Tag: president hugo chávez

Colombia Trade Deal Enters Fourth Year of Limbo

Sunday marked the third anniversary of the signing of a free trade agreement between the United States and Colombia. It is an embarrassment to our great nation that this agreement with an important Latin American ally still sits on the shelf three years later, a victim of congressional trade politics.

As my Cato colleague Juan Carlos Hidalgo and I argued in a 2008 Free Trade Bulletin, and as I wrote in a more recent op-ed, the FTA with Colombia is a win-win for Americans. It fully opens the Colombian market and its 44 million pro-American consumers to our exports, while deepening our ties with one of our most dependable allies in the Western Hemisphere.

The AFL-CIO and other opponents of the agreement demand that Colombia further reduce violence against trade unionist before approval can be considered, and the president and Democratic congressional leaders have dutifully agreed. Never mind that the number of trade union members murdered in traditionally violent Colombia has declined dramatically under President Alvaro Uribe. Congress and the administration keep moving the goal posts, much to the frustration of the Colombian government.

Meanwhile, since the agreement was signed, U.S. companies have paid $2.3 billion in unnecessary duties, according to the “Colombia Tariff Ticker” sponsored by the Latin America Trade Coalition. On the foreign policy front, Colombia faces continued threats from the Marxist FARC guerrilla movement and its anti-American neighbor, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Refusing to enact the trade agreement with Colombia only reinforces suspicions in Latin America that the U.S. government is unreliable.

Chávez Declares Socialism the ‘Kingdom of God’

ChavezA new poll in Venezuela shows that President Hugo Chávez’s approval ratings have fallen from about 60 percent early this year to 46 percent now. Likewise his disapproval ratings have increased from about 30 percent earlier in the year to 46 percent now, and 59 percent of those polled view the country’s situation negatively.

Despite having received upwards of $800 billion in revenues during Chávez’s ten years in power, the government is doing a dismal job of carrying out its proper functions—such as controlling crime or corruption—and public administration in other areas is deteriorating. Chávez recently announced regular cuts in electricity and water provision. (These issues will be discussed in an upcoming Cato forum on Venezuela on November 10.)

As domestic conditions deteriorate, Chávez is apparently feeling more empowered, or at least feels the need to continue his relentless accumulation of power. Today, El Universal, a Venezuelan daily, reports that Chávez has announced that he can expropriate private enterprises at will because he was given that power by the people. Why worry about the rule of law when you have the ability to interpret the will of the people? Chávez’s comments reported today should dispel any doubts that he considers himself a savior to his country:

Every day I’m more of a revolutionary, every day I’m more socialist… I’m going to take Venezuela toward socialism, with the people and the workers…The revolution is not negotiable, socialism is not negotiable, because every day I’m more convinced that socialism is the kingdom of God on earth. That is what Christ came to announce.

The Populist Assault on the Latin American Press

Mary O’Grady writes in today’s Wall Street Journal on the Kirchners’ threats to press freedom in Argentina. Unfortunately, the attack on free expression is part of a worrying trend that is intensifying in some of the region’s populist countries. For more, see Gabriela Calderón’s post on Ecuador here; and my posts on Ecuador and on Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s efforts to close down Globovision TV here and here.