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Witness for Peace Northwest's 2013 speaking tour with Colombian labor activist, Jhon Jairo Castro

Witness for Peace Northwest is thrilled to announce their 2013 fall speaking tour with Jhon Jairo Castro Balanta, the President of the Buenaventura chapter of the Portworkers Union, to share his experience as an Afro-Colombian labor leader in one of the deadliest countries in the world to exercise labor rights. Jhon Jairo has worked as a longshoreman and organized for labor rights for over eleven years, leading various actions for just working conditions in Colombia’s principle port city of Buenaventura.

A voice from the port through which 60 percent of Colombian imports and exports pass is especially significant in the wake of the approval of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Jhon Jairo will share what privatization and free trade have meant for Buenaventura’s Afro-Colombian community, who make up nearly 90% of the city’s population. While these policies serve to increase economic activity and the value of the port, they do nothing to distribute the benefits of the profitable shipping industry or the millions that flow daily through the port. According to the Washington Office on Latin America, “[Of] the city’s 375,000 residents, about one third are unemployed and 80% live in poverty. Sixty-five percent of Buenaventura’s households do not have a sewage system, and 45% do not have potable water. Life expectancy in Buenaventura is 51, compared with the national average of 62.”

To learn more about the labor struggle in Colombia, particularly after the passage of the US/Colombia Free Trade Agreement, you can watch this short 15-minute documentary put together by the Witness for Peace Colombia team. Jhon Jairo begins speaking at 14:20:

Jhon Jairo will be traveling throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana for 3 weeks in October, and will be accompanied by Northwest Field Organizer Amy Truax and Witness for Peace Colombia Team member Julia Duranti, who will be providing interpretation.

If you are interested in scheduling an event with Jhon Jairo, please contact Amy Truax at 206.787.0657 or as soon as possible.

Monday October 7th, 6-6:30pm: Listen to Jhon Jairo on KBOO's Labor Radio show: 90.7fm for Portland listeners, or online at
Monday October 7th, 7pm: Reed College Art Seminar Room, Art Building, Portland OR
Tuesday October 8th, 12pm: Spanish language radio show, "Buscando America," on KBOO
Tuesday October 8th, 7pm: Multnomah Friends Meetinghouse, 4312 SE Stark Street, Portland OR
Wednesday October 9th, 7pm: Whatcom County Peace & Justice, 1220 Bay Street, Bellingham WA
Friday October 11th, 6:30pm: Presentation on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the effects of free trade agreements with Washington Fair Trade Coalition, Liberty Park Methodist Church, 1526 E 11th Ave Spokane, WA
Monday October 14th 6:30pm: First Presbyterian Church, Fireside Room, 521 E Lakeside Ave, Coeur d'Alene, ID
Wednesday October 16th, 7pm: Fair Trade Month celebration at Jeanette Rankin Peace Center, 519 S. Higgins Ave, Missoula, MT
Monday October 21st, 7pm: Westminster House, 101 NW 23rd St, Corvallis OR
Tuesday October 22nd, 7pm: Eugene Friends Meeting House, 2274 Onyx Street, Eugene
Wednesday October 23rd, 7pm: Traditions Fair Trade Cafe, 300 5th Ave SW, Olympia WA
Thursday October 24th, evening: University of Washington, Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, Smith Hall, UW campus