Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The FTA's Explosive Arrival

The scene in north Bogotá after today's car bomb.
The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement arrived with a bang today, as a deadly bomb went off in north Bogotá while protesters denounced the treaty in central Bogotá.

In the evening in La Candelaria:
'The people provide the dead.'
Which dead and which people
do they mean?
The bomb went off in wealthy north Bogotá, which is how the presumably leftist bombers likely justified it to themselves - but on the street there were likely rich and poor, young and old, lawyers, maids, students and street cleaners; supporters and opponents of the FTA. And the target, ex-Minister Fernando Londoño himself was only lightly injured. Two people were killed and dozens injured. 

The attack caused Pres. Juan Manuel Santos to cancel a trip to Cartagena, where he was to inaugurate the Free Trade Agreement. But that's no more than a formality - the agreement, good or bad, will be implemented anyway. 

A group, who I suspect would call themselves
anarco-communists, walk toward the protest. 
'Señores: This nation is not for sale or rent.'
Satire: 'For Sale: Colombia. Great savings!
For info, see Juan Manuel Santos.'
If the attack was directed at Londoño personally rather than the government generally, then it'll likely accomplish the opposite of what they want. Londoño was already barred from holding public office for 15 years, of which eight remain, for alledgedly favoring a private company for which he had worked. Now, Londoño will will become the object of sympathy and a sort of hero, and his influence will rebound. 

Uncle Sam carries a hammer labeled 'TLC.'
Coffee icon Juan Valdez orders Yankees to go home. 
I agree that the FTA will likely harm Colombia overall. Some industries, such as flowers and exotic fruit will benefit. But it'll open the country to a flood of cheap, sometimes subsidized, agricultural goods. (A report issued yesterday by non-governmental human rights organizations concluded that the FTA will harm 70% of the country's peasants.) The government insists that the FTA will benefit Colombia macroeconomically. That might be true, if the GDP grows as a result as Big Coal, Big Oil and Big Natural Resources scoop more material out of the ground and ship it overseas. But isn't a nation supposed to worry first about its poorest, like those peasants who will be overwhelmed by foreign agri-business? And, how about the country's quality of life, as more foreign cars and motorcycles clog the streets and poison the air, while Colombia's domestic car assembly plants go idle?

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Carlito said...

Well the poorest aren't all peasants but all, poor and rich are consumers alike. I think that cheap imports, specially food, will enhance the life of the poorest, not the other way around. Yes, several producers will be harmed but what percentage of these are among the poor? I mean, should we protect thousands of peasants or millions of poor consumers?

Miguel said...

Yes, that is the other side of it. However, I wonder how much this will really help the poor's diet, or mostly mean cheaper junk food.

Also, I imagine that the number of peasants affected would be in the millions, and they tend to be the very poorest.

But my most fundamental concern is that agreements like this one will make it impossible for Colombia to protect certain industries and develop a manufacturing sector, which is the only way to create a middle class.