April 7, 2008

Colombian Red

Hatched by Dafydd

President Bush is formally submitting the U.S. -- Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (a free-trade agreement, FTA) to Congress today for ratification or rejection; once he does, senators and representatives have 90 days to act. But many congressional Democrats -- and a few RINOs, such as Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 36%) -- have already signalled that they will fight to defeat it:

The agreement with Colombia, negotiated in 2006, has become a subject of fierce controversy, dividing Republicans from Democrats and Democrats from one another. Supporters of the agreement argue that, by opening new markets in Colombia for American farm goods, machinery, chemicals and plastics, the pact would stimulate the United States economy at a moment in history when the economy sorely needs it.

Opponents say the agreement would accelerate a depressing trend, encouraging American companies to transfer their manufacturing operations to Colombia and adding to the woes of sagging Rust Belt areas in the United States.

This FTA, signed in December, 2005, by President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia, mirrors the one also signed by Peru, which the Democratic Congress was eager to accept after some minor amendments on labor and environmental issues (mainly accepting a general right to collective bargaining and agreement that Peru would enforce its environmental laws). The House and Senate both approved the Pervian FTA at the end of December, 2007. A similar FTA with Ecuador is on hold while negotiations are frozen.

The case for the agreement is primarily economic, with no serious dissent that the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement would dramatically increase the ability of American companies to compete in Colombia on a "level playing field" with local companies; this would certainly boost the American economy at a time when that issue is very much on the minds of voters. Opponents assert that it would lead to the "export" of U.S. jobs to South America, though I haven't seen much of an argument to that effect:

President Bush, who has been speaking in favor of the trade agreement for weeks, conceded on Monday that there could be some harmful effects at home, but he said the benefits would far outweigh them. The United States imports grains, cotton and soybeans from Colombia, much of it duty-free under temporary accords already in place. But American exports to Colombia — agricultural products, automobile parts, medical and scientific equipment -- remain subject to tariffs.

“I think it makes sense to remedy this situation,” the president said. “It’s time to level the playing field.” Trade between the United States and Colombia amounted to about $18 billion in 2007.

(As expected, John McCain very much supports the FTA, because it strengthens Capitalism; Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama oppose it for the same reason.)

The Left is very unhappy with the agreement with Colombia, however, because of the ongoing war between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a communist naroc-terrorist "people's army," and so-called "right wing" paramilitaries -- which arose in the 1990s to combat the rising power of the FARC, then consolodated in 1997 as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC); this war has led to many murders of trade-union activists... some of whom may well have been (as the paramilitaries claim) fronts for the FARC, but most of whom were only attempting to "organize" peasants and workers -- albeit using the traditional strongarm tactics of labor movements everywhere.

But leftist and unionist organizations in the United States and other countries have made these deaths into a human-rights crisis; and while they admit that the killings are very much diminished and the paramilitaries mostly disbanded, they still demand -- and the Democrats jump to obey -- that Colombia do "much more" to bring the killers to justice before the Left will support an FTA:

President Bush asserted on Monday that approval of the agreement “will advance American national security interests in a critical region,” in large part because Colombia’s president, Álvaro Uribe Vélez, has done much to eliminate internal violence, including attacks on labor activists, and root out the drug-traffickers who for years linked Colombia and cocaine in the public’s mind.

Moreover, Mr. Bush said, Colombia is a vital counterweight to neighboring Venezuela, where the socialist president, Hugo Chavez, is openly anti-American. Many Democrats have said it is important, in view of the attitude of Venezuela, to bolster relations with Latin American allies of the United States.

But Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, said on Monday that President Bush’s perspective was skewed....

“Many Democrats continue to have serious concerns about an agreement that creates the highest level of economic integration with a country where workers and their families are routinely murdered and subjected to violence and intimidation for seeking to exercise their most basic economic rights. And the perpetrators of the violence have near total impunity.”

Where this argument utterly fails, however, is in the fact that of all recent Colombian presidents, the current one -- Álvaro Uribe Vélez, who won by more than twenty points over his nearest rival -- has done the most to curb and even dismantle the AUC paramilitaries, and to give unprecedented government protection (bodyguards, security perimiters around their houses and offices, intel from government police) to the very trade-unionist leaders that the Left supports... more than 1500 of them.

Because of these and similar policy changes, deaths of trade unionists and other civilians in Colombia has plummeted almost as much as it has in Iraq. A spokeswoman for Human Rights Watch, testifying before Congress, admitted that killings of trade-unionist leaders has dropped by nearly two-thirds (197 down to 72) from 2001 to 2006; and the first five months of 2007 saw only 13 deaths, for an annual rate of 31... which would be a drop during Uribe's administration of 84%.

(It's of more than passing interest that the enemy driving the bloodiest violence in Iraq is Iran... and Iran is fast becoming the closest collaborator with Colombia's most dangerous enemy -- Venezuela and Oogo Chavez. Meet the new thug, same as the old thug.)

Uribe also fought a brutal and very successful war against the FARC and has stood up to Oogo Chavez and his rampaging Stalinism; and I believe this is the real reason the Latin American Left (hence their me-too parrots in the United States) hates Uribe. That, and the fact that Uribe is a great friend of America -- the man doesn't even hate George W. Bush! What kind of Latin American is he anyway? Uribe has embraced Capitalism, and because of that, has led Colombia to an extraordinary GDP growth rate of 7.5% per year.

Worse, he is an apostate from the Colombian Liberal Party. He replaced the largely ineffective Conservative Party president, Andrés Pastrana Arango, who negotiated a calamitous "safe haven" for the FARC, inside of which they were allowed to operate freely (also for another Communist insurgency, the Ejército de Liberación Nacional de Colombia, ELN). Pastrana was rejected after only a single term, and the safe haven for terrorists dissolved.

But an 84% drop in murders and a dynamic growth rate that is lifting all Colombians out of poverty is evidently not good enough.

Despite Uribe's extraordinary record (or, as I believe, because of it), the Democrats in Congress are trying desperately to stop the Colombian TPA from being enacted... until a Democrat is in the White House, of course. I think it would pass in the Senate, but it's going to be very dicey in the House: Today on Hugh Hewitt's show, he asked Rep. David Dreier (R-CA, 72%) about its prospects, and Dreier refused to predict victory.

But if the Democrats do kill the agreement, it will be a potent economic argument for Republicans to use against them in November: On the one hand, they Democrats gleefully proclaim that we're "already in a recession" (or, per George Soros, de facto kingmaker of the Democratic Party, a "depression"); but on the other hand, they want to raise taxes and prevent American goods from being sold in South America.

The claim that they're only trying to prevent job losses makes no sense, because Colombia can already sell freely in the United States with no tariff; so if an American company wanted to relocate its plant to Bogota for the cheap labor, they can already do so and still sell to the American market. All that this FTA will do is open up Colombia's markets to American companies... which would unquestionably be good for the American economy.

Thus, the only logical conclusion to draw is that the Democrats are not only "talking down" the economy, they're directly trying to drive it down... all just to hurt Republicans in the upcoming elections, without regard to how many American workers and consumers get hurt.

Democratic leaders may find themselves scrambling to defend such anti-Capitalist, anti-American economic policies, given how many Americans are more economically sophisticated than they were just a couple of decades ago. (I blame new media.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 7, 2008, at the time of 6:35 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Dishman

Thus, the only logical conclusion to draw is that the Democrats are not only "talking down" the economy, they're directly trying to drive it down... all just to hurt Republicans in the upcoming elections, without regard to how many American workers and consumers get hurt.

This is a new revelation to you?

The elements of the Democratic Party that are now in power have been doing this for as long as I can remember. "See, the economy is a mess. We need more government intervention."

Same as it ever was.

The above hissed in response by: Dishman [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 8, 2008 12:42 PM

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