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UPDATE: Carleen Pickard in Colombia

Council of Canadians Director of Organizing Carleen Pickard is presently on an international pre-electoral observation mission in Colombia.

As noted by CUPE, which has sent two delegates as participants, “The mission is being coordinated in collaboration with the Misión de Observación Electoral (MOE), a Colombian civil society organization that has been working to promote democracy in Colombia through electoral observation and analysis.” The San Francisco based human rights organization, Global Exchange coordinated for the 22 international delegates, from Germany, Canada, the US, Mexico, El Salvador, Australia and the UK to participate.

“The purpose of the international mission is to support the work of the MOE by helping to bring international attention to the March 14, 2010 congressional elections.”

“The group will attend briefing meetings in Bogotá. Next, they will divide up and go to four different regions of the country in order to meet and hear from representatives of a diverse cross-section of Colombian society. They will meet again in Bogotá in order to discuss findings and develop a report.”

“The 2010 elections come at an especially sensitive moment. Over the last year, more than 83 members of the Colombian national congress have been indicted for affiliation with illegal paramilitary organizations financed by the drug trade. The disgraced members – mainly from the governing coalition of President Alvaro Uribe – represented a third of Colombia’s House and Senate seats. The penetration by paramilitary organizations into the Colombian government heightens concerns for a free and fair election process in 2010.”

“It is also likely that the Colombia-Canada Free Trade Agreement will be re-introduced in Canada’s parliament just ahead of the Colombian elections.” Many Canadian organizations have said that there should be “no agreement should be implemented without an independent human rights assessment.”

Carleen, who is currently in the region of Antioquia, is meeting with elected officials, government representatives and civil organizations, including representatives of families who have been displaced by paramilitary and narco violence in Caucasia and Medellin, will be back in Canada on February 20. The report from the mission is due to be released at the end of this month.