An August 10 summit between recently inaugurated Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has lowered tensions in a region that some believe was on the brink of armed confrontation. The situation reached boiling point after Colombia’s July 22 claims in the US-dominated Organisation of American States that Venezuela was “harbouring terrorists”.
At the beginning of August the Israeli government announced it would cooperate with one out of two international United Nations-sponsored investigation commissions into the May 31 Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre. UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon claimed the move was “unprecedented”. The commission is composed of four people, one chosen by Turkey, one chosen by Israel and two chosen from a list provided by Israel. The latter two are former prime minister of New Zealand Geoffrey Palmer, who will be the chair, and outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who will serve as vice-chair.
The judge entrusted by Colombia’s Constitutional Court to investigate the legality of an agreement to hand over seven military bases to the US military has deemed the pact unconstitutional because it was not approved by Congress. The report was handed down by Judge Jorge Ivan Palacio on July 23, a day after Colombia unleashed its slanderous attacks that Venezuela was “harbouring narco-terrorists”. Palacio’s report on the agreement will be reviewed by the nine-judge panel of the Constitutional Court, which has to deliver a ruling by August 17.
On August 7, Alvaro Uribe will complete his reign as president of Colombia — eight years of spectacular government criminality and corruption, even by Colombian standards. A brief review of just his second term illustrates this. The Washington Post reported on November 18, 2006 that the Uribe administration was in crisis. Investigations revealed that members of Congress collaborated with right-wing death squads to fix elections and assassinate opponents. That was the tip of the iceberg.
Trade unionists from more than 30 countries met in Caracas for the Third Union Encounter of Our Americas also expressed their support for Venezuela and willingness to mobilise to stop any possible aggression. “In the face of any attempt by Colombia or any other country, to obstruct the revolution [in Venezuela], the working class will come out bravely to defend the process and the country”, said Marcela Maspero, a national coordinator of National Union of Workers (UNT) in Venezuela.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered a maximum alert on Venezuela’s border with Colombia after the administration of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe accused the Chavez government of harbouring terrorists and running terrorist training camps on July 22. Uribe’s government gave a shameful presentation before member states of the Organisation of American States (OAS) on July 22. It was similar to former US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s 2003 “weapons of mass destruction” Power Point evidence to the United Nations Security Council to justify the war in Iraq.
Alarm bells should be ringing as the threat of war looms on the horizon, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned in his July 18 weekly column. The warning came after tensions again flared with neighbouring Colombia, and the Central American nation of Costa Rica agreed to 6000 US troops being deployed on its soil. Chavez placed Venezuela on high alert and broke diplomatic relations with Colombia after a July 22 meeting of the Organisation of American States (OAS).
Right-wing candidate Juan Manuel Santos won the second round of the Colombian presidential elections on June 20. This re-affirms Colombia’s position as the US’s chief proxy in the region, playing a similar role to that of Israel in the Middle East. Santos won 69% of the run-off election against Green Party presidential candidate and former Bogota mayor Antanas Mockus. However, IPS said on June 21 that, with just 45% of registered voters taking part in the poll, Santos won with a mere 30% of potential votes.
“The life of a trade unionist in Colombia is very difficult and complex”, visiting union leader Edgar Paez told Green Left Weekly. Paez said 4000 unionists have been murdered in Colombia in 28 years. “Last year, 47 unionists were killed, 48 the year before. Union leaders need armed guards, bulletproof cars, camera surveillance and bulletproof windows on their offices. “They lose the possibility of a normal family life.”
In an open letter to the national and international community written from prison, Colombian trade union and human rights activist Liliana Obando denounced the governments unprecedented new witch-hunt against the political opposition in Colombia.