- “Chemical Reactions,” a new report from the Washington Office on Latin America on the U.S. fumigation program in Colombia. The report, the culmination of a long research project over at WOLA, is the definitive dismantling of this failed policy, and does an expert job of questioning claims that the fumigation program poses no health or environmental risks.
- Sorry not to have posted in 48 hours during such an eventful week; I spent my blogging time yesterday writing a post-mortem of the Venezuela-Ecuador-Colombia crisis that will soon be available on the opendemocracy.net website (not there yet). [3/17: here it is.]
- In the wake of the crisis, the Bush administration has decided to go for the so-called “nuclear option” – introducing the Colombia Free Trade Agreement in Congress, setting in motion the countdown for a required vote, with no certainty that the accord can pass. In the middle of a presidential election campaign and an economic recession, no less.
How do you make such a difficult sale? Apparently, by making it a “national security” issue. The pitch uses language reminiscent of the Reagan adminstration’s 1980s appeals for aid to El Salvador and the Nicaraguan contras. Said President Bush: “The region is facing an increasingly stark choice: to quietly accept the vision of the terrorists and the demagogues, or to actively support democratic leaders like President Uribe.”
(So apparently, it’s Uribe’s way or the terrorists’ way. Needless to say, we reject this false, dishonest dichotomy in the most strenuous terms.)
The rhetoric is familiar – only this time, the “evil empire” in question is not Soviet expansionism but Hugo ChÃ¡vez, who leads a country of only 26 million people and gets his dollars from our own oil purchases.
- Will the Bush administration put Venezuela on the list of U.S. terrorist-sponsoring states? Probably not, for now at least.
- At a House hearing yesterday, the Southern Command gave its annual “Posture Statement” (PDF). Southcom’s commander, Adm. Jim Stavridis, urged Congress to pass the FTA (an issue apparently popular [PDF] with Southcom chiefs) and presented plans to make Southcom into an “inter-agency coordinator” of U.S. policy toward the region.
- Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa remains angry at the United States. “In Washington, they say we help the FARC. Let them come and put American troops on Colombia’s southern border,’ Correa said. ‘Let them suffer deaths and bloodshed, and we’ll see if they keep talking.’”
- Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos was in Washington from Tuesday to Thursday, but he held no public events and didn’t even talk to reporters. This is either because of the seriousness of his mission, or because the Colombian government didn’t want him to say anything he’d have to apologize for later.