To the Editor:
The proposed Colombia Free Trade Agreement involves many complex issues; your paper's one-sided attack ('The Chavez Democrats,' Review & Outlook, March 10) is therefore disappointing.
You launched a misleading attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and congressional Democrats, trivializing their legitimate questions about Colombia's troubling history of labor activist assassinations and human-rights violations. Rather than allowing Congress to adequately assess whether Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe has taken meaningful steps to protect labor leaders and other human rights activists from violence and prosecute those responsible for committing these heinous crimes, you are pushing for Congress to approve this agreement before that assessment is made. Setting up this agreement as merely choosing between Mr. Chavez and Colombia is resorting to a pointless and counterproductive 'you are with or against us' mentality. It also mocks the plight of the broken families and communities victimized by this violence.
Speaker Pelosi has spent most of her two decades in Congress working to expand human rights around the globe and has been crystal clear in her views of Mr. Chavez's record of abuses, strong arm tactics, and outrageous statements.
Similarly well-documented is her commitment to free and fair trade in order to expand markets for U.S. businesses, farmers and workers. To that end, the speaker and House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel launched bipartisan discussions last spring to resuscitate a stalled trade agenda. This resulted in a strong bipartisan vote on the U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement last November.
Rep. Howard Berman (D., Calif.)
House Foreign Affairs Committee