Thursday, June 10, 2004
Update on Colombia

It's been a while since we looked south of the border. Unfortunately not much has changed in Colombia, certainly no changes for the better.

Uribe has managed to railroad legislation through his Congress allowing him to run for re-election in 2006 while the decades-old civil war continues unabated causing the ongoing displacement of thousands of indigenous Colombians every month. The U.S. Committee for Refugees reports 250,000 people were displaced last year, down from the record 400,000 in 2002, but still an obscene number of refugees caused by a war already being underwritten in part by millions of your tax dollars.

Meanwhile, our government has just pledged 50 million more to pay for military radar equipment to help Colombia track aircraft smuggling cocaine and weapons. Interestingly, in light of the Bush administration's dislike of Hugo Chavez and his democratically elected government, one of the two U.S.-funded radars will be set up next year near the northwestern border with Venezuela, which is not really a popular smuggling route.

More disturbing is the Colombia government's approval of an "antiterror" bill that allows wiretapping without a warrant and gives the military many policing powers. Am I the only one who notices that the destruction of our own civil rights at home under the auspices of the Patriot Act has emboldened foreign governments world wide to also enact similarly intrusive and undemocratic laws against their own populations?

You have to admire the Latino spirit though. I can't quite read this article (it's in Spanish) but it appears that protesters in Ecuador staged a mock fumigation at Colombia's embassy in Quito to protest aerial spraying of drug crops along the border. Brave move as they don't use rubber bullets to quell demonstrations in these countries. We in the US could take a lesson in courage from them.


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