Bush: Let Colombia Kill Union Organizers–Or Hugo Chavez Wins

Oh, this should be fun. Bush chose today to send the Colombia Free Trade pact to Congress today, just one day after Mark Penn’s former contract with Colombia led to his firing resignation forfeiture of his Chief Strategist title with the Clinton campaign. I especially like this bit:

The president also has said that failing to approve a free-trade deal with Colombia would have the effect of encouraging Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez’s anti-American regime and casting the United States as untrustworthy and impotent across South America.

You see, I’m not convinced that Penn was fired resigned gave up his title because he mis-stated Clinton’s stance on the Colombia Trade pact.
If he had gone that far off the reservation, after all, you’d think he’d have been fired outright. So this may be just cover–to prevent unions from balking at Penn’s comment. Or a slap on the wrist, to ensure that Penn doesn’t speak out again in the remaining time of the campaign. Or, it could be that Penn doesn’t want responsibility for what’s going to happen in the next several weeks of the campaign. Or, it could be an attempt on Penn’s part to regain the business with Colombia.

But one thing’s clear. Anything short of a full end of the relationship between Penn and Clinton suggests only lukewarm disapproval that his meeting with the Colombians was reported in the press. Take that to mean what you will.

So now, after Democrats had hoped that Bush wouldn’t make the Senate vote on the pact, he’s doing just that.

Moreover, Democratic leaders balked at forcing the matter to a vote.

I can see why, when the economy is tanking and the country is being devastated by foreclosures and Wall Street is getting addicted to public financing, Bush would think the most important way to spend the Senate’s time is to consider sending more jobs to places where environmental regulations and pesky unions won’t trouble the captains of capitalism.

But I’m particularly intrigued that Bush is turning the US-Colombia pact into an issue of Chavez. Bush would love to start war-mongering against Chavez, along with Iran, and you could argue the Administration and its Colombian allies have already started doing just that. Of course, the US could make no credible military threat against Venezuela right now–we’ve squandered that ability in Iraq.

So instead, Bush is now going to push a Trade Pact with Colombia that we can’t afford and we don’t want (though Mark Penn does, which should be all the proof you need of its senselessness), all so he can try to prove he’s more manly that a Latina American caudillo who doesn’t want to share his oil.

8 replies
  1. Mary says:

    It’s not surprising that Bushco is pushing this. After all, Rice’s true supervisor, the Texas Double Cross, got a really hard smackdown in March in their effort to capitalize on Bush’s worldwideWpower claims.

    Pre-Chavez, the efforts to do what we are working on now in Iraq, i.e., to seize control of the national asset from the people and transfer it into the hands of a compliant strongman who will insure that multinationals such as Exxon receive a large ownership piece of that asset – – those efforts had been pretty successful.

    The Venezuelan people got not much, but had no access to courts and hearings to try to freeze control of their asset and prevent transfer of large amounts of that asset to the multinational. Then Chavez came around and he’s basically nuts and about as bad as Bush in a lot of ways, but he realized that an alternative way to get power is just to use that same government “format and fiction” that the multinationals had used to seize assets without paying the people of Venezuela a fair price, to seize back.

    So when he started expropriating the interests of the multinationals and giving them a “take it or leave it” price, while at the same time Exxon was watching the Iraq transfer of large participation interests to the multinationals hit snags (not to worry, though, because in Iraq the famous oilman’s entreprenurial approach of using OPM and OPB, other people’s money and blood, to secure the asset was at least at work and Bush, Cheney and Rice were showing a devotion to continuing to squander American treasure and lives to get Exxon that participation interest), well, Exxon got pissed.

    Now it might seem as if Exxon was basically going to court and saying – sure, no one made “us” pay fair value for what we took in Venezuela originaly, but now that Chavez has taken it back away from us, he should have to pay our version of value and btw, let’s freeze all of Venezuela’s assets so that they can’t buy food or get construction projects funded and see if that won’t help with a little “poplular uprising” efforts while we’re at it, but I’m sure that wouldn’t be a fair or charitable view.

    In any event, per the Bloomberg story linked above and many others, despite the intial success in getting Venezuela’s assets frozen (remember, it’s those frozen Iraqi assets that we “unfroze” through some illegal mechanisms to give to Bremer and his CPA, with about 9 billion in cash being “lost” at some point thereafter – money that apparently no one has any duty to account for whatsoever), Exxon’s efforts started tanking in March.

    A London court [March 18, 2008] dissolved an injunction freezing assets belonging to Petroleos de Venezuela SA, known as PDVSA, because the dispute wasn’t connected to the U.K.

    Courts in the U.K., the U.S., the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles issued orders in December and January prohibiting PDVSA from shifting or liquidating assets such as bank accounts, refineries and storage terminals. Those measures forced PDVSA to postpone a $1 billion refinery refinancing and threatened to hamper plans to tap new fields to reverse a 34 percent slide in crude output since 1999

    Judge Walker’s ruling also is a victory for Chavez amid food shortages and rising street crime that threaten the regime’s popularity eight months before state and municipal elections

    Exxon has also been ordered to pay $767,000 to PDVSA in legal fees (joining Alabama USAtty Alice Martin who has cost the US taxpayer $500,000 in fees that will have to be paid to one of the victims of her political prosecutions) and PDVSA is also going to be seeking damages from the freeze.

    But with the US actions, both on Iraq, Iranian and Venezuelan assets, you can see why the US is going to become a lesser and lesser favored haven. Just as the Bush SWIFT program has now pretty much driven SWIFT to need to relocate out of the US, US policies are going to inevitable foster withdrawals of capital and withdrawals of access to information, all at a time when we really can’t afford either.

    • brantl says:

      The only places that you get the idea that Chavez is nuts from are from the rich in Venezuela and from the U.S. . Funny, that. And his referendum that would have “allowed him to be president for life” (but actually just would have allowed him to stand to re-election more than once)? That very nearly passed. Chavez is very popular with the lower classes (and they constitute a near majority in Venezuela), why do you think that is?

  2. skdadl says:

    Does the U.S. have a list of organizations that have been officially declared “terrorist” organizations/entities? And if so, are any of the Colombian right-wing paramilitary groups on it? I’m looking at our list, and the AUC (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia) is on it, as of course are FARC and another left group I don’t know, the ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional).

    • emptywheel says:

      AUC is the right-wing terrorist group that Chiquita was most recently paying off and–apparently–importing cocaine for. It has, on paper, been largely curtailed, but a successor organization is still quite strong and reportedly, still closely tied with Uribe’s government.

      • skdadl says:

        Has your government officially declared it/them “terrorist” organizations? Sounds as though our guys haven’t caught up to the successors (or at least I haven’t — heh).

        This bothers me a lot because our PM did some public lobbying for Bush’s “free-trade” deal with Colombia last year, which I thought crossed a few lines of diplomatic propriety. Here’s a link, eg. That’s an interesting analysis of a Canadian Labour Congress report on a speech Harper gave to the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations last September:

        “In my view, Colombia needs its democratic friends to lean forward and give them the chance at partnership and trade with North America. I am very concerned that some in the United States seem unwilling to do that. What message does that send to those who want to share in freedom and prosperity?” [My bold.]

        If I were you — and especially if I were an American congresscrittur — I would be seriously annoyed at a foreign leader who dared to say such a thing. As it is, I am seriously annoyed for other reasons. But we certainly got some hemispheric trouble, I’d say.

  3. JGabriel says:

    EmptyWheel: “Or, it could be an attempt on Penn’s part to regain the business with Colombia.”


    At least, that’s what I think. The whole set of announcements and statements from the Clinton campaign sounds like it could have been written by Penn, with maybe a little wordsmithing from the other campaign operatives.

    It seems more like a reaction from Penn to disassociate himself and his business from Clinton’s platform, than vice versa.


  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Apart from embarrassing Clinton, always a favorite GOP past time, distracting the Senate with peripherals is a good thing when you’re worried it might catch you with your pants down politically prosecuting another Democrat or shutting down another agency for having too few political appointees (or nominating exactly the wrong types of people to those jobs).

    The Senate controls its own calendar. Tell me why it can’t just ignore these assaults on its calendar by a president who’s filled the moat and upped his drawbridge? Because McConnell will shut down actions and legislation the Dems do want? Someone please tell the Dems he’s doing that already. Thank you.

  5. Dismayed says:

    I’m with you EW – I don’t think Clinton is truely opposed to the bill. She likely knew what Penn was doing. You can’t tell me she didn’t. This is the oldest gambit in the Senate, people currently in the spotlight pretend to be against an upopular bill, while not stopping it and not twisting arms to prevent a majority. Then later, they take the heat on some other bill when someone else needs cover.

    I think Hillary knows damn well the votes are there without her. Penn’s activities in no way upset her, in fact she may even be helping to push this thing forward behind the scenes. I don’t doubt it one bit, but one thing is clear, she supports it, her word to the contrary seem just lip service to me.

Comments are closed.