Cuba’s Castro dictatorship is behind the misery and suffering taking place in Venezuela at this moment and the cause for that country’s collapse. Like a cancer, Castro communism has been spreading through Latin America since 1959, bringing death and destruction wherever it appears. Now the Castro cancer has set its sights on Colombia.
Ongoing political persecution will turn Colombia into Venezuela
When Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos meets with President Trump at the White House on Thursday, May 18, there will be much to discuss — from the financing of the impunity deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to the recent skyrocketing of the cocaine influx into the United States. Yet, Santos will undoubtedly dodge addressing his complicity in the persecution of his own and other political oppositions in our region.
In Latin America, the persecution of political dissenters is not just a Venezuelan anomaly, where there are some 180 political prisoners. For instance, in Ecuador, media owners and journalists have had to flee into exile after criticizing President Rafael Correa. In Bolivia, Evo Morales’ predecessor and many of his cabinet members are also in exile, seeking protection from a political vendetta. Santos has been silent about all these situations.
This is, in a large part, because he doesn’t want anyone focused on his own domestic record. Santos, in alliance with a politicized faction of the judiciary, has undertaken a systematic persecution of political leaders critical of his deal with FARC, the largest cocaine cartel in the world, whose war over a half century claimed
more than 250,000 lives and displaced more than five million. The agreement exonerates from jail and prohibits extradition of FARC members responsible for atrocious crimes — massacres, kidnappings, and narcotrafficking — and also grants them the right to run for political office.
The most egregious case of political persecution is directed at my former Minister of Agriculture Andrés Felipe Arias, who currently seeking asylum in the U.S. As Minister, Arias spearheaded the reduction in coca crops to historic lows by 2010, was a leading negotiator of the U.S.–Colombia FTA, and was always one of the most vocal critics of the FARC. The moment he decided to run for president in 2010 in defense of my administration’s policy against narcoterrorism, he became the target of politicized judicial persecution that continues to this day.
Arias was unfairly accused of a fraud scheme in an irrigation subsidy program that was operated with technical cooperation from the Organization of American States. He was imprisoned for two years while on trial. Those individuals who benefited from the alleged fraud testified that they never met Arias, that he was never involved in their wrongdoing, and that they never gave him anything, nor contributed to his presidential campaign.
The independent inspector general of Colombia requested his acquittal on all counts and cleared Arias of any wrongdoing in his personal and campaign finances. Despite all this, Arias was found guilty and sentenced to more than 17 years in prison. To make matters worse — and in defiance of Colombia’s obligations under international law — Arias has been systematically denied the right of any appeal of his conviction.
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