As you may remember, this is not a new obsession for McCain. Puzzlingly, the first thing he did after he clinched the Republican nomination, at the beginning of July, was to get on a plane and go to…Colombia. Or maybe not so puzzlingly. In the second paragraph of the New York Times story previewing the trip, Larry Rohter wrote:Since 1998, the lobbying firm headed until recently by Charlie Black, one of Mr. McCain’s closest confidants, has earned more than $1.8 million representing the Occidental Petroleum Corporation, the leading foreign producer of gas and oil in Colombia. The lobbying firm, BKSH & Associates, has also represented Colombian textile and apparel manufacturers and a former foreign minister and presidential candidate who is also a prominent businesswoman.
The Times went on to note that human rights groups have accused Occidental of complicity in the killing of peasants and labor leaders believed (erroneously, in the case of the labor leaders) to be affiliated with guerrilla groups.
The week before McCain left for Colombia, Carl H. Linder, Jr., who made billions as the C.E.O. of Chiquita Brands International, hosted a fundraiser for McCain at his home in Cincinnati, Ohio. It raised $2 million—a lot of money, though not much compared to the $25 million fine Chiquita paid for paying, under Linder’s leadership, more millions to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a bloodthirsty paramilitary group which the State Department officially classified as a terrorist organization. But, as Nico Pitney pointed out at the time in a well-documented report at the Huffington Post, Chiquita was an equal-opportunity terror funder in Colombia: it also made payments to leftist guerrilla groups, including the notorious FARC. Nothing to do with ideology, of course. Just a routine business expense.
Besides Black, at least four other McCain staffers or major fundraisers, including the campaign’s finance director and a former national finance chairman, have earned tidy sums lobbying for the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
But John McCain is an honorable man. Therefore, it is inconceivable that any of these “associations,” to use one of his favorite words, had anything to do with the Republican nominee’s extraordinary solicitude for the Colombia trade pact, let alone the way he rolled his eyes when Obama spoke of the murder of Colombian labor leaders.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Hendrik Hertzberg in the New Yorker regarding the rather odd obsession with Colombia by John McCain during the last debate: