Social and political upheavals – unlike any before – grip many nations in Latin America. The failure of neoliberalism to deliver prosperity is turning against many of the political parties there. The entire concept of liberal democracy is discredited and crumbling – serious change is in the air. Large US corporations and the IMF have perpetuated this economic war against the people and the environment with help from the Latin American upper class, who steadfastly - and brutally - resist sharing any of their land or wealth. This region has the greatest disparity of incomes of anywhere on Earth. (1) By this November the face of Latin America will have changed forever. Lula and the Workers Party will have capured the Presidency of Brazil with the left-of-center parties controlling 60 percent of the Brazilian legislature. A new model of liberation, decentralization and participatory economics will be losed to inspire and insight 100s of millions of people in Brazil and throughout Latin America. With broad support this model of participatory budgeting, agrarian reform, South American integration and alternative policies (renewable energy, organic farming and a ban on GMOs) will fluorish. This time the US will be blocked from intervention. (2) Big changes are coming soon, but the US will not roll over and some regions will bear the brunt of US frustration and violence.
Will Peace Ever Come to Colombia?
The country which has received the full spectrum of neoliberal attacks is also one of the most biologically important places on earth: Colombia. This country of 44 million people is an extreme example of the local oligarchy colluding with multi-national corporations and US militarism to make grotesque profits while the people and environment are devastated. The headwaters of the Amazon, Orinoco and Magdalena rivers are being poisoned by oil spills and the chemicals used to manufacture cocaine and heroin. Billions of dollars from the US and the drug cartels are keeping the people from overthrowing the oligarchy which kills 5000 to 10,000 people every year. (3) More than half of all legal Colombian exports travel to the US – if you add the value of cocaine and heroin the percentage goes to 80. Colombia has become a lucrative profit center for the US, one based on violence and ecological destruction. The Colombian oligarchy is the business partner for many US corporations and it is the ally of the US and its foreign policy. Like the Colombian Government and its military, they are corrupted at all levels by the narcotics trade. In terms of human rights and ecological abuse some of the worst Corporate or State-Sponsored businesses are:
1. CZN and Exxon-Mobil Corporation Exxon-Mobil Chairman and CEO: Mr. Lee R. Raymond 5959 Las Colinas Blvd., Irving, TX 75039 Phone: (972) 444-1000; Fax: (972) 444-1350; WWW.ExxonMobil.com
The CZN Consortium: A. BHP-Billiton (Australia and UK-based) CEO Brian Gilbertsom, Senior Minerals Executive Mike Salmon 1-3 Strand, London Wc2n 5HA, (020) 7747-3804 or Mathew Taylor, Manager Sustainable Development ([email protected]). Australian Office: Bourke Place, 600 Bourle Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3000, (03) 9609-3333. US Office 1360 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 150, Houston, TX 77056, (713) 961-8500. www.bhpbilliton.com
C. Glencore International (A private company with sales of $44 billion) Baarermattstrasse 3, CH-6341, Baar, Switzerland, (41) 41-709-2000; www.glencore.ch.
In 2000, ExxonMobil had the largest corporate profit that has ever been reported – $17.7 billion. In terms of revenue it is the largest corporation on Earth. It is the largest oil company and the largest polluter in the world. This Texas-based mega-corporation is also known as Exxon Mobil Coal and Minerals, Imperial Oil, ESSO and Monterrey Coal Company, Compania Minera Disputada de Las Condes Limitada (Chile), Intercor (Colombia) and dozens of other companies that produce a wide range of chemicals, plastics and consumer products. With $1.4 billion in revenues from its Colombian operations in 2000, Exxon Mobil was the second largest corporation in Colombia after the state-owned Ecopetrol. It no longer holds that title since it sold the massive Cerrejon Coal mine to CZN and its copper mining operations to Anglo American this year. Colombia is the fourth largest exporter of coal. For the last 15 years an average of 15 million tons per year has been extracted from the opencast El Cerrejon Coal Mine under its subsidiary Intercor. It is one of the largest open-pit mines in the world (30 miles long). The CZN Consortium purchased Intercor and Exxon’s share in April. The area of the mine is inhabited by the Wayuu Indians who have opposed the mine since 1980. At the start 5000 Indians were employed but most of them were dismissed when the mine began operations two years later. In 1988 the last Indians were fired for union activities. Intercor evicted all residents of the Indigenous community of Tabaco, to make way for the expansion of the mine. Residents are resisting and claim that the relocation arrangements made would break up communities and not give people sufficient funds to buy land to live on. The Colombian army guards the mine and has assisted strikebreaking in the past. To extract the coal, Exxon sucked up the groundwater, dried up the rivers and, in the process, denuded the grasslands on which the Wayuu depend for subsistence. (www.emagazine.com/july-august_1996/0796 curr2.html). Indians have also suffered from respiratory diseases caused by coal dust and heavy noise pollution. An international campaign organized by Greenpeace is targeting ExxonMobil for being one of the main obstacles to greenhouse gas reductions. Twenty-one percent of stockholders recently voted for ExxonMobil to adopt a renewable energy plan. See www.stopesso.org; www.campaignexxonmobil.org; www.stopmobil.net; www.pressurepoint.org; www.greenpeace.org/climate
CZN also has mining operations in Cerrejon Central and they are actively pursuing new mining opportunities in Cerrejon Sur. Mine expansions are imminent.
Drummond has fallen from the 318th largest private company in 1999 to a rank of 492. In 2001 it generated revenues of $615 million with 2,800 employees. It mines coal; produces coke; develops real estate. Drummond’s ABC Coke plant in Tarrant, Alabama, is the largest single producer of foundry coke in the US. Most of Drummond’s coal and profits come from the La Loma mine in the Cesar region of Colombia. Each year Drummond exports about 6 million tons of coal from Colombia to US electrical utilitiy companies. Douglas N. Daft, Chairman of the Board and CEO, of Coca Cola practices the same kind of labor relations as Drummond: they pay death squads to kill workers or anyone they want, anywhere they want. Ligia Ines Alzate, a longtime labor activist and General Secretary of the Confederation of Trade Unions for the state of Antioquia, toured the US and spoke to groups in Alabama in April. A Colombian union, Sintramienergetica, has sued Drummond Co. in federal court claiming that Drummond hired hit men to kidnap, torture and murder three men last year for their ties to the union that represents Drummond workers. Alzate said many foreign multinational companies hire paramilitary groups to target union leaders during contract negotiations or when restless workers protest company practices. Coca Cola is also being sued for encouraging death squads to kill union members. The United Mine Workers and the United Steel Workers Unions support the lawsuit against Drummond.
3. Dole Food Company Inc. David H. Murdock, Chairman and CEO Scott Greenwood, President, Dole Fresh Flowers Lawrence A. Kern, President and Chief Operating Officer Richard A. Harrah, President of Latin American Production 31355 Oak Crest Drive, Westlake Village California 91361.
Dole is the leading producer and supplier of fresh fruit and vegetables and a leader in the production of bananas and pineapples (2001 revenues of $4.5 billion). It has been expanding into fresh-cut flower production and markets a growing line of packaged foods. Dole is the largest employer in Colombia and employs 51,000 workers in Latin America on 44,000 hectares of prime farmlands. They control banana production in Colombia and in 1998 they bought 25 percent of the flower cultivation industry. Colombia is the second largest exporter of flowers in the world. Two-thirds of fresh-cut flowers sold in the United States come from Colombia. Dole is the largest producer of fresh flowers in Latin America with over ninety percent of production shipped into North America. The industry has hurt the environment of a central savanna where most of the flowers are grown. Aquifers there have dried up, requiring water to be brought in from Bogot·, the capital. Toxic residues from pesticides banned in Europe have turned up in groundwater. One-fifth of the chemicals used in the Colombian industry’s greenhouses have been restricted in the United States for health reasons (Aldicarb, DDT, Lindane, Aldrin and Metomil). Studies by local nongovernmental organizations have found that nearly two-thirds of Colombian flower workers suffer from peculiar illnesses, ranging from nausea to miscarriage. Dole employs 11,133 mostly women workers in the Colombian flower industry. Many make less than 60 cents an hour and women who become pregnant are immediately terminated from their jobs. Last year Dole agreed to participate in an environmental standards program, but the government provides no effective monitoring or enforcement of the standards. (4) The IUF, an international union of agricultural and restaurant workers, has been waging a campaign for a year now against Dole Food. This dispute originated over Dole’s treatment of banana workers and subcontracted cooperatives in the Philippines. (see: www.iuf.org). Dole gets about 40 percent of its bananas from Colombia and Ecuador. In Ecuador Dole is considered the largest employer of child labor and active in resisting unions and improvements in working conditions. In mid-July Dole agreed to pay $24 million to 3,000 Honduran banana workers exposed to sterility and cancer causing pesticides used on company plantations over the last 30 years.
4. Ecopetrol: Empresas Colombiana de Petroleos http://WWW.Ecopetrol.com
Refineries in Barrancabermeja, Tibu, Cartagena, Guamez and Apiay.
Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe has named former Ecopetrol board member Isaac Yanovich to head the state oil firm. He replaces outgoing Ecopetrol President Alberto Calderon. Oil is Colombia’s biggest foreign exchange earner and the government’s top source of revenue. Calderon has signed 60 exploration agreements with foreign companies in the past 30 months. Oil generates $2 billion in government revenue a year.
Colombia’s Congress has slashed the amount of royalties oil companies must pay the state on newly discovered oil fields from 16 percent to 5. Foreign firms say that lower royalties are crucial to continue doing business in Colombia, where kidnappings and attacks on pipelines by guerrillas, who have fought the government for 38 years, drive up operational costs and scare off investment.
The city of Barrancabermeja, is home to Colombia’s largest oil refinery. From here 70 percent of oil exports flow down the Magdalena River. An army base is located in the city and yet paramilitaries have intensified a terror campaign murdering 100s of civilians in the last year. In June, USO oil union workers went on strike to protest the assassination of union officer, Cesar Blanco.
Two hundred and one unionists were killed in Colombia in 2001 – more than 80 percent of the world total. An international consortium led by Canadian Occidental Petroleum expects as much as 300 million barrels from a new oilfield, called Boqueron – the nation’s third-largest deposit.
Other major investors in Colombian oil have included Exxon, Shell and Elf Aquitane. They have helped boost oil production 80 percent over the last decade. Ecopetrol diverts most of its profit to federal and local governments, but average Colombians see little benefit. Officials face pressure from guerrillas and right wing paramilitaries to pay protection money. Many officials simply steal or squander the money.
Arauca, a boomtown about 25 miles from the Cano Limon oilfield, has received millions of dollars annually in oil royalties but is ringed by shantytowns. In a petroleum-rich central valley known as the Middle Magdalena, more than 70 percent of the 750,000 inhabitants live in poverty and nearly 40 percent are unemployed, double the official nationwide rate.
5. BP Amoco (British Petroleum) The Lord Browne of Madingly, FREng: Group Chief Executive, 53 years old, appointed Executive Director 1991 and Group Executive in 1995. He is a non-executive director of Goldman Sachs Group and Intel Corporation and a trustee of the British Museum. John H. Bryan Non-executive Director, 63 years old, joined Amoco’s board in 1982. He serves on the board of Bank One Corporation, General Motors, and Gold Sachs. Retired from Sarah Lee in 2001. John G.S. Buchanan, CFO appointed 1996.
Eroll B. Davis, Jr., Non-Executive Director, 57 years old, joined AmocoÃs board in 1991. He is Chairman, President and CEO of Alliant Energy, a non-executive director of PPG Industries and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Carnegie Mellon University.
Amoco Colombia Petroleum Company BP Exploration Company Limited Carrera 9 A No. 99-02, 5th Floor Sante Fe de Bogota, Colombia 57-1-628-4077; Fax 57-1-611-1127
Colombia’s biggest foreign investor is BP Amoco, formed when British Petroleum merged with Chicago-based Amoco in 1998. The London-based giant controls Colombia’s largest oilfield, a 1.5-billion-barrel trove called Cusiana-Cupiagua in the northeastern province of Casanare. This region produces almost half of Colombia’s total crude output of 600,000 barrels a day.
The oil fields are operated by BP, which has a 19 percent share in the project. France’s TotalFinaElf has 19 percent and Triton Energy of the United States – a subsidiary of Amerada Hess Crop – has 12 percent, Ecopetrol owns 50 percent of the project. A 444-mile pipeline called Ocensa carries BP Amoco oil to the Caribbean port of Coveas for export. BP and Ecopetrol are studying whether to spend $130 million on a plant to allow them to sell natural gas from Cusiana-Cupiagua.
The Chuchupa field, operated offshore off the Caribbean coast by ChevronTexaco Corp, has similar reserves to Cusiana-Cupiagua and produces most of Colombia’s current gas supply. BP maintains close ties with a number of right wing paramilitaries who it helped to train and employ in the early 1990s.
6. Occidental (OXY) Petroleum Dr. Ray R. Irani, Chairman and CEO Stephen I. Chazen, CFO and Executive Vice President Kenneth J. Huffman, Vice President Corporate Headquarters 10889 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, California, 90024-4201 (310) 208-8800
Oil and Gas Division 5 Greenway Plaza Suite 2400 Houston, Texas 77046-0504 (713) 215-7000
OCC-Colombia Occidental Quimica de Colombia Ltda. Cra 43A, No. 1A Sure 29, Ofc. 407 Edificio Colmena, Avda el Problado Medellin, Colombia (574) 266-7967; (574) 312-7167; Fax (574) 268-2626
This Delaware corporation based in Los Angeles and Houston operates the Cano-Limon pipeline in northeastern Colombia. The Cano-Limon is 480 miles long and was bombed 79 times in 1999 by guerrillas (more than 1000 bombings since it was built in 1986). Oxy claims to have lost $100 million since 1995 because of guerrilla attacks.
At Bush and OXY’s urging, the US Congress has passed a military appropriations bill that includes an additional $98 million to pay for security on the pipleline. The new aid package constitutes a public revelation of BushÃs shift from the pretense of fighting the war on drugs to a strategy of counter-insurgency. This aid will save OXY the $30 million a year it has spent protecting the pipeline since the mid 1990s. (5) Colombia is 7th largest supplier of oil to the US and has the largest untapped pool of petroleum in the Western Hemisphere. Almost President, Al Gore controls up to one million dollars of family stock in Occidental. Lawrence P. Meriage, Occidental’s public-affairs vice president, not only pushed for Plan Colombia last year but urged a House subcommittee to extend military aid to the nation’s north to augment security for oil development operations.
They have temporarily pulled out of the disputed U’wa territory because of international publicity and pressure from their main stockholder: Sanford and Bernstein – parent company Alliance Capital.
Another big scandal with OXY involved its Florida-based subcontractor AirScan who directed the cluster bomb attack of the village of Santo Domingo near the Cano-Limon pipeline in Colombia. This attack resulted in the deaths of 9 children and nine other civilians in 1998. Investigations continue into this massacre. Across the border in Ecuador, OXY is a partner in the OCP petroleum pipeline – one of the most destructive and potentially catastrophic projects in the Andes. This pipeline cuts through one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world. Mudslides and earthquakes are frequent threats to the area and now there will be crude oil flowing through it. (6)
7. DynCorp CEO: Paul K. Lombardi; CFO: Patrick C Fitzpatrick Chairman: Dan Bannister; President DynCorp LLC: Steven J. Cannon. 11710 Plaza America Drive, Reston, VA 20190 phone (703) 261-5000; fax (703) 261-4800 www.dyncorp.com; E-mail: [email protected]. www.dyncorp-sucks.com
DynCorp is one of the largest private contractors for the US armed forces with 2001 revenues of $1.8 billion; up 34.5 percent for the year. It has assets of $644 million and 2001 profits of $102 million. DynCorp is the 121st largest private firm in the world and performs technical and consulting services including: aviation maintenance, logistical support, telecommunications, information systems, weapons testing; and management.
In 2001 DynCorp received a $600 million contract for Colombian fumigation and $35 million for related services, says Andy Higginbottom. Many of the DynCorp executives are former CIA or military personnel, others were formerly of Enron or Citigroup. The coca spraying campaign is directed by Rand Beers, Assistant Secretary for the Department of State’s division of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and the State DepartmentÃs secretive Air Wing. DynCorp and its contractor, Eagle Aviation Services and Technology (EAST), have made millions of dollars spraying Monsanto’s Roundup-Ultra (Glyphosate) over millions of acres of jungle and farmlands in Colombia. UK-based ICI recently pulled their soapy surfactant ingredients out of the spray mixture over concerns about liability and bad publicity T.D.
Allman in Rollingstone magazine said of DynCorp’s subcontractor EAST, “Once upon a time these pilots and crews were called mercenaries. Today they’re known as contract personnel. Many come from US involvement in clandestine warfare in Cuba and Central America. (May 8, 2002).” Eagle Aviation Services and Technology (EAST Inc.) is headquartered at Patrick Air Force Base, Cocoa Beach, Florida (www.ciponline.org/Columbia/contractors.htm).
Information on EAST Inc. is hard to obtain. It was founded by Richard Gadd and the current President is Thomas Fabyanic. Both are retired Air Force colonels. Photos of either of them are hard to find. They have a small office in Chantilly, Virginia, but their main operations are at Patrick Air Force Base where fumigation pilots are trained by the State Department’s Bureau of Narcotics and International Law Enforcement – an operation referred to as the Air Division or the Air Wing. EAST is incorporated in several US states, but has refused to discuss its operations in Colombia.
The State Department has stated that EAST is concerned for the safety of its pilots. East maintains that its activities are classified. Based out of Landria military base in Colombia, Blackhawk choppers fly cover for fumigation pilots. Despite these escorts, American pilots flying Vietnam-era Bronco DV-10s over FARC-EP dominated Caqueta Department recently chose to abort their spray mission when they encountered heavy fire from the guerrillas.
Reminiscent of Vietnam, the US-contracted pilots say that the Colombians would prefer it if the US fight their war for them. Four DynCorp and EAST pilots have died in crashes since 1997. One was killed in early August when guerrilla fire brought down a DynCorp-piloted Super Huey chopper. The pilot and four Colombian military personnel died. A computer expert working for DynCorp was killed the same day in Putumayo Department when he walked into an airplane propeller. DynCorp’s contracts with the CIA include covert work in Colombia and Peru, according to James Woolsey, former head of CIA at Senate hearings.
Several DynCorp employees have been investigated for drug trafficking and it is common knowledge in Colombia that these US subcontractors consume hard drugs and are above the law. By most definitions they are terrorists and what they do to the environment of Colombia and Ecuador is eco-terrorism. EAST has a long history of CIA and clandestine operations. DynCorp has been awarded 100s of millions of dollars in defense contracts in the US and in Bosnia – scandals follow their every step.
The spraying of defoliants has damaged vast areas of food crops and sensitive habitat. The International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) has filed suit in US federal court on behalf of 10,000 Ecuadorian peasant farmers and Amazonian Indians charging DynCorp with torture, infanticide and wrongful death for its role in the aerial spraying in the Amazonian jungle, along the border of Ecuador and Colombia
In a new development, Rand Beers who heads up the US coca fumigation program has had to addmit theat he made false statements in a sworn afidavit in the Ecuadorian Lawsuit. Desperate to avoid the lawsuit going forward, the State Department submitted numerous briefs to the court asking for the case to be rejected on national security grounds. Included in these statements was Beers’ claim that the FARC-EP guerrillas had been to Afghanistan for terrorist training.
No one supports Beers on this wild statement. The court should ask George Bush’s hack Otto Reich where this idea came from, since Reich is famous for doing illegal and quasi-legal propaganda and outright lies. But to a Federal Court? Terry Collingsworth of the ILRF, which is co-counsel for the plaintiffs, said the mistake indicates that the State Department and DynCorp were eager to tie Plan Colombia — the multi-billion dollar aid package that pays for DynCorp’s contract – to the post-September 11 terror attacks. “They are so desperate to keep this suit away from a jury that they’ll say anything to convince the judge it’s related to terrorism,” he said
8. Military Personnel Resources Inc. (MPRI) President: Ret. Gen. Carl Vuono; Executive Vice President: Ret. General Ronald H. Griffith; Senior Vice President / General Manager of The Alexandria Group Joe Wolfinger; CFO: Ret. Colonel Stephen E. Inman; Senior Vice President / General Manager of the International Group Ret. Gen. Crosbie Saint; and Senior Vice President / General Manager of the National Group: Ret.Lieutenant Gen. Jared L. Bates.
Insiders joke that MPRI has more generals than the Pentagon. This high level mercenary group has over 1000 elite military and law enforcement leaders on retainer, including Gen. Ed Soyster, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Gen. Frederick Kroesen, former commander of the U.S. Army in Europe and a former Assistant Director of the FBI Many of its employees serve on the Council of Foreign Relations. The President, Carl Vuono was the Army Chief of Staff during the invasion of Panama and the Gulf War. He retired after the war and joined MPRI in 1991. One of his first big jobs was advising the Croatian government when it split away from Yugoslavia. He is credited with the victorious military strategy of lightning armor drives that were used against the Serbs. MPRI is a military consultancy and also supplies pilots and Special Forces and elite training and security services worldwide. They recently completed an $800,000 contract to review and advise the Colombian military. MPRI also runs the US Army’s college program, the ROTC, at over 200 US univesities.
9. The NARCO-TERROR COLOMBIAN GOVERNMENT Inc. : Cartels. Armed forces and Paramilitary Death Squads; Kingpin of Drugs and Power: George W. Bush; Acting President : Alvaro Uribe; Armed Forces: General Jorge Enrique Mora; Paramilitaries and Drug Cartels: Carlos Castano of the AUC/ACCU. (www.auc.com)
“Today we cannot expect to fight drug trafficking while we turn a blind eye to the corrupted ways of government, these are, after all, one and the same, they work together to make sure that things donÃt change. The Colombian government has permitted the creation of the paramiltary forces financed by powerful landlords and drug traffickers and trained by high ranking army officers. As long as the AUC paramilitary forces are a clandestine instrument of the establishment negotiations are impossible… in the end the Colombian government accepts illegal money to win a war that protects – not the lives of civilians – but the properties of those [drug lords] financing the war.” – Ingrid Betancourt, Until Death Do US Part (page 223).
She was apprehended by the FARC-EP when the Colombian government refused to let her fly into the former FARC-EP safehaven with the other major presidential candidates. (7) Every NGO, International Agency, and most US State Department and DEA reports agree with the above summary by the Green Party Presidential candidate Betancourt, that an axis of evil has united against the leftist FARC-EP and the poor people of Colombia to maintain the status quo of violence and drug dealing. The US played the decisive role in establishing this nexus when it brought the AUC into the killer networks that the US established in 1991. Without massive US financial support the corrupt Colombian government would have fallen to the FARC last year. (8)
The UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention says that “Deforestation caused by coca and opium cultivation is close to 340,000 hectares. Each hectare of coca costs four hectares of Amazon forest . When vegetation is cut on slopes, the water supply downstream is affected, in addition to a loss of some 120-230 tons of topsoil per hectare. Pollution of water sources results from use of herbicides and fertilizers applied to the drug crops, and from solvents and chemicals used in drug refinement– 20 million liters of ethyl ether, acetone, ammonia, sulphuric acid and hydrochloric acid are discarded from labortories into the tributaries that feed the Amazon and Orinoco rivers– endangering 350 Andean floral species, 210 animal species, 600 birds species, 170 reptiles, 100 amphibians, and 600 fish species in the Amazon and Orinoco alone.” The use of herbicides to eradicate illicit crops causes additional environmental and social damage and yet has failed to reduce drug crop production at all. A phony drug war has become a bloody large-scale anti-guerrilla campaign that is guaranteed to devastate the flora, fauna and the peasants while making Colombia safe for massive, coal, oil, and mineral extraction for US markets. (9)
War Crimes lawsuits are pending against this US barbarity. (10)
1.Rand Beers: (http:// – or) www.state.gov/ww/about_state/biography/beers.html
2. Tony Trahar – AngloAmerican – photo at www.angloamerican.co.uk - go to business link).
3. Carl Vuono – MPRI – photo – http://usembassy.state.gov/nigeria/wwwhxrddec2.html
4. Dan Bannister/ Paul Lombardi – Dyncorp – photos at – www.italmanac.com/tech-directory/16.html
6. More Photos available soon or by request.
for The Political Economy of a Narco-Terror State: Colombia and Corporate Profits by EcoSolidaridad-Andes, [email protected]
1). Colburn, Forrest D., Latin America at the End of Politics,Princeton Univ. Press, 2002, page 82. Drawing from the Inter- American Development Bank’s 1998-99 report “Economic and Social Progress in Latin America,” Brazil is the most unequal country in the world – the top ten percent have 50 percent of national income, the bottom 50 percent have 10 percent of the income; Chile, Guatemala, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama and Paraguay are the next most unequal. The income of a third of Latin Americans (150 million people) is less than two dollars per day. And inequality is actually much worse than the statistics since income from capital is not included.
2). The US will react to the revolutions sweeping Latin America by the usual means – economic isolation, propaganda, and bribery of opposition leaders and movements – as we have seen in Venezuela. Assassination and contrived scandals are also possibilities. But the US no longer can call upon the local militaries to squash democracy, especially not in several countries at once. The militaries are generally discredited as institutions having already used brutality previously. Furthermore, the US model – neoliberalism – no longer offers any promise and so the region will go it alone or rather through regional integration and alliance with Europe.
3). Transnational Criminal Organizations and Drug Trafficking, UN Office of Drug Control, P.Willams and C. Florez, 1994. “Although drug trafficking has had little direct and positive effects on the Colombian economy, there is no doubt that the incidence of trafficking on the country’s social and political instability has been very important.
The escalation of violence coincides with the increase in drug trafficking, and there is a strong correlation between homicides and drug trafficking offenses. And the drug traffickers fuel the armed conflict through their financial support. to protect their interests the drug traffickers are further more engaged in the large scale corruption of politicians and civil servants with the predictable result that faith in institutions has declined further at incalculable cost to society” (Part V).
There are 25- 30,000 homicides or disappearances every year in Colombia. Many thousands more are the victims of severe assaults and rape. The typical annual count of 3500-4000 dead from politically motivated crimes is low and misleading. Many of the other 20-25,000 deaths and 10s of thousands of assaults are directly connected to drug growing, dealing, processing and related violence. And additional murders are the result of crimes committed by criminal gangs of whom many are connected to or operate freely because of the presence of paramilitary death squads.
Ignoring the connections between the death squads, drug traffickers, the Colombian armed forces and most criminal gangs results in a distorted view of the levels of violence and who is primarily to blame. Under a more comprehensive accounting the percentages of murders and human rights violations attributable to the combined crimes of the Government-Drug Trafficker-Death Squad and related Criminal Gang actions would be close to 50 percent of all murders or at least 8- 10,000 victims.
Under this methodology, human rights violations by these government-sanctioned groups would rise to 8-12,000 cases, most of these are serious assaults and rapes. This would leave the guerrilla forces of the FARC-EP and ELN with almost no significant percentage of credible human rights violations (400-600 mostly military related deaths). The extreme cruelty and intentional use of terror by the right wing forces (Chain saw massacres, rape, and public execution/torture) are also relevant factors since the left-wing guerrillas rarely resort to such premeditated barbarity.
This accounting would explain why our interviews in many regions of Colombia find that in most cases people have heard of few, if any, unjustified or non-accidental crimes by the FARC-EP or ELN. This is strikingly true in the departments of Bolivar, Valle de Cauca, Magdalena Medio, Santander and North Santander where a large percentage of homicides and massacres occur.
4). “The Dark Side of Flowers,” Sarah Cox, Georgia Straight, http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=9&ItemID=1422 2002. “Of the 134 pesticides approved for use in the Colombian flower industry, seven are considered by the Colombian government to be extremely toxic. At least twelve of the approved pesticides, including some on that extremely toxic list, are named by the US Environmental Protection Agency as posssible or probable carcinogens. These include Aldicarb and Metomil, insecticides and nematicides that belong to a class of pesticides known as N-methyl carbonates. Both are suspected endocrine- system disrupters. Exposure can cause sterility or decreased fertility, impaired development, birth defects of the reproductive tract, and metabolic disorders, according to the Pesticide Action Network’s on-line database.” The article mentions the Florverde and European based ICC fair flowers programs, but admits that “Colombia has rules governing pesticide use, but there are no specific rules specifically for greenhouses. ‘The application of pesticides in greenhouses, constructions covered in plastic, triples the impact of these substances.” And greenhouses are where almost all the flower production takes place.
5). Laws have also been changed to allow for a higher percentage of foreign ownership from 50 percent to 75 percent. Now these corporations can extract more profits from poor Colombia. Coinciding with this is the steady increase in all types of US military, economic and intelligence aid in the guise of anti-terrorism for Colombia and the whole region. Most important has been the massive propaganda efforts of US media and Otto Reich of the State Department.
The complicity of Europe has also given the US a slight aura of respectability – how EURO leaders can sleep at night after listing the FARC-EP as a terrorist group (38 years of civil war suddenly becomes terrorism?) will be a subject of debate for many years. The guerrillas commit 1-5 percent of human rights violations against a government-death squad alliance the has been committing atrocities against the poor for 65 years or longer!
6). See www.Amazonwatch.org
7). Betancourt, like her Liberal party mother, has been a constant thorn in the side to Colombian politicians who they saw as utterly corrupted by drug dealing, cigarette smuggling, tax evation and currency exchange fraud. Her mother told Ingrid just before the popular presidential candidate Carlos Galan was assassinated in 1990, that Galan was the last hope for Colombia. The two Betancourts were nearly killed in the assassination of Galan at a political rally in Soacha. People on the street in Bogota almost laughed upon hearing she had been siezed by the FARC-EP since her program was similar, though she did critisize the guerrillas’ violence – as does almost everyone in Colombia, since to do otherwise is a certain death warrant.
8). The peace talks initiated by Pastrana were a clever ploy to buy time, since the FARC-EP had nearly taken out Castano’s base in Nudo de Parramillo and surrounded the capitol, Bogota in the year before they were granted the Switzerland-sized safe haven. The government dragged its feet much more than the guerrillas during the peace talks and nothing except negotiations over how to negotiate ever developed for the next several years. Meanwhile, the US military rushed in with Blackhawk choppers, additional spy planes and intelligence for the paramilitaries who launched an all-out progorm in many areas outside of the FARC-EP safe haven, nearly eliminating the smaller guerrilla force, the ELN, which was forced to join up with the FARC-EP in some areas in order to survive.
9.) See note number three (same reference).
10). Contact [email protected] for more information or to support this important effort at justice and peace. They have a list of 170 suspected war criminals in Colombia and they need cross checking with Witness for Peace, Amnesty and other groups’ lists.