By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The Colombian primary

My old Boston Phoenix colleague Al Giordano reports in the Narco News Bulletin that Colombia’s president, Álvaro Uribe, a right-wing despot with a deplorable human-rights record, is deeply worried about the possibility that Barack Obama will become president. Giordano writes:

[T]he Clinton organization has a long history of backing — politically and economically — the Colombian far right, its narco-politicians and paramilitary death squads, of whom Uribe is supreme leader. In 2000, then-US president Bill Clinton went on Colombian national TV to announce “Plan Colombia,” the multi-billion dollar US military intervention that keeps Uribe and his repressive regime in power to this day.

According to Giordano’s report, Uribe’s human-rights record is so bad that it recently attracted the attention of Human Rights Watch and a number of other religious and humanitarian organizations. Last year, Giordano notes, Al Gore decided not to attend an environmental meeting in Miami because he didn’t want to share the stage with Uribe, who has been linked to right-wing death squads.

The Clintons, on the other hand, have continued to be ardent supporters of Uribe, with the former president accepting an award from the Colombian government last year.

The Uribe matter has made it into the mainstream media, with the Associated Press running a story on Thursday. But the AP emphasizes Uribe’s displeasure over Obama’s opposition to a U.S.-Colombia free-trade agreement — never mentioning, as Giordano observes, that Hillary Clinton has said she opposes the agreement as well.

This is an important story that almost certainly won’t get the attention it deserves.

More: Ben Smith of the Politico reports that the Colombian government no longer requires the services of Clinton strategist Mark Penn.

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  1. Anonymous

    Can’t wait for Tina Fey of SNL to take on the release of the Clintons’ tax returns. No wonder Bill is so friendly with George Sr.! 109 really large during Shrub’s administration, yikes. Released at 4 PM on a Friday. And they wonder why people are cynical…

  2. Anonymous

    Jesus Christ Dan, do a little research on Uribe before you shill by proxy for Obama’s foreign policy screw ups. Start with FARC and work your way back.

  3. Neil

    Giordino: Simply put: Uribe (and other leaders of the Latin American far right) accurately perceive that Clinton’s stated opposition is a hollow campaign promise during party primaries that would (in the increasingly unlikely chance she becomes US president) be shoved aside to instead resume the disastrous Latin American policies of the first Clinton administrationArgument by crystal ball. Of course he can’t yet know the accuracy of Uribe’s perception, but the statement allows Giardino to imply that Hillary Clinton’s statement is a lie. Maybe it is, but only time will tell. Giordano approves of Obama’s claim that he’d meet with Castro and Chavez, and mentions Al Gore cancelling an appearance at an environmental conference rather than sharing a podium with Uribe. So, what’s the principle here–meet with foreign leaders, no matter what you think of their policies? But then Giordino should chastise Gore, for doing with Uribe exactly what Bush, Clinton et. al. do with Castro and Chavez. I shun thee! Make up your mind–either shunning is a bad thing for politicians to do, or it’s not.One of the article’s subheads is “The Clinton Doctrine: Support for Atrocity” but earlier he points out that this doctrine isn’t specific to the Clintons:Obama has repeatedly indicated a clear break from the Bush-Clinton-Bush consensus of the past twenty yearsIt’s worth reading the Novak column Giordano links to. G demonizes Uribe in the same way that Novak demonizes Chavez. They’re mirror images of each other. Pick your partisan poison.

  4. Dan Kennedy

    FARC is bad news. I’m well aware of that. So is Uribe.

  5. Neil

    Looking at this again, if it’s as obvious as Giordano thinks, that Obama is a shoo-in for the nomination anyway, then it stands to reason Uribe would express unhappiness only with what Obama says. By Giordino’s own logic the crafty Uribe has no reason to care what Clinton thinks.The Sunday Globe Campaign 2008 picks up on this with the Clinton quote from her speech to the PA AFL-CIO:Clinton told the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO this week that the United States needs new trade policies before it has new trade deals. “That includes no trade deal with Colombia while violence against trade unionists continues in that country,” she said.“Journalism”:* Claim Hillary Clinton supports Uribe because Bill Clinton’s administration did. (Technique: use the term the Clinton “organization” whenever you want to tar Hillary with any misdeed done by her husband’s administration.)* Dismiss any specific statement Hillary makes that conflicts with your thesis, as a lie. The effect being, for example, that you get to rail against her support of the trade deal, even though she doesn’t support it. (She merely, you see, claims not to support it.)Supporting Uribe in general, as a defender against FARC and Chavez’s regional ambitions, doesn’t necessarily mean you must support him on every specific issue such as the trade deal. It’s perfectly valid for Hillary to say for example, “We support our ally President Uribe in his struggle with regional…blah blah blah, but we cannot in good conscience support this deal, without assurances of protection for…” etc. Shades of grey. Like we manage with say, China.To simply claim Uribe is a bad guy is pointless. So what. Got somebody better in mind? Shall we oh, I don’t know, stage a little coup, and install someone who could handle FARC while keeping the love for human rights and the trade unions, in his place? Tinkerbelle’s on line 3, she says she can do it. She’ll just need a little pixie dust.

  6. Dan Kennedy

    Neil: I would have thought you’d find room for the words “Mark” and “Penn” in your analysis.

  7. Neil

    I dunno, what about him? Are you suggesting that Penn working with Colombians to support the trade deal, while also under Hillary’s employ, is evidence that Hillary’s claim to be against the trade deal is a lie? That Penn was doing Hillary’s secret bidding to support it, even while she paid lip service against it? As opposed to he’s just a (weaselly, opportunistic, etc.) hired gun whose company, lawyerlike, can represent clients with conflicting interests at the same time. Any evidence for such a devious scheme, then let’s hear it. Otherwise it just goes on the innuendo pile. The result is embarrassing but hardly scandalous. Penn and his ilk–strategy, but not loyalty, for hire. Shocking! Of course, Clinton should fire him right away, and rely only on honest and loyal political strategists. Ha ha!Uribe by the way, is pretty popular among Colombians so no coups when Obama takes office, please.

  8. Anonymous

    Dan Kennedy said… FARC is bad news. I’m well aware of that. So is Uribe.That’s flat out nuts Dan. Granted FARC is a “Leftist” organization, so they exist in your sphere. But your conflation is astounding. We’re talking about the number two terror organization after Al Qaeda in the past 20 years. Go take a gander at their campaign of bombings, murder and mayhem. Comparing Uribe, in any way, to FARC is stunning. He played footsie with Pablo Escobar years ago…who didn’t. He has the popular support of is people. Has turned the corner on narco-trafficking, doesn’t use Death Squads to quell his people (like other South American Countries past). You rely on HRW?? Come on, Dan. That’s like Rush using the Brookings Insitution to punctuate a point. Do a little more research. I realize you want Obama to win but don’t jump the shark in the process.

  9. Dan Kennedy

    And when I agree with you, I’ll have done enough research, eh? Sorry.There’s this. And this. And this. And this.

  10. Neil

    And this!

  11. Anonymous

    So, you must have been at the Call when Frank Howe was there. I got to know Frank Howe after he retired. He help with a small community organizing project: a ‘stream team’ to scope out environmental problems and recreational assets along the Mumford River in Douglas, MA where he lived. His obit. and the colleagues at his wake praised his eye for what’s important and how folks see things and his mentorship: me too.Charley Sweet

  12. Dan Kennedy

    Charley: I think you meant to post this to another item, but yes, I definitely knew Frank Howe. I remember his overseeing the redesign of the the Call’s logo, which is still in use today. He was becoming managing editor just as I was leaving. His predecessor, Bill Crouse, was a wonderful man. A lot of great people there.

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