Lost in last Wednesday’s presidential debate was a major slander made by Barack Obama against one of our best allies in the United States. Obama asserted: “The history in Colombia right now is that labor leaders have been targeted for assassination, on a fairly consistent basis, and there have not been prosecutions.” The Wall Street Journal details today just how wrong Obama was:
By the time President Alvaro Uribe took office in August 2002, Colombia was almost a failed state. That year there were 28,837 homicides nationwide, making it one of the most dangerous places on planet Earth.
There were also 196 union members killed that year. Their deaths were not unrelated to the political violence sweeping the country. The dominant public-sector unions have their roots in a revolutionary ideology that they share with the FARC. This has put them on the left side of Colombia’s violent politics for decades. On the other side have been those who took up arms to oppose guerrilla aggression.
Mr. Uribe has worked to restore peace by strengthening the state. This has been bad for both sides. But as the rebels have been pushed back, FARC sympathizers have run to Washington to discredit Mr. Uribe. Democrats have welcomed them. Meanwhile the death toll has dropped dramatically, and union members have especially benefited from improved security.
As a Journal editorial on Friday explained, from 2002 to 2007 the number of murdered Colombian union members dropped by almost 87%. By any fair standard that is progress, especially considering the pattern Mr. Uribe inherited. In 2000, 155 unionists were murdered and in 2001, 205 died. The numbers only started to come down when he took the helm.
In October 2006, the president created a special investigative unit inside the attorney general’s office to handle union murders. The unit began operations in February 2007, and it says that as of this August “some 855 cases have open investigations” and that “179 security preventive detention measures have been issued, 61 cases are ready to be referred to court for trial, and 115 suspects have been convicted in 75 sentences.”