“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, November 04, 2005

where does that money go to?

LI didn’t know what story to go for this morning. The one in the Telegraph about the Japanese schoolgirl whose livejournal blog was extra, extra special – it recorded her experiment in poisoning her mother? (best graf in the story: "She is said to have kept severed body parts of animals in her room,including a cat's head. Teachers from her school told the Japanese media that she seemed to be a serious student, intense but otherwise apparently normal.")

Or the story in the Guardian of the French director who discovered Valerie Paradis. He is currently being sued by four actresses. This director’s idea was to rehearse the erotic atmosphere of his upcoming film by inviting actresses to come to his apartment, or to go to restaurants with him, and masturbate. Sometimes, he was so caught up in his art that he masturbated too. This is known in some circles as non-consensual sex. The director, of course, views it as artistic license.

But instead, in honor of the President’s triumphal tour of Argentine beach property, a quiz. In what country is the current president trying to extend his term of office beyond the current limit set by the constitution, and has made suspicious deals with a number of paramilitary groups; has seen presidential candidates critical of the corruption of the system kidnapped; and in which, according to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, “media outlets and journalists across the country routinely censor themselves in fear of physical retaliation from all sides in the nation's conflict." No, it isn’t the Washington Post’s current bete noire and the Pentagon’s mock opponent in invasion exercises, Venezuela, but our biggest ally and buddy in Latin America, Colombia!

Ah, Colombia. Somehow, Uribe’s drive to succeed himself hasn’t turned up D.C.’s “wants to be a dictator” theme – I wonder why? Could it be that Uribe, as the most ardent proponent of free trade in the continent, just doesn’t count as a dictator? It is the Washington Consensus on Freedom: as long as American corporations can make plenty of money, the country must be free. Free as the wind blows! This Nation article describes the surface of what is happening in Colombia. Uribe substitutes violence by the FARC and the paramilitaries with violence by the state.

FARC is the other side of this bad penny. In the U.S., the type of ferocious lefty who longs for the immediate overthrow of capitalism with maximum ultraviolence is usually a harmless drudge, prone to vegetarian restaurants and high, unintelligible bouts of theorizing. Unfortunately, in Colombia, the type metastasized into FARC, dedicated to mindless, mindboggling violence and a sort of ghastly, Marxy rhetoric wholly detached from reality entirely in line with a strain in Latin American leftism examined by Jorge Casteneda in his book, Utopia disarmed. FARC has imposed its reality – that of the mafia – on the regions that it holds. And in its infinite wisdom it has operated as the infantile left hand of the Colombian establishment by destroying viable critics of that establishment.

One of whom was Ingrid Betancourt. Because Betancourt spent quite a lot of time in Paris, the French are more involved with her case.

On February 23, 2002, Betancourt was campaigning for the presidency. Her campaign theme was directed against the massive tissue of corruption brought into the state by decades of narcotrafficking. This is a theme that cuts across ideological lines – both FARC and the rightwing paramilitaries depend on coca money. On that date, she and her campaign director, Clara Rojas, were kidnapped by FARC. They have not be seen since, except in videos. Two weeks ago, there was a evening dedicated to her support in a Parisian theater, attended, in part, by French journalists who had been held hostage in Iraq.

It goes without saying that Uribe hasn’t lifted a hand to negotiate for Betancourt’s release. The man who arranged for the amnesty of thousands of rightwing paramilitaries, and among some of Colombia’s biggest drugdealers, has declared that he won’t lower himself to negotiating with FARC.

It should be noted that the structure of the elements at play in the Uribe episode are not unique. The American position in this hemisphere is conditioned by paradoxes: on the one hand, the U.S. is the biggest consumer of cocaine; on the other hand, we are the biggest suppressor of it. On the one hand, the U.S. is the biggest advocate of free trade; on the other hand, in those countries with a large illicit drug sector, the biggest beneficiaries of free trade will tend to be in the illicit drug business. Thus it happens that the U.S. spends 3 billion per year in Colombia to wipe out Farc in the name of wiping out the drug trade while the act of wiping out Farc benefits the paramilitaries who largely control the drug trade. Uribe’s position, then, is somewhat like Salinas’ in the early nineties. Salinas’ family had longstanding ties with the Gulf cartels. Salinas was both ideologically committed to neo-liberalism and bound to benefit from it. Mexico was too poor to try to really suppress a trade that, in real terms, brought in more money than Mexico’s no. 1 export, oil. So, Nafta went forward and transfer costs for cocaine – which are perhaps the largest costs to the industry – were cut. The subsequent boom meant a lot of black money from cocaine went to the Mexican elite, Salinas’ allies, and, probably, to the family itself. The American press went along for the ride, touting Salinas as an American kind of Mexican. Similarly, the American press goes along for the ride in Colombia, with little glitches along the way. For instance, it was hard to disguise, even from American eyes, the meaning of the amnesty this summer.

The Nouvelle obs published an interview with a human rights advocate, Miguel Angel Reyes, about Uribe and the paramilitaries this July. Here are some excerpts:

The justice and peace law that is about to be voted on by a parliament 40 controlled by the paramilitaries, will it contribute to bringing peace?

M.A. Reyes: No. The text, which is full of holes, doesn’t respond to even the minimal criteria of justice and reconciliation. It guarantees, practically, immunity to all the authors of the violations of human rights by labeling them crimes of war and giving them a maximum sentence of five years. The paras aren’t even obliged to confess their crimes, and can keep the millions of hectares of land they’ve stolen! Without even speaking of the drug trade, that they can now pursue on a larger scale.
Is it true that the paramilitaries are beginning to occupy certain sections of Bogota?

M. A. Reyes. – Yes. The mayor has denounced their presence in the worst suburbs of the capital, where numerous refugees which have fled combat. You can see armed men controlling people’s papers. The paramilitaries recuit bands of young delinquents who become their killers, their sicarios, charged with liquidating any known opponent. Besides which, they don’t conceal their plan of founding a political party to support Uribe.”
.

Hey, voice in the wilderness time. You are not going to read a bunch of article in the Washington Post about Uribe – not yet. The election, and then the collapse, will come, and – in retrospect – some word will leak out about the fact that the U.S. has spent 3 billion dollars per annum in drug fighting money to protect a narco-aristocracy. So it went in the nineties in Mexico, so it goes today in Colombia. Meanwhile, let’s develop those plans to invade our very scary enemy, Venezuela. And please, more newspaper editorials about the tragic democracy deficit there. We just can’t get enough.

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