This isn't a joke. Bush has been on a tour of Latin America, which he has chosen to call "We Care". Who exactly is that aimed at? Is it designed to reassure the upper class putschists who must have been feeling neglected of late? It certainly has had no sway with the hundreds of thousands of protesters who have greeted Bush on almost every stop so far. Reports here, here and here. The latest protests, on Bush's visit to Bogota, have involved serious confrontations with the military guards. Several have been wounded and the police have made dozens of arrests.
A Tomb commenter known as 'elpresidente' has forwarded us some photographs of the protests with some explanation as to what happened. This was a much more repressive environment given that Uribe is Bush's number one local terror leader, and the country's Polo Democratico Alternativo, its first united centre-left party, did well last Wednesday to be able to organise a 20,000 strong protest to occupy the Plaza de Bolivar at the centre of Bogota. Yesterday, anti-Bush protests were outlawed by the government, but 2,000 protesters still went down town to show Bush how much they cared.
The military are not, as elpresidente explains, unfamiliar on the streets of Colombia, but the beefed up presence in the context of the first visit to Bogota by a US president since Reagan (we know how well he augured for the people of Latin America), it provided an additional touch of intimidation. This didn't stop protesters from getting within 100 metres of Bush's limousine, as a photo published in the local press shows:
Here are more images from the day:
Another protest has been called by the Polo Democratico Alternativo for 16th March, to take place in front of the US embassy against the ongoing occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The opposition to Uribe is united by a conviction that a defeat for United States foreign policy, in Iraq and elsewhere, is the best way to lighten repression at home. The combination of America's defeat in Iraq and the rise of Chavez is isolating Uribe and inspiring the opposition. Bush has 'vowed', on this visit, to supply more aid to the Colombian state and its right-wing death squads. Opposition leader Gustavo Petro has publicly campaigned against the Uribe regime's ties to death squads at a time when eight members of his party and government have already been imprisoned for such links. The deep ties between the Colombian state, the ruling AUC party and the death squads were suspected, but began to be revealed in detail last year. These death squads have targeted peasants, trade unionists, communists, minorities and academics - anyone who might oppose or cause dissatisfaction with the ascendancy of agribusiness and transnational capital, and the successive reforms pushed through by administrations to abolish investment controls, labour rights, environmental regulations, and social protections. The implementation of Plan Colombia has facilitated a massive investment in 'defense expenditure', which in practise means more military, more police, more paid informants, and more death squads. Part of Plan Colombia's effort has been to destroy coca farms belonging to peasants, allegedly as part of an anti-drug programme. In practise there has been no reduction in the availability or purity of cocaine on American streets, because the crop sprayings have targeted areas which support the FARC while gangsters and death-squads with a long history of support from Washington continue to grow and trade. So, Bush's visit has to be understood as part of a counterrevolutionary offensive across the continent, against what is a genuinely revolutionary process. The support for gangsterism and repression in Colombia is crucial to the United States since that state is now the only real ally America has in the continent. A defeat for America is a defeat for Uribe and the death-squads.