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      Tuesday
      Jun222010

      US-Backed Oligarchy Wins in Colombia

      Colombia's hard-line former interior minister, Juan Manuel Santos, rolled to office in a victory for the oligarchy and its US backers of the long-standing civil war. Hopes for a stronger showing by Bogota's former mayor and Green Party candidate, Antanas Mockus, dissipated after he briefly proposed Costa Rica, a state without an army, as a model for Colombia. The election result was 69-27.5 percent. As one interested Venezuelan observer told the Bulletin, "Well, all polls were off, so I think everyone's guess was completely misdirected."

      Steve Ellner, an American political scientist residing in Venezuela, wrote for the Bulletin that "there is no question that the Chavez government was encouraged by the prospect that Mockus would come from behind to defeat the official candidate. At the beginning of the campaign, Santos played the hard-line card by assuming "credit" for the attack on FARC guerrillas in Ecuadorian territory and lashing out at Chavez. This seemed to backfire, undoubtedly because there is a lot of money at stake in Colombian-Venezuelan trade which has fallen off as a result of the tensions. Not surprisingly, Chavez responded to Santos in kind and ruled out any kind of rapprochement in the case that he won the elections.
       
      "The tensions are unfortunate because it is a lose-lose situation. The trade between the two nations has declined 70 percent mostly to the detriment of Colombia which does most of the exporting. On the other hand, border tensions represent a serious threat to Venezuelan security."
       
      "Hopefully, like Nixon when he traveled to China, Santos will take advantage of his being exempt from accusations of being a softie. Santos is more of a hard-liner than Uribe, and that may allow him to make overtures to Chavez without being attacked by the Colombian oligarchy which, after all, he forms a part of," Ellner concluded.
       
      Current legislation allows for at least 1,200 American soldiers and contractors in Colombia, and it has already cost the United States close to $6 billion under Plan Colombia, a strategy that was to originally last just two years. American foreign direct investment has risen with the military presence: $7.2 billion in 2009 - particularly in coal, petroleum and mining sectors - was a fourfold jump from 2002. Pressure will increase for a US-Colombian free-trade deal which has been opposed by labor and human rights groups protesting the country's long pattern of murder and repression against labor and rural organizers.

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