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Likely presidential flip-flop causes angst, happiness

July 14, 2010 - Mike Maneval

The Bush administration's David Frum is happy, and progressive organizer Michael Whitney is appalled at the senselessness and bitingly sarcastic on the turnaround: President Barack Obama is asking Congress to move trade deals along, including a deal with Colombia.

Frum, an advocate of such deals, found Obama's election-year opposition to the deal - detailed by Whitney in a post at the blog - to be "perverse." Both Frum and Whitney quote Obama in 2008: “The violence against unions in Colombia ... make a mockery of the very labor protections that we have insisted be included in these kinds of agreements.”

The violence to which Obama was referring includes the murders of 4,000 union organizers in 20 years, with a death-count in 2009 of 48. The murders are routinely left unsolved - more than 95 percent of the murders, reports from Inter Presse Service relate, went unsolved and unpunished.

Frum's column for, in justifying a more permissive trade climate with Colombia, ignores this altogether, saying only that kidnappings have declined since 2002. No other metric or statistic on crime and stability is offered. Frum instead moves along in the blink of an eye to successes posted by a U.S. government initiative in the region to equip and train counter-guerrilla efforts.

So, even with the U.S. subsidizing basic civil order, Colombia, in Whitney's words, sees "the murders of more union members ... than the rest of the world combined every year."

But if Whitney is searching for solace, he may find it in Frum's closing, which questions if Obama will truly fight to reward a brutally-fatal climate for labor rights with preferential trading status, or if the statement on the Colombia deal is a token gesture from which he'll now move on.


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