On May 9, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau issued a statement expressing “concern about persistent violence in Colombia”. In true “both sides” fashion, the statement expressed equal outrage with the narcoterrorist government of Iván Duque brutally cracking down on peaceful protestors, and also “acts of vandalism and attacks directed against public officials”. The statement couldn’t be more different from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statements on Venezuela, which unequivocally support the right-wing opposition (including rioters and coup-mongers), and are openly belligerent toward the elected government. Such a double-standard illuminates the Trudeau government’s unprincipled approach to “human rights”, “peaceful protest”, and “democracy”. As a capitalist party, the Liberals’ statements are essentially puff pieces for whichever side represents the best interests of Canadian capital. The hypocrisy stinks.
The statement came in the midst of Colombia’s national strike, inspiring hope in workers everywhere in the face of Duque’s massacres and mass arrests of protestors. The movement has already forced the resignation of Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla and withdrawal of the regressive tax reform. Duque responded to these striking workers and peaceful demonstrations with indiscriminate shooting, online censorship, and alliances with narco-paramilitaries. The situation couldn’t be more one-sided, but the Canadian government’s statement gives equal weight to its condemnation of a small amount of vandalism and a brutally repressive state.
As an insult to Colombian victims of COVID-19, the statement blames protestors’ road blockades for why Colombians can’t get essential medical supplies—not Duque’s austerity and gross mismanagement of the pandemic. The protestors’ tactics are virtually irrelevant to the fight against COVID-19, but Garneau included that point simply to paint protestors in a negative light. You’ll never see the Canadian government condemn the right-wing Venezuelan opposition in those terms, throughout their road blockades and even when one of them hijacked a helicopter to bomb the Supreme Court.
Perhaps the weakest part of the statement is, “We welcome the Government of Colombia’s commitment to fully investigate and hold accountable those who may be guilty of violating human rights during these events”. They trust a corrupt, narcoterrorist government to investigate themselves? What gives them the impression that Duque will be held accountable for his crimes and step down voluntarily? Far from proposing concrete solutions to end the violence, the Canadian government is giving a blank cheque to the Colombian government, giving them the benefit of the doubt that their “investigation” will hold the powerful accountable. Can you imagine them placing the same faith in the Venezuelan government, or any other government that’s hostile to the interests of Bay Street? They didn’t even believe the Venezuelan election results when it was verified by independent observers.
Hypocritical foreign policy statements are hardly new to the Trudeau government, nor are wishy-washy, “both sides” statements where one side is clearly the aggressor. This statement on Colombia is just one of many instances where the Canadian government’s commitment to capital overrides its supposed commitment to “human rights” and “democracy”. It’s a reminder that capitalist parties like the Liberals are no allies in the fight against police brutality and oppression. The struggle of Colombian workers is the struggle of the global working class, as an injury to one is an injury to all. Therefore, in Colombia, Canada, and all around the world, the working class says, “Duque out! The strike goes on! All power to the people!”