Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez spoke yesterday at the Heritage Foundation on U.S.-Colombia relations, the free-trade agreement, and his recent journey to the country (accompanied by members of Congress).
His prepared remarks are here. He makes the case for enacting the free-trade agreement as both an economic matter — benefiting both countries — and a national security question. Opponents of expanded trade opportunities, mostly among labor but also those scurrying around in the hard left anti-globalist circles, are using Colombia’s defense against terrorism and drug criminals as an excuse for rejecting the trade agreement.
Gutierrez refuted those specious arguments with numbers.
Since 2000, homicides are down by 40 percent; Kidnappings are down by 76 percent; And terror attacks by 61 percent; Cocaine production is down 27 percent and seizures bound for the U.S. have increased by 112 percent; By the end of 2006, 32,000 former paramilitaries had demobilized and have rejoined mainstream society. For the first time there is legitimate state presence in all of Colombia’s 1099 municipalities.
As a result of decreased violence and increased security the lives of Colombians have dramatically improved:
Since 2002 poverty has been reduced by nearly 20 percent; At the same time the economy’s grown an average of 5.2 percent each year; And enrollment in public schools is up to 92 percent, with a 64 percent increase in children receiving school meals since President Uribe took office.
Do we let the perfect be the enemy of the good (and in this case, the ally of evil) in rejecting the Colombia agreements because life there remains dangerous and difficult? More importantly, as Secretary Gutierrez argues, do we stand by our friend and democratic allies, or not?
Heritage has posted video from Secretary’s Gutierrez remarks, available here.
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