Colombia

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The Republica de Colombia gained independence from Spain July 20, 1810. Colombia's capital is Bogata. The country is located in Northern South America, bordered by the Caribbean Sea, between Panama and Venezuela, and bordered by the North Pacific Ocean, between Ecuador and Panama. Colombia includes Isla de Malpelo, Roncador Cay, Serrana Bank, and Serranilla Bank. [1]

Products

Agricultural products include: "coffee, cut flowers, bananas, rice, tobacco, corn, sugarcane, cocoa beans, oilseed, vegetables; forest products; shrimp." Industries include: "textiles, food processing, oil, clothing and footwear, beverages, chemicals, cement; gold, coal, emeralds." [1]

Tobacco industry

In June, 2009, Colombian Congressmen reported that the country's tobacco industry was offering bribes to lawmakers to stop the passage of an anti-tobacco law. Columbian senator Jesus Bernal Amorocho reported that representatives of the "tabacaleras" offered him money to "vote with us or do not assist in the voting." Bernal's claim was supported by other senators who said that they, too, were approached to help scuttle the tobacco restrictions.[2]

The law was to restrict tobacco advertising and prohibit the sales of cigarettes by street vendors who sell single cigarettes. In response to these reports, Phillip Morris Colombia president John Ruiz admitted that his company had been lobbying members of the Colombian Congress, but he denied trying to bribe Congressmen to stop an anti-tobacco bill.[3]

"Colombia is passion" marketing campaign

Marketing consultant David Lightle began working with Colombia's export, tourism and investment promotion agency, Proexport, in 2004 to design a marketing campaign called "Colombia es Pasión," or "Colombia is Passion." A public-private partnership runs the campaign, which includes "two stores in Bogota that offer hundreds of products featuring the campaign's heart-shaped logo. Nearly 250 companies have licensed the logo, which also appears inside boxes of Colombia's exported roses and on the tail of one of the planes flown by national carrier Avianca. There's even a 'Colombia is Passion' bicycling team," reported the Wall Street Journal. [4]

The Colombian government, which has "spent just $5 million on the campaign," says the "country is ripe for rebranding because the popular perception of Colombia has lagged far behind the improving reality. Kidnappings and assassinations, once frequent occurrences, are now comparatively rare," according to Maria Claudia Lacouture, Colombia's general manager for country image. "Ms. Lacouture asks why people don't talk more about Colombia's dazzling variety of birds and orchids, the classic colonial architecture of Cartagena, or cultural titans like novelist Gabriel García Marquéz and painter and sculptor Fernando Botero." [4]

U.S. public relations advisers and lobbyists working for the Colombian government & Colombian organizations

  • In March 2005 Arnold & Porter was retained by the Colombian government "to provide advice concerning external capital markets and other financial transactions, including with respect to the application of U.S. laws and regulations applicable thereto, as well as advice on other matters from time to time requested by the Ministry of Finance of Colombia. Included in this latter category is advice on legal issues concerning certain aspects of the Free Trade Agreement negotiation betweren the Republic of Colombia and the United States." Under the agreement A&P a series of payments were scheduled to be paid to the company on completion of various steps including capital raising.[5]
  • Glover Park Group:P In May 2007 the Glover Park Group was retained by ProExport Colombia, the Colombian government's trade bureau, to "provide government affairs and lobbying services ... to assist in the passing of the Trade Promotion Agreement between the United States and the Republic of Colombia."[6] In it's $40,000-a-month contract, which was signed by GPG's CEO Carl A. Smith, the lobbying firm undertook to develop "a strategy directed to support the ongoing efforts to promote favorable consideration in the Congress of the United States of America about the TPA (Trade Promotion Agreement)". Specific elements of the strategy GPG proposed were to:
"Identify the most significant elements of the congress in the United States Congress, and particularly the Democratic Party, will bear in mind to determine their stand on the TPA;"
"Based on a carefully elaborated diagnostic, propose to the Colombia government a comprehensive government relations strategy to reach out for broader support for the approval of the TPA in the United States Congress";
"Identify within the press, the Congress, the academy, business leaders and in general the United States society, speakers and leaders that can help the Government of Colombia to transmit its arguments and priorities in relation to the TPA";
"Implement the strategy for the above objectives, working closely with Colombian Government teams in Washington D and in Colombia. This includes the necessary contacts and actions to promote support for the approval of the TPA in Congress of the United States"
  • Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland & Stewart: In November 2006, Jeffrey J. Pech, the President of the Washington D.C. lobbying firm Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland & Stewart, notified the U.S. Department of Justice that his firm had negotiated a tentative agreement with ProExport Colombia, the Colombian government trade bureau, "to assist in the passing of a free trade agreement." The agreement was specified to run for 50 days from the date that the contract was signed at a cost of $50,000. The proposed terms of the consultancy included some that are very similar objectives with those that ProExport negotiated with the Glover Park Group. In particular, the agreement required the lobbying firm to:
"Identify the public opinion in relation to the temporary renewal of the ATPDEA [Andean Trade Preference and Drug Eradication Act] preferences and the approval of the TPA in the United States Congress, and specially the groups that are interested in using their influence in favor or against them"
"Identify the significant issues (positive and negative) to everyone involved in the decision making process"
"Based on a carefully elaborated diagnostic, and bearing in mind that Colombia's main objective is the implementation of the TPA, propose to the Colombia government a comprehensive government relations strategy aimed at the temporary renewal of the ATPDEA preferences and the approval of the TPA in the United States Congress as soon as possible".
"Identify within the press, the Congress, the academy, business leaders and in general the United States society, speakers and leaders that can help the Government of Colombia to transmit its arguments and priorities in relation to the ATPDEA and the TPA";
"Implement the strategy for the above objectives, working closely with Colombian Government teams in Washington DC and in Colombia. This includes the necessary contacts and actions to promote support for the temporary renewal of the ATPDEA preferences and the approval of the TPA in Congress of the United States"[7]
In early November 2006, Peter Thomas Madigan from the lobbying firm submitted an addendum to the contract which specified that the duration of the contract would run until June 27, 2007 with the value of the contract increased from $51,000 to $273,000. This was amended later still to a total of $240,000. In January 2008 the duration of the contract was extended until June 27th, 2008.[8]
"1) assist the government of Colombia in presenting information on labor issues with relevant U.S. stakeholders, including US Congress, the administration, labor advocacy groups, trade unions and the media";
"2) Provide advice and consultation on the implementation of the labor document produced by the consultant with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank, including advising Colombia on issues relating to ILO recommendations"
"3) To assist in the drafting documents, press releases and other documents related to labor issues at the request of the Colombian government"
"4) To develop a strategy for interaction between the Colombian government and the US labor Unions and provide advice for the implementation of this strategy"
"5) To participate as a member of the overall support team working with the government of Colombia on the strategy for the congressional consideration of the Trade Promotion Agreement".[9]

Penn, Hillary Clinton & Colombia

On April 4, 2008 the Wall Street Journal reported that the CEO of the global PR firm Burson Marsteller, Mark Penn had "met with Colombia's ambassador to the U.S. on Monday to discuss a bilateral free-trade agreement, a pact the presidential candidate (Clinton) opposes." Burson-Marsteller "has a contract with the South American nation to promote congressional approval of the trade deal." A spokeswoman for the Colombian embassy in Washington, Sandra Ocampo Kohn, stated that Burson-Marsteller, along with the Glover Park Group and Johnson, Madigan Peck, Boland & Stewart, had been contracted in 2007 to lobby for Colombia on behalf of a bi-lateral trade deal.[10]

U.S. Department of Justice filings disclose that in March 2007 B-M signed a $300,000, one-year contract with the Colombian Embassy. U.S. Department of Justice filings disclose that in March 2007 B-M signed a $300,000, one-year contract with the Colombian Embassy. In March 2007 the Managing Director of Burson-Marsteller's Washington Region Office and Chairman of its Issues & Advocacy Practice, Robert Tappan, signed an agreement with the government of Colombia. In mid-April 2007 the agreement was filed with the U.S. Department of Justice and subsequently became a public document. In it B-M undertook to "Provide ongoing strategic communications counsel to the Ambassador and key Embassy officials regarding the Free Trade Agreement and Plan Colombia; develope [sic] key messages, talking points and briefing materials regrading strategic objectives; facilitate meetings in Washington D.C. for the Ambassador; and co-ordinate media interviews and public events with relevant news media in Washington D.C. on behalf of the Embassy." [11] It also stated that B-M would "provide advice and communications counsel to the Ambassador and Embassy staff. Drave [sic] and review materials related to issues of interest to the Embassy".[12]

In a statement, Penn later apologized: "The meeting was an error in judgment that will not be repeated, and I am sorry for it. The senator’s well-known opposition to this trade deal is clear and was not discussed.[13] Penn may have thought his statement would mollify the Clinton campaign, but ultimately it did neither.

Colombia took offence at Penn's statement that it "was an error in judgment" to meet with the Colombian ambassador in Washington D.C. "The Colombian government considers this a lack of respect to Colombians, and finds this response unacceptable," the embassy stated in a media release.[14]

The escalating controversy resulted in a Clinton campaign spokeswoman, Maggie Williams, announcing that Penn was no longer "chief strategist" but would still be retained for his polling advice. "After the events of the last few days, Mark Penn has asked to give up his role as Chief Strategist of the Clinton Campaign; Mark, and Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, Inc. will continue to provide polling and advice to the campaign. Geoff Garin and Howard Wolfson will coordinate the campaign's strategic message team going forward," the statement said.[15]

Colombia's oil industry

In 2005, Colombia produced an estimated 512,400 bbl/day. In 2006, Colombia possessed an estimated 1.512 billion bbl of oil reserves. [1]

Financing Paramilitary Organizations in Colombia

On September 17, 2007, the US Department of Justice determined Chiquita Brands International willfully financed paramilitary organizations in Colombia from 1997 to 2004, which were “reviewed and approved by senior executives of the corporation, including high-ranking officers, directors and employees.” The more than 100 payments totaled 1.7 million dollars. Even though the US Department of Justice decided not to further the investigation or press individual charges, the victims of the crimes committed by the paramilitary organizations in Colombia have sought the extradition of the Chiquita officials responsible for these acts. [16]

Recent US Ambassadors to Colombia

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Country Profile: Colombia in the CIA The World Factbook, last updated November 1, 2007.
  2. Adriaan Alsema Tobacco industry offers bribes to stop anti-tobacco law: Congressmen Columbiareports.com, June 12, 2009
  3. Katharina Wecker 'We did not bribe Congressmen': Phillip Morris, Columbiareports.com, June 12, 2009
  4. 4.0 4.1 Matt Moffett, "Colombia Wants the World to Recognize Its Passion: Latin American Nation Trots Out a New Slogan, Seeking to Rehabilitate Its Brand After Years of Violence and Corruption," Wall Street Journal (sub req'd), October 27, 2008.
  5. "Exhibit B; Registration Statement Pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended", March 23, 2005, page 3.
  6. "Exhibit B; Registration Statement Pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended", March 23, 2005, page 1.
  7. "Exhibit B; Registration Statement Pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended", November 17, 2006, page 1.
  8. "Exhibit B; Registration Statement Pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended", January 24, 2008, page 3.
  9. "Exhibit B; Registration Statement Pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended", January 24, 2008, pages 3-4.
  10. Susan Davis, Clinton Aide Met on Trade Deal: Penn Held Talks On Colombia Pact Opposed by Senator", Wall Street Journal, April 4, 2008; Page A3.
  11. Burson-Marsteller, Exhibit A: Agreement with Embassy of Colombia, Washington, April 18, 2007, page 3.
  12. Burson-Marsteller, Exhibit A: Agreement with Embassy of Colombia, Washington, April 18, 2007, page 4.
  13. John M. Broder, "Clinton Strategist Lobbied for Trade Pact She Opposes", New York Times, April 5, 2008.
  14. "Release on Mark Penn’s Termination by Colombian Government", Time, April 5, 2008.
  15. "Statement from Maggie Williams", Hilliary Clinton for President, April 6, 2008.
  16. Chiquita Board Members: Total Identification, CCAJAR, July 23, 2008.

External resources

External articles