Nchamah Miller nchamah at gmail.com
Sat Sep 12 18:11:43 MDT 2009

Sept 12, 2009

FROM: Nchamah Miller, President of the National Council of Latin American
and Caribbean Women in Canada


The Liberal Party of Canada under the leadership of the late Hon. Pierre
Elliott Trudeau made history, and preserved the image of Canada as a nation
that put ethics before the pragmatics and imperatives of the geo-political
strategies of the United States towards the Caribbean and Latin America
nations. This occurred when during his time in power Trudeau refused to
allow Canada¹s Foreign Policy to be restricted by the actions of the United
States in placing an economic embargo on Cuba. This ethical position of
Canada and of Trudeau has gone into history as a moment in which human
beings were placed before the geo-political interests of our neighbour to
the South.

Today a very similar challenge confronts the leaders of the Liberal party.
Hundreds of intellectuals and activists, residing within and outside
Colombia, many due to self imposed exile, and even members of the National
Assembly; have, over the years, and more so during this past year,
continuously denounced the atrocities and human rights violations taking
place during the current regime of the President Alvaro Uribe Velez of
Colombia. Once, again the leader of the Liberal party will have to make
choices upon which he writes the destiny of a downtrodden people. The U.S.
has handed the Colombian government the enticement of a Free Trade Agreement
in exchange for signing an agreement permitting the U.S. to operate EIGHT
air bases out of Colombia. For his part the President of Colombia in order
to qualify for the Free Trade Agreement has given an unsubstantiated
statement that violence in Colombia has diminished during his presidency,
supposedly these air bases are required as the mechanism that ensures peace
in the region; but if the President is alleging that now there is no
violence hence all systems are go on the Free Trade Agreement, then
Colombians are left to wonder which of the two arguments is to be believed,
if it is true that there is no longer an internal conflict and violence has
diminished in which respect Colombia qualifies for the Free Trade Agreement,
or, as a matter of fact, violence has increased as many Colombians can
attest. But it certainly does not follow that EIGHT US airbases are the
mechanism whereby peace will be brought to that land. Their prospect has, on
the contrary intensified the tensions and spilled them throughout the
continent: a case in point being the deliberations and concern of member
nations of UNASUR last month in Argentina.
The mass killings of civilians, trade union leaders, originary peoples and
aboriginals from every corner of Colombia, including the Amazon, persist to
this day. There is now a further intensification of forced displacements due
to violence and the atrocities have not diminished in Colombia, this has
been amply documented by many Colombians, including myself. Canada is left
with the ethical dilemma that if it does ratify the Free Trade Agreement
with Colombia it is in effect condoning and siding with those who have taken
part or turned a blind eye to these massacres. We see the prolongation of
the devastation caused by the internal civil war, and the eight air bases
are not the solution to this problem. In fact these Air Bases are a
geopolitical provocation and a significant cause of the escalation of the
geopolitical tensions in Latin America.
Canada is on the verge of ratifying a very controversial Free Trade
Agreement despite all manner of evidence it has received from researchers
from Colombia and many other countries. It is a fallacy to propose that the
economic benefits of a Free Trade Agreement benefit Colombians: whatever
benefits attain these certainly do not trickle down directly to the populace
in general. Although such an agreement would ostensibly provide employment
in a few sectors in reality these affect only a very small percentage of the
work force. In terms of Canadian pragmatic decisions, the government of
Canada should consider that Canadian Corporations would be best advised to
avoid the moral morass entailed in condoning the politics of devastation of
the current Colombian Government. If profits are the name of the game,
indeed there are less poisoned regions where these corporations can benefit
from their investments. Looking at Canada¹s own back yard, for instance we
see that certainly the state of the mining industry in Canada would lead a
government to give priority to extractive industries within Canada given the
ongoing economic crisis and how it has affected that sector.
Today, to operate in Colombia is fraught with ethical and moral
considerations and while these may not be a priority for the corporations
who have decided to continue doing business in Colombia they ought to be
unequivocally a concern for the Government of Canada.
Therefore, Mr. Ignatieff and members of the Liberal caucus, today as leader
of the opposition, or tomorrow as Prime Minister of Canada you are faced
with the historic decision of whether you will cow tow to the imperatives of
US military strategies, or if Canada will once again remain independent of
these considerations and in so doing prove that Canada is ready to work for
peace in Latin America, that it demands of all its trade partners at least a
minimum moral standard and will not partake in any actions that bring death
and misery to defenceless countless human beings, an example of which there
are many in Colombia. Canada should at this time withdraw all free trade
negotiations with Colombia and work with the current wide front that is
looking to bring peace to the region and a Free Trade Agreement is not the
conduit for that goal.

(signed) nchamah miller
President of the National Council of Latin American and Caribbean Women
(Latinas.canada at gmail.com) 

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