Monday, June 9, 2008

Banana Politics

Maybe we just won't notice. Easy to miss, what with everything else always going on. If it's not natural disasters in China or Myanmar, it's economic ones, or Hillary Clinton, or tennis in Paris or football in Switzerland and Austria. On Saturday Canada's government slyly announced that a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has been concluded with Colombia. Hoping it would slide by on the weekend, even if we're interested in the finance section, what with oil rising almost 10% the same day the NY markets suffered their biggest loss in 15 months and the U$ continued it's slide into the abyss. While US Secretary of the the Treasury Henry Paulsen talks up the US dollar half way around the world, the Canadian government strikes a deal with a state run by death squads.

In 2007 Canada's two-way merchandise trade between Colombia and Canada totalled $2.45 billion, a quarter of what Americans will spend this Father's Day, and the total Canadian investment in Colombia was about $1.8 billion (isn't it lovely we don't have to say if it's in Cdn$ or U$ anymore seeing as they're about the same). Obviously these totals are a drop in the bucket, meaningless, with no hope of any really meaning anything. Unless of course you take the whole legitimizing the policies of a government thing into consideration a la the US and Cuba or even Iran. Once you talk to them, you say they are OK. Once you make a FTA you say you support them. So, what does the Canadian government now support...

In a country of almost 44 million, more than 3 million have been displaced by war, government sponsored death squads and strife. A country where more than 2500 trade unionists have been murdered in the last ten years, leading to a decline in union membership from 15% five years ago to under 3% today. A place where each of the six banana companies operating pays between 3 and 4 cents for every banana produced directly to support death squads. This helps to ensure that 79% of the Afro-Colombian population has been internally displaced through massacres, killings, threats and intimidation so the companies can move in and use the land. A country that doesn't respect international borders, launching cross border attacks into foreign territories to achieve military objectives. Maybe the weakest argument against the deal is that even the American government is holding up it's passage through congress. Yes I know, it may be a political stunt by the Democrats, but they still at least have their reservations.

So, go ahead, do business with the Colombians. Let's ignore the fact that the government is sponsored by narco-terrorists and ignores human rights. After all Canada, you've just signed a deal with Peru as well without noticing that they too ignore all environmental standards and even refuse to acknowledge the fact that there are uncontacted tribes deep (or not so deep anymore) in the Amazon. Yes, Nova Scotia Power needs the cheap coal from Colombia and the world needs the gas that might be found in the forests of Peru. So by all means, rape and plunder to get it. Just don't tell me about legitimizing evil regimes.

If you're Canadian and don't think this is a good idea, click here to fax your petition to your MP.