nations population My analysis includes measures of the annual fluctuations of both imports and exports in Colombias economy, mainly as a way to gauge the balance of trade between Colombia and the United States particularly considering the disparity in the productionlevel and sheer size of each nations markets. FDI provides an overview of the amount of foreign capital invested into the country; I chose to record the changes in this figure because of the expected impact of free trade agreements on the flow of trade between countries. Particularly, my aim is determining whether or not the facilitation of trade will reflect positively for Colombia in terms of both increasing exports and not having a disproportionate increase in imports from the US; a shift that could represe nt the increased competitiveness of US products vis a vis Colombian ones. Including Unemployment Rates in the analysis is important as this measure speaks most directly to the impact of free trade agreement on labor relations. Colombias government has em phasized the expected positive effects that the free trade agreement will have on employment rates especially in the private sector; juxtaposing the rates of FDI and UR serves to provide a better picture of whether or not the US COL TPA is generating inves tment that translates into broad based development, or whether it perpetuates the tendency towards mainly extracting raw materials in developing countries that allows for continued dependence. As part of my research, I attempted to gather data regarding the working conditions of laborers throughout the country. After spending time sorting through the
34 DANEs website, it was evident that the information provided every three months is largely inconsistent. The tables and figures vary in their presentation a nd the topics that they cover, making it close to impossible to provide a long term analysis of working conditions, particularly for workers employed in the informal sector. The information that was presented specified that data was only collected from res idents of the thirteen largest metropolitan areas in the country, leaving out sectors of the population that are placed under the most vulnerable working conditions: rural workers. The only information provided by the Colombian government that would provide a yearly comparison of working conditions stops in 2010, leaving one to wonder how current conditions might compare to those prior to the recent implementation of various free trade agreements. The dominant discourse surrounding negotiations, and si gning of, any free trade agreement is largely based on economic growth indicators. Usually absent from the conversation are the perspectives of those who experience the repercussions of this legislation on the ground, the workers. As remarked through last chapter, Colombia's labor movement has a particularly complex and violent history that continues to play itself out today. Taking into consideration the historical silencing of trade unionists in Colombia, it is necessary to approach the study of the effec ts of a free trade agreement with the United States from the workers' perspective. I began my research by contacting different trade unions throughout Colombia, requesting and scheduling interviews with elected officials within the union in October 2012. I limit my participant pool to elected union officials because, they are the most informed regarding the implementation, and effects on workers, of both the Labor Action Plan (LAP) and the US Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA). The most
35 common challenge throughout this process was getting in touch with union officials seeing as many of the unions were in the middle of having annual elections, thus making the schedules of elected officials more tightly packed than usual. Eight out of the ten int erviews I conducted took place in the headquarters of the respective trade union organization in Bogot, Colombia. The trade unions represented in this study span across different sectors of the Colombian economy, from public to private, and service to man ufacturing. I used semi structured interview, enabling me to ask the questions necessary to gauge the general impact the CTPA has had on labor relations, while still allowing enough space for participants to include information that I had not anticipated. Several of my questions focused on comparing conditions before and after the implementation of the Labor Action Plan as well as the CTPA, in the same vein I also included questions that sought to determine any clear changes in the policy or discourse of th e country's last two administrations. The dangerous conditions under which trade unions and their members operate was made palpable through the increased level of security that every union headquarter had. Every main office was at least protected by bu llet proof doors; several of them were located inside buildings with security personnel who required an official form of identification from every visitor. There were several occasions where participants asked questions about my identity and how I had hear d of their organization, a tendency that also highlights the apprehension with which trade unionists in Colombia must approach exercising the right to organize. As part of my analysis, I coded the transcribed interviews using the qualitative research prog ram NVivo, allowing codes to emerge from the data. Through the coding
36 process, I found that eight mega codes emerged consistently through the responses, those were: asymmetric economies, the state, labor flexibilization, changes since the implementation of the CTPA, transnational corporations, labor rights violations, human rights violations, and the unions' response to threats and harassment. Each of these categories has sub categories which refer to specific examples of the broader code, for example 'Resp onses to threats and harassment is divided into two: national and international. These subcategories are partitioned themselves, in the case of national responses to harassment the category is divided based on the expression of the response, be it protest, filing a claim, or dissemination of information to the public. The code for international cases discerns examples based on the institution or organization that Colombian trade unions approach to communicate their grievances. Overall, my methodology aims to create a conversation among the elements of economic growth provided by growth indicators, statistical data presented on the violations to human and labor rights in the country, and the perspectives presented by union leaders in semi structured intervie ws. The following chapter presents an analysis of the juxtaposition of this data in relation to the theoretical background provided by post development theory. I then go on to draw a conclusion that argues for a view of the CTPA as a step in a process of e conomic liberalization rather than the sole structural representation of liberalization itself.
37 4. ANALYSIS Combining the dominant discourse, as represented by economic growth indicators, with the qualitative information gathered through int erviews serves to present a more complete understanding of how free trade agreements affect the lives of workers. I begin my analysis with a view of the CTPAs impact on the Colombian economy overall, moving from there to discuss the degree to which the la bor leaders agree or disagree with the image that is conveyed through strictly economic terms. For the most part, the reality that is portrayed through these statistics does not line up with the lived experiences of workers, many of whom see a distance bet ween the arguments presented by the government and elite sectors and the actual effects of their policies. The figures presented in Table 2 show the progression of Colombias economy in the past four years. The 5.9% jump in GDP between 2010 and 2011 can be partially attributed to the signing of the CTPA, a legislative accomplishment that reflected itself in optimistic speculation on behalf of Colombias financial sectors. On the year that the agreement was actually enacted, there was a 1.6% drop in GDP, a development which participants were aware of during the time of the interviews and which reflected in their overall negative assessment of the possible repercussions of the CTPA. These figures may also illustrate that the global economic recession in the core, has affected the economy of the periphery. According to participants, the overall level of exports has been dropping as the number of imports has steadily increased. This is supported by the data in Table 2, where we see that the annual growth of imports is smaller than the annual growth of exports, implying more goods and services are imported than exported.
38 Colombias Economic Growth Indicators Table 2 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Gross Domestic Product 244.0 234.3 286.3 333.3 500 GDP Annu al Growth 3.5% 1.7% 4% 5.9% 4.3% Imports Annual Growth 10.5% 9.1% 10.5 % 21.5% Imports % of GDP 20.3% 18.3 % 18% 20.1% Exports Annual Growth 4.5% 2.9% 1.3% 11.4% Exports % of GDP 17.8% 16% 15.9 % 18.9% Foreign Direct Investment Net inflows (% GDP) 4.1% 3.0% 2.4% 4.0% 11% Unemployment Rates 13.2% 12% 11.6% 10.8% 12.1% (Jan.) Interviewees noted that the agriculture, milk, and chicken industries are currently struggling the most due to competition from new imports. Eight out of ten interviewees note d that, the subsidies the United States provides for US agricultural products allows for a lowering of prices with which Colombia producers cannot compete. The drastic difference between the growths in imports versus the growth in exports is representative of this unequal exchange between asymmetric economies. This process is representative of the competitiveness that free trade is supposed to bring, unfortunately, as Colombian industries are pushed out of the market there are no other sources of labor being created. The contradiction between the alleged push for free trade, and the continued implementation of protectionist policies on behalf of the US, speaks to the unequal
39 relation between the nations; whereby the core is able to dictate which aspects of f ree trade it chooses to tend to, while semi peripheral nations are expected to go through with all of the policys clauses, a practice which can prove devastating for their domestic sectors. In this case, farmers in the core have their competitiveness prot ected, while the farmers in the periphery are left to experience the direct effects of unregulated trade. The gradual increase in the unemployment figures, which were reported to be at an all time low during the middle of 2012 (DANE), reflect an economy st ruggling to keep up with the changes that the CTPA is bringing about. Foreign Direct Investment dropped between 2008 and 2010; however, it recuperated by 2011 and then almost tripled the following year (2012). This reflects an aggressive push for more investment in Colombia; a change which does not necessarily lead to job creation. This discrepancy between rates of investment and job creation is partly due to the fact that more than 50% of the foreign investment is focused on the extraction of raw materia ls (Ministerio del Interior 2012). These industries provide less work opportunities for Colombian laborers as the mineral extraction industry relies heavily on machinery and less and less on actual manual labor (Wills Valderrama 2011:20). In addition to low job growth, this extractive investment has also led to the forced displacement of different indigenous and AfroColombian groups throughout the country. For example, corporations are pushing for the government to evict long time residents of territorie s that are now hot spots for mineral extraction, such as La Toma in Valle del Cauca. The Afro Colombian communities that inhabit these territories have historically survived through artisan mining and selling of art to tourists, the forced displacement
40 brings challenge to their stability and source of livelihood. This process leaves Colombia with more workers being streamed into the urban centers, no new sources of labor being created, and accelerates the extraction of natural resources which perpetuates the countrys peripheral status. The negative consequences of free trade can be seen not only in forced dislocation and unemployment, but also in the deteriorating conditions of work for those who are employed. Asymmetric Economies Advocates of the implem entation of the US Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement grounded a lot of their support on the claim that this agreement would bring about bilateral benefits. Most of these claims were corroborated by tentative figures, mainly in the form of economic growth indicators, reflecting a dramatic growth in Colombias overall productivity. So far, growth indicators point to a slowed growth GDP (from 5.9% in 2011 to 4.6% in 2012) that is below what was expected seeing as it represents an actual drop in the annual growth of GDP relative to that of the 2011. A labor leader illustrated the consequences of this situation: We have always pointed to the fact that a free trade agreement between economies that are so asymmetrical, where majority of the competitiveness, of t he industrialization, the handling of patents of intellectual property and all these other factors have contributed to Colombias economy every time being more extractive of natural resources, of raw materials.. And well its hard to compete in these condi tions. What we are expecting to see is an obliteration of many economic sectors, the agrarian and small industry in particular. That is why we expect to see severe economic repercussions that affect labor relations, because what we are generating is an ope ning for imports and the multinationals [who] in their investments are looking for flexibility of labor, ensuring low labor costs and thats why we expect the effects to be very negative. (Personal interview)
41 When conducting interviews, my initi al questions were intended to gauge the respondents general attitude towards the passing of the CTPA. A majority of the respondents not only agreed in their view of the free trade agreement as unfavorable for Colombia in general, but also grounded their r esponse on what many of them described as a condition of asymmetric economies that exists between the United States and Colombia. The perceived unequal nature of Colombias development compared to that of the United States tended to relate back to a lack of industrialization in the country; a fact which many respondents believed left Colombia in a state where the only role it could play in a free trade agreement is that of providing raw materials and cheap labor for the United States. This asymmetry contr ibutes to declining working conditions for most people because the job growth is not in highly skilled, regulated labor. Instead, most of Colombias work force is relegated to cheap, unskilled work. The CTPA does not challenge this condition of asymmetry b ut reinforces it, encouraging trade and investment based on the extraction of raw materials. These usually unregulated jobs provide below poverty wages that are not stable or contractually mandated. The labor leaders above comment points to the general attitudes of participants regarding the economic effects of implementing an agreement like the CTPA. It also expands on the implications this may have for workers, considering the trade agreement opens up the country for a race to the bottom. This race t o the bottom is most evident in the Colombian governments effort to promote free trade and foreign investment by pushing for changes that cheapen labor costs while giving transnational corporations incentives for moving their manufacturing centers to the country (Damme 2010).
42 So far, I have illustrated how the growth in GDP since 2009 does not reflect a general improvement in the wellbeing of most Colombians. The nation confronts a trade imbalance, reduced competitiveness of local agricultural industries due to unfair subsidies in the core, and the growth in FDI in areas that do not increase employment at the same rather that people become displaced. Furthermore, the employment that is created tends to be in increasingly precarious conditions. This situat ion is further exacerbated with the development of new relations of work that allow corporations to leave the risks of the market on the hands of the workers and the profits in the hands of investors. CTAs, SAS, & the Continuation of Flexibilization A series of legal figures have been created like the CTAs; which appear to be worker cooperatives, but the character of cooperatives has been denaturalized and ignored and the creation of these entities has been permitted. Arrangements where the employer del egates the administration of the workers and the employer establishes the hiring criteria, many times ignoring worker benefits, stability, and other factors. The same workers are left administrating their job, selling their labor force, but now through a c ooperative... and in that cooperative, since (the worker) is no longer considered an employee but an affiliate, they could lose all ability to defend their rights, on top of the fact that they cannot become unionized since they are members of a cooperative. (Personal interview) The role of the state was central to the discussion of labor relations during the interviews; particularly resonant was the fact that all of those interviewed agreed on a view of the Colombian government as an advocate for the int erests of the elite. Most participants pointed to the legislative changes Colombia has undergone in the past decade as illustrative of the federal governments push for structural amendments that disproportionately benefit the upper classes. The two most c ited changes that participants considered to corroborate this notion were the continued growth of Cooperativas de Trabajo Asociado (CTA), worker
43 cooperatives, and the introduction of the Citizen Protection Law (Ley de Proteccin Ciudadana). Worker Cooperatives or CTAs as they are commonly referred to in Colombia, have been used as a model for labor organization that could be traced back to the early twentieth century (Farne 2008). However, it wasnt until Law 78 of 1988 and Decree 468 of 1990 that legisla ture was introduced by the government to create guidelines that would define the framework under which these worker cooperatives were to operate. Article 1 of Decree 468 provides a definition of a worker cooperative as a not -for -profit associate company, which ties the personal labor of its associates and their economic input to the production of goods, execution of works, or the sale of services through self -management. Though this definition creates a vision of the CTA as an autonomous organization that works for the benefit and agency of workers regarding their labor power; in practice, however, this organization has been coopted and deformed to further facilitate the profit motive of corporate interests. During the first five years of Alvaro Uribes administration (2002-2007), the number of registered CTAs grew three -hundred percent, incorporating into these organizations close to forty -one percent of workers annually (Farne 2008, Damme 2010:12). Cooperatives are usually seen as a way of structuring l abor that emphasizes the autonomy of the workers, gearing their efforts around ensuring the best interests of the workers are looked after, instead of emphasizing profit over regulated and stable working conditions. These worker cooperatives that predomina te in Colombia require associates to pay a membership fee before they even begin working; in addition, the cooperatives work more like labor pools administered by the workers than as production sites. This labor arrangement places the responsibility of pay ing into social programs and providing benefits on the cooperative itself, working to slash labor costs for the actual employers. The corporations become exempt from
44 having to ensure the implementation of any labor regulation, as they are simply engaging i n a business transaction with the cooperative as whole, not individual employees. CTAs are usually made up of five to twenty workers who manage their own labor power, and negotiate with the employer on the terms of their contract representing both their interests as workers and managers (Damme 2010:11). As illustrated by the quote, under Colombian legislation, workers who are members of a CTA are not subject to the regulations set forth by the national Labor Code as they are not considered to be dependent workers (Damme 2010:12). The precariousness of CTA members situation is emphasized by the fact that they are not allowed to unionize. Their status as members of the cooperative leaves them in full control over their cooperative business, and hence unionization is deemed unnecessary. Yet these cooperatives have very little bargaining power in their negotiations with the corporations. Since the figures on registered CTAs began to grow exponentially in 2002, worker cooperatives were placed under greater scrutiny by government officials; revealing various problems with the actual state of CTAs nationwide. One of them came through a study conducted by the Colombian government in 2004, which revealed that seventy -five percent of worker cooperatives had cases of worker abuse or other irregularities within their regular operations (Damme 2010:13). Often times it was found that cooperatives would collect monthly fees for social programs for all members (between 5-10% of their income) but only pay into these prog rams for half of the workers (Farne 2008). Several irregularities were also found concerning the number of CTAs that were accounted for in the national registry versus the number of CTAs found operating throughout the country. This is likely a result of U ribes push for the propagation of this kind of organization and their ability to easily operate outside of government oversight. CTAs themselves are exempt from contributing to some key social programs like the National
45 Learning Service (SENA), a vocation al education institution that provides free education for Colombias working class citizens (Farne 2008). The logic behind this assumes that a fully functioning cooperative would be able to provide these social services to their members; a case that is far from the truth for Colombias cooperative members, does not lead to the use of funds for coop education, rather to not worsen the already bad situation of the workers. Several sources (Farne 2008, Damme 2010) highlight the cheapening of labor for contract ors as part of the large appeal behind the governments push for CTAs. The push for privatization and use of CTA and SAS workers was advertised by the government leading to a reduction between 12-15% of the costs that employers would be paying to temporary work agencies (ESTs). Reports on irregularities of CTAs, including the existence of unregistered CTAs, as well as the tendency for CTAs to act as irregular labor intermediaries legislative action was taken to curtail these practices. The Citizens Protecti on Law noted in the opening paragraph of this subsection (Law 1429 of 2010) was introduced into the countrys legislation. Article 43 of Law 1429 makes employers, who are sub-contracting CTA members labor power to fulfill duties of a permanent on -site wor ker, liable to receive up to five thousand minimum wage salaries in fines if found guilty of this transgression. Partly contributing to this development was the fact that during the period of time that CTAs experienced exponential growth (2002-2007), the n ational government was pushing through the privatization of different government -owned enterprises, predominantly the health sector; a process which resulted in the liquidation of the entire staff of any formerly government -owned entity, most of these newl y privatized enterprises would then rehire entire staff through CTAs, avoiding responsibility over workers health and retirement benefits, and liability of laws regulating hired labor.
46 The transformation of the nature of cooperatives, from working towards an organization of labor that puts the interests of the workers first, towards a form of outsourcing that reduces the quality of labor standards and bargaining options of workers can be seen as an effect stemming from the nature of the free market. The structure of the market is one that prioritizes profits over the quality of working conditions, allowing for the cooptation of these labor organizations towards the cheapening of labor rather than the autonomy and dignity of workers. The following quote s peaks to the experiences of workers in the health sector during the process of privatization that preceded the implementation of the US -Colombia TPA: Before the FTA we had collective bargaining, workers in the public sector, the hospital workers.. I work at a hospital where now we only have 69 on site workers, and 475 workers who are externalized. [These workers] do not have rights to claim extra compensation for working on Sundays or holidays, they themselves pay for their social security subsidy, their c hildren do not receive a family subsidy... its very hard, before we had workers on -site but the restructuration of the state did away with unionizing because it threw out on -site workers and replaced them with cooperatives, with SAS, and other similar arr angements. (Personal interview) As exemplified here, the process of privatization that several government -owned enterprises underwent resulted in an erosion of labor rights in conjunction with the boom of CTAs around the country. This developm ent compounded with the reduction of workers salaries and cutbacks in social services, which served to ameliorate the living costs of workers. In addition, the privatization of health-care in Colombia represents a direct attack on the income of Colombias working class as citizens now are in charge of paying for the essential procedures that they would have otherwise received at a lowered cost through government -owned hospitals. Another key point brought up in this excerpt is the existence of SAS as anot her form of cheapening the cost of labor for employers through the creation of entities that allow for
47 outsourcing of labor. Sociedad por Acciones Simplificadas (SAS) refer to Simplified Joint Stock Companies, a labor arrangement which came to replace CTAs as they went under heavier scrutiny, and that exists under a framework that is more loosely regulated than CTAs. An example of this is the fact that in the case of CTAs, the cooperatives are required to include the specific industry their work is geared t owards; whereas in the case of SAS where there is no requirement for a specified trade or industry that the members of SAS would be involved in, allowing for there to be less venues through which to enforce government oversight (Nieto and Isaza 2010:52). T he creation of SAS, under Law 1258 of 2008, began a trend whereby CTAs that were operating illegally would transform their arrangement to the more loosely -defined SAS allowing for the continuation of externalization of workers and consequent cheapening of labor (Nieto et al 2010:62). The popularity of CTA and creation of SAS in the past decade represent a structural transformation of labor organization in Colombia, proposed and advocated by the government; which have resulted in the cheapening labor, a transition that some see as increasing the countrys competitiveness in the years leading up to the passing of the US Colombia free trade agreement. These forms of labor organization allow for the continued erosion of labor rights in Colombia; a process tha t is represented by the increasing number of workers affiliated to associations like CTA and SAS. It could be argued that we are now seeing is an alliance between elite in the core and in the semi -periphery to ensure their interests are represented through the cheapening of labor. Although CTAs and SASs were not originally created to erode the agency and working standards of laborers, they have been manipulated to facilitate the outsourcing of labor and consequent decrease in the appeals workers could make as managers of their own labor power. The process itself might have not had the same results had it not been for the fact that it was compounded by austerity measures, which prompted the government to open
48 up public entities (such as hospitals) to privat e investors whose interests lie in profit -making. Cheap labor and declining working standards provide an opportunity for investors to cut costs increasing the likelihood of greater returns. Misuse of CTAs and SASs is only one piece in the larger puzzle of precarious working conditions. The next section details the conditions workers in the informal sector face, many of whom are reacting to a closing up of stable employment opportunities. El Rebusque Here in Colombia, whoever stands on a street light t o sell candy is automatically considered to be employed and this is simply not the truth. We see that in Colombia, day by day unemployment keeps rising and rising. Whats happening now is that a majority of the population has to seek out a way to incorpor ate themselves in what we call the rebusque economy in order to survive. Structural changes to the way labor is organized in the country have contributed to an overall flexibilization of labor that is represented by the increasing number of workers who are not protected by the stipulations of the Labor Code. Currently, more than 60% of Colombias workforce is employed in the informal sector (DANE 2012). Combining the effects of the increase in outsourced labor (CTA/SAS) with the figures on informal labor points to a reality where the majority of Colombias labor force is working under precarious conditions, with ineffective or limited regulation and an unstable income. The recurring theme of labor instability and being forced to become a part of the informal economy are encompassed in a term used by all of participants: El Rebusque. The term itself has no direct translation in the English language and is only used in Colombia. It is meant to refer to the constant reconfiguring of work, and by extension survival, that Colombian working class citizens have had to take on in the past five years.
49 Participants noted that a majority of Colombians find themselves selling candy on the street, or taking on odd jobs more and more in order to be able to provide f or themselves and their families. Respondents saw the continued push for privatization as a contributor to the precarious situation workers find themselves in. With a decrease in social spending and in earnings, as well as increasing food prices, workers have lower purchasing power and see themselves forced to engage in rebusque to make ends meet. In addition to the structural changes that lead to precarious working conditions, interviewees noted that there is a tendency for workers, who are promised a mini mum wage, to be cheated out of their salaries through intimidation or as employers take advantage of the lack of knowledge workers have regarding their rights. Rather than push to protect workers, some political leaders seek to make this a legal action. A participant mentioned the current push some sectors of the Colombian Congress are making towards lowering the national minimum wage. Evidently, if such action were taken, it would prove devastating for workers who already have to go out and find three or f our sources of income only to make ends meet. All respondents highlighted the fact that government statistics, which currently reflect an economic condition that is unstable, are not reliable in their assessment of the condition of workers. This unreliabil ity becomes particularly salient when taking into account the fact that many workers who are part of the informal economy, and who do not by any means earn a living wage, are still considered to be fully employed under the questionable methodology of Col ombias statistics department (DANE). Several participants pointed examples like the case of former DANE director, Ernesto Rojas Morales, who in 2007 cited the questionable methods applied by the DANE in their gathering of statistics as the main reason for his stepping down (Villa
50 2007). This is representative of the unreliability of government figures particularly those that speak to the economic and social reality of Colombias popular sectors. In addition, I would add that the move to formalize the infor mal sector, even when appropriately measured, leads to a misrepresentation of the nations economic health, as the majority of its people in reality, live in poverty and under rebusque As noted here and further expanded below, labor law, with its current protections, is not shielding workers from abuse as it should. Hecha La Ley, Hecha la Trampa The Labor Action Plan, a crucial precursor to the signing and implementation of the CTPA, included in its stipulations the creation of a Labor Ministry meant to address issues of labor rights violations and workplace regulation throughout the country (Office of the US Trade Representative 2011). Though several participants admitted that when the Labor Action Plan was originally introduced they were hopeful fo r the possibilities of an improvement in working conditions for Colombian laborers, nine out of ten participants agreed that the LAP was a dismal disappointment. Part of this disillusionment has to do with the fact that though the creation of the Labor Ministry promised heavier regulation, this increase in government oversight did not necessarily translate into an improvement in working conditions. Hecha la ley, hecha la trampa, is an adage common in Latin America which was recurrent in participants resp onses regarding the implementation of the LAP and labor regulations overall. This dictum refers to the fact that often times once a law is created so is a way to go around it, translating literally into once a law is made, so is a way to go around it. With the implementation of the CTPA our situation remains under the same condition, the same structural problems... the government has, instead of
51 eliminating tertiarization and complying with the international conventions, established regulations for thi s flexibilization and apparently done workplace inspections.. but these workplace inspections result in fines and the business owners prefer paying fines and continuing with the same modality of contracting labor because of the savings that that entails. The fine becomes a joke, something that the business owner fools, which is why here in Colombia we say: Hecha la ley, hecha la trampa. This quote encompasses the defeatist attitude with which all participants viewed the policies of the federal government. In this case particularly, we see a situation where the legal changes that in theory would bring about noticeable improvements in labor conditions in practice do not reflect the intended results. As business owners continue to be able to circumvent the law, unionists become more disillusioned with the possibility of change that legislation like the Labor Action Plan originally represented. Participants described a situation where business owners, operating in a system that has shaped itself around the mo del of increasing competitiveness by cheapening labor costs, are made to pay fines to ensure that they can continue to trample over basic labor rights. The government is then seen as allowing a free pass on labor rights violations for those able to comply with the fines, the highest being five thousand minimum wage salaries (Ministerio del Trabajo 2011). A clear expression of this idea is the continued labor rights abuses. [Hence, as also noted in the quote above, while it becomes possible to break the law by either not being caught or simply paying a fine, the government is also seeking ways to legalize these oppressive practices. The labor movement, however, while seeming defeatist in their rhetoric, do take action against such injustices. Responses to Co ntinued Human Rights Violations All participants coincided in their assessment of the implementation of the free trade agreement as continuing, and in some cases, exacerbating the labor and human
52 rights violations that had been at the forefront as reasons to resist the passing of the agreement. The following quote illustrates the persecution worker rights activists face, and the view that participants have of this condition as being systematic. In the last twenty months, during the Santos administration, we have received more than 900 threats. In the last twenty months, the impunity in all transgressions murder attempts, disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention continues to be approximately one hundred percent and even though we all resist alongs ide North American unions so that the CTPA would not pass, the condition remains the same. North American business owners should not do business with Colombian business men who have been tied to funding paramilitary groups to victimize union leaders. Regar dless of the mounting evidence, there has been a total dismissal of the condition Colombian syndicalists face today, we are being murdered and the violations continue. The continued violation of human and labor rights have led Colombian unions to seek ways to address these violations outside of the national government structure. Most participants referred to the process of filing a complaint to the Labor Ministry as tedious and over extended. A formal complaint often results in the worker being fired be fore any verdict is reached (investigations were cited as lasting up to two years), or no verdict ever being reached therefore allowing the employer to continue their transgressions unpunished. By March 2013, ITUC the International Trade Union Confederation, already reported at least a handful of unionists deaths, and dozens of assassination threats and attempts. Participants did point to a difference in the discourse used by former President Uribe and current President Santos. In his speeches, the latter presents a more diplomatic approach to the nations tenuous labor relations. However, this difference in language does not translate into a difference in practice, seeing as all participants reported no change in the level of persecution that labor rights activists and workers in general face.
53 Participants did report the continued push on behalf of their organizations for a more global approach to the critical condition workers face in Colombia. The main way they have sought to address the continuation of labor and human rights violations is through denouncing these transgressions abroad. The original resistance to the CTPA, which pushed back the signing and resulted in the creation of the LAP, is cited as the main reason why most unions continue to seek out help from abroad. Institutions like the Inter American Commission on Human Rights provide a venue for labor rights activists to bring to light the hostile conditions Colombian workers continue to face, despite the alleged structural changes the LAP woul d bring about. Part of this approach also deals with the recent changes made to Colombias legislation, which have restricted the way unionists around the country usually approach denouncing violations. The following quotes refer to the implementation of t he Citizen Protection Law. Here, during this last government, with the passing Citizen Protection Law we see the final closing up of the freedom to come together to have a demonstration, a protest.. Its to say that (the government) is not seeking to solve the conflict through the establishment of a negotiating table, a way for the government to recognize their duties, rights, etc.. instead, we have the immediate turn towards strong police action, aiming towards repression and the application of the Ci tizen Security Law that ends up becoming a way of judicializing social protest in Colombia. Earlier on in this chapter, I mentioned participants see the Citizen Security Law as an example of the marriage between the state and the elite sectors of Colomb ian society. Law 1452 of 2011 was introduced into Colombias Penal Code on June of that same year, part of its declared intention being marking an important milestone in the struggle against crime and delinquency in the country (Ministry of the Interior 2011). The law, however, features
54 several clauses which point to a nuanced understanding of the definition of crime and delinquency, something which could seriously restrict the abilities for social protest throughout the country. A pamphlet on the subject published by the Ministry of Interior (2011), states: [the law] Will not penalize social protest. It will, however, penalize with two to four years in jail anyone who obstructs streets potentially harming life, health, food safety, among others. The la w also penalizes with four to eight years the obstruction of, or damage to, any form of public transportation. The ambiguity of some of the language in the legislation, coupled with the fact that many Colombian social justice groups use the streets as their main medium of protest, leaves Colombias unions and social activists in a precarious situation; whereby they are subject to both direct attacks from the ESMAD (Escuadrn Mvil Antidisturbios), a police force created solely to confront and evict protes ters from public space, and immediate incarceration. This legislation illustrates the closing up of Colombias political system, mainly in the sense that it provides the basis for the legal persecution of individuals and activist groups who disrupt public spaces to express their political dissidence. Restricting access and sanctioned uses of public space disproportionately affects Colombias popular sectors and their movements. The incorporation of this law into the way the government deals with social proc ess is also indicative of an alliance between the elite in core and semi peripheral nations, whereby the grievances that could be caused by their trade practices are no longer allowed to be brought into the public sphere.
55 Conclusion Overall, the general t rends presented in this chapter illustrate increasingly precarious conditions for workers throughout Colombias economy. I noted how simply considering GDP, the country seems to be growing and hence one assumes its people are experiencing better living conditions. A closer look, however, illustrates a more complex picture where trade deficits lead to reduced social services, and where neo -liberal economic policies lead to worsening working conditions (either illegally or legally with changes in the law). T he countrys status as a semi peripheral nation resulted in a decline of domestic industries without a sufficient increase in employment options created by foreign direct investment. The push towards a cheapening of labor that neoliberal policies represent have led to the reconfiguration of ways of organizing labor that would ideally have improved working conditions and the bargaining power of workers, moving towards an erosion rather than enhancement of labor rights protection. The combination of austerity measures that reduce access to social services and incomes, with organizations like SAS and CTA has proved devastating to labor rights activists across the board, mainly in that it places associated workers in the periphery of the labor code. El Rebusque is increasingly becoming the only means of survival for Colombias labor force. Labor activists are left to reconfigure the ways in which they structure their defense strategies, turning more and more towards international organizations to denounce and s eek justice for the harassment and intimidation that they consistently experience. This turn towards including the international community in the dialogue of Colombian labor rights is largely propelled by the distrust workers have towards government initia tives, particularly the way that the supposed implementation of labor
56 regulation has not necessarily resulted in an improvement in working conditions, but rather an opportunity for employers to buy their way out of having to enforce regulations.
57 5. CONCLUSION: CTPA AS A STEP IN A PROCESS When I began research on this project, I expected to find that the implementation of the US Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement brought with it a dramatic shift in the way work relations took place within the Colombian context. Instead, I find that the CTPA brings a formalization of processes that have gradually developed and become more characteristic of Colombian labor relations in the past two decades. Labor relations have been marked by an inclusion of flexibilized labor into the institutional structure, as exemplified by the creation of outsourcing models like CTAs and SAS. This process of formalization of precarious labor is tied to Colombias condition of dependency as a semi peripheral n ation engaging in free trade agreements with the United States. Colombias state of dependence on the United States is best understood as part of a longer historical process. As outlined earlier in the introduction, tracing Colombias colonial roots can illustrate the power imbalance between the two nations; a condition which continues to shape their interactions today. The current lay out of Colombian labor relations, particularly those in the agricultural sector, is being drastically affected by the mas s influx of imports like corn, wheat, and barley. Prior to the implementation of the CTPA, Colombia provided a tariff protection for all agricultural products (Wright 2012), a buffer that is quickly becoming a distant memory for agricultural producers around the country. Though Colombia is obliged to diminish their protectionist policies in exchange for their economys full participation in free trade, the United States continues to provide subsidies to their agricultural industry. This practice emphasizes the continued imbalance between the two countries, whereby the United States being a powerful core nation can
58 set the standards for unregulated trade. This ignores the fact that the United Statess own industries are propped up by federally distributed agr icultural subsidies. The prices the United States can charge for these subsidized products are considerably lower than those Colombian producers can compete with, serving to push out domestic industries from the market. This transition, in a country with s uch a heavy production of agricultural commodities, sets up for a critical period in the labor market as employment options are closed up without sufficient opening of new industries. This increasing influx of United States agricultural products into thei r domestic market is not an issue solely experienced by Colombia. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that included Mexico, Canada, and the US has left Mexican corn producers in a state of constant crisis. The crisis affects not only the produc ers of corn, but also Mexican consumers who have experienced a sharp increase in the cost of staple foods such as tortillas (Green 2003). Mexicos case with corn is most clearly paralleled in Colombia by the crisis of the rice industry, a condition that ha s led Colombians to pay the highest prices for rice in all of Latin America (Lopez Caballero 2013). The case of rice production in Colombia was a point of contention prior to the implementation of the CTPA, seeing as many thought the trade agreement repres ented the most serious threat for this particular sector of the domestic agricultural production. During March of 2013, rice producers from Tolima, Huila, Casanare, and other regions took to the streets to demand a cease to the importation of rice into the country. The rice producers argue that the mass influx of the grain brought in by the implementation of the CTPA has severely crippled their ability to stay afloat (Su rez 2013). The list of demands that the rice producers, part of the national movement for rice
59 worker dignity (Movimiento Nacional por la Dignidad Arrocera), presented to the Colombian government moves beyond just requesting for an end to the importation of rice. It emphasizes the need for an improvement to the countrys industrial infrastr ucture, which would improve the ability of producers to compete with the price set by subsidized United States imports. The crisis in Colombias agricultural sectors is indicative of a larger trend, whereby the CTPA is serving to destabilize and threaten t he nations economy without providing an improvement in global competitiveness, leaving the nations most vulnerable populations stuck between a rock and a hard place. Colombias experience of dependency as a semi peripheral nation is further cemented by the history of United States intervention in Colombian soil. As all participants pointed out, Colombia is unable to effectively deal with the impacts of a free trade agreement with a core nation due to the sheer asymmetry between the nations industrial ca pacity, and overall wealth. The CTPA represents an intensification of Colombias condition of dependency whereby the nations food sovereignty and industrial capacity are being threatened by the implementation of a trade agreement that promotes an unequal distribution of trade. This process underlines Colombias status as a semi peripheral nation, whereby the productive power of the nation is not fully exploited instead focusing on extractive industries, a cycle that perpetuates the power differentials betw een the United States and Colombia. More than half of foreign direct investment is being geared towards extractive industries that do not create many job opportunities, and the jobs that are created are precarious, seasonal, and dangerous. The investment i n the extraction of minerals also represents the displacement of different Afro Colombian and indigenous groups who
60 inhabit areas that are now being targeted for vast mining projects. The case of La Toma in Valle del Cauca is just one of many throughout the country, where minority ethnic groups who are economically vulnerable are being displaced having their livelihoods taken from them, a process that pushes them towards urban centers. The displacement of groups contributes to unemployment in the country, a fact that is ignored by the countrys federal statistics department (DANE) whose questionable methodology has been a source of contention for labor rights groups around the country. The case of Ernesto Rojas in 2007 adds on to the instability in the DANE as does Jorge Bustamantes resignation in January 2012. Bustamante, an economist head of the DANE, also stepped down from his role due to the questionable methodology of the department. This event corroborates the complaints of participants who constantly pointed to the lack of reliability in the statistics the government provided regarding labor relations in the country. Anyone who is part of the informal sector, selling candy in the street or shining shoes in downtown, is considered to be fully employed under the DANEs criteria. This emphasizes importance of incorporating a post development approach to the study of free trade agreements and their repercussions in the global south. The picture that is painted by the government, and which experts rely on, is much more different than the perspective provided by workers on the ground. An understanding from below offers a better sense of the true health of Colombias economy. Adding on to this distrust of government is the general disillusion that the Labor Ac tion Plan has brought for labor activists, many who expected an increase in labor regulations that would improve working conditions for employees. In reality, employers respond to the increase in regulations by simply paying a one time fine for their
61 viola tions without having to change their practices. This is possible because the implementation of the LAP has not been complete, there are insufficient inspectors to ensure that employers comply with the law. This trend allows the government to present a pla n that on the surface seems to transform the way labor relations function in the country, while in reality workers are left struggling against the same marginalization and abuse that they faced prior to the LAP. The lack of sufficient personnel to deal wi th labor violations is directly tied to the ability of employers to circumvent the Labor Code, seeing as even when inspections are done there are no follow up procedures that would ensure compliance. The LAP also included the creation of the Labor Ministry that would ostensibly expedite the process through which workers file complaints against their employers. However, in reality, the creation of a Labor Ministry has not improved any aspect of the complaint process. These examples serve to illustrate the distance between the dominant discourse of the CTPA and the experiences of workers, who have not seen an improvement in their condition but rather a gradual sharpening of the employment instability and deregulation of the workplace. The CTPA signifies a fo rmalization of flexibilized labor in the country, a development that intensifies Colombias condition as a semiperipheral nation. According to the National Report on Competitiveness presented by the Private Council of Competitiveness (Consejo Privado de C ompetitividad), Colombias indicators do not reflect an increase in the countrys economic capacity and consequently the ability to compete in the global market. Part of this problem is due to the large percentage of the population that is employed in the informal sector, a trend that has been gradually increasing in the past decade. Adding to this problem is the precarious conditions workers
62 face being part of labor outsourcing arrangements such as the SAS and CTAs. These ways of organizing labor have been favored by the government in their efforts towards privatization, as exemplified by experiences of workers in the health sector. Workers in hospitals and clinics around the country were fired to make way for a new, cheaper form of employment as characteri zed by CTAs and SAS; which allow for the outsourcing of labor, while ensuring that workers are not able to receive any of the protections guaranteed under the Labor Code as they are both selling and managing their labor power. El Rebusque has become one of the primary practical responses by a majority of Colombian workers, who lacking a stable source of employment and benefits resort to el rebusque to survive. Overall, the impact of the CTPA can be seen as signaling the formalizing of a process that coul d be traced back to the days of the Gaviria administration in the early 1990s. This process enters a more intensified period after the election of Uribe, whose austerity measures and anti union discourse created the foundation for the cementing of precario us labor relations that would come with his successor, Santos. The close tie between Colombias former President and the current leader provide a parallel that is asserted by data on worker persecution, unemployment rates, and levels of informalized labor. Close to seventy percent of the nations workforce is part of the informal labor sector (DANE), a statistic that points to a general trend whereby workers are no longer provided with a stable and reliable source of employment. Corruption, dependency, and flexibilized labor are three trends that characterize labor relations in Colombia; a country whose workers are not experiencing any of the expected benefits of the US Colombia Trade Promotion agreement, instead being faced with an increasingly unstable eco nomy
63 that everyday provide less stable sources of employment. Neoliberal economic theory fails to recognize the dehumanizing effect of its policy. Combining World Systems Theory with a post development approach we are able to see that the Colombian econom y continues to exists within the bounds of its subordination to the core and that this has a negative effect for the majority of the people in Colombia. World Systems Theory would lead one to argue that the Colombia experience is not surprising; it simply reflects a long standing relationship of dependence on the core. Workers are left with one option: to engage in a world system labor movement that challenges their current condition. The ongoing efforts of unions to extend their collaboration to internatio nal organizations provide evidence for the reconfiguration of labor rights that is currently taking place, within the Colombian context and outside.
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