Latin American Revolutions Under Attack
ANDRE VLTCHEK | ALL IMAGES BY THE AUTHOR
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]hey inspired the entire Planet. They brought hope to every corner of our scarred Earth. But now they are themselves in need of our support.
If left alone, they would thrive for decades and centuries. But the Empire is once again on the offensive. It is shaking with fury. It is ready to invade, to smash, burn to ashes all the hopes, all that which had been achieved.
Don’t believe in the “common wisdom” which proclaims that the rulers of the world simply “closed their eyes” more than a decade ago; that George W. Bush was “too busy” ravishing the Middle East, therefore “allowing” most of the Latin American countries to “sneak away” from the iron grip of the Empire.
Such “analyses” are as patronizing as they are false. The Empire never sleeps! What Latin America now has was built on its daring, its sweat, its genius and its blood – it fought against the Empire, courageously, for decades, losing its best sons and daughters. It fought for freedom, for justice and socialism.
The Empire was not “looking the other way”. It was looking straight south, in fury, but for some time it was too confused, too astounded, too shocked at what it was witnessing. Its “slaves” had risen and taken power back into their own hands. They showed to the entire world what freedom really is.
For some time, the Empire was paralyzed by rage and unable to act.
The Empire’s undeniable property, Latin America, inhabited by “un-people” born only in order to supply cheap labor and raw materials to the rich part of the world, was suddenly, proudly and publicly, breaking its shackles, declaring itself free, demanding respect. Its natural resources were now used to feed its own people, to build social housing, create public transportation systems, construct hospitals, schools and public parks.
But after the first wave of panic, the Empire began to do what it does best – it began the killings.
It attempted to overthrow the Venezuelan government in 2002, but it failed. The Venezuelan people rose, and, critically, so did the Venezuelan military, defending then President Hugo Chavez. The Empire tried again and again, and it is trying until now. Trying and failing!
“We are at war”, I was told by one of the editors of Caracas-based television network, TeleSUR, for which I made several documentary films. “We are literally working under the barrel of cannons”.
[dropcap]M[/dropcap]s. Tamara Pearson, an Australian revolutionary journalist and activist, who recently moved from Venezuela to Ecuador, explained the difficult situation in Venezuela, a country that is under constant attack from both the US, and the local comprador elites:
“People are suffering a lot. Basic food prices are high, much medicine is unavailable, and various services aren’t working. On one level, people are used to this – the business owners would cause shortages and blame the government before each of the many elections. But usually it’s less intense and lasts just a few months. But this has been going on and getting worse, since Chavez died – over two years now. There is no doubt that the US, and more so, Venezuelan and Colombian elites and business owners are a huge or even the main factor…”
All of revolutionary Latin America is “screaming”.
As I described in two of my recent books, “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” (1) and “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”, the Empire is using similar destabilization strategy against all countries that are resisting its deadly embrace.
Its propaganda is mighty and omnipresent. CNN and FOX TV are beamed into almost all major hotels and airports of Latin America, even in some revolutionary countries like Ecuador. Almost all major newspapers of the continent, including those in Venezuela, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina, are controlled by the right wing business elites. Almost all of the foreign news coverage comes from European and North American sources, making the Latin American public totally confused about Islam, China, Russia, South Africa, Iran, even about their own neighbors.
The local elites continue to serve foreign interests, their loyalties firmly with North America and Europe.
Every left wing Latin American government has been facing bizarre protests and subversive acts conducted by the elites. Destabilization tactics have been clearly designed in far away capitals. They were mass-produced and therefore almost identical to those the West has been using against China, Russia, South Africa, and other “rebellious” nations.
Propaganda, disinformation and spreading of confusion have been some of the mightiest tools of the fascist right wing.
CLICK ON IMAGES TO EXPAND TO MAX. RESOLUTION
is an extremely powerful weapon. It was used first in Chile, in the 1973 coup against socialist President Salvador Allende. Pro-Western Chilean elites and businessmen created food shortages, and then blamed it on the socialist government, using El Mercurio and other daily newspapers as their propaganda tools.
Peter Koenig, former World Bank economist and now prominent dissident and critic of the world neoliberal regime, wrote for this essay:
“Today Madame Bachelet, the socialist President of Chile has a hard time fighting against the El Mercurio-inspired Chilean oligarchs. They will not let go. Recently they invited the World Bank to assess the school reform package proposed by Bachelet, basically to return universities to the public sector. Of course, the ‘upper class’ of Chileans knew that the World Bank would come up with nothing less than predicting an economic disaster if the reform is approved. As a result, Bachelet made concessions – which on the other hand are not accepted by professors and teachers. It’s the first step towards chaos – and chaos is what the empire attempts to implant in every country where they strive for ‘regime change’.”
But one of the “dirtiest” of their weapons is the accusation of corruption. Corrupt pro-Western politicians and individuals who misused tens, even hundreds of millions of dollars of the peoples money and destroyed the economies of their countries by taking unserviceable loans that kept disappearing into their deep pockets, are now pointing their soiled fingers at relatively clean governments, in countries like Chile and Argentina. Everything in the “Southern Cone” and in Brazil is now under scrutiny.
Peter Koenig (who co-authored a book “The World Order and Revolution!: Essays from the Resistance” with leading Canadian international lawyer Christopher Black and me) shows how important it is, for the Empire, the destabilization of Brazil, one of the key members of BRICS:
“Brazil being a member of the BRICS is particularly in the crosshairs of the empire – as the BRICS have to be destabilized, divided – they are becoming an economic threat to Washington. Brazil is key for the non-Asian part of the BRICS. A fall of Brazil would be a major blow to the cohesion of the BRICS.”
There are totally different standards for pro-Western fascist politicians and for those from the Left. The Left can get away with nothing, while the Right has been getting away literally with mass murder and with the disappearance of tens of billions of dollars.
It is, of course, the common strategy in all the client states of the West. For instance, one of the most corrupt countries on earth, Indonesia, tolerates absolute sleaze and graft from former generals, but when progressive socialist Muslim leader, Abdurrahman Wahid, became the President, he was smeared and removed in a short time, on “corruption” charges.
After centuries of the Monroe Doctrine, after mass murder committed in “Latin” America first by Europeans and then by North Americans and their rich local butlers, it will take long decades to fully eradicate the corruption, because corruption comes with the moral collapse of the colonial powers and the local elites. Financial greed is only its byproduct.
The great pre-colonial cultures of what are now Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia did not have corruption. Corruption was injected by Western colonialism.
And now, corruption under left wing, revolutionary governments still exists, since it is difficult to root out all the vermin at once, but it is incomparably smaller than under the previous fascist right wing cliques!
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he rich in Latin America are heartless, servile (to the Empire) and greedy in the extreme. Latin America has still the most unequal distribution of wealth on earth. True, it is much richer (and even its poor are richer, with some exceptions of Central America, Peru or Paraguay) than Africa or even Southeast Asia, but this cannot be used as an excuse.
Even the most progressive socialist governments now in power would never dare to touch, to slap the private enterprises too hard. From this angle, China with its central planning and controlled economy is much more socialist than Ecuador or Bolivia.
A few days ago, as I was flying from Ecuador to Peru, I read that the number of multimillionaires in Latin America was actually increasing, and so is the social gap between the rich and the rest of the societies. The article was using some anecdotal evidence, saying that, for instance, in Chile alone, now, more Porsche sports cars are sold than in the whole of Latin America few years ago. As if confirming it, I noticed a Porsche auto dealership next to my hotel in Asuncion, the capital of the second poorest country in South America. I asked for numbers, but the Porsche manager refused to supply them, still proudly claiming that his company was “doing very well”.
So what do they – the elites” – really want? They have money, plenty of money. They have luxury cars, huge estates in their own countries, and condominiums abroad. What more?
As in Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia or Kenya, and all over the West, they want power. They want to feel unique. They want to be admired.
The Socialist governments allow them to stay rich. But they force them to share their wealth and above all, they shame them. They are also trying to minimize the gap – through education, free medical care and countless social projects.
That is, of course, unacceptable to the elites. They want it all, as they always had it. And to have it all, they are ready to murder, to side with the darkest foreign interests, even to commit treason.
“The Latin American elites want it all, as they always had it. And to have it all, they are ready to murder, to side with the darkest foreign interests, even to commit treason…”
Increasingly, the interests of the local elites are very closely linked to foreign interests – those of the Empire and those of the private sector.
As I was told in Ecuador, by Ms. Paola Pabón, Assembly Member representing Pichincha area:
“Behind the involvement of the US, are some ex-bankers such as the Isaiah brothers, who lost power here, escaped courts and went to live in the United States, but there are also huge economic powers such as Chevron. It means that there are not only [official] political interests of the US, but also private, economic ones.”
Predominantly, the local elites are using their countries as milking cows, with very little or zero interest in the well being of their people.
That is why their protests against Latin American revolutions are thoroughly hypocritical. They are not fighting for improvements in their countries, they never did, but for their own, selfish personal interests. Those shouts and the pathetic hunger strikes of the “opposition” in Venezuela may appear patriotic, but only thanks to the propaganda abilities of the Western mass media.
The elites would do anything to make all revolutions, all over Latin America, fail and collapse. They are even spending their own money to make it happen.
They know that if they manage to remove progressive forces from power, they could rule once again, totally unopposed, as their counterparts do in all other client states of the West – in the Middle East, Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and Oceania.
The temptation is tremendous. Most of the elites in Latin America still remember well, how it feels, how it tastes – to control their countries unopposed, and with full support from the West.
[dropcap]E[/dropcap]duardo Galeano, the great Uruguayan writer and revolutionary thinker, once told me: “I keep repeating to all those new leaders of Latin America: “Comrades, do not play with poor people’s hopes! Hope is all they have.”
It appears that hope has finally been taken seriously, in Bolivia, Uruguay, Venezuela, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua and elsewhere.
It was also taken seriously in Honduras, but hope was crushed by the US-orchestrated coup. In Paraguay, under a semi-progressive priest who preached liberation theology, hope was taken semi-seriously, but even that was too much in the country that had been ruled, for decades, by fascist cliques. In 2002, after a constitutional coup followed by an appalling massacre of predominantly indigenous people, fascism returned.
After these two setbacks, Latin America shook, but kept moving forward. Hugo Chavez died, or was murdered by the North, depending which theory you subscribe to. His demise was a tremendous blow to the entire continent, but still, the continent kept moving. “Here, nobody surrenders!” Chavez shouted, dying, but proud.
“President Correa of Ecuador is one of very few leaders of the “original project””, said Paola Pabón. “Lula in Brazil will not be able to stand for reelection, anymore, mainly due to corruption scandals. Mujica is not in power, anymore, and Cristina Fernandez will be retiring. Evo Morales does not have regional influence, and even Maduro does not have… For this reason, Ecuador is so important, strategically. If ‘they’ hit us, if there is a successful coup, it would be a tremendous victory for them, to destroy a President with regional importance; who speaks for the region… and also, because Ecuador is one country where the government actually functions well.”
Walter Bustos, who used to work for this government, is alarmed by developments in Ecuador and the entirety of Latin America. Both he and Paula Pabón realize how fragile the Latin American revolutions are. While driving with me to an indigenous area of Riobamba, Walter lamented:
“In case there is a military coup in Ecuador, the difference between here and Venezuela would be enormous: while in Venezuela, Chavez incorporated the military into his revolution, in the case of a citizens’ revolution in Ecuador, we have no security; we cannot count on support of the military in case there is some armed, political or economic attack against us.”
Hugo Chavez was not only a great revolutionary, but also a tremendous strategist. He knew that any great revolution has to be fought, won, and then defended. Winning the battle is never enough. One has to consolidate forces, and uphold the victory. Chavez was first thinker, and then soldier.
Correa, Morales, Fernandez go forward, brave, proud but unprotected. Under their governments, the lives of ordinary people improve tremendously. That is what matters to them. They are decent and honest beings, unwilling to dirty themselves with intrigues, speculations and conspiracy theories.
But their great success will not gain them any recognition from the Empire, or from their own elites. The success of socialism is the worst nightmare for rulers of the world and their local butlers.
This is how President Salvador Allende died in 1973. He dismissed all rumors, and then all warnings that the coup was coming. “I am not going to arrest people just because of some suspicion that they may do something”, he used to say. After the coup took place, he died proudly, a true hero, committing suicide by marching towards the helicopter gunships and fighter jets that were bombarding the Presidential Palace of La Moneda. But he was not the only victim. As a result of the coup, thousands of Chileans died, and tens of thousands were savagely tortured and raped. Chile did not die, but went into a horrific coma, from which it only recently managed to recover.
Henry Kissinger summarized the moral corruption/collapse of his country’s regime when he uttered his memorable phrase:
“I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”
Despite his great intentions, President Salvador Allende failed his people. He underestimated the bestiality of the Empire, and the result were millions of broken lives.
Since then, the Empire’s selfishness and brutality only evolved. The more successful leaders like Correa become, the more real is the danger of a coup – of a devastating, deadly attack from the North, and subversion from within.
The fragility of Latin American revolutions is obvious. The elites cannot be trusted. They showed on many occasions how far they are willing to go, committing treason, collaborating with the West against their own nations: in Chile, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Honduras, Venezuela, Paraguay and Bolivia, to name just a few cases.
Appeasing both the elites and the Empire, while fighting for social justice and true independence, is impossible. The elites want to have full control of their countries, while the Empire demands full submission. No compromise can be reached. History speaks clearly about that. And the Empire has demonstrated on countless occasions that Latin American democracy would be respected only if the people vote the way that suits Washington.
Latin America has to learn how to defend itself, for the sake of its people.
Its closer and closer cooperation with China and Russia is essential. Coherent regional defense agreements should follow.
The next few years will be crucial. The revolutions have to be institutionalized; they cannot depend only on the charisma of its leaders.
Constant sabotages and coup attempts, like those in Venezuela, should not be tolerated. They lead to chaos and to uncertainty. They break countries economically and socially.
It is clear what the Empire and its servitors are doing: they are trying to push Latin American revolutionary countries against the wall, as they pushed, in the past, North Korea. They are trying to make them “react”, so they could say: “You see, this is true socialism, this defensive, hermitic and paranoid system.”
The path will not be easy. It will be dangerous and long.
Latin America can only survive through international cooperation and solidarity. It would also have to fight legally, at home and abroad. Those who are committing treason and those who are interrupting development of the country should face justice.
The left wing governments that are ruling South American countries won democratic elections: much more democratic than those in Europe and the United States. If the individuals and groups act against the expressed will of their own people, they should be taken to courts.
If a powerful country tortures other countries and shows total spite for their people, it should face an international legal system. The United States demonstrated, countless times, that it considers itself well above the law. It even forced several government in Latin America and elsewhere, to give its military personnel immunity. One of these countries is Paraguay, historically flooded with CIA, DEA and FBI agents.
In order to legally restrain the Empire, huge international pressure would have to be built. Like in the case of Managua, which legally sued the US for many acts of terror committed against Nicaragua. The Empire will most likely refuse to accept any guilty verdict. But the pressure has to be on!
All this would be meaningless without dedicated, constant coverage of the events by independent or opposition media, be they huge new state-funded networks like RT, TeleSur, CCTV or Press TV, of progressive independent media like Counterpunch, VNN, TGP, or ICH. It is essential that Latin Americans demand information from these sources, instead of consuming the toxic lies spread through CNN en Español, FOX, EFE and other right wing Western sources.
The battle for the Latin American people and for their freedom is on. Do not get fooled, it has been on for quite some time, and it is very tough fight.
Latin America is one of the fronts of the integrated fight for the survival of our Planet.
People who admire this part of the world, all those who have been inspired by Latin American revolutions, should participate in the struggle.
The best sons and daughters of this continent are now fighting in their own, quixotic way, as they always did: frontally, with exposed heart, totally unprotected. But their fight is just, and they are in this battle in order to defend the people.
Their opponents are rich, deceitful and brutal. But they are also selfish and they fight only for their own interests. They are not loved by their nations. If they lose, Latin America will win!
Those countries defending themselves against the Empire should unite, before it’s too late. Now as Latin America is rising from its knees, it becomes clear who are its foes and who are its real friends, real brothers and sisters!
This scarred but stunning continent of courageous poets, of dreamers and revolutionaries should not be allowed to fall. In Caracas, Quito and La Paz, they are fighting for all humanity.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
[box type=”bio”] Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His latest books are: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”. Discussion with Noam Chomsky: On Western Terrorism. Point of No Return is his critically acclaimed political novel. Oceania – a book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about Indonesia: “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Press TV. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and the Middle East. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.[/box]
(1) This book has been designated as a special book selection by the editors of The Greanville Post.
Remember: All captions and pullquotes are furnished by the editors, NOT the author(s).
The Momentum of FARC
Negotiations in Havana to end 50 years of armed conflict between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have continued for eighteen months. Promoting the talks, the government of President Juan Manuel Santos saw military expenses rising and investors reluctant because of violence. Neither party remained confident of military victory. But talks now are in trouble.
After reaching partial agreements on agrarian reform and political participation, negotiators tackled drug – trafficking. On May 4 after talking for five months, they recessed without reaching an agreement. Remaining agenda items are: care for victims, disarmament, and implementation of peace.
FARC negotiator Fidel Rondón told an interviewer recently that drug-trafficking was “the nodal point of the Colombian economy.” Discussion had become “uncomfortable to the present economic model, previous governments, the financial sector, and industry. [Yet] we have to deal with it, the state from a perspective of being led and protected by international policies to which it is committed and ourselves from the more progressive viewpoint of looking at problems of consumption and of coca leaf production in which small farmers are very involved.”
Asked about “the FARC’s participation in the drug trafficking chain,” Rondón explained that, “The FARC’s sin was to share space with small farmers and exist in areas where illegal cultivations predominate. We impose a tax on all big capital circulating through our regions in order to develop the struggle for peace in Colombia.”
The interviewer’s reference to “U.S. participation at the table for dealing with the theme of illicit drugs” prompted colleague Andrés París to observe that, “Drug war is an integral part of how narco-trafficking works; it’s the link between North Americans arms sales to Colombia and equipping the Armed Forces. And there are the chemicals supplies for processing these drugs that also are North American.”
Speaking to reporters on May 4, FARC, Iván Márquez, head of the negotiating team, elaborated upon the U.S. role. He condemned a recent statement by Colombia’s Ambassador in the United States Luis Carlos Villegas who, referring to FARC leaders, stipulated that with peace, “Colombia will not abandon certain tools such as extradition which could serve an instrument to ensure the non-repetition of crimes by the FARC.”
For Márquez, “this kind of unfortunate statement, far from contributing to the peace we all want, sounds like blackmail, which is unacceptable.” Responsibility for drug trafficking is shared: “[T]he production and marketing of illicit drugs has been permeating the whole country for decades, starting with the oligarchy’s links to finance capital. That sector is so powerful today, among other reasons, because of money laundering from drug sales and other not so holy businesses. Drug trafficking is a transnational, capitalist business, which has penetrated institutions and the national economy … [I]t has nurtured the scourge of narco-paramilitarism, which has caused so much damage, especially to the poor.”
Impasse on victims
The next agenda item, which deals with victims, is problematic for FARC negotiators. Rondón explained that, “We want the whole weight of responsibility to be borne by both the establishment and the insurgency … We ask for creation of a commission to clarify the conflict and move beyond the government’s version centering on the last three or four decades. There needs to be a discussion of responsibility for the state’s war against the people going back to 1936, particularly of participation by the political parties and the Catholic Church.”
París reiterated a warning from Iván Márquez “that without such a commission, it will be difficult to begin the point of discussion. The government starts out on each of the six agenda points as if we were an insurgent state having to respond to the country.” In fact, “we are victims because the guerrillas came into being because of state violence … The government wants to turn the negotiations in Havana into a Nuremburg tribunal that would put guerrillas on trial. We have to say the truth here: he who began the conflict has the major responsibility for this ominous 50 – year era. If there is no advance on forming this commission, the talks will end.
París continued: “We successfully advanced on three points because we arrived at agreements with the government and we said we will sign partial agreements. We leave disagreements for afterwards. On this matter of victims, it’s quite difficult. We would be agreeing with a government that … puts us in the national and international public pillory for being responsible for more that 600,000 Colombians disappeared and dead in this long conflict. … And they want to make us responsible for the internal displacement of millions of Colombians …We who are among the victims accuse the Colombian political regime.
Away from the negotiating table
On April 30 a FARC statement from Colombia took newly appointed army commander-in-chief Juan Pablo Rodríguez to task for saying that that peace in Colombia will come only with the FARC’s complete military defeat. That, according to the statement, is an “authentic declaration of war … True peace is not victory, but is social justice and democracy for all Colombians.”
The U.S. Army joined the dialogue when on March 27, 2014 a visiting General John F. Kelly, head of the U.S. Southern Command, told reporters that, “We are doing everything we can to help the people and the Armed Forces of Colombia … “[T]he rebels are up against the ropes, almost defeated, and as we say in the United States, we don’t want to take our eyes off the ball.” The U.S. State Department continues to offer a $5 million reward for help in capturing top FARC leader Timoleón Jiménez.
On May 6 Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre’s revealed that emails of the FARC negotiating team and those of Cuban journalists andPresident Santos himself had been intercepted. He later indicated the hacker had “sold the information obtained illegally to particular people and also to sectors of the public [security] force. Political groups are involved with this action against the peace process.”
Elections and peace negotiations
The outcome of presidential elections May 25 has implications for the outcome of negotiations.. President Santos, running for re-election, supports the peace process. Alvaro Uribe, Santos’ predecessor as president, has propelled opposition to the talks. His protégée Oscar Iván Zuluaga, candidate of the conservative Democratic Center Party, is gaining ground on Santos.
Four weeks before the voting, a crucial poll indicated that 27 percent of potential voters prefer Santos; 19 percent of them favor Zuluaga. As to the predicted outcome of a likely second round of voting, the two candidates are separated by two points.
The Zuluaga campaign and high military commanders are demanding pre-conditions for further negotiations and major FARC concessions, according to analyst Humberto Vélez. They think “military defeat of the guerrilla is just around the corner.” Santos suffers, he says, from “political schizophrenia.” As defense minister under Uribe he pursued war. Now “each day he orders intensified shooting while backing negotiations in Havana to stop the war.”
Recent Datexco polling data places “the end of internal armed conflict in sixth place among the electorate’s concerns; unemployment and security are more pressing.” Polling accuracy is questionable because almost 60 percent of adult Colombians do not vote, and polling reaches relatively few rural residents.
In their interview, Rondón and París expressed optimism even though, in the end, no agreements are reached “that would change the economic, political, and social lives of the Colombian people.” Rondón indicated that, “The advance of the revolutionary process, the clandestine communist Party, and the guerrilla forces is notable, so much so that we will be able to root out the establishment’s political solutions.” “The FARC is not just men under arms,” he added; “We are present in struggles of workers, small farmers, young people, women, and Afro-Colombians.”
Presently, however, “Realities in Colombia still justify armed struggle.” Rondón claimed that “our guerrilla fronts” are deployed along Colombia’s borders with Ecuador, Venezuela, and Panama, also in the “heart of the homeland.”
W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.
Who is Really in Charge of Colombia?
In the last several days a number of stunning disclosures have surfaced concerning the role of the Colombia military. First, the Colombian newsmagazine “Semana” revealed that military intelligence had conducted wire-tapping and surveillance for an operation called Andromeda from a listening post set up in a site disguised as a small restaurant named “Buggly Hacker” located in Galerias, a Bogota commercial district. Among the phone calls tapped and overheard it appears there may have been calls of members of the Colombian Government’s delegation involved in peace talks with the FARC guerrillas, whose delegation’s conversations may likewise have been tapped and overheard. When news broke of this activity, President Juan Manuel Santos declared publicly that these wiretaps (chuzadas, as they are referred to in Colombia) were illegal and had to be investigated at once. The President said publicly that he did not authorize and knew nothing about this activity. But the next day, President Santos declared that the chuzadas had been done legally!
This piece has some very good information on the Colombian situation, written, obviously, by a well-meaning and knowledgeable expert, probably a liberal. The writer, however, almost disqualifies his fides in the closing paragraphs, when he suggests with complete innocence and lack of irony that Americans should ask Obama, Kerry and other members of the imperialist ruling clique to look into the matter of corruption in the Colombian military—a puppet military— something that (a) has been well known to Washington for many decades, indeed it is a sine qua non for doing business, and (b) they, including their accomplices in Congress or the Pentagon, are the last people on earth to go to for relief. It’s delusional and possibly farcical. —P. G.
Two things are very clear. First, that the President of Colombia is not aware of what a significant part of his government is doing, and that’s all right with him. And second, that the military are (quite literally) calling the shots in Colombia. It appears obvious that Mr. Santos changed his opinion overnight on the legality of the secret wire-tapping activity by military intelligence because military officers told him he could not call the activity illegal. In other words, they’re in ultimate control of the government in Colombia!
How could Mr. Santos determine that this activity was legal? There are laws which have provided great leeway to military intelligence. But they certainly do not extend to overhearing conversations between Colombian Government representatives and FARC representatives meeting in Havana supposedly aimed at arriving at a broad peace agreement through which the guerrilla war would be ended. Who would speak freely his or her ideas on what a peace agreement should consist of—a necessary part of peace conversations if they are to be productive— if he or she knew a third party was overhearing what was being
said? No one. Particularly if the party overhearing the conversations is the Colombian military, which has a long record of abusive conduct, and even has a representative at the peace talks, General Mora. The chuzadas are a serious impediment to frank and open dialogue between the Colombian Government and the FARC. One suspects that former President Alvaro Uribe Velez is likely the recipient of the information gained from the chuzadas, as he utilizes his close relationship with military officers to obtain information with which to undercut the peace talks, which he has publicly opposed. He earlier obtained the coordinates for movement of two FARC leaders as they came out of their bases to go to Havana—secret information he could only have gotten through a leak from a military or governmental source. Of course, President Santos has not moved seriously to investigate this leak. Why? Because he is not in control of the Colombian government.
This has been made clear by events in the last couple of days. “Semana”, much to their credit, has carried out and now published the results of an extensive investigation of corruption in the Colombian military. The investigation found military officers discussing how to skim off funds for their personal benefit from monies received by the military, the likely source of which was the United States Government. One of the persons involved in the recorded conversations is the current Commander of the Colombian Armed Forces, General Leonardo Barrero. Another article reported how supposedly disgraced General Rito Alejo del Rio, confined to a military installation in Bogota for his support of illegal paramilitary forces during his time as Commander of the Seventeenth Brigade in Carepa, near Apartado, essentially commands the installation, freely making supposedly-prohibited cell phone calls. And other military personnel who misbehaved had been involved in the “false positives” scandal in which military officers ordered the kidnapping of young men, had them killed, and then falsely presented them as guerrillas killed in combat.
The reports by “Semana” show an astonishing level of corruption in the Colombian military. President Santos has promised an investigation of these activities, of which he says he had no knowledge. Again, we see Mr. Santos as being out of the loop, heading a government he does not control. The conclusion is inescapable that the military controls the government and Mr. Santos is an uninformed bystander. He seems to believe that his job is to hob-nob with representatives of multinational corporations, as he did on a recent visit to Spain, inviting them to invest in Colombia and remove its valuable mineral resources for a pittance. The Colombian people deserve much better than this!
There is another aspect of the military’s current “dance of the millions” which is very troubling. The funds that are being stolen by military personnel are almost certainly provided by the United States government (i.e., U.S. taxpayers) as a part of the bloated budget of funds the U. S. government provides to the Colombian military. An obvious question is: Did the U.S. government personnel, such as the country’s military attache and Ambassador in Colombia, know what has been going on? And, if not, why not? This scandal calls for a full review of the U.S. aid program to Colombia and an immediate freezing of any funds in the aid pipeline. We in the human rights community have long known of the pervasive corruption in the Colombian military, though we did not know of the brazen theft of funds which “Semana” uncovered. It is high time that President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry and Secretary of Defense Hagel give their undivided attention to the Colombia situation. And the members of Congress should insist upon a thorough investigation, dismissal of those government personnel who overlooked these very serious problems, and prosecution of those who may have collaborated with the Colombian military to their own advantage.
John I. Laun is president of the Colombia Support Network.