Sunday, May 2, 2010

More on Mockus

I looked over the 'Green party's' 'green' agenda. There's a single bullet point, out of 15, and a vague one at that. Which is a lot less than George W. Bush and Exxon promise for the planet.

So, give them credit for not making wild promises. But let's be clear that the green in the party is a color only.

The guy at Caracas Chronicles suggests that the recent polls which place Mockus substantially ahead undercount the rural population. That might be true, since these folks are much less likely to have telephones. And it's also true that rural folks are less likely to be impressed by a guy who dropped his pants in front of his class and dressed up as Superman - or even to have heard of Mockus. Rural people are also more likely to be grateful to Santos for driving the guerrillas away from their lands.

All in all, the election is still up for grabs.

Who's better for the country is another issue entirely. Santos has accomplished a lot as defense minister by freeing great sections of the country from the persecution by the guerrillas. But the guerrillas have not gone away, in part because they've got huge incomes from drugs and extortion, combined with the fact that Colombia's poverty rate is still a terribly high 43 percent overall and 61 percent in the countryside. And 23 percent of Colombians are indigent. That makes becoming a guerrilla (or a paramilitary or a plain-old narco) a tremendous temptation for a poor kid. (I've spoken to enough ex-guerrillas and ex-kidnappees to know that they don't sign up because they read Das Kapital and decided to overthrow capitalism.) Presumably, Mockus would invest more in social causes, and this could mean fewer kids joining the guerrillas out of desperation.

Or, maybe Santos would hike investments in education, health and other social causes. After all, Nixon got us out of Vietnam and into China.

Speaking of the guerrillas, the other day the FARC issued a statement denouncing the government for human rights violations. And there are many government scandals, the most notorious being the 'false positives' - cases in which poor young men have been kidnapped, murdered and dressed up as guerrillas, apparently by military units trying to get credit for extra kills. It's a terrible, horrific thing, and a real stain on the nation and on presidential candidate Santos, under whose watch these killings took place. But the guerrillas are way behind the curve on this one - Colombia's legal system has been investigating these rights violations for years, and military officials are in prison for it. More than that, the guerrillas have no moral standing for making such denouncements, since murdering civilians is what they do. And no guerrilla court holds them accountable for their innumerable crimes.

This blog written by Mike Ceaser of Bogotá Bike Tours

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