Alex Massie

A Democratic Plan Colombia

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Hillary Clinton on the proposed US-Colombia trade deal:

I am disappointed that President Bush has decided to send the Colombia Free Trade Agreement to Congress. As I have said consistently for several months, I oppose signing any trade deal with Colombia while violence against trade unionists continues and the perpetrators are not brought to justice. The United States should be pursuing trade agreements that promote human rights and worker rights, not overlook egregious abuses.  I will vote against the President's Colombia trade agreement, and will urge my Senate colleagues to do the same.

No surprise there. No surprise either that Barack Obama is bound to vote against the deal himself. Well, that's the way the wind is blowing: in favour of economic nationalism and state-run racketeering. So be it. Theoretically this might just be campaign posturing but it seems as though it might be hard for a Democratic president to abandon this sort of rhetoric once in office. So there we have it: Democrats will rebuild links with the rest of the world by slapping friends and allies in the face. How brilliant.

And the fig-leaf given to justify this (relatively modest) trade deal? Ah yes, dead trade unionists. Well, I don't approve of murdering trade unionists and it would be grand if more of those responsible for killing union organisers were brought to trial. But all sorts of people are liable to be whacked in Colombia and many of those responsible are never brought to trial either.

Of course, much of Colombia's violence is exacerbated by the United States' lunatic and criminal drug policies, but last time I checked I didn't see any Democratic presidential candidate calling for the abandonment of Plan Colombia.

And how many trade unionists were murdered last year anyway? Fewer than 40. This chart shows you how, happily, it's safer to be a trade unionist in Colombia than to used to be. In 2002, by contrast, there were more than 30,000 murders in Colombia - or 78 per 100,000 Colombians. Many, perhaps even most, of those murders weren't solved either.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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