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Proponents of the the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (Bill C-23) faced a few hurdles over the past few weeks, but the deal is far from dead.
Bill C-23 is on the order paper for October 19th, when Parliament resumes after fall recess.
The deal has undergone eight days of debate in Parliament, most recently as subject to an NDP sub-amendment to a Bloc amendement to the bill.
The NDP's sub-amendment was meant to "stop the FTA from going to second reading, essentially killing the agreement," according to Stuart Trew, trade campaigner for the Council of Canadians.
The sub-amendment was jettisoned by the Liberals and the Conservatives (74 in favor, 194 against).
Next stop is for the Tories and the Grits to tackle the Bloc's amendment to the Bill, which according to activists tracking progress of the deal "will 'flush' out the positions of Liberals on C-23."
The following is the Bloc amendment on C-23:
Since the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement was tabled on March 26th, people across Canada have been getting the word out and showing their opposition to the deal.
Popular rejection of the deal has spread far and wide, and has even reached Prime Minister Harper.
"There is a view in some groups that they don't like modern economic policy. They think you can make progress without it. They're entitled to their view," said Harper while in Trinidad and Tobago for the the Summit of the Americas.
Protest against the FTA is not limited to Canada. In Colombia, though the deal was essentially negotiated in secret, people are speaking out.
"To sign this deal would not only make Canada complicit in the innumerable crimes committed by the Colombian government, which crimes have been denounced by the United Nations and the Interamerican Court of Human Rights," reads a letter sent by dozens of Colombian organizations and individuals to MPs yesterday.
The Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement was introduced to parliament on March 26th by the Conservative Government. It will sit until it is tabled, likely after the Easter recess, after which time it will sit for 21 days before ratification (or defeat).
The Canadian Council for International Cooperation released an exhaustive investigation into the trade deal on the day it was tabled.
For their part, the Conservatives have gotten so desperate to sell the deal that they're not even talking about human rights for Colombians anymore. Now it's about jobs for Canadians.
**CORRECTION: I mistakenly wrote that the deal has been tabled already. The bill has been introduced, not tabled. Sorry for any confusion.**
Emails from the magic laptops found in a FARC camp that was bombed in Ecuador last March have surfaced yet again.
"In October, "Sara" says to "Reyes" that "Aníbal" - the apparent leader of the front - is worried because the ELN is taking his territory and because some of his recruits are touring around with [Hollman] Morris and Manuel Rozenthal [sic], a friend of [Morris]. In these moments, the FARC and the ELN are waging a bloody battle for territorial control in Cauca and Arauca."
The alleged emails from the magic laptops have led to threats against Morris which put him and his colleagues in danger.
The LA Times published an excellent interview with Colombia's defense minister Juan Manuel Santos today.
The interview focuses on Plan Colombia, which has failed in terms of coca crop eradication, but which has, as Santos states, allowed the Colombian military to "retake control of our territory."
Many simply call that military occupation.
Santos continues to explain that he's not worried about the fact that Obama has never been to Colombia, because "Vice President-elect Joseph Biden was one of the fathers of Plan Colombia and he promoted it a lot."
Another gem from Santos: "I have no doubt that the Colombian army is receiving more human rights training than any army on Earth."
Now that's a scary thought.
A Colombian military parade in Medellín. Photo by Michael von Bergen.
Semana, a popular magazine in Colombia, ran a spoof article today titled Army and Police to be replaced by Indigenous Guard. The article describes the capacities of the Indigenous Guard, like their recent rescue of seven hostages in Jambaló. The article states that the Indigenous Guard would relieve police and army of their functions throughout the national territory.
The photo above is a photomontage done by the magazine, in which President Uribe and other members of his government traveled to Jambaló in a chiva with the Indigenous Guard to make the announcement.
Oh, if only it were true!
The first article I wrote about sugar cane cutters in Colombia was published today. It's called Working today with the hope of a brighter future.
There is also a photo gallery here.
A couple of new pieces up recently by the North American Congress on Latin America shine a necessary light on political happenings in Colombia and Venezuela.
Colombia and Venezuela: Testing the Propaganda Model looks at the two countries vis-a-vis coverage in the NY Times and Washington Post, and effectively advances the hypothesis put forth by Chomsky and Herman in their classic Manufacturing Consent.
In Free Trade, the Good Cop, and Other Myths, Pablo Vivanco examines the Canada - Colombia Free Trade Agreement through a critical lens.
Finally, NACLA has published the full text of an excellent open letter to Human Rights Watch criticizing HRW's recent report on Venezuela. "By publishing such a grossly flawed report, and acknowledging a political motivation in doing so, [Jose Miguel Vivanco, the lead author of the report] has undermined the credibility of an important human rights organization," reads the letter.
Image: "Parodia de propaganda militar en la novela de ficción 1984" by Jaume d'Urgell.
Constanza Vieira, IPS's Colombia correspondent, has written a couple of excellent pieces that explain the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Edwin Legarda last Tuesday.
The first, "There Was No Checkpoint" Where Army Shooting Took Place, explains in detail how the vehicle Legarda was traveling in was ambushed by the army.
The second, Q&A: Killing of Native Leader’s Husband "Was a Planned Operation" gives voice to the feelings of many people in this region regarding the killing.
Yesterday at four in the morning, Edwin Legarda Vázquez was killed by the Colombian Army. He was driving a vehicle that belongs to the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC), in which his partner, Aida Quilcué often traveled in.
Aida Quilcué is the maximum leader of the CRIC, and gained national and international notoriety for her powerful words and actions during the Indigenous and popular movement, part of the Minga, which mobilized thousands of people throughout Colombia this fall.
The Minister of Defense has admitted that soldiers killed Legarda. They shot 17 bullets into the car. There is no doubt among Indigenous organizations here that the killing was politically motivated.
I'm currently in Palmira, Colombia, interviewing and spending time with sugar cane cutters and their families. Yesterday, I attended a meeting with cutters who are members of the co-operatives which cut the cane. Co-operative is definitely not a positive word here, as their formation facilitates sub-contracting and relieves employers of any responsibility for their workers.
During yesterday's meeting, the participants discussed the resistance movement that they have been mounting over the last three years, which culminated in a 58 day strike that ended in November.
While the meeting was going on, two cane cutters were killed by lightning bolts nearby.
An urgent communique just went out from the ACIN because of fighting between FARC and the Colombian army, which is taking place in the town of Miranda, Cauca. The communique notes that "The criminal combat is taking place among and inside the houses of Indigenous people."
Also this morning in Miranda, the paramilitary group Aguilas Negras (Black Eagles) had leaflets passed around that read:
Las Águilas Negras Presente.
Limpieza Social para el bien de todos
The Black Eagles are Here.
Social cleansing for the benefit of all
More information will follow as it becomes available.
Today is the 80th anniversary of the Banana Massacre in Ciénaga, Colombia. The workers began a strike against the company on November 12, 1928.
According to Eduardo Mahecha, who survived the massacre: "The deadly pistol and machine gun fire lasted 15 minutes, resulting in the death of 207 workers and 32 injured."
The banana operations at the time were controlled by the infamous United Fruit Company. Those responsible for the massacre were never brought to justice. The workers reorganized themselves and struck again in 1934, this time winning the concessions they sought.
Fans of Garcia Márquez may remember his portrayal of the massacre in his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude.
What has changed in the last 80 years?
Armies and paramilitaries the world over are still in the service of transnational corporations (disturbingly, one of the most high profile cases-in-point is that of United Fruit's progeny Chiquita Brands' payments of paramilitaries in Colombia).
Workers movements are still portrayed as being linked with "dark forces," as was the recent strike by sugar cane workers in Colombia.
The word Pyrámide (Pyramid) is on the lips of people throughout Colombia after the collapse of over 250 unregulated pyramid schemes defrauded thousands of people their savings, and may also cost President Alvaro Uribe his chance at a third consecutive term in office.
While I was in Colombia in July, it was common to see people lining up for long stretches first thing in the morning to buy into the pyramids, which promised 150% interest to investors. The schemes were operating openly until their collapse in mid-November.
"It didn't occur to any juridical or 'intelligence' organization to infiltrate the line-ups, hand over the money, receive the dividend, and serve as proof of the scheme. The DAS (Department of Security Administration) and the Casa de Nari (Presidential Palace) are much too busy spying on politicians and journalists to waste their time investigating narco-trafficking money launderers and other scammers," reads a stinging column published in El Tiempo in March.
According to the Polo Democratico Alternativo, an opposition party, the pyramids have affected every aspect of the economy in the departments of Nariño and Putumayo. The total amount of money lost in the schemes is believed to be upwards of $250,000,000. Many Colombians took out loans in order to buy-in.
It's a cool day in Bogotá, but the rains that have plagued the country over the last month have abated, at least momentarily.
I met with Mario Valencia from RECALCA (Colombian Network for Action on Free Trade) this morning. Top of mind for him was the possibility that Harper's Conservatives are dethroned on December 8, which would likely mean that the FTA is shelved, at least for the time being.
Though I'm personally skeptical about the possibility of a coalition actually succeeding in taking power from the Conservatives, in my experience it's rare that something happening in Canadian politics actually interests folks outside the country.
Mario passed along this statement from Senator Jorge Robledo, which reads, in part (unofficial translation):
The consequences [of a Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement] are evident: 80% of what Colombia sells to Canada consists of coffee, coal, flowers and sugar, which is to say goods that do not require an agreement to get to the market. On the other hand, 23% of what [Colombia] buys from Canada are agricultural products, principally cereals and meat products, which will worsen the situation of national producers.
The FTA [between Colombia and] Canada seems to have been written by a mining company. Canada is known as a paradise for these types of corporation, like Colombia Goldfields Ltd, Coalcorp Mining Inc, and Frontier Pacific Mining Corporation, whose environmental impact is already well known.
Many things going on in Colombia over the last couple of days, best captured [in English] by the ever articulate Mario Murillo in his post Who is behind today's six bomb blasts in Bogotá?
Mario guides us through some of the happenings, including:
-Six bomb blasts in Bogotá
-The continuation of the Minga led by Indigenous people from Cauca, on the march to Cali, now joined by Indigenous movements from across the country
-A successful general strike
-The ongoing strike by sugar cane cutters
-President Uribe's admittance on CNN that the army fired on Indigenous demonstrators
-The resignation of the head of Colombia's Department of Administrative Security (DAS)
Also worth checking out: The five demands of the Minga. Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales interview Mario Murillo and Rafael Coicué on Democracy Now! Finally, for Spanish speakers, TV footage of Rafael Coicué on CNN.
Photo: Marching to Cali, day one by Joris van der Sandt
Nice clip by the Real News Network about the recent mention of Colombia in the US presidential debates.
Update from Cauca, Colombia: Indigenous resistance and state repression is an 8 minute interview with Manuel Rozental, recorded on the evening of Thursday, October 16th.
Rozental talks about the status of the mobilizations and their significance on a national level, the repression faced by the movement, and the five point agenda being demanded by the communities in resistance.
More info at radio4all.
Photo by Simone Bruno.
This just in from Mario Murillo:
"...all the communities gathered in the locality of La Maria, in the department of Cauca, are completely surrounded by the Colombian Army. Apparently, the security forces are preparing to carry out an armed assault against the civilians involved in the protest, which began on Sunday, October 12th. Organizers estimate that there are over 10,000 people currently at La Maria and surrounding areas."
After a two-day minga, or popular mobilization which included the participation of over 12,000 people in the Cauca region of Colombia, Indigenous movements are continuing to maintain highway blockades and demand justice and reparations.
From today's communiqué:
"We are risking life for liberty. We have dignity and we reclaim respect. The order that has obligated to take these actions is violent. We are not prepared to continue dying alive. No More."
Other sectors have announced or enacted their solidarity with the Indigenous uprising in Cauca including workers' unions, and the striking sugar cane sector. They are currently asking folks to put pressure on the Colombian government to ensure that their resistance is not met with brute force. Update: your support is urgently needed. Please take a moment to write or fax the Colombian ambassador, Jaime Girón Duarte.
To contact the Colombian Embassy in Canada:
360 Albert Street, Suite 1002
Ottawa, ON. - K1R 7X7
Tels: (613) 230-3760/1
Fax: (613) 230-4416
The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.