SOACHA, Colombia — Julian Oviedo, a 19-year-old construction worker in this gritty patchwork of slums, told his mother on March 2 that he was going to talk to a man about a job offer. A day later, Mr. Oviedo was shot dead by army troops some 350 miles to the north. He was classified as a subversive and registered as a combat kill.
New Discoveries Reveal US Intervention in Bolivia November 2, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Latin America.
Tags: Bolivia, Bolivia Freedom of Information Act, Bolivia MAS, Bolivia politics government, Bolivia U.S. intervention, Bolivia USAID, CIA in Bolivia, Evo Morales, Latin America politics government, roger hollander, U.S intervention Latin America
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|Written by Jeremy Bigwood|
|Tuesday, 14 October 2008|
As a photo and investigative journalist for more than two decades, I often come across revealing government documents and information through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) requests. These requests declassify and allow me access to documents from various entities of the US government.
I made my first request of US government documents about Bolivia in 1997 and since then have made subsequent requests for information, ranging from American embassy communiques in La Paz to USAID grant requests. The information below reveals a clear policy of US intervention and meddling in Bolivia´s internal affairs. Almost all the time, this has been done without the knowledge and at the expense of the American taxpayer.
To summarize, I believe that these documents provide clear proof that the US government, through its various entities – especially USAID – have been, and continue to conspire against the legal and democratically elected government of Bolivia. In coming weeks, I will reveal more of the documents that I have uncovered in my ongoing investigation and research on website: Bolivia Matters
Ecuadorian Commission Alleges C.I.A. Infiltration of Ecuadorian Police and Military November 1, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Latin America.
Tags: CIA in Latin America, Colombia FARC, Colombia invasion Ecuador, Colombian military, Ecuador C.I.A. infiltration, Ecuador Government, Ecuador military, Ecuador police, Ecuador politics, Ecuador politics government, Latin America, Latin America military, Latin America politics government, Raul Reyes, roger hollander, U.S. military support to Colombia
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An Ecuadorian government agency, the Commission to Invistage Police and Military Intelligence Services (Comisión para la Investigación de los Servicios de Inteligencia Militares y Policiales) has issued a report accusing the United States government of illegal interference with its internal security (El Universo, Guayaquil, November 1, 2008).
The Commission’s report has been backed by Ecuador’s Minister of Defence, Javier Ponce, who has called for an investigation to determine those responsible for turning information over to the C.I.A. Ponce further supports the Commission’s eleven recommendations, which include the restructuring of the nation’s intelligence apparatus. He also has called for the dismissal from Ecuador’s intelligence service those who were directly involved with the actions of Colonel Mario Pazmiño. Colonel Pazmiño, former Director of Ecuador’s intelligence service, was accused of withholding from the government intelligence about Franklin Aisalla, an Ecuadorian with alleged connection with the Colombia guerrilla army, FARC (Aisalla was killed earlier this year along with 15 others in a Colombian military raid on a FARC camp within Ecuador’s territory where they successfully assassinated FARC number two leader, Raúl Reyes). It is assumed that he had passed this information on to the C.I.A.
The Commission’s report alleges that the Ecuadorian Police’s Special Investigations Unit (Unidad de Investigaciones Especiales – UIES) is financed and controlled by the U.S Ambassador to Ecuador and that Ecuadorian military officers acted in the interest of the United States in order to conceal information, make evidence disappear, and confuse the government with respect to the Colombian incursion into Ecuador’s territory in March.
Ecuador’s National Police Commander, Jaime Hurtado, has denied that his organization turns over information to the C.I.A., and admits only that a collaboration does exist between the Ecuadorian National Police and foreign authorities, especially with respect to anti-drug investigations. He added that he had no information about Ecuadorian police turning over information [to the United States], but should such evidence come to light, he would take the proper steps against those responsible.
Heather Hodges, the United States Ambassador to Ecuador has refused to comment on matters of intelligence, but she did add that the U.S. has and will continue to work with the Ecuadorian Police and Military on matters of mutual security.
Colombia Killings Cast Doubt on War Against Insurgents October 29, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Latin America.
Tags: Alvaro Uribe, Amnesty International, Colombia, Colombia atrocities, Colombia Civil War, Colombia civilian deaths, Colombia civilian killings, Colombia FARC, Colombia Human Rights Violations, Colombian disappeared, Colombian generals, General Montoya, Latin America military, Latin America politics government, roger hollander, U.S. military support to Colombia
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Colombia’s government, the Bush administration’s top ally in Latin America, has been buffeted by the disappearance of Mr. Oviedo and dozens of other young, impoverished men and women whose cases have come to light in recent weeks. Some were vagrants, others street vendors and manual laborers. But their fates were often the same: being catalogued as insurgents or criminal gang members and killed by the armed forces.
Prosecutors and human rights researchers are investigating hundreds of such deaths and disappearances, contending that Colombia’s security forces are increasingly murdering civilians and making it look as if they were killed in combat, often by planting weapons by the bodies or dressing the corpses in guerrilla fatigues.
With soldiers under intense pressure in recent years to register combat kills to earn promotions and benefits like time off and extra pay, reports of civilian killings are climbing, prosecutors and researchers say, pointing to a grisly facet of Colombia’s long internal war against leftist insurgencies.
The deaths have called into question the depth of Colombia’s recent strides against the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and have begun to haunt the nation’s military hierarchy.
On Wednesday, President Álvaro Uribe’s government announced that it had fired more than two dozen officers and soldiers — including three generals — in connection with the deaths of Mr. Oviedo and 10 other young men from Soacha, whose bodies were recently discovered in unmarked graves in a distant combat zone. The purge came after an initial shake-up last Friday, when the army command relieved three colonels from their duties.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Uribe said an internal military investigation appeared to have uncovered “crimes that in some regions had the goal of killing innocents, to make it seem as if criminals were being confronted.”
“The armed forces of Colombia have well-earned prestige,” Mr. Uribe said. “When there are violations of human rights, that prestige is muddled.”
The wave of recent killings has also heightened focus on the American Embassy here, which is responsible for vetting Colombian military units for human rights abuses before they can receive aid. A study of civilian killings by Amnesty International and Fellowship of Reconciliation, two human rights groups, found that 47 percent of the reported cases in 2007 involved Colombian units financed by the United States.
“If the responsibility of the army is to protect us from harm, how could they have killed my son this way?” asked Blanca Monroy, 49, Mr. Oviedo’s mother, in an interview in her cinderblock hovel here. “The official explanation is absurd, if he was here just a day earlier living a normal life. The irony of it all is that my son dreamed of being a soldier” for the government.
Even before the most recent disappearances and killings, prosecutors and human rights groups were examining a steady increase in the reports of civilian killings since 2002, when commanders intensified a counterinsurgency financed in no small part by more than $500 million a year in American security aid.
But more than 100 claims of civilians deaths at the hands of security forces have emerged in recent weeks alone, from nine different parts of Colombia. Cases have included the killing of a homeless man, a young man who suffered epileptic seizures and a veteran who had left the army after his left arm was amputated.
In some cases, victims’ families spoke of middlemen who recruited poor men and women with vague promises of jobs elsewhere, only to deliver them hours or days later to war zones where they were shot dead by soldiers.
“We are witnessing a method of social cleansing in which rogue military units operate beyond the law,” said Monica Sánchez, a lawyer at the Judicial Freedom Corporation, a human rights group in Medellín. The group says it has documented more than 60 “false positives” — the chilling term for cases of civilians who are killed and then presented as guerrillas, with weapons or fatigues — in the department, or province, of Antioquia.
Researchers have also obtained thorough descriptions of some killings in the small number of cases – less than 50 — that have resulted in convictions this decade.
One April morning in 2004, for instance, soldiers approached the home of Juan de Jesús Rendón, a 33-year-old peasant farmer in Antioquia, and shot him in front of his son, Juan Estéban, who was 10 at the time. The soldiers placed a two-way radio and a gun near Mr. Rendón’s body, court records show, and told his son that his siblings would suffer the same fate unless he said his father had fired at the soldiers.
“I still fear this can happen again,” Vilma Garcia, 35, Mr. Rendón’s wife, said in an interview in Medellín, where she and her children fled after her husband was killed. The five soldiers involved were recently convicted on charges of homicide and torture, in connection with the threats to her son. “The soldiers think we are poor and worthless,” she said, “so nobody will care how we are killed.”
The civilian killings have increasingly opened the United States to criticism because it is required to make sure Colombian military units have not engaged in human rights violations before supplying them with aid.
“If we are receiving aid and vetting from a government in Washington that validates torture, then what kind of results can one expect?” asked Liliana Uribe, a human rights lawyer in Medellín who represents victims’ families.
A senior official at the American embassy in Bogotá said the reports of civilian killings, both in past years and in recent months, were a matter of concern. “If the facts in some cases do show that parts of the armed forces were taking part in murder, then there should be mechanisms to prevent this from happening and mechanisms to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
The official said the units involved in the most recent killings, of the 11 men from Soacha, did not receive aid, since they had previously been deemed not credible to receive it.
But the official neither confirmed nor denied the contention that almost half of the reports of civilian killings in 2007 involved units that received American aid, explaining that a case-by-case review of the episodes had not been carried out by two American contractors hired by the State Department to help vet Colombian military units for human rights abuses.
Reports of civilian killings rose to 287 during the 12-month period from mid-2006 to mid-2007, up from 267 in the same period a year earlier and 218 the year before that, said the Colombian Commission of Jurists, a Bogotá human rights group.
Altogether, the attorney general’s office in Bogotá said it was investigating the killings of 1,015 civilians by security forces in 558 separate episodes unrelated to combat. Prosecutors said the number of new cases under investigation climbed to 245 in 2007 from 122 a year earlier.
The increase in reports of civilian killings spurred the defense ministry to issue a directive last year explicitly prioritizing the capture of rebels above combat kills. In an interview, Gen. Freddy Padilla, the top commander of Colombia’s armed forces, said the policy shift, while largely intended to prevent human rights abuses, also had strategic objectives.
“A terrorist captured alive is a treasure, while a dead terrorist is just one-day news,” General Padilla said, citing the example of Nelly Ávila, a FARC commander who surrendered this year and began collaborating with her captors. “A terrorist converted into an informant is useful as long as he or she lives.”
Until the latest wave of killings, it appeared the new policy was starting to work. The Center for Research and Popular Education, a Jesuit-led group in Bogotá that maintains a database on human rights violations, documented 87 reports of so-called false positives in the second half of 2007, a 34 percent drop from the first six months of that year.
But the emergence of cases in Soacha and elsewhere suggests that the problem may be more systemic than once thought.
Some human rights researchers contend the killings are tolerated by some senior officers in the Colombian army who chafe at greater scrutiny at a time when security forces have made significant gains against guerrillas, including the killing or capture of several top FARC commanders this year.
One case involves the commander of Colombia’s army, Gen. Mario Montoya. In March of 2002, the Army’s 4th Brigade, then under General Montoya’s command, killed five people in their vehicle and presented them as guerrillas, their corpses dressed in combat fatigues.
But the driver, Parmenio de Jesús Usme, testified earlier this year that none of the five was a guerrilla. According to a report by Cambio, a news magazine, Mr. Usme, a former figure in a right-wing paramilitary group that opposed the guerrillas, said two of the victims were teenagers, Érika Castañeda, 13, and Johana Carmona, 14, whom he was driving to a party when they picked up three other people.
Mr. Usme said they were fired upon, killing everyone in the vehicle but him. According to the report, General Montoya called the hospital where the bodies were taken and said that they should be turned over only to someone in his confidence, after which the corpses were later presented to the media in fatigues at a nearby building.
General Montoya did not respond to requests for comment. But when asked specifically about the case, General Padilla, the armed forces commander, said, “There are preliminary investigations in which the different declarations are being verified.”
School of the Americas and Latin American Militarization October 17, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Latin America.
Tags: Latin America military, Latin America politics government, roger hollander, School of the Americas, U.S. intervention in Latin America
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| SEE ALSO http://rogerhollander.wordpress.com/2008/10/17/school-of-the-americas-watch/
SOA Watch News & Updates
by SOA Watch Media
SOA Watch in Nicaragua and Ecuador SOA Watch activists and human rights advocates Pablo Ruiz (SOAW Latinoamerica), Lisa Sullivan-Rodriguez (Latin America Project) and Fr. Roy Bourgeois have just completed a very productive delegation to Nicaragua and Ecuador where they met with human rights organizations, social movement leaders and Presidents Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua) and Rafael Correa (Ecuador).
(Photo – from L to R – Fr. Roy, Lisa Sullivan, President Correa, Pablo Ruiz)
The delegation was part of the Latin America Project, the ongoing Americas-wide initiative by grassroots social justice groups to persuade Latin American governments to cut their ties with the School of the Americas/ WHINSEC. So far, the defense ministers of Argentina and Uruguay as well as the presidents of Bolivia, Costa Rica and Venezuela have denounced the legacy of the SOA and pledged to stop sending soldiers to be trained at the school.
President Ortega and President Correa expressed their sympathies towards our cause and asked that we express this support to the movement. Both will look into the continued presence of their countries militaries at the SOA/WHINSEC. Standing up to the Pentagon has serious implications for Latin American countries, the history of U.S. military involvement in Latin America dates back to over an entire century and has proven disastrous and very painful for the people who have had to live under oppressive military dictatorships.
|Bolivia Confirms Withdrawal from SOA/WHINSEC
In a letter to the Commandant of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), U.S. Army Col. Gilberto Perez, Bolivian President Evo Morales formally announced this Monday, February 18th that he will no longer send Bolivian military officers to attend training programs at the institute formerly known as the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA).
The announcement came as confirmation of a previous public statement made by President Morales in October of last year when he announced that he would discontinue sending troops to the institute based on its historical ties to oppressive military regimes in Latin America. Bolivia has now officially become the fifth country after Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela to announce a withdrawal from the Fort Benning institution due to its negative image amongst Latin Americans.
Colombian SOA Graduate Convicted for Murder
Col. Lt. Byron Carvajal, a graduate of the U.S. Army School of the Americas, together with fourteen other Colombian soldiers, face up to 60 years in prison for the murder of ten elite counternarcotics police agents.
The fifteen were found guilty of aggravated homicide in the slaughter of 10 police officers and an informant in a May 2006 ambush outside a rural nursing home near Cali. It is suspected that the fifteen soldiers were protecting a drug cartel. Sentences will be imposed in two weeks.
Col. Lt. Byron Carvajal attended the School of the Americas for “Weapons Orientation” as a cadet in 1985.
Andean Leftist Radical Reform: Peru’s Turn? October 12, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Colombia, Economic Crisis, Ecuador, Latin America, Peru, Political Commentary.
Tags: Andean nations, APRA, Fujimori, Latin America economic justice, Latin America politics government, MRTA, Peru politics government, Peru scandal, roger hollander
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© Roger Hollander, 2008
As a long time on and off resident of Ecuador and a Latin American specialist, I have an abiding interest in the five Andean nations: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. With the exception of Colombia and Peru, the region has shown a definite shift to the left. The most left leaning radical nationalist reform presidents in the entire sub-hemisphere are firmly in power in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. Forget about Colombia (not literally); it is in effect a U.S. client state with a government propped up with hundreds of millions of U.S. aid dollars, almost entirely directed toward the military.
That leaves Peru, whose government is led by President Alan García, a former progressive and member of the once radical (now tame) APRA party, who has made a 180 degree turn in favor of neoliberal economics and free trade with the U.S. But as with all of Latin America, and well before the current world-wide economic/financial melt-down, Peruvian movements for social, political and economic justice are on the move and present a real threat to the present government.
In reaction to a scandal that involves the illegal allotment of oil concessions to a foreign entity, the entire García cabinet has resigned, and García has made a concessionary (to the opposition) counter move by appointing as Prime Minister, Yehude Simón, a known leftist who had been jailed and then pardoned for his ties to the Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru (MRTA), . Back in the late 1990s, the MRTA had kidnapped hundreds of diplomats and government officials at a social event, including the then president’s sister; and after freeing most of its hostages, the MRTA youth were attacked and killed in cold blood by the forces of then President Alberto Fujimori (who, who along with his Kissinger/Rove-like advisor, Vladimiro Montesinos, today sits in a Lima jail awaiting trial on charges of treason and corruption). How the tides have changed.
In the last presidential election García was challenged by Ollanta Humala, a former military officer and ultra-nationalist. García’s move in appointing a leftist radical as Prime Minister is a bold one, but at the same time he is walking on a tight wire. On the one hand he hopes that the appointment will stave off censure in the Peruvian Congress, where his party is in the minority, which would be a huge boost for the supporters of Humala in the 2011 presidential election. On the other hand, the appointment is likely to instil fear in the hearts of the commercial and investor sectors.
What is also on the line for García is the success of the Cumbre del Foro de Cooperación de Económica Asia Pacífico (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit), that is scheduled to take place in Lima in November; and negotiations for a free trade agreement with China. To this end García has refused the resignations and thereby retained his Economic, External Affairs, and International Commerce Ministers.
It is my opinion that although in the short term, García may or may not stave off and embarrassing loss in Congress; but in the long run, as with his neighbouring Andean nations, the gathering of the forces from below that are demanding social and economic change and which are challenging strategies that have kept the nation in poverty for generations, will be nigh unto impossible to resist.