Don't Dismiss the Killings in Colombia

Thursday, April 10, 2008

If death squads with ties to the U.S. government were targeting Post reporters for assassination, I doubt that The Post would dismiss the problem by arguing that the murder rate for journalists was less than the rate for the District as a whole. Yet that is exactly what The Post did in dismissing the killings of trade union activists by paramilitaries in Colombia on the basis that trade unionists are still less likely to be killed than the average citizen ["The Sin of Speaking Truth," editorial, April 8].

Of course, the overall murder rate in Colombia -- a country in conflict -- is high. But when union members are killed for exercising basic rights, that is not just another manifestation of violence; it is a threat to Colombian democracy itself.

The editorial also said that it was an "egregious libel" to claim that Colombian President Álvaro Uribe's administration is under a cloud for supporting paramilitaries responsible for these murders. But Colombia's own supreme court and attorney general are investigating dozens of legislators and officials close to Mr. Uribe, including his former intelligence chief, on suspicion of collaborating with paramilitary killers.

Mr. Uribe does deserve credit for taking on the violent left. But Congress is right to delay approval of a free-trade agreement with Colombia until Mr. Uribe similarly takes on the violent right.

TOM MALINOWSKI

Washington Advocacy Director

Human Rights Watch

Washington


© 2008 The Washington Post Company