[Canada] cannot do business with Colombia in good conscience if the abductions and assassinations continue

In your February 15th editorial, you concluded that “[Canada] cannot do business with Colombia in good conscience if the abductions and assassinations continue.” That sounds good to one’s ears and we applaud the Ottawa Citizen’s strong moral stance on trade arrangements. Nevertheless, let’s get some facts straight.

Your editorial cites both guerrilla (left-wing) and paramilitary (right-wing) groups as blameworthy for the abductions and assassinations in Colombia. You rightly suggested that Kimy Pernia Domico was probably killed by the AUC paramilitary group. However, your assumption that FARC, a guerrilla group, is behind the killings along the Venezuelan border is in error: it is the much smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) and not FARC which operates along that border. What’s also open to question is your assumption that the government controls the paramilitaries. That is an over-simplification: although the military and the AUC conspire to kill leftists and engage in acts of brutal violence and corruption, it is the local drug bosses, more than Bogota that issues abduction orders to the AUC and spies for messages of innocent civilians.

Moreover, your editorial urges Ottawa to step in and demand information and justice for Domico and other Colombian disappeared activists. Doubtless that would be helpful. But it possibly would be even more helpful if Ottawa would step in to both provide humanitarian assistance to the victims of Colombia’s civil war, and encourage significant number of volunteer and foreign direct investments be sent to the country. These would have as their goal the strengthening of Bogota’s current social safety net aimed at treating the poorest of the poor. This way, Canada would go beyond just doing business in Colombia; Ottawa would be actually playing an important role on one of the hemisphere’s most uneven struggles: poverty reduction.