Friday, August 03, 2007


There´s a lot going on right now but I´m not going to have time to comment on everything I want to as today´s post will focus on some developments in Colombia and we´re leaving tonight for Villa de Leyva (wedding to attend). Briefly, it looks like a version of my UN Peacekeeping article I posted the other day will be published today at Foreign Policy in Focus. I´ll be sure to post the link when (and if) it goes up.

Also, there´s a bit of nobbery going on between Obama and Clinton at the moment. Anytime a potential President says that nuclear weapons should be on the table for X, I get turned off. I´m all in favor of robust deterrence, but this latest flap is pure politics and a bunch of crap. I´m increasingly becoming turned off to a Clinton candidacy.

I saw Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison (the first Muslim Congressman) on CNN this morning. I´m fairly sure he said that as a nation we have established our priorities and the bridge collapse is a result of that. I didn´t hear everything he said as I was in and out of the room but I think he stated that we priviledged the invasion of a soveriegn nation over basic infrastructure maintenance and repair. Ultimately, not only is he right, but he was very forceful with his argument that it is a fundamental duty of government to provide basic, safe infrastructure for the nation.

Finally, there are some developments going on in Colombia that I wanted to comment about. Regular readers may remember that I wrote about a nationwide protest against the FARC in July. The capture and incarceration of innocents (or military personnel) is a hugely controversial issue here in Colombia that has essentially no solution. I say "no solution" because the FARC has proven time and again to either be completely inept as a political organization or totally uninterested in politics (I say the latter). The government wishes to negotiate a hostage exchange, but the FARC is basically stonewalling any overtures to the point that it belies belief that they actually are serious about the process.

President Uribe, who has had record levels of popularity (80%) during much of his presidency, has seen his approval ratings plumment to the 60s (a level Bush would be estatic about) of late, mostly due to this ongoing issue. It is one of the most controversial issues in Colombia today.

This has all culminated in a "peace walk" by social studies teacher Gustavo Moncayo. He walked a 1000 kilometers from the South to Bogota in a move that some are equating to Ghandi. Moncayo is now stationed in Plaza Bolivar (akin to camping out in front of the Capitol Building, let´s say) and plans on remaining there until a solution is found to the hostage situation.

I must admit that at the first nationwide protest I was a bit skeptical. However, I´m now starting to view this movement with different eyes. One thing I have discovered about Colombia is that as a nation, it is overly focused on economics to the exclusion of all other variables. There is an organization that I am likely to apply at that strongly argues that economic development is the key to solving the conflict and this theme is echoed everywhere I go. The problem with the dominance of economics is that there is a distinct lack of participatory democracy, union organization, and public monitoring (organizations that provide transparency to government actions).

I believe strongly that the area where Colombia truly needs to develop and modernize is in a democratic capacity and that´s why I think that Moncayo´s protest is a great sign. NGOs and governmental organizations have been working toward greater openness, transparency, and policymaking, but those efforts are weakened by a distinct lack of public faith. A public movement to make the government accountable, to force policy, and to create reconciliation, outside of normal channels, is the exact type of fuel that ongoing efforts need to consolidate and solidify their work.

Ultimately, I believe that peace will come to Colombia when the people decide to make peace. In this way, Colombia shares a commonality with Northern Ireland, the Palestinian Conflict, and Iraq. And, unlike previous versions, this movement has the potential to be sustainable because it is very popular, the likelihood of the movement´s leader being assassinated is very low, and the longer it goes on, the more pressure there will be on the government to create positive change.

(Note: I take no position on the state of negotiations between the government and the FARC at this time. I am merely arguing that I think this movement is a good thing because it will create greater public solidarity and eventually lead to better policy.)



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