DALLAS – Colombian trade unionist and congressman-elect Wilson Borja arrived here June 9 to speak about the issues burning between our country and his. Activists from Jobs with Justice and the North Texas Coalition for a Just Peace had prepared a heavy schedule of media interviews, public appearances and individual meetings for Borja’s four-day visit.

Borja has been on crutches since an assassination attempt in December 2000 destroyed part of one ankle. Two other bullet wounds have healed, and Borja hopes that the device Cuban doctors placed on his leg will eventually allow the bones to knit so that he may walk again. In his first day in Texas, he tirelessly spoke and answered questions.

Although Borja is anxious to explain the situation in his own nation, most of his audiences pressed him for information on the U.S. role in the Colombian civil war. Borja told them that the government of Colombia could not continue their civil war against guerillas without continued U.S. funding. He announced to a dismayed audience that the U.S. Senate had, two days before, voted to remove all restrictions on U.S. funding to military actions in Colombia. Previously, they had supposedly been aimed only at the drug traffic.

Texans asked if U.S. dollars had helped diminish the cultivation and production of cocaine. He replied that there were 80,000 hectares of land planted in coca before Plan Colombia was initiated by the U.S., and that there were 160,000 hectares planted now. “Double!” he exclaimed.

Dallas employees of the Coca-Cola company are suing the corporation for racial discrimination. Part of Borja’s goal in his nationwide tour is to help the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) publicize their own lawsuit against Coca-Cola. The USWA suit alleges that Coca-Cola was involved in murders and other violent acts perpetrated against union organizers in Colombia.

The Texans wanted to know if the local lawsuit and the international one were related. Borja told them that the extremes of corporate behavior may have been different, but that the company’s motivations were the same in both cases. In order to maximize their profits, he said, they are willing to practice racial discrimination in one place and armed violence in another.

Unionists who spoke with Borja wanted to know what relationship, if any, existed between proposed “trade” agreements and the violence in Colombia. Borja replied that the guerillas in Colombia, along with political developments in nearby Venezuela and Brazil, represented obstacles to transnational corporations’ dream of a Free Trade Area of the Americas that would allow them to viciously and undemocratically exploit 34 nations instead of the three already encompassed in NAFTA.

Borja went on to say that major capitalist countries are desperately facing an economic crisis that they hope to relieve with the new “trade” agreement. Thus, they are rushing to pass “fast track” legislation in the U.S. Congress and to destroy all opposition in the targeted countries. The attempt to undemocratically overthrow President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, escalation of military intervention in Colombia and the push for a “fast track” bill are part of the same anxious drive for more profits from more countries, Borja said.

If the corporations’ plans succeed, Borja said, workers in the United States will be paying for it with their tax money and with their jobs as the corporations pursue the cheapest labor in the hemisphere.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org

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