13 Nov 2008

Political deaths, bailouts and a poker face

Why can't issues just stay neatly together and not blur with other ones?

A lot of people would agree that Colombia (the country) is pretty dodgy to say the least. Its not so much coffee and chocolate as coke and rebels. The FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) follow the standard bolivarian guerilla tactics (stay in the woods, kidnap people) combined with a bit of nifty fundraising(cocaine) and some propaganda (schools for the kids). Whether they're successful is extremely debatable, as they've been fighting a war against the state for about 40 years.

President Uribe of Colombia declared zero tolerance (or at least an even tougher approach) of them when he took office, and used much of the same 'war on terror' language as most friends of Bush did a few years back. Trouble is, an awful lot of people have been caught in the crossfire.

Since 1985, around 2500 trade unionists have been killed by the state or militias linked to it, and there have been fewer than 100 cases that have lead to a convicition.

How does this relate to now? President Bush wanted to create a free trade agreement with the friendly government of Colombia, as at present, the US imports way more Colombian goods than Colombia receives US exports. Incoming goods from Colombia face far fewer restrictions that goods leaving the US. Surely workers in Colombia would welcome the opportunity to enrich themselves? Not really - most trades unions in Colombia are opposed to it (when the government that is trying to kill you makes deals for you, its not really that surprising).

Barack Obama declared in one of the debates prior to his election that he would not make a deal with Colombia until human rights are improved. Aw shucks, Dubya really wanted that deal. But he's a bit of a lame duck these days, so perhaps a bit of horse trading is in order?

Obama backs another big government bailout, this time for Detroit car manufacturers, no $700bn beauty, but a fair whack nonetheless. GM wanted this so much that they tried to convince the treasury that GMAC (the finace arm of the company) was a bank and so entitled to some of the jackpot that other banks got. Obama cares about this industry - they're blue collar, unionised and the grassroots of much Democratic support, plus if the industry went under, he'd be looking at around 350,000 unemployed right on his doorstep.

Poker Face

Colombia free trade is Bush's baby. Mr O cares about his backyard. It would be somewhat ideologically incorrect for Bush to skew the free market with an industry bailout at the same time that he's preaching free trade to Colombia. Obama probably has more of a soul, but no doubt some will throw the 'socialist' mud at him which might make him waver.

But then, even turbo-capitalists need some 'socialism' sometimes...

No comments: