MPs pressed over Colombia investment deal

25 June 2014 - 1:00am
Press release

Port enlargement, tourism project spark killings, evictions

Campaigners are urging MPs to stop investment moves between the UK and Colombia [1] [2] that would let companies sue governments, with huge legal bills for taxpayers, and deter ministers from policies that serve public interests.

The charity War on Want cites the controversial new treaty besides other free trade and investment deals sparking the violent evictions in the Colombian port of Buenaventura to make way for its expansion.

Buenaventura, where eight in ten people face grinding poverty, handles 70 per cent of Colombia's imports and export.

It is now earmarked for massive expansion and a tourism scheme, amid the increased trade expected from deals with the European Union, the US, Canada and now the UK.

Neighbourhoods surrounding the western Colombian port have been scheduled for demolition, with families relocated inland, miles from their livelihoods on the coast.

People who resist relocation face escalating intimidation and violence.

In Valle del Cauca, the department where Buenaventura is located, over 32,000 people were forcibly displaced in 2013 [3].

Between January 2010 and December 2013 more than 150 people in Buenaventura were kidnapped or disappeared [4].

Local people blame the violence on paramilitaries, aided by the state and fuelled by foreign governments and multinational companies.

When asked if paramilitary groups had been used by multinationals to kill opponents, the US congressional representative Jim McGovern, a member of a monitoring group on Colombian labour rights, said: "Many US companies and corporations have been involved in some pretty awful things, and I have no doubt that many of them collaborated with paramilitaries." [5]

Patrick Kane, senior international programmes officer at War on Want, said: "This UK-Colombia investment deal is the latest to put profits before the lives of Colombians.

"MPs should demand a full investigation of human rights abuses in Buenaventura, not rubber stamp a charter that allows the powerful to ride roughshod over Colombian democracy."

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. UK/Colombia: Bilateral Agreement for the Promtion and Protection of Investments
  2. Stop UK-Colombia deal, Trade Justice Movement
  3. Informes sobre desplazamiento forzado en Colombia, CODHES
  4. The crisis in Buenaventura, Human Rights Watch
  5. Elections and peace talks won't stem Colombia's violence, The Nation

CONTACT: War on Want media officer Paul Collins (+44) (0)20 7324 5054 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

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