To : Your MP
Copy to :
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Liberal Party
Peter Julian, New Democrat spokesman on international trade
Serge Cardin, Bloc Québécois spokesman on international trade
Where will you stand on the Canada-Colombia FTA?
Watching the performances of Liberals and Conservatives in the Canadian House of Commons as they debated Bill C-23, implementing legislation of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA), was devastating. With a looming election, one might have expected some attempt to meaningfully distinguish the parties from one another, even on an issue as contentious as supporting a regime engaged in numerous violations of human rights against its own people.
What I saw was Liberals and Conservatives joining forces to defend the regime in Colombia against its critics within the NDP and Bloc Quebecois, knowing that with passage of the CCFTA in Canada, Colombia’s other stalled FTAs with the United States, Norway and other countries would come under pressure to be passed as well.
Some of the most passionate speeches in support of the Uribe regime came from the Conservative government, as one would expect. It’s their bill. But, on the whole, the Liberal performance was not much different.
Two Liberal MPs, in particular, Bob Rae and Scott Brison, showed themselves to be true cheerleaders of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez. Both are members of the International Trade Committee and recently returned from a four-day trip to Colombia at the end of August.
Their reaction in the House and ignorance of what was going on around them is really disappointing. Either they are incredibly naïve, or they willingly overlook the facts on the ground. In any case, the points below are a few things Liberal and Conservative MPs in Canada should know about :
The ‘Three-Letter Cartel’: Recent Revelations about Colombia’s Secret Police
Colombia has made real economic, social and security progress in recent years, but it is a fragile progress, under the constant threat of FARC terrorists, drug gangsters and hostile attacks from the Chavez regime in Venezuela. – Scott Brison’s speech from the House floor
On September 6, Colombian television networks broadcast an interview with Rafael García, a former Information Director of the Colombian secret service, best known by its Spanish acronym, DAS. It has more recently become known by what its own insiders have called it, the ‘three-letter cartel.’
Mr. García, currently in hiding abroad, revealed that the DAS has been directly involved in the trafficking of narcotics.
In his own words (translation):
[Former DAS Director] Jorge Noguera travelled to Mexico as part of his job as DAS Director. In reality, this trip (which was official and paid for by the Colombian government) was intended to establish alliances with the narco-trafficking organization of the Beltrán Leiva brothers. He did it, which meant that speed boats filled with drugs would be received in Mexico by that organization, which in turn was responsible for transporting the drugs to the states of the East Coast of the US.
Jorge Noguera, DAS Director from Uribe’s inauguration in 2002 until October 2005, is currently being investigated for numerous crimes, including murder. He is accused of passing ‘intelligence’ on trade unionists and academics to paramilitaries, who later murdered these people. When the paramilitary-DAS scandal broke in October 2005, Uribe shipped Noguera off to Italy as Colombian Consul in Milan, like a delicate piece of dirty laundry.
The DAS has also been under major criticism for illegally spying on members of the Supreme Court, human rights activists and political opponents of Uribe.
As a recent report in the New York Times notes, over the last 5 decades, Colombian presidents have empowered the DAS to work under the sole direction of the president, who appoints all high-level officials at the agency. Mr. Uribe is thus not only aware of but also directly responsible for their actions, as they report to him alone.
Such is this reality that Mr. Uribe has reacted by announcing that he will suddenly dissolve the DAS after over 5 decades of existence and replace it with a new agency. In accordance with the style of Uribe, this unprecedented measure is intended to cover-up the president's role in crimes for which he will one day be judged.
When asked what he thought of the DAS scandal a Colombian opposition Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo responded with the obvious question, “well, what would have been the reaction in Canada if [CSIS] had been dismantled over a scandal that implicated Harper in similar crimes?”
The above revelations make Brison's comments all the more peculiar. Is he really that ignorant of events that took place in Colombia around the same time has his visit?
Canada Turns a Blind Eye
Massacre, corruption, drug-trafficking and the silencing of opponents is what is being supported by the Canadian government, and the Liberal MPs that support the Bill, as long as it ignores the realities lived by people in Colombia.
Let's stop pretending that Colombia needs an FTA to resolve its problems. Of this there is not a single proof. Let’s stop pretending Canadian multinationals somehow do not also benefit from the forced displacement of millions of Colombians through violence and terror!
With a looming election, now is the time for the Liberal Party to step up to its own rhetoric. I hope the Liberal Caucus in particular is capable of seeing past the lies and misinformation of the Colombian government and those interests that see only resources and not the wellbeing of people. So far, it hasn't.
I hope Liberals come to realize the ignorance of their Trade Critic and resist his whip the next time Bill C-23 comes into the house for debate. If the likes of Scott Brison and Bob Rae are incapable of even reading the news in Colombia, what authority do they have to defend the regime as they do, to make the decisions they do? I trust that there are several Liberal MPs who are strongly unnerved by the direction of the party on this and many other issues as their party has shifted further to the right. I hope those MPs will speak out.
Where will you stand?