Baylor Prof Comments On Uribe Visit To Crawford

Aug. 3, 2005
News Photo 3048Dr. Victor Hinojosa

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman (254) 710-6275 or cell (254) 709-5959

President George W. Bush is scheduled to welcome Colombian President Alvaro Uribe at his Crawford ranch on Thursday. While the White House has not announced a specific agenda for the meetings, a Baylor University political science professor said he expects terrorism, drug trafficking, and trade to highlight the discussions between the two presidents.

Dr. Victor Hinojosa, who specializes in Colombia and Latin America, calls Colombia "the great humanitarian crisis no one has heard about."

"It is home to one of the world's largest concentrations of displaced peoples (between 1.5 and 3.5 million according to most estimates), its 40-year insurgency claims 3,000-4,000 lives each year with most of them innocent civilians, it is a kidnapping and extortion center, and it remains the world's largest producer and trafficker of cocaine and one of the largest heroin suppliers to the United States," Hinojosa said.

Hinojosa said the drug trafficking, in turn, finances the armed conflict, as both Colombia's largest guerrilla group and their enemies, the paramilitaries, receive most of their funding from the narcotics trade. In addition to being major drug traffickers, Colombia's insurgents are also terrorists.

"The three major groups, leftist guerillas FARC and ELN and right-wing paramilitary AUC, are on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations. All three engage in gross violations of human rights and routinely terrorize Colombians," Hinojosa said.

In Colombia, then, the war on terrorism and the war on drugs overlap, Hinojosa said. As a result, Colombia has been a U.S. foreign policy priority and has received more than $3 billion in U.S. aid since 2000. For a time, Colombia was the third largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the world. This year, President Bush is requesting some $750 million in aid to Colombia, with most of it in military aid to combat drug trafficking.

As has been the case during his two terms, President Bush often uses a Crawford visit as a reward for close U.S. allies.

"Colombia's President Uribe has certainly been an ally of President Bush in recent years," Hinojosa said. "Colombia was South America's strongest supporter of the war in Iraq. President Uribe also shares Bush's policies of attacking drug trafficking at its source and has taken a militaristic approach to the both the counter-drug and counter-insurgency campaigns.

These two presidents also share a commitment to free trade and the two countries have been negotiating a bilateral free trade agreement since 2004. With the recent passage of CAFTA, I expect that President Uribe will renew his effort for trade preferences for Colombia. I expect President Bush to continue his call for greater free trade in the Western Hemisphere as well."

Hinojosa said the visit also comes at an important moment in Colombia, with the recent signing by President Uribe of the Law of Justice and Peace, which now governs the difficult process of dismantling Colombia's paramilitary groups and reintegrating them into Colombian society.

"These paramilitary forces have been responsible for some 70 percent of Colombia's human rights violations; they have massacred or displaced hundreds of thousands of people," Hinojosa said. "The new law aims to reduce violence in Colombia by demobilizing these fighters. However, the law is not without its critics: many in Colombia and abroad (including in the U.S. Congress) argue that the law is far too lenient and does far too little to ensure that the paramilitaries are both fully disarmed and fully accountable for their atrocities. U.S. policy has thus far been unclear on this issue."

Hinojosa, who is fluent in Spanish, can be reached at (254) 710-6045, by mobile at (254) 315-0809 or at Victor Hinojosa.

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