Toronto Star | 5/26/2009 12:00:00 AM
Free trade with Colombia?
May 26 -- Should Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government be in a hurry to sign a trade deal with Colombia, a Latin American country that is battling a stubborn guerrilla war, is a prime supplier of the world's cocaine, and has a grim record on human rights?
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is a popular figure who commands 70 to 80 per cent support. But Colombia's grinding 45-year war with Marxist rebels has turned whole regions into killing zones. Some 3 million of the nation's 46 million people have been driven from their homes as the army and allied paramilitary forces battle guerrillas and narco-traffickers for turf that is rich in cropland, minerals and oil. More than 70,000 people have been killed by both sides, including rights activists, union leaders and indigenous peoples.
Under Uribe, the insurgency has been contained, violence has abated and human rights abusers have been charged. But legislators have been linked to corruption, paramilitaries and cocaine traffickers.
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