Supporting terror; JEREMY CORBYN MP explains the reasons why Britain should be staying well clear of Colombian President Uribe Velez's regime. Morning Star July 02, 2003 Pg. 7
JEREMY CORBYN MP
NEXT week, for two days, London will play host to a gathering of governments, agencies and companies to discuss the future of Colombia It will cover aid and how the government of Colombian President Uribe can be supported.
Outside the conference, victims of the endless conflict in Colombia and their supporters will be demonstrating loudly .
Tony Blair, as host, will outline the case for giving help to Colombia and, no doubt, claim that we have to support the government of Uribe in its war on drugs and terrorism and that we should help to make the country safe for investment.
In all the tragedies of the world, Colombia ranks highly. Britain is involved heavily in all ways.
In answer to a parliamentary question from me, the Ministry of Defence admitted finally - and very reluctantly - that Britain has a military presence in Colombia.
This has never been discussed in Parliament, no vote taken and its presence only found out by parliamentary means.
Uribe was elected in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. He promised to bring stability by the creation of a national militia force.
In reality, this has meant the creation of an irregular armed force to back him and his economic programme.
His past record should have served as forewarning - when a provincial governor, he presided over the country's highest homicide rate.
Colombia is a country of massive contrasts. It has huge natural wealth, including 26 billion barrels of oil and the world's fourth largest coal exports.
UN reports show that, between 1991 and 1997, the gap between richest and poorest doubled.
All the policies of Uribe and his supporters will widen this still further .
His economic strategy has seen public spending slashed, services privatised and international mining companies being granted concessions.
This, in turn, leads to defensive actions by indigenous people, who wish to protect their land, and trade unionists, who wish to protect their jobs and lifestyles.
The result for the leaders of both groups is death and threats of death.
Under international pressure, Uribe claims that the human rights position is improving - this is simply not borne out by any independent observers or witnesses.
So far this year, 36 trade union leaders have been assassinated. That works out at more than one per week.
Those who survive face death threats and intimidation and union offices are routinely raided.
The latest privatisation programme threatens 40,000 jobs, as the giveaway of public assets, mainly to foreign companies, continues.
The tragedy in all this is that the International Labour Organisation has ignored international union calls and not sent a delegation to investigate.
In the countryside, away from prying eyes, the oil and mining companies are keen to remove indigenous people from their land so that they can easily exploit the country's huge coal and oil reserves.
This year alone has seen the murder of 37 prominent indigenous people who had been seeking to protect their land and way of life.
If the European leaders have any doubts about these facts, they need only look to Amnesty International, Peace Brigades International and others to be fully aware that, in supporting the Uribe government, they are supporting a US puppet regime that is doing the bidding of US companies.
In fact, the US has considerable forces already in action, ostensibly as part of the drugs war.
If they cannot look at the detailed reports, then perhaps the busy European leaders could look at last week's news summary from Colombia.
Friday 13 - 367,649 new informers recruited to spy on the population for signs of dissent, bringing the total to 1,421,936 informers.
Saturday 14 - UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs visits and urges humanitarian issues to be addressed as conflict breaks out between paramilitary groups.
Sunday 15 - Inter-American Commission for Human Rights president Marta Altolaguirre asserts that paramilitaries are acting with impunity and urges legislation based on international norms of justice.
Monday 16 - Refugees International points out that over 70 per cent of the cost of supporting internally displaced people is met by international NGOs.
The week's news concludes with Colombian businesses urging acceptance of an IMF loan of $2.1 billion on condition of reducing the budget deficit to 2.5 per cent, with consequent cuts in spending.
Last week, the Latin America Bureau published an excellent book by Grace Livingstone. Inside Colombia: Drugs, Democracy and War chronicles the abuses of human rights and destitution of so many people in the South American country.
The London conference, on July 9 and 10, ought to be addressing the issues of poverty and insecurity for the people, the role of trade unions in society and the wealth that is being sucked out of what is, potentially, one of Latin America's richer nations.
Instead, the Bush administration's agenda of war and supporting regimes that agree with the US economic agenda will be the order of the day - unless protest is successful.
In her excellent foreword to Inside Colombia, Jenny Pearce points out that the paramilitaries have made themselves wealthy through land-grabbing and drugs and are now seeking to legitimise their position.
In Colombia, Uribe has tried to do just that. It remains to be seen whether the international conference will stand for human rights and social justice or, in turn, seek to legitimise the brutality of the world's grab for resources.
Inside Colombia: Drugs, Democracy and War by Grace Livingstone is published by the Latin America Bureau, priced GBP 12.99 (ISBN 1-899365-58-3).