Instead of fighting Al queda and the Taliban, we are in South and Central America to fight a phony War on Narco-Terror. Drugs are just one more excuse to flex American muscle, enrich American corporations and ignore and flout international human rights principles. The Drug Enforcement Administration -- much like the paramilitarized police forces within our own borders -- has been turned into a virtual Army, replete with high tech weaponry left over from Afghanistan and Iraq. The fact that the DEA is fighting a virtual war in Honduras, even assassinating members of alleged drug cartels, is not getting a whole lot of attention in El Norte. Charlie Savage of the New York Times did write a brief article on the Terror-Drug Fusion Wars last fall.
As a matter of fact, the corporate media as a whole have glossed over the horrors of life in Colombia and other repressive regimes and as true American government mouthpieces, have concentrated on the socialistic evils of Venezuela and Cuba, whose records on human rights are stellar in comparison. From the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR):
What leads editors to discuss Colombia’s nightmarish human rights record with less alarm than Venezuela’s flawed but clearly superior record? The answer seems to lie in the relationship between the editors’ views and U.S. strategic thinking. Over the time frame of this study, U.S. officials have highlighted human rights concerns in Venezuela out of opposition to the populist policies of its President Hugo Chávez, which they see as threatening to U.S. interests. At the same time, officials have tried to diminish the gravity of Colombia’s human rights problems in order to sustain political support for a number of military, anti-drug and trade projects the U.S. shares with Colombia.
Curiously, though government-linked Colombian death squads were in the habit of killing journalists, political activists and trade unionists over the entire time span of this study, virtually no editorials questioned the health of Colombia’s democracy, in stark contrast to the editors’ almost obsessive concern about the perilous state of Venezuela’s. Indeed, though President Uribe has been linked with death squads (Washington Post, 4/18/07), and former President Pastrana presided over a government with extensive death squad ties, the editors felt a need to insist time and again that the Colombian leaders were true and dedicated democrats.The Obama Administration has been falling all over itself trying to justify approving the Colombian trade deal despite that country's horrible history of terrorizing its own people. As long as the government promises to try to cut back a tad on murdering trade unionists, then it's all good. Sound familiar? Just as banks can regulate themselves and factory farms can police their own filth and frackers can be relied upon to curb their polluting greed, Colombia shall be rewarded with no oversight and no penalties for non-compliance:
The Administration is asking worker rights advocates to believe that after over two decades of violence and impunity and other widespread violations that Colombia has now magically turned the corner on the basis of a Labor Action Plan signed in April.
As USLEAP* (US Labor Education in the Americas Project) and others have noted, the Plan has no enforcement measures and pressure for compliance will end as soon as the Colombia FTA is implemented. The Plan, which contains some positive features if fully implemented, must be given time to demonstrate concrete results in reducing violence and ending impunity, let alone addressing other long-standing obstacles to the exercise of basic worker rights. And there is not even a “Plan” to address violence against other human rights defenders or the negative impact that the FTA is expected to have on small farmers, Afro-Colombians and the environment.
Life in Latin American backwaters is cheap. So when Secret Service agents and military personnel hit the brothels and the bars the minute their jackboots touched Cartagena ground, they were simply exercising their rights as occupiers and conquerors. That they should objectify Third World Latina women forced to work as prostitutes to feed themselves and their children should come as no surprise. That they should expect to be secretly serviced for mere pennies should come as no surprise either. The only surprise is that somebody took the women's side for a change and the Americanos were exposed.
It is of course also no surprise at all that our own politicians and pundits should concentrate on the symptom rather than the disease. The real scandal is a double one: the rushed approval of the Colombian free trade agreement, despite ongoing documented human rights abuses and murders of trade unionists, and President Obama's refusal to back down on his cynical War on Drugs. Corporate profits once again have trumped humanitarianism. Our Democratic president has pledged his allegiance to profits over people.
And how do labor leaders back home feel about this debacle? Well, Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO is "deeply disappointed" in President Obama. But not so much that he will withdraw his endorsement for Barry's re-election. And here you thought that this story couldn't get any more disgusting.
* "The U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project (USLEAP) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization based in Chicago that engages a wide range of organizations and individuals in the U.S. and abroad to promote full respect for the rights of workers in Latin America. Founded in 1987 as the U.S./Guatemala Labor Education Project, the organization advocates for fundamental changes to U.S. trade policies, demands corporate responsibility, denounces violence against trade unionists, and conducts worker justice campaigns in the banana, flower, and apparel sectors. USLEAP seeks a global economy in which all workers, abroad and in the U.S., are treated fairly, paid a living wage, and respected by corporations and governments." Its website can be found here.