The European Union and the Protests in Colombia
Gearóid Ó Loingsigh
3 June 2021
Ambassadors from the EU with the Colombian Vice President
We have been through over one month of the strike in Colombia and slowly but surely everyone has been forced to make a statement on the issue. Poor Santos, the murderer behind the false positives with a long history of reforms against the working class came out of his refuge to declare "it wasn't me". However, the European countries have not said much and neither have their embassies in Colombia said a great deal either, although they have issued statements.
For many years the NGOs told us that the Europeans were not like the North Americans, they were concerned about the human rights situation in Colombia. Even when Colombia signed a free trade agreement with the EU, which was very similar to the one signed with the USA, which was heavily criticised they came out to say "don't worry the Europeans are going to put a human rights clause into it" as if that would solve the European plunder of Colombian land, water and oil. But now, where are these champions of human rights and their precious clause?
On June 2nd, Senator Iván Cepeda reported on his Twitter account the following balance "276 homicides, 988 injured by the police, 74 eye injuries, 87 gunshot wounds, 151 human rights defenders assaulted, 491 female victims of police violence."(1) A serious situation deserving of a strong and direct statement from any human rights defender. So, what did our little friends in the embassies say? Little or nothing.
The EU Ambassador, Patricia Llombart, limits herself to asking for dialogue without acknowledging that one of the parts in that supposed dialogue is killing youths in the streets. On May 29th, she tweeted:
The 17 Ambassadors of the EU in Colombia give our backing to dialogue and negotiation as the only path to a sustainable solution to the crisis. We call upon the parties to take advantage of the meeting tomorrow to reach the necessary consensus. The country demands reconciliation and an end to the violence.(2)Nowhere does she say anything about what has to be reconciled and less still about which violence has to be brought to an end. There aren't 76 dead cops, there are three, the first one in Soacha was in plain clothes as an infiltrator and we don't know who killed him and the last one in Cali, an officer who died as he lived after murdering two demonstrators.
On June 2nd she tweeted this little gem:
How much pain and uncertainty does a disappeared person leave in its wake? The work of the search unit with the support of victims is crucial to finding truthful answers and reconciliation. Non repetition is the end goal.(3)Alongside this tweet she poses smiling with an unidentified person. Such gall not even the most brazen faced paramilitary would have. In this strike there are many disappeared and she says non repetition is the goal. Well, if she remains silent now, repetition is guaranteed. The El Espectador reported that the Bogotá Municipal Ombudsperson had counted 109 disappeared in the city up to May 31st(4) and such a cynic talking about non repetition. Some will turn up alive, others are already turning up in the rivers where their corpses are floating and others will remain disappeared.
Before the strike on April 22nd she had no qualms about condemning the murder of an indigenous governor of La Laguna, but in the context of the strike when the government is tottering, she remains silent as now her statements may have consequences. However, she did make a statement about Marta Lucía Ramírez, the sister of the drug trafficker, when she took on the role of Foreign Minister in addition to her role as Vice President, given the lack of kamikaze candidates who want to stain their CV at the moment. She said:
We thank the VP for the dialogue on her first day as Foreign Minister. We send our solidarity, support in dealing with this complex situation and our confidence that dialogue will result in early agreements. Human rights, rule of law and implementation of peace at the centre of the relationship.(5)The EU Ambassadors solidarity is with Marta Lucía Ramírez and the Colombian government, not with the demonstrators, the disappeared, their families nor with the politicians facing disciplinary procedures for trying to ensure respect for human rights in the protests, no, just with the narcotrafficker's sister, who in turn celebrated the meeting on her own Twitter account.(6) The fiercest comment by her was when she shared a link to a communiqué from the High Representative and Vice President of the European Union, Mr Borrell which was limited to asking for a halt to the increasing violence and the excessive or disproportionate use of violence by the police, although he condemned the so called vandals and praised President Duque.(7) So sweet of her. That was on May 6th and she hasn't dared say anything since.
The individual ambassadors of each country haven't said much either, limiting themselves to retweeting Llombart's tweets. There are more tweets on the cyclist Egan Bernal than anything else or the possibility of studying in their respective countries. In the midst of the largest revolt the country has seen they limit themselves to making statements on banal matters, the human rights they and the NGOs they finance boast about are relegated to second and even third place.
However, without a doubt the prize for the most stupid communiqués goes to the Irish Ambassador Alison Milton. In the midst of the murders, she puts out tweets that promote in an absurdly folkloric manner, Jameson's Whiskey,(8) and Is Maith Liom Cupán Tae(9) (Irish for I like a cup of tea), Bloomsday to celebrate James Joyce(10) and even having bought a European Union flag for her house,(11) amongst other things. One of these days after another massacre in the midst of the protests we will know what she has for breakfast. You just don't know whether to laugh, cry or get really angry. Her tweets on the strike reflect the subordination of the Irish government to international capital.
On May 31st when the death toll from the murders by the cops and the paramilitaries etc., was on the rise she tweeted that:
We congratulate @mluciaramirez for her appointment as Foreign Minister. We hope to continue to consolidate the bilateral relations between Ireland and Colombia and to continue working together in peace building, protection of human rights and other issues.(12)Martuchis, as she is known popularly, doesn't know anything about human rights, peace or anything else. She might be able to advise the Irish Ambassador on how not to get caught and sent to prison in the US for drug trafficking. That is as far as her knowledge of international relations goes. Even the boss and bigwig Kamala Harris preferred not to meet with her, as it looks bad to have a photo taken, at this point in time, with the VP of a murderous government and the sister of a drug trafficker, although later 216.8 million in military aid was provided,(13) just so as it was clear that one thing are public relations, quite another real relationships of power. The amount was almost half of the total that Biden had asked Congress to give to Colombia.
The Ambassador is not interested in human rights violations but rather in companies. On May 19th se gave it away and said:
We are saddened and concerned to see the negative impact the current situation is having on companies throughout the country, including the Irish company Smurfit Kappa in Yumbo, which has had to suspend its operations there for 22 days.(14)On May 23 she continued in the same vein.
My contacts in Yumbo tell me that the blockades in Valle are ongoing. The right to peaceful protest should be protected in any democracy, but the prolonged blockades that are affecting supplies to the people are not a legitimate form of protest.(15)Her contacts in Yumbo where Smurfits has its headquarters and main plant are the directors of the company who live in luxurious neighbourhoods in Cali and not on the poor slopes of Yumbo, whose poverty is absolute. Milton travelled to Cúcuta to see the situation of Venezuelan migrants but has never been to Yumbo to talk to the people struggling in this country, her house is not very far from a very problematic area, El Codito, but she hasn't gone there either. The Ambassador Alison Milton does us a great favour, whether it be through naivety, servility or lack of experience in the post, she explains without aiming to, that the only thing the European countries are interested in is the issue of economic stability and the rate of profit of their companies. The web page of the European Union Commission in Colombia makes it quite clear.
Colombia is the European Union's main trading partner within the Andean Community and the fifth in Latin America, with a transaction volume that reached €13.3 billion in 2015. For its part, the EU is Colombia's second largest trading partner and the first source of direct foreign investment in the country.(16)For years we have had to listen to politicians on the Left explain to us how the Europeans respected human rights that we should tolerate the criminal acts of the European companies a little more because their governments supported the struggles for human rights. Various social organisations also said the same, especially when they had projects financed by those governments. Now, what do they say?
It is easy to denounce human rights violations when there is nothing at stake. Lamenting, in the abstract, the murder of one or other social leader, trade unionist, indigenous, Afro, or environmentalist without relating it to the powers that be, is easy. It doesn't cost anything, especially not a Euro. But now when they have to choose between an openly murderous regime and those who demand respect for human rights, they hesitate. The Colombian people do not have friends in power in Europe, but rather class enemies that prefer that the strike be called off rather than demand changes from the murderous oligarchy.
(4) El Espectador (03/06/2021) Personería de Bogotá registra 109 personas presuntamente desaparecidas durante el Paro. https://www.elespectador.com/bogota/personeria-ha-conocido-109-casos-de-personas-presuntamente-desaparecidas-durante-el-paro/
(13) El Tiempo (29/05/2021) Pedido de US$ 453,8 millones para Colombia confirma respaldo de Biden https://www.eltiempo.com/mundo/eeuu-y-canada/joe-biden-aumenta-el-presupuesto-fiscal-2022-en-colombia-592003