Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is currently on a mission in Latin America, pushing forward a “Canadian-made” free trade model which he wants applied throughout the region. Harper has also been going to incredible lengths to improve Canada’s image in the South, making impressive statements claiming that Canada the perfect, Canada the majestic, Canada the awesome — seeks only to free Latin America from the evil scourge that is Latin America.
On the 15th he set out to Colombia, where he met with President Alvaro Uribe to discuss the so-called “open society, economic freedom and social development and cohesion” model.
The idea, notes the Winnipeg Free Press, is “to provide [Columbia] with an opportunity to change the base of its economy to something more diverse and less harmful than providing cocaine to Canadian cities… We need to offer Colombians a chance for better lives in a free-market democracy that would undermine the influence of leftist terrorists and drug traffickers who have been tearing its social fabric apart for decades.”
A recent joint statement from the largest labour federations in Canada and Colombia points out that this “Canadian scheme” is more accurately “an extreme free-market trade and investment model which guarantees the rights of investors over the human, social, economic, cultural and labour rights of its citizens.”
In other words, this economic model is in no way meant to save Columbia. If it was, then Harper would be pushing to have the Colombian government sever its ties with paramilitary groups and international criminal networks; and further to compel Columbia to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the crimes against trade unionists and activists there. Since 1991, over 2,200 have been assassinated, and some 8,000 have suffered threats, kidnappings, torture, or have been otherwise “disappeared.” Both Labour Groups are demanding responses to these matters and that all free-trade discussions are immediately halted until they are resolved.
Moving along, after Harpers Day in Columbia he moved on to Chile — where he insisted that Canada, an “open, free and democratic society with the strongest economy in the G8 today” offers something all Nations in the hemisphere should follow… “Too often some in the hemisphere are led to believe that their only choices … are to return to the syndrome of economic nationalism, political authoritarianism and class warfare, or to become ‘just like the United States,'”
“This is, of course, utter nonsense. Canada’s very existence demonstrates that the choice is a false one.”
Still in Chile, PM Harper and President Michelle Bachelet went on to sign a free trade “partnership agreement,” paving a piece of the road for this model to advance.
Some time today, Harper is also to pay a visit to Canada’s own Barrick Gold, “whose proposed Pascua Lama gold and silver mine in the Andes on the Chile-Argentine border [has] eroded the size of three glaciers by more than half have some Chilean lawmakers calling for a halt to planned operations and a probe into the environmental effects of Barrick’s activities.”
Barrick and Harper have both shrugged this off. In fact, at a meeting on Tuesday, Harper stated that Barrick Gold “follows Canadian standards of corporate social responsibility.”
Corporate Social what? It’s intriguing he would say that— I mean, Barrick was just a subject of an international day of action for their human rights abuses and environment damages cause in atleast 10 Countries. (Also see here.) And it was largely because of Barrick that Canada drew an accord in March of this year to “ensure mining and oil companies act ethically overseas .” (Of coruse, the accord actually enables the continuation of impunity, but that’s another story.)
Harper is set to leave Chile some time today — when he’ll then head to the Barbados. And then it’s off to Haiti…
As we can see from above, Harper’s really’s been making a lot of bold claims throughout this tour. And I think it’s only fitting that the tour should come an end at the place where all the rhetoric and propaganda is rendered utterly moot.
In March of last year the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) published a report titled “A Very Canadian Coup d’état in Haiti” where it details Canada’s role in overthrowing the democratically-elected government, and augmenting the violence committed against Haitian People. to quote from the report:
1. One year before U.S., French and Canadian troops, helped oust President Aristide and replaced his democratically-elected government with a puppet regime, our Liberal government organized a secret, high-level meeting of North American, Latin American and European powerbrokers to discuss possible regime change in Haiti. Their planning session, called “The Ottawa Initiative on Haiti,” also discussed the occupation of Haiti by foreign troops. This international event was held at the government’s Meech Lake conference centre near Ottawa, between January 31 and February 1, 2003.
2. Joint Task Force 2 commandos/sharpshooters were among Canadian troops that seized Haiti’s main airport on February 29, 2004. This was instrumental in that day’s kidnapping and forced removal of President Aristide by U.S. Marines. Then, 500 Canadian troops joined U.S. and French occupation forces (MINUSTAH) to prop up the new regime that was illegally-imposed. MINUSTAH has been responsible for human rights abuses including the murder and detention of thousands of supporters of the deposed government. Canada pressured MINUSTAH to use even more excessive force.
3. Canada was instrumental in helping to devise, finance, implement and legitimize a destructive, neoliberal program—the so-called Interim Cooperation Framework (ICF)—that reversed many of the economic achievements put in place by the democratically-elected governments of Presidents Aristide and Preval. The ICF’s economic-restructuring program—created largely by foreign “experts” linked to the World Bank, the UN, the Inter-American Development Bank and the European Commission—benefited international and Haitian elites at the expense of the poor majority of Haitians.
4. While rebels attacked police and government offices across Haiti, Canada refused to help but instead put diplomatic pressure on President Aristide. When the coup succeeded, and a puppet regime was installed, Canada rewarded it with official recognition.
5. Canada’s embassy in Haiti works hard helping Canadian companies turn a profit in this hemisphere’s poorest nation. Top Canadian officials worked closely with their allies in Haiti’s corporate elite, and its illegally-installed puppet regime, to promote Canadian business interests. Their main efforts focus on winning lucrative “reconstruction” projects and privatizing Haiti’s public sector. With poverty rampant, many Haitians slave away in sweatshops for Canadian firms, like Gildan, to which a Liberal cabinet minister gave Canada’s top award for “excellence” in “ethical responsibility.”
While in Chile, Harper said something about the US’s history in Latin America. He said they’ve tended to carry alot of “political baggage” in their own efforts to save/dominate Latin America. Political baggage meaning overthrowing governments, funding guerrillas and military regimes, and sabotaging social movements and communities who seek justice and accountability for the crimes against the people. Political baggage like what we can see Canada has done in Haiti, for their own economic benefit.
The fact is, Canada is far from being distinguished from America, or from being a responsible and honorable Government. And most people know it (even Harper himself) but it doesn’t much matter because the truth doesn’t account for anything in Modern Politics. It’s all about image and presentation. Why do you think Canada came out and publicly legitimized Haiti’s imposed-government? And why lawyers in Canada still pledge allegiance to the Queen?
The same goes for free trade and the notion that “economic freedom” could ever benefit the people. It’s completely absurd. Economic freedom and social freedom and justice cannot mutually coexist — One must take precedence over the other. That’s what makes free trade “free trade!” It means there is nothing to limit corporations and governments from profiting.
But then we know this already, don’t we?
Oddly enough, so does Harper and all dedicated proponents of Free Trade. So then the only question remaining is what do we do about it?
Thanks to frederictonpeace.org for the heads up about this.
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