OT - From Coca-Cola to Cocaine: 'Tis the Season for Hypocrisy in Colombia 
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 OT - From Coca-Cola to Cocaine: 'Tis the Season for Hypocrisy in Colombia

Really pisses me off.
Is it no wonder why they hate us? S

Several events that occurred in the final weeks of 2005 represent a
microcosm of the hypocrisies evident in the security and economic
policies being implemented by the Bush and Uribe administrations. The
recent demobilization of the Central Bolivar Bloc of the United
Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) shed more light on the Colombian
military 's collusion with the right-wing paramilitary group. Just as
disturbing is President Alvaro Uribe's recent acknowledgement that
the Colombian military has been implicated in a plot to overthrow the
democratically-elected leader of neighboring Venezuela. Meanwhile, the
inequities in Washington's "free trade" policies were again made
evident by the realization that the ingenuity and entrepreneurship of
indigenous Colombians would not be afforded the same rights as those
enjoyed by U.S.-based multinational corporations such as Coca-Cola.

While Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe has intensified the war
against the country's leftist guerrillas, his administration has
engaged in a farcical demobilization process with right-wing
paramilitaries. The December 12 demobilization of almost 2,000 fighters
of the AUC's Central Bolivar Bloc presented the latest evidence of
the Colombian military's collusion with right-wing paramilitaries.
Little fuss has been made over the fact that the paramilitary group
handed over two helicopters armed with heavy machine guns at the
demobilization ceremony.

There have been allegations over the years that paramilitaries have
used helicopters during military operations. The Central Bolivar
Bloc's handover of the two helicopters appears to confirm these
claims. However, the question that needs to be asked is how, given the
fact that the Colombian military controls the skies with aircraft and
tracking technology provided under Plan Colombia, could the AUC operate
helicopters unbeknownst to the government?

When the two principal operating zones of the Central Bolivar Bloc are
taken into account-the coca growing regions of Putumayo and southern
Bolivar-it is inconceivable that the paramilitaries would have been
able to operate helicopters without the Colombian military's
knowledge. Both of these zones have been heavily militarized under Plan
Colombia with the government maintaining control of all airspace in
order to conduct aerial fumigation operations. The Colombian
military's command of the skies is, after all, one of the principal
reasons that neither of Colombia's two leftist rebel groups possess
helicopters. Simply put, it is too easy for the military to locate
them, either visually or with tracking equipment. And yet, the
paramilitaries appear to have no problem using helicopters.

Furthermore, the Central Bolivar Bloc is deeply engaged in drug
trafficking. In 2002, AUC leader Salvatore Mancuso attempted to improve
the AUC's image in preparation for demobilization talks with the
Uribe government. In September of that year, Mancuso warned that the
Bloc "must stop using the [AUC] name if they continue with
narco-trafficking activity." Given the obvious collusion between the
military and the paramilitaries that would be required for the Central
Bolivar Bloc to operate helicopters in heavily militarized regions of
the country and the group's clear involvement in drug trafficking, it
is clear that the counter-narcotics component of Plan Colombia has been

Another problematic component of the demobilization charade was again
brought to light during the December 12 ceremony. While 1,924 AUC
fighters demobilized, only 1,254 rifles were turned in, many of which
were unusable. One Central Bolivar Bloc fighter admitted to an
Associated Press reporter at the ceremony that the old gun he was
turning in was not really his weapon. He claimed that he had handed his
good weapon over to his commander two days earlier. According to
Organization of American States (OAS) monitors overseeing the
demobilization process, about 30 percent of all the weapons turned in
by AUC fighters were unusable or in poor condition.

A September 2005 report by Amnesty International made evident that
demobilized paramilitaries in Medelln were continuing their dirty war
activities as security guards and informers in the neighborhoods they
used to patrol as AUC members. Given that many demobilized
paramilitaries remain active while receiving a monthly stipend of $180
from the government, it is not surprising that paramilitary fighters
are not handing over their better weapons at demobilization ceremonies.

Despite the fact that some 13,000 AUC fighters have "demobilized"
over the past two years, the Bogot-based Resource Center for Analysis
of the Conflict (CERAC) recently reported that paramilitaries killed
658 civilians during the first six months of 2005, more than double the
amount for the same period in each of the previous two years. Which
raises the question: What sort of peace is the Uribe administration
achieving with its demobilization process?

At the same time that the Colombian government claims to be achieving
peace with the AUC and defending democracy from terrorism, it appears
to be plotting the overthrow of the democratically-elected leader of a
neighboring country. Uribe recently confirmed that ex-Venezuelan
military officers opposed to President Hugo Chvez had met with
Colombian military officers in a government building in Bogot. Uribe
also admitted that the building where the meetings took place houses
Colombia's intelligence operations directed at Venezuela.

Not only is the U.S.-supported military closely allied with right-wing
paramilitaries responsible for most of the human rights abuses in
Colombia, it is evidently working to destabilize the Andean region by
seeking to oust Venezuela's democratically-elected president. Which
raises the question: What sort of war on terror and democracy promotion
is the Bush administration engaging in?

It is not only in the security realm that hypocritical and cynical
policies are evident. The Uribe government has made Colombia a poster
child for neoliberalism over the past three years. However, the wealth
generated by the implementation of so-called free trade policies has
not been equally distributed. In fact, 64 percent of Colombians remain
mired in poverty, the same number as when Uribe assumed office in
August 2002.

In an attempt to alleviate poverty and the lack of economic
opportunities in one rural region of southern Colombia, a small Nasa
indigenous community recently began manufacturing a soft drink made
from coca leaf extract. Nasa leader David Curtidor acknowledges that
the community's golden-colored, carbonated drink-called Coca Sek,
which means coca of the sun in the local indigenous language-is more
than an important economic endeavor; it is also intended to make a
political statement. Coca Sek is being marketed in Colombia as an
alternative to Coca-Cola. According to Curtidor, Coca-Cola does not
purchase its ingredients locally even though it dominates Colombia's
soft drink market. Consequently, says the indigenous leader, the soft
drink giant "symbolizes imperialist domination."

As the indigenous producers of Coca Sek have come to realize, the
so-called free trade policies being pushed by Washington are primarily
intended to benefit multinational corporations. While the Coca-Cola
Company benefits from neoliberal policies that contribute to its
domination of the Colombian market, the U.S. government protects the
soft drink giant from competition in the United States. Because coca
leaves provide the principal ingredient in the processing of {*filter*},
it is against the law to import coca leaves or coca-derived products
into the United States. Consequently, Coca Sek cannot compete with
Coca-Cola in the U.S. soft drink market.

However, the secret recipe for Coca-Cola includes the use of an extract
from the allegedly dangerous coca leaf. For more than a century, the
U.S. government has given the Coca-Cola Company an exemption with
regard to the importation and use of coca leaves in its famous soft
drink. Consequently, the Stepan Company, a New Jersey-based chemical
manufacturer, is permitted to legally import coca leaves from Peru,
which it then processes for Coca-Cola.

As a result, one of the world's largest multinational companies
benefits from government policies that give it a monopoly in the
coca-derived soft drink market in the United States, protecting the
soft drink giant from all competition. And so, while Coca-Cola's
access to Third World markets helped it earn $1.28 billion in profits
in the third quarter of 2005-a 37 percent increase over the same
period last year-the world's largest soft drink market remains
closed to a product manufactured by a small indigenous community in
rural Colombia where 85 percent of the population lives in poverty.

Needless to say, it promises to be a very happy holiday season indeed
for supposedly demobilized paramilitary drug traffickers and the very
profitable Coca-Cola Company. Meanwhile, Colombia's impoverished
indigenous and peasant populations will once again receive little more
than the proverbial lump of coal in their holiday stockings.


Sat, 07 Jun 2008 07:54:54 GMT
 OT - From Coca-Cola to Cocaine: 'Tis the Season for Hypocrisy in Colombia
Have a Coke and a smile!

Sat, 07 Jun 2008 12:34:20 GMT
 [ 2 post ] 

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