Official thinking about the future of U.S. aid to Colombia Minus Colombia and Mexico, a much different picture
Feb 052010
Jorge Noguera, President Uribe’s former intelligence director now standing trial for murder, testified that he gave information about labor union activity directly to the president.
  • We have added a podcast to the “Just the Facts” website. The first episode discusses the debate in Colombia over President Álvaro Uribe’s apparent desire to run for a third term in office, which just suffered a setback in the justice system. Download or listen to the 12-and-a-half-minute .mp3 file here or at our podcast page. Keep in mind that we’re new at this. They will get better.
  • Cambio, one of Colombia’s two main newsmagazines, is going to stop publishing on a weekly basis. Instead, it will be a monthly devoted to lifestyle issues. This is a loss for Colombia; in 2009 Cambio broke two big stories: the existence of military-base talks between the U.S. and Colombian governments, and the use of an agricultural subsidy program to give cash to some of the country’s biggest landholders. The “La Silla Vacía” website speculates that the magazine’s abrupt retreat owes to indirect pressure from Álvaro Uribe’s government.
  • The recently formed Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) will meet in Quito on Tuesday the 9th to discuss responses to the earthquake in Haiti. Colombia’s President Uribe, who doesn’t always attend these meetings, plans to go to this one. He is not expected to meet bilaterally with Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, even though Colombia and Ecuador appear to be nearing the end of a two-year break in diplomatic relations. Though they’re unlikely to have a bilateral meeting, this will be the first time in many very tense months that Uribe and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez will be in the same room.
  • Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told a congressional panel that the Obama administration would “absolutely” work with Congress to pass the Colombia Free Trade Agreement in 2010. He was quickly contradicted, however. Reuters reports: “Both the Treasury Department and U.S. Trade Representative’s office later issued statements clarifying Geithner’s comment. They said U.S. trade officials still had to resolve outstanding issues with the three countries before Obama would send the FTAs to Congress for a vote.”
  • Columbia University Colombia expert Aldo Cívico interviewed Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) for Colombia’s El Espectador newspaper. English here, Spanish here.
  • Colombian police trained counterparts from 23 countries last year, including 4,500 Mexicans.
  • Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, spent three days in Honduras. At the end of his trip he told reporters he disagreed with the Obama administration’s call for the Honduran government to nominate a “Truth Commission,” which would investigate crimes committed since the June 2009 coup. It’s better to “close the book,” Rohrabacher concluded.
  • President Obama called Chilean President-Elect Sebastián Piñera to congratulate him on his recent election win. Piñera asked Obama for a bilateral meeting.
  • Ecuadorian authorities seized 63 tons of cocaine in 2009. That is by far a record, showing the country’s increasing use as a narcotrafficking corridor. By comparison, Colombia seized 203 tons in 2009 (Excel file).
  • Costa Ricans go to the polls Sunday for a presidential election. Laura Chinchilla of President Oscar Arias’s PLN party has a comfortable lead in the polls, though it is not clear whether she will beat the 40 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff.

12 Responses to “Friday links”

  1. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Nice podcast … though not always agree with what you say in general is fair and square. A shame we also agree mafia is ruling at leat for the next four years too.

  2. Camilla Says:

    I guess criticism about McGovern’s cozy relations with FARC and its pals like Piedad Cordoba and Jim Jones seems to be getting to him. But he doth protest too much when he claims he’s against FARC. Any guy who is as desperate as he is to cut off Colombia military aid, punish 46 million Colombians by shutting them out of free trade to extort them into electing a leftist FARC-accomodating leader more to his liking, and whose agent, Jones, has ASSURED FARC that he has ways of turning the screws on Uribe, is a FARC symp. He just doesn’t want anyone to know it. Typical commie deception tactics straight out of Saul Alinsky.

  3. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Camilla returns: This time with a vengence. Hello O’Grady, I suppose slandering people has given good results for you, probably in you rhead Mr. Vivanco is also a commie and of course Obama too, as good ol’ ‘publicans should know by now.

  4. Camilo Wilson Says:

    She doth protest too much about Congressman McGovern’s alleged pals. Extreme desperation on the part of Camilla, who engages in typical right-wing deception tactics straight out of José Obdulio.

  5. Randy Paul Says:

    Jaime and Camilo,

    It’s all she’s got.

  6. lfm Says:

    Colombia the Hermit Kingdom on the Andes whose only hope at trading is the FTA? Check. Communists in the US House? Check. Saul Alinsky? Check. The FARC plotting with the US Congress? Check. Elvis was kidnapped because he knew plans of a UN takeover of Area 59 that is somehow related to Kennedy’s assassination? Aww, damnit, just when the piece was about to get the perfect score. We’ll have to wait for another installment.

  7. Camilla Says:

    Actually, hermit kingdom is pretty close to the truth, lfm. Have you ever been to Colombia? Everything from teapots to manhole covers to shower curtains to towels to blue jeans are MADE IN COLOMBIA. That’s a significant sign of a country that is under-trading. It’s in part due to past government protectionism policies, but it’s also due to the fact that Colombia has little interlinkage between cities too. It costs more to ship a boxcar full of goods from Bogota to Cartagena than it does from Cartagena to Rome. It’s that bad, and it’s a function of low infrastructure. Why do you think Colombia, unlike its neighbors, has so many cities? Medellin, Barranquilla, Cali, Cartagena, all these cities are large and disperse power from the capital. Why did it happen this way in Colombia? Because each city needed to be self-sufficient because it was basically a walled fortress. Again, it’s a sign of a hermit country. Free trade would radically change that picture and give Colombians choices of goods, efficiencies for manufacturing, lower prices for everyone, and access to new markets. People like you can’t stand that and agree with FARC and McGovern that not allowing more market access and the INVESTMENT that comes as a result of having an ironclad PACT, is intolerable. Might make Marxism less appealing after all.

    And yeah, I think FARC does have its pals in US Congress. It’s an Alinskyite technique to deny it, however.

  8. lfm Says:

    Wow! Seems that Camilla has been brushing up his talking points on trade and somehow took that radical step of actually learning something about Colombia’s history. But this backfires. Yes, it’s true that Colombia historically was a rather insular economy and that its infrastructure is pretty bad. But Colombia has been opening its economy to trade for a long time now. It was never as protectionist as, say, Argentina in the 50s. To top it off, starting from a relatively open level of trade, it opened it even further in the 90s. Not only I’ve been in Colombia, I am Colombian. I happen to live abroad but go there every year and I keep finding many goods made in China while where I live I find goods including, of all things, blue jeans, made in Colombia. I think that’s called trade.

    So now a deeply entrenched pattern of population (several cities) is supposed to disappear by the stroke of a pen signing the FTA. First, I don’t have a problem with Colombians living in several cities. Probably if I were to design the country from scratch I would have done things differently. But I’m not going to let stuff that happened centuries ago become an obsession driving current policy. Second, the solution to the problem of infrastructure is to build more infrastructure and one way that we know fails is to turn the contracting over to shaky firms with ties to the paramilitary. That doesn’t stop Colombia from trying it, though. Third, Colombia already trades with the rest of the world. Fourth, Colombia already trades with the rest of the world. Fifth, Colombia already… oh never mind. Life’s too short to keep beating this dead horse.

    I’m pretty sure that defending the FTA puts food on Camilla’s table and therefore any argument with any remote semblance of plausibility will do when it comes to it. But, at least in this forum you don’t have to be such a work stiff and you can allow yourself to discuss rationally under cover of the pseudonym. So, first piece of advice: stop pretending that the FTA will bring that novel idea of free trade to Colombia.

  9. Camilo Wilson Says:

    My dear, dear Camilla. The fact that you should associate Saul Alinsky with communism is one indication of how out of touch you are. There is no historical evidence for this association. Maybe you should bone up on American history. Even down here we know that Alinsky was a brilliant community organizer. President Obama likely used some of his tactics while working as an organizer in Chicago.

    You’re on firmer ground when you point out that Colombia has a dispersed array of cities. There is, for example, no comparable “primate city” like Lima in Peru. (Lima, if I recall, has something like one-fourth the population of Peru.) The reasons for that dispersion in Colombia point to regional isolation, true enough, although several other factors also come into play (Colombian historian Marco Palacios has written about this).

    The dynamic between center and periphery in Colombia has long been the subject of debate. The historic system of party clientelism (clientelismo) has been one response to connect the two. But we now well know the exclusionary effects of this system, and those are highly negative.

    To say that free trade would radically change the characteristics of a “hermit country” and be a blessing to Colombians—and which Colombians, by the way?—is a simplistic assumption on your part. And not a well-thought-out one, I might add.

    And to imply that Congressman McGovern and his “pal” Jones are pro-FARC and have no interest in the welfare of Colombians is so outrageous that it reduces your credibility to near zero on other matters. Beyond this, it inspires some of us to want to meet this fearsome duo: the errant congressman and his radical sidekick. Down here, we like that sort of thing.

  10. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Stop bashing Camilla. She’s only a another deranged human being like anybody else. Lfm even called her a dead horse (that’s as close as one can get to describe alienated extremists, without uttering the f-up word ) he he he :mrgreen:

  11. Randy Paul Says:

    And yeah, I think FARC does have its pals in US Congress

    I think Camilla is green, has wings and dwells in a secret room at the top of the Chrysler Building. Of course I have as much proof of that as she has of the statement quoted above.

  12. Block Says:

    Camilla –

    Difficult to know where to start with your last comment. At no point does it have the appearance of logic, so it’s necessary to focus on a small part of the nonsense in order to be able to conquer it in any degree.

    First of all, you talk like having Colombian-made products is a bad thing. I know plenty of North-Americans on your side of the political spectrum that would be thrilled to be able to purchase so many goods “Made in the U.S.A.” My favorite clothing store is Pat Primo, where I can get casual to elegant pants and shirts from 15-30$ a piece (using US$ because it seems like you’re writing from the U.S.). If I need shoes I can go to any Bucaramanga shoe store and get some decent ones starting at $20. I do my food shopping at Exito, a now French-Colombian enterprise that was homegrown here. Lowest prices that I’ve found, narrowly beating the also-Colombian Olympica, and pretty even with the French Carrefour. For my baby we’ve been shopping a lot at the GEF store, which is French-owned with major fabrication points in Medellín. We bought 4 outfits of the high-quality “Baby Fresh” line for $25 (at the outlet). Speaking of babies, we just got a baby bog from Totto, another Colombian company, a bag of good quality for less than $30. When we want to go out to eat, one of our favorite restaurants is the Bogotano Crepes y Waffles, which offers casual-elegant dining at 4-7$ a plate, or 20$ total including dessert for a couple. A bonus of this restaurant is that, being a national chain, they are invested in the social welfare of Colombia, as evidenced by their policy of employing primarily mother heads-of-households, and offering relatively good benefits.

    As you’ll notice, not all of the items I’ve listed above are local products, which brings me to my next point: If you’re really griping about free trade between Colombia and the rest of the world, you’re not paying attention. If you’re talking about free trade just with the U.S., you should say so, although I doubt the FTA would radically change the fact that as it is now in Colombia, Nestle, Kelloggs, Nabisco, and Frito Lay are edging towards a monopoly on their respective food lines. A package of Oreos, the last I checked, cost half the price of the Colombian Papa Noel version. I personally hunt for Yupi or Servipan chips when I want a snack, just because I don’t like FritoLay and prefer to support local industry, but it’s getting harder every day to find these Colombian products. Most people seem to prefer Fritos.

    So when I see you bemoaning the poor “choices of goods, efficiencies for manufacturing, lower prices for everyone, and access to new markets,” and compare your perspective with my own observations, I’m left only with the conclusion that you have no idea what you’re talking about. The Colombia that I’ve lived in for over a year enjoys a huge choice of goods and ridiculously low prices, even by Colombian standards. The only prices I’ve found lower in the U.S. is for electronics on sites such as amazon or newegg, and I imagine that’s due to the sheer quantity that’s being sold. Colombia, as I’ve shown with a few examples, does manufacture its own products (although perhaps by “efficiencies for manufacturing” you’re referring to the transport network, about which I’m not very informed). Perhaps they do need to improve with their “access to new markets,” although your idea that this would somehow help the majority of Colombians — and not only the richest owners of these soon-to-be multinational corporations — is naive at best and cynical at worst.

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