Colombia


"The ongoing war in Colombia--recognized by the United Nations as the world's greatest humanitarian disaster after congo and Darfur--has largely been pushed from the headlines by the crisis in Iraq. But Congress and the Pentagon are paying close attention to this oil-rich South American nation.

"At the close of October, Congress approved doubleing the Pentagon's troop presence in Colombia to 800 and raised the cap on the number of U.S. civilian contract agents--pilots, intelligence analysts, security personnel--from 400 to 600. The little-noticed measure came as part of the 2005 Department of Defense authorization act and was a defeat for human rights groups, which had been pushing for a lower cap. The new 800/600 cap is exactly what the White House asked for.

"The vote was closely followed by a national wave of protest throughout the war-torn South American nation, as some 1.4 million public-sector workers walked off their jobs and took to the streets for a one-day strike. Organized by major trade unions as well as civil organizations, the October 12 strike demanded an end both to President Alvaro Uribe's push to join George W. Bush's Free Trade Area of the Americas and to the rights abuses and atrocities associated with the government's counter-guerrilla war--which the United States has funded to the tune of $3.3 billion since Plan Colombia was passed in 2000.

"The Bush administration has expanded the "Plan Colombia" program... also includes military aid packages for Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia...

(Bill Weinberg. "Forgotten Oil Wars of the "War on Terrorism."" Nonviolent Activist, Winter 2005: 6-8).


"Colombia's far-right president, Alvaro Uribe Velez...

"... here to address students and faculty as part of his campaign to win re-election on May 28. If successful, which is almost assured, he will be the first president of Colombia to serve two terms back to back--and it will mark a major victory for Colombia's far right just as the rest of the continent seems to be sliding ever more to the left...

"Colombia, with a sizable population of 42 million and a hard-right president, is the Bush Administration's only true friend in Latin America. Uribe has ridden horses with George Bush in Crawford, plans to sign a sweeping free-trade agreement with the United States...

"Despite Uribe's popularity, he faces a new yet robust democratic left party, the Polo Alternativa Democratico. Formed in 2003, the Polo has done surprisingly well in recent elections--winning more than twenty seats in the Colombian legislature, and controlling the mayoral offices of several cities, including Bogotá, and ruling one provincial government.

"In the late 1980s and early '90s Colombia had a similarly mass-based social democratic party, the Patriotic Union (UP), with links to the FARC. But the UP was wiped out in an assassination campaign that saw 3,000 of its activists, including three presidential candidates, murdered by paramilitaries...

""In Colombia, if you run for office from the left you have to be willing to die," says a young Polo activist named Daniel...

"Uribe's critics say the murders are the work of the president's paramilitary allies...

"The amnesty [2002 for AUC] seems to have triggered an economic boom that will help Uribe at the polls. Colombian economist and author Hector Mondragon argues that Uribe's amnesty for the AUC--which was accompanied by a liberalization of investment laws--has allowed the paras and other drug barons to launder huge sums of illicit cash through Colombia's financial markets. In the past four years the country's stock exchange has ballooned a staggering sixfold. This bubble, along with rampant deficit spending by the government, has momentarily buoyed Colombia's economy...

"...a drug-fueled boom...

"In fact, Uribe's connections with the rural narco-right run deep. As director of civil aviation from 1980 to 1982, Uribe was accused of handing out flying licenses to drug smugglers" (Christian Parenti. "Colombia's Deep Divide." The Nation, June 12, 2006: 17-19).


Colby Glass, MLIS