Sunday, March 11, 2007

Bush in a Colombia Beset By Scandal and Insecurity

Though some early articles on Bush's stop in Colombia have amazingly totally ignored the broiling scandals, the NY Times does a pretty good job setting the scene below. An embarrassing security breach at Bush's possible retreat is also making headlines. Don't miss this piece on how the supposedly rock solid economy of Colombia suddenly seems pretty shaky. Late word also has news of a rarely admitted joint US-Colombia military operation hours before Bush arrived.

I can't let this Amnesty International scuffle with Uribe's freedom loving government go either.

Bush Heads to Colombia as Scandal Taints Key Alliance

BOGOTÁ, Colombia, March 10 — The Bush administration has no closer ally in South America than Colombia, the recipient of more than $4 billion in American aid this decade to combat drug trafficking and guerrilla insurgencies. But a widening scandal tying paramilitary death squads and drug traffickers to close supporters of President Álvaro Uribe is clouding President Bush’s brief visit here on Sunday.
Claims of human rights abuses by political allies of Mr. Uribe, including the use of information from the executive branch’s intelligence service to assassinate union organizers and university professors, have already resulted in the arrest of Jorge Noguera, a former chief of Colombia’s secret police who was awarded that job after working on the president’s campaign.

“Uribe has certainly been considered a bright light here in the United States, but at some point you have to ask: what are these people doing?” Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who heads the Senate panel that oversees aid to Colombia, said in a telephone interview from Washington. “It’s time to take a pause and look at what we’ve done,” he said, referring to the effectiveness of aid to Colombia.
The court’s diligence despite death threats to its members has resulted in startling actions like an arrest warrant issued this month for Álvaro Araújo Noguera, a regional political boss implicated in the kidnapping of a member of a rival political family. Mr. Araújo, the father of Mr. Uribe’s former foreign minister, María Consuelo Araújo, remains at large.
Beyond the paramilitary scandal ensnaring members of Mr. Uribe’s government and at least eight members of his coalition in Congress, human rights organizations are calling attention to the killings of trade union officials in the past six years. And there are claims of abuses involving American companies like the Drummond Company, a coal producer based in Birmingham, Ala.

A judge in Alabama this week allowed a civil lawsuit against Drummond to go forward in which the company is accused of allowing paramilitary gunmen to kill three union leaders at its operations in northern Colombia.
More than 7,000 police officers have been assigned to protect Mr. Bush.



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