Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Situation In Colombia Is Growing More and More Disturbing

Colombia under Uribe is quietly getting more and more frightening. First, there were the close connections between top allies to Uribe and paramilitaries and their "extralegal" assassinations that Uribe sought to bury, even while soldiers were convicted of killing innocent civilians and labeling them "rebels" post-facto. Then, Uribe moved closer to running for a third presidential term as first the Senate and, last week, the House of Representatives approved of legislation opening the way for a third term for Uribe.

Now, the great blog "Plan Colombia and Beyond" points us to two equally disturbing stories. The first, coming from Colombian magazine Semana, reveals that Colombia's Administrative Department of Security under Uribe's watch has been wiretapping and surveilling journalists, judges, presidential candidates (not named "Uribe"), and opposition politicians, gathering information on them that could be used now or later and giving Uribe and the Colombian state a disturbing amount of insight into the private lives of its citizens, particularly those who oppose or criticize Uribe. We've seen these kinds of activities in the past, from the DINA in Chile to the SNI in Brazil, and numerous other places. Suffice to say, these tactics and acts are not the mark of a benevolent leader with no broader, more sinister political machinations.

Secondly, the Miami Herald reports that the U.S. has given "diplomatic immunity" to a U.S. soldier accused of raping a 12-year-old Colombian girl. But it's not just the U.S. that is protecting the sergeant and a Mexican contractor until there is more "evidence" against them. Last week, when the girl's mother tried to go before the Colombian Senate to plead her case, the Senate prevented her from taking the floor to make her statement. In other words, the Colombian Senate had no interest in pursuing a case of justice for a 12-year-old victim who is a citizen of Colombia. Had it been a Venezuelan soldier, I'm sure the case would have been a cause for major diplomatic crisis between Colombia and Venezuela, but since Colombia is still very close to the U.S., I would not be the least bit surprised to learn that the soldier's country-of-origin played no small part in the Senate's refusal to listen to the pleas of one of its own citizens last week.

And, disturbingly, there seems to be little concern from any foreign leaders in the international community over these issues. Former Colombian President and Secretary-General of the OAS C├ęsar Gaviria did come out strongly and say that these were the acts of a "dictator who wants to turn the DAS into a criminal machine," but his opposition is the only major voice out there that has openly condemned these acts so far. In the U.S., it's been very quiet, not just from the Obama administration but from the opposition. While Republicans were willing to defend what was clearly an illegal military overthrow of a popularly-elected president in the name of "democracy" when Zelaya simply sought to ask the Honduran people if they think presidents should be re-elected, those same Republicans have been remarkably silent when it comes to Uribe; the fact that he's one of the closest friends Republicans have among Latin American leaders is surely mere coincidence.

Still, for all those who think the concerns over Uribe's actions are hyperbole, simply consider the following: Uribe is moving towards being in power longer and using state-security apparatuses to spy on judges, politicians, and his opponents, while paramilitary groups and American soldiers who rape children remain free of investigation or punishment for their actions. This is certainly cause for very, very real concern.