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  • Morning Bell: How Congress Can Help Finish Off the FARC

    When Congress returns from spring break March 31, President Bush is likely to send the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement to Capitol Hill, triggering an up or down vote on the deal within 90 days. If Congress can put aside its fealty to Big Labor, then the trade deal will easily be approved. Unfortunately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) insists on raising bogus objections about curbing violence toward union leaders in Colombia.

    Pelosi ignores the fact that the number of murders of trade unionists has dropped 75% since Colombia President Alvaro Uribe took office. Uribe has tripled spending on protection for unionists and his crime reduction success has helped boost his approval rating to 70%. More importantly, as Colombia’s trade minister Luis Plata told the Wall Street Journal recently, “you can’t make the case that killing the FTA will make things better.”

    As tensions rise in South America, the Colombia FTA is vital to securing peace in the region. The Washington Post reports that the terrorist group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) faces the “possibility of implosion” as more and more of the groups members desert. Whether or not recently discovered laptops prove Venezuela President Hugo Chavez is funding the FARC, Chavez does have a proven interest in promoting the terrorist organization. Through sympathetic radio addresses and brokered hostage exchanges, Chavez has sought to legitimize the FARC and discredit Uribe as Colombia’s democratic leader. A congressional rejection of the Colombia FTA would only strengthen Chavez efforts to portray the U.S. as a fickle and opportunistic trading partner.

    The FARC is down to 11,000 members today from 16,900 in 2002. While it is currently coping with mass desertions, FARC still has an “immense capacity to recruit” young farmers with few other possibilities. Plata believes the Colombia FTA is vital to making sure those poor farmers have better options than the FARC. He told the WSJ: “You don’t win the peace with soldiers alone. You have to have a functioning economy.”

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