In its recent report entitled, "Breaking the Grip? Obstacles to Justice for Paramilitary Mafias in Colombia," Human Rights Watch (HRW) had specific recommendations for the U.S. Department of Justice. Specifically, HRW recommended that, in order to assist with the process of ending the ties between the Colombian government and paramilitary death squads, the U.S. Department of Justice should, among other things, "[c]reate meaningful legal incentives for paramilitary leaders [a number of whom have already been extradited to the U.S.] to fully disclose information about atrocities and name all Colombian or foreign officials, business or individuals who may have facilitated their criminal activities," and "[c]ollaborate actively with the efforts of Colombian justice officials who are investigating paramilitary networks in Colombia by sharing relevant information possible and granting them access to paramilitary leaders in U.S. custody."
Do not expect these recommendations to be carried forward if Eric Holder decides to forgo his lucrative corporate law practice at Covington & Burling and accept the U.S. Attorney General position for which many believe he is the top contendor. Eric Holder would have a troubling conflict of interest in carrying out this work in light of his current work as defense lawyer for Chiquita Brands international in a case in which Colombian plaintiffs seek damages for the murders carried out by the AUC paramilitaries - a designated terrorist organization. Chiquita has already admitted in a criminal case that it paid the AUC around $1.7 million in a 7-year period and that it further provided the AUC with a cache of machine guns as well.
Indeed, Holder himself, using his influence as former deputy attorney general under the Clinton Administration, helped to negotiate Chiquita's sweeheart deal with the Justice Department in the criminal case against Chiquita. Under this deal, no Chiquita official received any jail time. Indeed, the identity of the key officials involved in the assistance to the paramilitaries were kept under seal and confidential. In the end, Chiquita was fined a mere $25 million which it has been allowed to pay over a 5-year period. This is incredible given the havoc wreaked by Chiquita's aid to these Colombian death squards.
According to Mario Iguaran, the Attorney General of Colombia, Chiquita's payments to the AUC paramilitaries led to the murder of 4000 civilians in the banana region of Colombia and furthered the growth of the paramilitaries throughout Colombia and their violent takeover of numerous Colombian regions. Iguaran, in response to the claims of both Chiquita and Eric Holder himself that Chiquita was somehow forced to pay "protection" to the paramilitaries (see, Washington Post and Conde Nast Portfolio), stated unequivocally that "[t]his was not payment of extortion money. It was support for an illegal armed group whose methods included murder." See, Christian Science Monitor, "Chiquita Case Puts Big Firms on Notice."
One former paramilitary leader who is in federal custody in the U.S., Salvatore Mancuso, has stated that he has more knowledge about Chiquita's relationship with the paramilitary death squads in Colombia. Mancuso further claims that Dole and Del Monte also made payments to the paramilitaries, just as Chiquita did. Yet, Dole and Del Monte remain un-indicted. Query whether, as Human Rights Watch recommends, a Justice Department under Holder would be interested in pursuing this and other similar leads. This is a serious matter given the fact that the Justice Department has already come under great scrutiny for turning a blind eye to what appears to be rampant corporate support for terrorist groups in Colombia. See, L.A. Times, "U.S. accused of bending rules on Colombian Terror."
While Eric Holder is also known to be actively involved in laudable charitable activities, it should be of grave concern to those, like myself, who hope for change from the new Obama Administration, that the new Attorney General would be involved in not only defending corporations against serious corruption and human rights charges, but also publicly apologizing for such abuses. That is not the type of Attorney General we need in the wake of the recent economic collapse created by the unfettered greed of such corporate firms.
One of the few moments in the debates that made any impression on me was the exchange between Obama and McCain on the free trade agreement with Colombia. Obama's basic support for the widely-detested neocolonial free trade agreement is reprehensible, but his position that labour rights should be a precondition was at least some sign that he hadn't totally lost his soul, and the contrast between him and the sheer awfulness of McCain was never clearer than in this brief moment during that debate.
And all that time he was considering a man who defended these butchers to be his AG.
Video clip- Hardball with Chris Matthews
"Clinton, Holder, Emanuel, Lieberman, Podesta. Where is the change?"....This is what you do when you DON'T have elections"..."You do this in any bureaucratic state, you can do it in the old Soviet Union. You don't need to hold elections to promote old party deputies to top jobs when it comes time. You don't need elections for this crap. You don't think, you just keep promoting people in a tired old bureaucracy..."
And now there's this:
the trouble with eric holder
Quick! Name the veteran Department of Justice insider who, shortly after the USA Patriot Act was signed into law as the Bush administration was proposing to further erode barriers to governmental abuses, that dissenters should not be tolerated?
Who invoked September 11, explicitly referencing "the World Trade Center aflame," in calling for the firing of any "petty bureaucrat" who might suggest that proper procedures be followed and that the separation of powers be respected?
John Ashcroft? No.
Alberto Gonzales? No.
It was Eric Holder, the man who has reportedly been selected by President-elect Barack Obama to serve as the next Attorney General of the United States.
Appearing on CNN in June, 2002, the former Clinton administration Justice Department aide sounded as if he had just stepped out of the Bush camp: "We're dealing with a different world now. Everybody should remember those pictures that we saw on September the 11th. The World Trade Centers aflame, the pictures of the Pentagon, and any time some petty bureaucrat decides that his or her little piece of turf is being invaded, get rid of that person. Those are the kinds of things we have to do."
If that's unsettling, consider the fact that Holder was part of the legal team that in 2005 developed strategies for securing re-authorization of the Patriot Act.
Much will be made of Holder's role as a deputy attorney general in helping former President Clinton arrange for the last-minute pardon of fugitive/Democratic campaign contributor Marc Rich. (Holder said he gave Clinton a "neutral, leaning towards favorable" opinion of the proposed pardon.) And it will also be noted that Holder, as a corporate lawyer in private practice after leaving the Clinton team, played a key role in negotiating an agreement with the Justice Department that got Chiquita Brands International executives off the hook for paying protection money to right-wing death squads in Colombia.
But the first questions for Holder should go to the issue of his attitude toward the role of the attorney general in defending the Constitution.
Several years ago, Holder said, "The Attorney General is the one Cabinet member who's different from all the rest. The Attorney General serves first the people, but also serves the president. There has to be a closeness at the same time there needs to be distance."
What we need to know is this: How close would Holder, as attorney general, get to obeying his oath to defend the Constitution?
Finally: Holder: Targeted Killings Of US Citizens ‘Not Assassination’