[…] according to both long-time critics of Plan Colombia (the multi-billion dollar U.S. aid package to Colombia) and long-time supporters the trip was apparently a debacle. The Democratic congress is not keen on Plan Colombia or a U.S.-Colombia Free Trade pact. The Democrats have been accused of using revelations of human rights abuses as a fig leaf for doing the AFL-CIO’s bidding and killing the Free Trade Agreement. This is not entirely fair, as the human rights situation in Colombia is abysmal (although it has been abysmal for decades now). There have been a steady stream of revelations about high-level contacts between the military, the para-militaries, and politicians close to Uribe. Uribe himself has remained popular.
The Democrats should consider their next moves carefully. It is easy to bash Republican policies (although Plan Colombia was initially formulated under the Clinton Administration.) Only a decade ago, Colombia was on the verge of being a failed state, now the situation has stabilized. But much remains to be done, and it is entirely conceivable that the situation could take a turn for the worse.
At the same the FARC remains a major concern, a well funded terrorist group with both the desire and the capability to wreak havoc not only in Colombia but throughout the hemisphere (for more read this report on the FARC’s hemisphere-wide reach.) While the paramilitaries are absolutely loathesome, they are not expressly political (they were formed when the state proved unable to secure large sections of the country). Despite conventional wisdom that the FARC are really just about drug trafficking, at least some parts of it remain a Maoist guerilla movement that explicitly seeks to overthrow the Colombian state and spread its radical ideology. The FARC needs to be kept under pressure – failure to do so will destabilize Colombia and its neighbors.
Finally, bashing Uribe sends the wrong message to Latin America. If the U.S. turns on its closest, most loyal regional ally, other leaders will not be tempted to support American initiatives. […]
This last point is without doubt very important for the US. Especially because at the same time, Pelosi wanted to have a chat both with Ahmadinejad, who cannot be considered as a Human Rights’ supporter, and with Chávez, whose last deed has been to close a TV opposed to his Bolivarian regime and whose treatment of the press has been criticized by two reports recently –something which can lead to a new crackdown on disidents-.
Another reason to consider the stupid position of Mrs. Pelosi is the fact that Uribe’s popularity has risen to an astounding 75% of the Colombian people.
Of course, the picture of the Colombian-US relations should be finished by pointing out that the same people who are supporting the Dems’ position, demonstrated heavily against Bush when he visited Colombia some months ago.
The accusation against Uribe is that some of his closed collaborators have some kind of linkage to paramilitaries. As I did not know a lot about them, I asked Jaime Restrepo from Colombian blog Atrabilioso to enlighten me on this subject:
The paramilitaries appeared as an answer from peasants and rich land owners to the abuses of the FARC and the guerrilla in general, as the absence of the State in a lot of Colombian regiones was hugh: till 2002, more than 200 villages (more or less 20% of the total number of villages in Colombia), did not have police, nor teachers, judges nurses or any other civil servant.Those peasants organised themselves or sponsored some movements of self-defense. Even the State (from 1970 till 1990) promoted them or supported the organization of these movements using the Army for that. In the mid-80’s, the narco-market appeared in Colombia and step by step the so-called Medellín’s cartel begins to control those groups of self-defense not only to defend themselves from guerilla, but also to steal lands, make their enemies and informants disappear and to eliminate in general every suspicious body.The first thing to consider is that we cannot speak of a paramilitary structure alone, because there are some organizations that appear in different regions, independently, without an organised command and without unified criteria: in practice that is kept till today, as the peace process with the paramilitaries was made with many of these groups, but not with all of them. They were operating without a unified command and only achieved a sort of union for negotiation with State. But they also penetrated the State and involved some corrupted politicians, with no scruples and criminals in their cause.Of all of these groups that were not in the peace process, the 3rd generation of paramilitaries is created (in 1992 they made another negotiation in only one region of the country that resulted had been a sham). Some weeks ago one of their leaders was captured and the guy shouted that as long as the FARC exist, the paramilitaries will also exist: I believe that this is what a lot of Colombians consider about this, because they consider that the FARC are the main generator of violence and death. The FARC also nearly succeded in coming to power in a sort of peace process made between 1998 and 2001 Distension Zone from San Vicente del Caguán.Of course, people know that the paramilitaries, like FARC or ELN, have not done any good: in their history they have only caused death and destruction. For me, the difference is that the FARC are the cause and the paramilitaries are the consequence, but this can only explain the facts and never the justification, because the blood split has none.
I have translated what he wrote to me as I think that it is very important to read the people who live in the country without any kind of intermediaries.
Although the situation has really being improved, the FARC are now focusing on kidnapping children. This year alone 27 children have been kidnapped, that is to say that the 22% of the kidnappings which happened this year have been against minors. They are now the favorite target of the criminals, even greater that the businessmen, who are the most affected group by this crime. In 2006, 110 children were kidnapped, while 95 businessmen, 57 employees and 6 civil servants.
This is a production for Atrabilioso: freedom for all the kidnapped in Colombia.