I'm putting the finishing touches on this year's "Politicians in Cowboy Hats
" stampede fashion review...expect a post shortly on that. Until then, I turn things over to John Scully
for a guest blog post on Canada's role in the world.
TALK ABOUT A CAPTIVE AUDIENCE!
The world exhaled last week when one BBC reporter, Alan Johnston, was released. Thugs had held him hostage in Gaza for 144 days. But few anywhere were paying attention to another extraordinary event in Bogotá, Colombia. Defiant protesters demanded the release of 3000 hostages being held by guerrillas. Three thousand. Some for as long as 11 years.
When Edmonton Liberal David Kilgour was Secretary for State for Latin America and Africa, he made four trips to Colombia. Kilgour was deeply concerned not only about the drug wars in Colombia, but also the human misery they created. He took active steps through various NGOs to try alleviate a desperate situation. Sadly, he failed.
An estimated four million peasants have been now forced off their land. Half a million have fled the country. And no wonder. The murder rate at about 20, 000 a year, is described as the second highest in the world (South Africa is apparently number one). Favourite targets are the usual do-gooders: reporters, union leaders, teachers, the Popular Women’s Organisation, missionaries and anyone who tries to step in the way of the mighty drug gangs. One of them, the AUC, the United Self Defence Force of Colombia, is allegedly a front for U.S.-financed government para-militaries who reportedly dispatch enemies of right wing U.S. supplicant, President Alvaro Uribe.
The demonstration last week seemed, if there can be such a thing, a final straw. It was a rare show of national unity for the 44 million people of Colombia. They have seen civil war and drug cartels dominate them for 50 years. The catalyst this time was the execution of eleven politicians held hostage for five years by several gangs and the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces For Colombia.
The BBC interpreted the protest as a chance by the Uribe government to channel the outrage at the killings into support for Uribe’s alleged stand against FARC. But Uribe and Colombians are dreaming if they think FARC, the AUC and other gangs holding the hostages will be influenced by banners and slogans. But unlike Alan Johnson, the question is: will these hostages ever be seen again, alive and free?
Earlier this year Uribe himself was accused of being involved in massacres in his home province of Antioquia. Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore took the unproven allegations so seriously he cancelled a meeting with Uribe about the environment.
There have been improvements in Colombia under Uribe who has received $3 billion worth of help from the U.S. but human rights groups say that, as usual, the rich continue to benefit and the poor continue to suffer.
And that brings us back to David Kilgour.He said in Bogotá in 1999:” Prospects for a solution to the civil conflict remain uncertain. The Colombian government (has) begun a formal peace dialogue with the major guerrilla groups. Canada has expressed a willingness to assist in the peacemaking efforts if all parties agree.”
That was eight years ago. Perhaps someone should ask Stephen Harper how willing Canada is now to assist in the peacemaking. Oh, wait a minute, aren’t we busy somewhere else?
Labels: Book Reviews, Foreign Policy