Interviews

Leading Dutch Socialist, Senator Vliegenthart talks to Colombia Politics

Dr. A. (Arjan) Vliegenthart

Colombia Politics had the valuable opportunity to discuss Colombian politics with a top European politician, Dr. Arjan Vliegenthart.

Dr Vliegenthart is a Senator in the Dutch first Chamber and Head of the Dutch Socialist Party Research Institute.

He agreed to talk to us, and give us his insight and opinion on multiple topics like the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and Colombia, the Colombian Peace Process, Tanja Nijmeijer, the value of tolerance towards left-wing thought in Colombian democracy, and what we identified as lesson drawing opportunities from the Netherlands. Here is what he had to say:

 

 

Interview Senator John Sudarsky, part 6

 

Senator John Sudarsky spoke to Colombia Politics about democracy, Colombia´s political system, the challenges the country faces, the peace talks with the FARC, and his proposed reform to the electoral process.

This is the final extract from the interview, where Senator Sudarsky answers some quick fire questions revealing his predictions on whether President Santos will be re-elected in 2014, and whether Uribe will return as a senator.

Thanks to Notedije Producciones for filming and editing the interview.

 

Interview Senator John Sudarsky, part 5

Senator John Sudarsky spoke to Colombia Politics about democracy, Colombia´s political system, the challenges the country faces, the peace talks with the FARC, and his proposed reform to the electoral process.

This is the fifth and penultimate extract from the interview, where Senator Sudarsky talks about his view on the prospects for the Government FARC peace process, ways to end narcotrafficking and the war on drugs, and rural development.

Key quotes

“If you are able to take the business out of drug consumption…like it has been done with morphine… this will help finish up the rural problems of Colombia.

“In England the advance from a rural to urbanized world took 2 centuries, 8 generations…In Colombia this process is being compressed into 3 generations”

Thanks to Notedije Producciones for filming and editing the interview.

Interview Senator John Sudarsky, part four

Senator John Sudarsky spoke to Colombia Politics about democracy, Colombia´s political system, the challenges the country faces, the peace talks with the FARC, and his proposed reform to the electoral process.

This is the fourth extract from the interview, where Senator Sudarsky talks about the prospects for his electoral reform, its importance to the peace process, and the inherent lack of accountability in Colombian democracy.

Key quote:

“In Spanish you don’t have a word for ‘accountability’, in Swedish you don’t have a word for ‘clientalism’. In Spanish you have a paragraph to explain accountability – it is absent from the culture.”

Thanks to Notedije Producciones for filming and editing the interview.

´No to Colombia EU FTA´, Interview, Richard Howitt MEP

Colombia Politics interviewed Member of the European Parliament, Richard Howitt on his reasons for opposing the Colombia EU Free Trade Agreement.

Howitt is a British Labour Party politician, and is a vocal critic in the EP of Colombia´s labour and union rights. Here´s what he had to say.

The free trade agreement between Colombia and the EU was approved in the European Parliament this week. Why do you believe that this shouldn’t go ahead?

I think there are very serious questions that the existing human rights clause and the agreement between Colombia and the European Union is not being respected, nor the fundamental rights that are supposedly guaranteed by the trade preferences given by Europe to Colombia under the GSP class scheme (the Generalised Scheme of Preferences) and I think it would be quite wrong to sign an advanced agreement if the terms of the current one are not being fully honoured.

On the “action plan” that Colombia set out on human rights, labour rights and environmental sustainability ahead of the agreement, do you believe that this doesn’t go far enough? What’s your opinion on the plan that they’ve out forward?

Well, what we know is that last year the Americans used an “action plan” that they agreed with Colombia on labour rights as evidence that they should proceed to ratify their own free trade agreement in Congress. Now less than a year later if you ask the American Trade Union Confederation, the AFLCIO, they say that the action plan has not been put into practice and there is a real danger that Europe is just repeating the mistakes of the Americans, accepting promises rather than waiting for those promises to be turned into real action.

Do you see any pitfalls for the Colombian people in the free trade agreement? Will it benefit them?

I’ve been in Colombia I think eight or nine times as an MEP over the years and I’ve constantly met with Colombian civil society, and there is a strong strand of opinion that in the country the trade that results from this agreement could have a negative socio-economic impact, for example increasing land grabs rather than supporting the process of land restitution. My campaigning with fellow MEPs, trade unions, and civil society organisations against the agreement was always on human rights terms, first and foremost, and that remains my huge disappointment that the European Parliament ignored the argument by ratifying the agreement this week.

In that past you’ve spoken a lot about Colombia being a dangerous place for trade unionists, why is that the case? Who is making it dangerous for trade unionists?

I have seen and heard evidence that not simply the trade unionists who speak out on behalf of workers find themselves threatened, attacked and in some cases murdered, but of complicity by the Colombian regime in relation to those human rights violations, and where it does appear that there is a chain linking members of the current or former regime and members of the military with paramilitary forces who undertake those violations. A trade unionist was murdered literally within hours after the European Parliament voted to ratify this agreement. I’m afraid that is a grim reminder of how dangerous it is to be a trade unionist in Colombia.

I hope that the peace process succeeds; I’ve been campaigning for a peace process to start. I know it’s fraught with difficulties and there are many cynics that say that it is bound to fail. I think that we should all invest as much energy, attention and support that we can to try help it succeed. In any conflict situation the prospects for peace very often look remote if not impossible, but you won’t get peace without a process seeking to achieve it and that for Colombia has now begun.

With the FTA to be implemented, what next for your own campaigning on the matter?

Well on the trade agreement the European Commission Commissioner told us in the debate this week that he would bring forward what they call provisional application which means they will implement the free trade agreement even in advance of ratification by national parliaments, and what I would say to the British Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats who blithely voted for this agreement is that I wonder whether their government really supports Europe implementing an agreement that requires national parliaments to ratify it before the British Parliament has done so. There’s a huge contradiction there in the British position and that’s one that I will seek to exploit.

Interview Senator John Sudarsky part three

Senator John Sudarsky spoke to Colombia Politics about democracy, Colombia´s political system, the challenges the country faces, the peace talks with the FARC, and his proposed reform to the electoral process.

This is the third extract from the interview, where Senator Sudarsky explains how his important electoral reform would work, and what it would mean for Colombian politics.

Thanks to Notedije Producciones for filming and editing the interview.

Interview Senator John Sudarsky, part two

Senator John Sudarsky spoke to Colombia Politics about democracy, Colombia´s political system, the challenges the country faces, the peace talks with the FARC, and his proposed reform to the electoral process.

This is the second extract from the interview where Senator Sudarsky analyzes the fault lines in Colombia´s democracy and sets out why his reform of the electoral system would deliver greater accountability and voter representation.

In tomorrow´s installment, Senator Sudarsky details how his electoral reform bill would work were it to make it onto the statute book.

Thanks to Notedije Producciones for filming and editing the interview.

Senator John Sudarsky, interview part one

Senator John Sudarsky spoke to Colombia Politics about democracy, Colombia´s political system, the challenges the country faces, the peace talks with the FARC, and his proposed reform to the electoral process.

This is the first extract from the interview where Senator Sudarsky sets out his view of Colombian politics, how it works – or how it doesn´t work. A philosophical and erudite analysis.

Thanks to Notedije Producciones for filming and editing the interview.