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War is Development by Other Means: What the latest displacement numbers aren’t telling you

“If the war is a continuation of economics by other means…[then] in Colombia, arms, independent of who wields them, serve the promotion of a social logic of development…” –  Carlos Rosero

This week Colombia was back in the headlines, as a fact that was known nationally for a while now finally made it into the Anglophone mainstream. The International Displacement Monitoring Centre gave the South American nation the unfortunate distinction of having the world’s largest population of internally displaced people, at 5.5 million in its annual report in displacement. Another notable is clearly Syria, who has the fastest growing population of uprooted people, 3 million of the nations 22 million people, and the conflict in the eastern Kivu provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo which also displaced 2.4 million after an increase in violence last year that continues today.

The 5.5 million number comes from one of Colombia’s most respected national NGOs, The Consultory for Human Rights and Displacement known by its Spanish acronym CODHES. For decades, the government has claimed that the displaced population in Colombia figures between 3.5-4.9 million, and CODHES has claimed that this number is a gross underestimate, often citing the IDP population at 5.4 million since 2011. Nevertheless, the UNHCR and the Colombian government have slowly started to recognize the value of CODHES methodology, and in so doing their estimates of the IDP population have consequently increased.

These numbers speak volumes to the fact that forced displacement in Colombia, as one of the main forms of violence used by armed actors (and, to a certain extent, one of the few survival strategies of communities) is central to the Colombian conflict and cannot be seen as a consequence/collateral damage of a political issue (the war) but a political, social, and humanitarian issue in and of itself. The numbers also evidence the centrality of controlling territory to the strategies of armed actors (more on that below).

In their annual report, which has been picked up by some media, ‘Columbia’ receives a scant 6 pages despite having the largest population. However, IDMC does recognize challenges with the Victim’s Law (which is trying to provide land restitution to IDPs), and that 230,000 people were displaced last year/although far  from its peak of millions a decade ago, displacement continues to be a very real and present issue.

There is quite a lot that the numbers and supposedly expert analysis from the IDMC and the Norwegian Refugee Council aren’t telling you though.

Firstly, the numbers are somewhat meaningless in an international sense. There is no point in having a sensational “Displacement Olympics” in which Colombia is the gold medal winner and Syria is a rising contender. Although the country’s international image which in terms of security is largely constructed around drug trafficking and kidnapping makes displacement an invisible crisis, comparisons are a bit dangerous. For many years, Colombia was cited as having “the world’s 3rd largest” IDP population after Sudan and Iraq, and then the second only after Sudan, and now Colombia is the undisputed champion. In the early 2000s, when violence was at its height, being the nth country on the list in comparison to Iraq, Afghanistan, or Sudan would have been cold comfort to the millions of people who were violently being uprooted every year from their homes.

Any displacement is too much displacement and we have to think about the way we talk about nations in the Global South. If ‘just’ 50,000 were displaced by war next year in Canada, that would give a lot of people pause. Why are millions of displaced in countries/regions associated with war seen as somehow natural or different?

Secondly, the oft-cited 3.5, 3.9, 4.5, 5.4, and now 5.5 million figures when it comes to displacement in Colombia actually only begin counting from 1985 to the present day. This manifestation of war began in 1964. Therefore, there are literally 20 years of war whose effects on displacement we really don’t know about.

Thirdly, Colombia’s large (and sensationally constructed) displaced population often obscures the fact that between 500,00-1 million Colombians left the country as refugees mostly to Venezuela, Ecuador, Spain, the US, and Canada. If you count these, the number of people who have left their homes due to violence in Colombia is closer to 6.5 million.

Fourth, there is a much larger point about how we conceptualize and consequently prioritize certain kinds of violence. Countless not only Colombians, but Latin Americans, Africans, and many others are currently being displaced by the development of large extractive/mining projects and mega-infrastructure projects. Furthermore, the large amount of violence currently occurring in Mexico and Central America which has displaced thousands is considered criminal, and not political/not related to war. The neo-paramilitary groups, known by the Colombian government as “BACRIM”/criminal bands, are (in my view incorrectly) being framed as criminal actors, and not stakeholders in the political and social armed conflict, and therefore their victims are not entitled to the same reparations which people dispalced by the FARC-EP, ELN, or the Army are.  For example, all actors in Colombia’s conflict are involved, in different ways and proportions, to drug trafficking and mining.

So we have to ask ourselves, why are we being so narrow as to focus on “displacement caused by war”, as if we can define when political violence ends, and criminal and economic violence begins, and as if one is more pressing than another. Therefore, the numbers presented by IDMC represent only a very particular type, and fraction, of the general problem of powerful actors creating insecurity and fear leading to forced migration. Although they nod to the displacement created by these neo-paramilitary groups with an ambiguous political status, the media has framed these as displacements due to traditional understandings of what constitutes war or political violence.

IDMC’s analysis also features the gendered, racialized, classist, and anti-peasant dimensions of forced displacement. Displacement in Colombia disproportionately affects Afro-Colombians and  indigenous peoples (who live in rural areas, typically rich in resources and coveted by armed groups), people who are lower-class (94% of IDPs are poor, although many are impoverished due to displacement), people who are peasants or live in rural areas (although intra-urban displacement is becoming a growing phenomenon). Displaced people are disproportionately single women with children.

However, the report does not mention how many indigenous people are displaced to other indigenous communities, or in areas so remote, that their experiences are often not captured by official records. Moreover, the report, although recognizing that forced migration effects indigenous and Afro-Colombians in particularly, it does not mention the unique relationships of these groups’ respective identity to the territory in the rural context and how displacement from the rural land to the city is often also a process of cultural and social alienation, exacerbating the sense of loss in terms of identity, territory, autonomy, and culture. Furthermore, many Afro-Colombian intellectuals and activists have considered displacement not as a part of war, but as another manifestation of the violence of colonialism which displaced them from Africa, enslaved them in the Americas, and is now again displacing them for their territory in Colombia.

The number also isn’t telling you about how individuals who we have dehumanized under the decontextualizing, technical, and sanitized label of “internally displaced person” or “IDP” (desplazado in Colombia) are subjects with agencies and individual stories. Many Colombians have never been displaced. Many more have been displaced multiple times in their lives. For many, the word “IDP” or “displaced” leads to a stigma of being not only a victim, but associated with the war. In Colombia there is the very ugly prejudice that if someone was displaced, “it must have not been for no reason”. Many communities and people who are displaced, like all of us, have strong ties to their neighbours, friends, territory and social world in which they inhabited, all which are violently unmade by  displacement. Forced migration has to be understood as a very human process of displacement in which one’s social relationship  to geographic space and others is traumatically broken.

But the label is also dehumanizing in that it only sees the displaced person as an object to be effected by armed groups, an obstacle in the crossfire. Nevertheless, people in Colombia (and elsewhere) are subjects and many of them after being displaced actively advocate for their rights and demand justice. However, the demand for restitution of land by survivor’s groups coupled with the Colombian state’s denial of the continuation of paramilitarism has resulted in leaders and representatives of displaced communities being among the primary targets for selected assassination and threats by armed groups. Again, displacement is therefore an issue central, and not collateral, to violence. The IDMC report does mention that in 2004, the Constitutional Court considered the murder of these advocates to be ‘crimes against humanity’.

The final, and in my view, most important thing that forced displacement is about how the Colombian conflict is intimately tied to, some would even say caused, by a need to control land and the political and economic opportunity which it represents.

The report cites “internal armed conflict” and “criminal violence” as causing displacement, as if these do not intertwine and as if these exist in a vacuum isolated from the social world of politics, economic development, the interests of the plutocracy, social movements, and other factors.

Although forced displacement due to armed conflict becomes hypervisible to us in the West and Global North given its humanitarian (and sensational) nature, the root causes of much of this violence becomes invisible because it enables our economic development. The Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) invests in mining companies who are allied with neo-paramilitary groups who displace. Therefore, displacement is not a side-effect of a war which we seldom understand and only see glimpses of through our television screen in Canada, but it is actually necessary for our way of life.

As Colombian-American Anthropologist Arturo Escobar says, displacement is constitutive of capitalist economic development. More land is perpetually needed to fuel growth, and the people living on that land are an obstacle to that development if they are not aligned with it. It bears mentioning here that one of the “economic engines” of President Juan Manuel Santos’ development plan is mining, which has been very much tied to paramilitary displacement. Multinational corporations in the form of mining and agribusiness, drug traffickers, and cattle ranchers, all have a vested stake in having the Colombian land without the people on it.

Many rural displacements, which occur in ‘The Other Colombia’ where a lack of state presence led to the incursion of the insurgency, and then the counterinsurgency, are in areas where the state has only recently appeared, and now sees the riches which the land offer for ‘development’. Livelihoods and ways of being which are counter to the nation-building economic project, which perhaps benefits more Urban Colombia than Rural Colombia, such as fishing, subsistence agriculture, artisanal mining, are displaced to make way for large-scale mega-projects that fit within the logic and supposed rationality of extractive capitalism. Displacement needs to occur to let the nation-state develop since Colombia for a long time was an unconsolidated state; displacement is the violent resolution of the tension created by the different social philosophies of Urban Colombia and Rural Colombia.

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’Because We Really Care’: Dissolution of CIDA, how it challenges myths about Canada, its impact on Colombia

“Charity…is the opium of the privileged” – Chinua Achebe, Rest In Peace.

I wanted to give a quick reaction to the news that the Canadian International Development Agency, or CIDA, the body of the Federal government in charge of administering Canadian overseas development aid, is going to be folded into the Department for Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT).

There have been a mix of reactions in the Canadian foreign policy Twitter and blogospheres; Director of Partnership Africa-Canada Ian Smillie says that this is a further step away from Canada’s legacy of being a leader among giving assistance to ‘poor countries’; whereas another Canadian foreign policy heavyweight, Roland Paris from the UOttawa, argues that a merger may not in and of itself be a bad thing. Surprisingly some CIDA officials are lamenting the merger, whereas Lloyd Axworthy is welcoming it.

The rationale of the merger being presented by the government is to put development on “equal footing” with trade and diplomacy, and to have a more unified, consistent Canadian voice promoting Canadian ‘values and interests’ abroad.

Overseas Development Assistance, or ODA, in Canada is the legacy of Liberal governments trying to create a very particular image of Canada internally and externally. One of the founding moments for ODA was the Ceylon Conference in which CIDA’s predecessor was established by Nobel laureate Lester B. Pearson. Under Liberal Prime Ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, Canada’s was quite firmly committed to ODA in Sub-Saharan Africa. Canada, with it’s lack of colonial baggage and bilingual capacity/ties to the Commonwealth and La Francophonie, was always in a ‘good’ position to bolster ties with Francophone and Anglophone African countries through ODA. With the War on/of Terror and Canada’s participation in the NATO mission, Afghanistan also became a development priority. We Canadians framed ourselves as honest and disinterested brokers wanting to do what Americans couldn’t – be the benign and benevolent Westerners who wanted to promote growth, peace, and equality without any  vested interests.

This construction of an innocent and humanitarian Canadian foreign policy has been part and parcel of the discussion surrounding CIDA’s end. Take for example, this interesting commentary from the CBC piece (this is not an editorial or an opinion piece, I might add):

“A confidential draft document obtained by CBC News last fall outlined the broad strokes of a foreign policy shift toward focusing Canada’s international efforts primarily on one goal: forging new trade deals and business opportunities in the rapidly expanding markets of Asia and South America.

The document made scant mention of Canada’s traditional roles as peacemakers in war zones like Afghanistan or foreign aid providers in disasters such as Haiti. It also did not mention using trade deals to pressure countries such as China on human rights and other matters of democratic principle.”

The allusion to “peacekeeping” and “democratic principles” are not an accident. Perhaps the author of this article at the supposedly objective CBC is, like Smillie and Axworthy, in my opinion, a believer in the old form of Canadian aid and it’s ties to our national identity as somehow being altruistic abroad. However, whether Liberal or Conservative, it’s quite clear that this has never been the case, and Canada’s ODA has always come with conditions, and has always been influenced or driven by the extractive sector. During Chretien’s time this was painfully obvious during the First and Second Congo Wars, and the multiple blunders of Canadian industry, DFAIT, and other actors in the DRC. 

In other words, many of those, like Smillie, lamenting this change as a further erosion of Canada’s legacy of “leadership” in Africa with respect to ODA, are romanticizing an era which never really was in reality, but was integral to our identity as a country of people ‘who really care’.

This development ideology stands in stark contrast to the one of the Harper Conservatives. They have confidently, some would say aggressively, shifted Canada’s development interests away from “the poorest of the poor”, to use that extremely problematic language, to aligning Canadian development and diplomatic interests closer to commercial ones. The CIDA merger, I believe, is a significant moment as part of a larger pattern. CIDA, for the Conservatives, was perhaps a Liberal relic that really had no place in their vision for ODA.

Throughout the last few years, this change in ideology in Canada’s ODA has manifested itself in a variety of scandals and controversies, as the Conservatives were perhaps considered to be ruining something that Liberals and progressives saw as a dear part of Canadian national life (helping poor people in far away places). Moments of note include how former Minister for International Co-Operation (the head of CIDA) Bev Oda wrote in a “NOT” for a grant to KAIROS, a well respected NGO who had been doing advocacy around the Israel-Palestine conflict, a strict no-no among new CIDA guidelines for Canadian NGOs.Under Oda, there was also a slight creeping of social conservatism into the development agenda, such as when Canada refused to fund abortions as part of a G8 Maternal Health initiative.

Current Minister of International Cooperation, Julian Fantino (L), and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, John Baird (R).

Current Minister Julian Fantino, for his part, drew a lot of heat for freezing assistance to Haiti, a longtime charity ‘darling’ for Canada, due to a lack of ‘results’, and for CIDA giving funds to NGOs that are associated with the anti-Queer movement in Uganda/on their webpage describe homosexuality as a kind of deviance.  

The most significant change, for me however, is the cozying up of Canadian commercial interests with Canadian ‘humanitarian’ and development initiatives, and the leaving of a Liberal policy of helping “the poorest” in Africa to assisting countries that we need to get resources from in Latin America. Obviously, the Liberals’ development agenda, as mentioned above, wasn’t much better, but the Conservatives is definitely more blatant in what it’s after.

This has really taken shape in two key developments. Firstly, the dropping of many impoverished lower-income African nations such as the DRC from CIDA’s list of priority countries, to a slim list of 20 ‘countries of focus’ for bilateral assistance which will collectively receive 80% of Canadian aid.  The list includes many extremely unequal upper/middle-income Latin American countries such as Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia. This was again, moving away from the Liberal CIDA policy of having smaller aid projects sprinkled around every corner of the earth (so everyone would know how amazing Canadians are, clearly) to consolidating development into a few key areas (of course, aligned with broader Canadian interests).

Well, what exactly are those other Canadian interests? This leads to the second shift, which is probably the most telling and controversial out of all the changes – that CIDA would be subsidizing public-private-NGO partnership pilot projects in South America and Africa. In other words, CIDA would be basically disbursing aid money through the CSR branches of Canadian mining companies along with NGOs.

Colombia, as usual, being one of the most unequal, poor, and violent countries in the region fit beautifully into this scheme. With the apertura economica or “economic opening” of Colombia under former President Alvaro Uribe and the beating back of the rebels from formerly marginal areas in the countryside rich in minerals/the “pacification” (read: counterinsurgency campaign) of the countryside, Colombia’s resources were ready for Canadian extraction. To make a very very long story short, Canada signed a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia, Colombia made the list of the top 20 “priority” countries for CIDA, and the largest producer of gold in Colombia is a Canadian corporation, Gran Colombia Gold, which has been accused of having ties to paramilitaries. I leave it to you to make what you will of those four things and how related or not they are to each other.

CIDA has also been accused of tinkering with Colombia’s mining code, and industrializing and handing over to foreigners a gold and mining industry that has historically been run by low-income artisanal miners.

Here is a little gem from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)’s report on the Canadian extractive sector in Colombia:

The report cites reliable sources that link ten Canadian companies in Colombia to the genocide of indigenous Colombians, to complicity in eight murders and one attempted murder, to other significant military/paramilitary repression, to large-scale displacement, and to environmental destruction on a massive scale, as well as to union-busting, strike-breaking, and worker exploitation.

… Never before have Canadian companies in Colombia been denounced as so destructive. They are now open to criminal charges of genocide, murder, complicity in murder, environmental damage, displacement of indigenous populations, and the violation of labour rights.

So what does this CIDA merger mean for Colombia? Probably what it will mean for other countries who also have, for better or for worse, a growing Canadian presence – aid will be more explicitly in the service of the Canadian extractive sector, and all of its alleged associated abuses, and not the ‘people’, to put it bluntly. However, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that aid was ever about ‘the people’. Until 2008, most of Canadian food aid was tied. Afghanistan was an aid priority because we invaded and occupied it. The extractive sector has had huge influence historically over Canadian interests in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Aid has always been a political tool for furthering Canada’s political and economic interests and making us look good with respect to sensational issues such as extreme poverty and war. To romanticize the era of Liberal peacekeeping and a ‘poorest of the poor’-centred CIDA is to deny that, to a certain extent.

CIDA under the Liberals was arguably just as bad as under the Tories, the question is one of representation and symbols. Under Harper, CIDA is no more because what CIDA stood for made no sense to him; aid to him should be about explicitly furthering Canadian economic/political interests. Under the Liberals, this was mostly the same except it was couched in a sinister and self-congratulating discourse of humanitarianism, benevolence, and how kind and wonderful Canadians are. However, many countries which CIDA focuses on, don’t need aid. Colombia is rich in resource and has one of the strongest economies in Latin America; however it’s rural communities exist in an almost feudal state of exploitation by mining companies, local and national oligarchs, guerrillas, neo-paramilitary groups, the army, and drug cartels. Whether it’s CIDA or the FARC, many communities in Colombia are just told about how they should be run, and never given true self-determination. What these communities and nations need, in my view, is a fundamental structural change in power relationships; that would be a discussion that really gets at the heart of poverty in somewhere like Colombia. But this has been absent from the debate about CIDA’s merger, which you would think would have something to do with poverty. The discussion is about what CIDA means to Canada. The discussion is about how some of us are not comfortable with what the Tories are doing which is being explicit about something that, actually has always been quite Canadian – making our charity all about what benefits us, and not those who we give it to.

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“It’s Colombia, Not Columbia” – Positividad como propaganda?

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Recientemente noté que una campaña virtual, “It’s Colombia, Not Columbia” empezada por una empresa digital, Zemora, y su vice-presidente de operaciónes, Carlos Pardo, ha conquistada las redes sociales, y la comunidad colombiana en Twitter y Facebook.

Es algo positivo, creo yo, no solo que nuestros amigos non-colombianos finalmente estarán conscientes del error ortográfico que nos molesta a todos los colombianos, pero que unos jovenes dínamicos de la nación se hayan inventado semejante campaña para rechazar los estereotipos negativos y ignorantes que por demasiado tiempo han definido el imagen internacional del país.

Mucho de lo que la campaña propone es verdad – tanto en terminos de seguridad como reducción de pobreza, en las ultimas dos decadas Colombia ha progresado bastante. Al fondo de la campaña hay una intención muy noble – mostrar el “lado bueno” de Colombia, para que nos conozcan por nuestros maginificos cantantes, artistas, escritores, y activistas por la paz embez de nuestros narcotraficantes y matones. Y, a un paso (dolorosamente) lento, Colombia si esta superando su legado negativo. La Colombia de los años 1990s y los primeros años de los 2000s tenia casi la mitad de sus habitantes viviendo en pobreza; ese numero se ha reducido hoy a un tercio. En el 2002, La organización mundial por la salud de la ONU calificó a Colombia como el país mas violento del mundo, y entre circulos diplomaticos se trataba de un “estado fallido”, hablado de la misma manera en la cual muchos se refieren a Somalia y la República Democratíca del Congo hoy. El 2012, en contraste, tuvo uno de las tasas de asesinatos mas bajas de hace 3 decadas. Tambien vale la pena notar, como el mismo Pardo explica, Medellín, la 2da ciudad del país, fue de ser la capital mundial de asesinatos en 1993 a ser votada una de las ciudades mas “innovadoras” en el 2012.

La campaña, hasta cierto punto, es muy humilde, y sensible al hecho que para demasiados de nosotros y nuestras familias, el baño de sangre que fue los 1990s y los 2000s nos ha dejado con heridas aún muy frescas. Pardo dice que el no quire “negar la realidad de Colombia ni el pasado, pero que si queremos concentrarnos en las cosas buenas”.

Problemas – Quien tiene el derecho de representar a Colombia? Quien fue el responsable por todo este “progreso”?

Sin embargo, Colombia, aún un país muy bello con un pueblo fuerte y resiliente, y con muchas cosas “positivas” que valen la pena resaltar, es todavia una sociedad racista, violenta, y sumamente desigual. Es necesario ser ultra-crítico: Cuales son las cosas “positivas” que se enfatizan? Los imagenes y cuerpos de quien son excluidos? No sorprende, que con una buena pasada por la pagina de Facebook de la campaña, solo se ve los imagenes típicos de la Colombia “avanzada” y “moderna”, con mayoritariamente cuerpos blancos y mestizo de tez europea, quienes parecen pertenecer a la global y cosmopolitana clase-media, con iPhones y todo.

La población ‘real’ del país, al contrario de lo que muchos colombianos quisieran presentar en el exterior, es un poco mas diversa. Por ejemplo, según algunas aproximaciones del PNUD, un tercio del país vive en el campo, y según organizaciónes afro como El Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN), hasta 20% del país se podra identificar como afrodescendiente. Colombia tambien tiene una población pequeña pero no insignificante de indigenas, quienes cuentan con ser de 3-5% de la población nacional, y tambien hay una comunidad de arabes en la costa caribe, ni de que hablar de los otros grupos etnícos y sociales que no hacen parte de mitos nacionales dominantes; me refiero a los 35% de colombianos que viven en la pobreza, el aproximado 4.6 milliones que viven en la míseria. Donde esta el lugar de esa Colombia, Colombia entera, con su bueno, su malo, y su feo en esta campaña? Por si caso, la Colombia en la cual solo mencionamos lo “positivo” es una donde no hay minorias etnícas, campesinos, gente pobre?

Ademas, esta campaña no es nada nuevo. Pardo reconoce la historia de campañas de red social anteriores que tambien han tratado de restorar el imagen dañado de la república, como ‘Un Millón de Voces Contra las FARC’ (UMVCF).

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Un poco de contexto para los que se perdieron de este movimiento: En el 2008, el estudiante de ingeneria barranquillero, Oscar Morales, tras Facebook, creo la campaña UMVCF – un movimiento virtual contra la insurgencia marxista (o como algunos les dicen ‘narco-terroristas’), las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Ejercito del Pueblo (FARC-EP), pidiendo fin a la violencia, en particular a los secuestros. La campaña de Morales fue super exitosa, con literalmente milliones de colombianos, de todos estratos, saliendo a marchar a las calles. Morales, como ha sido documentado en la excelente crónica de la historia del Facebook por David Kirkpatrick, “The Facebook Effect”, se volvió en eje central del cuento de Mark Zuckerburg, el joven creador de Facebook y multimillionario, de que la naturaleza abierta y conectiva del FB podria traer cambio social y paz al mundo. Lo que a Pardo y a Zuckerburg les faltó mencionar es que una campaña contra un actor armado no es necesariamente una campaña para la paz. UMVF fue una especie de regalo político al discurso de demonización a la disidencia y de la “guerra contra/del terror” del ex-Presidente Alvaro Uribe Vélez, y su contrainsurgencia apoyada por los EEUU. UMVCF tambien fue muy conveniente para el estado como la campaña estaba muta sobre los abusos de la Fuerza Pública y las autodefensas/los paramilitares quienes han sido vinculado con el proyecto militar del estado colombiano.

De una manera similar, “It’s Colombia, Not Columbia” puede ser interpretada como una publicidad gratis para la agenda del gobierno nacional. Dentro de Colombia, todo el mundo conoce que el gobierno esta tratando de hacer un “marketing” profesional, y comercializar el imagen del país, con las campañas “Colombia, es pasión” y “Colombia, the only risk is wanting to say” (“Colombia, el unico riesgo es querer quedarse), todo aspirando en salir de la sombra de las guerrillas y el narcotrafico para presentar a Colombia como una opción viable para el turismo y la inversión extranjera.

Este pedazito de la entrevista en The Huffington Post con Pardo, traducido del inglés, creo que habla por si solo.

Hay algunos que dirian que Colombia no es el paraiso que la campaña esta pintando. Por ejemplo, pese a los actuales dialogos de paz, todavia las guerrillas del ELN y las FARC siguen comitiendo actos violentos, y Colombia sigue siendo el primer productor de coca en el mundo. Entonces, cuales exactamente son los cambios que ustedes quieren que el mundo vea?

Pardo: Queremos que la gente comprenda que Colombia es mucho mas de lo que se ve en los medios.  Queremos balancear el mensaje, y mostrar el lado positivo. Hoy, Colombia tiene una economía fuerte y los inversiónistas estan mirando hacia Ameríca Latina, particularmente a Colombia quien durante la crisis mundial financiera a mostrado tasas de crecimiento sostenibles. Creo que Zemora es un ejemplo de esos cambios, la gente piensa que todo lo que Colombia exporta es café, y eso es importante, pero también exportamos servicios digitales a clientes como Toyota, Nissan, BMW, Sea World”

De nuevo, Pardo no esta necesariamente equivocado – Colombia si se puede identificar como una de las economias mas fuertes de Ameríca Latina, si no del mundo, en este actual deprimiento global económico. Lo que a Pardo se le olvida mencionar, es que de acuerdo con el programa de desarollo economico del actual Presidente, Juan Manuel Santos, la extracción de los recursos naturales, y no la economia digital, sera la “locomotora” del crecimiento. Con la liberalización del comercio, y el “re-establecimiento” (violento) del estado en areas anteriormente “marginales” del campo, controladas por las guerrillas y ricas en recursos, gracias a la contrainsurgencia y la “estabilización” del país, Colombia ahora esta “open for business”/lista para la inversión. Vale notar que durante los dos periodos del Ex-Presidente Uribe, la inversión extranjera en Colombia, se triplicó.

Mi otro bello país, el Canadá, ya ha comenzado a agresivamente invertir en el sector minero coombiano, y un banco canadiense ya se apropió una de las instituciones financieras mas importantes de Colombia. Acusaciones de nexos entre la mineria, la agroindustria, y los neo-paramilitares han surgido por todos lados. Tambien tengo que mencionar como la multinacional gringa Drummond, recientemente fue responsable de un catastrofe ambiental en la costa caribe, y que los trabajadores de la mina del Cerrejón, la mina mas grande de carbón del mundo, en una de los departamentos mas indigenas y mas pobres de Colombia, La Guajira, estan en huelga pidiendo una mejor renumeración. Del otro lado, si, la pobreza se ha reducido 15% en una decada, pero el GINI, la medida de la desigualdad, casi ni se ha movido de su altura de 0.57 a su actual nivel de por ahi 0.55, haciendo que Colombia sea el país mas desigual de Ameríca Latina, despues de Bolivia y Haití, y uno de los mas desiguales del mundo.

Por decir lo menos, la inversión extranjera que parece como una motivación de esta campaña urbana, no esta sin su controversia. Se puede decir que esta inversión esta perjudicando lo maximo, y devolviendo lo menos, a aquellos quienes son invinsibles en la campaña “It’s Colombia, Not Columbia” y quienes historicamente han sido invisibilizados por la sociedad colombiana – los indigenas, gente pobre, los afro, los desplazados, la gente que vive en el campo y las regiones “periferas”.

En sintesis, ya que la paz con las FARC se acerca, los colombianos tenemos que re-conceptualizar que es “Colombia” (y como queremos que sea percibido en el exterior) para que podramos sobrepasar (pero nunca olvidar) el legado ultra-violento de la nación. Crearemos un nuevo pacto social, reconoceremos los crimenes de los poderosos, y haremos una Colombia mas diversa, mas inclusiva, (como la de la constitución del 91), y nos alejaremos de las estructuras de poder y desigualdad quienes dieron leña al fuego de la violencia en el primer plazo? O continuaremos a sostener los mismos cuentos de nación, y sistemas de desigualdad en donde algunos son escuchados, muchos callados, y las riquezas de la nación son vendidas al extranjero mas rico sin la consulta prevía de las comunidades quienes viven sobre ellas, pero en la cual baseamos a los extranjeros quienes se atreven a reconocer nuestras desgracias, o mucho peor, no saben como se escribe “Colombia”?

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