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Posted at 3:06 PM ET, 10/17/2008

Obama Misleads on Colombia

By Michael Dobbs

Presidential debate, Hofstra University, October 15, 2008.

"The history in Colombia right now is that labor leaders have been targeted for assassination on a fairly consistent basis and there have not been prosecutions."
--Barack Obama, Hofstra presidential debate, October 15, 2008.

In between all the controversy over "Joe the Plumber," a foreign policy issue sidled its way into the final presidential debate earlier this week: should the United States conclude a free trade agreement with Colombia? John McCain calls the trade agreement "a no-brainer." Barack Obama opposes such an agreement, at least for now, on the grounds that the Colombian government has done little to stop the "targeted assassinations" of hundreds of Colombian trade unionists.

The Facts

Over the last two decades, Colombia has been one of the most violent countries on Earth. Trade Union activists have been frequent targets. According to Human Rights Watch, there have been more than 2,600 murders of trade union activists in Colombia since 1991, including many by right-wing paramilitary groups. Since President Alvaro Uribe took office in 2002, the violence has been coming down, as the security situation in the country improves. The question is: has it come down enough?

According to data provided by the Colombian government, assassinations of trade union members declined from 205 in 2001 to 26 in 2007, significantly outpacing the overall fall in the murder rate. The government attributes the decline in part to a state-run protection program that now covers around 2,000 senior union leaders and the creation of a special sub-unit in the Attorney General's office to investigate killings of labor activists.

Colombia's critics concede that the murder rate of Colombian trade unionists has dropped since Uribe took office. According to USLEAP, a labor rights group that has tracked the situation closely, murders of Colombian trade unionists declined from 186 in 2002 to 39 last year. At the same time, convictions rose from 3 in 2002 to 26 in 2007. (The Colombian government claims 38 successful convictions in cases involving murdered trade unionists in 2007, up from only one in the entire decade from 1991 to 2001.)

Maria McFarland, principal specialist in Colombia at Human Rights Watch, linked the declining violence against trade unionists to pressure from the Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress on withholding free trade benefits from Colombia, which pushed the Colombian government into forming the special sub-unit. "Without substantial pressure on the government, this would all fall apart tomorrow," she told me, in a telephone interview from Bogota.

While some of the murders were the work of common criminals, McFarland said that most had been carried out by right-wing paramilitary groups, linked in some cases to members of Uribe's ruling party. After a sharp decline in 2007, the murder rate increased during the first half of this year, to around 40 for the period January-July.

The debate over anti-trade union violence in Colombia has become intertwined with a larger debate on whether to approve the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, concluded by the Bush administration in February 2006. Advocates of the agreement, including the Wall Street Journal editorial page, have played down the problem of political violence in Colombia. Opponents have made the assassinations the central plank in their campaign to persuade Congress to delay ratification.

The Pinocchio Test

Obama was correct in noting that Colombian labor leaders have been "targeted for assassination," but he failed to note that the murder rate has dropped significantly over the last few years. While the vast majority of the murders have gone uninvestigated, it is untrue to say that "there have not been prosecutions." The prosecution rate may still be unacceptably low, but it has risen over the last two years, thanks in part to measures taken by the Uribe government under pressure from the United States.

(About our rating scale.

By Michael Dobbs  | October 17, 2008; 3:06 PM ET
Categories:  2 Pinocchios, Barack Obama, Candidate Watch, Other Foreign Policy  
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The fact that the murder of trade union leaders -- primarily by rightwing paramilitary squads linked to Colombian president Uribe's party -- have gone "down" to 26 a year is hardly something to boast of.It is striking that Senator Obama mentioned this and stressed the importance of keeping pressure on the Colombian government to respect human rights, while the life-and-death issue of human rights didn't seem important to Senator McCain. The comments on Colombia came in the context of Senator McCain trying to say that Senator Obama doesn't know anything about Latin America, but I think in their approaches to this question, Senator Obama showed he knew and cared much more about the issues that affect real people's daily lives there.

Posted by: karenlee | October 17, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse

OMG! I'm speechless.

Posted by: JakeD | October 17, 2008 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Obama is a dirty liar and he hates America and he hates white folk.

Posted by: JakeD | October 17, 2008 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Obama hates white people.
He hates America.

Posted by: JakeD | October 17, 2008 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Our GOP leaders have long supported and overlooked the murderous excesses of the "right-wing paramilitaries" who have "disappeared" and slaughtered tens of thousands of Latin Americans in the last 50 years. These private armies of the landowning rich and powerful are the model for those who would lead America to the same state of "deregulation" and "totally free capitalism", a return to feudalism.
Obama is correct to oppose and agreement and we should match Columbia's current tariffs and see how long they maintain their own trade barriers...

Posted by: Fudoki | October 17, 2008 5:26 PM | Report abuse

The Fact Checkers need to be checked. Labor killings in Colombia are up this year...considerably.

Posted by: sparc | October 17, 2008 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Not very convincing, given partial reliance on the Colombian government. Even the apparently independent source still relied on government-provided information. So, the fact checker didn't pass the factuality test this time!

Posted by: texun | October 17, 2008 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Let me get this straight. You said Obama lied because instead of over 200 people being murdered...only 26 were! What an incredible revelation! Since only 26 families lost their loved ones instead of 200 its your position that Obama lied. I think you should give yourselves about 10 Pinocchios for this MISREPRESENTATION!!!

Posted by: Robert Andrade | October 17, 2008 5:43 PM | Report abuse

You obviouslyhavent watched the news this year.Sure, union officials were eased up on down their, since they finally caved in to the terrorists.Now, its Judges, attorneys, and public figures who are back on the mark.
Columbia has nothing we cant get somewhere else, just as cheap.And the only good offering they have is cheap labor, which obviously DOESNT HELP AMERICANS find jobs.

Posted by: Mr Dodd | October 17, 2008 5:44 PM | Report abuse

The Fact Checkers need to be checked. Labor killings in Colombia are up this year...considerably.
Posted by: sparc | October 17, 2008 5:39 PM

Dobbs stated exactly that in the article. It might be a good idea to read the article before you criticize it.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2008 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Let me get this straight. You said Obama lied because instead of over 200 people being murdered...only 26 were!
Posted by: Robert Andrade | October 17, 2008 5:43 PM

Reading skills must be on the decline. That's not what Dobbs said. Dobbs wrote, "it is untrue to say that 'there have not been prosecutions.'" Dobbs is correct.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2008 6:26 PM | Report abuse

fake JakeD(s):

Close, but no cigar(s). I have stated, repeatedly, that I would have no problem voting for a PRO-LIFE African American. I have no problem with Obama's race.

Posted by: JakeD | October 17, 2008 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Four Pinnocchios for the Washington Post.

In a country the size of Colombia, 27 labor leaders were murdered last year. Imagine if 27 American labor leaders were gunned down in the United States last year. Would we consider it to be a safe environment for labor organizers? Would it be a "level playing field" between labor and management when labor organizers fear for their lives from business-funded death squads? For our population size vis a vis Colombia, 27 murdered labor organizers in a year would be equivalent to 185 American labor organizers killed in a year. The fact that the labor leader assassination number in Colombia has come down in recent years is a good thing, but Obama deserved zero Pinnochios for correctly stating that the ability to hold fair labor elections in Colombia is still grossly affected by business-funded assassinations of labor organizers.

Shame on you, WAPO!

Posted by: Chuck | October 17, 2008 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Only 40 in the first six months of the year. Only? Only? Well, they're only union leaders and organizers. But if we had one a month in California, our closest state in population to Colombia, we would be outraged.

Posted by: jhbeck23 | October 17, 2008 7:13 PM | Report abuse

I have nothing useful to add. Just wanted to say it tho'

Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2008 7:31 PM | Report abuse

A few murders are all right, apparently....

Posted by: tom | October 17, 2008 7:33 PM | Report abuse

The murders in question were perpetrated by the AUC, which was designated a "Foreign Terrorist Organization" by the US in 2001. Despite this, Chiquita International provided them with some $1.7 million in funding. Chiquita agreed to a $25 million fine in March 2007 for its violation of the statute forbidding support of designated terrorist organizations.

The owner of Chiquita is one Carl Lindner of Cincinnati. He is also one of McCain's primary national fundraisers, and a leader of McCain's campaign in Ohio.

Posted by: tom | October 17, 2008 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of consorting with terrorists: remember the McCain-Lindner connection. And, by the way, Charles Keating, McCain's old Arizona patron, worked for Lindner in Cincinnati before opening his own business in Phoenix.

Posted by: tom | October 17, 2008 7:59 PM | Report abuse

That's not much in the way of 'misleading'. Colombia is practically locking up labor leaders for their own safety. The proposed agreement has a lot of holes in it and McCain, if he bothered to read it, might have noticed.

My guess is you had to come up with something to seem 'fair and balanced' in your approach to the GOP...

Posted by: samson151 | October 17, 2008 8:04 PM | Report abuse

The title of the story "Obama Misleads on Colombia", of course should have read "Obama states the truth on Colombia". A democratic country such as USA shouldn't be rewarding ANY government that uses as a tool murder to maintain polical power. Imagine Washington rewarding a serial murder for killing less young women this month.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2008 8:11 PM | Report abuse

since when is ONE death like this acceptable? Senator Obama would be right to make his statement if even ONE death occured. Would we accept this in America? Come on, this is getting ridiculous

Posted by: Kit | October 17, 2008 8:11 PM | Report abuse

After medical school, my father immigrated to this country from Colombia to do his residency training in General and Thoracic Surgery. He became a proud American, U.S. Citizen and Surgeon. I was born in the U.S.; I am now a Board Certified Anesthesiologist. Even though I love Colombia, America is my country and all I want is for it to prosper. I was impressed by Obama's knowledge of the issues going on Colombia; and I agree with karenlee's statement that the murder of trade union leaders to 26 per year is hardly anything to boast about. Very few things in life are "no-brainers"; but it's simple minded people like Bush and McCain that the simple minded Americans (like those who shout hateful and racist comments at rallies and this blog) vote for; the unfortunate thing is it appears that the simple minded folk out number us intelligent ones... perhaps resulting in consistent failures throughout our history and in our future.

Posted by: Mauricio | October 17, 2008 8:25 PM | Report abuse

i have been to columbia (nice town) they still fly the confederate flag there. if you want some great grits thats the place for you. i have to admit it will be hard for obama to win in south carolina after all he said they shoot labor leaders there.i have lived all over the world and i can tell you old england (not new) is great. i have met with putin (he popped his head up) and other world leaders such as joe the plumber,madonna,and a guy named six-pack. i can see a golf coarse from the front of my double wide. i live in the great northwest (boston) i love our team the tampa bay rays. and our footsball team the can tell i am worldly.i have been offered a job as sarah palins advisor for world affairs. should i take it?

Posted by: ralph neuter | October 17, 2008 8:44 PM | Report abuse

ok now that we're on the topic of foreign affairs, everyone HAS to know about this...

joe the plumber helped obama define his socialist economic policy .. but obama has much more going on than 'spreading the wealth around' just in america. last summer senator obama introduced the 'the global poverty act' to congress, which has been passed in the house and currently awaits approval in the senate. the global poverty act is a tax of 0.7% of the american gdp (gross domestic product), to be given to the united nations and distributed to third world countries in an attempt to eradicate 50% of the world's poverty. virtually no one knows about this, and yet it will cost americans 845 billion dollars over the next 13 years. what kind of insane agenda for our economy is obama working on? (let it be noted this has nothing to do with the recent 700+ billion dollar subprime bailout .. these are two totally separate activities.)

topics in this easy read include joe the plumber, the debate, socialism and finally the the global poverty act, which the heritage foundation calls "superfluous, misguided, and dangerous". check it out here:

Posted by: marcus | October 17, 2008 8:51 PM | Report abuse

The headline was misleading in the extreme, implying that Obama deliberately told some falsehood when he was bringing up an instant-response point during a debate in front of tens of millions of people. It seems to me he was essentially correct on both points. And why was Obama maybe supposed to turn around and defend Columbia for having fewer labor organizers assassinated last year than in some other years? Which leads to the question, how many murdered labor organizers is enough to constitute a problem, then?

Good for Obama, yet again. I'm sure John McCain couldn't really give a rip about some dead union guys in his beloved Columbia; we know how the Republicans have always felt about unions, and since the GOP convention, I guess we know what they think about community organizers for the poor, in general. And shame on you, Mr. Dobbs. Like Pinocchio, you turned into a donkey on this one. Trying to hard to find some false equivalency between the Obama campaign and a Republican campaign that lies and smears around the clock, so you can seem "balanced," you've gone too far. It's a general problem for the MSM.

Posted by: Enemy of Crime | October 17, 2008 8:54 PM | Report abuse

And yes, I meant to write "Colombia," not "Columbia." That's what rage will do to you.

Posted by: Enemy of Crime | October 17, 2008 8:56 PM | Report abuse

speaking of this joe the plumber. i used to be a plumber.i am now on ss disability.i plumbed s**t for 25 years then one day i got my head stuck in a bowl my dumb a** buddy flushed and all 250 lbs of me ended up stuck in the new york sewer system for 3 days. what was left of me was not a pretty sight. i had rats the size of gorillas chewing on my toes. it has taken me years to get over the mental anguish let alone how i smell. so joe the plumber chew on that for a while

Posted by: ralph the x plumber | October 17, 2008 9:16 PM | Report abuse

I don't see any factual problem with what Obama said. As Dobbs admits, the murder rate for union activists is up this year, and 40 killings is nothing for the Uribe government to be proud of.

Posted by: Patrick | October 17, 2008 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, this "fact check" sucked. Obama should have noted that the murder rate was declining because the Democratic-controlled congress showed some spine and finally stood up to W and the the Colombian government to say that state-sponsored MURDER is not an economic policy that the US of A should condone. Yeah, he that's what he should have said.

Posted by: Jaho | October 17, 2008 9:22 PM | Report abuse


Yeah,he thats what he should have said.
drop the first he

Posted by: ralph the english major | October 17, 2008 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Obama deserved zero Pinnochios for correctly stating that the ability to hold fair labor elections in Colombia is still grossly affected by business-funded assassinations of labor organizers.
Posted by: Chuck | October 17, 2008 6:37 PM

But Obama deserves 2 pinocchios for saying "there have not been prosecutions." As Dobbs showed, thats not true.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2008 9:40 PM | Report abuse

That's not much in the way of 'misleading'.
Posted by: samson151 | October 17, 2008 8:04 PM

You would be correct if Obama did not say "there have not been prosecutions." Unfortunately for you he did say that.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2008 9:41 PM | Report abuse

The title of the story "Obama Misleads on Colombia", of course should have read "Obama states the truth on Colombia".
Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2008 8:11 PM

I'm now convinced our education system is in shambles. Obviously people cant read.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2008 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Israel did 9/11.

p.s. I have sexual fantasies about Ayn Rand.

Posted by: JakeD | October 17, 2008 9:47 PM | Report abuse

The headline was misleading in the extreme, implying that Obama deliberately told some falsehood when he was bringing up an instant-response point during a debate in front of tens of millions of people. It seems to me he was essentially correct on both points.
Posted by: Enemy of Crime | October 17, 2008 8:54 PM

Really? So you're saying "there have not been prosecutions." Is Dobbs not telling the truth that here HAVE been prosecutions?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2008 9:47 PM | Report abuse

Jake - glad to see you denouncing the fake Jakes. You do, however, appear to have a problem with middle names. I would hope to see you accurately post from now on:

Barack STEVE Obama


Posted by: Fairlington blade | October 17, 2008 9:50 PM | Report abuse

I don't see any factual problem with what Obama said.
Posted by: Patrick | October 17, 2008 9:17 PM

You missed the "there have not been prosecutions" part.

Here's the Obamaniacs mentality: "You said something bad about Obama. I do not care about your justification. I will not even read it. Obama is God. You are wrong."

Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2008 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Enemy wrote: "And yes, I meant to write "Colombia," not "Columbia." That's what rage will do to you."

Not to mention illiteracy.


Posted by: Fairlington blade | October 17, 2008 9:57 PM | Report abuse

The only thing you might be able to contend is inaccurate is if you interpret "...and there have not been prosecutions." to have an implied "any", as in "There have not been ANY prosecutions." He didn't say this and you can't verify that is was he meant.

I think it is pretty reasonable to be very upset that dozens of labor leaders are being assassinated by people affiliated with the people who want the free trade agreement. If even a few of them are not followed up upon that is a huge problem. His statement could have been accurately referring to the set of not prosecuted cases without inaccuracy.

Its hard to comprehend the scale of the travesty in Columbia. I think this is mainly because North-Americans tend not to value the lives of South Americans as much as their own. Imagine if the Labor party in Britain decided to assassinate 80 Irish MPs, but they had assassinate 400 the year before? Imagine if Germany only gassed 40 Jews this year, but they gassed 800 last year.

Do you think you'd be equivocating in these hypothetical situations? Do you think you'd consider them worthy of economic partnership? What is truly amazing is that union leaders keep showing up. For all we know, the assassinations declined because they're mainly dead. That hardly seems like behavior we should reward.

Of all the things you could fact check... Your position is really insensitive, you trivialize a holocaust. It potentially exposes some dangerous prejudices.

Posted by: Fact Wrecker | October 17, 2008 10:09 PM | Report abuse

The only thing you might be able to contend is inaccurate is if you interpret "...and there have not been prosecutions." to have an implied "any", as in "There have not been ANY prosecutions." He didn't say this and you can't verify that is was he meant.
Posted by: Fact Wrecker | October 17, 2008 10:09 PM

LOL What in the hell are you talking about? Not only are you wrong, you're desperate.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2008 10:26 PM | Report abuse

How do you know Fact Wrecker is wrong? Although my reasoning is often dubious, at least I provide some. That is more than I can say for you Anonymous.

Fact Wrecker's grammatical analysis is correct and well supported.

Posted by: JakeD | October 17, 2008 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Fact Wrecker's grammatical analysis is correct and well supported.
Posted by: JakeD | October 17, 2008 10:32 PM

Well Fake JakeD, you're wrong. Its obvious. Obama made an error with his statement. All that is needed is one prosecution to show its untrue. Simple logic my friend

Since I understand you pain in that Saint Obama made an error, I will help you out with your argument since you are unable to provide. You should argue that Obama simply misspoke. He meant there have not been ENOUGH prosecutions. See that was easy.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2008 10:39 PM | Report abuse

iam getting tired of yous guys bad mouthing colombia. i am well into the process of getting that place under control.i got the labor unions,the drug trade,the seaports,the airports,the police and judges all under my protective umbrella.all we do now is wack a few guys and butta-bing sign the trade agreement.oh by the way my new casino opens in febuary i call the place al's casino

Posted by: alfonse capone | October 17, 2008 10:44 PM | Report abuse

Jake D and John McCain are dirty liars who hate minorities and who hate America. They are the lowest slime imaginable. Sarah Palin is a little tart with mush for a brain and a husband who belongs to a terrorist organization that would make ALaska secede from the U.S.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2008 11:05 PM | Report abuse

The question of "has the murder rate of labor officials gone down enough"? has no real bearing on whether it helps Uribe, the current Colombian leader under whom the murder rate has dropped, should be rewarded for his efforts with more punishment. The labor-related trade sanctions only are useful to provide diplomatic pressure to corrupt or abusive regimes. The proper use of trade agreements or sanctions, if you want to use them for moral levers, is to reward those third world leaders who advance their nations and punish those who abuse their power, not do the opposite.

Obama was blowing nothing but smoke and as usual, the "fact check" is incoherently reasoned and profoundly biased. Obama's whoppers and lies and excuses have outstripped anyone else's this year. But the public won't know that, so long as the Washington Post and other media outlets run their "faux check" scams to post sophistic spins and partisan hack attacks and call them "fact checks".

Posted by: AsperGirl | October 18, 2008 12:10 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: rbqdmx9ors | October 18, 2008 6:04 AM | Report abuse

Obama doesn't care about the murder rate of labor leaders in Columbia, it is all about what the union leaders think. They are against free trade because they believe it will cost American jobs. Free trade increases jobs and would be good for both countries. This is just one example why an Obama presidency is not going to produce any change. As the Washington Post said in their endorsement of Obama, the editorial writers are concerned he will be too timid to buck his party's dogmatic positions i.e those of Reid and the Princess Pelosi.

Posted by: Jeff in Orlando | October 18, 2008 9:30 AM | Report abuse


I thought you were voting for Obama?

Posted by: JakeD | October 18, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

What a country ! A whole lot of informed readers forced to live under troglodytes like McCain the good who closes his eyes when those he hired do nasty stuff like shout kill at a campaign function! I guess killing is a sport among Republicans. So a few killings in Colombia so what?

IN this country we have scared up any unionizers without killing them.

Posted by: Platon Rigos | October 18, 2008 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Only 26 union leaders murdered in 2007, that's a country with labor rights? That's "only" 1%.

This would put Columbia off my list.

Posted by: Frank Mirer | October 18, 2008 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Okay, I know that you have to try to be balanced, but just because a trend is heading down, doesn't mean that the facts somehow become untrue or misleading.

Posted by: daweeni | October 18, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

i am a strong supporter of colombia and their fine fact i do believe most of you folks have been using them. who in the heck gives a crap about colombia or any other country, look around at what is happening to ours! lets get our house in order first. the usa is so screwed it will take 2 generations to fix this mess. also don't forget to get your a pets spayed and neutered!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: ralph neuter | October 18, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I think saying Obama was misleading is quite a stretch. His statement was as they say "close enough for government work."

If you are really looking for "misleading" stuff -- check out what McCain and Palin are saying - over and over. For them "misleading" is an understatement -- they are flat out lying on many statements.

Posted by: Boots | October 18, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Donald Duck wants to vote for Obama .
Did anyone ask him why? Dose he make $250,000 per year . Will Obama give him a free check for his vote. Maybe Donald Duck lost his home in the subprime market.

Posted by: Jimmy | October 18, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Dear Editor:

Your critique of Sen. Obama’s remarks in this regard is surprising, to say the least.

I personally managed a human rights program aimed at providing temporary protection to Colombian trade union leaders who had been targets of assassination in their country. Specifically, these individuals had received death threats or were victims of acts of violence against them and/or their families. The program, coincidentally, was funded by the U.S. Department of Labor.

I commend Sen. Obama for acknowledging the ongoing, senseless murders of
Colombia's trade union leaders (both men and women) as well as the negligible number of prosecutions that have followed their deaths.

Posted by: Sylvia P. | October 18, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

The ball is in Columbia's court. Until they create a safe climate for unions to organize, and not be murdered, the USA does not owe Columbia the trade agreement that clearly Columbia feels would favor them. Why else would they be lobbying for it, and have even paid big money to guys like Mark Penn to obtain it for them.

If it were a fair trade agreement, then of course Columbia would not be so eager to have it passed, and that is why they have purchased influence with John McCain.

When Columbian labor leaders no longer have to fear for their lives, and they have established full labor rights in Columbia, then we can revisit the issue. That is a long ways off, so Senator Obama is absolutely correct that Columbia is not safe for organized labor leaders, and therefore, fact checker; you are the one with the long wooden nose.

Here is a test for you. Move to Columbia and become a union organizer for the next five years, then come back to your ivory tower and then you will be in a position to rule that Labor Leaders in Columbia have nothing to fear.

In the meantime, how about you stop playing with your little wooden toy, and get yourself to Columbia, and interview all the families, of all those hundreds of murdered labor leaders, and then you will have established some credibility on the subject.

Posted by: Liam | October 18, 2008 3:32 PM | Report abuse

All that is needed is one prosecution to show its untrue.
Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2008 10:39 PM

The problem with your statement is that you have assumed the referent of the sentence. You might as well claim that the sentence is false because there have been prosecutions for robbery in Columbia, or because there have been prosecutions in the United States, or because Guy Fawkes was prosecuted 400 years ago.

Of course there have been prosecutions. You're basically jumping up and down and pointing, "See See, Obama said there haven't been prosecutions, but I know Prosecutions exist. I even did jury duty 5 years ago and SAW the prosecutor. Haha! I caught him."

Your naive interpretation of the sentence is clearly false.

In absence of the naive interpretation, it is obvious that he was referring to the murders of labor leaders that have not been prosecuted. ie There have been murders and those murders were not prosecuted.

You're taking advantage of an indefinite reference, but these are common in spoken language, and it is silly to try to construct falsehood by improperly assuming the reference.

Posted by: JakeD | October 18, 2008 3:52 PM | Report abuse

So the number of murders is increasing this year but since Obama didn't mention that it went down at some point in the past, he lied? Riiiiighhtttt.

Posted by: Terry from Ohio | October 18, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Re: marcus

It is good to eliminate global poverty. This leads to less, social unrest, improves American standing in the world and reduces anti-american sentiments and thereby improves global security. This will do more than the 650 billion spent every year on military expenditures and selling arms to poor countries.

Posted by: Hobbs | October 18, 2008 5:30 PM | Report abuse

How is this misleading? IT EXISTS! That's what Obama said. IT IS HAPPENING! This is BOGUS!

Posted by: Teri from Ohio | October 18, 2008 7:51 PM | Report abuse

How does refusing to sign a free trade agreement with Columbia affect the murder rate of trade unionists?

Has there been one study to show a trade agreement would make things worse?

The Columbian workers would benefit from free trade much in the way workers in Mexico have. Free trade is very popular with average Columbians.

Why punish Columbian workers because there is a history of violence against trade unionists? Like most of Obama's policies, it doesn't pass the sniff test if you give it even a moment of honest thought.

Posted by: Peter | October 18, 2008 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Obama must be stopped. But the McCain Campaign's not going to do it.
It's really up to the people to step up to the plate, and influence a few votes!
McCain Can Still Win! But there has to be an organized plan among his supporters, in addition to the McCain campaign,
Check out this website. It's an easy way we can all make a difference in this election.

Posted by: theobamacure1 | October 19, 2008 3:52 AM | Report abuse

The country is Colombia, not Columbia.
It's citizens are Colombians, not Columbians
And please dont make an ignorant comment. You would have twice as much drugs on the streets if Colombia wouldn't be working so hard to combat the FARC.
Obama wants to do is improve his relations with the Venezuela & Ecuador (2 Socialisms want-to-be countries inspired by Fidel Castro), and eliminate the assistance to Colombia.

Posted by: Rincon | October 19, 2008 6:29 AM | Report abuse

More El WaPo Zionist propaganda...

Obama said it because it's true.
Alvaro is another one of those Zionist tin-hat South American dictators who our Zionist controlled media have always loved...friggin likudnik bolshevick propagandists...
Keep feedin the gentiles shyte and one of these days your are going to try to serve up another steaming pile on nonsense and draw back a ragged stump...

Posted by: Shootingsparks | October 19, 2008 7:17 AM | Report abuse

With McCain saying he's done this and he's done that it's something that his own Party feel that he sold his soul.His own Party didn't want him when he was running against Bush in 2000.All McCain says he 'knows and did and does' is 'take notes' as a D minus Student.McCain is out of touch.McCain isn't Bush,he's worse than Bush along with his VP who went to meetings with her husband who had a membership with the AIP until 2002.People like that don't forget what they are.
Can we also discuss how Gov. Palin has not come out and denouced the AIP (Obama did denounce Ayers actions btw)? McCain campaign had gone to Alaska and taken over the Governor's Mansion since Palin started running as VP?
Obama will HELP our Country more then McCain could ever do.He's a 'First Thinker'
then a 'Do Later' like John Kennedy while McCain is a 'Do First and 'ooops Think Later'even his VP has stated not to 2nd guess no Country.
Our Country can not keep going to War.
McCain has said himself he wouldn't even sit down with the head of Spain.

Posted by: Judith5 | October 19, 2008 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Gee - only 39 last year, and no prosecutions yet?

Obama was correct - as usual... and it is a judgement call WAPO failed with its misleading headline....

Posted by: Anonymous | October 19, 2008 9:12 AM | Report abuse

I know this has been said by others here, but I too couldn't believe the "Fact Checker" headline for this. "Only 26?" At first I thought it was a parody. The only acceptable number of assasinations would be zero!!! And for at least several years!!!! Whoever wrote this -- what were you thinking??!!!

Posted by: AndyO | October 19, 2008 9:44 AM | Report abuse

This is some kind of sick joke, right, to show how even handed you are?

Posted by: David | October 19, 2008 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Anyone killed is one too many. As a former union member I feel that way and don't feel that a free trade agreement is good of the USA to do business with them. Sen McCain could see dollar signs while Sen Obama saw people dying.

Posted by: Lyn | October 19, 2008 10:44 AM | Report abuse


Back in 2004, when the Republicans controlled the House, they tried to have a hearing on the threat that the financial mismanagement of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac presented to the U.S. economy. Here’s the video evidence of the Democrats defending the status quo and blocking efforts to hold officials accountable. This problem did not get the publicity it deserved in the liberal media, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post. This incredible Congressional video shows Republicans in Congress trying to regulate better Fannie Mae and how the Democrats fought that tooth and nail, even referring to criticism of former chairman Raines as a "lynching".

Go to:

Posted by: Michael | October 19, 2008 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Let me see now.

461 murders since 2002. Something like 60 convictions in the same time frame. So, strictly speaking, there HAVE been SOME prosecutions.

For a change, Mr. Dobbs' number of Pinocchio's with respect to Obama has some minimal degree of credibility. I'm sure that it must give labor leaders a strong sense of security knowing that if they or family members get killed, their killers would have about an 85% chance of getting off.

Posted by: EdA | October 19, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Fact Checker, you ought to learn the difference between fact and opinion!

This is disgusting, and worthy of Fox News, not the Post!

Posted by: John Debaker | October 19, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Good lord do you understand how stupid this column is?

Colombia kills a few less than they used to and somehow Obama is misleading people?

Why don't the fact checker people check reality.

Posted by: Marilyn | October 19, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Oh wait, I get it! This is like "A Modest Proposal"!

My apologies!

Posted by: John Debaker | October 19, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Your own recitation of the "facts" support what Mr. Obama stated in the debate. I don't want to argue about "parsing" sentences too closely, but the spirit of the critique, and even the words used, actually are true. Your disagreement with Mr. Obama as to whether the decrease in violence in Colombia should be enough allow acceptance of the labor agreement doesn't allow you to call him a liar. You should give yourself a yellow card, for unfair play.

Posted by: Leslie Plachta | October 19, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

This is just one of the hundreds of lies told by Barak Obama. He lies when his lips move about his associations with Ayers, Wright, Farrakhan, Pfleger, and Rezko. He has flipped on 25 major issues including NAFTA, FISA, GUNS, ABORTION and TAXES. So many lies are hard to post but he has surpassed the Clinton's and that is something no one thought possible.

Posted by: CALIFORNIAMARTY | October 19, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse

obama like bush wants to tell people what to mnay wars will obama get us into...

Posted by: Dwight | October 19, 2008 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, what are you talking about?
As a "Fact Checker" maybe you should work on your critical analysis and comprehension skills.

Your weak analysis: "Obama was correct in noting that Colombian labor leaders have been 'targeted for assassination,' but he failed to note that the murder rate has dropped significantly over the last few years."

Yet you just contradict your earlier admission : "After a sharp decline in 2007, the murder rate increased during the first half of this year, to around 40 for the period January-July."

By your logic( a term used loosely!) the murder of 26 union activists in 2007 and 40 murders in the first half of 2008 is acceptable and not alarming.

Can you tell us how many union activists were murdered in the U.S. during the same time?

How many in Mexico?

Do you have any comparative data? I doubt it.

Here's another weak attempt at supporting your personal opinion:

While the vast majority of the murders have gone uninvestigated, it is untrue to say that "there have not been prosecutions."

Senator Obama prefaced his comment with "The history in Colombia..." Is it that very difficult to understand that he's talking about modern history instead of just the past two years?

But now we're parsing the difference between your own "vast majority of murders" that went uninvestigated and your claim that is unequal to Obama's "there have not been prosecutions"?

So am I supposed to accept your belief that a recent spate of actual Columbian law enforcement automatically renders Barack Obama's modern historical reference misleading? Has this short period been sufficient to override modern history?

So I'm supposed to accept your conclusion that Senator Barack Obama is wrong and you are right? Who are you?

It's obvious you have nothing but your own subjective (biased) opinion regarding the 26 murders in 2007 and the 40 in the first half of 2008 that even you admit took place!

I don't know how this qualifies as "fact checking" because you've badly botched this assignment.

Posted by: Averroes | October 19, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Dobbs' anti-Obama bias is well- and long-established. He cannot be taken seriously anymore. I don't bother to read his contrived anti-Obama screeds.

Posted by: gbooksdc | October 19, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Anyone surprized? Obama hides his game well but he is a very left follower and these are the typical accusations of the left of liberal activitsts. (Chavez, Castro, etc.)

There will be surprizes if he wins... he is far to the left of Clinton...

Posted by: SALLY | October 19, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

BUSH missleads on Irak!
Wow, all your money and childrens money down the drain. No body cares!
It's ok for Bush and Cheney and McCain to misslead everytime they open their mouths.
But the moment Obama is in the slightest way not accurate, the NEWS PAPERS SAY. OBAMA MISSLEADS!

Man the president has all the power in the world, because no media dare talk about BUSH missleading anybody!

Posted by: vb | October 19, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse

well, if you kill all the leaders, what does that mean? is that a good thing?

it seems like this is a non issue!

Posted by: vb | October 19, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Sorry for the intromission. It's your election and it is your own business who you will vote-for; but most of you don't get the point. Free trade will help the Colombians as it has helped us in Mexico and Chile to get up from our knees. Things are fragile down here and if you start again with isolationist practices you'll begin getting one more time what Coolidge got for your country. But this time around, you’ll get it in your own backyard (not to mention the human flood it would produce). Look at Chavez and what he has done and spread. For God sake, vote for the one that best understands the value of good neighborship and goodwill. From south of the border, Mr. McCain looks like the better one of the two. Even if we don’t like it, the fates of our nations are intertwined.
In any case, good luck to you all, since it will be our luck also.

Posted by: South of the Border | October 19, 2008 1:57 PM | Report abuse

It's disingenuous to say that Obama is misleading with this characterization of Colombia. Killings of labor leaders are dramatically down? Congratulations! When's the last time the government assassinated (or sponsored, condoned, or ignored the assassination of) a union head in the United States? (Wait, don't answer that - I'm not sure I want to know. Dick Cheney's been vice president for nearly a decade.)

The point Obama is making is that Colombia is a nation whose government is virulently hostile to organized labor, institutionalized labor protections, and the concept of basic worker's rights; and that signing a trade pact with such a nation undermines the interests of American laborers because it forces them to compete against workers who have no protections, no recourse against abuses, and no ability to organize themselves safely or bargain collectively. Is he wrong? Of course not - and it's ridiculous to argue otherwise.

So no, he's not misleading. He's got some of his numbers wrong, perhaps, regarding the specific number of labor leaders who've been assassinated in Colombia recently. But he's right about the status of laborers and labor organizers in Colombia, and he's absolutely right that adequate labor protections should be a part of any trade agreement the United States is expected to sign.

Posted by: Albert | October 19, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Just read today's colombian newspapers. You'll see Obama is more informed on what is going on that McCain. All right he went to Colombia, only....he was Uribe's guest and he saw through Uribe's eyes. Read the papers and see what is really going on there.

Posted by: Agripina Fonseca | October 19, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, I meant to refer Herbert Hoover not Calvin Coolidge.

Posted by: South of the Border | October 19, 2008 2:10 PM | Report abuse

The fact checker is growing a long nose

Posted by: Pathma | October 19, 2008 7:50 PM | Report abuse

You all may feel his "incorrect"view on Colombia has no bearing, but there are approximately 500,000 Colobians in Florida, a Battleground state, and they are PISSED! I have mnay Colombians friends that have expressed their anger.

The truth of the matter is that, Colombia's current President is the BEST in a very long time in the country and probably the best in South America at the moment. He still has a long way to go, but he's done an excellent job so far...

This is just another example of Obama's inexperiene in foreign policy. Florida's race is very close and the Colobian vote can cost him Florida...

Posted by: Elaine | October 19, 2008 8:52 PM | Report abuse

The Colombians I've spoken to in Miami feel that if there are problems with Colomhia and Chavez, Obama will not back them and McCain will.

Posted by: Drew | October 19, 2008 8:58 PM | Report abuse

According to an article headlined "Violence Against Union Members Escalates in Colombia" by James Parks, Sep 10, 2008, available on the the AFL-CIO website, 41 Colombian trade union members have been murdered In the past eight months (by now nine), more than in all of last year. The latest victim mentioned by Parks, Alexander Blanco Rodriguez, was killed in front of his co-workers by a group of armed men as he was finishing his shift. Rodriguez was a member of the Colombian oil workers union, USO. According to Parks, nearly 2,700 trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia since 1986, including more than 450 during the administration of President Alvaro Uribe. And the killers are getting away with it. The impunity rate for murdering a trade unionist in Colombia remains at more than 96 percent. Not surprising the Colombian govt. didn't provide this information to Dobbs. It doesn't make Obama a liar to know what the "Fact Checker" doesn't.

Posted by: Profco | October 19, 2008 10:06 PM | Report abuse

FYI only.

George Bush has been in office for 7 1/2 years. The first six the economy was fine.
A little over one year ago:
1) Consumer confidence stood at
a 2 1/2 year high
2) Regular gasoline sold for $2.19 a gallon
3) The unemployment rate was 4.5%
4) The DOW JONES hit a record high– 14,000 +
5) American’s were buying new cars, taking
Cruises, vacations overseas, living large!

But American’s wanted ‘CHANGE’! So, in 2006 they voted in a Democratic Congress and yes–we got ‘CHANGE’ all right. In the PAST YEAR:
1) Consumer confidence has plummeted
2) Gasoline is now over $4 a gallon
And climbing!
3) Unemployment is up to 5.5%
(a 10% increase)
4) Americans have seen their home equity
And prices are still dropping
5) 1% of American homes are in foreclosure
6) as I write, THE DOW is probing another






Posted by: tillerylakelady | October 20, 2008 12:34 AM | Report abuse

south of the border, bravo! you have the same understanding as mine. it's unbelievable that some people no longer think about the fate of their country. we have learned from our political history and these people are yet to from asia and our people have always clamored for change and with the tremendous media backup, we indeed changed but for the worst...the way i looked at it, america is bound to experience the same fate we have. scary!

Posted by: coi | October 20, 2008 9:57 AM | Report abuse


you are right,...some americans need to wake up. i dont think america under obama could move on....economy wont work when security is weak, so why take the risk? john mccain is the man for the job!!!

Posted by: coi | October 20, 2008 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Obama has no leg to stand on. He went to Kenya in 2006 to campaign for his cousin, Raila Odinga. Odinga is a despot who, in response to losing an election, exhorted his supporters into a horrific months-long rampage of ethnic cleansing and burning of christian churches with the worshippers still inside. 1400 families were eradicated in that killing spree. Now Obama is acting on principles of "Human Rights"? I have another H word for him. "Hypocrite"!

Posted by: macguy | October 20, 2008 11:39 AM | Report abuse

The real story here is what happened during the debate which was shown on split screen. As Obama was making his point about labor leader killings McCain was rolling his eyes and sneering as if to say "so what." He was rolling his eyes and sneering condescendingly at the mention that people were being assassinated. That is typical Republican and conservative thinking. People don't count! Only free trade counts! The Republicans value labor unions about as much as they value an ebola epidemic. Workers don't need power because they exist to be exploited by corporations and the rich! That is what Republicans really stand for. And they use the American dream of upward mobility and their mantra of individual responsibility to foster a selfishness in society that is against the self-interests of the vast majority of Americans. "Joe the Plumber" is their latest lie about the American dream. If he ever made it to a 250K income he would be well into the upper 10% of income earners and Obama's tax plan would cost him only another $30 for each additional $1,000 he made after 250K. Yet the McCain campaign is trying to sell the people on the idea that Joe couldn't possibly buy the business because the extra taxes would crush his dream. Hogwash!!!!

Posted by: demoscout | October 20, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I am a big fan of Powell, but when he questioned why America is fearful of Muslims that really changed my view on him. So there was probably one Muslim who fought for America out of the thousands of chirstains that died and he focused on that one picture, give me a break. I feel he is starting to warm up to Muslims because he feels sorry for their losses in this war. I never seen one Muslim protesting against 9/11, I never heard that Iran, Syria, or any other country in Middle East not wanting to destroy us infedels, I never seen a christain or an American run for office in thier countries and yet Powell feels we are being racist towards them. They want to kill us and we have to protect us, get it right Powell and the color of Obama's skin does matter to you. We are screwed if Obama takes charge of this country, he will destroy it without people like us to actually see it right away.

Posted by: James | October 20, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

the fact that they need protection speaks for itself

Posted by: larry g | October 20, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse

The headline should read "Obama Misleads on Everything," but that would require real "fact checking."

Posted by: info | October 20, 2008 3:09 PM | Report abuse

You watch, Barrack Hussien Obama will open up the borders, allow more Muslims to enter our country who have already been trained by terrorist and create programs to destroy our country. You Obama Hussien fans are totally brainwashed if you think this guy is going to make America great again because he doesn't even respect our flag or forefathers who fought to make this country great.

Posted by: James | October 20, 2008 5:10 PM | Report abuse

You people who vote for Obama are voting for hope based on promises that he can't deliver. This isn't about intelligence, this is about our great country and to base your votes on hope and brains is pathedic. God help us all if Obama wins.

Posted by: Jacko | October 20, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

What do you think about joe the plumber
Watch funny videos

Posted by: Roverfind | October 21, 2008 12:39 AM | Report abuse

Sub: Beat Long Poll Lines with Absentee Ballots from
Many state and local election officials are encouraging voters to use Absentee Ballots to avoid the long lines and delays expected at the polls on November 4th due to the record-breaking surge in newly registered voters.
Voters in most states still have time to obtain an Absentee Ballot by simply downloading an official application form available through, a completely FREE public service from the nonprofit StateDemocracy Foundation.
Read More:

Posted by: maggi | October 21, 2008 7:10 AM | Report abuse

Jake D and John McCain are dirty liars who hate minorities and who hate America. They are the lowest slime imaginable. Sarah Palin is a little tart with mush for a brain and a husband who belongs to a terrorist organization that would make ALaska secede from the U.S.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2008 11:05 PM

If not for open minded intellectual Obama supporters like this, I would lose all hope for our great country

Posted by: DJM | October 21, 2008 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, DJM ; )

Posted by: JakeD | October 21, 2008 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Poor JakeD...

Two more weeks and you won't have a candidate to support. But look on the bright side ---

You'll have eight years to rant about Obama ;-)

Posted by: wolf | October 21, 2008 7:13 PM | Report abuse

I love Obama. I know whatever he decides he will have American Workers and families come first, unlike NAFTA.

Posted by: BMS | October 21, 2008 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Some Americans just dont get it!
They dont know who really Uribe was.

when Virginia Vallejo wrote the book
¨Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar¨, she wrote about
Pablo´s comments about Uribe.

¨He simply loved that guy, Director of
AEROCIVIL...equivalent of US FAA, before
they had to introduce the cocaine into
Miami swimming, now they use modern planes,
thanks to this great guy (Uribe)"

Posted by: Edward | October 22, 2008 12:35 AM | Report abuse

Democrats for John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008

Posted by: Barbara | October 22, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

According to Human Rights Watch, in Colombia, President Alvaro Uribe is facing new allegations of trying to block several probes of his allies’ ties to right-wing death squads. More than sixty members of Congress are under investigation for using the paramilitaries to intimidate voters. Uribe has proposed removing the court’s investigative authority. In Bogota, Human Rights Watch Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco accused Uribe of obstructing justice.

Jose Miguel Vivanco: “The government of President Alvaro Uribe is putting at risk the attempts to investigate and judge the crimes committed by paramilitaries and their accomplices in Colombia. One may reach the conclusion that there has been a sort of integral campaign by the government of President Uribe to invalidate and discredit the Supreme Court, and occasionally the prosecutor’s office, when it investigates themes that are sensitive to the government.”

Posted by: JR | October 22, 2008 10:03 PM | Report abuse

Comment test.

Posted by: Bob Greiner | October 23, 2008 9:16 AM | Report abuse

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