Another paramilitary witness comes forward El Tiempo column: The path to peace in the Andes
Mar 142008
  • “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 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 Chávez, 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.

12 Responses to “Friday links”

  1. Nick Says:

    Hey, isn’t it strange that all the Colombian officials love expopunding on how good this trade agreement is yet the Defense Minister wouldn’t take questions.


    wonder why ? do u know ?

  2. Chris Says:

    lol….I like the last bullet.

  3. jcg Says:

    Will read the WOLA report shortly, looking forward to the crisis “post-mortem”.

  4. Camilla Says:

    Adam, what do you make of this out of the Pentagon – Gates said he wanted to cut off Colombian military aid and the best way to do that would be to give Colombia an economy with an actual tax base instead of let it stay a mendicant state dependent on US aid. Wouldn’t that be something you could agree with? I’m pretty sure your big aim is to cut off US military aid to Colombia. If that’s so, it almost looks as though you are on the same side as Gates. Zut alors!

  5. Camilla Says:

    Bush never said it was ‘Uribe’s way or the terrorists’ way.’ That’s YOUR distorted formulation, not Bush’s, Adam.

    Let’s look at it the other way: You see FARC as freedom fighters who represent ‘the people.’ Or if not that, then an insignificant problem, something Colombians ought to just get used to – easy to say if you’re not the one living in fear or on the receiving end of the bombs and the kidnaps. More to the point, you DON’T see them as a threat to the Colombian state and you don’t see the war Uribe is fighting as a matter of survival, you just see it as Colombian room decorations, a trivial and inconsequential matter, and nothing that should be associated with anything as weighty as free trade. This, despite the new revelations (see Noticias24) signaling that Hugo had advanced, well developed and detailed plans for the toppling of Colombia’s democracy – a democracy whose leader now has the support of 84% of the Colombian people.

    I don’t understand your logic. Is this nation not under threat from Marxist terrorists who are, among other things, fighting to halt free trade and topple the state? Wouldn’t free trade expand the private sector (and with it private giving to NGOs) so that people wouldn’t rely on government handouts or messianic leaders promising the moon? Wouldn’t giving 44 million Colombians more choices in things to buy be good for Colombia’s democracy and motivate its people to keep rejecting terror? You may have noticed that Colombians and their government REJECTED war when troops amassed at their border last week. It’s because they are a peace economy, Adam, not a fascist war economy as the tropical Hitler to their east is. Why would FEWER goods, smaller salaries and a more CLOSED market be a better thing for Colombians which would result from shutting Colombia out of free trade? Why do you want Colombians to have less instead of more?

    It’s Uribe you disagree with, not Colombians I would wager you might say – yet free trade primarily benefits Colombia’s private sector, not its public sector. Why this opposition to the private sector, Adam? Aren’t they entitled to free trade? Shouldn’t they get the SAME free trade opportunities as Nicaragua? Why do you want to debilitate Colombia and its private sector by denying it free trade? Is it because they don’t vote the way you wish they would? If I had to guess, I’d venture to say you’ve never met a single member of Colombia’s private sector in your entire life – because all the ones I have met have been vehement about the need for free trade to stay above water and to crush the influence of drugs and terror. Why is that a bad thing to you, Adam?

  6. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Lordy, Lordy, The shill’s getting personal! :mrgreen:

  7. lfm Says:

    Should I point out that Colombia actually does trade? That the FTA is not about introducing free trade in Colombia but expanding it to degrees that are controversial and that, at any rate, will not make much of a difference macroeconomically? To read it from Camilla’s posts, one would imagine that Colombia is a centrally-planned economy that doesn’t trade with anyone, sort of a Latin American Albania. Or am I just wasting my time with someone who doesn’t believe in rational argument?

    There’s a way to find out. I’m sure Camilla will just strut out again the same outlandish “data” of a few exchanges ago, data that can’t stand a five-minute test equipped with a calculator. If that’s what’s gonna happen, I won’t bother responding. Places to go, people to see…

  8. Chris Says:

    I am for FTA…I think overall the pros outweigh the cons….as long as corruption doesn’t negate the pros, as in Mexico.

  9. LFM Says:

    Sure. Reasonable people disagree about the FTA. I’m mildly against it, but I see why someone can be for it. What ticks me off is the rhetoric that with FTA Colombia’s economy will boom and without it, it will collapse. Neither of those things is true. The FTA will have only a very small impact in the overall growth of the economy, some will win, others will loose and we still haven’t seen any credible mechanism whereby those losses will be attenuated.

    If the FTA were so decisive, we would already be seeing some of its results. Here’s why: Colombia has had trade preferences similar to those of the FTA for a long time. Yes, they aren’t permanent, but they aren’t negligible either. If the FTA was the huge deal that our in-house bloviator says, Colombia would have been growing already quite a lot the moment the preferences were introduced. After all, they were a “dress rehearsal” for an FTA. Colombia stagnated during those years. Conversely, since the FTA is now uncertain at best, if it were true that it and only it can deliver Colombia the investment and growth it needs, we should be already seeing the economy heading toward the tank. Markets are smart and can incorporate uncertainties about the future. If the FTA is so important, the markets should already be punishing Colombia given that now it’s kin’a dicey. They aren’t, instead Colombia is having good growth rates. (There, I said it, Colombia’s economy has been strong during the Uribe Administration. I dislike the guy, I don’t think he can claim credit for this, but I’m rigorous enough to acknowledge it.) So, we’ve had a quasi-FTA for over a decade with a weak economy and now that supposedly its going away (I doubt it), the economy is strong.

    I know that Camilla will get back to me with the whole “I’ve spoken to entrepreneurs and they tell me the FTA is great” thing. I have a confession to make: when I began posting things here I found Camilla an interesting character: a rabid right-winger and hack, but that, unlike many in that subspecies, actually has some useful information. But now I’m beginning to see a pattern that detracts from this. The famous House Speaker Joseph Cannon once said of an opponent that “he has his ear so close to the ground that it is full of grasshoppers.” Camilla is a lot like this. He talks to people, a valuable thing for sure. But he always believes absolutely everything they tell him without exerting any critical judgment. It doesn’t occur to him that entrepreneurs (and military officers, and his fellow right-wing hacks, etc.) may overstate their case either because they only see part of the landscape, because they are biased or simply lying. An entrepreneur talks up the FTA? It’s gotta be that the FTA is the greatest thing since sliced bread! And so on, you’ll see the pattern… Let’s hope he never comes in contact with the FARC’s Secretariat. Otherwise he’ll start saying that the only solution to all of Colombia’s problems is armed struggle and kidnappings.

  10. Jaime Bustos Says:

    I have not read the FTA agreement, nor followed all of the amendmends made to it so far to it, but I think that our biodiversity is at stake, by powerful pharmaceutical companies copyrighting manipulations on their genes and selling us back the transgenics obtained therefrom, should it pass.

    Additionally the biodiesel hoopla (whose final goal is the FTA) going on that is already manifest in the generalization of the plantation of African palm (many times having to displace or assassinate peasants that own the fields) as a means of obtaining big profits without even studying the damage it might eventually cause to the environment, makes me think this whole deal is not an initiative of honest people but of greedy corporations (in the upper level of the pyramid, of course).

    Corn not beeing cultivated for human consumption nor cane for sugar, gives me a clue that something’s very wrong here.

    If you guys want to see something related and truly edifying I’d recommend: “The future of food”.

  11. Stuart Says:

    I agree, LFM. And as someone who reads this blog and the comments pretty regularly but usually doesn’t comment, I’d advise everyone to just stop responding to Camilla. SHE (Camilla is a female name people, have some respect) is always saying similar things and it really just sidetracks what would otherwise be fruitful debate. Stop letting her dictate the terms of the conversation and draw you into the same arguments that just go around and around in circles.

  12. LFM Says:

    Camilla is a nickname. We have no reason to presume it corresponds to a he or she. I just prefer to assume it’s a he, not out of disrespect.

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