#Venezuela dice que hablar de corredor humanitario es jerga bélica colombiana

Crisis fronteriza: Temor de venezolanos en Colombia crece ante agresiones físicas

Las agresiones comenzaron desde el cierre de la frontera ordenado por Maduro

.- Venezolanos residentes en Colombia hacen un llamado a los colombianos para que no tomen represalias contra ellos, según reseña el portal RCNRadio.com. En Bogotá y otras ciudades del país, donde se calcula que hay entre 500 mil y un millón de venezolanos, ha comenzado a sentirse temor por parte de estas personas, por las ofensas y amenazas de parte de ciertos grupos.

Los ciudadanos colombianos, reclaman por los atropellos de la Guardia Nacional Bolivariana en el estado Táchira y las medidas del presidente Nicolás Maduro. Incluso ya se han presentado agresiones, como ocurrió en un restaurante venezolano de comidas rápidas en el norte de Bogotá, que tuvo que cerrar sus puertas. Rogelio Yerena, lleva cinco años en la capital colombiana y tiene un negocio de arepas.

“Lamentablemente los hechos del Gobierno de Maduro nos ha llevado a tener temor, se han presentado algunos acontecimientos aislados en negocios venezolanos por parte de vecinos colombianos que han maltratado, han sido muy groseros por lo que está pasando en la frontera con Venezuela, somos unas víctimas más, estamos sufriendo por lo que ocurre en nuestro país”, subrayó Yerena.

Agregó que buscaron en Colombia un sitio acogedor por la seguridad, la capacidad de desarrollarse económicamente y socialmente. Daniel Pagés, preside la Asociación de Venezolanos en Colombia, Asovencol, muestra su preocupación por lo que está haciendo el Gobierno venezolano y las consecuencias que ya están sintiendo sus compatriotas en el vecino país.

“El pueblo hermano colombiano nos abrió las manos, el corazón, el venezolano que está aquí en Bogotá, en Cali o Medellín, se siente a gusto, (pero con la crisis fronteriza) hemos recibido insultos de personas que en alguna forma nos han amedrentado a través de correos electrónicos y redes sociales”, destacó.

Goajiros advierten que explotará la frontera si la cierran en las próximas horas

pimpinero

28/08/2015

COLOMBIA | CONTRABANDO | CRISIS | FRONTERA | VENEZUELA |

(Desde la frontera entre Maicao y Paraguachón) En medio del clímax de la crisis fronteriza, los indígenas que viven entre Venezuela y Colombia advierten que habrá una explosión social si cierran “La Raya” que divide a ambos países

Un viejo Caprice pasa raudo por la carretera con un potente vallenato y esquiva a un chivo que se atraviesa en su paso, donde grupos de niños pasan sus horas vendiendo gasolina en potes de agua mineral. El momento parece repetirse a lo largo de la carretera que atraviesa a la Goajira colombo-venezolana, donde sus habitantes temen lo peor si se concreta un cierre de la frontera en la zona.

Los Wayuú, indígenas que durante siglos habitan el área con su propia ley, dudan que las amenazas del gobierno venezolano de cerrar la línea fronteriza puedan surtir efecto en esta convulsa zona, por donde pasan toneladas de alimentos y gasolina en contrabando hacia Colombia ante la mirada de los militares.

¿Tú crees que “la comunidad” va a aguantar eso? Aquí se maneja demasiada plata”, explica Otto, un Wayuú que transita a diario ambos lados de la goajira con un Fairlane destartalado desde hace décadas.

Y es que “la comunidad”, como se denomina a los indígenas, hacen parte del millonario negocio que significa trasladar mercancía de Venezuela a Colombia, incluyendo el contrabando de combustible por las trochas y las carreteras que atraviesan la vasta frontera.

Son ellos los que tienen el poder fáctico junto a los militares y la guerrilla colombiana que, si bien, no se ven, están presentes en cada lugar de la goajira, aseguraron a El Estímulo varios habitantes del lugar.

Estos tres grupos saben y conocen quiénes están detrás de la fila de inmensos camiones que esperan a cierta hora del día para pasar tranquilamente por los puntos fronterizos desplegados por la Guardia Nacional en las localidades de Sinamaica, Los Filuos, Paraguaipoa, Guarero, Caimare Chico y Paraguachón.

En medio de estos pueblos, se observan las trochas (caminos verdes) por donde a diario cruzan con motos, carros, camiones y lanchas enormes contenedores de gasolina venezolana que son vendidos hasta mil veces más cara del lado colombiano.

Igual pasa con el arroz, el café, el azúcar, la harina de maíz, cerveza y centenares de otros productos escasos en otras partes de Venezuela, que son llevados a Colombia con una ganancia escandalosa para quienes no conocen la realidad fronteriza.

– Negocio del va y viene –

Aquí se consigue de todo, pero mucho con un precio más alto que en Caracas o en otros lugares. Una bolsa de hielo vale Bs. 500, un kilo de arroz Bs. 450, un pote de leche Mercal Bs. 400 y una gavera de cerveza Bs. 2.000. Los precios en la frontera no conocen de regulación.

La gasolina se vende por los pimpineros entre Bs. 200 y Bs. 900, según el tamaño del pote que usualmente son los del agua mineral. Pero los viajes a Colombia con gasolina son muchos más lucrativos.

Carlos tiene un Caprice blanco que utiliza para cruzar la frontera hasta tres veces al día, que le deja una ganancia neta entre Bs. 18.000 y Bs. 20.000 diarios. Transporta en cada viaje más de 60 litros. Dice que los carros viejos son los más buscados en la zona porque son los que disponen de mayor capacidad en sus tanques.

Y es que una larga fila de “catanares”, autos de finales de los años ’70 junto a camionetas Bronco y camiones, colman las pocas estaciones de servicio que hay en la Goajira. Su misión es conocida: abastecerse, llevar el producto hasta Maicao en Colombia y retornar rápido a Venezuela, donde comienzan el ciclo de nuevo.

“Aquí hay muchos que viven de eso. Desde niños en bicicleta hasta camiones de volteo llegan”, explica Jeander, quien opera una de las bombas.

En la Goajira parece que todos viven a costa del contrabando. En Paraguiapoa, quemaron hace un mes la sede de la alcaldía del municipio junto a imágenes del expresidente Hugo Chávez tras el decomiso de un camión con arroz y pollo que iba a ser llevado a Colombia.

Muchos de los manifestantes acusaron al alcalde de esa jurisdicción, el oficialista Hebert Chacón, de ser uno de los mayores contrabandistas de la zona, y de no atender las necesidades de la población. El gobierno negó esas aseveraciones, reparó la sede municipal y acusó a los contrabandistas de participar en los hechos.

Pero muchos indígenas dudan de la versión. Dos meses antes, manifestantes destrozaron todos los puntos de control que había activado el ejército en la carretera. Aseguran que la población se enardeció ante los estrictos controles a la mercancía y al alto cobro de “vacuna” (extorsión).

“Bachaqueo” extendido

Quienes viven en la Goajira afirman que en el “bachaqueo”, como se conoce popularmente el contrabando de extracción, participan muchas personas que no viven en la zona.

“Aquí ves ambulancias o carros oficiales de otros estados llevando gasolina”, afirma Mario, un comerciante de la zona que vive de la reventa y el reempaque del arroz venezolano en Colombia.

Si no acuden a las trochas, muchas de las cuales cuentan con peajes levantados por militares o guerrilleros, los contrabandistas deben pasar por el puesto de control de Paraguachón para llegar a Maicao.

En “La Raya”, como se conoce a la zona, se dejan a los colombianos que están siendo deportados por Colombia por la última crisis fronteriza que viven ambas naciones, pero que –por los momentos- no se siente en la Goajira.

Como se mire, es en Paraguachón donde culmina o inicia el negocio de la frontera. “Aquí vivimos de eso y podemos morir de eso”, advierte un goajiro.

#Titulares ¡Mal negocio! #Venezuela importa por Cúcuta más de 500% de lo que compra Colombia

La compra de mercancía por Cúcuta cayó 48,9% en el primer semestre del año.

José Gregorio Martínez.- Con el cierre indefinido de la frontera con Colombia por el estado Táchira, son los venezolanos los que pagan los platos rotos, puesto que las importaciones por la fronteriza ciudad colombiana de Cúcuta superan en más de cinco veces las exportaciones hacia el país vecino. Mientras entre enero y junio entraron a Venezuela por el puente Internacional Simón Bolívar productos por un valor de 190 millones 79 mil dólares, hacia Colombia solo se había exportado hasta mayo el equivalente a 29 millones 138  mil dólares.

De acuerdo con cifras oficiales del Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística (DANE) de Colombia, las exportaciones por la aduana de Cúcuta representan 1% de la participación y la mercancía que ingresa a Colombia por esta aduana equivale apenas a 0,1% del total de las importaciones que realiza Colombia.

La compra de productos colombianos por Cúcuta, que se ubica en 190 millones 79 mil dólares, durante el mismo periodo de 2014 se encontraba en 371 millones 762 mil dólares; mientras que en lo que se refiere a venta de mercancía venezolana, entre enero y mayo de 2014 alcanzaba 44 millones 783 mil dólares y para el mismo periodo de 2015 cae a 29 millones 138 mil dólares. A pesar de que se registra una mayor contracción en las importaciones (-48,9%) que en las exportaciones (-34,9%), la balanza comercial sigue siendo favorable a Colombia.

En términos generales, el intercambio comercial entre ambos países ha sufrido una fuerte contracción. Durante los primeros seis meses del año se registró una caída de 37,6% en el total de las importaciones desde Colombia, al pasar de 1.011 millones de dólares en 2014 a 631 millones en 2015. Destaca una caída de 56% en la compra de vegetales, 34,7% en alimentos y bebidas y 27,1% en textiles. Por su parte, las exportaciones totales cayeron 49,3% en los primeros cinco meses del año, al pasar de 223 millones de dólares a 113 millones.

Cifras más recientes, aunque menos detalladas, de la Cámara de Integración Económica Venezolano Colombiana (Cavecol) apuntan a una caída en el intercambio comercial de 38% hasta el cierre de julio, al sufrir una merma de 1.235 millones de dólares a 769 millones.

#Colombia asegura que cierre de frontera deja pérdidas de $400.000 al día

frontera3

21/08/2015

El cierre durante 72 horas de la frontera entre Colombia y Venezuela deja más de 400.000 dólares en pérdidas y afecta a unas 100.000 personas al día, aseguró este viernes el gobernador del departamento colombiano de Norte de Santander (noreste), Edgar Díaz, quien indicó que la situación es de “completa calma” en la zona.

“Las pérdidas estimadas son de cerca de 400.000 dólares diarios”, declaró Díaz a Efe, al advertir que esta cifra corresponde al envío de unas 4.000 toneladas diarias de carbón con destino a Europa que Colombia exporta a través del puerto de Maracaibo.

El paso entre el departamento de Norte de Santander y el estado de Táchira permanece cerrado desde el miércoles en la noche por decisión del presidente de Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, después de que tres miembros de las Fuerzas Armadas de ese país y un civil resultaron heridos en un enfrentamiento con presuntos contrabandistas.

Díaz estimó además que entre 100.000 y 150.000 personas, entre ellas estudiantes de ambos países, están afectadas por el cierre de esta frontera, que describió como “muy activa, muy dinámica” entre las ciudades de Cúcuta (Colombia) y San Antonio del Táchira (Venezuela).

“Lo que corresponde al intercambio económico y al intercambio de personas sí está totalmente paralizado”, apuntó.

El gobernador consideró que “estas medidas en nada contribuyen” a las relaciones entre ambos países, que comparten 2.219 kilómetros de frontera común.

“Me parece que esa posición del presidente Maduro es un posición más en cabeza caliente que no ayuda a mejorar las relaciones entre los dos países”, agregó Díaz.

El funcionario aseguró que en ocasiones anteriores se han registrado embocadas y la muerte de militares colombianos a manos de “grupos irregulares” sin que se haya “optado por el cierre”.

Díaz hizo un llamado al diálogo entre las cancillerías y que se adopten estrategias conjuntas entre las Fuerzas Armadas.

Las cancilleres de Colombia, María Ángela Holguín, y de Venezuela, Delcy Rodríguez, se reunirán próximamente para tratar el tema, aunque medios colombianos han señalado que el encuentro puede celebrarse hoy mismo en San José de Costa Rica en el marco de la VII Reunión de Ministros de Relaciones Exteriores del Foro de Cooperación de América Latina-Asia del Este (Focalae).

¡HUYERON! Médicos cubanos se fugan de #Venezuela y piden a Marco Rubio visas para ir a #EEUU

“Escribimos esta carta como un clamor a ustedes en busca de ayuda y mediación ante las instituciones pertinentes”, así inicia la misiva leída este viernes en la Plaza de las Banderas, al sur de Bogotá, firmada por decenas de médicos cubanos que se fugaron de Venezuela hacia Colombia con el fin de terminar acogiéndose al programa Cuban Medical Professional Parole de Estados Unidos.

Según recoge El Nuevo Herald, la carta tiene como destinatarios el senador Marco Rubio y los congresistas Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Díaz-Balart y Carlos Curbelo; a quienes los galenos que vinieron al país para formar parte de la misión Barrio Adentro, solicitan acelerar la entrega de visas que le permitan ser parte del parole, popularmente conocido como “Barrio Afuera”, creado por el Departamento de Estado en el 2006.

medicos-cubanos-en-colombia

El doctor José Ángel Sánchez, de 29 años, nacido en Granma y uno de los firmantes de la carta, quien junto con su novia, la dentista Mara Martínez, desertó en abril Barrio Adentro del estado Zulia, indicó que varios doctores llevan en Bogotá unos siete meses sin obtener respuesta del consulado estadounidense.

“Cuando presentamos los documentos en la Embajada de Estados Unidos en Bogotá se nos dio un tiempo de espera máxima de 90 días”, indica la carta. “Sin embargo, hay personas que ya pasan los 200 días y no tienen respuesta sobre el estatus de la aplicación de visa por parte de las autoridades migratorias de EEUU”.

La dilatación del proceso de visado ha forzado a los médicos a sobrevivir en una situación precaria, rentando de manera colectiva pequeñas habitaciones y sin posibilidad de trabajar por el limbo jurídico en el que se encuentran, de acuerdo con el testimonio de varios afectados.

“Nuestra situación actual en Colombia es crítica”, subraya el documento. “Nos encontramos sin documentación legal que nos permita trabajar en Colombia, por lo tanto no tenemos derecho a ningún servicio de salud y mucho menos a vivir dignamente”, agregan en el mismo.

 

#Argentina pasa a semifinales a costa de los errores de #Colombia

EFE

26/06/2015

ARGENTINA | COLOMBIA | COPA AMERICA |

Argentina venció a Colombia por penales 5-4 y se clasificó a la próxima fase de la Copa América. La albiceleste tuvo que sufrir en los 90 y desde los 12 pasos, pero finalmente se metió en la semifinal. Ahora espera por Brasil o Paraguay.

En una definición para el infarto, los colombianos Luis Muriel y Jeison Murillo enviaron su disparo por arriba del travesaño y el arquero Sergio Romero atajó el remate de Juan Zúñiga para el triunfo 5-4 de Argentina.

Del lado albiceleste, Lucas Biglia lanzó su penal afuera junto a un palo y Marcos Rojo lo estrelló en el travesaño, pero Carlos Tevez no falló y definió el pleito.

Con su alineación de gala y ante un adversario que no contaba con Radamel Falcao García (José Pekerman optó por mantenerlo en el banco de entrada), el equipo de Gerardo Martino impuso condiciones desde el inicio, con control casi exclusivo del balón, buena distribución y búsqueda por las bandas.

Una Colombia que buscó jugarle de contrataque a la Argentina chocó con el juego de elaboración de la albiceleste, con un Lionel Messi estelar. Merecía ganar el equipo del “Tata”  Martino que generó no menos de nueve situaciones de gol. Pero la pelota no entró en el arco colombiano que tuvo como figura al portero David Ospina.

En los penales, marcaron para la subcampeona del mundo Messi, Ezequiel Garay, Ever Banega, Ezequiel Lavezzi y Tevez.

Para Colombia convirtieron James Rodríguez, Falcao, Juan Cuadrado y Edwin Cardona.

Con este resultado, Argentina mantiene el sueño de romper una sequía de 22 años sin títulos internacionales.

 

 

Intel Leak: FARC Outgun Venezuelan Military to Poach Coltan Mines

Colombian Guerrilla De Facto Rulers in Amazonas Region

El coltán ha sido causante de varios conflictos en África y su extracción ilegal hace estragos al sur de Venezuela (Correveidile)

The Amazonas region is almost unknown even to Venezuelans themselves, and even fewer know that it’s the second largest state in the country, and that it shares a border with Colombia to the west and Brazil to the east. Cue alarm when a military report revealed that members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were active in the region, exploiting copper and coltan mines to generate income for the rebel group.+

Such activities are hard to locate, as the region’s 177,617 square-kilometer area is almost entirely covered by thick jungle, and contains a population of barely 178,670 inhabitants, according to data from Venezuela’s National Institute of Statistics.+

But according to the National Guard “Intelligence Information Summary” dated January 2015, “high command has knowledge of the presence of guerrilla columns between the San Fernando de Atabapo and Santa Bárbara del Orinoco sectors” engaged in illegal mineral extraction.+

Amazonas state Governor Liborio Guarulla confirmed the presence of the guerrilla to thePanAm Post, and reported that the situation has been denounced on repeated occasions in the National Assembly — but that the government has taken no steps to remove the guerrilla elements.+

“Along the length of the river Atapo, they’ve come to count up to 24 launches that are washing the sand on the riverbed with mercury to extract oil. This has contaminated the fish, it’s changed the course of the river. The Venezuelan authorities have looked the other way, with the exception of a commission from Colombia that turned up at one point and burned some of the launches,” Guarulla reported via telephone.+

“This has continued in an blatant way, but now it’s not only gold mines at the La Neblina hill or the source of the Orinoco river: they’re now exploiting the mines of the Manapiare municipality, which is the other side of the Yapacana. The people who are coming to exploit these mines are linked to the Colombian guerrilla and miners,” the state governor added.+

No Man’s Land

The appendixes of the military report refer to clashes between the military and Colombian guerrilla that have left soldiers wounded, as well as warning that military units based in the region have received threatening phone calls by FARC commanders seeking to extort them.+

Coltan’s value has increased dramatically in recent decades, thanks to the mineral’s use in the manufacture of key parts for electrical products and smartphones. A compound of columbite and and tantalite, it’s also desperately sought after by international firms who need it to manufacture cooling units.+

According to Guarulla, high levels of corruption and the institutional crisis besetting Venezuela have led to environmental and security situations like the current case going unnoticed by those who don’t live in the region.+

“The big business of the moment in Amazonas state is illegal food and fuel trafficking; the National Guard is distracted with these issues, and not concerned with mining or the sovereignty of our state,” he lamented.+

Colombian authorities have reported several skirmishes with FARC fighters in the state’s border area with Colombia. In November 2014, the Colombian army captured Juan José Rivera Suárez, reportedly a senior FARC officer, along with a shipment of coltan and uranium thought to have been extracted from Venezuela.+

Significant Firepower

On September 29, 2014, members of the National Anti-Extortion and Kidnapping Unit of Amazonas received a radio message, informing them of a call that Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Ramón Noguera Romero, a local air force commander, had received. The man on the other end of the line identified himself as “Commander Chaca” of the FARC, and asked Romero “to make a contribution, to avoid inconveniences.”+

Ten days previously on September 19, a Bell 412EP military helicopter came under fire from a group of roughly 50 individuals who were detected in the immediate environs of the Moya mine. In the ensuing exchange of gunfire, the military managed to wound one of the fighters.+

The National Guard document specifies that the firefight began around 13:45, and that the situation was brought under control by 14:50, with the interlopers able to hold off the Venezuelan soldiers for over an hour.+

The army were able to capture one Baudilio Antonio Montoya Hernández after he was wounded in the back. Also injured were soldiers Sanderson Peña Álvarez and Josue Montiel Castro.+

It was after this jungle skirmish that soldiers began to receive phone calls demanding money, specifically from a telephone number with an area code belonging to the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. Comandante Chaca repeatedly demanded payment to avoid future attacks by the units he claimed were under his control.+

Venezuela serves as a hideout and source of mineral resources to the Colombian guerrilla FARC.

The authorities have been unable to identify where the call was made from, as the reported number isn’t registered with any telephone operator in Venezuela. As such, it’s believed that the phone calls were made from a satellite phone from Colombia.+

One of the military briefings, referring to the “situation of the offending groups,” reports that residents of the indigenous community of “Laja Liza y Cupaben, in Atures municipality, observed the presence of foreigners in the area … and that these foreigners worked together to extract coltan illegally.”+

The files further identify one Richard Pérez as being tasked with buying the coltan extracted from the mines in Amazonas. They also detail that FARC members are paying Venezuelans to work in the mines, bringing economic dividends to the communities in the area.+

The military officials add that the extraction of minerals in the area is carried out in day and night shifts, and that all of the extracted resources are shipped onwards via the region’s river network.+

More than Five Commanders

Venezuelan military authorities have previously signaled that five FARC commanders are operating out of Apure state, which borders Amazonas state on its southeast side.+

But the latest leaked reports indicate that the irregular groups engaged in illegal mining in Amazonas state are strikingly well equipped, with vehicles, speedboats, and a sophisticated logistical system, including portable mining equipment.+

Regional Command No. 9 has designated 261 soldiers to patrol the region’s airspace and rivers where the greatest deposits of coltan can be found, principally around the Pozón Babilla hill, to prevent the illegal elements from operating.+

However, some have alleged that the illicit miners are operating with the knowledge and even complicity of senior Venezuelan military officials. Venezuelan journalist Sebastiana Barráez has reported on the situation since 2013, warning that at least seven FARC encampments exist in the region. Barráez routinely argues that the army is completely aware of of the presence of irregular groups and their mining activities.+

The first reports of the penetration of outside groups were aired in Venezuelan media in 2010 in an investigation carried out by local daily El Nacional. At that point, the miners received up to 100 bolívares (US$25 at the time) for every kilogram of coltan they extracted. The latest military report only mentions that the current going rate for the mineral is “very expensive.”+

Guarulla suggested that the problems facing his state could worsen, due to the scrapping of the Venezuelan Environment Ministry in September 2014. The Ministry was formerly responsible for processing the repeated complaints of illegal mining activity in the south of the country.+

“If it was impossible to control the situation while the Ministry existed, now that there’s no one to take charge, we’re defenseless against the violation of our sovereignty and the exploitation of our natural resources, and without any authority to put a stop to it,” the governor concluded.+

The Absurdity of #Colombia’s Mandatory Vote

Political Elitists, State Authoritarians Converge to Undermine Liberty

Millions of Colombians condemn the state's failures time and time again by deciding not to vote.

A paradox of Colombian politics is that everyone here knows that the state doesn’t work, and yet there is a constant demand for that same dysfunctional, terribly inefficient Leviathan to solve all kinds of problems.

This applies from the most elemental activities, such as paving Bogotá’s devastated, pothole riddled streets and avenues, to much larger issues, for instance having politicians and bureaucrats whose primary aim in public life is something other than sacking the treasury so as to finance private extravagances that make Trimalchio appear as the prototype of fiscal conservatism.

Thus, when state corruption in Colombia reaches levels similar to those seen in Djibouti, Mongolia and Benin (try looking up the latter country on the map without recourse to Google), the first instinct is not to reduce the size of government in order to decrease the amount of available booty to be plundered.

Astoundingly, one usually hears calls for the creation of even more bureaucracy, for instance in the form of an anti-corruption Czar with a battalion of pen pushers at his command. And so there is a constant attempt to solve problems that emerge in large part due to nepotism, disproportionate public spending, and an excess of sinecures handed out by the state by increasing public spending, creating even more sinecures and endlessly expanding the putrid conditions under which nepotism grows unfettered.

This is all a bit like emptying a petri dish in an damp, unkempt, fungus-infected locker room.

In the best of cases, such statist measures are counterproductive. In the worst, they exacerbate the original problem. And that is precisely what one can expect from the current attempt to impose the mandatory vote in Colombia.

The considerable rate of voter abstention is due to the fact that a great percentage of Colombians trusts neither the state nor the political class. With respect to Parliament, whoseapproval rating is a mere 18 percent, citizens seem to agree intuitively with the wise aphorism, attributed to Twain or Gideon J. Tucker, stating that “no man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislative is in session.”

The fact that a Colombian congressman’s salary is 49 times higher than the minimum wage hardly helps to reduce citizens’ deep suspicion towards professional politicians, from whom they see very little results in return for their astronomical salaries.

In fact, people’s daily contact with state institutions consist mostly of an endless series of frustrating and wearisome encounters, for instance when facing the gargantuan bureaucracy that needlessly hinders the simple registration of a small business or even the payment of taxes.

Such an inept state is present where it shouldn’t be, above all since it places unnecessary obstacles that hinder the individual from getting ahead economically. At the same time the state is incapable of fulfilling its actual duties, for instance providing security on city streets. And it is precisely this complete failure of the state to achieve proper aims with the available means that millions of Colombians condemn time and again by deciding not to vote in national and local elections.

Citizens might resign themselves to paying taxes which clearly won’t be used in an optimal manner if they are not simply squandered in boondoggles and corruption. But they see no valid reason to vote for candidates and parties that, in democracy’s free market, seem incapable to offer anything that might result mildly attractive to the consumer.

The political class seems to utterly ignore the fact that such a decision is entirely conscious and that it constitutes an expression of freedom. As my colleague Javier Garay writes:

An individual’s decision to not vote is in itself a form of political participation … In a free society, an individual has the choice whether or not to participate in collective decisions. In a free society, the individual does not live according to the state, but based on his own particular interests, desires, and expectations.

In this case I can detect two bands that have joined forces in order to undermine liberty. On the one hand, one finds the progressive bien-pensants who, despising what they regard as the apathy, ignorance, or “lack of civic culture” of the hoi polloi, are as usual willing to use state coercion in order to force their less enlightened countrymen to act appropriately.

All of this, of course, is done with “purely pedagogical aims,” the goal being to perfect Colombia’s wanting democracy. This is the point where elitism and authoritarianism converge. As someone related to the Green Party wrote on Twitter when Bogotá mayor Gustavo Petro banned alcohol sales on certain days a few months back: “As long as there are no prevention policies and culture, we must resort to repression. ‘Lesser evil!’”

The second group supporting the compulsory votes is composed of those who have the most to gain from such a strong-arming measure: the electoral barons, the hereditary fat cats, and the actual and potential caudillos who usually head the parties’ election lists. By forcefully increasing the total number of votes, such candidates will guarantee their seats in Congress in perpetuity.

This will be the case not only because, as Garay argues, the compulsory vote won’t decrease corrupt electoral practices, but also because this measure will be accompanied by the also compulsory “closed lists” in which the voter must choose a party rather than an individual candidate. Needless to say, it won’t be the young mavericks with new ideas heading those lists, but rather the old guard alongside their allies or relatives.

If such an alliance between idealists hoping to put a stop to the patronage system and thepatrones themselves seems absurd, the most absurd part of the debate concerning the mandatory vote is that the initiative comes from the Liberal Party.

Now, it’s common knowledge that the Colombian Liberal Party long ago abandoned any serious claim to defend liberalism, especially if by liberalism one understands limiting the state’s coercive powers to the maximum so as to allow the individual the freedom to take decisions and act while facing a minimum of obstacles, barriers, or constraints.

It’s no coincidence that the Liberal Party is a member of the Socialist International and that it uses that platform to weaken economic liberty. But this latest attempt to reduce Colombians’ already precarious political freedom marks a new low, and it makes clear that Colombia’s true liberals are not in the party that, despite its name, betrayed all principles espoused by classical liberalism.

In Colombia, classical liberals/libertarians don’t have a party of their own yet, but they are advancing the ideas of liberty through new means, primarily through the university student organization Students for Liberty and the recently founded think tank Center for Free Enterprise.

From these clusters of liberal thought there is emerging a movement that, though in its fledgling stages, is proposing the only real alternative to the statist policies of the Colombian political establishment. In Cervantes’ words: non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro (liberty is not well sold for all the gold in the world).

Lest We Forget What Britain Has Done for Scotland

The Referendum, as Seen from the Diaspora

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Bogotá offers a peculiar vantage point from which to observe the upcoming Scottish independence referendum.

In the first place, it was not too far from here, in the inhospitable Gulf of Darien now shared between Colombia and Panama (formerly part of Colombia), where Scottish colonists disembarked in 1698. Their hope was to found a commercial colony that would generate Croesus-like wealth by linking the trade between Europe and America with that of Asia. This would have made Scotland the type of small, “successful independent country” that Scottish Nationalist Party leader Alex Salmond now promises to deliver.

Things turned out somewhat differently: the Darien scheme ended two years later with hundreds of colonists dead from tropical disease, starvation, and a massive Spanish onslaught.

The Darien fiasco left Scotland in such a state of economic ruin that its parliament joined with England’s in 1707 in order to gain access to colonial markets. The Act of Union created the United Kingdom of Great Britain which, as Scottish historian Niall Ferguson succinctly puts it in the subtitle to his book Empire, made the modern world. Oddly for many on the outside, the Britain that ruled the waves and heroically withstood the Blitz might perish next week at the ballot box.

Seen from Colombia, such a rupture would be sad indeed, since we owe our independence to the British men — many of them Scottish and Irish — who fought as mercenaries under General Bolívar’s command.

My own third great-grandfather, James Fraser from Inverness, arrived in Isla Margarita as a 19-year-old in 1819 to join Bolívar’s famous British Legion. He served as Irish General John Devreux’s aide-de-camp and was later taken prisoner in a naval battle on the Orinoco River. He was eventually released in an armistice deal and given the rank of colonel.

One of James Fraser’s most significant contributions to the cause of independence was translating the British Army’s manual of infantry tactics into Spanish, as historian Rodrigo de J. García Estrada notes. This helped Bolívar turn his ragtag guerrilla forces into disciplined units capable of defeating Spanish armies.

Karl Marx had a somewhat different view. In an essay not once quoted by the neo-Marxist “Bolivarian” revolutionary Hugo Chávez, Marx maintained that Bolívar owed his military success strictly to the “well disciplined” foreign legion, which, comprised of several thousand men, “was more dreaded by the Spaniards than 10 times the number of Colombians.”

Bolívar himself gave credence to Marx’ theory. Once he had gained independence, he claimed that Luis López Mendez, who had recruited British troops in London for the rebels — possibly with the Duke of Wellington’s tacit support — was “America’s real liberator.”

James Fraser was one of the few British mercenaries who remained in the country he fought to create. He married the niece of General Santander, Bolívar’s former ally and successor as President of Nueva Granada, and settled in eastern Colombia. Although he became a Colombian citizen in the 1820s, his name being Hispanicized to Santiago, Fraser remained proud of his clan ancestry (je suis prest / amicum proba, hostem scito) for the rest of his life. In 1840, he wrote the following in a letter to his father, who lived in Jersey:

I thank God that during the whole of my military career I have been ever ready and never for one moment or from any cause did I excuse myself from the fulfilment of an order received or a duty required of me or of any body or individuals under my command.

Apart from his martial spirit and discipline — the qualities that, in Tim Stanley’s words, forged “a Union that wins wars” — Fraser’s Whiggish views are also on record. For instance, he reacted giddily to the news of Pope Gregory XVI’s death in 1846. As Professor Matthew Brownof the University of Bristol writes, Fraser was “well known as a Liberal in [the city of] Cúcuta in the 1830s.”

And it was those radical liberal ideals promoted by Fraser and others that forged Colombia’s federalist constitution of 1863, the most decentralizing, forward-looking constitution in this country’s history: it established free trade, freed the educational curriculum from Catholic dogma, and guaranteed personal liberties, such as press freedom and due process.

As Juan Carlos Henao explains, the nine sovereign states united under the 1863 constitution created a modern banking system, fostered a booming export sector, and linked it to the outside world by means of (now defunct) railways and a steam-powered fluvial transport system. And yet the experiment in modernity lasted only until the papist conservatives regained power in 1886.

The constitution decreed that year censured the liberty of thought and of the press, subjugated education to religion, and put an end to economic freedom: the 32nd article of the 1886 constitution declared that “the state will be in charge of the general direction of the economy,” which it “will rationalize and centrally plan in order to achieve full development.” Closed to the world, and with liberty of enterprise suffocated, it is hardly surprising that, throughout the entire 20th century, Colombia never lost its place among the world’s poor and backward nations.

James Fraser died in 1878, before the demise of the liberal republic which he served as Secretary of War in 1870, but his family — despite Lord Lovat Fraser’s role in the ‘45 — upheld the Whig ideals of free trade, free speech and Protestantism. Thus, when my paternal grandfather James Raisbeck, a Glaswegian lawyer, arrived in Bogotá in the 1930s, he didn’t go native completely. Rather, by marrying my protestant grandmother, he entered a family that maintained a British Whig tradition in its blood and in its outlook.

Britishness, in fact, is the vital part of this family’s story. My grandfather’s family had been in Scotland long before his birth in 1900, yet its origins are in Cumbria. I suppose it was the Industrial Revolution that brought them across the border, which must have seemed but an artificial, imaginary line to the Raisbecks who, mostly as private soldiers, sacrificed their livesfor the freedom and greatness of Britain in the two world wars.

My father, though born in Colombia, is a British national. He visits Scotland every year, and I have often gone along. We both hope that, next time we stroll along Princes Street, we can still look up to the Union Jack flying high — and proudly — above Edinburgh Castle.

We owe too much to the United Kingdom of Great Britain to think otherwise.