JFP 12/10 - Ignatius Claims Obama Shift on Reconciliation with Taliban

Just Foreign Policy News
December 10, 2009


Obama Invokes "Just War," But Is the War in Afghanistan "Just"?
"Accepting Peace Prize, Obama Evokes 'Just War,'" notes the headline in the New York Times, referring to President Obama's speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. President Obama invoked the concept of a "just war," but tellingly, he did not try to argue that the U.S. war in Afghanistan is a "just war." Such an argument would not be convincing. There there are criteria for a "just war." The war in Afghanistan does not meet these criteria.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/426

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Summary:
U.S./Top News

1) Writing in the Washington Post, David Ignatius argues that President Obama has shifted on the critical question of reconcilation with the Afghan Taliban. Ignatius notes that in his speech at West Point, Obama dropped language from his March 27 speech insisting the Taliban's core "must be defeated" and promised only to "reverse the Taliban's momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government." Obama also pledged to "support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban" who are ready to make peace. Ignatius notes that in a post on their website a few days later - which he characterizes as a "response" - the Taliban said they have "no agenda of meddling in the internal affairs of other countries" and are ready to "give legal guarantee if the foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan."

2) Rep. Dennis Kucinich plans to force a House of Representatives vote early next year on whether to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Kucinich said he would use the same procedure he used on an impeachment resolution for Vice-President Cheney to try to force a floor vote.

3) Writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter argues against sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan on the grounds that it is not indispensible to fighting Al Qaeda; Al Qaeda can organize from other places; and the cost of maintaining U.S. forces in Afghanistan will be more than $100 billion per year.

4) General Petraeus told Congress US involvement in Afghanistan could stretch on for years and cost upward of $10 billion annually just to finance an adequate Afghan security force, the New York Times reports. Senator Menendez charged that this would amount to $150 billion for Afghan forces alone given President Karzai's statement that US financing would be needed for at least 15 years, but General Petraeus refused to confirm Karzai's estimate, and suggested that Afghanistan would be able to generate more revenue to help pay for it.

5) Gen. Petraeus told Congress the US will step up its counterterrorism activities in Afghanistan as part of President Obama's new strategy as it seeks to "kill or capture" insurgents outside densely populated areas and those deemed unlikely to change sides, the Washington Post reports. Missiles fired at insurgent targets from unmanned aircraft and bombs from manned planes, as well the use of Special Forces units and intelligence surveillance are expected to increase along with the deployment of 30,000 more U.S. ground troops. The use of air attacks in Afghanistan has been curtailed in recent months as Gen. McChrystal sought to avoid civilian casualties, the Post says. But as described by Petraeus, the new concentration on pushing the Taliban out of population centers will allow more "robust action" against fighters in the countryside.

Honduras
6) Honduran "president-elect" Porfirio Lobo cancelled a visit to the Dominican Republic after Dominican lawmakers from different parties objected to the visit on the grounds that it would legitimize the coup that toppled President Zelaya, which would be a bad precedent for the other nations, including Dominican Republic, Dominican Today reports.

Pakistan
7) Writing in the New York Times, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari notes past US support for dictators in Pakistan. He notes the perception in Pakistan that the US scrutinizes Pakistan but not India and calls on the U.S. to "step up efforts" to mediate the Kashmir dispute.

Israel/Palestine
8) Writing in TomDispatch, Ellen Cantarow reports that the Palestinian city of Qalqilya is now entirely surrounded by the Israeli "wall." The nearby village of Jayyous is segregated from most of its former land by the wall. All the village's wells and over 75% percent of the land are now sequestered behind the wall. Israeli plans are on the books to build up to 1,500 new housing units on land confiscated from the village.

Iraq
9) U.S. commanders said plans to reduce troop levels in Iraq sharply by next summer wouldn't be affected by the delay of the Iraqi election until March, Reuters reports. [The 60 day evaluation period will now extend until May, suggesting that the US is now planning to surge forces into Afghanistan before evaluating its drawdown from Iraq - JFP.]

Guatemala
10) Guatemala has asked the U.S. to give DNA tests to children in the U.S. that Guatemalan mothers charge were stolen for adoption from Guatemala, Reuters reports. U.S. officials would not confirm they had received a formal request. The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala requires couples to have records of two matching DNA tests to issue a visa for an adopted child, but Guatemalans say DNA results are sometimes faked by laboratories colluding with child traffickers.

Colombia
11) Colombian trade unionists asked the EU not to sign a trade agreement with Colombia due to the human rights violations they say have been committed by the Uribe government, according to Colombia Reports. The Foreign Relations director of Unified Workers Central said that in the last twenty years 2,700 union leaders have been murdered in Colombia - 510 of whom died during the seven years Uribe has been in power.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) The Right Words For A War President
David Ignatius, Washington Post, Thursday, December 10, 2009
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/09/AR2009120903311.html

For the past week, I have been mulling over two intriguing things President Obama said the day he announced his Afghanistan policy - one about the political strategy that underlies his presidency, and the other about the delicate question of negotiating with the Taliban.
[...]
The second insight involved what may sound like a technical issue, but it goes to how the Afghanistan war will end. I asked Obama whether he would back reconciliation with the Taliban. He responded: "We are supportive of the Afghan government's efforts to reintegrate those elements of the Taliban that . . . have abandoned violence and are willing to engage in the political process."

Obama sent more signals that night at West Point: He dropped the language from his March 27 speech on Afghanistan insisting the Taliban's core "must be defeated" and promised only to "reverse the Taliban's momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government." He also pledged to "support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban" who are ready to make peace.

The Taliban gave an interesting response a few days later on its Web site, Alemarah.info. It said the group "has no agenda of meddling in the internal affairs of other countries and is ready to give legal guarantee if the foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan." Now, what did that mean? Was it a hint the Taliban might break with al-Qaeda? I don't know, but I hope the White House is asking Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to find out.
[...]

2) Kucinich to force House vote on troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and Pakistan
Sabrina Eaton, Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 09, 2009, 2:30PM
http://www.cleveland.com/open/index.ssf/2009/12/kucinich_to_force_house_vote_o.html

Washington - U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich plans to force a House of Representatives vote early next year on whether to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Cleveland Democrat announced Wednesday that he has begun circulating a letter to colleagues that asks if they'd be willing to co-sponsor his two resolutions to "trigger a timeline for a timely withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Although President Barack Obama has said prior congressional actions permit him to respond militarily to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Kucinich says Congress can still revisit the war. He says that the United States should keep trying to bring Osama bin Laden to justice but that pursuing wars throughout the Middle East backfires by inflaming anti-American sentiment.
[...]
Kucinich said he was motivated to act by hearing Afghan President Hamid Karzai assert that his country will probably need U.S. financial aid and training for the next 15 to 20 years. "We shouldn't be there another 15 to 20 months, let alone 15 to 20 years," Kucinich said. "We can't afford the loss of lives. We can't afford the loss of taxpayers' money. We've got to get our priorities straight."

Kucinich expects his resolutions will be referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs when he introduces them in January. If the committee doesn't act within 15 days, he'll move to send the resolutions directly to the House floor. In the past few years, Kucinich used the maneuver to force a floor discussion on impeaching then-Vice President Dick Cheney. "It is possible that someone could try to short-circuit the debate by moving to table the resolution, but I am hopeful that we will have a debate, given the gravity of the wars," Kucinich said. "The people of the United States are entitled to a debate."

3) Why I oppose the Afghan surge
Senator Arlen Specter, Philadelphia Inquirer, Wed, Dec. 9, 2009
http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/78847667.html

I'm opposed to sending 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan because I don't believe they are indispensable in our fight against al Qaeda.

If they were, I'd support such a surge because we have to do whatever it takes to defeat al Qaeda, which seeks to annihilate us.

But if al Qaeda can organize and operate out of Yemen, Somalia or elsewhere, then why fight in Afghanistan, which has made a history of resisting would-be conquerors - from Alexander the Great in the 3rd century BC, to Great Britain in the 19th and early 20th centuries, to the former Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s?
[...]
In the context of the Vietnam and Iraq wars, it is understandable that the American people are very skeptical about fighting in Afghanistan. Had we known that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, we would not have gone into Iraq.

Historians have replayed the tragic mistakes in Vietnam. When you add the 851 killed and 4,605 wounded in Afghanistan to the 4,369 killed and 31,575 wounded in Iraq, it is understandable that the American people do not want to continue the overwhelming burden of fighting in Afghanistan with so little assistance from our allies and so little prospects for success.

The cost of the Afghanistan war imposes an additional burden. It costs $1 million a year for each soldier, or $30 billion a year to support 30,000 additional troops. The cost for the total force in Afghanistan of approximately 100,000 soldiers would be more than $100 billion a year.
[...]
My opposition to the troop surge in no way diminishes my concern over the challenge we face in al Qaeda and the need to confront it wherever it emerges.

But I question whether Afghanistan is the primary front or even the only battlefield when we may face emerging challenges in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan itself. That is where we have the best chance to succeed.

We should concentrate on fighting al Qaeda without limitation on time or resources, but we should not engage in the laborious and problematic task of nation-building, or civil affairs, or the protection of other societies in place of their own security systems.

4) Petraeus Warns Of A Long And Expensive Mission In Afghanistan
Mark Landler, New York Times, December 10, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/10/world/asia/10policy.html


Washington - America's involvement in Afghanistan could stretch on for years and cost upward of $10 billion annually just to finance an adequate Afghan security force, the overall commander in the region told Congress on Wednesday.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, one of the military's most influential generals, estimated that building and maintaining a combined army and police force of 400,000 - a size that American commanders believe may eventually be needed to fully secure the country - would cost more than $10 billion a year.

"There's no question, as President Karzai was highlighting yesterday, that Afghanistan will require substantial international funding for years to come in a whole host of different areas, not the least of which is their security forces," said General Petraeus, the commander of the military's Central Command, which oversees operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Pakistan and other regional trouble spots.

On Tuesday, President Hamid Karzai, at a news conference with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, said Afghanistan would not be able to pay for its own security until at least 2024, an assertion that surprised Mr. Gates and drew expressions of concern from senators of both parties.

"We're talking about $150 billion, just on the security side, before we get to the development side," said Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey. He pressed the general on whether he concurred with Mr. Karzai's timetable, but the general did not give a clear-cut answer.

"That depends on how rapidly, obviously, they can generate more revenue," he said. "But certainly it is going to be years before they can handle the bulk of the security tasks and allow the bulk of our troopers to redeploy."
[...]

5) U.S. Counterterrorism Efforts Set To Expand In Afghanistan
New strategy will target die-hard fighters, Petraeus says
Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus, Washington Post, Thursday, December 10, 2009 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/09/AR2009120904132.html

The United States will step up its counterterrorism activities in Afghanistan as part of President Obama's new strategy as it seeks to "kill or capture" insurgents outside densely populated areas and those deemed unlikely to change sides, Gen. David H. Petraeus said Wednesday.

The chief of the regional U.S. Central Command told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that "additional mission force elements" would be sent to Afghanistan in the spring, but he declined to provide details in an open congressional hearing.

Although such "elements" have not been publicly discussed in the administration's strategy announcements, counterterrorism efforts - missiles fired at specific insurgent targets from unmanned aircraft and bombs from manned planes, as well the use of Special Forces units and intelligence surveillance - are expected to increase along with the deployment of 30,000 more U.S. ground troops.

The use of air attacks in Afghanistan has been curtailed in recent months as Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander there, sought to avoid civilian casualties. But as described by Petraeus, the new concentration on pushing the Taliban out of population centers will allow more robust action against fighters in the countryside.
[...]

Honduras
6) Honduras' Lobo cancels visit to Dominican Republic
Dominican Today, 9 December 2009
http://www.dominicantoday.com/dr/local/2009/12/9/34134/Honduras-leaders-visit-a-sticky-wicket-for-Dominican-par

Santo Domingo. - Honduras president elect Porfirio Lobo will not meet with his Dominican par Leonel Fernandez because he cancelled his trip to the Caribbean nation scheduled for Thursday, according to Honduras newspaper Heraldo.

However the Dominican Foreign Relations Ministry has yet to issue an official statement.

Lawmakers from different parties yesterday said they oppose Honduras president elect Porfirio Lobo's visit to the country, scheduled for Thursday, whereas a senior National Palace official confirmed that president Leonel Fernandez will receive him tomorrow.

The senators Luis René Canaán, Adriano Sanchez and Euclides Sanchez, as well as Chamber of Deputies president Julio Cesar Valentin say the visit would legitimize the coup that toppled Manuel Zelaya, which would be a bad precedent for the other nations, including Dominican Republic.

Valentin said if he were the chief executive he would not receive Lobo, but acknowledged Fernandez's right to receive Lobo, since the Dominican Head of State has proven to be a regional leader.

Meanwhile the Secretary General of Alliance for Democracy (APD) said before receiving Lobo, Fernandez should await the Organization of American States' (OAS) decision on the coup.

Carlos Sanchez said the Dominican Government's coherence must be maintained regarding what was stated in the wake of the coup, which was to condemn it and demand Zelaya's reinstatement. "If we receive Lobo we would be legitimizing the coup d'état."

He noted that in the aftermath of the 1963 putsch in Dominican Republic, the country received the solidarity from all nations, including Honduras.

Pakistan
7) How To Mend Fences With Pakistan
Asif Ali Zardari, New York Times, December 10, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/10/opinion/10zardari.html

[Zardari is president of Pakistan.]

Islamabad, Pakistan - Now that President Obama has recommitted the United States to stand with Pakistan and Afghanistan in our common fight against terrorism, extremism and fanaticism, it would be useful for Americans and Pakistanis to consider what has brought us to this point - and what the conflict's true endgame must be.
[...]
Many Americans still wonder, despite our sacrifices, if Pakistan is doing all it can to fight terrorism. Some resent what they believe is an absence of gratitude in Pakistan for American aid. But consider the history as seen by Pakistanis.

Twice in recent history America abandoned its democratic values to support dictators and manipulate and exploit us. In the 1980s, the United States supported Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq's iron rule against the Pakistani people while using Pakistan as a surrogate in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. That decade turned our peaceful nation into a "Kalashnikov and heroin" society - a nation defined by guns and drugs. In its fight against the Soviets, the United States, as a matter of policy, supported the most radical elements within the mujahedeen, who would later become the Taliban and Al Qaeda. When the Soviets were defeated and left in 1989, the United States abandoned Pakistan and created a vacuum in Afghanistan, resulting in the current horror.

And then after 9/11, the United States closed its eyes to the abuses of the dictatorship of President Pervez Musharraf, providing support to the regime while doing little to help with social needs or encourage the restoration of democracy. For Pakistanis, it is a bitter memory.

Public mistrust of the United States also stems from regional issues, specifically policies concerning India. I know it is the conventional wisdom in Washington that my nation is obsessed with India. But even to those of us who are striving toward accommodation and peace, the long history and the unresolved situation in Kashmir give Pakistanis reason to be concerned about our neighbor to the east. Just as the Israeli-Palestinian dispute cannot be resolved without accommodating the Palestinian people, there cannot be permanent regional peace in South Asia without addressing Kashmir.

The recent upset in Pakistan over the Kerry-Lugar legislation, which President Obama signed into law and which requires the secretary of state to report to Congress on military and civil progress in Pakistan, shows how sensitive many here are to what they see as unfair treatment by the United States. It would be helpful if the United States, at some point, would scrutinize India in a similar fashion and acknowledge that it has from time to time played a destabilizing role in the region.

The perceived rhetorical one-sidedness of American policy often fuels the conspiracy theories that abound here - theories that blame the West for all of our ills. Pakistan's elected democratic leadership is itself a victim of some of these conspiracy theories, but our American partners must understand their origins and work with us to turn public opinion around.

Although we certainly appreciate America's $7.5 billion pledge over the next five years for nonmilitary projects in Pakistan, this long-term commitment must be complemented by short-term policies that demonstrate American neutrality and willingness to help India and Pakistan overcome their mutual distrust. It could start by stepping up its efforts to mediate the Kashmir dispute.
[...]

Israel/Palestine
8) Living by the Gate From Hell
A Portrait of Nonviolent Resistance in One Palestinian Village
Ellen Cantarow, TomDispatch, December 8, 2009
http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175175/

Much is heard of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the story of the determined, long-term nonviolent resistance of many Palestinian villagers to the loss of their lands, striking as it may be, is seldom told. Here's my report from just one village on the West Bank.

At no time since its 1967 West Bank occupation have Israel's seizures of Palestinian land and water resources seemed as shocking as the ones attending its construction of "the wall," begun in 2002. Vast, complex, and shifting in form, the wall appears most dramatically as 25-foot-high concrete slabs punctuated by militarized watch towers, supplemented by electronically monitored electrified fences stretching over vast distances.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) declared the wall illegal, but Israel ignored the ruling. Now, it undulates through the West Bank for over 280 kilometers, clasping Israel's major colonies and some minor ones in its embrace. The completed wall will incorporate more than 85% of the West Bank's settler population, a de facto annexation by Israel of significant chunks of the territory it first occupied in 1967. This is the dream of Greater Israel rapidly turned into architecture. For the Palestinians, however, the wall means theft, separating many Palestinian cities and villages from their land and water.

Jayyous, with a population of 3,500, is one of those villages. It lies nestled in a mountainous northern West Bank landscape with the Palestinian city of Qalqilya just to its west. The scenery here remains one of the Mediterranean's loveliest, a cross, let's say, between Tuscany and parts of Yugoslavia. Greek and Roman ruins mark the village's great age. This was one of the West Bank's most fertile areas. Farming involving a lively variety of nut, citrus, and olive trees, as well as vegetables, flourished around Jayyous, drawing life from abundant underground wells. The aquifers beneath Jayyous and Qalqilya, in fact, constitute a West Bank treasure. Lands belonging to both the city and the village abut Israel's pre-1967 border - the "Green Line."

Before the wall's advent, Qalqilya's merchants and Israelis did regular business on either side of the border, while Jayyous's farmers worked their land all the way up to the Green Line. Now, the monstrous, concrete version of the wall surrounds Qalqilya entirely, bringing to mind high-security prisons or ghettoes from other eras. Jayyous is segregated from most of its former land by the wall in what one could call its "barrier" form - a system of steel fences, razor wire, and patrol roads manned by Israeli soldiers.

Four thousand of the village's olive and citrus trees were uprooted to make way for the wall. All the village's wells and over 75% percent of the land are now sequestered behind the wall, isolated on its west - that is, "Israeli" - side. A small Israeli settler colony called Zufim sits amid Jayyous's former wealth. Israeli plans are on the books to build up to 1,500 new housing units on the bounty confiscated from the village. The new units will destroy the only road over which Jayyous's farmers can now travel to and from their land: there used to be six of these roads. Israel has already blocked five of them.
[...]

Iraq
9) Iraq's March Vote Won't Affect U.S. Drawdown: Pentagon
Adam Entous, Reuters, Thursday, December 10, 2009 11:52 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/10/AR2009121001670.html

Baghdad - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates met Iraqi leaders on Thursday as U.S. commanders said plans to reduce troop levels sharply by next summer were on track despite delayed elections and a major al Qaeda attack. President Barack Obama has pledged to end combat operations in Iraq by August 31, 2010, before a full pullout by the end of 2011. The U.S. force in Iraq is supposed to be reduced to 50,000 by end of August from around 115,000 now.

Intense bickering among Iraq's rival political factions has delayed national elections, Iraq's first since 2005, from an original mid-January date to March 7.

"We were very concerned," Lieutenant-General Charles Jacoby, the top U.S. commander for day-to-day operations in Iraq, said of the delay in passing an election law and setting a date for the vote. But he said the March election date "ended up being one that we can handle and still stay on our glide path."

"We're still on track and we are going to be able to accomplish the mission of reaching the transition force levels as we wanted to," he told reporters traveling with Gates, who arrived in Baghdad after a three-day visit to Afghanistan.
[...]
U.S. officials say the 60-day period after Iraq's election will probably reveal whether the country will tip back into sectarian bloodshed or move toward stability and peace.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said it was important that a new Iraqi government "quickly and peacefully be formed" after the vote "because any delay creates the potential for instability."

The U.S. commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, wants to retain a muscular U.S. presence, capable of assisting Iraqi troops or police, until the security situation is clear.

Under a bilateral security pact signed last year, all U.S. troops must withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.

The date for the end of combat operations is not included in the agreement but was set by Obama as part of a pledge to U.S. voters to end the war in Iraq.

Guatemala
10) Guatemala pushes for DNA tests of kids adopted in U.S.
Sarah Grainger, Reuters, Tue, Dec 8 2009
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5B741820091208

Guatemala City - For three years Olga Lopez desperately searched for her baby daughter who was snatched from her home in Guatemala, until her face appeared in government paperwork for an international adoption.

Lopez, along with two other mothers who also believe their children were stolen and put up for U.S. adoption, pushed Guatemala to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to track down the babies and give them DNA tests so they can be returned. "I recognized my daughter from her photo in the adoption files but there's always the possibility that it's not her. I don't want to live in doubt. I want a DNA test," Lopez said.

So far there has been no response from U.S. authorities, Lopez says. U.S. officials would not confirm they had received a formal request from Guatemala.

Guatemala, a small Central American country of 13 million people, used to have the world's highest per capita adoption rate, with 5,000 children sent abroad each year. Private lawyers charged up to $50,000 to handle an adoption and sometimes forged papers or paid mothers to sell their children.

In December 2007, Guatemalan authorities introduced tough new rules to crack down on baby traffickers. A newly created adoption authority has not allowed a single international adoption since.

Some 3,000 cases that started under the previous adoption system are still in progress, with prosecutors promising to meticulously examine the files for fraud. So far, about half have been completed successfully, and the rest will likely be resolved by the end of January, said a spokesman for the new adoption authority.

But Loyda Rodriguez suspects the new system has cracks. Her 2-year-old daughter, Anyeli, was playing on the porch in the outskirts of Guatemala City when a woman grabbed her and sped off in a waiting taxi. Like other mothers whose babies were taken, she began scouring government adoption records to look for her daughter. She believes the baby was adopted by a couple in Missouri in December 2008.

Guatemala's Attorney General's office asked the United States in April of this year to test the three children, all adopted under the old system, after activist Norma Cruz went on a hunger strike to draw attention to the mothers' plight. Cruz wants Guatemalan courts to nullify the adoptions.

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala requires couples to have records of two matching DNA tests to issue a visa for an adopted child, but DNA results are sometimes faked by laboratories colluding with child traffickers, said Cruz's organization of mothers, called the Survivors Foundation.
[...]

Colombia
11) Trade unionists ask EU not to sign FTA with Colombia
Ashley Hamer, Colombia Reports, Wednesday, 09 December 2009 10:42
http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/7266-trade-unionists-ask-eu-not-to-sign-fta-with-colombia.html

Colombian trade unionists on Wednesday asked the EU not to sign an FTA with Colombia due to the human rights violations they believe to have been committed by the Uribe government.

Trade unionists and politicians denounced before the European Parliament supposed human rights abuses committed by the government of President Alvaro Uribe, and requested the EU refuse a free trade agreement to avoid giving Colombia a so-called "certificate of good conduct" with regard to its human rights situation.

"It is not right that they sign an FTA based on the death, hunger and ruin of Colombian workers," stated the Foreign Relations director of Unified Workers Central, Raul Arroyabe, explaining that in the last twenty years 2,700 union leaders have been murdered in Colombia - 510 of whom died during the seven years Uribe has been in power.

A Senator for the Partido Polo Democratico, Jorge Robledo, highlighted the two million people displaced from rural communities due to violence and poverty during the Uribe administration reported Europa Press Wednesday.

"Colombia is the world's most dangerous country for unionists. Hundreds of congressmen have been linked to paramilitaries and 80% were close to Uribe," stressed Robledo. "The situation is so bad that the U.S. refused to sign an FTA with Colombia as punishment for Uribe failing a human rights exam," added the senator.

The Socialist Group coordinator of the European Parliament (EP) Subcommittee on Human Rights asserted that FTAs with the U.S. and Canada were blocked due to concerns over humanitarian issues, and said that EP members will vote to prevent a trade agreement with Colombia until the human rights situation improves.

-
Robert Naiman
Just Foreign Policy
www.justforeignpolicy.org

Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans.

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