Hillary Clinton’s campaign has made foreign policy a center piece of her 2016 brand. Specifically, she has emphasized the Secretary-of-State term (2009-2013) in the Obama administration. In that period, several events of some significance occurred. Events in Colombia, in particular the free-trade agreement between the United States and Colombia, are one of them.
Her Colombian legacy is one of ill-gotten gains and the violence inspired by such insatiable greed, of blood money. That is the subject of this article.
Colombia has been rife with conflict due to the ongoing insurgency (spanning decades) of the FARC, among others. Needless to say, the United States was heavily involved in this fight, both due to its “War on Drugs” & and its “War on Communism”. This confluence of anti-Leftism & the drug wars has led to significant human rights abuses, including extra-judicial killings, civilian displacement, and other sorts of violence. From Human Rights Watch: “Human rights defenders, trade unionists, journalists, indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders, and other community activists face death threats and violence.”
The 2000s brought some changes, as reported by Human Rights Watch: [previous citation]
“Between 2003 and 2006, right-wing paramilitary organizations with close ties to security forces and politicians underwent a deeply flawed government demobilization process in which many members remained active and reorganized into new groups. Successor groups to paramilitaries, often led by members of demobilized paramilitary organizations, commit widespread abuses, such as killings, disappearances, and sexual violence.”
In 2006 a free-trade agreement between the United States & Colombia was signed by the Bush administration, but not approved before the term ended. At the same time, during the 2008 presidential race, as NPR reports: “When running for president in 2007 and 2008, [Clinton] spoke strongly against potential agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.” So strongly in-fact that she [via NPR citation] “...will do everything I can to urge the Congress to reject the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.”
As the agreement was signed, all eyes turned to the Congress and the burgeoning presidential race, and that’s where this article begins.
The Bush administration sent the bill to Congress in April, 2007. By the end of 2008, it was still not approved. At the same time, the Democratic presidential primary required an official position from the candidates.
That’s where the Clinton legacy beings.
Two sides, one issue
As reported by the L.A. Times:
“Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged Tuesday to defeat a free-trade agreement with Colombia”. A direct quote from when she spoke to the Communications Workers of America: [via NPR citation] “As I have said for months, I oppose the deal. I have spoken out against the deal, I will vote against the deal, and I will do everything I can to urge the Congress to reject the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.”
Yet at the same time: [previous NPR citation]
“Her husband was in favor of it, her campaign had to distance her from his position, and her senior strategist Mark Penn was demoted because of ties to Colombia through his communications firm.”
Or alternatively as reported by the L.A. Times: [previous citation]
“Her camp acknowledged reports that Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, supports the deal with Colombia” & “Penn was demoted last weekend from his job as the campaign's chief strategist over his business contact with the Colombian government in his role as head of the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller.”
Coincidentally, the Clinton Foundation has also received money from these pro-agreement interests.
That’s not all, as reported by the Huffington Post:
“Former President Bill Clinton has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars speaking on behalf of a Colombia-based group pushing the trade pact, and representatives of that organization tell The Huffington Post that the former president shared their sentiment.”
Tellingly, as Andres Franco was quoted: [via Huffington Post citation]
“Right now it became a campaign issues and that is sad, because it needs to go through.”
In 2007, Bill Clinton got a government award in a push to better Colombia’s representation and increase approval for the agreement. Bill Clinton’s support was so valuable that it was even trumpeted by the Colombian government. When asked during the campaign about this conflict-of-interest, her response was, among others:
In contrast: [previous Huffington Post citation]
“In May, former Vice President Al Gore backed out of an environmental conference to avoid appearing alongside Uribe, concerned about his countries poor humanitarian practices.”
Bernie Sanders: [via Progressive]
”Mr. President, what about the Colombia trade agreement? It is understandable why the CEOs of multi-national corporations would like this free trade agreement. After all, Colombia is one of the most anti-union countries on the planet. Since 1986, over 2,800 trade unionists have been assassinated in Colombia -- more than the rest of the world combined. Less than 6 percent of these murders have been prosecuted by the Colombian government. Last year alone, more than 50 trade unionists were assassinated in Colombia, up nine percent from 2009. 23 trade unionists have been murdered this year alone... Mr. President, think for a moment. If we found out that 50 CEOs had been assassinated last year in Colombia, do you think we would be on the verge of approving a free trade agreement with that country? I don't think so.”
When Barack Obama won the presidency, he appointed Hillary Clinton to be Secretary-of-State. In that position, she began the final push for the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, in spite of her past positions and ignoring union pleas.
As she stated to RCN television: [via previous NPR citation]
“First, let me underscore President Obama's and my commitment to the Free Trade Agreement. We are going to continue to work to obtain the votes in the Congress to be able to pass it. We think it's strongly in the interests of both Colombia and the United States. And I return very invigorated ... to begin a very intensive effort to try to obtain the votes to get the Free Trade Agreement finally ratified.”
To further push the deal, she brought Bill Clinton in for dinner in Bogota.
To appease critics, they passed a lackluster labor action plan.
To appease the law, they certified that Colombia was “improving” on human rights.
On October 12th, 2011, the bill passed the Senate. Among those who voted no were Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown [2014 statement], Chuck Schumer, & Tom Harkin.
A little change, a lot of profit
“...it’s strongly in the interests of both Colombia and the United States”, at least the parts that matter.
As reported by the Wallstreet Journal, via the Huffington Post: [previously cited]
“...the former president hosted a ‘philanthropic event’ with the Colombian leaders in September 2005. The purpose, the paper reported, was to introduce Uribe to Frank Giustra, a Canadian mining tycoon who was interested both in mineral rights and Colombian oil, a position that lent itself to a more open-trade environment.”
As reported by Bloomberg News: [via previous Huffington Post citation]
“Giustra had lent Clinton his private jet for Clinton's four day peaking tour in Latin America - the same tour in which Clinton received $800,000 from Gold Service International. And at some point in time, Giustra - who, the New York Times reported, won a Kazakh uranium deal with Clinton's help (again putting the former president at odds with his wife's positions) - donated more than $31 million to Clinton's charitable fund.”
The Wallstreet Journal reports: [via previous Huffington Post citation]
“...Uribe and Giustra ‘sat in the hallway speaking for about ten minutes. A Clinton aide later told Giustra the meeting had gone well.’ And indeed, last year a Canadian company that Giustra's investment firm advised successfully acquired oil fields in Colombia.”
The International Business Times (IBT) reports:
“At the same time that Clinton's State Department was lauding Colombia’s human rights record, her family was forging a financial relationship with Pacific Rubiales, the sprawling Canadian petroleum company at the center of Colombia’s labor strife. The Clintons were also developing commercial ties with the oil giant’s founder, Canadian financier Frank Giustra, who now occupies a seat on the board of the Clinton Foundation, the family’s global philanthropic empire.”
It should be noted that Pacific Rubiales in particular has faced allegations of “labor strife”.
As IBT continues: President Clinton arranged numerous meetings between Frank Giustra & President Uribe, who just so happened to privatize some Colombian oil fields. With the assistance of Giustra’s Pacific Rubiales. The Globe and Mail writes about Frank Giustra: “...he has made billions for himself and a cadre of loyal associates through a Byzantine system of shell companies, furtive share purchases and elaborate compensation schemes.”
Giustra’s connections to Pacific Rubiales proved fruitful for the Clintons when in 2007 the oil giant became one of the first donors to a venture between Giustra and Bill Clinton. In a Pacific Rubiales news release quoting Giustra, the company announced that it was joining with its financial backers to give $4.4 million to the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (CGEP).”
“The United Steelworkers union and the nonprofit Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) also repeatedly contacted the State Department in 2011 and 2012, asking Clinton to use her clout...to bring pressure on Pacific Rubiales.”
”By that time, Pacific Rubiales and its international financial partners had committed $4.4 million to the Clinton Foundation’s initiative with Giustra, and Giustra had pledged to donate more than $100 million to the joint venture.”
As The Nation writes:
“ Agricultural provisions within the trade agreement force Colombian farmers to compete against heavily subsidized US products that can now flood the market unhindered. The results are forecast to be devastating. An Oxfam report estimates that the average income of 1.8 million grossly under-protected small farmers will fall by 16 percent. The study concludes that 400,000 farmers who now live below the minimum wage will see their incomes drop by up to 70 percent and will thus be forced out of their livelihoods.”
”New CODHES figures appear to corroborate these findings, with their most recent report showing that mass displacements jumped an incredible 83 percent in 2012, mostly in areas affected by the CTPA.”
”’The CTPA, [Rep. Hank Johnson] insists, is another nail in their coffin. “It’s economicexploitation. To understand that our government has helped to foster the businesses that exploit people is not something that I am comfortable with at all. That’s why I must continue to speak out.’”
”In the seaside barrio of La Playita, a young child, no more than 6 years old, stands beneath a palm tree looking out across the bay. His eyes are fixed on the tree line of an island a mile or so from the shore. To make way for a planned tourism project, his neighborhood is scheduled for demolition.
It would be comforting to think that the boy is unaware of what he is looking at as he stares out into the distance: The island is a suspected mass grave, filled with the body parts of executed locals.”
Colombia’s free-trade agreement has failed so spectacularly that the AFL-CIO is using it as a definitive example to oppose the T.P.P. (something that Clinton supported, until she started running for president).
This is Sec. Clinton’s legacy, her “win-win”. A country whose body has been divided, butchered, and fed to the “titans of industry”; titans perched all around Clinton.
But it’s okay, as long as she's running for president she’ll be against “free-trade”.
Ray Kroc: “The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.”