“While the Arizona Republican is hoping to showcase his command of the world stage, his venture south of the border raises concerns from those opposed to his trade policies. Already, his position as an independent arbitrator on Colombia - a country often criticized for its labor and human rights practices - is undermined by a bevy of advisers who have earned large amounts either lobbying for the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, or representing corporations that do business with that country.
On some occasions, these companies have been linked to the killings of union workers and other civilians, sometimes in collusion with Colombia's government or allied paramilitary groups.
McCain's chief political adviser, Charlie Black, represented the oil-giant Occidental Petroleum from 2001 through 2007, in the process earning $1.6 million in fees for his firm, according to lobbying records. Among the issues on which he lobbied included the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (though also general energy topics concerning Middle East countries). Occidental gained a certain amount of political infamy when its security company was accused of bombing a Colombian village and killing 17 civilians in 1998. The company, which works with the country's military forces to protect an oil pipeline, denied involvement in the attack. But in 2007, Occidental again found itself in the midst of a human-rights mess, this time accused in congressional testimony of being ‘complicit’ - with several other major corporations - in the murder of three labor leaders.
Black isn't the only McCain confidante with connections to companies pushing for free trade with Colombia. Kirk Blalock, a bundler who has raised at least $250,000 for the Senator, lobbied on behalf of American Forest & Paper Association, Ford Motor company, General Pharmaceutical Association, and Miller Brewing, all of which have championed the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
Peter Madigan, another top fundraiser for the presumptive GOP nominee, was described as a lobbyist who ‘works for the government of Colombia’ to ‘promote a U.S.-Colombia free-trade agreement’ by ABC News. A lobbyist at Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland & Stewart, Madigan's clients include Philip Morris, Arthur Andersen, Charles Schwab, Goldman Sachs, Shell Oil and Verizon. His firm, ABC wrote, has ‘distributed papers defending Colombian President Alvaro Uribe against allegations of ties to paramilitary groups, and promoting the controversial anti-drug program 'Plan Colombia' as achieving 'strengthening human rights.'‘
Meanwhile, Susan Nelson, McCain's finance director, and Tom Loeffler, the recently resigned national finance chairman, both lobbied in the past for the Colombia FTA on behalf of Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America. In the process they earned tens of thousands of dollars for their firm, The Loeffler Group.
‘It seems that McCain's entire brain trust is pushing for these trade deals,’ said Bill Holland, deputy director of Global Trade Watch. ‘And after the primaries, when we have seen that Americans are overwhelming rejecting the current model, to have all these advisers pushing it is a bad sign.’”*
It had appeared to be just another change of location, she said, and she was handcuffed and “humiliated” before being put on board the helicopters.
But after takeoff, she said, the crew told their passengers they were free.
"I had the funny feeling that the the “rescue” of Betancourt and the other hostages from the hands of FARC by the Colombian government looked, walked, and quacked more like a negotiated release than a genuine piece of special ops derring do. It looks like I might have been right. Swiss radio is reporting that it cost $20 million to spring the hostages.
For those of you interested in how unworthy suspicions flower in the mind of an incorrigibly cynical blogger, I will regale patient readers with a rundown of the official story's fishier elements."
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