Peruminations

At the airport in Lima on my way home Peru last week I wrote briefly here about the fate of free trade with South American countries including Peru and Colombia. Referring to Peter Baker’s New York Times Magazine article that mentioned Bill Clinton’s charitable work in South America, I said there was nothing more worthwhile Clinton could do to benefit the people of South America than promoting the protection of property rights within South American countries and the liberalization of trade between them and the United States. In the comments on my post Investor’s Business Daily editorial writer Monica Showalter wrote:

I’d like to see Bill Clinton get bolder on free trade, too. After all, it’s his legacy on the line. But he hasn’t been utterly silent. I was in Medellin when he gave his “conversation” with the president of the InterAmerican Development Bank before a live audience in March. You can still see the video of it on the IDB Web site here. Be sure to see the last part, it’s incredible; the Colombian audience was in tears because it was so moving.

He all but waved the red flag for free trade for Colombia, defiantly challenging Colombia’s critics, saying he’d like to see them do a better job at reforming Colombia than the Colombians themselves have done. He pleaded with Colombians to “don’t give up, don’t give up,” as well. What could this be but an unspoken reference to free trade? He has to tiptoe carefully on this, because of his wife Hillary’s position, but it’s obvious he cares greatly about his legacy and the brightest part of it, free trade.

It would be interesting if he got louder about this, because it’s obviously something he feels deeply about and can articulate profoundly. Hillary, by the way, at the Summit of the Americas in April, came out strongly for free trade, an unexpected policy shift. But it might have in part been from talking to Bill as well as people at the State Department, so many of whom support free trade.

While in Peru last week I heard about what was described as a “strike” in a remote province of the country. About what, I asked. My knowledgeable Peruvian host was vague on that. Reading the Wall Street Journal and tne New York Times on the way home, I found stories on the murder of Peruvian law enforcement officers by natives opposing economic development of the Amazon basin in Peru’s Bagua Province. Both the Journal (here) and the Times (here) returned to the story at the end of the week when the government suspended the decrees that had provided the occasion for the protests.

The hand of Marxist thugs is not too difficult to discern in the story, but only Monica Showalter and her colleagues on the editorial board at Investor’s Business Daily have cared to connect the dots. The superb IBD editorial on the story is “Chavez’s war on free trade in Peru.”

Showalter credits stories by Reuters (see also this analysis), the Financial Times, and the Washington Times with a good job of reportage on the events in Peru, but notes that even the good reportage still omits a lot of the essential “whys” that make this story matter. In a messsage discussing the story, Showalter adds:

Meanwhile, a Belgian NGO called Catapa posted some extremely violent, gory pictures here on its site. I wonder what the role of the NGO was that got so close to this massacre scene. The photos shock, but they paint a distorted picture, showing the cops as goons and the protestors as innocents.

The news accounts reported that more than 20 cops had their thoats slashed as hostages – none of that is expressed in this photo essay, but it’s a critical part of the story. There were more dead cops than protestors; the photo essay does not explain that. Meanwhile, stoking the distortions, Daily Kos reported it as “Massacre in Peru in the Name of Free Trade” – a very unfair characterization of the manipulation of indigenous peoples that’s the real story.

From Tehran to Caracas and elsewhere, there is a war on. The events in Peru provide a window that opens to it.

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