Call it another salvo in Bush v. Chavez with
Call it another salvo in Bush v. Chavez with
– on March 1, the Colombian military illegally entered Ecuadorean air space and invaded on the ground; the target was a FARC-EP rebel camp; US intelligence was key by identifying the precise location to bomb through satellite telephone tracking; Colombian Radio Cadena Nacional (RCN) reported it heard a FARC-EP leader – Chavez conversation three days before the raid; Colombian Noticias Uno TV said "foreign spy planes" photographed FARC-EP’s precise location for the country’s military to use in the raid;
– it’s also known that US Special Forces train Colombian counterinsurgents, accompany them on missions, and likely participated (covertly) in the March 1 operation;
– Colombian (and likely US) forces attacked and slaughtered over 20 people in total, including 16 Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FACR-EP) members while they slept;
– among the dead was FARC-EP’s second-in-command, Raul Reyes; he was FARC-EP’s public voice, its key peace negotiator since the 1990s, and the lead figure in the Chavez-arranged hostage releases; that and his prominence made him a target so his death may disrupt the process and current efforts toward resolving a 40 year conflict equitably; Washington wants it halted, so does Uribe, and that’s where things now stand;
– Hugo Chavez and other Latin American leaders were united in condemning the hostile act; the 35-member Organization of American States, however, was tepid in its formal March 5 response; Correa called it welcome but inadequate and insists on a formal condemnation; Chavez was even more forceful saying: "We demand condemnation of the Colombian government for this aberrant act," he called it a "war crime (and blamed the crisis on the US) empire and its lackeys;"
– ahead of the March 7 Dominican Republic XX Rio Group Summit of Latin American leaders, foreign ministers from Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and Peru issued a statement demanding respect for their national sovereignty; Chavez called the meeting "positive" and advocated "cooling tensions;" he supported Ecuador and said: "We don’t want war;"
– Chavez, Correa and Uribe exchanged cool handshakes and pro forma conciliatory statements at the
– one example of media coverage came from correspondent Simon Romero of The New York Times; he’s always disingenuous and never neutral; he reported "handshakes and warm embraces….ended the dispute" as though nothing ever happened and it’s again business as usual; in fact, nothing is settled; the incident still simmers, it’s just a matter of time before the next one erupts, and Chavez, Correa and other regional leaders know it; so does Washington that plans them;
– earlier, Chavez also called
– Uribe confirmed it by saying he "refused to rule out future military incursions into
– at the same time, huge crowds of Colombians at home and abroad marched for peace and against terrorist acts; they denounced violence on both sides and want it ended, but a new disturbing report came out:
– the Colombia weekly Semana wrote that ex-Israeli military men are fighting guerrilla organizations (meaning the FARC-EP and ELN), and Defense Minister Juan Santos confirmed that "A group of former Israeli military officials (including three senior generals, a lower ranking officer and three translators) is counseling the military’s top brass on intelligence issues;" in addition, FARC-EP claims that Israeli commandos were engaged against them along with US and British forces.
The hostile words followed with Ecuadorean officials citing irrefutable evidence that Uribe’s attack was premeditated and his worst ever aggression against their country. Correa expressed "outrage" and sees no negotiated settlement because "there is nothing to negotiate." In
Correa and Chavez both deployed troops to their borders, and each country went further.
Uribe, in turn, defiantly shot back that
Colombian officials heightened tensions further through misstatements. First, they claimed bombings occurred on their own territory. Then they changed the story saying: "
Both statements were untrue and Chavez reacted. He accused Uribe of lying and called him a "criminal" saying: "Not only is he a liar, a mafia boss, a paramilitary who leads a narco-government (that’s) a lackey of the
The war of words continues with
George Bush joined in, and jumped to his ally’s defense. Well he should as
In addition, he used the crisis to push Congress to approve a trade deal that’s been stalled over issues of Uribe’s paramilitary links and the country’s human rights record. Bush did what he always does. He cited national security and said ratification is a way to counter leaders like Chavez who destabilize the region. "If we fail to approve this agreement, we will let down our close ally, we will damage our credibility (and) will embolden the demagogues in our hemisphere."
Consider comments as well from US presidential candidates. On March 3, Barack Obama said: "The Colombian people have suffered for more than four decades at the hands of a brutal terrorist insurgency, and the Colombian government has every right to defend itself against the…FARC."
Hillary Clinton was even more hostile stating: "Hugo Chavez’s order yesterday to send ten battalions to the Colombian border is unwarranted and dangerous. (
Then there’s John McCain who even scares some in the Pentagon and is virulently hostile to Chavez. He calls him a "wacko" and "two-bit-dictator" and advocates his ouster "in the name of democracy and freedom throughout the hemisphere." As president, he’d be the most likely to provoke a confrontation because he’s ideologically committed to militarism "to confront a range of security challenges….in a dangerous world."
One writer calls him an "authoritarian maverick" and a man to fear as president. Another describes his "McCainiac mentality," his notion of occupying
Disturbing evidence of his belligerence is in his October 2001 commentary titled: "No Substitute for Victory – War is hell. Let’s get on with it." In it, he calls war "miserable business (but let’s) get on with the business of killing our enemies as quickly….and as ruthlessly as we must….(post-9/11) we have only one primary occupation, and that is to vanquish international terrorism. Not reduce it. Not change its operations. Not temporarily subdue it. But vanquish it….We did not cause this war (but) we must destroy the people who (did)." Is this a man to trust as president who considers anyone unresponsive to US interests a "terrorist" and state enemy to be destroyed?
Democrats are no better, so expect the worst under a new president next year. The "war on terror" will continue, and Uribe will get full funding and support for internal repression and Washington-ordered regional aggression.
By that standard, Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro have every right to invade
Heated Rhetoric and Provocative Charges
Further heightening tensions,
– Chavez and Correa have links to the rebel group;
– Chavez is trying to undermine, isolate and discredit Uribe and wants to cleanse FARC-EP of its (undeserved) pariah status; and most outrageous of all that
– FARC-EP acquired 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of uranium for a radioactive dirty bomb it wishes to sell for profit.
Former State Department arms smuggling expert, James Lewis, discounts the story. He said: "In a lot of cases involving uranium deals, somebody’s usually getting snookered (and the 50 kilos) quantity sounds really suspicious" because
Corporate Media Responses
A March 5
Now (Hugo Chavez) has been revealed as an explicit supporter and possible financier of the FARC. (He) made a show of ordering Venezuelan troops to the border (and) goaded his client (Correa) into mimicking his reaction. (They) both may have something to hide (about) financial links with the terrorists (and) backing an armed (terrorist) movement against the democratically elected government of their neighbor. No wonder (Uribe acted); he knows (Chavez and Correa) provid(e) a haven for the terrorists."
The New York Times’ Simon Romero’s comments were more measured in an article titled: "
Then there’s the Wall Street Journal that’s even further hard right since Rupert Murdoch bought it. It’s March 4 editorial was titled "Chavez’s War Drums" with a sub-headline stating "A laptop spills some of his secrets." The commentary noted "
Columbia’s "military (entered Ecuador) for legitimate reasons of self-defense….the Venezuelan bully….ordered 10 battalions and tanks to the Colombian border, and warned of war if the Colombian army staged a similar raid inside Venezuela….The war bluster is phony because Mr. Chavez is already waging his own guerrilla campaign against Colombia (by) support(ing) the FARC." The recovered "computer contains evidence supporting the claim that the FARC is working with Mr. Chavez (and) showed that
Documents also "show(ed) that the FARC was seeking to buy 50 kilos of uranium (and sold) 700 kilograms of cocaine valued at $1.5 million." The "military found a thank you note from Mr. Chavez to FARC for some $150,000 that the rebels had sent him when he was in prison for his attempted (1992) coup d’etat."
This type agitprop never lets up, so expect continued anti-Chavez rhetoric ahead as the dominant media plays up every chance they get to demonize him and support Bush’s hostile regime change agenda.
Some Background on the Diplomatic Crisis
Venezuelan-American lawyer and activist Eva Golinger writes on how
– the financial front by funding opposition groups "to obtain control in all different parts of the country," including the electoral process;
– the diplomatic front by accusing Chavez of destabilizing the region; also by "diplomatic terrorism," including sanctions "for made-up things" like non-existent drugs trafficking or not cooperating against it or the "war on terrorism;" and
– the military front with a large US presence in the region, major support for Uribe, and "use of Colombian paramilitaries (and) intervention of US Special Forces; the paramilitaries are the ‘actors’….they’re….sent….to try to assassinate Chavez (but) command-and-control is directed and controlled by the US Special Forces;" the paramilitaries and Colombian army "do the dirty work" while the
Colombian-Directed Hostility Toward Chavez
Since his 2002 election, Uribe has been hostile to Chavez, and Colombian paramilitaries continue committing border-area terrorist attacks and within
– he’s been linked to the country’s paramilitary death squads and drug cartels;
– for over 20 years in various government positions, he supported state terrorism, including kidnappings and assassinations – of trade unionists, opposition group peasants, social and human rights activists, journalists, and others on the left who oppose the country’s corporatist interests; and
– he frequently violates Venezuelan sovereignty with full backing and funding of the Bush administration calling the shots.
In his earlier writing, long-time Latin American expert, James Petras, referred to "the Uribe Doctrine (that) lays the basis for unilateral military intervention anywhere in the hemisphere (and echoes)
– "violate any country’s sovereignty (through) force and violence;
– recruit and subvert military and security officials to serve (Colombian and Washington’s) interests;
– allocate funds to bounty hunters or ‘third parties’ to engage in illegal violent acts within a targeted country;
– (assert) the supremacy of Colombian laws, decrees and policies over and against the sovereign laws of the intervened countries;" and
Chavez correctly calls
Petras also explains what Uribe’s doctrine is up to, and it’s clear where it originates. First and foremost it’s to support Bush administration regional policies, specifically target Chavez, and get billions in funding to do it. In addition, it’s to:
– "destroy Cuban-Venezuelan trade ties (to) undermine (
– prop up a key regional ally to assure rightist forces rule as a reliable
– it practices state terrorism;
– its foreign minister, Maria Consuelo Araujo, resigned last year after her brother, a senator, was jailed for colluding with paramilitary death squads; Colombia’s Supreme Court also urged federal prosecutors to investigate her father – a former governor, federal lawmaker and agriculture minister on kidnapping charges;
– its democracy is a sham; in last year’s regional elections, 30 mostly left of center candidates were murdered; news reporting is censored; journalists are arrested and killed; civil liberties are debased; and the rule of law is tenuous at best under a president who roguishly suspends it; he also packed the country’s Supreme Court and bribed and bullied enough legislators to amend the constitution to allow him to run for a second term – the first time in over 50 years an incumbent president did it;
– its government is riddled with scandal; over one-third of his party members are allied with paramilitary death squads; eight pro-Uribe congressmen were arrested last year for their paramilitary ties, and dozens of national and regional politicians are under investigation and fled the country; in addition, Colombia’s attorney general arrested Uribe’s campaign manager and secret police chief, Jorge Noguera, for having supplied paramilitaries with trade unionist names to murder; another former secret police official is serving an 18 year sentence for purging police records of paramilitaries and drugs traffickers;
– around two-thirds of Colombians are impoverished;
– many thousands of its people are restless and leaving;
– many cross into
– wealth concentration is extreme and worsening; and
– in the wake of his blatant aggression, Council on Hemispheric Affairs’ Director, Larry Birns, calls Uribe "Latin America’s most disgraced president." He says he’s "scorned throughout (the region) for being Bush’s favored hemispheric figure (but his) legacy (of aggression) will be a heavy cross for (him) to bear." He calls his presidency "catastrophic," and his Ecuadorean incursion effectively dooms it and his influence "on the hemisphere….Metaphorically speaking, (Paul) Reyes….scalped Uribe and….hung (his) tattered presidential sash upon a pike and walked the macabre sight through (Latin American) streets." Uribe will pay an "excessively high" price for "gunning down Reyes."
Contrast that assessment to conditions in
And here’s how prominent US attorney, Paul Wolf, describes the FARC-EP: They’re a "belligerent army of national liberation….they conduct their conduct of hostilities by organized troops kept under military discipline and complying (with) the laws and customs of war….international law (doesn’t prohibit) revolution, and if (it) succeeds….international law (allows) the outcome, even though it was achieved by force."
Progressive scholars and human rights activists agree, which brings us to what still drives both sides of the struggle.
Castro responded and called the
So can the FARC-EP. Petras calls them the "longest standing, largest peasant-based guerrilla movement in the world (that was) founded in 1964 by two dozen peasant activists (to defend) autonomous rural communities from" Colombian military and paramilitary violence. It’s now a "highly organized 20,000 member guerrilla army with several hundred thousand local militia and supporters…."
Pre-9/11, most EU and Latin American countries recognized the organization "as a legitimate resistance movement," and for several years
Ever since, a bloody extermination campaign has been waged, and it spills into
– over 2.5 million peasants and urban slum dwellers displaced;
– more than 5000 trade unionists murdered from 1986 to 2006, by far the most anywhere in the world;
– "30,000 peasants, rural teachers, and peasant and indigenous leaders have been killed with impunity;" and
– "land seizures by paramilitary leaders, cattle barons and military officers (that’s) concentrating land ownership to an unprecedented level."
With this going on, the liberation struggle continues, and expect no amount of billions to crush it.
Stephen Lendman lives in