Columbian riots show consequences of U.S. intervention

Clark Neal | guest writer

I’ve paid close attention to the ongoing tragedies occurring in Syria, and the intense discussion on how, or even if, our country will intervene in the matter.

Riots nationwide

I would like to extend from this topic based on my keen awareness of the turmoil that has occurred recently in Colombia, the home of my girlfriend.
I would invite all of those who would like to see some sort of intervention in Syria to reflect on our past political efforts in Colombia.
The policy of the United States in Colombia has been only in service of our own agenda.
As a result, today, Colombia is facing one of its greatest challenges in recent history.
The lack of fair international agricultural trade policies on the part of the U.S. has devastated farmers. This is a country where most of its citizens live off the land.
Desperate, on Aug. 19, the farmers and their supporters started violently protesting. Roads nationwide are blocked.
Cities and towns can’t get food, fuel and medical supplies, resulting in a public pandemonium. People are dying in ambulances because they cannot use the roads.
Colombia is a country of infinite wealth, not because of its economy, but because of its people, but those people are suffering greatly today.

Why it’s happening

The 2006 signing of the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) virtually sold the rights of Colombian farmers to U.S. agriculture corporations.
Under the system we’ve forced on the country, Colombian farmers buy the seeds and fertilizer, grow and tend the crop, then harvest and export the product back to the U.S. for our own consumption.
The terms of the CPTA demand that farmers buy new seeds and fertilizers for each crop.
U.S. corporations say that preserving any leftover seeds is an infringement of intellectual property rights and the agreement itself.
These seeds are at least three times more expensive than Colombian national seeds, and they don’t adapt well to their environment.
This has left many Colombian farmers struggling to support themselves and their families.

Call for action

My intention is to raise awareness in the student body of Pittsburg State University, and within our community.
We should all recognize what is happening in a place that all too many people mistakenly associate with simply their morning cup of coffee, cocaine, and the FARC guerilla group.
I hope that more people will open their hearts and minds to the stories of the people who are suffering, to why and how these events have come to pass.
Today, Colombians are victims of oligarchical foreign trade policies crafted by U.S. and Colombian politicians that have consistently neglected or denied any attempt to alleviate the devastation.
In fact, the only real concern held by the Powers That Be is finding a means to stabilize resource acquisition for their own selfish benefit.
I urge anyone who believes the U.S. has a right to use its influence or its military to force American views on another country, to think first about what’s happened when it has done that before.

Clark Neal wrote this column with María Paula López Velásquez, his Colombian girlfriend. He is the treasurer of Hispanics of Today and a senior in Spanish.

Today, only Syrians can save Syria

More than 1,500 children died in Damascus when the Syrian military used chemical weapons on them.
I have a picture, sent to me on Facebook, of a morgue that is full of their bodies.
All over the country, Syrians have nothing to do except fight and document the fighting.
Young and old, sick and injured, are part of it. No one has any respect anymore. All of the sides are killing everyone.
I can do nothing. I am just one among 24 million. Well, now it’s about 20 million, because so many have either left or been killed.
I’m not part of any side, because that’s impossible. There are a thousand sides, and they’re all just as bad.
Everyone says that they are fighting for the country, but they use bombs and explosions on everyone, every day.
It is hard to care about the reasons for it anymore.
I don’t want to sound like I am talking bad about my country. But, no one outside Syria can really understand what is going on.
The news does not put the truth on the air. All the sides in the conflict are lying. If you don’t have someone there telling you everything, you cannot understand what is going on or why.

No outsider can help

I admit, I’ve missed class a lot during these first days because I cannot stop watching what is happening.
President Obama says he will attack the military, but he’s not Syrian. He doesn’t have a right.
No one who is not Syrian can understand.
We are getting aid from Saudi Arabia and other places, but even that has problems.
Saudi Arabia and all of them say they are doing things, but they’re doing less than they say. They say they are giving $900 million in aid, but I cannot believe that. I’m sure it is a lie.
I have seen two groups from Qatar that have sent rice and fuel and other important resources, but that cannot cost this much.

Resources scarce

Aleppo, where I was born, is starving. No food can come in or out. Bread used to cost 10 Syrian pounds. It now costs 800, or even 1,000.
Sometimes, power goes out for 24 hours, or several days, or longer.
My mother is there and many of my friends are there and I care about them. We Skype as often as possible, but I often can’t call them because the power or the network is out.
I have no idea how people are going to live when this is over, if it ever will be. No one right now is working, and no one has any money.
In the news, they’ve talked a lot about how girls in India are getting raped.
It’s so much worse for Syrians, especially for the poor and for people who left the country. There is rape everywhere, every day.
When I was in Egypt, a man told me, “Syrian girls are so beautiful, I want to marry one.”
I know what he really meant.

Future grim

I don’t know how the government will work.
In 2014, everyone has to vote. Bashar Al-Assad will win again. Last time he got 99.9 percent of the vote, which is of course impossible. I never voted, because it was pointless.
If Assad can be forced out of power, I want everything to happen to him that can happen to him.
Now, he should be like Hosni Mubarak. If they kill him, then he’ll just die and won’t feel anything. He should just go to jail, where he’ll suffer.
At the beginning, he should have just left office.
The people who wanted freedom deserved it. It was their right. But today there are so many sides and I just don’t care about it anymore, only my friends and my family.

How I’m adapting

I moved to Lebanon three years ago, before it all began. I came here for a reason, to study and to get my degree.
I tell myself that if I failed there, then I must win here.
Yet, I am 100 percent certain that I will go back. I promised everyone that, and I told the American embassy that.
I like everything here. I like the way Americans live and the culture. People are so nice to me.
Still, I want to go back. I belong there.

This column was dictated to Marcus Clem. Ahmad Eiad Alsayed is an exchange student in mechanical engineering from Aleppo, Syria.

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