Secretary Gates, Colombia, and Paying Your Client States

Another broken promise: Secretary Gates promotes US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement as a way to "reward" the Uribe government. Photo from Flickr user ZenaShots.

When asked in a Presidential debate why he opposed the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, Barack Obama framed his concerns with Colombia’s deplorable human rights record. Now that he is President and the labor movement is far more inconsequential, these concerns have evidently withered away. Yesterday, Secretary of Defense and Bush Administration carry-over Robert Gates was in Bogota expounding on the need to pay off America’s client state. As the Los Angeles Times reports:

Defense Department officials have favored the pact as a way to reward Colombia for its successful effort at beating back drug trafficking and the country’s insurgency…

“Colombia’s success against terrorists and narco-traffickers does offer a lot of opportunities for them to share their expertise,” Gates said. “We certainly would like to see . . . other countries take advantage of Colombia’s strengths.”

Yes, Colombia has done a smashing job of fighting people like this. Meanwhile, the United States Labor Education in the Americas Project informs us that Colombia remains the most dangerous place in the world for union organizers. More trade unionists have been assassinated in Colombia in the last six years than the rest of the world combined. As for those advances in human rights Gates mentions in the Times report, Colombia still has an impunity rate of 96% in the more than 2,700 worker’s-rights related murders that have been perpetrated in the last twenty years. Perhaps Amnesty International put it best when they reported on the threats facing human rights activists in the country: “Such hostility has been fomented by the Government, which appears to perceive human rights and security as mutually exclusive.”