Monday, April 7, 2008


Congress must resist the pressure coming from George Bush to approve the free trade agreement between the U.S. and Colombia.

AP's Martin Crutsinger writes in today's

"The need for this agreement is too urgent, the stakes for our national security are too high to allow this year to end without a vote," Bush said.

"Bush signed a document to transmit the trade agreement to Congress, but Congress won't formally receive it until lawmakers return on Tuesday. Bush's action will force Congress to take up the proposal under a fast-track process that requires votes within 90 days. Officials said Bush is acting now in order to force a vote before Congress leaves in the fall for the campaign season.

""If Congress fails to approve this agreement, it would not only abandon a brave ally, it would send a signal throughout the region that America cannot be counted on to support its friends," Bush said."

For one thing, these free trade agreements don't do enough to protect the indigenous farmer and small business in the Latin countries. As we have seen from NAFTA, the benefits of free trade usually go to the large American agri-businesses and mega-businesses. The subsistence-level Mexican farmer is left to suffer the severe economic consequences. The question for Mexicans is then, how does a small farm compete with the large corporate American mega-farms that can produce corn or tomatoes so much more cheaply? NAFTA has done nothing to answer this question, and I am sure neither does the proposed agreement with Colombia.

Second, Colombia is rife with para-military groups intent on preserving landowners from the lower classes. This is the reason for FARC, the Colombian insurgency, that for the last 20 years plus has waged guerrilla war against the Colombian government. We have Alvaro Uribe now as president of Colombia. He is a direct scion of the privileged classes. This past March 1st, Uribe directed Colombian army units to cross the border and mount an attack against FARC in a camp in Ecuador, something that violates all international norms on the sovereignty of countries and their borders. The result was that some dozens were killed, including four Mexican college students who were investigating FARC's modus vivendi. Also killed was a high FARC commander, Raul Reyes, who seemed willing to negotiate the release of some two thousand hostages held by FARC. Reyes' killing has effectively put an end to further FARC releases of hostages, including the most famous, Ingrid Betancourt, former Colombian presidential candidate.

Congress should turn down George Bush's agreement with Colombia until Uribe and his Colombian supporters agree to root out the para-militaries and guarantee Colombian subsistence farmers a fair deal in any agreement on trade with the U.S. George Bush has sent billions of dollars of military aid to Uribe in the hopes of countering Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Boliva and Rafael Correa of Ecuador. Congress cannot and should not allow Bush to get away with this free trade pact, above all designed to punish Latin countries that see Bush for what he is, the worst war monger and American imperialist since Richard Nixon.

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