So, That's Why McCain Went to Colombia

By Al Giordano

It was a set-up from the get-go, choreographed by the Bush administration and eagerly embraced by Colombia's narco-president, Alvaro Uribe. Yesterday's liberation of high-profile hostages in Colombia was merely the gloss for the larger rescue mission: to save Senator John McCain's flagging presidential campaign.

When McCain announced he'd be going to Colombia, and then Mexico (where he is today, more on that in a moment), to preach the "free trade" doctrine, it almost seemed to sabotage the Republican Party's recent decision to target four of the states most hurt by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA): Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin - the latter three of which just lost thousands of auto-worker jobs last month (as the links on those states' names reveal).

Those plant closings are of course related to the new NAFTA fact that Mexican auto workers have been forced to accept reduced pay to lure the auto factories there.

Of all the countries in the world to visit, McCain's trip to Colombia to tout a trade agreement underscores one of his domestic political weaknesses: the rust-belt economy held hostage (year fourteen).

Teamsters Union leader Jimmy Hoffa will tag-team a conference call today with Colombian oil-workers leader Jorge Gamboa to drive the point home:


Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa will hold a press teleconference on Wednesday, July 2 to discuss John McCain's trip to Colombia to push another job-killing trade agreement with a country that continues to turn a blind eye to human rights violations, including an alarming rise in murders of trade unionists.


More than 2,500 trade unionists have been assassinated in Colombia since 1986, more than in any country in the world. Already this year, 27 Colombian trade unionists have been killed.


But now the world can see why McCain chose this week to go to Colombia: to be the beneficiary of a grand simulation and show by President Uribe, who may, by next year, come to regret trying to meddle in US politics on behalf of one candidate against another.

Frank James reports:


The rescue's timing may have merely been coincidental with McCain's visit to Colombia.


But if Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe were going to help one of the presidential candidates, it would likely be McCain more than Sen, Barack Obama since the all-but-official Republican presidential nominee supports the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement while Sen. Barack Obama doesn't.


Upon the hostages release, McCain had a statement all ready to go. This line in it was interesting:


"I'm pleased with the success of this very high-risk operation. Sometimes in the past, the FARC has killed the hostages rather than let them be rescued."


Let me translate that into English: the Colombian Army's meat-cleaver approach to fighting that country's civil war is littered with botched rescue missions and more collateral damage upon civilians than a hurricane can cause. The success of yesterday's raid is how we know that Washington's fingerprints were all over this one.

It was an image-laundering operation, and at that, a two-fer: Uribe gets to look bold and competent and is delivered new talking points to justify his authoritarian reign of terror, and McCain is made to seem as if he's like, well, Bill Richardson or Jesse Jackson, who really have negotiated the release of hostages and prisoners.

In fact, it wasn't McCain who, last month, called upon the Colombian guerrillas to release those hostages. It was Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. McCain only started talking about them after the fix was in.

Three months ago, your reporter noticed the peculiar obsession that President Uribe had with the rise of Senator Obama's candidacy (see Uribe's Attack on Obama, April 3, 2008, Narco News).

The obsession is so extreme that when, in early March, the Colombian government claimed to have seized laptop computers from guerrilla leaders, and then suddenly "discovered" more laptops than it had initially reported seizing, and ones that supposedly implicate Venezuela's Chavez - this reporter is convinced that it was bold fabrication for propaganda purposes - the Colombian State couldn't resist trying to implicate Obama as well:


In a Dec. 11 message to the secretariat, Marquez writes: "If you are in agreement, I can receive Jim and Tucker to hear the proposal of the gringos."


Writing two days before his death, Reyes tells his comrades that "the gringos," working through Ecuador's government, are interested "in talking to us on various issues."

"They say the new president of their country will be (Barack) Obama," he writes, saying Obama rejects both the Bush administration's free trade agreement with Colombia and the current military aid program.


In other words, Obama surely knows that Uribe plays dirty and invents falsehoods, in that case to try to stem the senator's political rise in the United States. And therefore he has to know that the inventions about Chavez - as well as so much of the wartime propaganda emanating from Bogota - were likewise pure fiction.

So for Uribe, having already overplayed his hand with Obama, he absolutely needs McCain to win the White House. Thus, yesterday's media circus and simulation.

As the hostages were freed, McCain was already on his airplane heading toward Mexico. I got on the phone last night with the kinds of sources that know exactly what will happen in Mexico before it happens and asked the obvious question: Will there be a similar media show in Mexico City? Will they capture a narco-kingpin or guerrilla leader to continue McCain's similated winning streak?

My sources all said no. "Calderon isn't as stupid as Uribe," said one. "He's not going to pick sides with McCain when he knows Obama is more likely to win."

And that explained another head-scratcher from yesterday: Why the Obama campaign trotted out some right-wing foreign policy wonks (when it has others much more attuned to ideals like human rights available) to do a conference call that was so effusive in its praise of the illegitimate president of Mexico.

(You can also get a crash course, about 15 minutes into that audio recording, of how I think effective criticism can be waged in a way that limits the elbow room of the "permanent government" types worming their way into the Obama campaign without resorting to Chicken Littling. I understand that those guys are there for show, while brighter lights have to lay low until November.)

In any case, that's the mistério del día. With McCain in El Gran Tenochtitlan today, will Mexico's Calderon step into the same partisan quicksand into which Colombia's Uribe leaped yesterday? The Field predicts that not even he is that desperate.

Update: Bill Conroy has the scoop on how the Colombian hostage rescue really went down.

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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