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U.S.-Venezuela coup plot exposed & thwarted June 13, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Foreign Policy, Latin America, Venezuela.
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Roger’s note: Out of sight, out of mind.  While the news media’s attention is on Iraq, Africa, the World Cup in Brazil,  or wherever, the CIA shop never closes, and the efforts to destroy the elected government of Venezuela grind on, however slowly, however quietly.  The Obama foreign policy towards Latin America is as Monroe Doctrinish as any other Democratic or Republican government, where in recent years the CIA has replaced the Marines as the principal agent of change.
By Gloria La Riva

June 7, 2014, http://www.liberationnews.org

  Plan to “annihilate Maduro” and other leaders

on-venezuelan-tv-jorgeOn Venezuelan TV, Jorge Rodríguez, mayor of Libertador municipality in Caracas, quotes from emails written by Maria Corina Machado.

In a dramatic televised exposé May 28, email messages from Venezuelan ultra-right opposition leaders reveal the direct role of the U.S. State Department in financing and instructing Venezuelan coup plotters.

The incriminating emails, “many, many” captured by Venezuelan authorities, proves that the violent attacks which began in February 2014 and latest coup plot was coordinated by Washington.

On Venezuelan TV, Jorge Rodríguez, mayor of Libertador municipality in Caracas, quoted from emails written by Maria Corina Machado to an accomplice, professor Gustavo Tarre of the Central University of Venezuela. Tarre was a leader of the right-wing Christian Social party, COPEI.

Machado, active in the April 2002 coup against president Hugo Chávez, prides herself on being one of the most aggressive in pushing for the government’s overthrow.

In one email, she complains that some in the opposition only “send formal declarations and tweets. No, I’ve already decided and this struggle is until this regime is gone and we fulfill our promise with our friends in the world… Kevin Whitaker already reconfirmed the support and indicated the new steps. We can rely on a bigger checkbook than the regime’s, to break the ring of international security that they have created …”

The checkbook is of course signed by Washington.

Who is Kevin Whitaker? He became U.S. ambassador to Colombia in April 2014, having been appointed by President Obama. Whitaker has been assigned previously to Honduras, to Venezuela from 2005 to 2007 and was in charge of the State Department’s Office of Cuba Affairs from 2002 to 2005.

Rodríguez, also president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), asked on TV, “Does the U.S. State Department know that when the Venezuelan ultra-right attempts its criminal events that violate our constitution of peace, of democracy, it is asking for instructions and authorization of a State Department official? Does President Obama know of this? Does Secretary of State John Kerry?”

The Bolivarian government has complained of the role of right-wing forces in Colombia against Venezuela, including ex-president Alvaro Uribe’s links to paramilitary groups operating on the border, poised for armed intervention.

Obviously Whitaker’s ambassadorship is not confined to Colombia, and Venezuela’s complaint of interference from Colombia is not imaginary.

Machado wrote in another email: “I believe the time has come to join forces, make the necessary calls, and obtain the financing to annihilate Maduro… and the rest will come falling down.”

As late as May 23, Machado’s email: “I’m fed up with waiting. We have to take out this trash — starting with the one heading it and by taking advantage of the world situation with Ukraine and Thailand as soon as possible.”

The latest assassination plans against President Nicólas Maduro, National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello and other leaders, are because U.S. imperialism has failed to unseat the revolutionary government either by elections or economic sabotage.

Despite 15 years of U.S. machinations, the masses back the revolutionary process and have overcome many difficult challenges. But the plans in Washington continue.

Machado is not the only one involved in the coup plans. Others are implicated, including William Brownfield, former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, Pedro Mario Burelli, former director of the oil industry PDVSA, who now lives in Washington, and fugitive banker Eligio Cedeño, now in Miami.

The emails and phone calls of the opposition were intercepted by court order obtained by the Bolivarian Intelligence Service. The government is proceeding with prosecution of Machado and others for plotting criminal actions.

If Venezuela’s revolution were overthrown, U.S. imperialism and its right-wing stooges would unleash a bloodbath reminiscent of the fascist terror that reigned from Argentina to Chile in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation stands with the Bolivarian Revolution, its government and people. It is vital that we in the progressive movement inform the people of the United States of U.S. government plots and mobilize in the Revolution’s defense.

Content may be reprinted with credit to LiberationNews.org.

Colombia: Uribe’s Former Intelligence Chief Sent to Prison September 21, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: The Colombian government under the presidency of Alvaro Uribe was the US number one ally in Latin America, with hundreds of millions of dollars poured into Plan Colombia and a free trade agreement to prop up his murderous regime.  The evidence of the Uribe government’s complicity in terrorism and murder is finally coming out via the trials of Uribe’s highest level officials, as documented below.  Uribe himself, like his counterparts in the Bush/Cheney regime that bolstered his position, appears to be beyond the arm of the law and justice.  But unlike the cowardly Obama administration, Colombia’s justice system is in fact bringing justice at a high level.  Would that the great Banana Republic to the North would have the same integrity.

Written by Constanza Vieira
Thursday, 15 September 2011 20:19
IPS – Jorge Noguera, a regional manager of former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe’s (2002-2010) election campaign in 2002 and head of the secret police during the Uribe administration, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison. “I trusted him; if he committed a crime it pains me, and I apologise to the people,” Uribe said Wednesday.

The Supreme Court found Noguera, the former head of the Administrative Department of Security (DAS), Colombia’s secret police, guilty of aggravated conspiracy and homicide in the 2004 murder of university professor and activist Alfredo Correa de Andreis. He was also found guilty of destroying and hiding public documents and revealing secret information.

Noguera was barred from public office and other rights for 20 years, and ordered to pay a fine to the state, as well as about 100,000 dollars in reparations to the Correa de Andreis family.

The trial of Uribe’s former intelligence chief was limited to allegations made in the media between the second half of 2005 and mid-2006 by a former employee of Noguera’s, Rafael García, head of the DAS computer department who confessed to connections with far-right paramilitary groups.

The charges referred to Noguera’s links with the North Block of the paramilitary United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), commanded by Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, a.k.a. “Jorge 40″, the aim of which was “to favour paramilitary actions in the northern zone of the country,” the verdict states.

Noguera provided members of the North Block with lists of names of people who were subsequently murdered, the verdict says.

Databases found in a computer seized from “Don Antonio”, the alias of a paramilitary under the orders of “Jorge 40″, contained the names of his murder victims, which turned out to be the same as those on the DAS lists.

“The Court showed that Jorge Noguera set up a criminal ring, and it names the officials he appointed within the DAS who had ties to the paramilitaries,” Alirio Uribe (no relation to the ex president), the victims’ families lawyer and head of the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective which works for human rights, told IPS.

He added that, according to the Court, “Noguera put the DAS at the service of the paramilitaries, especially the North Block.”

At a press conference, Alirio Uribe said the case does not rest on “just one piece of evidence, but on abundant proof, including testimonies, documents and reports.

“There was testimony from at least 50 witnesses,” mainly “state employees,” from DAS and the police but also from former paramilitary commanders like Salvatore Mancuso, “Jorge 40″ and “Don Antonio”.

With regard to former president Uribe’s apology, the lawyer said it was “not enough.”

Ex president Uribe “should apologise for all the officials who are now under investigation,” including those linked to a spate of corruption cases that arose during his presidency, he added.

“It was during president Uribe’s government that the DAS became a criminal instrument,” Alirio Uribe said.

“It is officials appointed by the then president who are now being prosecuted. The intelligence gathered by DAS was for the president. I think it is insufficient, therefore, to say that a mistake was made or to apologise for having appointed Noguera to DAS,” he said.

Ex president Uribe himself, however, appears to remain beyond the reach of the law. The Court’s verdict indicates that the investigation “does not reveal” participation by the then president in the action taken jointly by DAS and the paramilitaries.

Before the text of the verdict was published, IPS interviewed lawyer Álvaro Córdoba, head of the legal department of the human rights NGO Centro Alteridad y Derechos and adviser to the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES).

“It is surprising that the idea is still being sold that many of the (Uribe administration’s) main collaborators were acting on their own initiative, and that the president was some sort of quixotic figure who never knew anything about anything,” said Córdoba.

Uribe continues to be portrayed as someone who was “fighting only for justice and transparency, while in the background actions were being taken outside the bounds of the law,” he added. “He is not even being held to account for appointing the collaborators he chose.”

Córdoba attributed “this situation, which borders on the absurd,” to presidential immunity, under which Colombian presidents can only be legally accused by parliament, where complaints must first be dealt with by the lower chamber’s Accusations Commission.

“In all the history of the Accusations Commission, there has not been one single successful instance of an investigation against a president,” he said. “This is what prevents the justice authorities from making headway in prosecuting” Uribe.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International emphasised that “the sentence against Noguera is a key step towards justice in Colombia,” and pointed out that the scandal in which DAS is implicated also includes “a massive defamation campaign against human rights defenders, politicians, journalists and judges, among others.”

Susan Lee, director of the Americas programme for the London-based Amnesty International, said in Bogotá: “What we want to see now is that all those responsible for the crimes committed by the DAS, whoever they are, be promptly brought to justice.”

Correa de Andreis, who was 52 when he was killed, was an agronomist and sociologist leading an investigation into illegal seizures of land from campesinos (small farmers) displaced by the internal war in Colombia, in which leftwing guerrillas who took up arms in 1964 have been fighting the armed forces and paramilitary groups.

The professor was arrested by DAS in June 2004, accused of being an ideologue for the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). He was freed in July that year, and two months later he was murdered.

When the press began to publish incriminatory revelations about Noguera, Uribe appointed him Colombian consul in Milan, Italy, and said he was “a good fellow.”

Two Colombian Generals Face Charges June 9, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Foreign Policy, Latin America.
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Sherwood Ross

www.opednews.com

consortiumnews.com
June 8, 2009

Two Colombian generals, both of whom received training at the U.S. Army’s “School of The Americas”(SOA) at Ft. Benning, Ga., have been accused by authorities there of crimes involving narcotics and collaborating with criminal paramilitary groups, according to a report in the June 15th issue of The Nation magazine.

Brig. Gen. Pauxelino Latorre has been charged “with laundering millions of dollars for a paramilitary drug ring, and prosecutors say they are looking into his activities as head of the Seventeenth Brigade,” investigative journalist Teo Ballve reports, noting that criminal probes repeatedly linked Latorre’s unit “to illegal paramilitary groups that had brutally killed thousands” of Colombian farmers in an effort to seize their land for palm oil production.

Another general, Rito Alejo Del Rio, former Seventeenth Brigade leader, is in jail on charges of collaborating with paramilitaries, gangs that have been responsible for widespread atrocities.  He also received training at SOA.

Various firms engaged in palm oil development since 2002 apparently have received $75 million in U.S. Agency for International Development money under “Plan Colombia,” Ballve writes. And some of the firms appear to be tied to narco-traffickers, “in possible violation of federal law.” The writer notes Colombia’s paramilitaries are on the State Department’s list of foreign “terrorist” organizations.

“Plan Colombia is fighting against drugs militarily at the same time it gives money to support palm, which is used by paramilitary mafias to launder money,” The Nation quotes Colombian Senator Gustavo Petro, as saying. “The United States is implicitly subsidizing drug traffickers.”

President Alvaro Uribe has urged Colombians to increase palm production from 750,000 to 15 million acres to cash in on the expected boom in biofuels.

“Oil palm, or African palm, is one of the few aid-funded crops whose profits can match coca profits,” Ballve notes. But human rights groups have long accused palm companies, notably Urapalma, of cultivating stolen lands, he adds.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, has attached an amendment to this year’s Plan Colombia funding (for 2010) to ban palm projects that “cause the forced displacement of local people” but in the bill’s current draft, Ballve says, Leahy’s amendment is marked for deletion.

Urapalma submitted a grant application to the Bogota, Colombia, offices of ARD Inc., a rural development contractor based in Burlington, Vermont, which The Nation reports does business in 43 countries and has received $330 million in revenue from USAID.

In January, 2003, ARD began administering $41.5 million for USAID’s Colombia Agribusiness Partnership Program and Urapalma was one of its beneficiaries. Urapalma has been accused of taking land illegally from Colombian peasants.

In July, 2003, just before Urapalma’s USAID application, Colombia’s national daily El Tiempo reported that “the African palm projects in the southern banana region of Uraba are dripping with blood, misery, and corruption.” The region is where Urapalma is active.

The Nation article goes on to report that in 2003, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights singled out Urapalma for collusion with paramilitaries in these words: “Since 2001, the company Urapalma SA has initiated cultivation of the oil palm on approximately 1,500 hectares of the collective land of these communities, with the help of ‘the perimetric and concentric armed protection of the Army’s Seventeenth Brigade and armed civilians'”, i.e., paras.

All of the above, of course, has gone on by fleecing American taxpayers, courtesy of SOA and USAID.  

Sherwood Ross formerly worked for The Chicago Daily News and other major dailies and as a columnist for wire services. He currently runs a public relations firm for “worthy causes”-. Reach him at sherwoodr1@yahoo.com.

Sherwood Ross has worked as a publicist for Chicago; as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and workplace columnist for Reuters. He has also been a media consultant to colleges, law schools, labor unions, and to the editors of more than 100 (more…)

Colombia: Secret Documents Show US Aware of Army Killings in 1990s January 16, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Human Rights, Latin America.
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Written by Constanza Vieira   

www.upsidedownworld.org

 

Thursday, 15 January 2009

 

(IPS) – Declassified U.S. documents show that the CIA and former U.S. ambassadors were fully aware, as far back as 1990, that the military in Colombia — the third largest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel and Egypt — were committing extrajudicial killings as part of “death squad tactics.”

They also knew that senior Colombian officers encouraged a “body count” mentality to demonstrate progress in the fight against left-wing guerrillas. In an undetermined number of cases, the bodies presented as casualties in the counterinsurgency war were actually civilians who had nothing to do with the country’s decades-old armed conflict.

Since at least 1990, U.S. diplomats were reporting a connection between the Colombian security forces and far-right drug-running paramilitary groups, according to the Washington-based National Security Archive (NSA).

In the meantime, the U.S. State Department continued to regularly certify Colombia’s human rights record and to heavily finance its “war on drugs.”

The declassified documents were published Jan. 7 by the NSA, a non-governmental research and archival institution located at the George Washington University that collects, archives and publishes declassified U.S. government documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.

NSA’s Colombia Project identifies and secures the release of documents from secret government archives on U.S. policy in Colombia regarding issues like security assistance, human rights, impunity and counternarcotics programmes.

“These records shed light on a policy — recently examined in a still-undisclosed Colombian Army report — that influenced the behaviour of Colombian military officers for years, leading to extrajudicial executions and collaboration with paramilitary drug traffickers,” says the NSA report released last week.

The secret army report mentioned by the NSA led in late 2008 to the dismissal of 30 army officers and the resignation of Gen. Mario Montoya, the Colombian army chief who long “promoted the idea of using body counts to measure progress against the guerrillas,” writes the author of the NSA report, Michael Evans.

In one of the declassified documents obtained by the NSA, then U.S. Ambassador Myles Frechette complained in 1994 about the “body count mentalities” among Colombian army officers seeking to climb through the ranks.

“Field officers who cannot show track records of aggressive anti-guerrilla activity (wherein the majority of the military’s human rights abuses occur) disadvantage themselves at promotion time,” said Frechette.

Evans, director of the NSA Colombia Project, states in his report that “the documents raise important questions about the historical and legal responsibilities the Army has to come clean about what appears to be a longstanding, institutional incentive to commit murder.”

“But the manner in which the investigation was conducted — in absolute secrecy and with little or no legal consequences for those implicated — raises a number of important questions,” says Evans, who asks “when, if ever, will the Colombian Army divulge the contents of its internal report?”

The question of extrajudicial killings by the army made the international headlines and drew the attention of the United Nations after a scandal broke out in the Colombian media in September 2008 over the bodies of young men reported by the armed forces as dead guerrillas or paramilitaries.

It turned out that the men had gone missing from their homes in slum neighbourhoods on the southside of Bogotá and that their corpses had turned up two or three days later in morgues hundreds of kilometres away.

Since then, scores of cases of “body count” killings by the army, also known as “false positives,” have emerged.

Although the government expressed shock and indignation, evidence soon began to emerge of a pattern that dated back years.

As defence minister under current President Álvaro Uribe, Camilo Ospina, who is now Colombia’s ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), signed a 15-page secret ministerial directive in 2005 that provided for rewards for the capture or killing of leaders of illegal armed groups, for military information and war materiel, and for successful counterdrug actions.

According to the W Radio station, which reported on the secret directive in late October, it could have encouraged extrajudicial killings under a new system, which may include “a mafia of bounty-hunters allied with members of the military.”

But in the view of Iván Cepeda, spokesman for the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE), “this is not about an infiltration of organised crime in the armed forces, nor about people who have broken the law. As the NSA report shows, this is an institutional practice that has been followed for decades.”

The Defence Ministry directive encouraged the phenomenon by creating a system of incentives that rewards “results” in the form of battlefield casualties, “discounting accepted methods and controls and the observance of human rights and international humanitarian law,” he said.

Cepeda also maintained that the activities of far-right death squads and the army’s “body count” killings were connected, and that the military used the paramilitaries to show results.

“The paramilitaries delivered to the army the bodies of people who were supposed members of the guerrillas but who were actually people selectively killed by those (paramilitary) groups,” he told IPS.

When the killings became more and more widespread, the armed forces themselves asked the paramilitaries to hide the remains, to keep the country’s homicide rate from soaring any further, paramilitaries who took part in a demobilisation process negotiated with the right-wing Uribe administration have confessed.

The declassified documents demonstrate “that the U.S. military as well as U.S. diplomats and governments have taken a complacent stance towards this kind of practice,” said Cepeda.

The declassified records are in line with the results of “Colombia nunca más” (Colombia never again), a monumental effort to document human rights abuses carried out by 17 organisations since 1995.

“’Colombia nunca más’ has created a databank on 45,000 (human rights) violations, including around 25,000 extrajudicial executions and 10,000 forced disappearances, committed between 1966 and 1998,” said Cepeda. Colombia’s two insurgent groups emerged in 1964 and the paramilitaries in 1982, although the latter launched a lethal offensive beginning in 1997.

Cepeda told IPS that in the next few months, MOVICE would begin to organise the families of victims of extrajudicial killings, which would culminate in a national meeting to discuss “what routes of documenting the truth and obtaining justice can be followed in an organised manner by the families of the victims of this practice.”

The earliest of the declassified documents obtained by the NSA is a 1990 cable signed by then U.S. Ambassador Thomas McNamara, addressed to the State Department and copied to the Defence Department, the U.S. army Southern Command, and the U.S. embassies in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.

The cable, whose subject line reads “human rights in Colombia — widespread allegations of abuses by the army,” cites reports that an army major “personally directed the torture of 11 detainees and their subsequent execution…carried out by cutting of the limbs and heads of the still living victims with a chain saw.”

Referring to the connection between army officers and the paramilitaries, the ambassador stated that many “officers continue to discount virtually all allegations of military abuses as part of a leftist inspired plot to discredit the military as an institution.”

In addition, the cable mentions “strong evidence linking members of the army and police to a number of disappearances and murders which took place earlier this year in Trujillo, Valle de Cauca department.”

McNamara also mentioned “an apparent June 7 incident of extra-judicial executions.”

“The military reported to the press that, on that date, it killed 9 guerrillas in combat in El Ramal, Santander department. The investigation by Instruccion Criminal and the Procuraduria (legal authorities) strongly suggests, however, that the nine were executed by the army and then dressed in military fatigues. A military judge who arrived on the scene apparently realised that there were no bullet holes in the military uniforms to match the wounds in the victims’ bodies, and ordered the uniforms burned,” said the ambassador.

As sources told the ambassador, “all of the victims were part of the same family, and one of them, said by the army to have been a guerrilla, was 87 years old.”

Mercenaries At Large in Colombia December 26, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, Human Rights, Latin America, War.
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www.upsidedownworld.org

Written by Gustavo Capdevila   

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

(IPS) – Mercenaries hired by private military and security companies are playing an increasingly broad range of roles in Latin America, such as guarding mines, borders, prisons, and now humanitarian aid, said the members of the United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries at a meeting in this Swiss city.

At the same time, some 3,000 Latin Americans, mainly Chileans, Peruvians, Colombians and Hondurans, are serving as mercenaries in conflict zones in Iraq.

Assistance provided by a commando made up of former Israeli military intelligence experts has also helped the Colombian government deal heavy blows to the left-wing guerrillas, said Amada Benavídes de Pérez from Colombia, one of the five members of the U.N. Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination.

The Working Group, created in 2005 by the U.N. Human Rights Commission (subsequently replaced by the U.N. Council on Human Rights), discussed the possibility of drawing up new international legal instruments to regulate the growing activities of private military and security companies, at their meeting last week.

The use of mercenaries contravenes the United Nations International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, which entered into force in 2001.

Colombia is the most critical case of the use of mercenaries in Latin America, said Benavídes, the former dean of the Human Rights Faculty at the Higher School of Public Administration in her country.

Information gathered by a group of Colombian academics from several universities and by non-governmental organisations has produced data from the victims themselves about what is really happening with regard to the use of mercenaries in Colombia, Benavídes said.

Services provided by private military and security companies cover a variety of roles.

First, there are the companies working in-country within the framework of the U.S.-financed and designed Plan Colombia, a counterinsurgency and anti-drug strategy.

Under Plan Colombia, 25 foreign companies are active in the country, employing 800 people as “private contractors” — mainly U.S. citizens of Latin American origin, said Benavídes.

Personnel numbers are at times even greater, perhaps even double that figure, because every 15 days a rotation takes place and a new contingent arrives from the United States, the U.N. expert said.

The curious thing about this operation is that the private contractors enjoy the same diplomatic immunity as the members of the U.S. embassy in Colombia, which exempts them from scrutiny under national laws.

“We have documented illegal acts and crimes committed by this group of contractors, but Bogotá cannot even investigate them because the bilateral agreement with Washington forbids it,” Benavídes said.

There are, therefore, at least 800 people in Colombian territory whom the government has no control over whatsoever, and who are working for Plan Colombia.

These people, who do not stand out among the population because of their Latin American origins, live at U.S. military bases.

Benavídes recalled that when politician Ingrid Betancourt was freed in July after more than six years as a captive of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), three U.S. contractors who were “crop-spraying experts” were also released.

The press reported at the time that the three U.S. contractors, Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves, who were captured by the guerrillas in 2003, worked for California Microwave Systems, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman which provided services to the U.S. Department of Defence collecting information on drug crops.

The same sources said that the FARC maintained that Howes, Stansell and Gonsalves were foreign spies working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

A second type of mercenary presence in Colombia is the mostly U.S. and British companies that provide security services for foreign extractive industries, mainly oil firms but also mining companies.

There are risks involved in these activities because they are often carried out on lands belonging to indigenous or other local communities. The private security companies prevent access to these lands, and even access to water, Benavídes said.

The U.N. Working Group on the use of mercenaries has documented similar cases in Peru and Ecuador, where the actions of private security companies have seriously harmed communities living close to mining areas, she said.

The third form of mercenary intervention in Colombia is the already mentioned participation by logistics experts from Israel, who work for the Colombian Defence Ministry.

Many of the military successes by government forces against the guerrillas have depended on military intelligence provided by the Israeli mercenaries, Benavídes said.

Fourth and last of the issues involving mercenaries and Colombia is the 500 people from this country who are in Iraq. There are no official statistics, “but our own information and that collected by foreign academics who have done research in Colombia” suggest this figure, the expert said.

Close to 3,000 Latin Americans now in Iraq are from Chile, Peru, Colombia and Honduras. Recently, however, they have been joined by others from El Salvador and Guatemala, she said. There are no indications that any Argentines, Brazilians or Uruguayans are in Iraq, she added.

But it may happen that a Chilean recruitment agency sending mercenaries to Iraq is legally registered in Uruguay. Therefore if there is a legal problem with one of the “contractors”, it will not be settled in a Chilean court, Benavídes said.

Neither would it come before the Uruguayan justice system, because the contract would not have been signed there but, say, in the U.S. state of Virginia. But the U.S. would not take the case under its responsibility because the alleged crime was committed in Iraq.

This example illustrates the legal vacuum existing in international law, which the U.N. Working Group is endeavouring to fill with the new, universal instrument they are studying, that is intended to cover the gaps in national legislations.

Colombia is a case in point, because it has regulations for national private security companies, but none at all for foreign companies of the same kind, Benavides told IPS.

An outstanding problem related to mercenaries is how to classify members of the far-right paramilitary groups that have been heavily active in Colombia in recent decades.

Benavídes told IPS that strictly speaking, paramilitaries cannot be mercenaries because they are not foreigners. However, she acknowledged that the majority of contractors working for private companies providing security to oil and mining firms are Colombian nationals.

Colombia: A Day That Will Live in Infamy (Once Again) December 19, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Latin America.
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Written by Mario A. Murillo   
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Army’s Killing of CRIC Member Tragically Marks 17th Anniversary of Nilo Massacre. Episode Coincides with Latest Act of Sabotage Against Nasa Community Radio Station in Northern Cauca.

December 16th is supposed to be a special day for most Colombians.

It’s the day that marks the start of what is called “La Novena,” the traditional nine-day countdown to Christmas.

For families around the country, rich and poor, urban and rural, “Las Novenas” are supposed to be a time of celebration, ritual gatherings with friends and loved ones. They are filled with community sing-alongs, of old-school holiday songs that take just about everybody back to their childhood.

But this December 16th will not be one of joy for Aida Quilcué and her family. Indeed, December 16th is once again being marked as a day of violence and terror for the indigenous communities of Cauca, and for the entire country.

This morning, at about 4:00am, on the road between Inzá, Tierradentro, and Totoró, on indigenous territory, the official car of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca, CRIC, was shot at 19 times by a column of the Third Division of the Army, fatally wounding the driver, Edwin Legarda Vázquez, Quilcué’s husband. Quilcué is the Chief Counsel of CRIC, and one of the most visible leaders of the recent Indigenous and Popular Minga that began on October 11th, culminating in a massive march and rally in downtown Bogotá on November 21st.

Three bullets penetrated Legarda, who did not survive the emergency surgery he was given after being rushed to San José Hospital in Popayán, the departmental capital.

But most people close to CRIC believe the bullets were really meant for his wife, who apparently was just returning from Geneva where she had been participating in the United Nations Human Rights Commission sessions on Colombia. She was not in the car when the attack occurred.

Ernesto Parafán, the lawyer for CRIC, believes it was a deliberate act committed against the organization, and specifically an attempt on Quilcués life by the government’s security apparatus. According to the indigenous leadership, Quilcué, along with other prominent leaders, has received numerous death threats in recent months, especially during the six weeks of mobilization and protests that captured the attention of both national and international public opinion.

General Justo Eliceo Peña, commander of the Army’s Third Division in Cauca, acknowledged on Caracol Radio that various members of the Army did indeed fire at CRIC’s car, a vehicle recognized throughout the area for its tinted windows, and for its countless trips throughout the mountainous terrain regularly carrying the movement’s leadership, particularly Quilcué. According to the General, his troops fired because the car did not stop at the military roadblock set up in the area. General Peña later expressed regrets for the attack, recognizing that even if they had not obeyed orders to stop, the excessive volley of bullets was not appropriate, and violated the Army’s protocol.

But the indigenous movement is not accepting these words at face value, and is demanding a full, independent investigation into the incident, given the recent wave of threats against Quilcué and other leaders.

“I think the attack was for me,” Quilcué later told Caracol Radio, in reference to her role in the MINGA social.

The Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, ACIN, pointed out on its website that the area where Legarda was killed was near the Finca San Miguel in the village of Gabriel López in Totoró, “a property where there is a permanent presence of the National Army,” making it highly unlikely that the soldiers did not recognize the vehicle as being that of CRIC, one of the most prominent social organizations in the country.

Meanwhile, Perafán was quoted in El Tiempo saying that if the military does not thoroughly investigate, capture the perpetrators and bring them to justice, the Indigenous Guard of the community will do so “because these crimes were carried out within the territory of the (indigenous) community.”

Alvaro Mejía, a spokesperson for CRIC, added “we demand that this crime does not remain in impunity.”

December 16th: A Day that Lives in Infamy

If one considers the long track record of the government’s deliberately lackluster investigations into crimes committed by state actors against the indigenous movement, there is considerable reason for the community to be concerned. Today’s tragic incident ironically comes on the 17th anniversary of one of the most brutal episodes of Colombia’s violent history against indigenous people, and perhaps its most despicable account of criminal cover up and public deception.

On Dec. 16, 1991, 20 indigenous people from the Huellas-Caloto community, including five women and four children, were murdered as they met to discuss a struggle over land rights in the estate of El Nilo in northern Cauca. Some 60 hooded gunmen stormed into the building where the community was meeting and opened fire. Initial news reports indicated that the gunmen were drug traffickers who had been seizing land in the region to grow opium poppies to produce heroin, but it soon became apparent that the culprits of the massacre were much more than simple narco-traffickers operating outside of the law. The killings had followed a relentless pattern of harassment and threats against the indigenous community by gunmen loyal to local landowners who were disputing the indigenous community’s claim to ownership of the land. In many ways, it was a massacre foretold.

According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Special Investigations Unit of the Office of the Attorney General, which handled the first stages of the investigation into the massacre, uncovered evidence of the involvement of members of the National Police, both before and during the execution of these horrific events. They were working hand in hand with drug traffickers and wealthy landowners, who were not comfortable with the organizing and mobilizing capacity of CRIC and the local communities.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights established that the Colombian state should hand back their land as part of the integral reparation to victims of the massacre committed by those ruthless death squads in collaboration with the police. In 1998, President Ernesto Samper acknowledged the responsibility of state actors in the massacre of El Nilo, and on behalf of the Colombian state, he apologized to the families of the victims and to the Nasa community of Northern Cauca, making promises to the relatives of the victims and the communities, to implement the recommendations of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in the matter of Justice and Individual and Collective Reparations.

To this day, only a small portion of the land has been returned to any of the family members of the Huellas community, this despite repeated promises from various governments to do so. The issue of recuperation of the lands in the northern Cauca region continues to be a major point of contention between the government of Alvaro Uribe and the indigenous movement, and has sparked repeated mobilizations by the community in the last 17 years.

The Social and Community Minga that was initially launched in September 2004, but was re-initiated this year with the above-mentioned six-week mobilization, made the government’s fulfillment of its pledges to the community one of its five main rallying points, although it was not the only issue on their agenda of protest. The organizers of the Minga recognize that the failure of the government to come clean on its pledges to the community is just one manifestation of a much larger strategy of pushing back the indigenous movement’s national, broad-based call for social transformation on several different platforms. This platform of resistance includes a rejection of the government’s counter-reform measures that negate protections afforded to indigenous peoples across the country, measures that have opened the way for free trade agreements that in essence will rob the communities of their territories and the resources within. And it is a platform that is openly calling for an end to the government’s militarization of their territories, what President Uribe calls “Democratic Security,” but in the end results in the kinds of state-sponsored violence that took the life of Edwin Legarda Vázquez in the early morning hours of December 16th.

Aida Quilcué has been one of the most eloquent voices promoting this agenda. Are we jumping to premature conclusions in assuming those bullets were meant for her?

Will there be justice in this latest case of violence against the Nasa people, or will it be as slow in coming as it was (and still is) for the many victims of the Nilo massacre?

Silencing the Truth in Northern Cauca

The senseless tragedy befalling Quilcué, her family, CRIC and the entire indigenous community of Colombia is currently being reported peripherally by the corporate national news media such as El Tiempo, Caracol Radio and other sources. However, one media outlet where it is not currently being reported is on the community radio station of the Nasa people of northern cauca, Radio Pa’yumat, licensed to the ACIN.

Over the weekend, the station’s transmitter equipment, and antenna were severely damaged in an act of sabotage by as of yet unnamed actors, although the community refers to the perpetrators as the same forces of terror that continue to try to silence the indigenous movement with acts of violence. ACIN has denounced the latest assault on their primary communication vehicle on its website, stating that it is part of an ongoing process of intimidation and fear:

“Not coincidentally, these prior acts of sabotage have occurred at the precise time that our communities were initiating major mobilizations and important actions against the armed actors that constantly provoke war in our territories. Therefore, the assault against our community radio station is not an isolated incident, but is part of a deliberate strategy of silencing the indigenous movement of northern Cauca, because the radio station is the most important medium within the community. It allows us to listen to one another, to discuss important issues, reflect on them, make decisions in the interest of the community, and take actions collectively in defense of life and of our territory.”

It is understood by most observers that the indigenous communities that have been most successful over the years at confronting the myriad threats to their autonomy throughout the country, are those with the strongest organizational structures, legitimized by being in a constant dialogue with the base. These are the same communities that continue to play the role of interlocutor with other, non-indigenous actors, be they state institutions, different social sectors like the peasant or trade union movements, and international solidarity organizations.

And not surprisingly, many of these communities, like the cabildos that make up ACIN, maintain their own, independent media channels as essential components of their collective resistance. These community media channels spring from a long tradition of grassroots, independent, citizens’ media projects that have emerged throughout Colombia over the past 35 years, and that coalesced alongside broad based social movements with the rewriting of the Constitution in 1991. Naturally, these community-based media are only as effective as their organizations’ capacity to successfully confront the destructive, militarist, and undemocratic models that surround them. In the long run, strong organizational bases make them more secure and protect them from the inevitable, reactionary backlash, given the high levels of violence that has always been directed towards independent voices in Colombia. But sometimes that high level of organizing is not enough to prevent the kind of sabotage that occurred over the weekend.

“Those who carried out this act of sabotage knew what they were doing,” said Dora Muñoz, Coordinator of the Radio station. She added “all of this points to a systematic wave of terror. I’m afraid we’re only just beginning to see what may come in the coming days and weeks, directed against us.”

The Nasa communities of Cauca, with their long trajectory of mobilization spearheaded by CRIC and ACIN, in the spirit of constructing sustainable, democratic alternatives, are working alongside truly revolutionary, transformative practices in communication. Radio Pa’yumat happens to be one of the national models of these transformative communication practices, rooted in indigenous traditions of bottom-up consultation and community reflection. However, it is not supported in any way by state institutions.

“If there were some state communication policies that were in defense of the rights of the people, the immediate reaction of the government would have been to repudiate these acts of sabotage and provide some resources to support the radio station’s efforts, efforts that we depend on for our security and well being while we are under constant attack,” said Ezequiel Vitonás, a member of the council of chiefs of ACIN.

Today, December 16th, 2008, on the 17th anniversary of the massacre of 20 Nasa on the Nilo estate, on the same day that the husband of CRIC’s chief spokesperson was killed by a fusillade of Army bullets, ACIN’s radio station remains off the air due to ruthless acts of sabotage.

Is this all a tragic coincidence?

Too often these types of stories are completely ignored by the Colombian corporate media, which are perpetually stuck on the faulty narratives relating to guerilla terrorism, false victimization, and celebrity gossip. These patterns of media obsession were evident most clearly this past Sunday, when El Tiempo released its list of personalities of the year. Topping the list was pop-super star and pretty boy Juanes, whose ambiguous politics – supposedly “committed to social change” – make him a safe bet for the editorial writers of the nation’s establishment newspaper of record. The multi-Grammy Award winner was followed on the year-end list by two of the principal architects of the government’s Democratic Security strategy, Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos and Armed Forces Chief Freddy Padilla, lauded for their so-called victories against FARC guerillas. These are the same individuals who are responsible for the False Positives scandal that only temporarily rocked the top brass of the military in 2008.

And perhaps these are the same individuals who ultimately should be held accountable for the criminal act of violence perpetrated this morning against Legarda Vázquez.

So in his memory, and in the memory of Jairo Secué, Domingo Calis, Daniel Peté, Adán Mestízo, Darío Coicué, Feliciano Otelo, Calicio Chilhueso, Mario Juliqué, Edegar Mestizo, Jesús Peté, Julio Dagua, Carolina Tombé, Ofelia Tombé, Jose Elías Tombé, Foresmiro Viscué, Leonidas Casamchín, and José Elías Ulcué, and all the other victims of state-sponsored terror in Colombia, let’s not be silent today.

In the spirit of Manuel Quintín Lame!

Let our voices of rage be the megaphones projecting through the heroic signal of Radio Pa’yumat, temporarily silenced by reactionary forces. Let’s shout out collectively, in order to drown out the tacky melodies that will be sung throughout the country on this first night of the Christmas novena, in the spirit of resistance.

So that the tears of Aida Quilcué can be converted into the fire of a people that will not be silenced!

Obama’s AG Pick Defended Chiquita in Death Squad Case November 22, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama.
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Written by Dan Kovalik   
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
 
This article was originally published Nov. 6, before President-elect Barack Obama tapped Eric Holder as his pick for the country’s new attorney general. 
 
In it’s recent report entitled, “Breaking the Grip? Obstacles to Justice for Paramilitary Mafias in Colombia,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) had specific recommendations for the U.S. Department of Justice. Specifically, HRW recommended that, in order to assist with the process of ending the ties between the Colombian government and paramilitary death squads, the U.S. Department of Justice should, among other things, “[c]reate meaningful legal incentives for paramilitary leaders [a number of whom have already been extradited to the U.S.] to fully disclose information about atrocities and name all Colombian or foreign officials, business or individuals who may have facilitated their criminal activities,” and “[c]ollaborate actively with the efforts of Colombian justice officials who are investigating paramilitary networks in Colombia by sharing relevant information possible and granting them access to paramilitary leaders in U.S. custody.”

Do not expect these recommendations to be carried forward if Eric Holder decides to forgo his lucrative corporate law practice at Covington & Burling and accept the U.S. Attorney General position for which many believe he is the top contendor. Eric Holder would have a troubling conflict of interest in carrying out this work in light of his current work as defense lawyer for Chiquita Brands international in a case in which Colombian plaintiffs seek damages for the murders carried out by the AUC paramilitaries – a designated terrorist organization. Chiquita has already admitted in a criminal case that it paid the AUC around $1.7 million in a 7-year period and that it further provided the AUC with a cache of machine guns as well.

Indeed, Holder himself, using his influence as former deputy attorney general under the Clinton Administration, helped to negotiate Chiquita’s sweeheart deal with the Justice Department in the criminal case against Chiquita. Under this deal, no Chiquita official received any jail time. Indeed, the identity of the key officials involved in the assistance to the paramilitaries were kept under seal and confidential. In the end, Chiquita was fined a mere $25 million which it has been allowed to pay over a 5-year period. This is incredible given the havoc wreaked by Chiquita’s aid to these Colombian death squards.

According to Mario Iguaran, the Attorney General of Colombia, Chiquita’s payments to the AUC paramilitaries led to the murder of 4000 civilians in the banana region of Colombia and furthered the growth of the paramilitaries throughout Colombia and their violent takeover of numerous Colombian regions. Iguaran, in response to the claims of both Chiquita and Eric Holder himself that Chiquita was somehow forced to pay “protection” to the paramilitaries (see, Washington Post and Conde Nast Portfolio), stated unequivocally that “[t]his was not payment of extortion money. It was support for an illegal armed group whose methods included murder.” See, Christian Science Monitor, “Chiquita Case Puts Big Firms on Notice.”

One former paramilitary leader who is in federal custody in the U.S., Salvatore Mancuso, has stated that he has more knowledge about Chiquita’s relationship with the paramilitary death squads in Colombia. Mancuso further claims that Dole and Del Monte also made payments to the paramilitaries, just as Chiquita did. Yet, Dole and Del Monte remain un-indicted. Query whether, as Human Rights Watch recommends, a Justice Department under Holder would be interested in pursuing this and other similar leads. This is a serious matter given the fact that the Justice Department has already come under great scrutiny for turning a blind eye to what appears to be rampant corporate support for terrorist groups in Colombia. See, L.A. Times, “U.S. accused of bending rules on Colombian Terror.”

While Eric Holder is also known to be actively involved in laudable charitable activities, it should be of grave concern to those, like myself, who hope for change from the new Obama Administration, that the new Attorney General would be involved in not only defending corporations against serious corruption and human rights charges, but also publicly apologizing for such abuses. That is not the type of Attorney General we need in the wake of the recent economic collapse created by the unfettered greed of such corporate firms.

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