Compare and Contrast

29 Oct

There is always big news about Venezuela whenever President Chavez does anything, but I wanted to show a little comparison of Venezuela and its neighbor Colombia when it comes to “dictatorship” and human rights after seeing the recent Reporters without Borders rankings on freedom of the press worldwide.

Colombia
“In Colombia, if you run for office from the left you have to be willing to die”

Interesting articles about Colombian opposition party, Polo Democrático , and president Alvaro Uribe. Colombia is the one nation in South America run by a right-wing government. The elected president is in bed with the right-wing paramilitaries (AUC) that traffic drugs and are on the State Department list of terrorist groups. Polo Democrático is a new effort for democratic left-wing politics in Colombia (as opposed to the violent communist FARC rebels) since the left-wing Patriotic Union party was destroyed by assassinations in the 1980s. Union organizers and peasants are also routinely killed.

If Polo wins the 2010 elections (assuming all their politicians aren’t murdered before that), all of South America will have leftist governments. Keep in mind here that Colombia has probably the worst human rights record in the hemisphere but got $728 million in American taxpayer assistance (“approximately 80 per cent of which was military and police assistance”), the #1 recipient of American aid in Latin America. Third in the world after Israel and Egypt.

Venezuela
Press Freedom in Venezuela
There has been a lot of talk and media coverage about how the president of Venezuela (a leftist) is destroying freedom of the press in Venezuela with his recent cancellation of the broadcasting license of RCTV (Radio Caracas Television). But compare that record to that of its neighbors.

Look at this map of press freedom for the Western Hemisphere by Reporters without Borders and compare it to this BBC map of leftist governments in Latin America. Except for Cuba, they are the same!

The three countries with the worst press freedom are Cuba, Mexico, and Colombia (the latter two being our closest allies in Latin America and run by conservatives) while Venezuela is in line with most of its neighbors. Peru (if you look at the rankings) is also below Venezuela. Why don’t we hear much about Colombian violence against journalists, or even that an American journalist was killed in Mexico? Anti-left double standard anyone? Can you tell me which opposition parties have been systematically murdered in Venezuela? That’s because there wouldn’t be any.

So why is Chavez the only bad guy here?

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2 Responses to “Compare and Contrast”

  1. Benn Fronk November 5, 2007 at 9:17 am #

    Hey Anand, Just saw this- thought I’d say some stuff-

    1) Saw this on the Daily Show: Fox’s racism is amazing to me. In this video he has a few “comments” about Evo Morales- the between-the-lines message is that Morales doesn’t even speak Spanish correctly because he’s a native.
    http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=109239&title=vicente-fox

    It reminds me of his defense of the Memin Pinguin stamp.
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8410111/

    2) Colombia. I’ve never been to Colombia but I’ve had a lot of Colombian friends. I’ve had a lot of friends from Venezuela as well. The reason that Colombia has such a horrible human rights record isn’t because of government brutality. The article you link to actual says this. It’s because the FARC is/was the dominant force in Colombia- not the government regardless of what political persuasion it has. While I was in Peru- everyone on the street knew that.

    The Colombians I knew had dealt with the guerrillas themselves- the reason I like Uribe isn’t because I approve of everything he’s done, it’s because the fervor the guerilla war has gone down.

    It’s similar to Peru. “El Chino”- Fujimori was corrupt- probably stole billions (Just like the current Alan Garcia- but that’s a different topic) but he stopped the killings in the selva by the Senda luminosa.

    http://es.abc-latina.com/gente/alberto_fujimori.htm

  2. bhatany November 5, 2007 at 10:42 pm #

    Mi respuesta
    1) Vicente Fox is out of line, but I sadly don’t think it is out of the class-character of upper class Latin Americans. My experience in Santa Cruz, Bolivia was a case-study in hysteria over the indigenous masses. The thing about “indigenous dialect” was ridiculous because I think Evo’s Spanish sounds okay, and I heard he speaks poor Aymara. It’s certainly not the whistling indigenous Spanish they would speak when mocking the indios.

    2) I’ll start by saying I really don’t know much about Colombia. However, I do have suspicions when countries with human rights abuses receive a lot of money from the United States. That being said, I think the whole Plan Colombia business is very shady as it involves private contractors fumigating fields and getting around Congressional troop limits in the area. It isn’t even disputed that we are sending our troops to defend the interests of American businesses (in the example I have, Occidental Petroleum)

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.02/gunhire_pr.html
    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9904EFDD153BF936A35751C1A9649C8B63

    Now you raise the point that Uribe is popular for bringing down the violence in Colombia, specifically that of the FARC. And (good point) the left-wing FARC is responsible for most human rights abuses according to Amnesty International.

    My point is that if Uribe were ending violence on both sides of the civil war (right-wing paramilitaries AND FARC), I would love him too. But the general opinion is that Uribe and his government are by and for the paramilitaries. He gave the paramilitaries amnesty and looked the other way as governor to their narco-trafficking (I read this in Wall Street Journal I think). Sure I’d hate the FARC if they killed my dad like they did his, but is getting in bed and pardoning the paras the way to do it?

    If the FARC is killing people in FARC-controlled land, how can Uribe stop that? What about stopping the violence against human rights, union, and social justice activists by the AUC in the Colombia he actually governs? And why so much violence against the indigenous? I really don’t much about Colombia, but all of this is fishy. If he is really doing a good job, then I am truly mistaken. Maybe they will prosecute all war criminals after the war ends, like Argentina is now with the former generals.

    But would Chavez get away with this?
    “Paramilitary groups continued to commit human rights violations in collusion with, or with the acquiescence of, members of the security forces.”

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