And why not? This is the most embarrassing show of prime-ministerial hubris I’ve seen in a while.
Stephen Harper became the first Canadian prime minister to visit Colombia this week, and dismissed criticism that Canada is putting trade ahead of human rights.
Colombia continues to struggle with Marxist guerrillas and a flourishing drug trade.
“When we see a country like Columbia that has decided it has to address its social, political and economic problems, it wants to embrace economic freedom, it wants to embrace political democracy and human rights and social development, then we say we we’re in,” Harper told reporters Monday in Bogota.
The prime minister went on to announce that Canada has started free-trade negotiations with Colombia, considered the most violent country in the western hemisphere, and Peru.
Oh great. Not one, but TWO countries with lousy leadership and dodgy human rights records. Both of whom, I might add, are currently embroiled in vast campaigns of repression for capitalism’s sake. This is at least as arrogant and disgusting as the Spraypec incident, in which pro-democracy protesters got pepper-sprayed at the APEC summit attended by dictator Suharto of Indonesia. It was an affront to democracy that he set foot on Canadian soil, and even more of an affront that his presence was welcomed while protest against it was violently suppressed. Are we not a democracy anymore?
Shit, no. We’re a capitalist-imperialist people-eater first and foremost. Didn’t you get the memo?
Human rights and other non-governmental groups in Colombia were quick to attack the free-trade talks.
“Around the country we have 30,000 that have been detained or disappeared in last 10 years, three million internally displaced people; thousands have been killed,” responded Lilia Solano, the director of Project Justice and Life.
“So how can someone say, ‘OK, all this blood is running but business goes first.'”
She also criticized Harper for trading with a government allegedly linked to violent paramilitary squads.
“Sometimes the multinationals hire the army and they subcontract the paramilitaries, and this is a long history,” she said.
Get a load of Stiffy’s response to that:
“We’re not going to say ‘fix all your social, political and human rights problems, and only then will we engage in trade relations with you.’ That’s a ridiculous position.”
Get that? We’re officially not interested in seeing Colombia get serious about cleaning its own house. All that matters are trade relations. That’s spelled M-O-O-L-A-H, kiddies.
I’ve blogged before on how trade with Colombia has not assuaged that country’s problems one whit–and in fact, since reading Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America (highly recommended!), I’ve become all too aware that “free” trade is the problem, not the solution. The entire thing is rigged to favor the already rich, and further impoverish the already poor–and if you think such things are an accident, you are hopelessly naive and beyond help. There are no accidents in capitalism, least of all when it results in oppression. It is all by design, as this unhappy man makes all too clear:
Jairo Castillo Peralta should be a dead man, either from his former exploits as a paramilitary or his current role as a prolific snitch who has rocked Colombia’s government, sending no less than eight corrupt lawmakers to prison.
Instead, the 39-year-old continues to work with investigators from the safety of his home near Quebec City to detail the shady links between politicians, wealthy landowners and the hired guns who have carried out their will over the years, often with deadly efficiency.
“I was a farmer and was forced to join the paramilitary group. I was with them, but under pressure,” he said in a telephone interview translated by his wife, Clara. “It was to save my life and the lives of my family also.”
It was in 1995 that the 27-year-old farmer was coerced into joining the local paramilitary group in his hometown of Antioquia, in the northern province of Cordoba. He was a chauffeur and a bodyguard and a liaison with government military forces in the area.
He claims not to have engaged in violence and never to have killed anyone, but he was witness to high-level meetings that, almost a decade later, would come back to haunt Colombia’s right-wing leader, President Alvaro Uribe.
Among the lawmakers caught in the former foot soldier’s net is the president’s cousin, Senator Mario Uribe, who allegedly attended two 1998 meetings with the paramilitary, both attended by Castillo.
“The president’s cousin asked them to kill the farm owners so that he would have land and all the power. It’s that that he was looking for, power,” he said.
See what I mean by design?
And by the way, the president he’s talking about is the same one Harpo is all buddy-buddy with. The same one whose obvious shortcomings we are being asked to overlook in the name of Free Trade:
Repeated incidents of current and historic corruption, his militaristic fight against the left-wing guerrilla groups and an amnesty for paramilitaries that have terrorized the country for four decades prompted Democrats in the U.S. Congress to block a proposed free-trade deal between the two countries.
Citing concern about the continued violence, the impunity, lack of investigations and prosecutions of wayward politicians and admitted paramilitaries, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said earlier this month that “there must first be concrete evidence of sustained results on the ground in Colombia.”
“Issues of this nature cannot solely be resolved through language in a trade agreement,” she said.
Jesus. If even the otherwise too timid Nancy Pelosi isn’t backing down on this, what excuse do we have? There must really be a lot in it for us, if Stiffy is so willing to overlook the obvious democratic deficits of Colombia.
And exactly what is in it for Canada?
Apart from flowers and coffee, among the hottest of Colombian exports to Canada are refugees. Statistics show more than 4,500 were admitted to the country in 2006, making Colombia the largest source country for Canadian refugees.
Flowers, coffee, refugees…and unofficially, COCAINE. Yep, it’s really solving Colombia’s problems!
And it’s sure bound to do wonders for Canada, too, at this rate. Hey, it’s not as if our reputation couldn’t stand a bit more tarnishing; after all, we’re being left to clean up Dubya’s poo-pile (and our soldiers are being killed over it at an ever increasing rate) in Afghanistan; we’re now on al-Q’s shit list; we not only failed to condemn the US-backed coup against Aristide in Haiti, we actively contributed to it. Shit, what’s one more reason to hang our heads in shame? We’ve already got so many, I’m starting to lose count.
Therefore, on behalf of all Canadians, I apologize to my brothers and sisters in Latin America for our national nimrod. I didn’t vote for him, obviously, and neither did most of us. A pity that this knowledge probably won’t mitigate the screwing you’re about to get if this goes the way Dubya, Stiffy Harper and Alvaro the Nasty, Brutish and Short want it to. Just please be aware that a solid, silent majority of Canadians do not want this any more than you do. And please, don’t judge us by the idiots we have in power. Like you, we have less power over it than we really want. Let’s make common cause against these bastards first–and when we are free, THEN let’s talk trade. FAIR trade.
Luchemos unid@s. Hasta la victoria siempre.