The Clintons, Their Foundation, and Human Rights Abuses in Colombia

Colombia, writes Ken Silverstein, “is the Latin American nation most dominated by the United States and is run by a brutal political-military partnership. As president Bill Clinton overlooked some very nasty human rights atrocities committed by the Colombian government, which earned him its, and its successors, eternal gratitude.”

Colombia also provides one of the most glaring examples of how Bill and Hillary Clinton have colluded to support brutal regimes in return for huge money. There has been some outstanding reporting on this issue (please read the articles listed at the end) that I will try to summarize here.

The Clintons were both in Colombia in 2010 (Hillary called it “a happy coincidence” in her memoir) to meet separately with President Alvaro Uribe. Uribe led Colombia from 2002 to 2010, during which time thousands of Colombians were disappeared. Amnesty International reports that:

 Since 1994, AIUSA has called for a complete cut off of all US military aid until human rights conditions improve and impunity is tackled. Yet torture, massacres, "disappearances" and killings of non-combatants are widespread and collusion between the armed forces and paramilitary groups continues to this day. In 2006, US assistance to Colombia amounted to an estimated $728 million, approximately 80% of which was military and police assistance.

Bill Clinton flew to Colombia with his friend and collaborator, the Canadian billionaire Frank Giustra, who had given the Clinton Foundation $130 million shortly after Bill Clinton helped him close a deal in Kazahkstan (another very corrupt nation) that made Giustra even richer. 

Greg Grandin picks up the story in his must-read piece in The Nation:

It’s hard to convey just how stunningly cynical she has been on Colombia: In 2008, running against Obama, she opposed, in unambiguous terms, a free-trade deal with Colombia. “Senator Clinton’s position is clear and unequivocal: She is opposed to the deal,” said a spokesperson. Yet even as she was telling voters she was against the deal, her chief adviser, Mark Penn, was meeting with Colombian officials to tell them otherwise. 

Then it was revealed that Bill Clinton was paid $800,000 by the Colombia-based Gold Service International to give four speeches in Latin America, in which he advocated for the free-trade agreement.  

The Washington Post provides the timeline:

The three [the Clintons and Giustra] dined together in Bogota. The next morning, Bill Clinton met privately with Uribe at the presidential house.

A few hours later, Hillary Clinton held her own meeting with the Colombian leader. In a subsequent televised interview, she announced that she was inclined to support a much-sought-after free-trade deal with Colombia — a reversal in position since her 2008 presidential campaign.

For Colombians, the stakes were high. Oil company workers who threatened to strike were being threatened at gunpoint by the military. Simon Head, in another stunning must-read article, writes:

In an email message relayed to Secretary Clinton by the US Embassy in Bogota, Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts warned that “while in Colombia, the most important thing the Secretary can do is to avoid effusive praise for President Álvaro Uribe.”

Hillary Clinton chose to ignore the warning. Addressing Uribe in the visit’s keynote speech, Clinton described him as an “essential partner to the United States” whose “commitment to building strong democratic institutions here in Colombia” would “leave a legacy of great progress that will be viewed in historic terms.”

During her visit Clinton also affirmed her support for a US-Columbia free trade agreement, from which Giustra and other wealthy investors stood to benefit. 

Frank Giustra has made enormous money in Colombia and has given millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. Bill has pocketed speaking money in the country. Hillary, when asked about a potential conflict of interest, laughed and asked, weirdly, how many angels fit on the head of a pin.

Hillary did not act alone in Colombia. Obama is implicated, as are a string of presidents before him, including Bill Clinton, in supporting the a country where, as Greg Grandin points out, 105 trade unionists have been killed in the last four years.

But the level of collusion between the Clintons is unprecedented and troubling. As Simon Head writes, “There were at least 13 occasions— worth $2.5 million— when Bill Clinton received a six-figure speaking fee from corporations or trade groups that were at the time engaged in lobbying at the State Department while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.”

This is not the kind of Democrat I want in the White House. And it’s a record of collusion and (at the very least) conflict of interest that would make her very vulnerable as a presidential candidate.

We can do better.

SOURCES (highly recommended reading for everyone)

Ben Carson Isn’t the Only US Politician With a Hand in Shady Latin American Dealings

The Clinton System

As Colombian Oil Money Flowed To Clintons, State Department Took No Action To Prevent Labor Violations

The Clintons, a luxury jet and their $100 million donor from Canada

Shaky Foundations

Hillary is Right: She's Not a Single-Issue Candidate. So Let's Have a Look.

Hillary and Human Rights: A reading List