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Last night at the third and final Presidential debate we finally got to hear about labor / human rights in Colombia; something that most union activists already knew at least a little something about.

The Colombian Free Trade Agreement is vehemently opposed by almost all of labor in the United States – and for good reason; labor leaders in Colombia are assassinated on an average of one a week.  There is either one assassination or assassination attempt on a union organizer/leader every month under  the President Uribe administration.

NOTE: The above two graphs are the beginning of the diary; they are repeated beneath the fold. The post was published this morning on this page at UnionReview.com. You are invited to cross-post this to your site, elaborate on the story and spread it around as though you wrote it yourself.

Last night at the third and final Presidential debate we finally got to hear about labor / human rights in Colombia; something that most union activists already knew at least a little something about.

The Colombian Free Trade Agreement is vehemently opposed by almost all of labor in the United States – and for good reason; labor leaders in Colombia are assassinated on an average of one a week.  There is either one assassination or assassination attempt on a union organizer/leader every month under  the President Uribe administration.

I (and others) have written about this before on UnionReview.com, JoesUnionReview.blogspot.com, DailyKos.com and many other sites (simply do a Google/Yahoo search; or any other search for Col FTA)  (I found some links to the posts on UnionReview.com and will drop in at the bottom of the story). Many of us have urged online activists to take on the subject and write about it – expand the readership on an item many just don’t know the full details on.  

As one activist in the sea of labor organizers and leaders in this country, I was fortunate enough to sit down and meet a number of Colombian Union Leaders earlier this year; it was at that round table discussion that I was personally convinced that we, as the United States, could not and should not endorse this Agreement; and how I wish John McCain or Sara McPalin would have been there ...

The Unions in DC invited a group of Colombian Union Leaders to tell their story, meet with people on Capitol Hill and set forth their plea for assistance. When the group came to my union there was an empty chair in front of a name tag. I looked over at the empty chair and became curious as to why the invited unionist was absent. I no sooner learned that the man was in hospital back home, he had been violently/viciously stabbed the week prior (he was at a community event with other union workers); he was doing his job!

Through an interpreter we were told that the very workers who were in front of us, every one of them, have a tag on their head. We were told their lives are now in double jeopardy as the Uribe government surely knew they were in the States. The images floated in my head – perhaps they will get off the plane and get shot at right there and then; maybe it would only be days until one of them were hospitalized, jailed or brutalized – if not simply killed. My heart sank. If I were not born to the US and instead had a fate of being born to Colombia, in the same line of work that I have dedicated my life to, I too could be dead.

Think about that for a minute. Let’s say you are a bus driver, an attorney, a school teacher or a nurse ... Let’s say you show up to your union meetings, are a member in good standing, and are driven to do more for your colleagues; you become an activist eventually elected to union office – your ambitions clear – even honorable – your work helps hundreds if not thousands of others in your trade; you are good at what you do, passionate about your work ... and ... along comes a Trade Agreement the president wants to pass with the United States. It is known you are not at all for the agreement;  your compadres will be mistreated, underpaid, overworked, unfairly used – and to get your voice silenced – you are killed, removed, shot at and stabbed. This is not fiction – this is not creative writing class or English 101 reading; and though it is tragic with a serious Machiavellian – type; this ain’t Shakespeare either, this is even more serious.

So.  When McCain brought up the Colombian Free Trade Agreement last night, I cringed. I was almost nervous as to how Obama would respond. Barack Obama’s record shows that he is not in favor of the Agreement without stipulations in place to protect labor leaders and workers. I felt like I was watching a suspense movie for a minute knowing what the villain has been up to; will it be revealed?

Alas, Obama said the right thing – stuck to HIS guns, and discussed the issues we have been talking of all year (and many speaking/writing of this longer than that). The screen was split and McCain’s eyes rolled and his creepy smile was evident. I yelled at the television set and thought ... Iago’s plan is a bust, he was just revealed on national television; Othello is going to have a different ending after all.

I am not certain I am 100% opposed to all trade agreements – I am, however, opposed to agreements that, in the end, leave workers in the US unemployed and workers in other countries dead, hospitalized, maimed, etc. That is not Free Trade and it sure as hell ain’t Fair trade.

Think about this as you go to vote in a couple weeks. If you are an active union worker, an organizer, or even just wear your union’s gear ... you are a mark in Colombia. Think about this as you go to vote in a couple weeks: What I just described is not only OK for the McCain camp, it is categorically endorsed.

Added Stories of Interest
See Video: Labor Comes Out to Protest Colombian Free Trade
http://unionreview.com/...

Another trade union leader killed in Colombia, why does our administration insist on Colombian FTA?
http://unionreview.com/...

COlombia Free Trade Agreement off the fast track
http://unionreview.com/...
(With many many links on this issue at the bottom of the story)

Originally posted to Union Review on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 04:52 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Supporting murderous thugs is a no-brainer! (9+ / 0-)

    CHRISTIAN, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. A. Bierce

    by irate on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 04:56:09 AM PDT

  •  Leading LatAm Specialists: Peru FTA hurting labor (6+ / 0-)

    The Peruvian agreement which a lot of people supported as the 'better' alternative since it included wording on labor & environmental factors is apparently being used by the Peruvian government to crack down on labor & environmental laws.

    As long as trade agreements are being entirely written & shaped by the absolute most plutocratic, least pro-democracy groups in our nations, they are not going to be the sorts of mechanisms which actually help the vast majority.

    Can Free Trade be Fair? Lessons from the Peru-U.S. Free Trade Agreement

    ...The [U.S. / Peruvian trade] agreement was immediately lauded as a "fundamental shift in U.S. trade policy" which would "spread the benefits of globalization [in the U.S.] and abroad by raising standards." While some Democrats remained skeptical, questioning the likelihood that the provisions would actually be enforced, enough were swayed that the U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement easily passed.

    Today, the repercussions of this decision are being felt in Peru as the country’s leaders adjust national law to accommodate the conditions spelled out in the pact. As this process is carried out, some of the FTA’s most virulent critics in the Senate and the House are seeing their worst fears become a reality.

    Peru’s existing environmental and labor protection standards have, in fact, been weakened in the process of opening its market to bilateral free trade.

    In the first six months of this year, President Alan García enacted a total of 102 Legislative Decrees designed to harmonize national laws with the conditions laid down by the FTA.

    In response, much of the Peruvian press as well as many politicians and activists have showered the government with accusations that these decrees are actually detrimental to labor, the environment, the agriculture industry, and indigenous rights. In addition, the Peruvian Congress’ Constitutional Commission recently declared about forty percent of the decrees to be unconstitutional.

    The Environment

    The most controversial of these decrees to date was the Declaración Legislativa 1015, passed by the executive branch in May. The decree was designed to facilitate the privatization and stripping away of communal lands held by indigenous and subsistence farming communities.

    Communal land, essential to indigenous Peruvians’ traditional way of life, had previously been protected by a law requiring a two-thirds majority in Congress to authorize any land sales. However, DL 1015 lowered this requirement to a simple majority in a clear attempt to encourage the sale and subsequent exploitation of the land by foreign and domestic entrepreneurs.

    In early August, indigenous communities and human rights groups responded by taking to the streets, blocking major roads and bridges and occupying key energy plants in Peru’s southeastern and northern regions. The protests were led by the indigenous rights organization AIDESEP (Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana), which began talks with the government soon after the protests began.

    Following two weeks of demonstrations, the Peruvian Congress was prompted to repeal Decree 1015 and with this action restored the two-thirds majority rule. While the repeal was certainly a substantial victory for Peru’s indigenous cause, it was sadly only one small step forward among many leaps backward.

    García, who provocatively called the decision to revoke 1015 "a grave historical mistake," has passed a number of other decrees that threaten to encroach upon Peru’s rich biodiversity and the livelihood of the people who depend on it. Most of the new laws are designed to facilitate exploitation of the country’s land and resources by international corporations. Legislative Decree 1064, for example, eliminates the ability of landowners to negotiate with oil and mining companies over the use of their land. Pre-existing law required that companies attempt to reach an agreement with property owners in order to buy or rent their land for commercial use. Only if negotiations failed could companies turn to the government, specifically the Ministry of Mines and Energy, to force owners to sell their land. Decree 1064 cuts out land owners completely, leaving the entire negotiation process in the hands of the government.

    With another decree, known as the "Forest and Wildlife Law," García removed barriers that currently protect the country’s national forests. The decree (1090) redefines the "national forest patrimony," and lifts protections against logging and other forms of exploitation. The Peruvian Congress has already met to discuss amending or repealing this decree, which dozens of national and local community and environmental organizations oppose.

    At a recent hearing, Congresswoman Hilaria Supa stated: "This decree does not only affect the forest and the indigenous people, but rather the entire country. [It] speaks about sustainable economics, but I see nothing in the decree about social or cultural sustainability." Critics also point out that the decree reduces transparency and eliminates input from civil society regarding the use of national forest lands.

    The results of these negative changes to national law are already being felt across Peru’s rural population. Over a year ago, residents of three northwestern highland districts - Ayabaca, Pacaipampa and El Carmen de la Frontera - voiced a resounding "no" vote against allowing a mining project to go forth in their area. This decision, which involved about 60% of the electorate (95% of whom voted "no") is likely to be overturned by the newly-empowered central government. In May, President García assured members of a Chinese mining consortium that "there is no reason that this project shouldn’t go through." It is this propensity on the part of García that has made him one of the most mistrusted figured in Peru today.

    Labor

    Despite the FTA’s condition that labor standards in Peru must not be lowered, a number of President García’s recent decrees have put the country’s Public Service workers in jeopardy. In May, the Inter-sectional Confederation of State Workers (CITE) organized a strike in protest of legislative decrees 1025, 1026, and 1057, which, according to the union, compromise the labor rights of public employees. The new laws are designed to "modernize" the public sector through "punitive evaluations" of current employees’ work performance, as well as through a reorganization of positions and salaries. The power to implement these changes is granted to the National Civil Service Authority, omitting any possibility of collective bargaining. This leaves labor organizations with little leverage to protect the jobs of their members.

    While these concerns raised by organized labor in Peru are significant, much larger problems plague a majority of the country’s population. Because unionized sectors in fact make up only a small portion of the nation’s labor force, few have the ability to collectively protest when labor laws are changed. Worse still, even the limited labor standards that are presently on the books are largely unable to extend their reach to a majority of working Peruvians. According to a 2007 Human Rights Report, only 9 percent of Peru’s labor force is represented by unions, and more than 70 percent of it works in the informal sector.

    Thus, regulations affecting minimum wage and working conditions do not protect most Peruvians, making concern over labor laws almost a moot point. While the national minimum wage was raised to $176 per month in October of 2007, many workers in the informal sector earned merely between $20 and $30 per month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. The Bureau also reported that the Peruvian government "often lacked the resources, capacity, or authority to enforce compliance with labor laws." Hence, most Peruvian workers are not protected against the potentially damaging effects of the FTA, which could leave them even more vulnerable to the self-serving demands of foreign multinationals.

    Reactions and Conclusions

    The Peruvian government has indicated that it will pursue further free trade deals with the EU and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC). However, while the global food crisis continues to drive up prices of staples like eggs and bread, more consumers are questioning the rationale behind opening up fragile domestic markets to subsidized U.S. produce instead of producing food domestically.

    Further, the impending global economic slowdown could cause foreign investment in the country to dry up, destroying jobs and crippling Peru’s economic growth. Although these are legitimate concerns, the government has yet to address them in a constructive manner.

    Many, perhaps a majority, of Colombian working people oppose yet another corporate-negotiated 'free' trade agreement.

    But this is a high priority for right wing, paramilitary-allied Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, and for the outgoing Republican and many of the most powerful Democrats, so it's not impossible that it will still happen.

  •  Republicans DREAM of killing union leaders (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    copymark

    The secretly envy FARC.

    •  Clarification (4+ / 0-)

      It's the right wing narco-paramilitary death squads who are allied to the right wing government and military, run the VAST majority of the nation's drugs trafficking, displace by far most of the refugees who flee in terror, who are assassinating union & labor leaders systematically.  These groups go under such names as the Aguilas Negras (Black Eagles) and other macho names, ever since the AUC coalition of death squads 'formally' dissolved (but is still run by the AUC leaders inside or out of prison).

      The FARC, on the other hand, occasionally murders unionists etc., but it's not systematic against labor -- they murder far, far fewer people anyway, and they mostly focus on their incompetent narco-fundraising.

  •  omg best moment of the debate for me (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Union Review

    McCain was floored when Obama responded to his moronic attack about Columbia.  He was incredulous...almost like...wow..this guy WOULD make a great president! hahaha

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be draped in the flag and carrying the cross."- Sinclair Lewis

    by IamtheReason on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 05:21:03 AM PDT

  •  But Fred Hiatt at the Washington Post... (7+ / 0-)

    ...reminds us this morning that the number of labor leaders murdered by the Colombian regime is declining!  Freddie doesn't tell us how many murders are acceptable, but he apparently is encouraged by the decline in  the Colombian regime's bloodthirstiness.

    We're getting rid of bush.  mccain is already in the dumpster.  Now it's time to do something about Fred Hiatt and his disgraceful editorial page at the WaPo.

    •  Hiatt is a right wing thug on Latin America (5+ / 0-)

      Hiatt doesn't know his ass from his elbow on Colombia.  He's deliriously in love with the right wing Uribe, whom he praises as the "savior of Democracy" in Latin America, at a time when 1/3 of the Colombian Congress, all Uribe's allies, are either in jail or under judicial investigation for ties to the gigantic right wing narco-paramilitary death squads.

      And Hiatt denied these ties between the Uribe government and the death squads even as his own reporters reveal the conclusive evidence.

      Hiatt doesn't give the slightest sh*t about who is killed, assassinated, slaughtered, or otherwise in Colombia, as long as it aids a right wing 'free' trade authoritarian.

  •  Colombian President a Thug (5+ / 0-)

    Very good post. Alvaro Uribe, president of Colombia, is nothing a but soft-spoken, Harvard-educated thug, who has presided over a bloodbath. Scores of trade unionists have been murdered, as tens of thousands of innocent civilians. An estimated 3 million colombians live in refugee camps, forced to flee their land, having found themselves in the crossfire between FARC, Paramilitary and Army, equally brutal. Uribe, who massaged the constitution to be reeleced and is now after a 3rd term, is indeed Bush's ally. Corruption is ripe and so is violence. Not the kind of allies we want, more so in light of the fact that Venezuela's Chavez, using his populist appeal, is growing stronger in the region. The administration's blind support for Uribe is a major mistake that in the short term will produce more killing and in the long term another enemy.

    Obama is larger than the democratic party's failures

    by mochicho on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 05:30:31 AM PDT

    •  This is all fantasy. (0+ / 0-)

      I've gone on at greater length about this below, and would be glad to get into any of the specifics.  This is a bad issue for US progressives, because there's overwhelming evidence that they're wrong in their assessment.

      -5.38/-3.74 I've suffered for my country. Now it's your turn! --John McCain with apologies to Monty Python's "Protest Song"

      by Rich in PA on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 05:55:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Uribe is a thug (0+ / 0-)

        and has shown disregard for union activists since coming to power.

        The most important word in the language of the working class is `solidarity.'--Harry Bridges, longshore union leader

        by Bendygirl on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 06:07:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I see we're changing the playing field. (0+ / 0-)

          And the rules, and the ball.  First he was a thug who killed union activists, now he (merely) has shown disregard.  That's your murderous thuggery?

          -5.38/-3.74 I've suffered for my country. Now it's your turn! --John McCain with apologies to Monty Python's "Protest Song"

          by Rich in PA on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 06:29:53 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Uribe is doing what he has to do to get (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Bendygirl, Mangrove Blues, sherijr

            the free trade agreement. He is not guided by morality or a love of protecting workers' rights.

            A best friend of GW Bush is no friend of mine.

            Sunday, June 25, 2006 by the Providence Journal (Rhode Island)
            In Colombia: Military Crimes Point to a Growing Problem
            by Maria Cristina Caballero
            ...
            Both President Bush and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe have suggested that killings of civilians by their respective armies are an aberration. The two men met June 14 at the White House, where Bush praised Uribe for his commitment to human rights. Uribe thanked Bush for his support, and pledged to do a better job of eradicating drugs.

            ...

            http://www.commondreams.org/...  

            Writers many times more eloquent than I have made the case that the "war on drugs" is a loser, and that it is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands in Colombia alone, and is the justification for the continuation of Colombia's civil war that has lasted more than 30 years.

            Uribe is no friend of ours. Cracking down on leftists is the centerpiece of Uribe's domestic policy. He is a strong man who rules with his fist.

            By T. Christian Miller Times Staff Writer

            www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-
            colomb8feb08,1,4622337.story?coll=la%2Dhome%2Dheadlines

            February 8 2003

            Uribe has made a crackdown on leftist guerrillas the centerpiece of his presidency, raising war
            taxes and boosting the number of soldiers in the army.

            Tuesday, February 4, 2003 by the Guardian/UK  

            To Crush the Poor
            First it was Reds, then drugs, then terror. So who have the US really been fighting in Colombia?

            by George Monbiot

            ...
            A separate investigation by the Colombian internal affairs agency documented hundreds of mobile phone and pager communications between the death squads and the officers of the fourth brigade, among them Lieutenant-Colonel Ospina. On Tuesday, Ospina fiercely denied the allegations, claiming that they were politically motivated and that "honest people around the world know that we are serving our people well".

            In same press conference, however, he also revealed that this month the Colombian government will start to deploy a new kind of "self-defense force", composed of armed civilians backed by the army. Human rights groups allege that the government has simply legalized the death squads.

            Official paramilitary forces of this kind were first mobilized by the current president, Alvaro Uribe, when he was governor of the state of Antioquia in the mid-1990s. The civilian forces he established there, like all the paramilitaries working with the army, carried out massacres, the assassination of peasant and trade union leaders and what Colombians call "social cleansing": the killing of homeless people, drug addicts and petty criminals. They joined forces with the unofficial death squads and began to profit from drugs trafficking. They were banned after Uribe ceased to be governor. One of his first acts when he became president in August last year was to promote General Ospina, and instruct him to develop similar networks throughout the contested regions of Colombia.

            http://www.commondreams.org/...

            ...

            Ask yourself why McCain brought up Colombia last night and find some food for thought here.

            http://narcosphere.narconews.com/...

            So, That's Why McCain Went to Colombia

            Posted by Al Giordano - July 3, 2008 at 12:30 pm

            By Al Giordano

            It was a set-up from the get-go, choreographed by the Bush administration and eagerly embraced by Colombia's narco-president, Alvaro Uribe. Yesterday's liberation of high-profile hostages in Colombia was merely the gloss for the larger rescue mission: to save Senator John McCain's flagging presidential campaign.
            ...

            Take a look at Uribe's Medellín roots, which Al Giordano explores here:
            http://www.narconews.com/...

            Like grandma used to say, "Show me your friends and I'll tell you who you are."

            While you may bubble over with praise of McCain buddy Uribe, Rich, I am a wee bit more skeptical.

          •  oh know (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mangrove Blues

            he's a thug who supports the murders of unionists, and he has a disregard for investigating these attacks and deaths as well.

            The most important word in the language of the working class is `solidarity.'--Harry Bridges, longshore union leader

            by Bendygirl on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 07:41:43 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  That moment of the debate infuriated me... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    keikekaze, Deoliver47, YesBiscuit

    ...I wonder why the corporate media is giving McShame a pass on that grimace.

    Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule. --Gautama Buddha

    by Junkyard Dem on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 05:42:15 AM PDT

    •  Cos it's too complicated and remote an issue (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Deoliver47

      to interest the average viewer/reader.  Plus:  no mention of Jose the Plumber.

      "Man alive, what a stinko thousand years. Blimp wrecks, teenagers, then again we had two TV shows with Andy Griffith." - Grampa Simpson

      by YesBiscuit on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 05:55:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's been a while since I've had to do this. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Phil In Denver, Blackmamba1973

    I've enjoyed the respite, and I didn't expect a presidential debate to bring it out again. (Big sigh here.)

    uribe is, as alleged, a reactionary who supported the US war in Iraq and was supported in his first presidential bid by paramilitaries. (This is the most logical thing in the world, since he was the most right-wing of the serious candidates.)  He's also, by a very wide margin, the best president Colombia has had in 60 years.  (And #2 was Cesar Gaviria, who was a flaming neoliberal. You probably wouldn't much like #3 either.) Colombia today is massively better-off than it was in 2002, in literally every way: not just the MSM (Colombian and US) measurements of guerrilla strength and macroeconomic numbers, but also progressive stuff like employment and (wait for it!) freedom and safety of labor and other types of organizing.  This is the safest time in recent history for labor leaders, leftist politicians, and environmental and indigenous/Afro-Colombian activists....by a wide margin.  Ask the mayor of Bogotá or the governors of Valle and Nariño, all of whom are from the Left (and I mean the real Left, including one who was a guerrilla leader with a mouthful of shrapnel to prove it), if Uribe is what armchair radicals in the US think he is.

    If there's anyone who should be pilloried here, it's Uribe's impossibly incompetent predecessor, Andres Pastrana, under whose sage administration Colombia became the hellhole for activists that too many Kossacks are mistaking for today's reality.  

    -5.38/-3.74 I've suffered for my country. Now it's your turn! --John McCain with apologies to Monty Python's "Protest Song"

    by Rich in PA on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 05:51:41 AM PDT

    •  Sort of True (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      skywriter, keikekaze

      However, since June Labourstart has posted 100 links to articles on Colombia's treatment of unionists, like the deaths of: Pelaez Castaño and Recalde Ordoñez:

      Favier Darío Pelaez Castaño, a member of the guard dog handlers’ group at a prison belonging to the Instituto Nacional Penitenciario y Carcelario (INPEC), was assassinated on 13 June in front of his wife and his youngest daughter, in Caicedonia, Valle department. On 19 June, Walter Anibal Recalde Ordoñez, also an INPEC officer, was murdered on his way home, one kilometre from the prison where he worked. Both were members of the prison employees’ union Asociación sindical de empleados del Instituto Nacional Penitenciario y Carcelario (ASEINPEC - CGT).

      Things might now be "better" for the country, but better isn't really all that much better.

      The most important word in the language of the working class is `solidarity.'--Harry Bridges, longshore union leader

      by Bendygirl on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 06:06:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  OK, let's roll with your example. (0+ / 0-)

        The case you've mentioned is a good example of the tendentiousness of progressive reporting on unionism in Colombia.  There's no evidence that Castaño and Pelaez were killed because they were unionists, and in fact there's no claim that they were anything more than base-level members...which is just a way of saying they were prison guards, since obviously it's a closed shop.  It's a zillion times more likely they were killed because they were prison guards than because they were in a prison guards' union!  The list of people who want to kill prison guards usually starts with criminals, and the state is way down on the list.

        And as for how much better things are, even with the most tendentious body count (i.e. assuming every single  murdered union member was murdered because s/he was a unionist), it's 90% better.  That's a lot better, if you value people being alive rather than dead, as opposed to making a case against a free trade agreement.

        -5.38/-3.74 I've suffered for my country. Now it's your turn! --John McCain with apologies to Monty Python's "Protest Song"

        by Rich in PA on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 06:28:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Quit the attitude (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mangrove Blues

      Like most Colombians, I think that the deal Uribe struck to grow and then later rein in the paramilitaries was a devil's deal, a deal which struck at the already limply beating heart of Colombia's democracy.

      After all, if we pillory Pastrana, we might want to question Uribe, who helped launch the modern paramilitary movement from his home base in Medellin, where his local power was built on death squad support.

      It's not surprising that paramilitary violence has subsided -- like ethnic cleansing in Iraq, their mission has already been largely accomplished.

      Nor is it surprising that, having helped build and launch and support the modern death squad movement, once they had accomplished what he wanted, Uribe then found it time to bring them under control again.

      And it isn't "armchair radicals" who feel that way.

      For example, it's the Colombian judiciary, which has brought 1/3 of the Congress under investigation to the narco-paramilitary death squads.  All Uribe's allies.

      Uribe's popularity is extremely high in the several urban areas, but that isn't where the paramilitaries concentrate their activities.  They slaughter the countryside -- where Uribe has quite a bit less popularity.

      I leave it to Colombians to decide whether the devil's deal was worth it.

      •  Man, if you "left it to Colombians... (0+ / 0-)

        ...to decide if the devil's deal was worth it," you would have your answer already.  There's plenty of attitude to go around, I suppose!

        Make yourself a list of paramilitary leaders circa 2002 and ask where they are now.  I think you'd get "dead, in jail, dead, extradited to the US, in jail, dead, in hiding because 3000 soldiers are looking for him..."  As someone who opposed the so-called Peace and Justice Law, I have to say there has been more accountability than I feared: the truth about massacres and governmental complicity is coming out, and some seriously bad people are in jail where they belong.

        As for the parapolítica scandal, has the government (even one time, even a little) stood in the way of letting heads roll?  

        -5.38/-3.74 I've suffered for my country. Now it's your turn! --John McCain with apologies to Monty Python's "Protest Song"

        by Rich in PA on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 07:05:32 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Wait -- Uribe is responsible for the judiciary? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mangrove Blues

          The truth about the paramilitary penetration of Uribe's government has come out by the work of the judiciary -- and if Uribe deserves any credit, it's by not standing too much in their way.

          Interestingly, the "retired" AUC leaders in jail appear to still be in charge of the death squads, such as the Aguilas Negras, and are actually sending orders and death threats directly out of their prison cells.

          At least, if the Colombian press is to be believed.

  •  I had a conversation with Antonio Navarro . . . (0+ / 0-)

    the Governor of Nariño, and the former commandant of M-19, about Uribe's popularity in Colombia. He despises Uribe, but does say the public is supportive because the level of violence has dropped. FARC has long sense lost all moral authority in the eyes of the general public and people are sick many times over with the violence. They hold their noses and support Uribe. I'll be in Nariño for Christmas, New Years, and Carnival!, and will be meeting with Union folks while there. I'll do a dairy here when I return.

  •  I stopped and rewound that twice (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    roses, weasel, skywriter, keikekaze, sherijr

    I was absolutely STUNNED that McCain could not control himself- that he actually rolled his eyes with exasperation at the idea of caring about union members being murdered.

    If anybody has ANY question about how Republicans really feel about workers, just watch that clip again.

    Done with politics for the night? Have a nice glass of wine with Two Days per Bottle.

    by dhonig on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 06:48:51 AM PDT

  •  Thank you ... really (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    roses, keikekaze

    It was a superbly busy day for me and I was not able to really be here at Kos to moderate and be part of the discussion and thoughts. Home now, I just read most of everything here ... and all I can say, is thank you for taking part in this conversation/discussion.

    Someone up there mentioned that even with the number of unionists killed -- it is better than it was ... It is hard to sit for 12 hours in a union hall and read that at the end of the day. One unionist killed is too many.

    Let's think of that for second: What if we said, well Jews are not being killed as much as they were when Hitler reigned terror, would the Jewish community (or any) tolerate that kind of hatred?

    What about any murdering because of one's association? It just doesn't make sense to me.

    If my department at work were shot at on an average of one a week, we'd all be dead by the end of the year ... if not, seriously injured (of course this depends on the murderer's marksmanship).

    I am not ready to die man, I am about to get married!

    I am not ready to die man, the Union just organized more than 12,000 School Bus and Transit Workers ... a historical number of workers are realizing the benefits of unionization. If me and my department-mates were dead, where would that leave all them bus drivers and mechanics?

    Perhaps silly stuff to many people, but ... these are the kinds of things one thinks about when any unionist's death by murder is condoned.

    Anyway, thanks to EVERYONE who chimed in on this post today, it was great to see this many not only cared enough to comment or rec, but also shared their inteligence and insights.

    -Richard / UR & IBT

  •  Wow I'm (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bendygirl, roses, Union Review

    so glad to see this diary- thank you.  Of all the stupid annoying things said and done by McCain at this debate- this moment - his response to Barack's comments about union leaders being killed, about human rights violations in Columbia- those smirks and eye rolls were the last straw for any thread of respect John McCain should still receive as a viable candidate to lead this country,imo.

    Because our individual salvation depends on our collective salvation.. Barack Obama, 5-25-08

    by sherijr on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 08:34:14 PM PDT

  •  Interesting discussion (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    roses, Union Review, melpomene1

    One in a debate can remind you of a whole different set of issues out there.  Thanks for this well-written diary and the discussion that it generated.

  •  McShame is a pig n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Union Review

    John McCain: Running for Attila the Hun's 666th term

    by plankbob on Fri Oct 17, 2008 at 03:26:15 AM PDT

  •  Great diary! Thank you! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Union Review

    Sorry that I got here to late to rec it.

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