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PIONEER PRESS: Doing business with assassins

February 12th, 2010

The editorial "For free trade with Colombia" (Feb. 9) claims "vast progress" in human rights in Colombia. But the Colombian press agency EFE cites 40 labor activists killed in 2009 (a drop of nine, it says), not the 28 that the Washington Post gives without attribution.

And even if the number were "only" 28, what message are we sending if we open up trade with a country that continues to be the most dangerous place in the world to speak up for labor rights? That workers' lives there are worth less than the few dollars we'd save by exporting more jobs in that direction?

There probably isn't an economic argument to resist free trade with any country, other than the punishing unemployment we've suffered in the United States in recent months. But there certainly is a moral one: We don't do business with assassins, or with the states that protect them.

Anne Holzman, St. Paul