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Obama Slanders Colombia


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But he sounded super cool and collected when he did it so everything is cool and it doesn't matter.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1224459520....html#printMode

 

Obama Is Wrong About Colombia

Labor unions are much safer under Uribe.

 

After the final debate between John McCain and Barack Obama last week, the media lost no time digging for dirt on Joe the Plumber. Too bad a similar level of scrutiny was not applied to the slanderous remarks Mr. Obama made against Colombia.

 

Joe, in case you've been hiding under a rock, is the working-class, well, Joe, from Toledo, Ohio, who last week delivered a neat summation of the Obama economic plan: Increase taxes on successful risk-takers and use the money to expand the welfare rolls.

 

Joe was practicing what I call the audacity of veracity. He made the Harvard-trained candidate look bad. For that the media decided he needed to be taken down a notch. Meanwhile, the fourth estate walked away from any serious discussion of Mr. Obama's slander of the finest U.S. ally in Latin America.

 

To be fair, Mr. Obama probably did not set out on Wednesday night to insult millions of Colombians and revive the notion many U.S. neighbors have of the Ugly Gringo. But when Mr. McCain pointed out that opposing the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement doesn't make sense -- because the U.S. is already open to imports from Colombia and because the agreement will open new markets for U.S. exporters during rough economic times -- Mr. Obama was caught flat-footed.

 

He reached into his memory bank for whatever he had been told to say about Colombia. He seems to have found his hard drive loaded with Big Labor talking points. Here's what it spit out: "The history in Colombia right now," he said, "is that labor leaders have been targeted for assassination, on a fairly consistent basis, and there have not been prosecutions."

 

Mr. McCain should have blown the whistle right there because bearing false witness against your neighbor, who also happens to be a friend, is a foul. Labor killings in Colombia have gone down sharply in the past five years and convictions have gone up. Mr. Obama was wrong. Moreover, Mr. McCain missed an opportunity to ask Mr. Obama how he squares his antagonism toward Colombia -- whose president has an 80% approval rating -- with his promise to boost America's image abroad.

 

An American politician ought to know better than to deliver a morality lecture to Colombia. American demand for cocaine, which funds Colombia's worst criminality -- including the bloodthirsty Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) -- has nearly wrecked that beautiful country. Colombians, who have bravely cooperated with the hapless U.S. "war on drugs," have paid a steep price.

 

By the time President Alvaro Uribe took office in August 2002, Colombia was almost a failed state. That year there were 28,837 homicides nationwide, making it one of the most dangerous places on planet Earth.

 

There were also 196 union members killed that year. Their deaths were not unrelated to the political violence sweeping the country. The dominant public-sector unions have their roots in a revolutionary ideology that they share with the FARC. This has put them on the left side of Colombia's violent politics for decades. On the other side have been those who took up arms to oppose guerrilla aggression.

 

Mr. Uribe has worked to restore peace by strengthening the state. This has been bad for both sides. But as the rebels have been pushed back, FARC sympathizers have run to Washington to discredit Mr. Uribe. Democrats have welcomed them. Meanwhile the death toll has dropped dramatically, and union members have especially benefited from improved security.

 

As a Journal editorial on Friday explained, from 2002 to 2007 the number of murdered Colombian union members dropped by almost 87%. By any fair standard that is progress, especially considering the pattern Mr. Uribe inherited. In 2000, 155 unionists were murdered and in 2001, 205 died. The numbers only started to come down when he took the helm.

 

In October 2006, the president created a special investigative unit inside the attorney general's office to handle union murders. The unit began operations in February 2007, and it says that as of this August "some 855 cases have open investigations" and that "179 security preventive detention measures have been issued, 61 cases are ready to be referred to court for trial, and 115 suspects have been convicted in 75 sentences."

 

It is far safer to be a union member today in Colombia than to be a member of the general population. This is a fact, and it would be interesting to know why Mr. Obama has repeatedly refused to acknowledge it.

 

Is it because of his heavy reliance on campaign contributions from the antitrade AFL-CIO? Or perhaps, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Mr. Obama has an ideological bias in favor of Colombia's hard left. If it's the latter, then it is worth asking whether an Obama presidency would change U.S. foreign policy to look more favorably on insurgents of the FARC variety.

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I'm sorry, but this article is really slanted. I also don't agree with the author's assertion that the media was basically trying to 'take down' Joe the Plumber. First of all, it was McCain himself who brought this guy into the national consciousness. If Joe wants to blame someone for the newfound scrutiny on his life, it should be McCain. The media was just doing their duty of trying to find out who this guy was, although they went a bit overboard in surrounding his house.

 

Colombia is NOT a safe place for union workers, and I'm glad Obama brought it up during the debate.

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I am a huge supporter of free trade and I love Colombian women, so I am supportive of this agreement in principle. However, I do think they've had issues protecting union leaders. The article is very slanted, although I agree that there has been a lot of progress. I still think we need more protections for unions and union leaders.

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I am a huge supporter of free trade and I love Colombian women, so I am supportive of this agreement in principle. However, I do think they've had issues protecting union leaders. The article is very slanted, although I agree that there has been a lot of progress. I still think we need more protections for unions and union leaders.

 

 

I also agree that the improving conditions for labor leaders in colombia can still be further improved. However, to strike down a treaty of this magnitude based on a notion that Colombia must change its domestic criminal law or the way its law enforcement works in order for a free trade treaty to go through is ridiculous. The treaty should have been signed, and we could have put pressure on Colombia afterwards about protecting labor leaders. Pelosi's strong opposition of this treaty doesn;t pass the smell test because it has the stench of blind partisanship.

 

I kid you not, I may have considered voting for Obama as the lesser of two evils had he supported this treaty.

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I am a huge supporter of free trade and I love Colombian women, so I am supportive of this agreement in principle. However, I do think they've had issues protecting union leaders. The article is very slanted, although I agree that there has been a lot of progress. I still think we need more protections for unions and union leaders.

 

 

I also agree that the improving conditions for labor leaders in colombia can still be further improved. However, to strike down a treaty of this magnitude based on a notion that Colombia must change its domestic criminal law or the way its law enforcement works in order for a free trade treaty to go through is ridiculous. The treaty should have been signed, and we could have put pressure on Colombia afterwards about protecting labor leaders. Pelosi's strong opposition of this treaty doesn;t pass the smell test because it has the stench of blind partisanship.

 

I kid you not, I may have considered voting for Obama as the lesser of two evils had he supported this treaty.

 

Like I said, I am very much in favor of free trade. Nevertheless, I think this was one of the deals that I think we've rightly postponed for various reasons. Perhaps Pelosi opposed it for blind partisan reasons, but I certain don't oppose it for those reasons. I was in favor of CAFTA and the agreement with Peru. Once the treaty is revised, I will be fully supportive.

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I am a huge supporter of free trade and I love Colombian women, so I am supportive of this agreement in principle. However, I do think they've had issues protecting union leaders. The article is very slanted, although I agree that there has been a lot of progress. I still think we need more protections for unions and union leaders.

 

 

I also agree that the improving conditions for labor leaders in colombia can still be further improved. However, to strike down a treaty of this magnitude based on a notion that Colombia must change its domestic criminal law or the way its law enforcement works in order for a free trade treaty to go through is ridiculous. The treaty should have been signed, and we could have put pressure on Colombia afterwards about protecting labor leaders. Pelosi's strong opposition of this treaty doesn;t pass the smell test because it has the stench of blind partisanship.

 

I kid you not, I may have considered voting for Obama as the lesser of two evils had he supported this treaty.

 

Like I said, I am very much in favor of free trade. Nevertheless, I think this was one of the deals that I think we've rightly postponed for various reasons. Perhaps Pelosi opposed it for blind partisan reasons, but I certain don't oppose it for those reasons. I was in favor of CAFTA and the agreement with Peru. Once the treaty is revised, I will be fully supportive.

 

The problem is that it is a violation of Colombia's sovereignty to force them to change their domestic law because their big neighbor to the north thinks its the moral thing to do.

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You're right, the US can't force Colombia to do anything. However, the US can cajole Colombia into doing the right thing with carrots and sticks. Namely, pass laws protecting labor leaders, get the free-trade agreement. Don't pass the laws, fuggetaboutit.

:rolleyes:

 

Your comment makes it obvious that you haven't the slightest idea of the transformation in Colombia since Uribe took over.

 

Given that suppoesedly Bush stole the last two elections do you think other countries should demand we fix our electoral system as conditions prior to entering agreements?

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You're right, the US can't force Colombia to do anything. However, the US can cajole Colombia into doing the right thing with carrots and sticks. Namely, pass laws protecting labor leaders, get the free-trade agreement. Don't pass the laws, fuggetaboutit.

 

Except that the agreement appears to benefit the US more than Colombia right now.

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You're right, the US can't force Colombia to do anything. However, the US can cajole Colombia into doing the right thing with carrots and sticks. Namely, pass laws protecting labor leaders, get the free-trade agreement. Don't pass the laws, fuggetaboutit.

:rolleyes:

 

Your comment makes it obvious that you haven't the slightest idea of the transformation in Colombia since Uribe took over.

 

Given that suppoesedly Bush stole the last two elections do you think other countries should demand we fix our electoral system as conditions prior to entering agreements?

 

Good point. I do agree that we've certainly fallen short in terms of democracy. Forget for a moment whether Bush actually won the last two elections. We have serious problems here, mostly related to maintaining the integrity of the results (making sure machines function properly, etc.).

 

I think you're right to some extent. In fact, I think a lot of countries are probably thinking that it is ironic that the economic policies we've tried to push on other countries is coming back to bite us in the ass.

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I'm bumping this thread, as I just found an interesting article indicating that Obama was right about Colombia all along:

 

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/americas/11/...eref=rss_latest

 

U.N. says Colombian military executing civilians

 

BOGOTA, Colombia (CNN) -- Colombia's U.S.-backed security forces are engaging in "systematic and widespread" extrajudicial executions of innocent civilians as part of their counterinsurgency campaign, a top United Nations diplomat said Saturday.

 

Speaking in Bogota after a weeklong fact-finding tour, Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the scale of the killings could constitute a "crime against humanity" under international humanitarian law, adding that international courts could intervene if the Colombian government was "unwilling or unable" to handle the investigations itself.

 

"An offense becomes a crime against humanity if it is widespread and systematic against the civilian population," Pillay said at a news conference.

 

"We are observing and keeping a record of the number of extrajudicial killings [in Colombia], and it does appear to be systematic and widespread in my view.

 

"The goal is to have the national authorities these crimes and prosecute the perpetrators. It's only when a country is unable and unwilling that the International Criminal Court, for instance, would have the power to intervene," she added.

 

Her comments come three days after Colombian President Alvaro Uribe fired 25 army officers and non-commissioned officers, including three generals and 11 colonels, for alleged involvement or negligence in a case involving the forced disappearance and summary executions of at least 11 young men from a poor Bogota suburb this year.

 

It was the biggest purge in Colombian military ranks for alleged human rights abuses.

 

Although Pillay welcomed the move, she said Saturday that she hoped it would be the start -- not the end -- of a thorough process to improve the human rights record of the Colombian military.

 

U.N. officials say they don't keep comprehensive statistics of forced disappearances and summary executions blamed on the security forces. But a U.N. source said the organization received between 200 and 300 such complaints every year.

 

A U.N. report published last year said the organization had seen "significant increases" in the number of cases.

 

Meanwhile, the government attorney general's office says it opened close to 800 investigations into accusations of summary executions by the police and military between January 2003 and September 2007.

 

Typically, according to the U.N. and the attorney general's office, security forces will "disappear" or kill civilians and later present them to the media as leftist rebels or right-wing paramilitary fighters killed in combat.

 

Since 2000, Colombia has received about $5 billion in mostly military aid from the United States to fight drugs and the guerrilla war.

 

Under the terms of the aid package, Washington is supposed to thoroughly vet the human rights record of Colombian military units. If abuses are uncovered, Washington can suspend aid to the offending units.

 

U.S. authorities have not publicly said whether aid will be affected by the latest investigations and subsequent purge of the military high command.

 

None of the commanders fired earlier this week has been arrested or charged with any crime. But Uribe has said criminal investigations are ongoing and promised that offenders would be jailed.

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Obama's main reason was because labor leaders were being targeted for assassination. This may be an additional reason why someone may want to oppose the treaty.

 

If anything this shows that the Colombian government is beginning to crack down on these types of abuses, which are in fact, common place all around many of the countries in Latin America.

 

This doesn't show that Obama was right, nor does it show that he was wrong. This in fact has little bearing over the primary reason provided for voting against the treaty. And for those of us who are in favor of the treay, I don't think Obama is lying about the assassination of labor leaders, I just don't think it was a valid reason for voting against a free trade treaty.

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