November 23, 2007


Colombia Comeback: A “no-brainer” of a trade agreement. (Rich Lowry, 11/23/07, National Review)

Medellin is a microcosm of Colombia. President Alvaro Uribe has forged extraordinary security gains by taking the fight to the country’s hellish brew of left-wing guerrillas, their paramilitary opponents and narco-traffickers. The strength of the main guerrilla group, FARC, is down an estimated 40 percent from its peak, and more than 30,000 paramilitary fighters have been demobilized. Murders have dropped 40 percent from 2002 to 2006, and kidnappings almost 80 percent from 2000 to 2006.

But security is not enough. Colombia is awash in displaced people, chased from their homes by dueling guerrilla armies, and young men who have to be resocialized after lives of violence. They need jobs. That’s why the Colombia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement is so important. It is pending in Congress, where Democratic leaders might let it die in the gravest act of strategic short-sightedness since their attempted rebuke of Turkey.

Uribe is an ally of the United States and a wildly popular democratic leader who saved his country when it tottered on the brink of collapse. That Congress would kick him in the teeth strikes Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, the Bush administration’s chief evangelist for the deal, as scandalously senseless. He escorts as many members of Congress as he can to Colombia, on the theory that when it comes to the greatest comeback story in the Americas, seeing is believing.

What the congressmen see is a Uribe resolved to confront his country’s problems. He takes this congressional delegation to a slum on the outskirts of Cartagena where shacks line dirt roads flooded with fetid water. He holds a town-hall meeting with residents who greet him rapturously but make plain their desperation for more housing and services. It’s as if President Bush showed up in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, willing to field all complaints.

The congressmen can’t help but be impressed. What holds Democrats back from supporting the trade agreement is union opposition back home.

One ought not underestimate the degree ton which the Democrats are also just acting out of spite at their side having lost the Cold War in Latin America to Ronald Reagan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 23, 2007 11:05 AM
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