"Under President Alvaro Uribe, Colombia has used $2 billion-plus a year in military aid - granted by the Clinton and Bush administrations - to extradite top drug lords to the United States, imprison 30 death-squad leaders and disarm 30,000 paramilitary militia that protected the drug gangs. The leftist guerillas of FARC have been driven back into remote, unpopulated areas and dare not surface outside their jungle hideouts.
But if Colombia is no longer to export cocaine, it has to be able to sell flowers, textiles, sugar, bananas and other harmless fare to its U.S. customers without tariff or quota barriers.
Along with deals covering Panama and Peru, the U.S.-Colombia free-trade accord is set to come to the floor of Congress in the next few months. Enter Rangel, whose committee has jurisdiction.
At the insistence of the AFL-CIO, Rangel has demanded that the treaty include a requirement that labor unions be allowed to organize and flourish in those Latin American nations. Uribe has no objection to the proposed language - the Bush administration does. Its lawyers warn that the provision could be used by Colombia, Panama or Peru to sue the United States to force repeal of state right-to-work laws or other obstacles to unionization in this country.
The Bushies suspect that the U.S. labor movement is trying to insert the language into the treaties as a back-door way of opening the doors wider to unionization here.
Whether these worries are valid is beside the point. The administration's position leaves Rangel with a clear choice: Do the bidding of the AFL-CIO - or pass the treaty as-is and reduce the flow of drugs to his district.
While the Bush administration is committed to fighting drugs, too, its concern is a bit more theoretical than that of the congressman from Harlem.
If Rangel helps to kill the free-trade treaty because of a battle between Big Labor and the president, he'll undermine and undercut Colombia's successful war on drugs. The troops in Colombia who risk their lives daily to smash labs, defoliate cocoa plants and arrest drug lords will find themselves swimming against the economic tide.
If America does not reward Colombia by making its non-cocaine exports profitable, it will leave the poor of that South American ally no choice but to go back to the drug labs..."
Your minority leadership hard at work. Hell, even Bill Clinton saw the wisdom in helping the Colombians switch from cocaine to pretty doilies.
But not Charlie. And heaven forbid he ever discovers that cocaine is far more expensive in NYC. than it is in the suburbs. There'd be an instantaneous law on the books forbidding price gouging the minority poor when it comes to illegal drugs.
Laws solve everything.