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Chavez's Big Labor Allies By: Mark W. Hendrickson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, May 01, 2008


These are tough times for Colombia. The international left has the pro-American South American democracy in its crosshairs. Why? Because Colombia recently committed what leftists consider the cardinal sin—not only daring to resist leftists, but actually scoring a significant victory against those antidemocratic forces.

The victory came at the beginning of March. Colombian military forces launched a surprise attack into Ecuador, killing Raul Reyes and several other Colombians belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)—the thuggish left-wing gang that has sought to shoot its way to power in Colombia for 40 years. Reyes was FARC’s Number Two man. He was wanted in Colombia on 57 charges of murder and terrorism. Even the U.S. State Department had offered $5 million for his capture.

Colombia’s surgical military strike into the Ecuadorean wilderness elicited vehement denunciations from leftwing Latin American heads of state, particularly from Venezuela’s Chavez, Bolivia’s Morales, Nicaragua’s Ortega, and naturally, Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa. It is interesting that Correa went ballistic for this hours-long insult to Ecuadorean sovereignty, but has never denounced the FARC army’s years-long violation of that sovereignty by using Ecuador as a safe haven.

Correa’s heated rhetoric about the Colombian raid being an outlaw way to treat a “brother nation” is brazenly hypocritical. Providing refuge for members of an armed force dedicated to overthrowing the democratic government of a neighboring country is the greater offense here. Correa surely knew that FARC was hiding out in Ecuador’s sparsely populated north, for one of his own military commanders publicly stated after the raid that he had “broken up” numerous FARC camps. By this, we presume that he confiscated some hammocks and tents left in the forest, for he apparently never apprehended any FARC personnel. I doubt that the Ecuadorean army is really that incompetent.

In fact, laptop computers confiscated by the Colombian military from Reyes’ camp reportedly implicate Correa as an accomplice or ally of FARC. Certainly, Correa must see the members of FARC as kindred spirits, since they both espouse the most flawed and discredited economic ideology of the 20th century—socialism. In practice, however, FARC long ago degenerated into a terrorist mafia whose agenda is comprised of assassinations, kidnapping, and drug smuggling. For Correa to have tolerated, if not supported, FARC’s presence in his country was a policy of hostility toward Colombia.

Even more outrageous than Correa’s conduct was the reaction of Venezuela’s mercurial leader, Hugo Chavez. Chavez eulogized the murderous Reyes as “a good revolutionary,” ordered 9,000 Venezuelan soldiers to his country’s border with Colombia, and made it plain that he would give FARC safe refuge from Colombian justice as long as he was in power. Chavez’ actions are clearly those of a man rushing to the defense of an ally. Those actions lend credence to the report that the confiscated computers document hundreds of millions of dollars of aid from Chavez to FARC.

You might think that other Latin American countries—seeing that Chavez is trying to undermine Colombia’s government—would protest Chavez’ meddling, if not actually stand by Colombia’s side. Not so. The less radical Latin American presidents aren’t blind. They know how Chavez helped to organize disturbances in Bolivia and Ecuador that drove presidents from office so they could be replaced by Chavez allies. They know how much oil wealth Chavez is willing to spend to support left-wing allies and topple democrats throughout Latin America. This, I believe, intimidated them, and they joined Chavez in denouncing Colombia’s act of self-defense—an act which in no way hurt any other country.

At least Uncle Sam stood by our isolated ally in South America. And why not? We have been in Afghanistan for over five years in retaliation for far less death and destruction than what Colombia has suffered at the hands of FARC for four decades. Sadly, tragically, shamefully, though, our government’s solidarity with Colombia didn’t last through April. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scuttled the pending free trade pact with Colombia by changing House rules to prevent a vote.

What explains this pointed rejection of a longtime ally at such a critical juncture? Increased trade with Colombia is no threat to the U.S. economy. We already have trade agreements with Mexico, the Central American countries, and Chile, whose collective GDP dwarfs Colombia’s. The reason is that John Sweeney—the leftist head of the AFL-CIO—forced Pelosi’s hand.

This episode is highly instructive. It shows how completely Big Labor controls the Democratic Party. It also illustrates just how leftwing some labor leaders are. Earlier generations of American labor leaders would patriotically support our country’s allies. Sweeney, by contrast, is joining his fellow leftists from Latin America in beating up on Colombia. While democracy is under siege in our hemisphere, powerful forces in Washington are making common cause with democracy’s enemies. Shame.


Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson is a faculty member, economist and contributing scholar with The Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College.


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