Monday, July 16, 2007

Human Rights?

Stephen Harper on China:
Canada won't ''sell out to the almighty dollar'' when it
comes to talking human rights with China, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said

Harper told reporters travelling with him to the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference in Vietnam that Canada's trade and business relationship with China is an important one, but he declared: ''I don't think Canadians want us to sell out important Canadian values. They don't want us to sell out to the almighty dollar.''

Stephen Harper on Colombia:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper dismisses criticism that Canada should build free-trade links with problem-plagued Colombia.

"When we see a country like Columbia that has decided it has to address its social, political and economic problems, it wants to embrace economic freedom, it wants to embrace political democracy and human rights and social development, then we say we we're in," he said Monday in Bogota.

"Around the country we have 30,000 that have been detained or disappeared in last 10 years, three million internally displaced people; thousands have been killed," responded Lilia Solano, the director of Project Justice and Life.

"So how can someone say, 'OK, all this blood is running but business goes first'."

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe was on the U.S Defense Intelligence Agency's list:
Then-Senator and now President Álvaro Uribe Vélez of Colombia was a "close personal friend of Pablo Escobar" who was "dedicated to collaboration with the Medellín [drug] cartel at high government levels," according to a 1991 intelligence report from U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officials in Colombia. The document was posted today on the website of the National Security Archive, a non-governmental research group based at George Washington University.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has ties to death squads:
President Alvaro Uribe’s right-wing Colombian government is dealing with a scandal stemming from revelations of ties between the paramilitary United Self Defense Forces of Colombia and ruling elements in Colombian society.

According to U.S. government sources, the paramilitaries have accounted for over 80 percent of Colombia’s political assassinations and much drug trafficking. Washington’s support for Colombian military and police operations, totaling $3.8 billion over six years, raises questions of U.S. complicity with human rights abuses there.

Harper speaks of the "almight dollar", as it relates to his human rights crusade with China, but there seems no conflict in putting dollars ahead of human rights in dealing with a very suspect Colombian government. In pushing for a free trade agreement, Harper effectively endorses the status quo in the most violent country in the region, with an atrocious human rights record.

Where were the pointed questions today? Was there a hint that Harper brought up human rights with the Colombian goverment, on par with the abrasive stance taken with the Chinese? It all seemed like a touchy, feely affair today, lauding the accomplishments, with little evidence of "pressure". Am I the only one that sees a lack of consistency?


Amnesty International's Alex Neve wonders about consistency too:
Neve said that support would be for naught if a free trade agreement with the country pushes the human rights situation out of the picture.

"It's our hope that he's going to recognize the importance of being consistent with the human rights message, that if he starts to become inconsistent then he immediately starts to lose his credibility."


Olaf said...


So what exactly are you getting at here? What are you suggesting that this inexplicable inconsistency (in treating two very different countries in very different economic, political and social contexts in very different parts of the world, well, differently) implies?

I figure that if you had your way, Harper would have been outspoken against Columbian rights violations and mum about Chinese rights violations: then, in that case, you could have spun it as "Harper is willing to bow to the will of the Chinese economic dragon because of the obvious financial benefits of doing so - just more proof that Harper is willing to talk tough and bully smaller states like Columbia, but will subvert Canada's principles whenever there might be an economic backlash". But, alas, he didn't.

In this case, he was aggressive with the country that is far more economically important, geopolitically powerful, and that we do far more "business" with. So what's your spin on this?

I know you want to show that Harper is wrong in every situation, but to which deep and dangerous pathology will you tie this particular inconsistency so as to make the action resonate as inexcusable?

Essentially, you're missing the broad contextual zinger - along the lines of "... proving once again that Harper hates Latinos..." - that always brings the fans out a cheering. You're not loosing your touch, are you Steve? :)

Anonymous said...

Stephen Harper will say or do anything his master does or tells him to do. Harper was probably smacked with a newspaper for lipping off to China. Now he's on a leash in S. America.

Big surprise.

Anonymous said...

Liberals seem deliberately thick when it comes to some issues - the Colombian government is barely able to control the cities, never mind the countryside. Allowing the gov't to falter is bad for everyone - especially Colombians.

The Communists in China have a strong gov't - they use it to kill people in the name of socialism etc. Liberals may appreciate the 'socialist ideals' of the Chinese gov't and give them a free pass for any abuses, but they really shouldn't.

Anonymous said...

Oh spare me! The same could be said of Afghanistan yet Harper isn't all cuddly with them, even when he pretends.

Stephen Harper is a lap-dog. I just watched him on TV, shaking hands and wagging tails.

I have to confidence in Harper to make any sort of difference to ordinary South Americans, much like he's done little for ordinary Canadians except talk them up for votes.

Follow the money. Harper is a pooch in a purse.

Anonymous said...

It's a simple (or not so simple) left vs. right thing. To the NeoCon world of Bush and Harper, right wing dictators are OK, while left wing dictators are not. Death squads in Columbia have been much more open and callous in their actions than the results of Chinese prisons, however, I think both are equally bad. Being a Liberal - one who embraces the CENTER of the political spectrum I choose not to embrace either left wing or right wing nut cases.

Harper will follow his NeoCon "New American Century" friends, and embrace all the South/Central American petty dictators. You see, America now sees a threat much closer than Iraq, South Korea, or China... It is people like Chavez. Castro is no longer a threat, but his ideological descendants are. Especially since they are now armed with more than Kalashnikovs... Now they have economic power. Harper, Bush, Cheney, et al need to shore up local oil reserves, and protect this hemisphere. Their NeoCon paranoia is now focused on perceived "threats" in this hemisphere (where it is easier to send troops and money - and exchange guns for drugs if necessary). "Must stop the spread of socialism". There needs to be a "clear and present danger" to confront the military industrial complex.

If it wasn't all so obviously transparent it would be funny. The battle of ideologues goes on. Left wing wackos vs. right wing wackos. If these f'n idiots have their way, there would be no moderation left in the world, only the ideological battle between "left and right", "communism and capitalism", "good vs. evil", "black vs. white", "East vs. West". This is what drives the cogs of their conservative-owned military industrial complex. We must sell more widgets to "tribe X" in "Eastern Blah-blah land". The only way to do that is to guarantee regional stability and rampant free enterprise with little or no controls (not even to protect consumers, if we can get away with it). Oh yeah, and personal freedoms, quality of life, and the environment can all go by the wayside. Share-holder value uber-alles!


Anonymous said...

Good point, Western Grit. Could this ripping off of the shareholders by Black be just the first crack in the facade?

Rip off ordinary people, rip off countries, that's all good; but the shat will hit the fan when someone rips off one of the partners in greed.

The question remains: will ripping off for the good guys overcome justice for the bad guys (shareholders)?

No wonder the Black trial sucked half the life out of journalism and truth: many of the people involved stand to lose a lot of money.

Harper and Human Rights? Pretty strange bed-fellows.

Follow the money.

Anonymous said...

Harper is terrified. The Decider is going down, hard. Harper has to at least try to snuggle up to the movers and shakers, even if it means losing the confidence of his own people and the earning the enmity of the unknowns who will replace the Decider.
Harper carries on, not for human rights, not for so-called free trade, not for Canada, but for his own dream of bringing Canada back.
Never will you hear Harper (he of the Opposition) take any responsibility for the go or no-go of the government of Canada since he showed up.
Neither will we see Harper stand up to the SA dictators he seeks to trade with on human rights. Again, money talks. America is pretending to make friends with SA so Harper has to pretend to make friends also.
Harper is undercutting Canada also by undercutting our relations with Cuba.
Canadians who wish to visit Cuba better do it soon. When the master orders the pup to cut off parts of the world to Canadians, it will be done. No questions asked. No dissent allowed.
Harper is a pooch in a purse. Yappy yet bought.

Anonymous said...

I have to wonder if Harper is doing Bush/WH a favour here. Chavez is on an anti-Bush mission big time and there are concerns about how effective Chavez is...yup, do Bush's dirty work Harper.

The anon about socialists and comparing our left to China's "communism" is way out of line and quite frankly very stupid. Our brand of socialism in Canada is about human rights, freedoms, etc. - very, very different.

Can you believe what garbage some right wingers come up with? Do they not understand anything?

Hate to bring it up, but Harper had, I think, another wardrobe problem. Tan jacket, buttoned up on the upper part of his belly and the lower part hanging out - who dresses this guy?

Mike said...


You make good points but I think the real criticism here is a different kind of consistency. It is, in fact, blind consistency driven by ideology that is the problem:

Harper is overtly harsh with a perceived "left wing" government (China) and overtly friendly and cotling to a perceived "right wing" government (Columbia). He focuses on China's human rights issues but appears to down play and ignore Columbia's.

Had he criticized both AND decided that "constructive engagement" was the best path for both, perhaps he would have been consistent.

The issue is that he is not even internally consistent - he will happily forgo business opportunities with China in the name of human rights but will NOT do the same for Columbia, for the same reason? Columbia has, arguably worse human rights abuses than China.

The only thing I can see is a knee-jerk, out-dated "left-right" thing, with "left==bad" and "right==good"

Personally I would have been happy if he took the position that they BOTH should boycotted in the name of human rights.

Hell, even the Bush Administration won't do business with Columbia...

canuckistanian said...

olaf, i usually appreciate your perspective as being fairly dispassionate and impartial, but your comment here was really embarassing. i will be charitable and assume you have no knowledge of columbia, and thus reverted to partisanship to defend the indefensible.

the columbian government and the paramilitares are one and the same...they almost make the FARC look good in comparison. they are one of the worst human rights violators in the world.

your attempt to pigeon-hole f&w didn't help your case either. rather, it was an unambiguous demonstration that you have nothing substantive to add to the discussion.

ottlib said...


Neither China or Columbia have stellar human rights records.

So Steve asks a valid question. Why does Stephen Harper harp on the Chinese government about human rights, to the detriment of trade, while ignoring the human rights abuses of the Columbian government?

There is an inconsistancy there that needs to be explained.

Mr. Harper's explanation seems to be Columbia needs to be engaged in order to reform. That is an interesting argument because Jean Chretien argued essentially the same thing with regard to pursuing trade relations with China. A stance that was thoroughly condemned by Stephen Harper at the time.

So Olaf, do you not find it just a little odd that Stephen Harper is now invoking the very same excuse in this case?

Canadian Tar Heel said...

Aside from Olaf’s sneering sarcasm (which I found funny, but which others may dislike), he does have a point. Maintaining consistency for the sake of consistency generally makes for bad policies, especially when it comes to very different circumstances. There is no simple one-size fits all policy regarding human rights, which can be applied to all countries. The world is simply too diverse.

With respect to the current issue, it would be a bad idea to equate Colombia’s brutality in trying to assert any sort of lasting stability to China’s heavy-handed, authoritarian violations. Moreover, it would be dubious to compare the Asian market to the Latin American market, especially in terms of international economic policies. (Elaborating on this point might take too long.) And finally, one must consider the various objectives behind these policies. For example, the US has believed, since Nixon, that it could seduce the Chinese into playing by “the rules” with economic carrots (including human rights). Indeed, coercion and the threat of force is not always the best avenue. The same rationale does not apply to Colombia, where the creation of wealth as opposed to robbing Peter to pay Paul is probably one objective. From a liberal standpoint, one increases the chances for stability with greater economic growth and equal opportunity to participate in that growth.

I’d also add that this deal may or may not include quid pro quos in terms of human rights.

Olaf said...


The only thing I can see is a knee-jerk, out-dated "left-right" thing, with "left==bad" and "right==good"

That was precisely the type of negative, equivocal and grossly simplistic explanation that I was attempting (in vain) to coax out of Steve. Thanks!

Olaf said...


I wasn't defending anything, per se. I was just giving Steve a hard time, don't take it personally.

Olaf said...


So Steve asks a valid question. Why does Stephen Harper harp on the Chinese government about human rights, to the detriment of trade, while ignoring the human rights abuses of the Columbian government?

It certainly is a valid question, and I think that Steve's good judgment prevented him from drawing any sweeping conclusions due to the complex circumstances involved (even if just asking a question didn't have the desired partisan punch).

As to your points, they are fair. Generally, I'm a fan of reform through engagement, which is one of the reasons I criticized Harper for his somewhat bullish (if utterly over blown) statements towards China.

For the sake of argument, I suppose the only thing that I could add to CTH's salient points is that Harper has far greater capacity to influence a smaller state (Columbia) with economic carrots then he could ever hope to do with China. China is more or less beyond our influence, so while poking them in the eye serves no good purpose, I can't see it as particularly harmful (nor can I see other methods as particularly more fruitful). I figure that influencing states through constructive engagement has a better chance of producing any benefit when dealing with those states that are more easily influenced, logically enough.

Then again, who knows what drives Harper now a days - there are a million different factors that could have influenced this particular "inconsistency", which is the point I was making. But if you think that "ideology" is the driving force, I would submit that you haven't been paying any attention at all.

Steve V said...

Somewhat late to the discussion, but just to clarify, my criticism of Harper on Colombia is really more about China. The Harper we saw in Colombia is consistent with what you would expect, given the history. However, I was completely shocked to see Harper's provocative attitude towards China on human rights. Not really a question of justification, but more one of surprise, because Harper has never shown any indication that he was so concerned about human rights.

Colombia presents a contrast, and I don't want to debate the individual specifics of each situation, because others have shown the unique circumstances for each. Another contrast is the "measured response" in Lebanon, which again doesn't quite jive with the aggressive stance towards China. I actually think Mike (sorry Olaf) does make a valid point when it comes to political orientation.

I guess what it comes down to for me, I never quite bought into Harper the human rights defender. The stance towards Colombia, recognizing the different economic, social, political context, reveals human rights as more a bargaining chip, than geniune outrage, that was displayed with the Chinese.

ottlib said...

I think what drives Stephen Harper is political calculus and nothing more.

China is a big country and it is almost as well known as the United States within Canada, particularly some if its high profile unjust acts towards some of its people. Falun Gong (sp), Tibet and that whole crackdown on the democracy demonstrators in the 90'.

Contrast that with Columbia. Most Canadians, if they know anything about it at all, just believe it is still a haven for drug kingpins.

So Mr. Harper believes it plays well with Canadians to condemn China over human rights abuses and praise and work with the Columbian government to assist it in reforming itself.

He could be right but no one should give him any credit for having any principles in his policies towards either one of these countries.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that uniform policy is best policy. "When my child does a good job I reward when he is bad I punish" is not always a good idea. Sometimes I lure good behaviour with promise of reward some times with threat of punishment. So it is with nations. Sometimes Canada engages a country when Canada thinks it would help reform the country sometimes Canada shuns the country when I think it will help reform the country. PMJC wisely engaged China in the hope that engagement would improve human rights. To an extent engagement did improve human rights in China. However engagement did not produce all the improvements desired so a rebuke was in order. The same applies to Columbia. Lets engage them in the hope that they come closer to our ideals but at the same time let us not be afraid to rebuke them if Columbia does not improve sufficiently.

Mike said...

"That was precisely the type of negative, equivocal and grossly simplistic explanation that I was attempting (in vain) to coax out of Steve. Thanks!"

Glad to be of service. Now beyond that little bit of out of context quoting, do you have an explanation why the inconsistency? I would fully agree that each country needs to be treated differently in context, but there is no explanation of that in this. If you can provide a different reason for this behaviour, please do, because otherwise it makes no sense - it is certainly not based on principles about the value of human rights...

Real_PHV_Mentarch said...

Steve: what else can an incompetent do?