Monthly Archives: June 2010

Love & Cholera

SF Examiner

Jan. 5, 2002

When novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote Love in the Time of Cholera, the dreaded disease was a metaphor for the past. The malady itself had exited the South American stage almost 100 years ago, driven into extinction by the modernization of sewerage systems and the purification of water supplies. But in 1991 it suddenly reappeared in Peru, spreading up and down the West Coast, from Argentina to Mexico. In the past decade it has felled more than a million people and killed tens of thousands, particularly small children. It is a metaphor given life by the policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Like one of Garcia’s parables, the story of cholera’s return is a complex tale of greed and power that has its origins in the early ‘70s, when money was cheap, interest rates low, and the Caudillos ruled from Brazil to Ecuador. Looking for new pastures, American banks pushed loans on countries like Peru, and the corrupt military dictatorships were more than happy to take them. But when the oil crisis hit in 1973, interest rates went through the roof, and countries like Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru found themselves on the wrong end of bad loans.

With backward industrial bases, and much of the loan money siphoned off into Swiss bank accounts or military spending, nations like Peru had no choice but to turn to the World Bank and the IMF to bail them out. The loans were forthcoming, but at a price: open your markets, privatize state businesses, and “discipline” spending. Translation: countries like Peru will now compete on equal terms with the United States, Europe and Japan.

Is there any need to dwell on what happened in that contest? Suffice it to say that it was cheaper to import Nebraska corn than for Peruvians to buy local corn grown in small, inefficient peasant holdings and transported on primitive roads. But buying foreign corn meant acquiring foreign debt, and after the big industrial countries had finished wiping out Peru’s infant industrial base, the country had nothing to export.

Small farmers in the hinterlands could no longer sell their corn, and so they migrated from the countryside to the cities. From 1970 to 1990, city populations in South America increased seven fold. But with no industrial base, and shrinking government industries, there were no jobs for these people. Still, lured by the few social services that survived the first rounds of austerity, they came, filling the hillsides and the river bottoms with tin shacks and cardboard shanties.

In the end, it was the enforced “discipline” that did them in. With almost 35 percent of the national income going toward paying off the debt, there was no money for public health or infrastructure repair, in spite of the fact that the exploding urban population was placing enormous stress on transport, water and sewage systems. The results were inevitable: sewer systems collapsed and human feces— cholera’s source—got into the water supply and coastal waters. People drank the water or ate contaminated shellfish, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s metaphor ceased being fiction.

Cholera is a simple disease, not one of those fancy designer strains like HIV or Ebola. It isn’t hard to avoid unless you don’t have clean water or much of a public health system. Lacking those things, it is deadly, killing as many as 50 percent of its victims in rural areas. Children are particularly susceptible because they are so quickly dehydrated by the diarrhea that accompanies the disease.

The cure is simple: clean water. And the price is not very high. It would cost approximately $60 billion to purify the water supplies in Latin America, or the cost of the B-1 bomber fleet, which is chiefly distinguished by its talent for crashing. If the U.S. were to decide not to build the new F-22 fighter jet—a weapon system that virtually every single independent expert on military spending agrees we don’t need—and turn that into an aid package to smart-bomb cholera, we would not only save a lot of people (and money), but make some serious friends.

Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has substituted bromides for aid. Rather than examining the carnage that IMF and US policy has inflicted on Latin America, President Bush told a meeting of the Organization of American States last week that he was going to push hard for free trade and open markets in Central America. Great. That ought to solve those countries’ over population problems.

The wake of the IMF in Latin America is strewn with pain and chaos. Bolivians rioted in 2000 when the IMF forced the government to raise water rates. Ecuadorians rioted last year when austerity measures ended government subsidies for cooking gas. Argentina is on the verge of a social and political meltdown. And this is what the White House wants to unleash on Central America? One can only wonder what metaphor will embrace that disaster in the making.


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Laptop Doubts; Iraq Flim Flam

Dispatches From The Edge

Conn Hallinan

June 19, 2008

“President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has been caught,” is how a recent editorial in the New York Times characterized the findings of the International Police Agency (Interpol) on three laptop computers, several USB thumb drives, and two external hard disks seized during Colombia’s Mar. 1 invasion of Ecuador.

The Colombian government says the computers link the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador to the oldest guerrilla group in Latin America, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Based on those claims the Bush Administration is threatening to add Venezuela to its list of “terrorists” states—Syria, Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Sudan—which would trigger economic sanctions.

Not so fast say three information technology professors at the University of Ecuador. At a May 20 press conference, the professors, led by Deacon Carlos Montenegro, criticized Interpol head Ronald Noble for his statement that the laptops and hard drives were from FARC. According to Quito-based reporter Daniel Denvir, “the investigation was explicitly limited to determining whether the hard drives had been altered,” not whether the laptops were from FARC.

The Ecuadorians pointed out that between March 1, when the computers were seized, and March 3, when they were turned over to Interpol, the laptops were in the hands of Colombia’s anti-terrorism unit. This, according to Interpol, “did not follow internationally recognized principles in the handling of electronic evidence,” but the lapse “had no effect on the content of any user file.”

But, according to the Ecuadorians, Interpol has no way of determining if Colombian officials modified, deleted or created documents over the three-day period.

On top of which, Colombia gave Interpol the files, not the hard drives. According to Denvir, the professors then demonstrated to the press how easy it was to change the creation and modification dates of documents. The only traces of such changes would be on the hard drives, which remain in the hands of the Colombians.

The Bogotá government has selectively leaked documents suggesting there were official ties between the Chavez government and FARC. But as the Financial Times reports, the documents do not “provide conclusive evidence that Venezuela is providing money, weapons and logistical support to the FARC.” Indeed, the newspaper points out “None of the communications are from Venezuelan officials,” adding, “The competing leaders of the FARC, fragmented after years of successful counter-insurgency, have cause to exaggerate proximity to Mr. Chavez.”

The $5 billion in U.S. aid to Colombia—over half of which has gone to the military—has badly hurt FARC. The organization’s use of kidnapping and its association with the cocaine trade has also lost it popularity.

But most analysts say FARC is hardly finished. “They’re still a force to be reckoned with,” says Jorge Restrepo, Director of the Conflict Analysis Resource Center in Bogotá.

Chavez recently called on FARC to release kidnap victims and end its military struggle. But he also urged Colombia to recognize the guerrilla organization as a legitimate political force rather than simply a terrorist group. Chavez’s position is widely supported throughout Latin America.

.FARC’s persistence has less to do with its politics than the fact that the issues which sparked Colombia’s 40-year old civil war are still the same: 65 to 67 percent of the population are classified as “poor,” and 30 percent of the landowners control 95 percent of the land.

“The land problem is at the center of the conflict,” says refugee advocate Jorge Rojas.

But fueled by U.S. military aid, Colombia’s government continues to pursue the chimera of a military victory, even if it means invading neighboring countries or cooking intelligence.

Sound familiar?

When is a permanent U.S. base in Iraq not a permanent base? If it has one Iraqi soldier guarding it. That little piece of flim flam is just one of the ways that the Bush Administration is trying to conceal the details of its push to make American occupation of Iraq permanent.

According to Andrew Cockburn of the Independent, the Bush Administration is demanding permanent bases, the right to arrest Iraqi citizens, to engage in military attacks without consulting the Iraqi government, and legal immunity for its soldiers and private contractors.

Iraqi lawmakers say the U.S. wants 58 permanent bases and absolute control of Iraqi skies up to 30,000 feet.

The U.S is also demanding the power to determine if Iraq is the victim of aggression, a right that Iraqi lawmakers say could pull Iraq into a U.S.-Iran war. “The points that were put forth by the Americans were more abominable than the occupation,” Jalal as Din al Saghir, a member of parliament from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), told Lelia Fadel of the McClatchy newspapers.

A majority of Iraq’s parliament recently wrote to the U.S. Congress demanding the end to the U.S. occupation, but the White House has an ace in the hole.

According to Cockburn, the U.S. is using $20 billion in legal judgments against Iraq to put the squeeze on the Baghdad government.

The scheme is right out of the Sopranos.

Iraq is currently under a UN Mandate, which means its reserves are immune from legal judgements.

But, according to Cockburn, “the U.S. side in the [status force] talks has suggested that if the UN Mandate, under which the money is held, lapses and is not replaced by a new agreement, than Iraqi funds would lose this immunity.”

That would cause the immediate loss of $20 billion, or 40 percent of Iraqi’s foreign exchange reserves.

In short, sign the status force agreement or there may be trouble over extending the UN Mandate.

The White House is trying an end run around Congress by claiming that the status force agreement is not a treaty, but an alliance, so it doesn’t have to be submitted to the Senate.

Many Iraqis are not happy. “We are being asked to sign for our own occupation. That is why we have refused all that we have seen so far,” says ISCI’s Saghir. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says his government will reject the proposed agreement.

But the Baghdad government is utterly dependent on the U.S., as the recent fighting between the Iraqi Army and Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army demonstrated.

Tony and his boys know how to lean on people.

The real story behind Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ firing of Secretary of the Air Force (AF) Mike Wynne, and Air Force Chief of Staff Mike “Buzz” Moseley has little to do with “loose nukes” and everything to do with the U.S. military’s war plans for the 21st Century.

The firing was supposedly over six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles that went AWOL for several hours last year, and several nuclear missile nose cone assemblies that were mistakenly shipped to Taiwan. Gates was also annoyed that the flyboys were dragging their heels about deploying robot killers like the Predator and the Reaper, on which the U.S. is increasingly relying in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The AF insists only fully certified pilots can guide the robots. The Army, Marines and Navy use their recruits from the video game playing generation to fly the drones.

But the robots are a piece of a bigger story. What is really going on is that, while Gates is planning to fight scores of Iraqs and Afghanistans, the AF wants to fight China.

In a recent Alabama speech, Gates said “Asymmetrical conflict will be the dominant battlefield for decades to come, and procurement and training have to focus on that reality.” Thar means that brushfire wars and counter-insurgency is the future.

The nail in the coffin for the AF chiefs was an $80 million Air Force ad campaign called “Above All,” which claimed that China had the world’s biggest air force. It does, but only if you count 40-year-old airplanes. The U.S. Air Force is vastly superior to China’s, and the AF chiefs know it.

The Air Force also refused to accept only 183 F-22 stealth fighters, a very expensive and absolutely useless aircraft originally designed for breaking up massive formations of Soviet fighters invading Europe. This is not such a problem these days. Apparently Wynne and Moseley went over the Pentagon’s head and lobbied Congress to build more F-22s.

The dangerous part in all of this is the focus on “asymmetrical conflict,” which means a return to the era which produced that ‘60s poster: “Join the Army, visit exotic places, meet interesting people, and kill them.”


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Hunting Hugo

Dispatches From the Edge

Conn Hallinan

Oct. 27, 2006

There are times when the tensions between Venezuela and the Bush Administration seem closer to commedia dell arte than politics: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez compares President George W. Bush to the devil, right down to the smell of sulfur; Homeland Security responds by strip searching Venezuela’s Foreign Minister at a New York airport; Venezuela seizes 176 pounds of frozen chicken on its way to the U.S. Embassy in Caracas.

But recent initiatives by the White House suggest that the Administration has more than tit for tat in mind.

In late June, Southern Command, the arm of the U.S. military in Latin America, concluded that efforts by Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia to extend state control over their oil and gas reserves poised a threat to U.S. oil supplies.

While Latin America produces only 8.4 percent of the world’s oil output, it supplies 30 percent of the U.S.’s needs.

“A re-emergence of state control of the energy sector will likely increase inefficiencies and, beyond an increase in short-term profits, will hamper efforts to increase long-term supplies and production,” the study concludes. In an interview with the Financial Times, Col. Joe Nunez, a professor of strategy at the U.S. Army War College, added an observation that ought to send a collective chill down the backs of the three countries named: “It is incumbent upon the Command to contemplate beyond strictly military matters.”

That one of the U.S. military’s most powerful arms should find itself deep in the energy business should hardly come as a surprise.

Four months after Bush took office, Vice-President Dick Cheney’s National Energy Policy Development Group recommended that the administration “make energy security policy a priority of our trade and foreign policy.”

The Administration has faithfully followed that blueprint for the past years, where it has used war and muscular diplomacy to corner energy supplies for U.S. in the Middle East and Central Asia

But what most Americans don’t know is that Venezuela sits on the largest energy reserves in the world, a staggering 1.3 trillion barrels of oil, almost three times the reserves of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait combined.

Most Venezuelan oil is heavy and expensive to refine, but as long as oil stays above $30 a barrel—and few doubt it will go lower—it is an almost endless gold mine.

The bone the U.S. is picking with Hugo is not about bombast; it’s about oil.

Shortly after Southern Command’s report, the White House appointed J. Patrick Maher, a 31-year Central Intelligence Agency veteran, to head up a special task force for gathering intelligence on Venezuela and Cuba. Only North Korea and Iran have similar posts. In a move that almost exactly parallels how intelligence was handled in the run up to the Iraq war, Maher will bypass the CIA and report directly to President Bush.

Maher’s appointment followed a full court press by a group of neo-conservatives grouped around National Security Director John Negroponte, then CIA chief Porter Goss, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and her deputy, Robert Zoellick.

The campaign against Chavez on the executive side is matched by a similar push on the congressional side. Senator Richard Lugar (R-In), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, recently urged the Bush Administration to adopt “contingency plans” in case of a disruption of oil supplies from Venezuela. In a July letter to Rice, the Senator said that Venezuela has an “undue ability to impact USA security and our economy.” Lugar went on to warn that there was a “real risk” that Venezuela could “act in concert” with other countries and that “we have a responsibility to plan appropriate contingencies that protect the American people.”

The current campaign against Chavez is really Round Two in the White House’s drive to unseat him.

As Freedom of Information Act documents reveal, the Bush Administration already tried to overthrow Chavez in an April 2002 coup.

Then Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Otto Reich, met several times with coup leaders, and Deputy Secretary of Defense for Western Hemispheric Affairs, Rogelio Pardo-Maurer met with military coup leader Gen. Lucas Romero Rincon.

Cuban exile Reich, and Pardo-Maurer, were major players in the 1980s Contra war against Nicaragua. Pardo-Maurer was the Contra’s leading spokesperson, and Reich was forced to resign from the Reagan Administration for planting false stories in the U.S. Media.

The CIA, through the National Endowment for Democracy and the United States Agency for International Development, bankrolled Chavez’s opponents, and helped organize and support the strike by white collar oil workers and ships captains eight months after the coup collapsed.

Since then, the Administration has kept up a drumbeat of attacks. Rice warned that Chavez was, “A major threat to the region,” U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld compared Chavez to Adolph Hitler, and Zoellick told the Senate that Chavez was part of a new “creeping authoritarianism.”

In March, a National Security Strategy document charged that Chavez was “undermining democracy,” and at an Oct. 2 meeting of Latin American defense ministers in Managua, Nicaragua, Gen. Bantz J. Craddock of Southern Command called Chavez a “destabilizing” force in the region.

What really worries the U.S. is that Chavez is trying to diversify Venezuela’s clientele.

Venezuela is currently building a pipeline across Colombia in order to ship more oil to China, and is working on plans for a $25 billion pipeline across the Amazon to markets in Chile, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. According to the Latin American Energy Organization, the Great Southern Pipeline could save Latin Americans $100 billion in lower gas and oil prices over the next 20 years.

China is pouring in billions to develop fields in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador to give it the inside corner on future resources.

The “China connection” is one that concerns the Bush Administration, not only because it siphons off oil that normally would go to the U.S., but also because the White House sees China as a rival and has done its best to elbow Peking out of the Middle East and Central Asia.

But Latin America is a different place than it was a decade ago when it was mired in debt, characterized by low growth and beholden to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. When Rice told House members that the Bush Administration was building a “united front” against Venezuela, it is likely to be a narrow front indeed.

Venezuela has helped bail Ecuador and Argentina out of debt, invested in projects in Bolivia, and poured almost $20 billion in bond purchases and debt relief into Latin America. In contrast, U.S. aid to the region is $1.7 billion a year, and a billion of that is for the U.S. war on drugs.

Given Chavez’s enormous popularity in his country and Latin America—according to Datanalius, his positive rate on the continent is 77 percent—it is hard to see what the White House can do about Venezuela’s president.

But that is not likely to discourage it from trying, and the people the Administration has recruited to target him are just the kind of operatives who won’t shy away from anything up to, and including, the unthinkable: assassination.

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Honduras coup: The U.S. Connection

Honduras coup: The U.S. Connection

Conn Hallinan

Aug. 13, 2009

While the Obama Administration was careful to distance itself from the recent coup in Honduras—condeming the expulsion of President Manuel Zelaya to Costa Rica, revoking Honduran officals’ visas, and shutting off aid—that doesn’t mean influential Americans aren’t involved, and that both sides of the aisle don’t have some explaining to do.

The story most U.S. readers are getting about the coup is that Zelaya—an ally of Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez—was deposed because he tried to change the constitution to keep himself in power.

That story is a massive distortion of the facts. All Zelaya was trying to do is to put a non-binding referendum on the ballot calling for a constitutional convention, a move that trade unions, indigenous groups and social activist organizations had long been lobbying for. The current constitution was written by the Honduran military in 1982 and the one term limit allows the brass hats to dominate the politics of the country. Since the convention would have been held in November, the same month as the upcoming presidential elections, there was no way that Zelaya could have remained in office in any case. The most he could have done was to run four years from now. (1)

And while Zelaya is indeed friendly with Chavez, he is at best a liberal reformer whose major accomplishment was raising the minimum wage. “What Zelaya has done has been little reforms,” Rafael Alegria, a leader of Via Campesina told the Mexican daily La Jornada. “He isn’t a socialist or a revolutionary, but these reforms, which didn’t harm the oligarchy at all, have been enough for them to attack him furiously.” (2)

One of those “little reforms” was aimed at ensuring public control of the Honduran telecommunications industry and that may well have been the trip wire that triggered the coup.

The first hint that something was afoot was a suit brought by Venezuelan lawyer Robert Carmona-Borjas claiming that Zelaya was part of a bribary scheme involving the state-run telecommunication company, Hondutel. (3)

Carmona-Borjas has a rap sheet that dates back to the April 2002 coup against Chavez It was he who drew up the notorious “Carmona decrees,” a series of draconian laws aimed at suspending the Venezuelan constitution and suppressing any resistance to the coup. As Chavez supporters poured into the streets and the plot unraveled, he fled to Washington DC. (4)

There he took a post at George Washington University and brought Iran-Contra plotters Otto Reich and Elliott Abrams to teach his class on “Political Management in Latin America.” He also became vice-president of the right-wing Arcadia Foundation, which lobbies for free market policies. (5)

Weeks before the June 28 Honduran coup, Carmona-Borjas barnstormed the country accusing Zelaya of collaborating with narco-traffickers. (6)

Reich, a Cuban-American with ties to right-wing factions all over Latin America, and a former assistant secretary of state for hemispheric affairs under George W. Bush, has been accused by the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization of “undeniable involvement” in the coup. (7))

This is hardly surprising. Reich’s priors makes Carmona-Borjas look like a boy scout.

He was nailed by a 1987 Congressional investigation for using public funds to engage in propaganda during the Reagan Administration’s war on Nicaragua. He is also a fierce advocate for Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, both implicated in the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1973 that killed all 73 on board. (8)

Reich is a ferocious critic of Zelaya and, in a recent piece in the Weekly Standard, urged the Obama Administration not to support “strongman” Zelaya because it “would put the United States clearly in the same camp as Cuba’s Castro brothers, Venezuela’s Chavez, and other regional delinquents.” (9)

Zelaya’s return was unanimous supported by the UN General Assembly, the European Union, and the Organization of American States. (10)

One of the charges that Reich levels at Zelaya is that the Honduran president is supposedly involved with bribes paid out by the state-run telecommunication company, Hondutel. Zelaya is threatening to file a defamation suit over the accusation. (11)

Reich’s charges against Hondutel are hardly happenstance.

The Cuban-American, a former lobbyist for AT&T, is close to Arizona Senator John McCain and served as McCain’s Latin American advisor during the Senator’s run for the presidency. John McCain is Mr. telecommunications.

The Senator has deep ties with telecom giants AT&T, MCI and Qualcomm and, according to Nikolas Kozloff , author of “Hugo Chavez: Oil, Politics and the Challenge of the U.S.,” “has acted to protect and look out for the political interests of the telecoms on Capitol Hill.”(12)

AT&T is McCain’s second largest donor, and the company also generously funds McCain’s International Republican Institute (IRI), which has warred with Latin American regimes that have resisted telecommunications privatization. According to Kozloff, “President Zelaya was a known to be a fierce critic of telecommunications privatization.” (13)

When Venezuelan coup leaders went to Washington a month before their failed effort to oust Chavez, IRI footed the bill. Reich, as then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s special envoy to the Western Hemisphere, met with some of those leaders. (14)

In 2004, Reich founded his own lobbying agency and immersed himself in guns, rum, tobacco, and sweat. His clients include Lockheed Martin (the world’s largest arms dealer), British American Tobacco and Bacardi. He is also vice-chairman of Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production, a clothing industry front aimed at derailing the anti-sweat-shop movement. (15)

Republicans in Congress have accused the Obama Administration of being “soft” on Zelaya, and protested the White House’s support of the Honduran president by voting against administration nominees for the ambassador to Brazil and an assistant secretary of state. (16)

But meddling in Honduras is a bi-partisan undertaking.

If you want to understand who is the real power behind the [Honduran] coup, you need to find out who is paying Lanny Davis,” says Robert White, former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador and current president of the Center for International Policy. (17)

Davis, best known as the lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial, has been lobbying members of Congress and testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in support of the coup.

According to Roberto Lovato, an associate editor at New American Media, Davis represents the Honduran chapter of CEAL, the Business Council of Latin America, which strongly backed the coup. Davis told Lovato, “I’m proud to represent businessmen who are committed to the rule of law.” (18)

But White says the coup had more to do with profits than law.

Coups happen because very wealthy people want them and help to make them happen, people who are used to seeing the country as a money machine and suddenly see social legislation on behalf of the poor as a threat to their interests,” says White. “The average wage of a worker in free trade zones is 77 cents per hour.” (19)

According to the World Bank, 66 percent of Hondurans lives below the poverty line. (20)

The U.S. is also involved in the coup through a network of agencies that funnel money and training to anti-government groups. The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) contribute to right-wing organizations that supported the coup, including the Peace and Democracy Movement and the Civil Democratic Union. Many of the officers that bundled Zelaya off to San Jose were trained at the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation, the former “School for the Americas’ that has seen torturers and coup leaders from all over Latin America pass through its doors. Reich served on the Institute’s board. (21)

The Obama Administration condemned the coup, but when Zelaya journeyed to the Honduran-Nicaragua border, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced him for being “provocative.” (22) It was a strange statement, since the State Department said nothing about a report by the Committee of Disappeared Detainees in Honduras charging 1,100 human rights violations by the coup regime, including detentions, assaults and murder. (23)

Human rights violations by the coup government have been condemned by the Inter American Commission for Human Rights, the International Observer Mission, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Committee to Protest Journalists, and Reporters Without Borders. (24)

Davis claims that the coup was a “legal” maneuver to preserve democracy. But that is a hard argument to make, given who some of the people behind it were. One of those is Fernando Joya, a former member of Battalion 316, a paramilitary death squad. Joya fled the country after being charged with kidnapping and torturing several students in the 1980s, but he has now resurfaced as a “special security advisor” to the coup makers. He recently gave a TV interview that favorably compared the 1973 Chilean coup to the June 28 Honduran coup. (25)

According to Greg Grandin, a history professor at New York University, the coup makers also included the extremely right-wing Catholic organization, Opus Dei, whose roots go back to the fascist regime of Spanish caudillo Francisco Franco. (26)

In the old days, when the U.S. routinely overthrew governments that displeased it, the Marines would have gone in, as they did in Guatemala and Nicaragua, or the CIA would have engineered a coup by the local elites. No one has accused U.S. intelligence of being involved in the Honduran coup, and American troops in the country are keeping a low profile. But the fingerprints of U.S. institutions like the NED, USAID and School for the Americas—plus bipartisan lobbyists, powerful corporations, and dedicated Cold War warriors—are all over the June takeover.


1)”The US Right, Including Bush Appointe Otto Reich, mobilizes to support the Putsch,” Bill Weinberg, In These Times, 8/29/09

2) “Honduras: It’s Not About Zelaya,” David L. Wislon, MR Zine, Upside Down World, 7/6/09

3) “Otto Reich behind Honduras Coup?” World War 4 Report, 7/5/09

4) “Who’s Behind Honduras Destabilization? All Roads Lead to McCain,” Nikolas Kozloff, Buzzflash, 7/14/09

5) Ibid Kozloff

6) Ibid WW 4 Report

7) “US Cancels Visas of Four Honduran Officials,” Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post, 7/29/09

8) Otto Reich, FPIF, 6/17/09

9) “Foreign polich and Good Intentions,” Otto Reich, The Weekly Standard, 7/29/09

10) “After Losing Honduras, Ousted Leader Wins International Support,” Marc Lacy, New York Times, 7/1/09

11) Ibid FPIF

12) Ibid, Kozloff

13) Ibid, Kozloff

14) Ibid, Kozliff

15) Ibid, FPIF

16) Ibid, Washington Post

17) “Our Man in Honduras,” Roberto Lovato, The American Prospect, 7/22/09

18) Ibid, Lovato

19) Ibid, Lovato

20) World Bank Data-Key Development and Statistics, page 6

21) Ibid WW 4 Report

22) “Obama Administration Must Support Human Rights in Honduras,” Just Foreign Policy, 7/28/09

23) Ibid, Lovato

24) Ibid, Just Foreign Policy

25) “Waiting for Zelaya,” Greg Grandin, The Nation, 7/28/09

26) Ibid, Grandin

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Haiti: Dangerous Muddle


Mar. 1. 2004

In 1994, when President Bill Clinton sent 20,000 American troops into Haiti to restore Jean-Bernard Aristide to the presidency, there was widespread support for a mission aimed at restoring democracy and relieving the misery of the Haitian people. It also seemed to herald a new day in the post-Cold War world, when American invasions were not automatically synonymous with supporting some Latin American caudillo or South East Asian despot.

With the exception of the isolationist Right, virtually every voice in the political spectrum cheered the policy of “liberal intervention.” The use of American power to make good things happen was a heady drug.

Unfortunately, an addictive one.

Although there is no question that the 1994 intervention was good for Haiti, military intervention has turned out to be fraught with problems, particularly when it is wielded by one country.

Liberal Interventionism Ran Off the Rails

It is tempting to pin the problematical aspects of the policy on the Bush administration and its coterie of aggressive, neocon policymakers. But the fissures in “liberal intervention” began showing up long before the Republicans took control of the White House.

The Yugoslav war is a case in point.

On the surface the rationale for an intervention seemed straightforward. Serbia’s President, Slobodan Milosevic was a thug who was oppressing Albanians in the Serbian province of Kosovo. Or at least that was how the war was sold. On the ground things were a little more complex, as they often are in the Balkans.

Milosevic was certainly a thug, but so was Croatia’s President, Franjo Tudjman, and we were fine with him . Milosevic did, indeed, oppress Albanians in Kosovo, but the Kosovo Liberation Army was hardly representative of goodness and democracy. Many KLA members–including most the leaders–were no less thuggish than Milosevic, and according to Interpol, deeply engaged in Europe’s largest drug ring.

Was there cause for military intervention? Could there have been a resolution short of war? We will never know, because the Serbs were presented with an ultimatum at Rambouillet designed to start a war.

The Americans demanded that Serbia surrender its sovereignty, exactly what the Austro-Hungarian Empire demanded of Serbia following the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand in 1914. Back then the Serbs said no and the Austrians launched World War I.

“Rambouillet,” argues Dan Goure of the conservative Center for Strategic and International Studies, “was not a negotiation, it was a setup, a lynch party.”

Was Yugoslavia “liberal intervention” like Haiti? Questionable. There was a human rights crisis in Kosovo, but it was the war that kicked off the worst aspect of it, the forced expulsion of Albanians from Kosovo. And unlike Haiti, in Yugoslavia the U.S. and NATO went for the jugular. Power plants and water pumping stations were bombed. The electrical grid and energy systems flattened, and transportation networks were systemically destroyed. The bombing campaign was a direct violation of articles 48, 51 and 54 of Protocol I, Part IV, of the Geneva Conventions. In short, a war crime.

The allies also saturated the country with depleted uranium and cluster bombs. Needless to say, the victims of the war were primarily Serbian civilians.

The Yugoslav war was where “liberal intervention” ran off the rails. The first sign of that was when the Clinton administration sidelined the United Nations and used the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) instead. The U.S. dominates NATO in a way that it could never hope to dominate the UN, and that fact allowed the U.S. military to carry out the kind of war it wanted, a war the UN might well have put the brakes on.

Not a NATO or UN War, But Another U.S. Affair

In the end it was hardly even a NATO war. The U.S. picked all the targets, carried out upwards of 90 percent of the air attacks, and excluded its allies from the operational aspects of the war. It was, pure and simple, a U.S. affair. It was also a dry run for a new kind of war, one that maximized destruction and minimized casualties.

Was it successful? Well, the Albanians have largely cleansed Kosovo of Serbs and Roma. NATO still occupies Kosovo. The humiliation of the war, and its painful aftermath, continues to stoke the fires of Serbian nationalism. Serbia refuses to give up its war criminals. Success? War has never produced “success” in the Balkans before, why anyone thought it would this time is a mystery.

The most troubling aspect of the Yugoslav war was the exclusion of the UN. It has been downhill ever since. Afghanistan is a case in point. Yes, it was very nice to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban (although we nursed the pinion that impelled that steel), and it certainly struck a blow at al-Qaeda, the organization which carried out the 9/11 attacks.

But again, it was a U.S. operation. The UN was sidelined, and even NATO was brought in after the fact. Our ally in Afghanistan was the homicidal Northern Alliance, steeped in violence and drug dealing. And as in Yugoslavia, the war was a high tech, slice-and-dice air operation that killed lots of civilians. There was an uncomfortable feeling that the war might be about Central Asian oil and gas, but it was hard to protest freeing Afghan women and ending the rule of the Mad Mullahs.

Yet Afghanistan reflects the dangers of “liberal intervention” by one country. The U.S. certainly “won” the war, although the outcome was hardly in doubt. But the war is not over. Indeed, it appears to be getting worse, in part because the Bush administration spent tens of billions busting up the place, but not a whole lot putting it back together. Modern wars are not won or lost on the battlefield, they are won or lost in the streets and byways of everyday life. Fix what you break or the bill gets dear.

This is hardly a new observation. For 800-plus years the English won every major “battle” in Ireland. In the end they lost the war. It is a lesson the Israelis should pay some attention to.

Haiti Illustrates Failures of Single-Power Intervention

The 1994 Haiti intervention illustrates the problem of single power intervention even when authorized by the United Nations as was in Haiti.

Seven weeks after the invasion, the Republicans took control of Congress and systematically dismantled aid to the impoverished, war-torn country.

The cuts meant there was no effort to rebuild roads, ports, airports, or infrastructure. When Aristide’s opposition cried foul over eight contested seats in the 2000 election, the U.S. froze the final $500 million in aid.

The aid was never very substantial. Per capita, the U.S. was giving Haiti one fifth what it was spending in Bosnia, and one tenth what it was distributing in Kosovo. After 1996, U.S. aid to Haiti was the same as what it had given the dictatorship which deposed Aristide. Aid did flow, but not to Aristide. Instead, U.S. organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the opposition.

Shortly after the demonstrations and attacks on Aristide began, the U.S. State Department made it clear it would do nothing to impede his overthrow. In early February, an anonymous State Department official told the New York Times that the U.S. was not adverse to replacing Aristide, “When we talk about undergoing change in the way Haiti is governed, I think that could indeed involve changes in Aristide’s position,” the official said. This past week, shortly before Aristide was driven out, U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and President George W. Bush, essentially called for him to step down.

There is no question that the Aristide government was a troubled one, and some of the opposition was composed of former supporters alienated by corruption, violent pro-Aristide gangs, and the contested 2000 election. Most of this group was non-violent, and based mainly among Haiti’s elites and the business community. But the forces that converged on Port au Prince are the very thugs and murderers the U.S. invaded to get rid of in 1994.

Louis-Jodel Chamblain, one of the principal leaders of the armed opposition, is a former death squad leader and one of the founders of the brutal Front for the Advancement of Progress in Haiti (FRAPH) that killed thousands of people between 1991 and 1994.

The shady nature of people like Chamblain and Andre Apaid of Group 184, has deeply worried human rights groups, and generated some anger in Washington. U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee (D-Ca) and Maxine Waters (D-Ca) have both challenged the “neutrality” of the U.S. State Department. In a recent letter to Powell, Lee wrote, “with all due respect, this looks like regime change.” It would appear that Lee was right on target.

There is certainly reason to suspect the two men in charge of diplomacy in the region. Otto Reich, U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), played an important role in the coup attempt against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Robert Noriega, has been a long time critic of Aristide.

Whether through enmity or indifference, U.S. fingerprints are all over the overthrow of Aristide.

Single-Power Intervention Responds to Single-Power Interests

If one could turn back the clock, and transform the 20,000 American troops into a UN peacekeeping force, working from the beginning in close conjunction with the OAS and the Caribbean Community (Caricom), the outcome might have been different. The Republicans would still have sabotaged the U.S. part of the aid package, but international aid would have kept flowing since there would have been a real regional and international commitment to the liberal intervention. As it was, the U.S. insisted from the beginning on total control of the peacekeeping venture. When U.S. political will for the peacekeeping and nation-building missions waned, there was no multilateral commitment to ensure that the democratic transition was consolidated.

Which brings us back to the initial problem with “liberal intervention.” It may be a good idea at times, but there are caveats.

First, intervention by one country, or even a group of countries dominated by one country—NATO in Yugoslavia—is a bad idea. Individual nations have their own interests. Take the recent Iraq War. Maybe some people invaded Iraq to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Others might have deluded themselves into thinking there were weapons of mass destruction, but anyone who thinks it had nothing to do with Middle East oil simply needs to do the math.

In 2001, Vice-President Dick Cheney’s National Energy Policy Development Group recommended that the U.S. “make energy security a priority of our trade and foreign policy.” It is hardly a surprising conclusion. U.S. oil demands will increase by one third over the next 20 years, and two thirds of that will be imported. Since 65 percent of the world’s oil reserves lie in the Middle East, one doesn’t need a crystal ball to predict American policy in the region.

So was Iraq just about oil? No. Was it about oil? Of course.

Second, an intervention that isn’t willing to invest in raising living standards will fail. No single country has the resources. Only international organizations can spread out the costs necessary for the long-term work needed to rebuild a country and to deflect the very natural suspicion that “liberal intervention” is really “occupation” by another name.

The Republicans call this “nation-building,” and everywhere but in Iraq the Republicans hate it.

But it isn’t nation-building, it’s payback.

Afghanistan is indeed poor and backward, but it would have been less so if the colonial powers (and then the Cold War) had not played the “great game” at the expense of its people.

Haiti is unquestionably a basket case. And don’t the French who colonized it and the Americans who occupied it and exploited it bear some responsibility for that condition?

Colonialism smashed up the world, deliberately squelched economic progress by the colonized, drew arbitrary lines on maps, and sowed the dragon’s teeth of ethnic division and uneven development. Do we now get to shake our heads over “failed states,” wash out hands, and walk away?

From the Caribbean to Africa, the great imperial powers loaded the dice for nations, and the world can ill afford to let the consequences of this rigged game go on. Does this mean military intervention on occasion? Yes. But not under one flag, only under the auspices of international organizations like the UN.

This strategy will have to confront the heart of the Bush administration and its Praetorian Guard of think tanks: the Heritage Foundation, the National Institute for Policy Study; the American Enterprise Institute, the Project for New American Century and the Center for Security Policy.

For these ideologues, international organizations–and particularly the UN–are the anti-Christ. Last March, neoconservative guru Richard Perle hailed the Iraq war as an opportunity “to take the UN down.”

It is interesting to note, however, that obituaries about the UN’s imminent demise fall off in direct relationship to the number of American casualties and roadside bombs in Iraq. Back in February of last year, President Bush warned the UN General Assembly that its “last chance” to prove “its relevance” was to adopt a war resolution against Iraq. For the past two months the administration has literally begged the UN to bail it out from the morass in which it is now entrapped.

A cynic might point out that the mills of God grind slowly, but they do grind most exceedingly fine.

Not only is unilateral “liberal intervention” a bad idea politically, it doesn’t work. International intervention isn’t successful all the time either, but its chances are better. Neocon historian Max Boot describes the UN as a bunch of “Lilliputians,” which, suggests Jorge Castenada, Mexico’s former foreign minister, is exactly what is needed: power restrained by laws, rules, and treaties. Successful intervention doesn’t demand centralized command control, it requires legions of doubting Thomases. In the case of Haiti, the U.S. should immediately take the matter to the UN Security Council, with a parallel effort in the OAS and Caricom. The Haitian opposition—both nonviolent and violent—should understand that they have no automatic claim to political legitimacy. The hasty departure of the country’s duly elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was the sad result of the threat of massive political violence by feared former members of Haiti’s security forces and intense U.S. pressure. Haiti’s interim government should call quickly for new elections under multilateral supervision. What’s more, all U.S. aid should be released immediately, and the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank should back off from their austerity prescriptions, which would only serve to further impoverish the poorest country in the hemisphere.

There are some who dismiss the OAS, and even the UN, as little more than cat’s paws for U.S. policy, and certainly both organizations have served as its hand maidens in the past. Supporting the criminal sanctions against Iraq was a shameful blot on the UN’s history, and the OAS should have suspended the U.S. for supporting the military coup in Venezuela.

But both organizations have independent streaks that appear to be strengthening. In any case, they are the only game in town, and the UN has scored some notable successes. It helped end the Iran-Iraq war, facilitated the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, and has overseen elections in El Salvador, East Timor, and Eritrea. It also had disastrous failures in Rwanda and Bosnia. In the long run, however, it is the only serious solution to international crises.

Sir Brian Urquhart, author of A Life in Peace and War, and a longtime UN diplomat who has served from the Congo to the Middle East, recently put his finger on why the UN still represents the best hope for the world: “The world is a dangerous place,” he says, “and when governments find themselves into another dangerous muddle, they will come back.”

Conn M. Hallinan is a provost at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus (online at . He can be reached at

Key Points

  • There is no question that the 1994 intervention was good for Haiti, but military intervention has turned out to be fraught with problems, particularly when it is wielded by one country.
  • Liberal intervention ran off the rails in Yugoslavia when the Clinton administration sidelined the United Nations and used the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) instead.
  • Modern wars are not won or lost on battlefields, they are won or lost in the streets and byways of everyday life.

Key Problems

  • Seven weeks after the 1994 invasion of Haiti, the Republicans took control of Congress and systematically dismantled aid to the impoverished, war-torn country.
  • The opposition forces that converged on Port au Prince are the very thugs and murderers the U.S. invaded to get rid of in 1994.
  • Whether through enmity or indifference, U.S. fingerprints are all over the overthrow of Aristide.

Key Solutions

  • Unilateral “liberal intervention” is not only a bad idea politically, it doesn’t work. International intervention isn’t successful all the time either, but its chances are better.
  • Neocon historian Max Boot describes the UN as a bunch of “Lilliputians,” which is exactly what is needed: power restrained by laws, rules, and treaties.
  • The U.S. should immediately take the crisis in Haiti to the UN Security Council, with a parallel effort in the OAS and Caricom. The Haitian opposition—both nonviolent and violent—should understand that they have no automatic claim to political legitimacy. The hasty departure of the country’s duly elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was the sad result of the threat of massive political violence by feared former members of Haiti’s security forces and intense U.S. pressure. Haiti’s interim government should call quickly for new elections under multilateral supervision.

Writer: Conn Hallinan

Editor: Tom Barry

Production: Tonya Cannariato

In 1994 the U.S. military intervention in Haiti seemed to herald a new day in the post-Cold War world, when American invasions were not automatically synonymous with supporting some Latin American caudillo or South East Asian despot. With the exception of the isolationist Right, virtually every voice in the political spectrum cheered the policy of “liberal intervention.” The use of American power to make good things happen was a heady drug. Unfortunately, this new enthusiasm for military intervention proved addictive. Ten years later, the U.S. is facing the consequences of its recent run of single-power military interventions. “Whether through enmity or indifference, U.S. fingerprints are all over the overthrow of Aristide.”

FPIF analyst Conn Hallinan in his timely reflection on the U.S. Haiti policy and its penchant for unilateral military and political interventions.

Conn M. Hallinan is a provost at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus (online at . He can be reached at

For homepage:

“Whether through enmity or indifference, U.S. fingerprints are all over the overthrow of Aristide.” FPIF analyst Conn Hallinan in his timely reflection on the U.S. Haiti policy and its penchant for unilateral military and political interventions.

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Alternative Media


I think we should convert this into an Americas Policy Report too, and let that program promote in Latin America. It may be worth translating this.

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Latin America, the Crisis, & Mr. Monroe

Berkeley Daily Planet

Conn Hallinan

Nov. 20, 2008

When the Mexican dictator Porfiero Diaz said the great tragedy of Mexico was that it was so far from God and so near to the United States, the comment summed up the long and tortured relationship between the Colossus of the North and Latin America.

Starting with the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, the U.S. has routinely dictated the hemisphere’s political and commercial life and, on a score of occasions, overthrown governments it found inimical to its interests.

But the world has suddenly turned upside down.

From a collection of countries servicing U.S. interests, South America now boosts the third largest trade organization in the world, Mercursor, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela. Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador have associate status, and Mexico is an “observer.” This so-called “southern common market” accounts for 50% of Latin America’s gross domestic product, 59% of its landmass, and 43% of its population.

The continent also recently formed the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which includes 12 nations, along with observers from Mexico and Central America.

This new found independence that will be sorely tested in the coming months as most of the world goes through an economic meltdown. In the past if Washington sneezed, South America came down with pneumonia. Will the continent’s increasing integration help it avoid the worst of the global financial crisis? Or will the current economic conflagration derail South America’s growing autonomy, allowing the U.S. to again dominate the life of region?

The worldwide economic crisis will certainly have an impact on South America. Currency values from Brasilia to Mexico City have fallen, and at one point Brazil shut down its stock market to staunch the hemorrhaging. At the same time, most the countries in Latin America are in a better position to weather the storm than the U.S., Europe, and Japan, where banks play a larger role in the economic structure.

No one can avoid the events of the past few weeks,” says Riordan Roett, director of Johns Hopkins Western Hemisphere Studies Program, “but we are seeing some countries better insulated than other countries.”

Brazil’s foreign exchange reserves, for instance, amount to more than $216 billion, which should cover the country’s need for export credit until “the most acute stage” of the crisis is over, says Brazilian Finance Minister, Guido Mantega.

And because the government of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has reduced poverty, thus expanding its internal market, the country is in a better position to weather the storm. “Brazil is not immune to the crisis,” says Mantega, “but this affects the countries with problems in their banks more, and countries like Brazil less.”

Argentina also has a substantial reserve in its central bank—$47 billion—and is hinting that it will delay replaying its $6.7 billion debt to western creditors until it can negotiate better terms.

Venezuela has reserves of $30 billion, the largest per capita total on the continent, says Martin Saatdjian of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but the government is being careful. It is considering a “minor devaluation” of the Bolivar, Venezuela’s currency, and “austerity spending for the next fiscal year” if the crisis “deepens and the price of oil drops,” says Saatdjian.

Caracas is spreading its oil wealth throughout the continent, which has cushioned the impact of the economic downturn. The fact that Venezuela purchased almost one-third of Argentina’s debt in 2005 has helped Buenos Aires build a rainy day fund.

Venezuela and Brazil are leading an initiative to form The Bank of the South (BancoSur), which would pool a portion of participating countries reserves. The idea is to replace the International Monetary Fund, and its onerous insistence of cutting social services and infrastructure programs as a condition for its loans. BancoSur would have a more development-friendly approach. Besides Brazil and Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Paraguay, and Uruguay have signaled their interest in joining.

Starting in the late 1990s, South America began diversifying its contacts with the rest of the world, in particular resource hungry China. Beijing buys Chilean copper, Cuban nickel and cobalt, Brazilian and Uruguayan soy, and Venezuelan, Ecuadorian and Bolivian oil and gas.

Trade between Latin America and China was $102.6 billion in 2007, and the Chinese currently plan to invest up to $100 billion over the next five years. Brazil, Chile and Argentina have $28 billion in two-way trade with China, and China is investing heavily in Chilean copper and Venezuelan, Bolivian and Ecuadorian oil and gas. Beijing is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with Peru. Almost one-half of China’s foreign investment goes to Latin America.

While China’s economy is slumping, that term is relative. It is still growing at 9%, and the Chinese government is pumping $586 billion into their economy to keep growth from falling any lower.

Russia and Iran have also becoming major players in Latin America. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, accompanied by business leaders, just finished a tour of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, and the Russians are helping to develop oil fields in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. Iran’s President Mamoudd Ahmadinejad has been welcomed in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, and Iran’s Chamber of Commerce announced Oct. 20 that joint commercial councils with South and Central America would soon be established..

The U.S., on the other hand, is saddled with the legacy of its “Washington Consensus” policy of wide-open markets. The neo-liberal strategy led to ruinous debt in Latin America, a yawning gulf between rich and poor, and financial catastrophes like the 2001 Argentine collapse that impoverished half that country’s population.

The wreckage wrought by the “Washington Consensus” and International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) enforced austerity sparked an economic and political revolt in Latin America that is still gaining steam.

Brazil and Argentina paid off their IMF debts and concentrated on building infrastructure and alleviating poverty. The result has been a steady growth rate of more than 4%, which, according to Citi Bank forecasts, will fall next year, but probably not more than a percentage point. In contrast, U.S. and European growth rates are projected to drop to 1.5%, or even to zero.

Latin America is “a better built boat,” says the World Bank’s chief economist for the region, Augusto de la Torre.

Political independence is on the agenda as well.

In 2003, no major country on the continent backed the U.S. war in Iraq. In 2005 South America rejected a U.S.-led Free Trade for the Americas plan. And while Washington is hostile to left-led governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, the rest of the continent has rallied behind them.

When U.S. sponsored right-wingers overthrew the government of Hugo Chavez in 2001, a massive outpouring of resistance and widespread condemnation by other countries in the region reversed the coup, the first time that has happened in Latin America.

And again, when right-wingers staged a “civil coup” in Bolivia last month, virtually every nation in Latin America backed the left-wing government of Evo Morales government. “We won’t tolerate a rupture in the constitutional order in Bolivia,” warned Marco Aurelio Garcia, Brazilian President Luiz Igacio Lula de Silva’s foreign policy advisor.

UNASUR declared its “full and firm support for the constitutional government of President Evo Morales.”

Rather than looking north, countries like Brazil are increasingly developing south-south relations. In 2003, Brazil, India, and South Africa formed the IBSA alliance, which met recently in New Delhi to discuss a joint approach to the current economic crisis, as well as the issues of food security and energy prices. Between them, the countries represent 1.3 billion people and three of the most dynamic economies in the developing outside of China. Trade between the three is projected to top $15 billion by 2010.

Developing countries need to learn from the crisis,” says Lula da Silva, and “to construct a new world economic order.”

The economic crisis has accelerated these moves toward breaking the strangle hold the U.S. has had on the world of finance. “There is a new reality,” says United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki Moon, “new centers of power and leadership in Asia, Latin America and across the newly developing world.”

German Finance Minister Peer Steinbruck was blunter: “The U.S. will lose its status as the superpower of the world’s financial system. This world will become multi-polar…the world will never be the same.”

However, it is unlikely that the U.S. will stand idly aside as Latin America frees itself from the shadow of the Monroe Doctrine. For instance, Washington has recently made a number of moves that have heightened its military profile on the continent. The Bush Administration has reactivated its Latin American Fourth Fleet and, according to the magazine Cambio, the U.S. is developing a major military base at Palanquero, Colombia.

But beset by economic crisis and bogged down in two unwinnable wars, the colossus of the north no longer wields the clout it once had. “In the past, the door for talks with the United States on any issue had to remain open. We had no choice,” a Brazilian diplomat told Southern Pulse. “Now we can close it if we want.”

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Dark Armies, Secret Bases & Rummy, oh my!

Conn Hallinan


Nov. 25, 2005

It would be easy to make fun of President Bush’s recent fiasco at the 4th Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina. His grand plan for a free trade zone reaching from the Artic Circle to Terra del Fuego was soundly rejected by nations fed up with the economic and social chaos wrought by neo-liberalism. At a press conference, South American journalists asked him rude questions about Karl Rove. And the President ended the whole debacle by uttering what may be the most trenchant observation the man has ever made on Latin America: “Wow! Brazil is big!”

But there is nothing amusing about an enormous U.S. base less than 120 miles from the Bolivian border, or the explosive growth of U.S. financed mercenary armies that are doing everything from training the military in Paraguay and Ecuador to calling in air attacks against guerillas in Colombia. Indeed, it is feeling a little like the run up to the ‘60s and ‘70s, when Washington-sponsored military dictatorships dominated most of the continent, and dark armies ruled the night.

U.S. Special Forces began arriving this past summer at Paraguay’s Mariscasl Estigarriba air base, a sprawling complex built in 1982 during the reign of dictator Alfredo Strosserr. Argentinean journalists who got a peek at the place say the airfield can handle B-52 bombers and Galaxy C-5 cargo planes. It also has a huge radar system, vast hangers, and can house up to 16,000 troops. The air base is larger than the international airport at the capital city, Asuncion.

Some 500 special forces arrived July 1 for a three-month counterterrorism training exercise code named Operation Commando Force 6.

Paraguayan denials that Mariscasl Estigarriba is now a U.S. base have met with considerable skepticism by Brazil and Argentina. There is a disturbing similarity between U.S. denials about Mariscasl Estigarriba, and similar disclaimers made by the Pentagon about Eloy Alfaro airbase in Manta, Ecuador. The U.S. claimed the Manta base was a “dirt strip” used for weather surveillance. When local journalists revealed its size, however, the U.S. admitted the base harbored thousands of mercenaries and hundreds of U.S. troops, and Washington had signed a 10-year basing agreement with Ecuador.

The Eloy Alfaro base is used to rotate U.S. troops in and out of Columbia, and to house an immense network of private corporations who do most of the military’s dirty work in Columbia. According to the Miami Herald, U.S. mercenaries armed with M-16s have gotten into fire fights with guerrillas in southern Columbia, and American civilians working for Air Scan International of Florida called in air strikes that killed 19 civilians and wounded 25 others in the town of Santo Domingo.

The base is crawling with U.S. civilians—many of them retired military—working for Military Professional Resources Inc., Virginia Electronics, DynCorp, Lockheed Martin (the world’s largest arms maker), Northrop Grumman, TRW, and dozens of others.

It was U.S. intelligence agents working out of Manta who fingered Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia leader Ricardo Palmera last year, and several leaders of the U.S. supported coup against Haitian President Bertram Aristide spent several months there before launching the 2004 coup that exiled Aristide to South Africa.

Privatizing” war is not only the logical extension of the Bush Administration’s mania for contracting everything out to the private sector; it also shields the White House’s activities from the U.S. Congress. “My complaint about the use of private contractors,” says U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsy (D-Il), “is their ability to fly under the radar to avoid accountability.”

The role that Manta is playing in the northern part of the continent is what so worries countries in the southern cone about Mariscasl Estigarriba. “Once the United States arrives,” Argentinean Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Perez commented about the Paraguay base, “it takes a long time to leave.”

The Bush Administration has made the “Triple Frontier Region” where Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina meet into the South American equivalent of Iraq’s Sunni Triangle.

According to William Pope, U.S. State Department Counterterrorist Coordinator, the U.S. has evidence that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed spent several months in the area in 1995. The U.S. military also says it seized documents in Afghanistan with pictures of Paraguay and letters from Arabs living in Cuidad del Este, a city of some 150,000 people in the tri-border region.

The Defense Department has not revealed what the letters contained, and claims that the area is a hotbed of Middle East terrorism have been widely debunked. The U.S. State Department’s analysis of the region—“Patterns of Terrorism”—found no evidence for the charge, and an International Monetary Fund (IMF) study found the area awash with money smuggling, but not terrorism.

It is the base’s proximity to Bolivia that causes the most concern, particularly given the Bush Administration’s charges that Cuba and Venezuela are stirring up trouble in that Andean nation.

Bolivia has seen a series of political upheavals, starting with a revolt against the privatization of water supplies by the U.S. Bechtel Corporation and the French utility giant, Suez de Lyonnaise des Eaux. The water uprising was sparked off when Suez announced it would charge between $335 and $445 to connect a private home to the water supply. Bolivia’s yearly per capita gross domestic product is $915.

The water revolt, which spread to IMF enforced taxes and the privatization of gas and oil reserves, forced three presidents to resign. The country is increasingly polarized between its majority Indian population and an elite minority that has dominated the nation for hundreds of years. Six out of 10 people live below the poverty line, a statistic that rises to nine in 10 in rural areas.

For the Bush Administration, however, Bolivia is all about subversion, not poverty and powerlessness.

When U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visited Paraguay this past August, he told reporters that, “There certainly is evidence that both Cuba and Venezuela have been involved in the situation in Bolivia in unhelpful ways.”

A Rumsfeld aide told the press that Cuba was involved in the unrest, a charge that even one of Bolivia’s ousted presidents, Carlos Mesa, denies

A major focus of the unrest in Bolivia is who controls its vast natural gas deposits, the second largest in the Western Hemisphere. Under pressure from the U.S. and the IMF, Bolivia sold off its oil and gas to Enron and Shell in 1995 for $263.5 million, less than 1 percent of what the deposits are worth.

The Movement Toward Socialism’s presidential candidate Evo Morales, a Quechuan Indian and trade union leader who is running first in the polls, wants to re-nationalize the deposits. Polls indicate that 75 percent of Bolivians agree with him.

But the present political crisis over upcoming elections Dec. 18, and disagreements on how to redistribute seats in the legislature, has the U.S muttering dark threats about “failed states.”

U.S. General Bantz J. Craddock, commander of Southern Command, told the House Armed Services Committee: “In Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru, distrust and loss of faith in failed institutions fuel the emergence of anti-U.S., anti-globalization, and anti-free trade demagogues.”

Bolivia has been placed on the National Intelligence Council’s list of 25 countries where the U.S. will consider intervening in case of “instability.”

This is scary talk for Latin American countries.

Would the U.S, invade Bolivia? Given the present state of its military, unlikely.

Would the U.S. try to destabilize Bolivia’s economy while training people how to use military force to insure Enron, Shell, British Gas, Total, Repsol, and the U.S. continues to get Bolivian gas for pennies on the dollar? Very likely.

And would the White House like to use such a coup as a way to send a message to other countries? You bet. President Bush may be clueless on geography, but he is not bad at overthrowing governments and killing people.

Will it be as easy as it was in the old days when the CIA could bribe truckers to paralyze Chile and set the stage for a coup?

Nothing is easy in Latin America anymore.

The U.S. can bluster about a trade war, but the playing field is a little more level these days. The Marcosur Group of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay embraces 250 million people, generates $1 trillion in goods, and is the third largest trade organization on the planet. If the American market tightens, the Chinese are more than willing to pick up the slack.

A meeting last month of the Ibero-American heads of state turned downright feisty. The assembled nations demanded an end to the “blockade” of Cuba. The word “blockade” is very different than the word “embargo,” the term that was always used in the past. A “blockade” is a violation of international law.

The meeting also demanded that the U.S. extradite Luis Posada to Venezuela for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 76 people.

If the U.S. tries something in Bolivia (or Venezuela), it will find that the old days when proxy armies and economic destabilization could bring down governments are gone, replaced by countries and people who no longer curtsy to the colossus from the north.


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