Dear Iggy: This is why I will NEVER vote for you.

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This landed in my inbox yesterday. See if you can tell me what’s wrong with it:

Dear Sir/Madam:

Thank you for taking the time to voice your concerns about the human rights implications of Bill C-2, the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act.

Human rights are at the core of Liberal values. This is why we have taken the unprecedented step of negotiating an amendment compelling each country to monitor and publicly report on how this Free Trade Agreement (FTA) impacts human rights in both Canada and Colombia.

This is the first such human rights reporting requirement for any FTA in history. It imposes a new requirement on Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) to focus on, collect and analyze information on the impact of the Canada-Colombia FTA on human rights in both Canada and Colombia. This information must be provided to the Parliament of Canada in an annual report which can then be used to guide Canada’s foreign policy with respect to Colombia. In addition, the public tabling of the annual reports in Parliament will allow for greater scrutiny by opposition parties and provide a transparent way for civil society organizations from around the world to access this data as they conduct their own human rights impact assessments.

The Liberal amendment for a human rights reporting requirement was motivated by a desire for greater public oversight in the area of human rights and a belief that human rights are deeply intertwined with economic opportunity. We recognize that human rights abuses in Colombia have largely resulted from violence fuelled by Colombia’s illegal narco-economy, which, in turn, has been perpetuated by Colombia’s endemic poverty, persistently high unemployment and insufficient social infrastructure. We believe that increased political and economic engagement can help address the root causes of violence and improve the human rights situation in Colombia.

In recent years Colombia has made significant progress in combating human rights abuses.

On June 29, 2009, U.S. President Obama commented on these advancements: “I commended President Uribe on the progress that has been made in human rights in Colombia and dealing with the killings of labor leaders there, and obviously we’ve seen a downward trajectory in the deaths of labor unions and we’ve seen improvements when it comes to prosecution of those who are carrying out these blatant human rights offenses. President Uribe acknowledges that there remains more work to be done, and we look forward to cooperating with him to continue to improve both the rights of organized labor in Colombia and to protect both labor and civil rights leaders there.”

More recently, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay recognized “the significant progress made in terms of a drastic reduction in the number of complaints of extrajudicial executions and the continuous prosecution of members of Congress and public officials for alleged links with paramilitary organizations” in her March 2010 report on the human rights situation in Colombia.

The Liberal Party believes that Canada has a moral obligation to help Colombia continue to improve its human rights record. We must work with Colombia to strengthen its public institutions and create legitimate economic opportunities for all Colombians. This free trade agreement, with the Liberal amendment establishing a human rights reporting requirement, will significantly strengthen Canada’s ability to achieve these goals and engage Colombia on the issue of human rights. Furthermore, the Liberal amendment will provide Canadians and Colombians with an ongoing assessment of progress in this area.

Former Deputy Minister of DFAIT, Peter Harder, has called the Liberal amendment a “significant innovation in free trade agreements in that it provides both the Colombian and Canadian legislatures the opportunity to annually review and assess the human rights implications of the agreement. I expect that future parliaments will build on this precedent when they consider proposed free trade agreements.”

Prominent civil society organizations and unions in Colombia have also publically supported the proposed amendment.

Dr. Leon Valencia, Executive Director of Arco Iris, stated that “I think it is interesting and useful that the Free Trade Agreement between Colombia and Canada includes an amendment which requires both governments to present an annual report to the respective Parliaments on the repercussions of the agreement on human rights in each country… This will provide an important yearly forum to discuss the situation in Colombia, and will give Canadian citizens the opportunity to monitor human rights violations in our country.” He went on to describe the Liberal amendment as “innovative and converts the Treaty into something which is dynamic and provides new platforms for analysis and discussion. Perhaps this could be included in other free trade agreements.”

M. Gerardo Sanchez Zapata, President of the Apparel and Textile Industry of Colombia Trade Union Sintracontexa, lent his support to the agreement on behalf of 12 other Colombian unions: “This procedure is welcomed by Colombian workers and we are thankful to the Parliament of Canada for its position, because it helps strengthen a mechanism already in place that monitors and evaluates the progress in matter of human rights.”

Colombia is at a critical juncture in its history, emerging from decades of violence and civil war. The Liberal Party of Canada believes that countries like Canada can support Colombia on its path to peace, justice and reconciliation by helping to build and strengthen Colombia’s public institutions and provide greater public oversight on the human rights situation in Colombia. Canada must not turn its back on Colombia and isolate its people at this time. Rather we must seize this opportunity to engage the people of Colombia and work with them to break the cycle of violence and human rights abuses that prevents the country from reaching its vast potential.

Thank you, once again, for taking the time to write to me on this very important issue.

Respectfully,

The Office of Michael Ignatieff, M.P.

Leader of the Official Opposition

I’ll spare you the tortured use of italics from the original.

Here’s my open letter in response:

Dear Office of Iggy the Boyar:

You’re right about only one thing here: This IS an unprecedented step you have taken. And an unfortunate choice of direction.

No previous Liberal administration would have contemplated doing what you have done. They all resisted the US’s urging to legitimize Colombia’s right-wing government and toxic business atmosphere. So yes, what you have done is indeed unprecedented–for Liberals, and for Canadians.

But that isn’t what I petitioned you to do.

I didn’t petition you to add a worthless human-rights amendment, which will never be respected and which the Tories will only gut, as is their wont. I petitioned you to OPPOSE the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. You didn’t do that; you PASSED it.

And you call yourselves an opposition? I call you a bunch of butt-boys.

But don’t worry, a few people in Colombia will thank you for your kindly concern. Those few are Uribe himself, and his cronies–the ones who already own too much of the country; who have taken it from a violent banana republic to a narco-paramilitary failed state; who go around murdering bothersome peasants, stealing their land, and then dressing them in fake FARC uniforms before burying them in mass graves. Cocain
e traffickers, in particular, will appreciate the good work you have done; you have just made it that much easier for them to export their noxious product, which will undoubtedly land on our streets, burdening OUR legal system to the breaking point. And of course, we mustn’t forget the military-industrial complex, particularly that of Israel, which cheerfully sells weapons to right-wing paramilitaries and the Colombian army alike.

And your measly little human-rights amendment proposes to change this situation HOW, again?

Please spare me the elaborate justifications. There is no justification for what you have done to the people of Colombia. Some 4 million of them have already fled to neighboring Venezuela in order to escape from the narco-paramilitaries and the army (which may as well be regarded as a single entity, so indistinguishable are they from one another). One of the Bolivarian missions advanced by President Chávez was to grant them Venezuelan citizenship and identity cards, so that they would have a decent shot at jobs, free healthcare, and a good education–things the oh-so-humanitarian government of Alvaro Uribe would not grant them in their native Colombia. It is fair to say that Hugo Chávez has already done more for Colombians than you have, and it’s safe to say that it’s more than you will ever do.

But then again, Venezuela is Colombia’s nearest neighbor and largest trading partner. The violence of Colombia’s five-decades-old civil war spills over Venezuela’s border (and those of Colombia’s other neighbors, Ecuador and Brazil) with nauseous regularity. And so do the drugs. And Hugo Chávez used to be stationed near the Colombian border in his army officer days, ostensibly to patrol for guerrillas, but really to violate the human rights of peasants. He found this role objectionable, as did his fellow soldiers. It was a major turning point in his political consciousness. Now, as president, he takes the position that Colombia has to police its own borders, stop repressing its own people, and not expect Venezuela to pick up the slack in its guerrilla and drug wars. Colombia has failed repeatedly to do so.

Worse, Alvaro Uribe has refused to take responsibility for his own crimes and failures, preferring to project them onto his neighbors. That’s why today, President Chávez has broken off relations between Caracas and Bogotá. His patience has been tested long enough. His Ecuadorian friend and counterpart, Rafael Correa, ran out of it two years ago, when Uribe’s army bombed his country and then blamed him for “harboring” the FARC when he had done no such thing.

As for me, I have no patience for your nonsensical position that more trade with Colombia is the answer. For whom? Working-class Canadians have never benefited significantly from free trade; just the opposite. The only people ever to benefit from such agreements are those who really don’t need the extra cash. Nothing will trickle down to Colombian campesinos, and nothing to the average Canadian, either. The last thing we need is more cheap goods flooding our market; we are already glutted.

And there are only so many bananas we can eat, and there is only so much coffee we can drink. Personally, I prefer to get my bananas from Ecuador and my coffee from Brazil. Those countries have decent presidents and are not known for their narcos or their paramilitaries.

In short, dear Iggy, this is why I won’t be voting for you. It’s not the only reason, but it’s a big one.

Adios, cabrón.

Luv,

‘Bina.

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This entry was posted in Brazil is the Bomb!, Canadian Counterpunch, Ecuadorable As Can Be, El NarcoPresidente, Free Trade, My Ass!, Huguito Chavecito, Isn't That Illegal?. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Dear Iggy: This is why I will NEVER vote for you.

  1. Alison says:

    Brava, ‘Bina.
    This may have been the Cons bill originally but it was Scott Brison who took ownership of it in committee and Martha Hall Findlay who stood three separate times in the House on June 11 to beg the Cons for recognition of the “important work” the Liberal Party had done to ensure the passage of the Canada-Colombia FTA at third reading 188 to 79, or, as Pogge put it : “to whine for approval from the Conservatives after selling out to them”.

  2. Thanks, Alison.
    I notice that Scott Brison really hasn’t strayed far from his Tory partisan roots, economically speaking. He may have fled the party for its social conservatism (read: homophobia), but at bottom, he’s not a small-l liberal on matters of social justice. Having friends in the Colombian finca-owning oligarchy will do that to one, I guess.
    Love what Pogge said, too. Very apt!

  3. thwap says:

    Great post, great letter!

  4. chris says:

    Well said!
    Maybe send this to the larger media?

  5. Jim Hadstate says:

    When I first started to read this, I thought you were engaging in your sarcastic or cutting humor. I was thinking that the Liberal Party must have pissed our Queen off somehow and she was using this letter as a teaching instrument. As I read along, I thought that maybe it was just a flogging that the Liberal Party deserved.
    Ten I got to your response and I sat reading in mute horror as I realized that this wasn’t one of ‘Bina’s swipes at some dumb thing that Labor had done. They had actually written that letter and ‘Bina was just publicizing it.
    Do you have any real opposition party in Canada? I really don’t know a lot about the nuts and bolts of Canadian politics except that Stephen Harper is a First Class jackass. Because that letter couldn’t have come from a real opposition.
    Great response to that spineless, lacking in testicles scumbag that is supposed to be the leader of the opposition. I guess. Is this representative of his leadership of the party? Do the members just go along to get along? This is stunning. But thanks for putting it out there.

  6. Jim, I’m sorry to say that it was only too real. We no longer have a Liberal party as such, only Tories and Tory Bootlickers. Iggy rolls over more often than he stands up, and that’s not a leader, much less of the opposition. Pierre Trudeau must be rolling in his grave.

  7. James Hardwick says:

    Wow, you are much more calm and collected than I tend to be in correspondence with politicans. I once told Rep. Mack of Florida to shove a piece of legislation where the sun doesn’t shine. It is sad to see that Canada seems to be mirroring the United States in the fact that the so called Liberal party is whole heartedly supporting the oppressive, Free Trade, Globalist agenda of the far right. Good for you guys that you do have a vibrant, viable 3rd party (NDP) as an option.

  8. We do, but in some ways they infuriate me. The NDP is very lax on the gun registry, which is an issue near to my heart (I was a university student when the Montreal Massacre went down, so I understand the need for tighter gun controls only too well.) They seem more intent on capturing the half-informed redneck vote than keeping to the progressive side of the ledger there. I’ve even wank-listed Jack Layton for not whipping the vote when gun control was on the table in Parliament.
    Plus there’s the other infuriating thing we’re plagued with up here: under-informed voters, who seem to think that when in doubt, you need to go right. That’s a sure way of hitting pedestrians on the crosswalk…

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