COLOMBIA: Sec. Gutierrez Gives LULAC the Hard Sell on Free Trade Agreement

Posted on July 10, 2008

Can you imagine being a member of the League of United Latin American Citizens and traveling to DC hoping that your government will give you some sign that they give a damn about you and your issues and you end up getting a hard sell from Commerce Secretary Gutierrez on the proposed Colombian Free Trade Agreement?

Gutierrez: “So the first issue that I want to talk to you about, it’s an important issue for me, and I hope that it is an important issue for all Latinos, is the Colombian Free Trade Agreement.”

What a charmer this guy is — he will talk about something important to him and hopes that the audience might give a damn.

Oh my god, give this guy a reality check and get the audience an aspirin:

“Colombia is a great country. And Colombia has achieved over the past 6, 8, 10 years, probably the single most impressive turnaround that I have ever seen in my career.
Colombia has been an ally for a long, long time. Colombia was the only Latin American country to send troops to Korea 50 years ago. So we’ve had a long standing relationship. We’ve been friends for a long time, and we have a strong interest in seeing Colombia have a prosperous and peaceful community.
About 10 years ago the only thing people heard about Colombia, the only thing you saw in the news about Colombia, was that the FARC, I’m sure you heard recently about the FARC over the last few days, this guerilla organization, the FARC, was outside of Bogotá, and there were risks that the government would fall. And that it literally would fall to the hands of guerilla organizations and drug cartels
With the help of Plan Colombia, a bipartisan initiative started then by President Clinton, we have helped Colombia today become a proud, vibrant, growing society. Crime is down in Colombia. The economy is growing; poverty rates are down. Labor violence has declined more than violence in the country as a whole. It’s been an amazing accomplishment. Over 30 thousand paramilitaries have turned in their weapons and have reincorporated into civil society.”

“Last week I’m sure you all saw as the whole world rejoiced with the families and friends of the 15 hostages that were rescued from the FARC as a result of efforts of the Colombian government and the Colombian military. And we believe and I believe very passionately that the U.S. government should support Colombia and that Latinos throughout the United States should support Colombia given what Colombia has been through, given what they have accomplished, given how far they have come.
Now is the time that Colombia needs us. President Uribe, who by the way has an approval rating of about 80 percent in Colombia, 80 percent before the rescues, who knows where it is today, he believes the single biggest thing we can do to help Colombia continue to make progress is to approve the Free Trade Agreement.”

If you can stomach it, here is Gutierrez’ full speech.