Varieties of Imperial Decline: Narco-Terror Attrition


On March 1st Colombian government armed forces, supported by US military surveillance resources, massacred a group of over 20 people located at a FARC encampment on Ecuadoran territory near the border with Colombia in the area of Sucumbíos. Although most media reports describe the victims as members of the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces, some reports from Ecuador suggest that as many as five or six of the people murdered may have been Mexican students researching the Colombian conflict. (1) The complete sequel to the Bush-regime backed massacre will probably take many weeks to play out completely.

The Colombian cross-border raid posed a serious and immediate threat to its neighbours’ security and stability. It cut short for the time being well-advanced negotiations for the release of around a dozen prisoners of the FARC, including former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, three US mercenaries and various members of the Colombian security forces. The forceful response from Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa was backed by almost all the region’s governments and leaders. The Colombian government was left isolated and its arguments discredited.

Peace may seem to have been made at the March 8th Rio Group summit between the parties involved – Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. But that peace is unlikely to be accomplished except in the most fragile way. Colombia‘s narco-terror President Alvaro Uribe committed implicitly to respect in future the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of neighbouring Ecuador, Venezuela and – with respect to the two countries’ continuing maritime dispute – Nicaragua. Colombia failed to persuade other governments to include a description of the FARC as "terrorists".

The Declaration (2) simply notes that Colombia regards irregular groups like the FARC as terrorists. This is a very important diplomatic setback for President Uribe’s narco-terror regime and for its supporters in the US government. The non-reporting of that outcome in NATO country media indicates that the low intensity war against Venezuela specifically – and against the member countries of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) in general – works in converse synchronization with every downward ratchet of US global influence and prestige.

The governments of Venezuela and Ecuador are insisting on the correct application of international law, just as Nicaragua did during the US government organized terrorist aggression of the 1980s. But as Ecuador‘s President Rafael Correa pointed out during his speech at the Rio Group Summit, it is hard to deal with someone as cynical and deceitful as Alvaro Uribe. (3) Both Correa and Chavez have been very clear in stating what they think about Uribe. Prior to the summit Chavez declared, "President Uribe is a criminal – not just a liar, a paramilitary leading a terrorist State…." (4)

So they travelled far and fast during the day-long proceedings of the Santo Domingo summit in order to reach agreement with the other members of the Rio Group, including Colombia. In the end, Jose Miguel Insulza,  Secretary General of the Organization of American States, said Chavez "made an extensive speech, considered, reflexive, very conciliatory and I certainly think it played an important role" in resolving the conflict. (5) Even Peru‘s chameleon  buffoon-President Alan Garcia was reported as agreeing that President Chavez was  one of the promoters of "a good settlement and rapprochement" between the leaders of Ecuador and Colombia. (6)

The outcome of the latest Rio Group Summit provided a welcome breathing space, if not a full stop, to the developing drift towards regional instability and conflict. Not for nothing did both President Correa and President Chavez voice concerns that the US government is seeking to transplant its Middle Eastern modus operandi to the Andes. In Iraq, the Bush regime promoted regionalization favouring the Kurds. It is doing the same in the resource rich provinces of Bolivia in favour of the oligarchy in the resource rich "media luna" region.

After having invaded Iraq and bankrolled Israeli aggression for decades, the US blithely accuses Iran and Syria of destabilizing the region.  In the Andes, it accuses Venezuela. Sensible defensive measures by Venezuela to fend off possible violations by Colombia similar to the raid into Ecuador get described by the Bush regime and by US persidential candidate Hilary Clinton as "provocation". One looks in vain in the Western Bloc/NATO country  propaganda media for any reference to the absurd double standards such remarks imply.

The UK Guardian newspaper continues to be a useful bellwether for Western Bloc propaganda in the liberal news media. In February, the Guardian/Observer web site carried baseless allegations by John Carlin alleging that the Venezuelan government was involved in narcotics dealing (7). In March, in a piece systematically misrepresenting the crisis, Isabel Hilton, whom some might see as a doyenne of British liberal media foreign affairs reporting, deploys classic British colonialist hauteur to denigrate Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.

The interesting thing about this is that Hilton and Carlin were both important media players in perception management of the Contra war against Nicaragua. Carlin reported on the Nicaraguan war for  the Independent and Hilton was the Independent’s Latin America editor. In those days they did their level best not to report the mass terrorism practised by the Contra. In the best traditions of NATO-friendly social-democrat "balance", the Independent’s editorial line in those days was to disparage the Sandinista revolution as incompetent and foolish. Now, on Venezuela, while Carlin offers bogus, fact-averse "reporting", here we get Hilton editorializing, "It has been a farce but this crisis needn’t end in tragedy." (8)

So not only are the same old political Iran-Contra Reaganaut players in Washington driving the 4th generation war against Venezuela but the same media managers and writers are back in action as well. Gangster politicians like John Negroponte, Elliot Abrams and the rest have their messages reinforced by  journalists like Carlin and Hilton.  Managing rich-country mass opinion is part of the total war at grass roots level in which low-intensity conflict consists. Mainstream corporate media outlets by definition tend to favour views that reinforce the propaganda line of the corporate elite and their political front-persons.

So after a swift, skewed, de-contextualized, opposition-style account of the situation in Venezuela, Hilton writes, "Despite Correa’s leftwing credentials there is little love lost between him and Chávez, and Correa set about marking out the contrast, building diplomatic support in Latin America’s capitals where neither Uribe nor Chávez enjoy favour." In fact, Correa’s whirlwind tour in search of support took in Peru, Brazil, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Panama. On March 8th Correa declared "Chávez knows he can count on us, when Venezuela needs us we’ll be there." (9)

So much for Correa distancing himself from Chavez. Later on,  Hilton recoups some credibility by grudgingly acknowledging Chavez’ role in negotiating the release of people held by the FARC and acknowledging that Uribe may have used the raid into Ecuador to boost his chances of a second re-election so as to serve a third Presidential term.  But the main argument of her piece is that somehow Chavez was "humiliated" by Uribe when in fact as events turned out it was Uribe who was left isolated and lacking credibility. Meanwhile, President Chavez and his ALBA partners, Nicaragua‘s Daniel Ortega and Bolivia‘s Evo Morales, consolidated their supportive relationship with President Correa.

In Venezuela, over 180 rural workers have been murdered during land disputes since 2001. Colombian paramilitaries are thought to have been hired by local landowners for their expertise in such killings. Along the Colombian border and elsewhere in Colombia various paramilitary groups calling themselves "Aguilas Negras" are reforming the former AUC paramilitary groups supposed to have "demobilized" during President Uribe’s two periods in office. The Venezuelan authorities accuse Colombian paramilitaries of running narcotics smuggling and food and fuel contraband operations along the borders of Tachira and Zulia provinces.

More broadly, in an important interview published by Ecoportal, Hector Mondragón has noted (10) that :

"The harvest of terror has isolated Colombia from all the processes going on in Latin America. In a place where workers’ rights are demolished, where rural workers are robbed of their land, where thousands of indigenous leaders have been murdered, so from where are you going to draw a left wing like the Ecuadoran one or the one in Bolivia? We cannot. We live opposite processes and so the results are the opposite. In Colombia there is an extreme right wing emergency embodied in the government of Uribe and in his "peace agreement" with the paramilitaries whose objective is to instituionalize what before was criminal activity. Parapolitics is just that, for them to be the government………To say that paramilitarism does not exist is a great big lie, of course it continues. But the problem is not that. Something much more important is that the economic results of paramilitarism are present. That is to say, the economic benefits obtained by the companies that financed it, like Chiquita Brands, remain. What they achieved for their business is a fact, it was business to finance the paramilitaries and control the fight against the banana workers. All the connections between businesses and the paramilitaries remain. Those connections’ results prevail."

Writers like Luismi Huarte (11) argue that current conditions include all the elements necessary for a Nicaraguan Contra style war of attrition. The objective is not to defeat Venezuela‘s Bolivarian Revolution but to wear it down, sustain an atmosphere of constant crisis and deprive the Chavez government  of popular support. The Colombian incursion into Ecuador to murder a FARC leader trying to promote moves towards negotiations and peace was clearly part of that war of attrition. The recent Rio Group Declaration is unlikely to stop the current US government or its successor from trying to reproduce its Middle Eastern policies in the Andes. Both Rafael Correa and Hugo Chavez have already noted that such is their intent.

Notes
1. "Conflicto se trasladó a México, Ecuador confirma oficialmente que víctimas eran estudiantes de esa nacionalidad", Agencias. aporrea.org , 07/03/08
2. Declaration of the 20th Summit of the Rio Group held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (toni’s tranlsation) :
" The Heads of State and Government of the Permanent Mechanism for Consultation and Political Cooperation  – the Rio Group – together for the 20th Summit Meeting in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, alert to the situation prevailing between Ecuador and Colombia, have agreed to make the following Declaration:
1.  The events that took place on March 1st 2008 are the cause of deep concern for the whole region, when forces of Colombia’s military and police entered Ecuadoran territory in the Sucumbíos province without the express consent of the Ecuadoran government, in order to carry out an operation against members of the irregular Combian Revolutionary Armed Forces group who were clandestinely camped in the Ecuadoran frontier area
2. We reject this violation of  Ecuador‘s territorial integrity and therefore reaffirm the principle that a State’s territory is inviolable and cannot be subject to military occupation or other measures of force taken by another State, directly or indirectly, for whatever motive, even temporarily.
3. We note with satisfaction the full apologies offered by President Alvaro Uribe to the Government and people of Ecuador for the violation of the territory and sovereignty of that sister nation on March 1st 2008 by the public forces of Colombia.
4. We also note the commitment by President Alvaro Uribe in his country’s name that these events will not be repeated in the future under any circumstance in compliance with the dispositions of Articles 19 and 21 of the Charter of the OAS.
5. We note the decision of President Rafael Correa to receive documentation offered by President Alvaro Uribe and which would have reached the Government of Colombia following the events of March 1st, so that the Ecuadoran judicial authorities may investigate possible violations of national law.
6. We recall too the sacred priniciples of international law, respect for sovereignty, abstention from the threat or use of force and non-intervention in the internal affairs of other States, stressing that Article 19 of the Charter of the Organization of American States states that No State or Group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly for whatever motive in the internal or external affairs of any other. The foregoing principle excludes not just armed force but also other forms of intervention or tendency against the State’s personality or the political, economic and cultural  elements that constitute it.
7. We repeat our commitment to peaceful coexistence in the region based on the fundamental precepts of international law contained in the Charters of the United Nations and the Organization of American States, as also is stressed in the essential objectives of the Rio Group, the peaceful solution of international disputes and its vocation to keep the peace and search jointly for solutions to conflicts that affect the region.
8. We repeat our firm commitment to fight threats to the security of all its States proceeding from the action of irregular groups or from criminal organizations, in particular those linked to narco-trafficking. Colombia considers those organizations as terrorists.
9. We support the resolution approved by the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States of March 5th 2008. Likewise, we express our support for the Secretary General in fulfilling the responsibilities that he has just been assigned, via the resolution mentioned, to head a Commission that will go to both countries to visit those places that the parties indicate and write up a report of his observations to the Consultative Meeting of Foreign Ministers and propose formulas for a rapprochement between the two countries.
10. We urge the parties involved to keep open respectful channels of communication and to seek formulas for lowering tension.
11. Taking into account the valuable traditions of the Rio group as a basic mechanism for promoting understanding and the search for peace in our region, we make clear our complete support for all efforts at rapprochement. In that spirit we offer to the governments of Colombia and Ecuador the Group’s good offices to contribute to a satisfactory solution for which reason the Group’s Troika remains attentive to the results of the Consultative Meeting of the Foreign Ministers.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. March 7th 2008.
3. (Video) "Correa: "No puedo aceptar las falacias de Álvaro Uribe" "Aporrea / TeleSUR / Yvke Mundial 07/03/08 – http://www.aporrea.org/tiburon/n110395.html
4. http://encontrarte.aporrea.org/noticias/n8576.html
5. "Insulza: Intervención del presidente Chávez en la Cumbre de Río fue “decisiva y tremendamente constructiva”  ",  Aporrea / Antv Noticias,  09/03/08
6. "Alan García reconoce que Hugo Chávez promovió acuerdo pacífico en Cumbre de Río",  TeleSUR, aporrea.org,  08/03/08
7. http://toni.tortillaconsal.com/carlin.html
8. "It has been a farce, but this crisis needn’t end in tragedy", Isabel Hilton,  The Guardian,  March 7th 2008
9. "Rafael Correa: "Chávez sabe que cuenta con nosotros, cuando Venezuela nos necesite, allí estaremos" ", Aporrea / TeleSUR,  aporrea.org, 08/03/08
10. "Entrevista a Héctor Mondragón, Convergencia Campesina, Negra e Indígena de Colombia",  Aloia Álvarez Feáns, ecoportal.net, March 4th 2008
11. "Paramilitarismo colombiano en Venezuela: otro factor más de desestabilización", Luismi Huarte, Rebelión, 09-03-2008

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