The United States wants to drag Africa into its drug wars – on top of Washington’s War on Terror. Since drugs always follow American “anti-narcotics” activity in the world, the inevitable result will be an explosion of drug networks in targeted African countries. “Liberia and Ghana will soon emerge as hubs of the African drug trade – just as happened in Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America.”
When a high U.S. government official says Africa is “the new frontier,” it’s time for everyone that cares about the continent to watch out, because something really dangerous is afoot. A top guy in the D.E.A. recently described Africa as the “new frontier” where Washington hopes to embed commando-style teams of specially vetted police for an American-run war on drugs, similar to U.S. operations in El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, and the Dominican Republic. And we all know how those U.S. so-called anti-drug operations turned out. We should add to the list Colombia and Afghanistan, the world capitals of cocaine and heroin, respectively.
According to mythology, everything King Midas touched turned to gold. It appears the United States has the Narcotics Touch; everything the Americans touch turns to dope. American allies in the developing world quickly become narco-states.
The pattern has not changed in 60 years, since the Italian and French mafias were rewarded with international drug franchises in return for their assistance against socialists and communists. Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle became the center of the global heroin trade during the Vietnam War – a project of the CIA. When the U.S. shifted its focus to suppressing leftist movements in Latin America, cocaine became the region’s biggest export. The United States has never waged war against drugs – quite the opposite. Washington rewards its political friends with drug franchises and monopolies, in return for service to American corporate interests. That’s why most of America’s friends in the developing world are criminal regimes.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is most proud of its work in Honduras, where a U.S.-backed coup overthrew a mildly leftist government during President Obama’s first year in office. The Americans now roam the country like they own it, in joint operations with the same soldiers and national police that continue to kill and brutalize peasant, student and worker organizations. The joint drug operations, which have succeeded in killing at least four innocent Mosquito Indians, including two pregnant women, will undoubtedly result in a march larger drug trade under the tight control of the military, police and wealthy landowners allied with the Americans. That’s how the American Narco Touch works. The endless phony War on Drugs is a tool of U.S. policy, designed to subvert foreign governments and societies. The drug trade never gets smaller.
Now it’s Africa’s turn. Washington has its eyes on Liberia and Ghana, where it plans to train elite police units after first “vetting” their personnel – a euphemism for making sure that the commandos are willing to act as de facto U.S. operatives. You can be sure that Liberia and Ghana will soon emerge as hubs of the African drug trade – just as happened in Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America. With Washington’s “vetted” operatives in charge of the African drug networks, the U.S. will vastly increase its ability to buy influence among the greedy classes all across the continent, both in and out of uniform. Just as in Colombia and Honduras and Panama and Guatemala, the Drug Wars become indistinguishable from the War on Terror, which used to be called the War on Communism. It’s really a war against the poor.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
- Our Perverse War on Drugs (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The United Arab Emirates has reportedly recruited soldiers form the Colombian army’s special forces units to protect the sheikdom in case of heightened tension in the Persian Gulf or domestic unrest.
According to the daily Yedioth Ahronoth, the oil-rich Arab country offers Colombian soldiers between USD 2,800 and USD 18,000 per year while officers are said to earn USD 550 a month in Colombia.
According to reports, more than 800 Colombian troops and officers have already been brought to the UAE and a total of 3,000 others are planned to be hired.
It is said that the UAE is employing the forces due to concerns in the Arab country regarding a conflict with neighboring Iran which may begin by an attack on Iran’s nuclear energy facilities or as a result of the growing tension over the UAE’s ownership claims on the three Iranian Persian Gulf islands.
On the other hand, the UAE rulers are worried about the public protests and the impact of the Arab Spring in their own territory. Colombian soldiers can then display their power and capability on the streets.
The choice of these soldiers is not surprising at all. Colombian troops have gained international recognition for fighting against underground groups and drug gangs.
According to some reports, the troops have acquired this capability and skill through training they have received from Israeli, US and British experts.
This is why Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said in 2009 that Colombia is the “Israel of Latin America” as he was pointing to extensive military ties among Colombia, the US and Israel.
In recent years, the Colombian media have spread numerous reports about Israel’s interference in training the country’s forces in fighting the militia.
Colombia’s FARC rebel group said in 2007 that Israeli commando officers are training the country’s army in the Colombian jungles.
The Colombian Defense Minister Jose Manuel Santos announced that a group of former Israeli intelligence officers advised the Colombian military’s Chief of Staff.
- U.S.’s Post-Afghanistan Counterinsurgency War: Colombia (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Fearing that defense lawyers may succeed in undermining the Special Tribunal for Lebanon at the Hague, Washington is cooking up its own case against Hezbollah involving drug trafficking and money laundering.
“The Joumaa network is a sophisticated multinational money-laundering ring, which launders the proceeds of drug trafficking for the benefit of criminals and the terrorist group Hezbollah,” thus declared David Cohen, under-secretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence in the US, two days ago.
“We and our partners will continue to aggressively map, expose, and disable this network, as we are doing with today’s sanctions,” he warned.
These new threats to Hezbollah coincide with the faltering of the process set up by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) charged with prosecuting the assassination of prime minister Rafik Hariri.
The team defending the four defendants from Hezbollah, who had been accused by [STL Prosecutor] Daniel Bellemare of involvement in the crime, recently launched three campaigns targeting the legitimacy of the establishment of the court and the legality of the indictment.
These campaigns caused a stir at the Hague and has made Washington worried. This led the US administration to renew its attempts to create an alternative international legal process targeting Hezbollah.
On Wednesday, the US Treasury released a statement titled “Treasury Targets Major Money Laundering Network Linked to Drug Trafficker Ayman Joumaa and a Key Hezbollah Supporter in South America.”
It pointed to 12 Lebanese citizens working in three groups, each made up of a commercial and a financial company accused of being involved in a multi-million US dollar drug trade to support Hezbollah.
The statement charged Ali M. S. with supporting the party and accused Ayman S. J. of moving more than a million US dollars in 2010 into the account of Abbas H., a Lebanese holding a Venezuelan passport living in Colombia.
It also claimed that a Lebanese bank branch manager was involved in the process and evoked the “February 2011 action against Lebanese Canadian Bank.” The statement focused on a “money laundering enterprise that has reach throughout the Americas and the Middle East with links to Hezbollah.”
Before going into the content of the memo, we should recall the statement released by the US Embassy in Beirut during the visit of US treasury official Daniel Glaser to Lebanon in November 2011. It had stressed his call “for Lebanon to meet all of its international obligations, including cooperating with and funding the STL.”
Documents published by WikiLeaks had indicated a high level of cooperation and information sharing between the US Embassy in Beirut, on one side, and the International Independent Investigation Commission and Bellemare’s office, on the other.
The indictment issued by Bellemare, following pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen’s approval, on 10 June 2011 had adopted the point of view of the US administration by describing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization (Item 59).
Hezbollah’s branding as terrorist in the US Department of State was developed in three stages. The first was in 23 January 1995, categorizing it as a “Specially Designated Terrorist.” Then, the party was included in the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
The final classification was announced on 31 October 2001 through an Executive Order of the State Department (#13224), calling Hezbollah a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist.”
The latest US Treasury statement targets Ali M. S. as “Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” due to his role in “acting for or on behalf of and providing financial, material, or technological support to Hezbollah” and directing and coordinating Hezbollah activity in Colombia.
The memo maintained that “he is a former Hezbollah fighter with knowledge of Hezbollah operations plans.”
“As of July 2010, Saleh was a contact of Hezbollah’s Foreign Relations Department and has maintained communication with suspected Hezbollah operatives in Venezuela, Germany, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia,” it said.
The Illegality of the STL
The renewed US legal offensive against Hezbollah coincides with the blowing apart of the legality of establishing the STL by the four legal teams defending Salim Ayyash, Mustafa Badreddine, Hussein Oneissi, and Assad Sabra.
In this respect, the lawyers initiated three consecutive campaigns. First it challenged the legality of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 1757 on 30 May 2007, which established the court, considering that the 14 February 2005 crime did not pose a threat to international peace and security.
This meant that the Security Council had overstepped its authority provided by late Judge Antonio Cassese during his presidency of the international court for the former Yugoslavia (the Tadich case).
The evidence was provided by defense lawyers Antoine Korkmaz, Eugene O’Sullivan, Emile Aoun, Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse, Dr. Guenael Mettraux, and David Young to the judges of the Trial Chamber in the Hague on the 13th and 14th of this month.
The decision of judges Robert Roth, Micheline Braidi, David Re, Walid Akoum, and Janet Nosworthy is expected in the next few weeks.
The second campaign was initiated by Korkmaz, who was later joined by the other seven lawyers. It refers to the illegality of the indictment which was issued by Bellemare in 2011.
The argument stressed that Bellemare’s appointment as international prosecutor was for one year, ending on 13 November 2010. Therefore, he did not have the legal authority to issue the indictment.
STL officials told Al-Akhbar that the challenge to the legality of the indictment caused a stir in the hallways of the court’s headquarters at the Hague. It hit the prosecutor’s office bureaucracy where it hurt.
The third – and not necessarily the final – campaign was initiated by Oneissi’s defense lawyers Courcelle-Labrousse and Yasser Hassan and Assad Sabra’s lawyers Mettraux and Young. It challenged some of the formal aspects of the indictment which violate the legal standards that can safeguard justice.
The challenges focused on the following points.
1- The four suspects were not informed of the details of the indictment nor did they choose their defense lawyers. This infringes on international judicial standards that can guarantee justice, violating several articles.
The first is Article 6 of the European Convention on Human rights which says that “Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights: (a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him; (b) to have adequate time and the facilities for the preparation of his defence; (c) to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing” (Paragraph 3).
The second violated Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that “In the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone shall be entitled to the following minimum guarantees, in full equality: (a) To be informed promptly and in detail in a language which he understands of the nature and cause of the charge against him; (b) To have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence and to communicate with counsel of his own choosing; (c) To be tried without undue delay” (Paragraph 3).
The third violation was of Article 131 of the Lebanese Law of Criminal Procedure that states that the indictment should contain “a clear and detailed account of the facts of the case” and “an itemized list of the evidence,” both of which were absent from Bellemare’s decision.
2- An indictment based on circumstantial evidence requires a high level of accuracy, but this also does not apply to Bellemare’s decision.
The third article of the indictment declares that it was “built in large part on circumstantial evidence.” But the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia had defined circumstantial evidence “as being evidence of circumstances surrounding an event or an offence from which a fact at issue may be reasonably inferred” (Decision of the Appeals Chamber on 20 February 2001).
It also defines it as “evidence of a number of different circumstances which, taken in combination, point to the existence of a particular fact upon which the guilt of the accused person depends because they would usually exist in combination only because a particular fact did exist” (Decision of the Trial Chamber on 15 March 2002 in the Krnojelac case).
But the defense maintains that they were not informed clearly and accurately of the evidence on which the indictment was based, an infringement of legal standards.
The defense insists on the need to be informed of all the details of the accusation due to the absence of the suspects and their inability to communicate with their defense lawyers.
This is in addition to the acute shortage of sources for the defense and the narrow margin of cooperation, which is limited to the Lebanese authorities without any cooperation of other states.
3- Some phrases used in the indictment, such as “during this period” (Item 32c.), “a number of days prior to the attack” (Item 33), “surveillance occurred on at least 15 days” (Item 34), and “on at least 20 days between 11 November 2004 and 14 February 2005,” are unacceptable by legal standards.
They are enigmatic and lack an accurate identification of circumstances that Bellemare claims are true.
In addition, there were more than 60 challenges to the indictment on formalities. Here are a few examples:
Item 5 states that “the four Accused participated in a conspiracy with others aimed at committing a terrorist act.” The word “others” is not defined, in violation to accepted standards in drafting indictments.
Item 30 states that “Oneissi used at least one phone,” but the decision does not mention the use of any other phone by Oneissi.
Item 35 states that Oneissi “falsely” called himself “Mohammed” without mentioning where and when he did that, or any evidence of its use. The same item mentions that Bellemare does not designate the time of Oneissi’s presence in the mosque (in Tariq al-Jdideh).
Article 59 says that “all four Accused are supporters of Hezbollah” without mentioning the type of support or its relationship to their alleged involvement in the crime.
Accusations Built on a Void
Former prosecutor Daniel Bellemare presented the preliminary judge Daniel Fransen with the first draft of the indictment on 17 January 2011. The judge found that it does not fulfill legal standards and asked for its amendment.
On 21 January 2011, Fransen directed several questions related to the interpretation of the Lebanese laws used in the appeals chamber. The court allowed itself to expound on some articles of the Lebanese code without going back to the Lebanese parliament, the main authority charged with the law.
It announced its understanding of the law on 16 February 2011. Bellemare published the amended draft of the indictment on 11 March 2011. Based on these explanations, he added the accusations against Oneissi and Sabra to those of Ayyash from the first draft, and requested the issuing of warrants against the three suspects accordingly.
But he later incorporated several other changes from the second draft in May 2011, adding the accusation against Badreddine. He also asked to remove the supporting documents from the first draft, in order to prevent the defense team from using them.
On 9 June 2011, Judge Fransen requested some formal amendments to the indictment before approving it tentatively on June 28 and issuing warrants against the four suspects.
In its 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights released June 6, 2012, the International Trade Union Confederation found that Latin America remains the most dangerous region of the world for trade unionists, with Colombia again leading the world, followed by Guatemala.
The ITUC says 29 trade unionists were reported murdered in Colombia in 2011, with 10 more in Guatemala, together accounting for a bit over half of the 76 trade unionists reported murdered in 2011. Colombia’s share of total murders dropped significantly, however, reflecting a decreased in 2010 murders of 51, representing 55% of the 92 trade unionists murdered in 2010.
Ironically, Colombia and Guatemala are also the two countries in Latin America that have been at the heart of U.S. policy on worker rights and Free Trade Agreements, with the Obama Administration pushing forward with implementation of the Colombia FTA in mid-May despite insufficient progress on worker rights while continuing to deal with a CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement) labor complaint on Guatemala filed over four years ago that has yielded little progress even as violence against Guatemala unionists has escalated.
In a welcome and some say historic development, the conservative Guatemalan agribusiness sector has called on its own government to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the violence that has been directed at the country’s largest union, Sitrabi, which represents Del Monte banana workers and is a filer of the CAFTA labor complaint. Sitrabi reports that seven members of its union members have been murdered since April 2011. The Camara del Agro released its remarkable letter [ English translation here] in late May; no response from the government has been reported as yet.
- Colombia: Obama’s Bloodiest Betrayal? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Progress or Promises? Free Trade and Labor Rights in Colombia (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Eight years after negotiations began in May 2004, the U.S.Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) came into force on May 15.
Negotiations began together with the four member countries of the Andean Community that are beneficiaries of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA), which permits the entry of products not traditionally tariff-free into the U.S. market. One of Colombia’s central reasons for the FTA lay in ensuring that such tariff preferences were made permanent, since ATPDEA officially expired on December 31, 2006.
Businesses that exported under this program—especially in the textile and floriculture sectors in the case of Colombia—pushed hard for the FTA. They believed that it would allow them to gain competitiveness against other countries that did not enjoy similar preferences, and to be on equal terms with those who already had them.
The governments sought to shield important aspects of economic policy—like the treatment to foreign investment, liberalization of the services sector and strengthening intellectual property protection, among others—against the probable intent that a new administration would try to change them. The consolidation of economic liberalization would, according to authorities, attract foreign investments that generate jobs.
In this evaluation, the Andean governments dismissed the fact that tariffs are not currently the main barriers to access to industrialized country markets. They also did not consider that as the United States continued to sign FTAs such with other countries, as it was clear they would, the Andean region would lose its advantages.
Indeed, the U.S. government, as well as the European Union and Japan, use free trade agreements as a way to establish trade and economic rules that in the multilateral World Trade Organization cannot be implemented because of the resistance of a significant number of developing countries.
The Trade Act or Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) of 2002-which authorized the United States government to negotiate FTAs with other countries, says that the expansion of international trade “is vital to national security. Trade is critical to the country’s economic growth and leadership in the world.”
The same act states that trade agreements maximize opportunities for critical sectors of the U.S. economy, such as information technology, telecommunications, basic industries, capital equipment, medical equipment, services, agriculture, environmental technology and intellectual property. The TPA indicates that trade creates new opportunities for the United States, thus preserving its economic, political and military strength.
The process of meetings to achieve the FTA was extensive. What started as a joint negotiation (Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, with Bolivia as an observer) ended with individual negotiations. Peru was the first to secure the signatures of presidents Toledo and Bush in December 2007 and came into force in February 2009, while Bolivia and Ecuador rejected the FTA following changes in their governments.
Venezuela withdrew from the Andean Community in April 2006 and applied for incorporation into Mercosur, arguing that “the free trade agreements by Colombia and Peru with the United States of America have formed a new legal body that attempts to assimilate the rules of the FTA within the Andean Community, changing de facto its nature and original principles.”
While the presidents of Colombia and the United States, Uribe and Bush signed in 2006, the U.S. Congress did not ratify the act because of complaints from some quarters in Congress and civil organizations that pointed to violations of human rights and labor laws. After lengthy negotiations, and commitments made by acting President Santos, the act was ratified by Congress in October 2011. Meanwhile, the tariff advantages achieved under the ATPDEA were renewed annually.
Myth of the “special relationship” under FTA
With the enforcement of the FTA, Colombian authorities hope to convert the country into an export platform for those countries that “do not enjoy privileged relations with this large market, such as Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil and Venezuela.” Government officials from Peru and Chile had previously expressed the same hope.
However, experience shows that these hopes did not become reality for Colombia’s neighbors. Sales to the U.S. market have lost momentum. In Peru, for example, exports to the United States fell 4% in 2011 over the previous year, although the total exports increased by 28% in that period.
The United States dropped from being the top destination for Peruvian exports, to the third–after China and Switzerland. In 2006 24.2% of Peruvian exports were destined for the U.S. market, in 2011 they were only for 12.7%. By contrast, imports from the United States, which in 2006 represented 16.4% of total imports, in 2011 increased to 19.5%. The U.S. has managed to reverse its trade balance with Peru, which has gone from a surplus favorable to Peru of $3.26 million in 2006 to a deficit of $1.52 million.
It is true that in this evolution the [exchange rates] of local Latin American currencies against the dollar have had a major impact, but the slowdown in growth and consumption in the United States does not predict a scenario favorable for emphasizing exports to the United States.
In his speech to the State of the Union in January this year, President Obama proposed a recovery of the economy based on boosting local manufacturing. He proposed tax cuts to companies that invest in the country, tax increases to those established abroad and measures to increase U.S. global market share, creating “millions of new customers for U.S. products in Panama, Colombia and South Korea.”
Colombia should be asking itself: Who really benefits from the Free Trade Agreement?
Ariela Ruiz Caro is an economics graduate of the Humboldt University in Berlin, with an MA in Economic Integration from the University of Buenos Aires. She does international consulting on trade, integration, and natural resources for ECLAC, the Latin American Economic System (SELA), the Institute for the Integration of Latin America and the Caribbean (INTAL), and other organizations. She worked for the Comunidad Andina from 1985 to 1994, as an advisor to the Commission of Permanent Representatives of MERCOSUR from 2006 to 2008, and is a writer for the Americas Program.
Translated by Yasmin Khan
- Imperialism and Violence in Colombia (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Invited paper to be presented at the national conference on “Multinationals, Violence, Trade Union Freedom and Democracy in Colombia” organized by the SINALTRAINAL International Trade Union on its 30th anniversary, July 26, 2012 at Autonomous University of Colombia in Bogota, Colombia.
The US military intervention in Colombia constitutes the longest counter-insurgency war in recent world history. Beginning with President John F. Kennedy’s launch of the “Green Berets” in 1962 and escalating in the new century with President Clinton’s $7 billion dollar military program (Plan Colombia) in 2001 to Obama’s inauguration of seven new military bases in the present, the US has been at war in Colombia for 50 years. Ten US presidents, 5 Democrats and 5 Republicans, both liberals and conservatives, have alternated in carrying out one of the most brutal counter-insurgency wars ever recorded in Latin America. In terms of civilian killings, trade union and human rights activist murders and the dispossession of peasants, the US backed oligarchy has the dubious distinction of being at the top of the list of tyrannical rulers.
To understand the bloody history of US imperial intervention in Colombia requires us to examine several key dimensions of the relation in a comparative-historical framework that highlights the specificities of Colombia’s ruling class and the strategic geo-political importance of Colombia to US hemispheric dominance.
Colombia: A Ruling Class in Search of Hegemony
Violence is endemic in a society ruled by a ‘closed’ ruling class governing through 19th century oligarchical parties (and their competing factions) for the greater part of the 20th and 21st centuries. Colombia differs from most of the rest of the major countries of Latin America which early on in the 20th century expanded representation to diverse middle class parties. In the post-World War 1 period and certainly by the World Depression of the 1930’s, Latin America witnessed the emergence of socialist, communist and national populist parties and Popular Front type regimes. However, Colombia remained frozen in a time warp of a closed political system dominated by two oligarchical parties which competed with bullets and ballots.
When in the immediate post WWII period a dynamic nationalist- populist figure emerged, Jorge Elicier Gaitan, he was assassinated and the country entered a period of a society-wide blood bath, dubbed “La Violencia”. Factions of Conservative and Liberal oligarchs financed armed bands to murder each other resulting in over 300,000 killings. The oligarchs ended their internecine war by signing an agreement to alternate electoral office, the so-called “National Front” further consolidating their stranglehold on power and forcibly excluding new political movements from achieving any significant representation.
Even when a pseudo alternative emerged, under the rule of rightwing populist, Rojas Pinilla, the mass urban and rural poor were subject to the private armies of the landlords, while the urban workers movement was brutally repressed by the military and police. Dissident democrats usually formed a faction of the Liberal Party; while activist workers were drawn to the militant trade unions and the clandestine or semi-legal Communist Party or smaller socialist parties.
The Cold War and US Imperial Penetration
With the onset of the Cold War, Washington found a willing accomplice in the bi-party oligarchical alliance, especially after the elimination of Gaitan and the savage repression of militant class based unions in the US agro-business complexes. Beginning with the bi-lateral and multi-lateral anti-communist military agreements of the early 1950’s, Colombian politics was frozen into a pattern of subordination and collaboration with Washington, as the US extended its empire from Central America and the Caribbean into Latin America.
The similarities between the bi-partisan political systems of Colombia and the US and the exclusion of any effective opposition in both countries, facilitated continuity and collaboration. As a result, Colombia’s oligarchy did not face the challenges that emerged from time to time in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay.
The Cuban Revolution and the US-Colombian Alliance
The Cuban revolution, especially its transition toward socialism and the multiplication of guerilla movements throughout Latin America, marked a turning point in US-Colombian relations. Colombia became a pivotal country in Washington’s counter-revolutionary strategy. Colombia served as a US “laboratory” in the effort to defeat the revolutionary upsurge of the 1960’s.
Colombia served as a trampoline for Washington to launch a counter-offensive based on military regimes to establish an empire of dependent client-states, open to US economic interests and obedient to Washington’s foreign policy dictates.
US Imperialism and Latin American Nationalism: Impositions and Adaptations
The US Empire did not emerge ready-made at the end of World War II. It confronted and had to overcome many domestic and overseas obstacles and challenges. Domestically at the end of WW II, after years of war, most US citizens demanded a military demobilization (1945-47) which weakened the capacity to intervene against the emerging progressive governments in Guatemala, Chile, Argentina and elsewhere. However, with the Cold War and the “hot war” in Korea, the US rearmed and launched its quest for world dominance. Social democratic and progressive governments and leaders were ousted from governments and jailed in Venezuela, Guatemala and Chile. Throughout the 1950s Washington embraced the “First (but not last) Age of Dictators and Free Markets”. They included Odria in Peru, Perez Jimenez in Venezuela, Ospina and Gomez in Colombia, Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Duvalier in Haiti; Somoza in Nicaragua, Armas in Guatemala, Batista in Cuba.
Between 1948-1960 the US Empire totally relied on the brute force of the dictators and the complicity of the local agro-mineral oligarchy to secure its dominance.
The Empire, built on the basis of rightwing dictators, however, did not last beyond a decade. Beginning with the victory of the 26th of July Movement in Cuba, a decade-long (1960-1970) continent-wide revolutionary upsurge challenged imperial power and client collaborators of Empire.
US imperialism, faced with the demise of its dictatorial clients, was forced to adapt to the new configuration of forces composed of reformist middle class electoral parties and a new generation of radicals and a revolutionary movement of intellectuals, peasants and workers inspired by the Cuban example.
In 1962 Washington launched a new strategy called the “Alliance for Progress” (AP) to divide reformers from revolutionaries: the AP promised economic aid to the reformist middle class regimes and military advisors, arms and special forces to destroy the revolutionary insurgents. In other words imperial violence was more selective; it was directed against the independent revolutionary movements and involved greater direct military involvement in the counter-insurgency programs of the electoral regimes.
Colombia the Exception: Repression with Reform
In contrast to the rest of Latin America, where agrarian, democratic and nationalist reforms accompanied the counter-insurgency programs (Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Venezuela), in Colombia the oligarchy retained power, blocked the emergence of a reformist – democratic alternative and relied wholly on a strategy of total militarization – polarizing politics between revolution and reaction.
In Colombia the US Empire did not face a choice between a reformist middle class regime or a revolutionary movement because the oligarchical bi-party system dominated the electoral arena. The US did not need to combine the “carrot with the stick” – it concentrated all its efforts in strengthening the military power of the dominant oligarchy.
The Colombian ruling class ruled out any “agrarian reform” like in Chile, Peru and Ecuador for the obvious reason that they were the landowning elite. The Colombian oligarchy did not face a ‘nationalist military’ pressuring to nationalize strategic industries, like in Bolivia (tin and petrol), and Peru (oil and copper) because the military was under US tutelage and was closely linked with the emerging narco bourgeoisie. The Colombian ruling class served as the US “counter-point” to launch its second and most brutal counter-revolutionary offensive beginning with a coup in Brazil in 1964.
By the end of the 1960’s Colombia became the centerpiece (“model”) of US policy for Latin America. The region moved from reform to radical nationalism and democratic socialism in the early 1970’s – especially among the Andean countries and the Caribbean. Colombia was the anomaly in an Andean region ruled by nationalists like Guillermo Rodriguez in Ecuador, Juan Velasco Alvarez in Peru, J J Torres in Bolivia and democratic socialists like Salvador Allende in Chile.
Subsequently the US invaded and occupied the Dominican Republic in 1965/66 and supported the overthrow of Allende, Rodriquez, Torres, Velasco Alvarez in the Andean countries.Later the US backed military coups in Argentina (1976) and Uruguay(1972).
The Pentagon organized mercenary death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala killing nearly 300,000 peasants, Indian workers, teachers and other citizens. The US organized a mercenary army (the “Contras”) in Honduras to destroy the Sandinista revolution.
Colombia’s ruling class, backed by US and Israeli counter-insurgency experts, tried to follow the US counter-revolutionary lead by engaging in a “scorched earth policy” to defeat the popular insurgency. But narco-presidents Turbay, Betancur,Barco , Gaviria and Samper were only partially successful – they destroyed the popular legal Union Patriotica but increased the size, scope and membership of the armed insurgency.
The second wave of “Dictators and Free Markets” (1970’s – 1980’s), including Pinochet (Chile), Videla (Argentina) and Alvarez (Uruguay) came under popular pressure and faced the insurmountable debt crises of the early 1980’s. Once again US imperialism faced a challenge and choice: continue with the dictators and a deepening financial crisis or engineer a “democratic transition” which would preserve the state and the neo-liberal economy.
The Golden Age of Imperialism … Neoliberalism and Elections 1990-2000 (except Colombia)
The 1990’s witnessed the greatest pillage of the Latin American economies since the times of Pizzaro and Cortes. Presidents Menem in Argentina, Salinas and Zedillo in Mexico, Cardoso in Brazil, Sanchez de Losado of Bolivia and Fujimori in Peru privatized and de-nationalized over 5,000 public enterprises, mines, energy resources, banks, telecommunication networks – mostly through executive decrees – worth over $1 trillion dollars. During the 1990’s over $900 billion dollars flowed out of Latin America in profits, royalties and interest payments to multi-national corporations, bankers and speculators. In Colombia, narco-trafficking became the principle source of profits as the traditional oligarchy joined with the new “narco-bourgeoisie” in laundering billions of dollars via “correspondence” accounts with the major US banks in Miami, Wall Street and Los Angeles.
The “transition” from military dictatorships to neo-liberal authoritarian electoral systems in Latin America was paralleled in Colombia by the transition from an oligarchical to a narco-state. In Colombia the military and para-military death squads dispossessed millions of peasants, and confronted the armed insurgency. There was no “democratic transition” – the democratic opposition was murdered! Between 1984-1990 over 5,000 members of the Patriotic Union were slaughtered.
US empire builders looked on neo-liberal Latin America in the 1990’s as the “model” for expanding on a world-scale. The formula was to combine pillage via privatization in Latin America and dispossession via militarization in Colombia.
The Crises of the Neo-liberal-Militarist Model of Empire 2000-2012
The entire basis of US imperial supremacy in Latin America in the 1990’s was built on fragile foundations: pillage, plunder and corruption led to a profound class polarization and economic crises which culminated in mass popular uprisings overthrowing US backed client regimes in Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador. In Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela the incumbent neo-liberal Presidents were defeated by center-left and national populist’s parties and leaders.
In Colombia, mass rejection of the ruling neo-liberal narco-bourgeoisie expressed itself via massive electoral abstention (over 75%): the exponential growth of influence and the presence of the armed insurgency in over one-third of the municipalities and the tactical retreat of President Pastrana. He accepted a demilitarized zone for direct peace negotiations with the FARC-EP.
The entire basis of US imperial rule built on the collaboration of the neo-liberal client regime crashed. Between 2000-2005 popular social movements succeeded in defeating a counterrevolutionary coup and lock-out in Venezuela(2002-3). A victorious President Chavez accelerated and radicalized the process of socio-economic change and deepened Venezuela’s anti-imperialist foreign policy. Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay rejected US free trade agreements.
Once again Colombia went against the progressive tide of the region. Colombia’s narco-bourgeoisie and oligarchy opted for total militarization to avoid the popular democratic movements occurring in the rest of Latin America. The Colombian-US response to democratic revolution in Latin America was “Plan Colombia” – a $10 billion dollar war on the Colombian people financed by the governments of the US, Colombia and the European Union.
Plan Colombia: Imperialism’s Response to Latin America’s Democracy Movement
“Plan Colombia” was the US response to the spread of the popular democratic revolution throughout Latin America. Plan Colombia represented the biggest US military aid program in the entire region and was designed with several strategic goals.
1. To ‘fence in’ Colombia from the “contagion” of the anti-neo-liberal revolution which had undermined the proposed US Free Trade of the Americas agreement.
2. Plan Colombia served to build-up Colombia’s capacity to threaten and pressure Venezuela’s anti-imperialist government and to provide the US with multiple military bases from which to launch a direct intervention in Venezuela if an ‘internal’ coups took place.
3. ‘Plan Colombia’ had an important internal political and economic function.
It was designed to militarize society and to empty the countryside; 300,000 soldiers together with 30,000 death squad paramilitary forces, forced millions to flee guerrilla controlled territory. The guerrillas lost important intelligence and logistical support but gained new recruits. As a result of the Uribe/Santos “scorched earth policy” and the mass violence, entire new economic sectors, especially in mining, oil and agriculture, were secured for foreign investors, laying the groundwork in 2012 for the Obama-Santos free trade agreement.
There is a direct connection between Plan Colombia (2001), militarization of the state, mass repression and dispossession (2002-2011), the deepening of neo-liberalization and the free trade agreement (2012).
4. Colombia serves a strategic geo-political role in the US militarized empire.
In the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa the US has used the pretext of the “War against Terrorism” to invade and establish an empire of military bases, in alliance with Israel and NATO. In Latin America, the US in alliance with Colombia and Mexico and under the pretext of the “War on Drugs” has built an empire of military bases in Central America, the Caribbean and increasingly in Latin America. Currently the US has military bases in Colombia (8), Aruba, Costa Rica, Guantanamo (Cuba), Curacao, El Salvador , Honduras (3), Haiti, Panama (12), Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico (several).
The US: A Militarized Empire
Because of the relative decline of US economic power and the rise of militarism, the US Empire today is largely a military empire engaged in perpetual wars. Washington’s close ties with Colombia reflect the close structural features of the state – heavily weighted toward military institutions – and economy, skewed toward neo-liberal and free market policies.
Once again, Colombia is the anomaly in Latin America. Nearly ten years after Latin America rejected neo-liberalism and eight years after the center-left regimes rejected a free trade agreement with the US, Colombia under Uribe-Santos embrace neo-liberalism and a free trade agreement with Washington.
Facing two major economic initiatives from Venezuela , Plan Caribe and ALBA, challenging US hegemony in the Caribbean and Andean region, Washington tightens its ties with Colombia via the free trade agreement.
US Empire depends on collaborator regimes everywhere in order to defend its military dominance. In Latin America, Colombia is the biggest and most active collaborator, especially in the Central American-Caribbean region.
But like the US, Colombia’s militarized state does not ‘fit’ in with the rest of Latin America. The US has no new economic initiatives to offer Latin America and has lost significant influence and witnessed a relative decline in trade, investment and market shares. Because Colombia, as a militarized-neo-liberal state complements the US global project, it became a special recipient of massive US military aid – precisely to prevent it from joining the new bloc of independent progressive states and further isolating Washington.
Colombia’s increasing dependence on the US economy via the free trade agreement sacrifices a large sector of domestic producers in agriculture and manufacturing but increases vast opportunities for the oligarchy and foreign investors in mining, oil and finance. The free trade agreement will increase the opportunities of the powerful narco-financial-bourgeoisie which launders over $20 billion dollars annually in drug revenues through leading US and EU banks.
Colombia is the ‘model state’ of the US Empire in Latin America. Colombia is ruled by a triple alliance of a narco-oligarchy, neo-liberal bourgeoisie and the military. The Santos regime depends increasingly on the large scale inflow of foreign capital, which is oriented toward producing for overseas markets. The military expenditures, the mass terror of the Uribe regime, the political isolation from the regional economic powers (Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina) and the limitation of the stagnant US economy are serious obstacles to the neo-liberal model. President Santos is attempting to reconcile these “internal contradictions”. Santos has replaced mass terror with selective assassinations of key activists in the trade unions and the human rights and social movements. He has focused on co-opting electoral politicians and centering the activity of the paramilitaries on eliminating popular opponents in the new mining and investment zones. He has combined major economic agreements with Venezuela and deepened military ties with the US.
The Santos-White House agreements and the strategy of diversified dependence and free markets rest on very fragile domestic and global foundations. The repression of dissent, the regressive taxes, the depression of living standards, the millions of rural dispossessed have led to the vast growth of inequalities and pent-up mass demand and rising popular pressure. The military commitments to the US impose a heavy economic cost with no economic compensation. The cost of US promoted militarism undermines efforts by Colombian business to expand in regional markets. The US economy is stagnant, the EU is in recession and the outlook for 2012 is precarious, especially for an open economy like Colombia.
At the turn of the 21st century Latin American countries faced a similar situation: neo-liberal regimes in crises, the US in economic decline and a ruling class unable to grow externally and unwilling to develop the internal market. The result was the popular democratic revolutions which led to a partial rupture with US hegemony and neo-liberalism. A decade later Colombia faces a similar situation. The question is whether Colombia will follow the rest of progressive Latin America in breaking with imperial militarism and embracing a new developmental road. The time is ripe for Colombia to cease being a ‘political anomaly’, a client of a militarized imperialism. The popular movements in Colombia,as evidenced in the Patriotic March movement are ready to make their own popular democratic and anti-imperialist revolution and establish their own Colombian road to 21st century Socialism.
- Colombia: Obama’s Bloodiest Betrayal? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- US Sends Combat Commanders to Colombia (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- When the Respectable Become Extremists The Extremists Become Respectable: Colombia and the Mainstream Media (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Mérida – Debate over migration has arisen in Venezuela as opposition forces argue that many professionals, businesses, and upper class residents are emigrating from the country, while those aligned with the government argue that Venezuela has become a “pole of attraction”, as the second highest immigrant destination country in South America.
Upper class discontent
Recently, an 18-minute video called Caracas, City of Goodbyes has gone viral on Internet networks. In the video, light-skinned and upper class young Venezuelans who make up a minority of Caracas’ population, talk about how they would like to leave the country.
Venezuela’s private media has also presented reports about a layer of Venezuelans who are “fleeing” the country. Noticias24.com, an online news site, reported in November 2010, “The professionals are fleeing and the Chinese and Haitians are arriving”.
The article argued that because of expropriations and contractions in the economy that year “many rich and middle class Venezuelans” are fleeing and there is an “exodus of scientists, doctors, businessmen, and engineers”.
Conservative daily El Universal argued that for Venezuelan emigrants, “the United States is the goal”, where it says the Venezuelan population has increased by 135% over the last ten years.
El Nacional published an article in April this year with the headline, “Price and exchange controls causing business migration”, and described how toy company Mattel had announced that it would close its office and manage its Venezuelan market from Mexico.
However, according to 2010 World Bank statistics, that year 521,500 Venezuelans were living outside the country, compared to 2,122,300 Colombians, 1,367,300 Brazilians, 1,090,800 Peruvians, and 956,800 Argentinians. On the other hand, 1,007,400 people immigrated to Venezuela, the second highest amount in South America after Argentina.
That year, also according to the World Bank, 19.9% of immigrants to Venezuela were refugees, and the main countries of origin were Colombia, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, the Dominican Republic, the Syrian Arab Republic, and Cuba. Top destinations for emigrants were the United States, Spain, Colombia, Portugal, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Canada, Chile, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
Venezuelan writer Luis Britto Garica pointed out in an article yesterday that the countries where Venezuelans are emigrating to, such as the US, Spain, and Italy, all have lower economic growth rates. He said that when Venezuelans try to emigrate, they aren’t treated well and “requesting a visa for the US or Canada is to be treated as a suspect of a crime”.
According to the US Homeland Security Department, 55.26% of Venezuelan migrants there are under the age of 34.
“The majority of our emigrating youth have been educated for free by the Venezuelan state with education facilities that their children won’t find overseas. Many of the “indignant” [or occupiers] of the world are qualified people who can’t find work,” Britto Garcia said in reference to what is a global trend of professionals educated in developing countries migrating “developed” countries.
He quoted Cuban state council vice-president Carlos Lage, who said in 1999 that, “One million scientists and professionals who were educated in Latin America at a cost of some US$30 billion now live in developed countries and now we must pay to benefit from their inventions and scientific contributions”.
Despite this, Venezuela “continues to be a pole of attraction rather one of fleeing,” Britto Garcia said.
Immigrants are attracted to Venezuela for a number of reasons including ease of migration, ease of setting up a small business, the political situation, and access to health care. Public health care in Venezuela does not discriminate according to country of origin or residency status.
Venezuela also does not deport foreigners, even if their visa has expired. It will only deport them if they are committing serious crimes in the country.
Since 2009 SAIME (Administrative Service of Identification, Migration, and Foreigners) has being carrying out an anti-corruption program to prevent police officers from extorting foreigners who live in Venezuela illegally. It has also been cutting down on bureaucracy, streamlining visa requirements and improving processing times. The residency waiting period was recently reduced from five years on a valid visa, to two.
- US Shelters Venezuelan Fugitive, Criticises Existence of “Drug Kingpins” in Venezuela (alethonews.wordpress.com)
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff commander General Martin Dempsey visited Colombia on March 29 to announce that within weeks U.S. military personnel will operate from a military base there with the newly formed Vulcan Task Force.
The Vulcan Task Force, which was established in December 2011, has 10,000 soldiers, three mobile brigades and one fixed brigade, operating from a base in Tibú, in the Catatumbo region (North Santander), just two miles from the Venezuela border.
On April 15, presidents Obama and Santos met during the Americas Summit and agreed on a new military regional action plan that will include training police forces in Central America and beyond. The announcement cited Operation Martillo, by which U.S. and Colombian forces have participated in operations this year against criminal elements on the coasts and interior of Central America.
The presence of U.S. soldiers on the military base in Tibú was presented by General Dempsey as an effort by the United States to support Colombia in its fight against drug trafficking and the insurgency. According to Dempsey, the Pentagon plans by June to send U.S. brigade commanders with practical experience in Afghanistan and Iraq to work with police and army combat units that will be deployed in areas controlled by the rebels. Dempsey said that U.S. military personnel will not participate in combat operations in Colombia.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Colombia has established its own version of U.S. joint special operations commands that carry out hunt-and-kill missions – operations for selective killings that have included U.S. citizens accused of having ties to Al Qaeda. With these special commandos, Colombia hopes to reach its goal of reducing the FARC guerrillas by 50% in two years.
U.S. participation in such an aggressive military campaign would undercut prospective attempts to negotiate a settlement of the armed conflict, which has increasing support in Colombia. The campaign, which apparently does not target successor paramilitary groups, is also likely to benefit those groups, which continue to commit human rights abuses, engage in drug trafficking, and operate in more than 400 municipalities in 31 Colombian states, according to a report by the Institute for Study of Development and Peace, INDEPAZ.
The Journal also cited statements by Southern Command chief General Douglas Fraser at a March 12 hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee expressing concern about the strengthening of diplomatic relations between Iran and the governments of Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba, and Nicaragua.
The expansion of counterinsurgency forces in Africa and Latin America is also part of a new national security strategy released by the White House in February. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that the new strategy introduces “innovative methods” for supporting counter-terrorist forces and expanding the United States’ influence on the two continents.
Joint Task Force Vulcan is led by Brigadier General Marcolino Tamayo Tamayo, who in 1985, when he was a lieutenant, participated in the operation to retake the Palace of Justice in Colombia. Similar joint task forces have been created in Tumaco, Nariño; Miranda, Cauca; and Tame, Arauca.
- U.S.’s Post-Afghanistan Counterinsurgency War: Colombia (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- DOD pushing more forces into South America (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Progress or Promises? Free Trade and Labor Rights in Colombia (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- When the Respectable Become Extremists The Extremists Become Respectable: Colombia and the Mainstream Media (alethonews.wordpress.com)
When the Respectable Become Extremists The Extremists Become Respectable: Colombia and the Mainstream Media
Introduction: By any historical measure, whether it involves international law, human rights conventions, United Nations protocols, socio-economic indicators, the policies and practices of the United States and European Union regimes can be characterized as extremist. By that we mean that their policies and practices result in large scale long-term systematic destruction of human lives, habitat and likelihood affecting millions of people through the direct application of force and violence. The extremist regimes abhor moderation which implies rejection of total wars in favor of peaceful negotiations. Moderation pursues conflict resolution through diplomacy and compromise and the rejection of state and paramilitary terror, mass dispossession and displacement of civilian populations and the systematic assault on popular sectors of civil society.
The first decade of the 21st century has witnessed the West’s embrace of extremism in all of its manifestation both in domestic and foreign policy. Extremism is a common practice by self-styled conservatives, liberals and social-democrats. In the past, conservative implies preserving the status quo and at most tinkering with change at the margins. Today’s ‘conservatives’ demand the wholesale dismantling of entire social welfare systems, the elimination of traditional legal restraints on labor and environmental abuses. Liberals and social democrats who in the past, occasionally, questioned colonial systems have been in the forefront of prolonged multiple colonial wars which have killed and displaced millions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.
Extremism both in terms of methods, means and goals has obliterated the distinctions between center left, center and rightwing politicians. Moderate opponents to policies subsidizing a dozen major banks and impoverishing tens of millions of workers are called the “hard left”, “extremists” or “radicals”.
In the wake of the extremist policies of public officials, the respectable, prestigious print media have engaged in their own versions of extremism . Colonial wars that devastate civil society and materially and culturally impoverish millions in the colonized country are justified, embellished and made to appear as lawful, humane and furthering secular democratic values. Domestic wars on behalf of oligarchies and against wage and salaried workers, which concentrate wealth and deepen despair of the dispossessed are described as rational, virtuous and necessary. The distinctions between the prudent, balanced, prestigious and serious media and the sensationalist, yellow press have disappeared. The fabrication of facts, blatant omissions and distortions of context are found in one as well as the other.
To illustrate the reign of extremism in officialdom and among the prestigious press, we will examine two case studies: US policies toward and the Financial Times and New York Times reportage on Colombia and Honduras.
Colombia: The “Oldest Democracy in Latin America” versus “the Death squad Capital of the World”
Following on the heels of euphoric eulogies of Colombia’s emergence as a poster boy in an April issue of Time, and in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, the Financial Times ran a series of articles including a special insert on Colombia’s political and economic “miracle”, “Investing in Colombia” . According to the FTs leading Latin American journalist, one John Paul Rathbone, Colombia is the “oldest democracy in the hemisphere” . Rathbone’s rapture for Colombia’s President Santos extends from his role as an “emerging power broker” for the South American continent, to making Colombia safe for foreign investors and “exciting the envy” of other less successful regimes in the region. Rathbone gives prominence to one Colombia business leader who claims that Colombia’s second biggest city “Medellín is living through its best of times” . In line with the opinion of the foreign and business elite, the respectable print media describe Colombia as prosperous, peaceful, business friendly-charging the lowest mining royalty payments in the hemisphere – a model of a stable democracy to be emulated by all forward-looking leaders. Colombia under President Santos, has signed a free trade agreement with President Obama, his closest ally in the hemisphere . Under Bush the trade unions, human rights and church groups and the majority of Congressional Democrats were successful in blocking the agreement on the basis of Colombia’s sustained human rights violations. When Obama embraced the free trade agreement, the AFL-CIO and Democratic opposition evaporated, as President Obama claimed a vast improvement in human rights and the commitment of Santos to ending the murder of trade union leaders and activists .
The peace, security and prosperity eulogized by the oil, mining, banking, and agro-business elite are based on the worst human rights record in Latin America. With regard to the murder of trade unionists Colombia exceeds the entire rest of the world. Between 1986-2011 over 60% of the trade unionists assassinated in the world took place in Colombia, by the combined military-police-paramilitary forces, largely at the behest of foreign and domestic corporate leaders . The “peace” that Rathbone and his cohort at the Financial Times praise is at the cost of over 12,000 assassinations and arrests, injuries, disappearances of trade unionists between January 1, 1986 and October 1, 2010 . In that time span nearly 3,000 trade union leaders and activists were murdered, hundreds were kidnapped or disappeared. President Santos was the Defense Minister under previous President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010). In those eight years, 762 trade union leaders and activists were murdered, over 95% by the state or allied paramilitary forces .
Under Presidents Uribe Santos 2002 – 2012 over 4 million peasants and rural householders were displaced and dispossessed of their homes and their lands were confiscated and taken over by landlords and narco- traffickers . The terror tactics employed by the regimes counter-insurgency strategy served a dual purpose of repressing dissent and accumulating wealth. The Financial Times journalists ignore this chapter in Colombia’s “resurgent growth”. They are especially enthused by the “security” that ensued because large scale foreign investment, over $6 billion dollars, in 2012 flowed into mining and oil regions that were formerly “troubled” by unrest .
Leading drug lords, who were closely linked to the Uribe-Santos regime, and were subsequently jailed and extradited to the US have testified that they financed and elected one-third of the Congress people affiliated with Uribe-Santos party in what Rathbone refers to as Latin America’s “oldest democracy”. According to Salvatore Mancuso, ex-chief of the former 30,000 member United Self-Defense of Colombia paramilitary death squad, he met with then, President Uribe, in different regions of the country and gave him money and logistical support in his re-election campaign of 2006. He also affirmed that many national and multi-national corporations (MNC) financed the growth and expansion of the paramilitary death squads. What Rathbone and his fellow journalists at the FT celebrate as Colombia’s emergence as an investor’s paradise is writ large with the blood and gore of thousands of Colombian peasants, trade unionists and human rights activists. The gory history of the Uribe/Santos reign of terror has been completely omitted from the current account of Colombia’s “success story”. Detailed records of the brutality of the killings and torture by Uribe/Santos sponsored death squads, which describe the use of chain saws to cut limbs from peasants suspected of leftist sympathies, are available to any journalist willing to consult Colombia’s leading human rights organizations .
The death squads and military act in concert. The military is trained by by over one thousand US Special Forces advisers. They arrive in a village in a wave of US supplied helicopters, secure the region from guerillas and then allow the AUC terrorists to savage the villages, killing, raping and disemboweling men, women and children suspected of being guerilla sympathizers. The terror tactics have driven millions of peasants out of the countryside.
Allowing the generals and drug lords to seize their land
Human rights advocates (HRA) are frequently targeted by the military and death squads. President Uribe and Santos first accuse them of being active collaborators of the guerillas for exposing the regime’s crimes against humanity. Once they are labeled, the HRA became “legitimate targets” for armed assaults by the death squads and the military who act with complete impunity. Between 2002-2011, 1,470 acts of violence were perpetrated against HRA, with a record number of 239 in 2011, including 49 assassinations during the Presidency of Santos.  Over half of the murdered HRA are Indians and Afro-Colombians.
State terrorism was and continues to be the main instrument of rule under Presidents Uribe and Santos. The Colombian “killing fields” according to the Fiscalia General include tens of thousands of homicides , 1,597 massacres and thousands of forced disappearances between 2005 – 2010 .
The practice, revealed in the Colombian press, of “false positives” in which the military kidnaps poor young men, dresses them as guerrillas and then assassinates them, comes across in the respectable US print media as evidence of Santos/Uribe’s military successes against the guerrillas. There are 2,472 documented cases of military false positive murders .
Honduras: New York Times and State Terrorism
The New York Times featured an article on Honduras, emphasizing the the regime’s “co-operation” with the US drug war.  The Times writer Thom Shanker speaks of a “partnership” based on the expansion of three new US military bases and the stationing of US Special Forces in the country. 
Shanker describes the successful operation of the Honduras Special Operations forces guided and directed by trainers from the US Special Forces. Shanker mentions a visit by a delegation of Congressional staff members who favorably assessed the local forces respect of human rights, and cites the US ambassador in Honduras as praising the regime as an “eager and capable partners in this joint effort”. 
There are insidious parallels between the NY Times white wash of the criminal extremist regime in Honduras and the Financial Times’ crude promotion of Colombia’s death squad democracy.
The current regime headed by “President” Lobos- which invites the Pentagon to expand its military control over swathes of Honduran territory- is a product of a US backed military coup which overthrew an elected liberal President on June 28, 2009, a point Shanker forgets to mention. Lobos, the predator president, retains control by killing, jailing and torturing critics, journalists, human rights defenders and landless rural laborers seeking to reclaim their lands which were violently seized by Lobos’ landlord backers.
Following the military coup, thousands of Honduran pro-democracy demonstrators were killed, beaten and arrested. According to conservative estimates by Human Rights Watch 20 pro-democracy dissidents were murdered by the military and police.  Between January 2010 and November 2011 at least 12 journalists critical of the Lobos regime were murdered.
In the countryside, where NY Times reporter Shanker describes a love fest between the US Special Forces and their Honduran counterparts, between January and August 2011, 30 farm workers in northern Honduras Bajo Aguan valley were killed by death squads hired by Lobos backed oligarchs .  Nary a single military, police or death squad assassin has been judged and jailed. Coup leader Roberto Micheletti and President Lobos, his successor, have repeatedly assaulted pro-democracy demonstrations, especially those led by school teachers, students and trade unionists and have tortured hundreds of jailed political dissidents. Precisely in the same time span as the NY Times publishes its most euphoric article on the friendly relations between the US and Honduras, the death toll among pro-democracy dissidents rose precipitously: eight journalists and a TV commentator have been killed over the first 4 months of 2012.  In late March and early April of 2012 nine farm workers and employees were murdered by pro-Lobos landlords.  No arrests, no suspects, impunity reigns in the land of US military bases. The Times follows the Mafia rule of omega-silence and complicity.
Syria: How the FT Absolves Al Qaeda Terrorists
As western backed terrorists savage Syria, the Western press, especially the Financial Times, continues to absolve the terrorists of setting of car bombs killing and maiming hundreds.of civilians. With crude cynicism their reporters shrug their shoulders and give credence to the claims of the London based terrorists propaganda mongers, that the Assad regime was engaged in destroying its own cities and security forces.
As the Obama regime and its European backers publicly embrace extremism, including state terror, targeted assassinations and the car bombing of crowded cities, the respectable press has followed suit. Extremism takes many forms –from the omission of reports on the use of force and violence in overthrowing adversary regimes to the cover-up of the wholesale murder of tens of thousands of civilians and the dispossession of millions of peasants and farmers. The “educated classes”, the affluent reading public are being indoctrinated by the respectable media to believe that a smiling and pragmatic President Santos and elected President Lobos have succeeded in establishing peace, market based prosperity and securing mutually beneficial free trade and military base concessions with the US—even as the two regimes lead the world in the murder of trade unionists and journalists. Even as I read, on May 15, 2012 that the US Hispanic Congressional caucus has awarded Lobos a leadership in democracy award, the Honduran press reports the murder of the news director of station HMT Alfredo Villatoro, the 25th critical journalist killed between January 27, 2010 and May 15, 2012. 
The respectable press’s embrace of extremism, its use of demonological terminology and vitriolic language to describe imperial adversaries is matched by its euphoric and effusive praise of state and pro-western mercenary terrorists. The systematic cover-up practiced by extremist journalism goes far beyond the cases of Colombia and Honduras. The reportage of the Financial Times Michael Peel on the NATO led destruction of Libya, Africa’s most advanced welfare state, and the rise to power of armed gangs of fanatical tribal and Islamic terrorists, is presented as a victory for a democracy over a “brutal dictatorship” . Peel’s mendacity and cant is evident in his outrageous claims that the destruction of the Libyan economy and the mass torture and racial murders which ensued NATOs war, is a victory for the Libyan people.
The totalitarian twist in the respectable press is a direct consequence of its toadying to the extremist policies pursued by the western regimes. Since extremist measures, like the use of force, violence, assassination and torture, have become routine under the incumbent presidents and prime ministers, the reporters have no choice but to fabricate lies to rationalize these crimes, to spit out a constant flow of highly charged adjectives in order to convert victims into executioners and executioners into victims. Extremism in defense of pro-US regimes has led to the most grotesque accounts imaginable: Colombia and Mexico’s Presidents are the leaders of the most thoroughly narcotized economies in the hemisphere yet they are praised for their war on drugs, while Venezuela the most marginal producer is stigmatized as a major narco-pipeline. 
Articles with no factual bases, which are worthless as sources of objective information, direct us to seek for an underlying rationale. Colombia has signed a free trade agreement which will benefit US exports over Colombian by over a two to one ratio . Mexico’s free trade policy has benefited US agribusiness and giant retailers by a similar ratio.
Extremism in all of its forms permeates Western regimes and finds its justification and rationalization in the respectable media whose job is to indoctrinate civil society and turn citizens into voluntary accomplices to extremism. By endlessly prefacing “reports” on Russia’s Putin as an authoritarian Soviet era tyrant, the respectable media obviate any discussion of his doubling of living standards and the 60% plus electoral triumph. By magnifying an authoritarian past, Gadhafi’s vast public works, social welfare programs and generous immigration and foreign aid programs to sub-Sahara Africa can be relegated to the memory hole. The respectable press’s praise of death squad Presidents Santos and Lobos is part of a large scale long term systematic shift from the hypocritical pretense of pursuing the virtues of a democratic republic to the open embrace of a virulent, murderous empire. The new journalists’ code reads “extremism in defense of empire is no vice”.
 There’s a general consensus that the respectable print media include The Financial Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.
 Financial Times (FT) 5/8/12;See also FT (5/4/12)”Colombia looks to consolidate gainsin country of complexities”
 FT 5/8/12 (p. 1)
 FT ibid
 BBC News , May 5, 2012
 Renan Vega Cantor Sindicalicidio! Uncuento poco imaginativo) de Terroismo Laboral Bogotá, Feb. 25, 2012.
 Inforrme CODHES Novembre 2010.
 FT 5/8/12 p. 4.
 See the Annual Reports of CODHES, Reiniciar and Human Rights Watch
 Claroscuro Informe Aual 2011; Programa Somos Defensores Bogota 2012; Corporacion Colectivo de Abogados. Jan. – March 2012.
 Fiscalia General. Informe 2012
 Thom Shanker “Lessons of Iraq Help US Fight a Drug War in Honduras” New York Times, May 6, 2012.6
 Human Rights Watch, World Report 2012
 Honduran Human Rights, May 12m, 2012.
 The notorious cover-up of the car bombing is the handiwork of the FT’s star middle east journalists. See Michael Peel and Abigail Fielding-Smith “At Least 55 Die in two Damascus Explosions: Responsibility for Blasts Disputed”, FT 5/11/12.
 Honduras Human Rights, April 24, 2012.
 Michael Peel, “The Colonels Last Stand” FT 5/12 – 13/12
 One of Colombia’s most notorious paramilitary narco traffickers described the close financial and political ties between the Colombian United Self Defense terrorists and the Uribe-Santos regime. Se La Jornada 5/12/12.
 BBC News, 5/15/12. According to the US International Trade Commission estimates the value of US exports to Colombia could rise by $1.1 billion while Colombia’s exports could grow by $487 million.
- Colombia: Obama’s Bloodiest Betrayal? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Progress or Promises? Free Trade and Labor Rights in Colombia (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- COLOMBIA ANALYSIS: Mirage and Reality in Southern Bolivar (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Former Colombian minister denies paramilitary ties – Colombia news | Colombia Reports (aboriginalpress.wordpress.com)
“Colombia is a social state under rule of law, organized in the form of a unitary, decentralized Republic, autonomous from its territorial subdivisions, democratic, participatory and pluralistic, founded on respect for human dignity and on the work and solidarity of the people who belong to it, and on the prevailing value of the general interest.” –Title I, Article 1, Political Constitution of Colombia (1991) (unofficial translation).
Colombians increasingly see our 1991 Constitution as a mirage. The illusion is evident when seen from areas as hard-hit by armed conflict as southern Bolívar province’s San Lucas mountains—a mining area at the epicenter of a complex war that at times leaves it unclear who pulled the trigger. The only thing always clear is that the peasant miner, farmer, or ordinary resident of the region generally is the one who ends up worse off. But in spite of these odds, the locals continue to claim a willingness to pay the ultimate price to remain on these lands that and their Guamoco and Zenu ancestors have long inhabited.
Small-scale gold mining provides a livelihood to hundreds of families in southern Bolivar. But the region is now in the sights of AngloGold Ashanti, one of the world’s most aggressive international mining companies. Communities therefore face threats from the state ranging from industrial regulation to paramilitary activity designed to force them off the land.
Without public or private aid, the small-scale miners cannot meet new environmental and safety standards supposedly aimed at sustainable exploitation. At the same time, government agencies overlook deliberate violations by industry giants. High prices of essential goods and services increase the likelihood of economic displacement. Taken together, these practices expose a mining policy that intentionally excludes small-scale miners.
Colombia’s gold-mining industry also faces serious public safety problems. The previous administration’s “Democratic Security” policy did not achieve its purported aims. Residents say that paramilitaries, guerrillas, Army, and police are all active in the region. Threats against community leaders and spokespeople persist, as does impunity for crimes against them.
A look at the numbers
According to the regionally-based Comprehensive Peace Observatory (Observatorio de Paz Integral, OPI), seven paramilitary groups are active in the Middle Magdalena region. Their primary criminal activities are drug trafficking and extortion. Their larger aim is to maintain social, political, economic, and military control of the area. In 2006, 6,000 paramilitary members demobilized in the Magdalena Medio region, but during that same year twenty-six new groups emerged. These criminal organizations have been accused of committing 1,051 targeted killings between 2006 and 2011. In 2008, FARC guerrillas and the Águilas Negras paramilitary group in southern Bolivar formed an unusual alliance, complicating identification of the perpetrators of violent actions.
Contrasting with the OPI’s findings, media references to the alleged demobilization of 31,000 AUC paramilitaries in 2006 tend to imply that the paramilitary structures have been eradicated. But the real objective of demobilizations may have to gain the benefits of the Justice and Peace Law, including a maximum jail sentence of eight years for demobilized paramilitaries. But in many cases clause 11.4 of the same law—which requires incorporation into civilian life and the cessation of all illegal activity in order to receive those benefits—went unenforced.
Given these facts, we must not be lulled into believing that Southern Bolivar province and the Middle Magdalena region are no longer ravaged by internal conflict, or that the armed entities have abandoned these lands so coveted for their wealth of natural resources and minerals.
- Small-Scale Miners Face Crackdown as Foreign Companies Set Sights on Colombia (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Colombia’s Patriotic March (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Colombia: ‘Carbon credit’ scheme a cover for land grab (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- March 6th in Monteria – International Day for Victims of State Crimes: “We march for land and against dispossession.” (pbicolombia.wordpress.com)
- Progress or Promises? Free Trade and Labor Rights in Colombia (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Colombia’s highly restricted democracy got a good slap in the face two weeks ago when 100,000 protesters entered the capital city and filled to overflowing the giant plaza that spreads out before the Congress and the Palace of Justice. In fact, just looking at the hurried reactions of president Juan Manuel Santos – new cabinet appointments, launching a populist housing project, and buying more arms from the US – one would know something serious is afoot.
But what, precisely, is it? The protesters call themselves the Patriotic March and were born with a more or less spontaneous celebration of the Colombian bicentennial two years ago. At that moment, in 2010, there was an earlier and likewise massive march to Bogotá plus the formation of cabildos (open councils) to treat questions of urgency in Colombian politics and life (such as human rights).
Today the marchers’ two principal slogans are innocuous enough: one the one hand, the effort to bring about a second and definitive independence and on the other hand peace; that is, a political and negotiated solution to the country’s 50-year conflict, a peace with of social justice. So what is all the fuss?
In fact, only in Colombia are the search for peace and sovereignty themes to which the state generally responds with massive repression, even approaching genocide. Some twenty-five years ago Colombia’s longest lasting guerrilla, the FARC-EP, opted for a peaceful rather than armed expression of its non-conformity. This led to the systematic assassination of something like 4,000 of the unfortunate cadres of the Patriotic Union who thought there might be a space for a strictly political opposition in Colombia’s much touted democracy, which seems to have durability rather than authenticity as its principal characteristic.
Though strictly speaking it may not be a world that has lived 100 years of solitude, Colombia’s politics has its very specific and even archaic qualities. For example, one of the principal struggles still seems to be that which takes place between city and country. Superficially at least, most of the patriotic marchers are people of rural origin: small or displaced farmers. Likewise there is an obvious racial or color element; the marchers tend toward brown and black while Power in Colombia tends to be white – except of course for the sepoy police and armed forces.
The marchers are clearly that group or class which Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano called “the nobodies… who don’t speak language but dialects… who don’t have culture but folklore” (and “cost less than the bullet that kills them”). But that doesn’t keep them from being very clear about what they want and need. “We’re being displaced by transnationals and the national government,” said one small-scale miner from the Bolivar department, “and participating in the march is the only way we will be heard”. Almost to a man, they are clear that their government is a puppet, militarist regimen in which the White House, if it doesn’t call all the shots, is at least consulted on most of them.
The march, patriotic and gutsy given the conditions in which it must operate, is one of those events that show that class struggle cannot be eliminated from any context, even by the most aggressive and totalitarian state tactics. There comes a point in which – as Martin Luther King said – one cannot not go on. The marchers have reached that point. They cannot be willed or dispelled away by even the most powerful mediatic wands (the mass media seems to insist contradictorily both that they don’t really exist and that they are very dangerous).
One of their repeated claims – that passes from the mouth of the inimitable ex-senator Piedad Córdoba to almost every spokesperson – is that the March, come what may, will go forward. That means that it will and has taken the form of a political movement and that it will try to take state power, as every responsible political movement tries to do. That claim, when it comes from the mouth of someone with Córdoba’s mettle, and when backed up by such conscious and committed social bases, is enough to make even the most ruthless politician of the establishment tremble. And some of us, one must say, tremble with delight.
Chris Gilbert, professor of Political Science in the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela, formed part of the international delegation that accompanied the Patriotic March, between April 21 and 23, in the formation of the National Patriotic Council.
- U.S.’s Post-Afghanistan Counterinsurgency War: Colombia (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Small-Scale Miners Face Crackdown as Foreign Companies Set Sights on Colombia (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Firefight between FARC-EP and Colombian armed forces, 4 killed (redantliberationarmy.wordpress.com)
“I watched Obama closely at the famous ‘summit gathering.’ Fatigue sometimes overcame him, he involuntarily closed his eyes and occasionally slept with his eyes open.”
- Fidel Castro 
The Sixth Summit of the Americas, held April 14 and 15 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia was supposed to be about what President Barak Obama wanted to talk about; instead it was about everything he didn’t want to hear.
The theme of the summit was “Connecting the Americas: Partners for Prosperity,” but what most of the 33 leaders present wanted to discuss with Obama was decriminalizing drugs, supporting Argentina’s claim to sovereignty over the Islas Malvinas (Falkland Islands) and an end to US exclusion of Cuba from the summits.
Having no good answers on these and other matters Obama shut down, — if Fidel observed correctly — put his mouth on auto pilot, recited the words to the anthem about free trade, national security, and prosperity for all and then refused to sign the final declaration.
The US agenda of prosperity through promotion of market capitalism, asymmetric free trade agreements, privatizations, unfettered flow of capital, and excessive protection of intellectual property rights is currently out of favor in most of the region.
Free trade of the kind pedaled by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush is no longer a regional issue. In a sense, all of these summits have been pointless if one recalls their main purpose. When Clinton convened the first one in Miami in 1994, it was not to address the forever problems of the region but to follow up on the successful negotiation of a dubious free-trade agreement with Mexico (NAFTA) by extending US commercial and financial penetration into the rest of the region under a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). That drive was stopped cold at Mar del Plata, Argentina during the 2005 summit.
Led by Brazil, – the largest regional economy and the “B” in the BRICS — many leaders in Cartagena saw Obama’s free trade and monetary obsessions as his way to help resolve US economic problems but not theirs. The cheap-dollar strategy may help US exports, job growth and narrow its trade deficit but those gains are seen as other people’s losses.
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve makes nearly interest-free dollars available to financial institutions that then can engage in the lucrative carry trade – moving cheap dollars to places like Brazil where, perforce, interest rates are higher.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rouseff has complained to Obama’s face that the Fed’s actions have caused a “monetary tsunami” and are driving up Brazil’s currency.  The central bank has tried to reduce upward pressure on the Brazilian real through capital controls and dollar purchases, a situation that seems at odds with Obama’s “partnership for prosperity.”
Cuba: the Phantom of the Summit
Most or all the delegates (except Obama and his faithful Canadian companion Stephen Harper) wanted an end to the US policy of excluding Cuba from the summits and to the 50-year old blockade of the island. The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), which includes Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela, had already formally demanded that Cuba be invited to Cartagena. Ecuador’s President Evo Morales reported that it was not just ALBA but Rouseff and other leaders in the Caribbean and South America who were saying, “there will not be another summit without Cuba.” 
In his speech opening the Cartagena summit, host President Juan Manuel Santos said that another summit without Cuba was ”unacceptable.” 
Of all the speeches and rumors of speeches in this hermetically sealed summit perhaps Santos’ remarks were the most striking. Here was a conservative president of one of the few loyal US allies left in Latin America, the recipient of billions in US aid to fight a proxy war on Colombia’s coca leaves under Clinton’s 1999 Plan Colombia, one of the few countries to sign a free trade pact with the United States and host to US troops on seven Colombian military bases telling Obama that his views on Cuba were based on an “outmoded ideology.” It was a “cold war anachronism,” he said. 
The Cuba issue could not have taken Obama by surprise. What did he expect after it was pounded into him when the previous summit foundered on the issue? At the 2009 summit in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, his colleagues wanted to talk about readmitting Cuba to the OAS. The summit ended with no agreement on the final declaration, which only the host government signed, but there was consensus that Cuba could re-apply for admission. That is not going to happen because Cuba does not want to rejoin the OAS and even if it did, Obama could impose the majority-crushing one-country veto arguing that Cuba isn’t democratic.
The constant harping about the lack of democracy in Cuba seems especially odd considering that the US government has never paid attention to the annual lopsided vote in the UN condemning the blockade. And in this very summit there was little exercise of majority rule when the United States and Canada blocked agreement on a final declaration because it contained inconvenient resolutions.
Obama, in office only a few weeks when he went to Port of Spain in April 2009, was well regarded in the region. He talked about cooperation and admitted that mistakes were made by his predecessors. He was generally praised for dropping Bush’s harsh restrictions on Cuban-American travel to Cuba. He has tried to live on those meager crumbs ever since, pretending that by reverting to the travel rules in play under Clinton he was “easing” Cuba policy when in reality the policy has remained the destruction of the Cuban revolution.
Soon after Port of Spain, however, Obama supported the June 2009 Honduran coup that followed the arrest and defenestration of President Jose Manuel Zelaya — who of course was democratically elected. Then as now Obama never tired of calling upon Cuban President Raul Castro to hold elections, without which, the island could never attend a Summit of the Americas.
Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, the direct beneficiary of that coup, attended the summit.
The lesson of Port of Spain was that John F. Kennedy’s 1962 expulsion of Cuba from the OAS was now reversed. The lesson of Cartagena was that there wouldn’t be any more of these summits without Cuba.
Who said summits are pointless?
A war on the war on drugs
Latin American leaders of all political hues have been murmuring recently about legalization or decriminalization of drugs. Guatemala’s President Otto Perez Molina is probably the furthest to the right in that group, which includes ex-presidents Cesar Gaviria of Colombia, and Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox of Mexico and current Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who, against a background of some 50,000 deaths in his militarized war on drugs, has lately suggested the idea should be on the table.
Appearing slightly flexible on the issue, Obama told Univision News, “I don’t mind a debate around issues like decriminalization,” but added, “I personally don’t agree that’s a solution to the problem.” 
Whether or not there was a debate on drugs during the closed-door sessions, Vice President Joe Biden had already made the rounds in Mexico and Central America to promise there would be no legalization while Obama was in office.
And, as if to drive the point home, the summit had barely closed when General Douglas Fraser, chief of the US Southern Command, (Was there a democratic vote among the peoples of the region to include themselves in a US military zone?) made it clear that what Obama doesn’t like, the United States doesn’t like. The general called for greater cooperation from the region on planning for the naval side of the war on drugs. It seems that Operation Hammer, which will cover the Caribbean coast of Central America and the Pacific coast of South America, is about to begin and he wants “the naval forces of all the region” to get with the plan. 
If Obama’s views on legalization were not clearly spelled out in Cartagena, they are in his 2012 National Drug Control Strategy, which “rejects the false choice between an enforcement-centric ‘war on drugs’ and the extreme notion of drug legalization.” 
His 2012 budget to pay for that strategy authorizes $15.1 billion for traditional enforcement methods and $10.1 billion for prevention and treatment. The Marijuana News and Information blog notes that the percentage for enforcement is the same or higher than what Bush proposed spending. 
While hinting at flexibility on the drug issue, Obama announced at the summit that the United States was increasing funds for the foreign war on drugs led by “our Central American friends” and pledged more than $130 million dollars for it in 2012. 
As for the Malvinas, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner argued for inclusion in the final declaration of Argentina’s claims of sovereignty.
Pressed to declare himself, Obama pleaded neutrality. That’s a “no.”
There was a certain airy dismissiveness about Obamas demeanor at the summit. He danced away from the serious issues and, apparently forgetting he was the U.S. president, said, “I’m not somebody who brings to the table here a lot of baggage from the past, and I want to look at these issues in a new and fresh way.” 
That was a curious, even astonishing statement by a man who has willingly shouldered a good deal of imperial baggage. Of course the baggage is his to dump or carry: 54 years of it since Dwight Eisenhower tried to block Fidel from taking power, 51 years of it since the Bay of Pigs, 50 years of it since JFK got Cuba kicked out of the OAS and now nearly four years of Obama continuing the blockade, instituting his own cyber warfare against Cuba and continuing to pay Cubans to act as agents of US policy inside the island.
What baggage has he not made his own?
The other summit
Obama’s election-year intransigence on the issues at Cartagena has badly damaged and probably sunk the Americas summitry and with it maybe even the OAS. The best thing for Obama is to let the summits die and blame it on Fidel and Raul Castro (also on Santos, Rouseff, Morales, Rafael Correa, among many others).
Waiting to take its place is the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), inaugurated in Caracas last December as an OAS without the United States and Canada.
Behind it is ALBA, which held its own, little noticed meeting in Caracas just before the Cartagena summit. It was the summit that most of the Cartagena delegates most likely would have preferred. Its final declaration supported Argentina on the Malvinas, condemned the blockade of Cuba and called the exclusion of Cuba from the Americas summits “unacceptable.” 
“Perhaps,” wrote Fidel, “CELAC will become what it should be, a hemispheric political organization without the United States and Canada. The decadent and unsustainable empire has earned the right to rest in peace.” 
Robert Sandels is a writer for Cuba-L and CounterPunch.
 Fidel Castro, Reflexiones, Granma, 04/17/12,
 ALBA-TCP website, http://www.alianzabolivariana.org/modules.php?
 La Jornada (Mexico), 04/14/12,
 Interview, Univision News, 04/14/12,
 United States Southern Command website, 04/18/12,
 White House,
 Marijuana News and Information, 04/20/12,
 Xinhua, 04/14/12,
 Washington Post, 04/15/12,
 Granma Internacional, 04/18/12,
 Fidel Castro, Reflexiones, Granma Internacional, 04/17/12,