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WSJ’s Epic Distortion of Colombian and Venezuelan Refugees

By Joe Emersberger | FAIR | February 18, 2018

A Wall Street Journal article by Juan Forero (2/13/18) ran with the headline “Venezuela’s Misery Fuels Migration on Epic Scale.” The subhead stated, “Residents Flee Crumbling Economy in Numbers That Echo Syrians to Europe, Rohingya to Bangladesh.”

Forero’s article quoted a UN official: “By world standards, Colombia is receiving migrants at a pace that now rivals what we saw in the Balkans, in Greece, in Italy in 2015, at the peak of [Europe’s] migrant emergency.” Further on, Forero says, “The influx prompted Colombian officials to travel to Turkey last year to study how authorities were dealing with Syrian war refugees.”

Two enormous problems with the way Forero and his editors have framed this article should immediately stand out:

  1. Colombia’s population of internally displaced people is about 7 million, and has consistently been neck and neck with Syria’s.  According to the UNHCR, as of mid-2016, Colombia is also the Latin American country which has the most number of refugees living outside its borders: over 300,000, mainly in Venezuela and Ecuador. Forero and his editors picked the wrong country to compare with Syria.
  2. Greece and Italy do not share a border with Syria, nor do the Balkans as they are generally defined. Colombia and Venezuela, by contrast, share a very long border. Forero’s comparison, therefore, excludes states that border Syria. Three of those bordering states—Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey—collectively absorbed 4.4 million Syrian refugees by 2016; five years after war broke out in Syria, Turkey alone took in almost 3 million.

It’s very important to expand on the first point.  Colombia is a humanitarian and human rights disaster, and has been for decades, in very large part due to its close alliance with the United States. Thanks to Wikileaks (CounterPunch, 2/23/12), we know that US officials privately acknowledged estimates that hundreds of thousands of people were murdered by right-wing paramilitaries, and that the killings have nearly wiped out some indigenous groups. Those genocidal paramilitaries have worked closely with the Colombian military that Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly praised in 2014 as a “magnificent” US partner.  “They’re so appreciative of what we did for them,” raved Kelly.

Praise for Colombia’s government has also come from the liberal end of the US establishment, albeit with much more subtlety than from Kelly. In 2014, a New York Times editorial (9/21/14) stated that “Colombia, Brazil and other Latin American countries should lead an effort to prevent Caracas from representing the region [on the UN Security Council] when it is fast becoming an embarrassment on the continent.” So to Times editors, Colombia is a regional good guy that must lead its neighbors in shunning Venezuela.

Colombia’s current president, Juan Manuel Santos, was minister of Defense from 2006 to 2009. From 2002 to 2008, the Colombian military murdered about 3,000 civilians, passing them off as slain rebels. As human rights lawyer Dan Kovalik explained (Huffington Post, 11/20/14) , the International Criminal Court (ICC) “concluded that these killings were systemic, approved by the highest ranks of the Colombian military, and that they therefore constituted ‘state policy.’” The murders occurred with the greatest frequency between 2004 and 2008, which Kovalik observed “also corresponds with the time in which the US was providing the highest level of military aid to Colombia.”

If Colombian and US officials evade prosecution for all of this, it will be with the help of corporate media—as well as the severe limitations powerful governments impose on international bureaucracies like the ICC. Kovalik remarked:

You might say, no official of the US can be prosecuted by the ICC because the US has refused to ratify the ICC treaty. While this may appear to be true, this did not stop the ICC from prosecuting officials from the Sudan—also not a signatory to the ICC.

The closest Forero came in his article to even hinting at any of these gruesome facts was when he wrote that “Colombia has long had troubles of its own, including integrating former Communist guerrillas from a civil conflict that only ended recently.”  The “conflict” has not exactly “ended,” given that 170 leftist political leaders and activists were assassinated in 2017.

Putting aside Forero’s epic distortions by omission regarding Colombia, what about his reporting about migration from Venezuela? He wrote:

Nearly 3 million Venezuelans—a tenth of the population—have left the oil-rich country over the past two decades of leftist rule. Almost half that number—some 1.2 million people—have gone in the past two years, according to Tomás Páez, a Venezuelan immigration expert at Venezuela’s Central University.

In April 2002, Páez signed his name to a quarter-page ad in the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional that welcomed the dictatorship of Pedro Carmona, then head of Venezuela’s largest business federation, who was installed after a US-backed military coup briefly ousted the late President Hugo Chavez. I’ve written before (ZNet, 1/16/17) about Western outlets—New York Times (11/25/16), Reuters (10/15/14) and Financial Times (8/22/16)—citing Páez without disclosing his anti-democratic record.

The World Bank has compiled data over the years on the numbers of Venezuelan-born people living abroad. The numbers point to far smaller migrations than Páez has estimated:

Population of Former Venezuelan Residents Living Abroad

Data in table can be found here, here, here and here.

During the years Chavez was in office (1999–2013), the World Bank’s figures tell us Venezuelans living abroad increased by about 330,000. By 2013, Páez was estimating that about 1.3 million had left—about 1 million more than World Bank estimates. Would journalists ignore data published by the World Bank in favor of estimates by Páez if he were a staunch supporter of the Venezuelan government?

During those 1999–2013 years, the World Bank figures also say that the number of Colombian-born people living in Venezuela grew by 200,000. Forero’s article implies that migration from Colombia to Venezuela ended in the “late 20th century.”

The World Bank has not updated migration data past 2013, but there is no doubt there was a huge increase in migration from Venezuela since its economy entered into a very deep crisis starting in late 2014. (For an overview of the important role of US policy in creating the crisis and now deliberately making it much worse, see my op-ed, “US Policy a Big Factor in Venezuela’s Depression”—Tribune News Service, 2/2/18.)

According to a Colombian university study of Venezuelan migration to Colombia, it averaged about 47,000 per year from 2011–2014, then increased to 80,000 per year in 2015–16.

US government data show migration from Venezuela to the United States increasing from about 7,000 per year before 2013 to 28,000 per year by 2015, including Venezuelans who have entered without authorization.

Venezuelan Born Population in the United States

Numbers in the table can be found here and here.

From 2000 to 2013, the United States was the destination for about 30 percent of Venezuelan-born people who left to live abroad, according to the World Bank figures. If the Colombian university study and US government data are accurate, then the United States has been the destination for about 20 percent of Venezuelan migrants after 2013. That would mean about 140,000 Venezuelans per year were leaving to live abroad by 2016.

That is not remotely comparable to the 5 million Syrians who fled the country in the first five years following the civil war—and that doesn’t include over a million per year who fled their homes inside Syria (the internally displaced).

That Forero would even try to force this comparison into his article speaks volumes. It’s not hard to guess why it was made, given that US has bombed Syria regularly and has had Venezuela’s government in its crosshairs for almost two decades.

February 20, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ex-Israel soldier heading child prostitution ring deported from Colombia

MEMO | November 29, 2017

A former Israeli soldier was deported from Colombia for alleged links to a criminal network suspected of drug trafficking, child prostitution and tax offenses that spanned across several countries in Latin America.

Forty-three-year-old Assi Moosh was expelled by Colombia and returned to Tel Aviv under escort by immigration officers last weekend. In a statement confirming the deportation, security officials said: “Police in Santa Marta, capital of the Magdalena department, hereby announce the removal of an Israeli citizen who owns a spa hotel frequented by many foreign tourists. Deportation procedures have been commenced as per law and will be carried out due to the Israeli’s conduct, which has harmed Colombia’s national security.”

Colombian news agencies reporting on the deportation revealed details surrounding the expulsion of Moosh who was exposed as being part of a group of ex-Israeli soldiers that had turned a small fishing village in Taganga into a “sex and drug den” from their base in a luxury resort that was known to locals as “little Israel”.

El Heraldo, a regional newspaper, revealed Moosh as the head of an “international network of human trafficking, micro-trafficking and sex tourism”. The Israeli gained a reputation locally for organising private parties in a room within his hotel. From their base in “little Israel” Moosh is reported to have run similar clubs exploiting drugs and children in Cartagena, Bogotá, Medellín, Ecuador, Mexico and Brazil.

Local sources reported that Moosh was arrested when he arrived in the immigration office in Santa Marta accompanied by a group of armed men. It’s believed that he had been trying to obtain Colombian citizenship.

According to the national police, Moosh had raised suspicion after it was discovered that his permits for tourism and hotel operation were obtained through a third party, enabling him to carry out criminal activities undetected for a decade.

Locals are said to be “relived” by the arrest. Residents told journalists that Moosh “had been one of those who destabilised the social order of the people.” Many felt he should have been arrested long ago.

The mystery for many locals, according to El Heraldo, was the Benjamin hotel. Residents of Taganga described the resort as a “bunker” run by Moosh “exclusively for Jews”. While it’s unlikely that many of the locals would have actually seen the inside of the luxury resort, the feeling that it was an unwelcome place for non-Israelis has even been reported by visitors on TripAdvisor. “Not Israeli? Forget about it” wrote one visitor who had given the hotel two stars in the review. “First off this is a good hotel/hostel but if you are not from Israel I wouldn’t go there, my wife and I were made to feel very uncomfortable even had people come up to us and say ‘are you from Israel?’ I said ‘no’ to their reply ‘then why would you come here’.”

Reports of how “ex-soldiers turned a Colombia fishing town into a sex and drug den” had been on the media’s radar for a while. In February Colombia Reports uncovered the tension within the popular tourist region caused by the Benjamin hotel. The report found that “Benjamin [hotel] employs and accommodates almost exclusively Israeli citizens, and was officially opened by 20 rabbis brought over especially from Israel”.

Security in the hotel is reportedly coordinated by a Willington Vasquez, who, according to the report is also known as “Manuel, a former member of a paramilitary death squad”. Locals from Taganga complained that the Israeli “tourism entrepreneurs” were running a drug trafficking network and prostitution business.

The friction between locals in Taganga and the Israelis was also reported in 2012. “Four Israeli ex-soldiers are the new ‘masters’ of Taganga” was the headline in the El Tiempo. The paper alleged that the Israeli “businessmen” were selling cocaine and sexually exploiting young girls.

A journalist from El Tiempo investigating the allegations spoke with local officials, residents and the Israeli businessmen who pleaded innocence saying that “the community is wrong, everything is false”.

But the report proved otherwise. The authorities said that they were clear “several Israeli ex-soldiers who arrived in that village” were “leaders of criminal gangs”. The authorities complained that the Israelis took over social premises, violated rules on tax payments and permits and were involved in selling drugs and sexually exploiting children.

The ex-Israeli soldiers became known as “the untouchables”. El Tiempo journalists travelled to the area and established that some of them were living in a concrete mass, guarded by eight security cameras. Others carry arms and move in 4×4 trucks with the Israeli flag.

Testimonies from villagers and local authorities, who, El Tiempo said requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, exposed the drug and prostitution industry that had blighted the small fishing village.

Their standoff with the ex-Israeli soldiers led locals to create a committee and to request help from the Santa Marta administration.

Mayor of Santa Marta at the time, Carlos Caicedo, told El Tiempo that the situation in Taganga is serious and that he will ask the Israeli embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to review the legal status of the ex-military personnel settled in the Benjamin hotel.

Residents of Taganga appealed to their government to end the criminal activity in their village and a request was also made to the Israeli embassy, according to El Tiempo, to sanction the criminal behaviour of its nationals.

As for Moosh, it’s reported that Colombian authorities have imposed sanctions on him which prevent him from returning to country for at last ten years.

Read also: Israel killed 14 Palestinian children in 2017

November 29, 2017 Posted by | Corruption | , , | 11 Comments

Colombian Social Leader Assasinated Weeks After 7 Campesinos Were Killed

Jose Jair Cortes

Jose Jair Cortes | Photo: UN
teleSUR | October 17, 2017

A Colombian social leader, Jose Jair Cortes, was murdered in a rural area of Tumaco municipality located in the southwest department of Narino.

Jair Cortes, a member of the local council of the Alto Mira and Frontera Community, was killed in a sector called Y, located in the heart of the city of Tumaco. The social leader was one of seven community leaders to receive death threats in recent months.

The governor of Narino, Camilo Romero Galeano, denounced the murder that occurred just weeks after a massacre that left seven people dead in the village of El Tandil, in the same municipality.

The state government has urged the authorities to investigate the exact details of the community leader’s murder.

“We have once again resisted accepting that the war will continue to make its mark on the Narino pacific,” Romero said. “Our voice of solidarity for the family of Jose Jair Cortes in this painful moment that keeps the mourning in our south.”

“We are profoundly affected by this death, just days after we met in Tumaco with him and the other members of this Junta de Gobierno, corresponding to the territory where the painful events that six peasants and dozens of wounded and still remain of research,” the official statement said.

The community council in the area has repeatedly denounced human rights violations against the Afro-Colombian, Mestizo and Indigenous peasants in the region. The campesinos in the area have been protesting against government’s plan to reduce the production of Cocoa crop, an important means of livelihood for many in the region.

In the western department of Cauca, over 40 campesinos have been injured and one journalist killed in clashes between the Indigenous community members and the Colombian police.

The Indigenous community members who began their protests 10 days ago are demanding the property in the Coconuco Indigenous Reservation, a rural area of Purace municipality, where the government had promised them land in 2013.

The Mobile Anti-Riot Squads (ESMAD) accused the natives of encroaching private property. ESMAD member, Capt. Edgar Garcia, told Caracol, a local radio station that the natives threw “immense rocks that destroy sticks and all around, equally, they shoot us with artifacts, stones, bottles, and explosives to intimidate us, while we are defending the private property.”

Whereas, a spokesman for the protesters quoted by the local radio station, said that “about 10 ESMAD trucks, two tanks and all the artifacts against the indigenous peoples, entered the community.”

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Three Social Leaders Murdered in Colombia in Only 72 Hours

teleSUR | August 12, 2017

The Colombian activist and social leader Fernando Asprilla was murdered on Friday in the Cauca department, and was the third death of a social leader recorded in a 72 hour period.

The Ombudsman of Colombia, Carlos Alfonso Negret Mosquera, showed in a recent report that during the period between the first of January, 2016, and March 1st of 2017, at least 156 homicides, five disappearances, and 33 violent attacks against community and social leaders occurred.

According to the report given by Negret, one of the primary causes of the deadly trend is the continued operations of illegal armed right-wing paramilitary organizations that have occupied territory left behind by the disarming Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC – EP).

Human rights defenders and activists in the districts of Antioquia, Arauca, Atlantico, Bolivar, Caldas, Caqueta, Casanare, Cauca, Cesar, Cordoba, Cundinamarca, Choco, Huila, La Guajira, Magdalena, Meta, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Putumayo, Risaralda, Santander, Tolima and Cauca Valley have been assassinated since the FARC’s demobilization process began.

As they have handed over their weapons and negotiated terms of peace with the Colombian government, FARC-EP has consistently demanded that the state works to dismantle paramilitarism in the country, saying its ongoing violence represents the greatest threat to the peace process.

The government however, has largely ignored the existence of paramilitaries, claiming that they were demobilized during Alvaro Uribe’s presidential term between 2006 and 2008. FARC-EP leaders have pointed out that many of the groups have been reclassified as criminal gangs, but continue to represent the same threat as always by assassinating leaders who fight for human and land rights.

August 13, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , | Leave a comment

ELN Seeks ‘Temporary and Renewable’ Ceasefire in Colombia

teleSUR | July 26, 2017

The chief negotiator of the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia’s peace talks, Pablo Beltran, said on Tuesday that the objective of the third round of negotiations is to reach a “temporary and renewable” bilateral ceasefire, a process which he said takes time because it requires “very precise procedures.”

During an interview with TeleSUR on the Enclave Politica program, Beltran said that the ELN is committed to peace talks and the peace process, and that a consensus has emerged among its members that there “must be a bilateral ceasefire.”

The task of the third round of dialogue is “to make the agreement, design the protocols, sign them, and then apply them. This round must be about the bilateral ceasefire that we want to last beyond the visit of Pope Francis,” according to Beltran.

Beltran emphasized that the group’s motto has always been to “be with the people, and that there is a large sector of Colombian society that wants peace.” The ELN has been accused by some of those opposed to peace talks for allegedly only being interested in peace because their political project has “failed.”

The reason for being in the ELN, he said, is to always be with the people and acting where there is social change and struggle. Beltran said that at the heart of the peace talks is “that there is participation so that the people say how Colombian democracy should be… that is why there are sectors of the right that oppose peace.”

“Some sectors in the government want an expedited negotiation, but we want things to be done well so that it is durable,” he said regarding delays in the process.

“We have lost 26 months in the negotiations because of the government tactic to place the ELN negotiations behind those with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC),” he said. “There is a sector of the hard right that is going to oppose anything that signals peace.”

While dialogue progresses, the ELN still is active and present in several regions of Colombia, where the chief negotiater said they have programs and popular support. “The ELN is alive, it is acting,” he said.

July 26, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Colombia: Bogota Mall Explosion Leaves 3 Dead, 11 Injured

ELN: “There are those who try to tear apart the peace process”

teleSUR | June 18, 2017

Colombian authorities searched Sunday for the perpetrators of a bombing at a major upscale shopping center in Bogota that killed three and left nine others injured in an attack Saturday some have suggested could be an attempt to benefit from fear in the country [which is] implementing peace after more than half a century of civil war.

Authorities reported that an explosion hit a second-floor women’s bathroom at the Andino Commercial Center in Bogota on Saturday night. The shopping center, one of the busiest in the country, was evacuated, while President Juan Manuel Santos returned to the capital from the northern coastal city of Barranquilla to respond to the blast.

“This is a vile, cruel, cowardly act and we are not going to rest until those responsible are captured,” Santos said, adding that there were no indications that another attack was planned in Bogota. The president also expressed solidarity with the victims, while Bogota Mayor Enrique Peñalosa described the incident as a “cowardly terrorist attack.”

Both the FARC and the ELN, the country’s two largest guerrilla groups, condemned the attack and voiced support for the victims.

“Solidarity with the victims in Bogota today,” FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, also known as Timoleon Jimenez or Timochenko, wrote on his Twitter account Saturday to 95,400 followers. “This act can only come from those who want to close the paths to peace and reconciliation.”

The bombing comes just days before the FARC is set to hand over the last of its weapons to a U.N. monitoring mission as part of a historic peace agreement reached with the government last year paving the way for the guerrilla’s disarmament and transition into a legal political party.

The ELN, currently in peace talks with the government, also responded to the attack.

“ELN Peace repudiates the attack against civilians in the Andino Commercial Center. We share the pain and express solidarity with the victims,” the group’s peace delegation wrote on its Twitter account Saturday to 27,600 followers.

The active rebel army — which has yet to reach a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the government and who claimed responsibility for a bombing outside a bull ring in Bogota in February — was quick to be signaled as a possible suspect in the attack, an assumption the group rejected in its response to the bombing.

“ELN Peace calls for seriousness from those who make unfounded and reckless accusations; there are those who try to tear apart the peace process,” the ELN peace delegation continued, calling for a thorough investigation.

“The ELN will never again carry actions whose objective is to affect the civilian population,” the statement concluded.

The three victims of the attack included a 23-year-old French national, identified as Julie Hunh, who had reportedly been in Colombia for the past six months doing volunteer work.

The U.S. Embassy in Bogota offered condolences in a series of tweets, saying that it is standing by to “provide any support requested by the Colombian authorities.”

June 18, 2017 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism | , , , | 1 Comment

Another Social Leader Murdered in Colombia

teleSUR | June 14, 2017

Jose Maria Lemus, president of the Tibu Community Board in Colombia’s North of Santander state, has been killed, the Peoples’ Congress reported Wednesday.

His murder adds to the growing list of recently assassinated social, Indigenous and human rights activists in the South American country.

In May, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights raised alarm over the fact that at least 41 activists have been killed in Colombia so far this year, a record figure in comparison to previous years. The report laid bare to a troubling escalation of violence despite a historic agreement between the government and the country’s largest rebel army last year.

U.N. commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said the figure shows a worsening trend of crimes against social leaders and human rights defenders.

“It’s an increase over the same period last year and the previous years, and it is very alarming,” he said during a news conference.

According to Zeid, the attacks appear to be concentrated in areas that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia previously controlled during the armed conflict and recently abandoned in order to demobilize after the signing of the peace agreement.

Official statistics show that a staggering 156 social leaders were killed in Colombia in the 14 months between Jan. 1, 2016 and March 1, 2017. Amid the crisis, rights groups have urged the Colombian government to prioritize tackling paramilitary violence that often targets progressive social leaders including campesinos, Indigenous activists and other human rights defenders.

On Monday, organizations such as the Agrarian Summit, Black Communities Process and the Peoples’ Congress protested against the criminalization of social leaders.

June 15, 2017 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , | Leave a comment

Colombia’s FARC Delivers 60% of Weapons to UN Peace Mission

teleSUR | June 14, 2107


The Colombian FARC guerrilla delivered another 30 percent of their weapons Tuesday to the United Nation as part of the landmark peace agreement with the government ending over half a century of civil war.

“With this act, the FARC wants to show Colombia and the world that we leave behind the page of war and starting to write the page of peace … that our commitment is total and that we are going to give everything for the peace of the country,” Pablo Catatumbo, member of the FARC’s leadership, said during the event.

On June 7, the FARC delivered the first 30 percent of the weapons, kicking off its historic disarmament. On Tuesday, another 30 percent will be handed over, and the more than 7,000 members of the groups will deliver the total amount by June 20.

The event that took place in La Elvira, in the western department of Cauca, and had been expected to be attended by President Juan Manuel Santos, the former prime minister of Spain Felipe Gonzalez and former President of Uruguay Jose Mujica.

But the political figures could not participate at the last minute due to heavy rain and had to follow the event through a video conference. Santos from an air base in the city of Cali said: “Today, without a doubt, is a historic day. What we witnessed on television — we could not be there physically because weather did not allow us — is something that the country only a few years ago would never have believed was possible.”

The next step for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia will be the transition to civilian life and the creation of a political party to participate in the next elections.

The head of the Colombian FARC guerrilla Rodrigo Londoño, also known as Timoleon Jimenez or Timochenko, who is in Norway, said he urged the Colombian government to fight against paramilitary violence in the country.

“We are leaving our weapons behind to continue with politics that we have always maintained and our efforts to build a fairer and just Colombia, where people who think differently are not murdered for their ideas,” Timochenko said during a press conference in Oslo during a forum on conflict resolution.

The leader has said that the government has been slow in implementing the agreement and that there have been problems including security issues and infrastructure shortages for the 26 transition zones where the rebels have assembled before returning to civil life.

He stressed that the most critical issue, though, was that Santos administration has not admitted the ongoing problem of paramilitarism in the country or set out a course of action to tackle it. Timochenko called on the international community to pressure the government to eradicate it, as he says it has become “an obstacle for peace.”

Norway, together with Cuba, was a guarantor country in the four-year peace negotiations between the FARC and the Colombian government. Talks wrapped up in Havana last year once the historic peace accord was finalized. The peace deal brings an end to over 50 years of internal armed conflict that killed some 260,000 people and victimized millions more.

June 14, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , , | Leave a comment

European ‘Left’ Caves in to Censorship and Media Lies

By Tortilla Con Sal | teleSUR | May 31, 2017

In 2011, the former European colonial powers, backed by the United States, with the complicity of the United Nations, worked with minority opposition forces to overthrow legitimate governments in Libya, Syria and the Ivory Coast. They trashed the very international law and basic human rights they cynically proclaimed to defend. In 1961, the Belgian and U.S. governments colluded directly in the murder of Patrice Lumumba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s elected Prime Minister.

No one should be surprised at how easily the majority of progressive opinion in the West is intimidated by bullying from the mainstream. The overwhelming majority of progressive Western media outlets and intellectuals either accepted or openly supported Western aggression and intervention in 2011, as if they had learned nothing in the 50 years following the martyrdom of Patrice Lumumba. The 2011 events faithfully re-enacted the catastrophe of the Congo 50 years earlier.

Subsequently, that country has suffered over five million deaths from civil war and foreign intervention, a holocaust shamefully ignored internationally. Similarly, the destruction of Libya and Syria have provoked catastrophic human suffering with millions displaced and hundreds of thousands killed. Now, the U.S. elites and their allies are applying the age old formula of 1961 and 2011 to Venezuela. What still passes for the Western Left should be ferociously defending Venezuela’s right to self-determination.

Instead, less blatantly than in 2011, majority progressive opinion has crumbled and folded against the same old imperialist psychological warfare offensive used against every imperialist target since the end of WWII. Most progressive comments on Venezuela implicitly validate corporate media spin that, as in Syria, Venezuela’s opposition can be neatly segmented into moderates and extremists when in fact the main opposition leaders refuse dialogue.

With great restraint, President Nicolas Maduro has banned the use of lethal force and persisted in efforts at negotiation. Extensive Western media coverage falsely promotes an image of government repression in Venezuela in sharp contrast to their failure in 2009 to cover murderous government repression in Honduras of massive peaceful protests against the country’s coup regime. Those protests lasted over four months, much longer than the Venezuelan opposition’s latest prolonged coup attempt. But events in Honduras received nothing like the coverage of the current crisis in Venezuela. Western media soft-pedalled events in Honduras because the U.S. authorities supported the coup, one they hope to see repeated in Venezuela.

Despite that self-evident fact, Western progressive opinion has effectively caved in to the false mainstream corporate media narrative that the Venezuelan opposition offensive is a legitimate one against a dictatorial government. That moral and political collapse makes itself evident in many ways.

The latest example in Europe is the illegal summary dismissal by a leading Swedish progressive media outlet of its most experienced journalist writing on Latin America, Dick Emanuelsson. Dick has covered Latin American news for over 35 years for the Flamman weekly. Based for many years in Bogota before moving to Tegucigalpa in 2006 where he works with his partner Mirian, Dick’s reports cover all of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Very clearly, Flamman’s decision is blatantly political and should certainly be seen in the context of the Swedish authorities’ support for U.S. attempts to censor Wikileaks in the case of Julian Assange. In Emanuelsson’s case, the decision will surprise no one with any experience with the phony progressive non-governmental and media sector in Western Europe and North America.

Just as Western governments trample human rights while claiming to defend them, so Western non-governmental sector managers abuse basic rights when it suits them. Obviously, Flamman’s editors can no longer accommodate Emanuelsson’s uncompromising support for radical political and social movements in Latin America because it conflicts with received wisdom in Sweden.

Emanuelsson is among the very few European reporters with a lifetime’s experience of reporting on Latin America and one of only a handful writing as revolutionaries. Over the years, his work on Colombia relentlessly exposed the paramilitary and narcotics links of Colombia’s ruling elite. He was practically the only European reporter writing first hand about the FARC-EP’s guerrilla struggle against successive corrupt genocidal Colombian governments and the persistent efforts of the Colombian guerrilla to work for peace.

Similarly, following the 2009 coup in Honduras, Dick and Mirian fearlessly reported the events of the coup itself, the murderous repression of the peaceful protest movement and the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Subsequently, along with a few North American activists, they have worked in constant solidarity with Honduran activists and reporters documenting the corrupt regimes of Porfirio Lobo and Juan Orlando Hernandez.

But now, the supposedly progressive editors of one of Sweden’s leading labor media outlets ignominiously dismissed Emanuelsson two years before retirement, despite his unique record of commitment and achievement.

In order to fire Emanuelsson, Flamman’s editor blew out of proportion minor errors made in relation to a task that only takes up about 10 percent of his overall agreed workload, totally disregarding the Swedish Law of Employment’s Protection – an odd thing to do for a media outlet that regards itself as a defender of worker’s rights. No criticisms about his regular feature reports on Latin America nor about his overall coverage were issued. In fact, no such criticisms against his work have ever been made in almost 35 years!

The paper’s readership has always regarded Emanuelsson’s work as exemplary reporting unavailable elsewhere. On the basis of their flimsy pretext and ignoring his impressive track record, Flamman tried to dismiss him with no compensation. The flagrant illegality of the dismissal notice under Swedish labor law is beyond dispute. When his union intervened, Flamman upped their offer to a measly four month’s salary, a recompense adding insult to the injury of chronic insecurity.

Flamman is an ostensibly left-wing weekly associated with the former VPK Left Communist political party which years ago aligned with acceptable pro-imperialist opinion in Sweden. That realignment is part of the general drift to the right in Europe which has seen the neo-fascist Sverigedemokraterna party become the second most popular in the country. Rather than fight that drift, many former communists and other progressives in Sweden have accommodated to it. That reality is clear from the support of most progressive opinion in Sweden for NATO’s role in the destruction of Libya and Syria and the decline in solidarity with Cuba.

Domestically, Flamman’s treatment of Emanuelsson reflects the accommodation of Swedish former communists with the neoliberal agenda of Sweden’s business sector. Like so many phony progressives across Western Europe, Flamman’s editors talk excitedly about Podemos in Spain, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labor Party in the U.K. or even Syriza in Greece.

But their real commitments reveal themselves in the practice they apply to cases like that of Emanuelsson. People may or may not agree with the politics of his reporting any more than they have to agree with the politics of Julian Assange, but basic justice demands we should defend their fundamental human rights.

June 1, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

Peace Accords or Political Surrender? Latin America, the Middle East and Ukraine

By James Petras :: 03.18.2017


Over thirty year ago a savvy Colombian peasant leader told me, “Whenever I read the word ‘peace accords’ I hear the government sharpening its knives”.

In recent times, ‘peace accords’ (PAs) have become a common refrain across the world. In almost every region or country, which are in the midst of war or invasion, the prospects of negotiating ‘peace accords’ have been raised. In many cases, PA’s were signed and yet did not succeed in ending murder and mayhem at the hands of their US-backed interlocutors.

We will briefly review several past and present peace negotiations and ‘peace accords’ to understand the dynamics of the ‘peace process’ and the subsequent results.

The Peace Process

There are several ongoing negotiations today, purportedly designed to secure peace accords. These include discussions between (1) the Kiev-based US-NATO-backed junta in the west and the eastern ‘Donbas’ leadership opposed to the coup and NATO; (2) the Saudi US-NATO-armed terrorists in Syria and the Syrian government and its Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah allies; (3) the US-backed Israeli colonial regime and the Palestinian independence forces in the West Bank and Gaza; and (4) the US-backed Colombian regime of President Santos and the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC).

There are also several other peace negotiations taking place, many of which have not received public attention.

Past and Present Outcomes of Peace Accords

Over the past quarter century several PAs were signed – all of which led to the virtual surrender of armed anti-imperialist protagonists and popular mass movements.

The Central-American PA’s, involving Salvador and Guatemala, led to the unilateral disarmament of the resistance movement, the consolidation of oligarchical control over the economy, the growth and proliferation of narco-gangs and unfettered government-sponsored death squads. As a consequence, internal terror escalated. Resistance leaders secured the vote, entered Congress as politicians, and, in the case of El Salvador, were elected to high office. Inequalities remained the same or worsened, and murders matched or exceeded the numbers recorded during the pre-Peace Accord period. Massive numbers of immigrants, often of internal refugees fleeing gang violence, entered the US illegally. The US consolidated its military bases and operations in Central America while the population continued to suffer.

The Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations did not lead to any accord. Instead ‘negotiations’ became a thin cover for increasing annexation of Palestinian land to construct racist ‘Jews-Only’ enclaves, resulting in the illegal settlement of over half a million Jewish settlers. The US-backed the entire farcical peace process, financing the corrupt Palestinian vassal-leaders and providing unconditional diplomatic, military and political support to Israel.

US-Soviet Union: Peace Accord

The Reagan/Bush-Gorbachev ‘peace accords’ were supposed to end the Cold War and secure global peace. Instead the US and the EU established military bases and client regimes/allies throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic and Balkans, pillaged the national assets and took over their denationalized economies. US-based elites dominated the vassal Yeltsin regime and virtually stripped Russia of its resources and wealth. In alliance with gangster-oligarchs, they plundered the economy.

The post-Soviet Yeltsin regime ran elections, promoted multiple parties and presided over a desolate, isolated and increasingly surrounded nation – at least until Vladimir Putin was elected to ‘decolonize’ the State apparatus and partially reconstruct the economy and society.

Ukraine Peace Negotiations

In 2014 a US-sponsored violent coup brought together fascists, oligarchs, generals and pro-EU supporters seizing control of Kiev and the western part of Ukraine. The pro-democracy Eastern regions of the Donbas and Crimean Peninsula organized resistance to the putsch regime. Crimea voted overwhelmingly to re-unite Russia. The industrial centers in Eastern Ukraine (Donbas) formed popular militias to resist the armed forces and neo-Nazi paramilitaries of the US backed-junta. After a few years of mayhem and stalemate, a ‘negotiation process’ unfolded despite which the Kiev regime continued to attack the east. The tentative ‘peace settlement’ became the basis for the ‘Minsk agreement’, brokered by France, Russia and Germany, where the Kiev junta envisioned a disarming of the resistance movement, re-occupation of the Donbas and Crimea and eventual destruction of the cultural, political, economic and military autonomy of the ethnic Russian East Ukraine. As a result, the ‘Minsk Agreement’ has been little more than a failed ploy to secure surrender. Meanwhile, the Kiev junta’s massive pillage of the nation’s economy has turned Ukraine into a failed state with 2.5 million fleeing to Russia and many thousands emigrating to the West to dig potatoes in Poland, or enter the brothels of London and Tel Aviv. The remaining unemployed youth are left to sell their services to Kiev’s paramilitary fascist shock troops.

Colombia: Peace Accord or Graveyard?

Any celebration of the Colombian FARC – President Santos’ ‘Peace Accord’ would be premature if we examine its past incarnations and present experience.

Over the past four decades, Colombian oligarchical regimes, backed by the military, death squads and Washington have invoked innumerable ‘peace commissions’, inaugurated negotiations with the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) and proceeded to both break off negotiations and relaunch full-scale wars using ‘peace accords’ as a pretext to decimate and demoralize political activists.

In 1984, then-President Belisario Betancur signed a peace accord with the FARC, known as the ‘Uribe Agreement’. Under this agreement, thousands of FARC activists and supporters demobilized, formed the Patriotic Union (UP), a legal electoral party, and participated in elections. In the 1986 Colombian elections, the UP candidates were elected as Senators, Congress people, mayors and city council members, and their Presidential candidate gained over 20% of the national vote. Over the next 4 years, from 1986-1989, over 5,000 UP leaders, elected officials and Presidential candidates were assassinated in a campaign of nationwide terror. Scores of thousands of peasants, oil workers, miners and plantation laborers were murdered, tortured and driven into exile. Paramilitary death squads and landlord-backed private armies, allied with the Colombian Armed Forces, assassinated thousands of union leaders, workers and their families members. The Colombian military’s ‘paramilitary strategy’ against non-combatants and villagers was developed in the 1960’s by US Army General William Yarborough, Commandant, US Army Special Warfare Center and ‘Father of the Green Beret’ Special Forces.

Within five years of its formation, the Patriotic Union no longer existed: Its surviving members had fled or gone into hiding.

In 1990, newly-elected President Cesar Gaviria proclaimed new peace negotiations with the FARC. Within months of his proclamation, the president ordered the bombing of the ‘Green House’, where the FARC leaders and negotiating team were being lodged. Fortunately, they had fled before the treacherous attack.

President Andrés Pastrana (1998-2001) called for new peace negotiations with the FARC to be held ‘in a demilitarized zone’. Peace talks began in the jungle region of El Caguan in November 1998. President Pastrana had made numerous pledges, concessions and reforms with the FARC and social activists, but, at the same time he had signed a ten-year multi-billion dollar military aid agreement with US President Clinton, known as ‘Plan Colombia’. This practice of ‘double-dealing’ culminated with the Colombian Armed Forces launching a ’scorched earth policy’ against the ‘demilitarized zones’ under the newly elected (and death-squad linked) President Alvaro Uribe Velez. Over the next eight years, President Uribe drove nearly four million Colombian peasants into internal exile. With the multi-billion dollar funding from Washington, Uribe was able to double the size of the Colombian Armed Forces to over 350,000 troops, incorporating members of the death squads into the military. He also oversaw the formation of new paramilitary armies. By 2010 the FARC had declined from eighteen thousand to under ten thousand fighters – with hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties and millions rendered homeless.

In 2010 Uribe’s former Minister of Defense, Juan Manual Santos was elected President. By 2012 Santos initiated another “peace process” with the FARC, which was signed by the end of 2016. Under the new ‘Peace Accord’, signed in Cuba, hundreds of officers implicated in torture, assassinations and forced relocation of peasants were given immunity from prosecution while FARC guerillas were to face trial. The government promised land reform and the right to return for displaced farmers and their families. However, when peasants returned to claim their land they were driven away or even killed.

FARC leaders agreed to demobilize and disarm unilaterally by June 2017. The military and their paramilitary allies would retain their arms and gain total control over previous FARC- liberated zones.

President Santos ensured that the ‘Peace Accord’ would include a series of Presidential Decrees – privatizing the country’s mineral and oil resources and converting small family farms to commercial plantations. Demobilized peasant-rebels were offered plots of infertile marginal lands, without government support or funding for roads, tools, seed and fertilizer or even schools and housing, necessary for the transition. While some FARC leaders secured seats in Congress and the freedom to run in elections unmolested, the young rank and file FARC fighters and peasants were left without many alternatives but to join paramilitary or ‘narco’ gangs.

In summary, the historical record demonstrates that a series of Colombian presidents and regimes have systematically violated all peace agreements and accords, assassinated the rebel signees and retained elite control over the economy and labor force. Before his election, the current President Santos presided over the most deadly decade when he was Uribe’s Defense Minister.

For brokering the peace of the graveyard for scores of thousands of Colombian peasants and activists, President Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In Havana, FARC leaders and negotiators were praised by Cuban President Raul Castro, President Obama, Venezuelan President Maduro and the vast majority of ‘progressives’ and rightists in North and South America and Europe.

Colombia’s bloody history, including the widespread murder of Colombian civil rights activists and peasant leaders, has continued even as the documents finalizing the Peace Accords were being signed. During the first month of 2017, five human right activists were murdered by death squads – linked to the oligarchy and military. In 2015, while the FARC was negotiating over several clauses in the agreement, over 122 peasant and human rights activists were murdered by paramilitary groups who continued to operate freely in areas controlled by Santos’ army. The mass media propaganda mills continue to repeat the lie that ‘200,000 people were killed by the guerillas (FARC) and the government’ when the vast majority of the killings were committed by the government and its allied death squads; a calumny, which guerilla leaders fail to challenge. Prominent Jesuit researcher Javier Giraldo has provided a detailed factual account documenting that over three quarters of the killings were committed by the Army and paramilitary.

We are asked to believe presidential regimes that have murdered and continue to murder over 150,000 Colombian workers, peasants, indigenous leaders and professionals are suddenly transformed into justice-loving partners in peace. During the first three months of this year, activists, sympathetic to the peace agreement with the FARC, continue to be targeted and killed by supposedly demobilized paramilitary murderers.

Social movement leaders report rising political violence by military forces and their allies. Even peace monitors and the UN Human Rights Office admit that state and paramilitary violence are destroying any structure that President Santos could hope to implement the reforms. As the FARC withdraws from regions under popular control, peasants seeking land reform are targeted by private armies. The Santos regime is more concerned with protecting the massive land grabs by big mining consortiums.

As the killing of FARC supporters and human rights activists multiply, as President Santos and Washington look to take advantage of a disarmed and demobilized guerilla army, the ‘historic peace accord’ becomes a great deceit designed to expand imperial power.

Conclusion: Epitaph for Peace Accords

Time and again throughout the world, imperial-brokered peace negotiations and accords have served only one goal: to disarm, demobilize, defeat and demoralize resistance fighters and their allies.

‘Peace Accords’, as we know them, have served to rearm and regroup US-backed forces following tactical setbacks of the guerrilla struggle. ‘PA’s are encouraged to divide the opposition (’salami tactics’) and facilitate conquest. The rhetoric of ‘peace’ as in ‘peace negotiations’ are terms which actually mean ‘unilateral disarmament’ of the resistance fighters, the surrender of territory and the abandonment of civilian sympathizers. The so-called ‘war zones’, which contain fertile lands and valuable mineral reserves are ‘pacified’ by being absorbed by the ‘peace loving’ regime. This serves their privatization programs and promote the pillage of the ‘developmental state’. Negotiated peace settlements are overseen by US officials, who praise and laud the rebel leaders while they sign agreements to be implemented by US vassal regimes . . . The latter will ensure the rejection of any realignment of foreign policy and any structural socio-economic changes.

Some peace accords may allow former guerilla leaders to compete and in some cases win elections as marginal representatives, while their mass base is decimated.

In most cases, during the peace process, and especially after signing ‘peace accords’, social organizations and movements and their supporters among the peasantry and working class, as well as human rights activists, end up being targeted by the military and para-military death-squads operating around government military bases.

Often, the international allies of resistance movements have encouraged them to negotiate PAs, in order to demonstrate to the US that ‘they are responsible’— hoping to secure improved diplomatic and trade relations. Needless to say, ‘responsible negotiations’ will merely strengthen imperial resolve to press for further concessions, and encourage military aggression and new conquests.

Just ‘peace accords’ are based on mutual disarmament, recognition of territorial autonomy and the authority of local insurgent administration over agreed upon land reforms, retaining mineral rights and military-public security.

PA’s should be the first step in the political agendas, implemented under the control of independent rebel military and civil monitors.

The disastrous outcome of unilateral disarmament is due to the non-implementation of progressive, independent foreign policy and structural changes.

Past and present peace negotiations, based on the recognition of the sovereignty of an independent state linked to mass movements, have always ended in the US breaking the agreements. True ‘peace accords’ contradict the imperial goal of conquering via the negotiating table what could not be won through war.

March 19, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Indigenous Human Rights Activist Killed in Colombia

Colombian Indigenous activist Alicia Lopez Guisao

Colombian Indigenous activist Alicia Lopez Guisao | Photo: Congreso de los Pueblos
teleSUR | March 3, 2017

Colombian Indigenous and campesino leader Alicia Lopez Guisao was killed in Medellin on Thursday, adding to the growing list of recently murdered human rights activists in the South American country.

The number of social and human rights defenders killed in the last 14 months now stands at at least 120, according to a Friday press release from the Defense of the People.

“The retreat of the FARC from the zones where they previously exercised control has allowed for the entrance of new armed actors who fight for territorial and economic dominance,” states the report. This marks a concerning trend requiring immediate action since the attacks are “pertaining to groups with similar characteristics, and which occurred in the same period and geographic area,” it adds.

Guisao, who was shopping at a grocery store at 8:45 am local time, was shot repeatedly by two unknown gunmen who entered the store, El Tiempo reports.

The People’s Congress, the left-wing organization that Guisao worked for organizing Indigenous peasants, believes the gunmen may have been connected to right-wing paramilitary groups.

“With great sadness and indignation we received and transmitted the news of the murder of comrade Alicia Lopez Guisao,” The People’s Congress said in a statement.

“Her murder is an example of the fact that the right-wing organizations that operate today in the city of Medellin are the same paramilitaries who have murdered others in recent years.”

Guisao, a leader of Colombia’s Indigenous Asokinchas community, organized the Agrarian Summit Project, which distributed land and food for 12 Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities in the department of Choco.

Originally from the rural Uraba Antioquia, Guisao and her family were displaced from the region by U.S.-backed paramilitaries in the late 1990s, forcing them to move to Medellin.

In 2002, after opening a family-led community health and education center, she and her relatives were once again forced out by police and right-wing paramilitaries in a “counter-terrorism operation.”

Operation Orion, the campaign which displaced Guisao and her family, was a joint paramilitary and police offensive that targeted left-wing rebels accused of supporting Colombia’s guerilla movement. Prior to her death, Guisao lived in Choco where she performed community service work.

Her death in the same area from where she was displaced “shows that it’s (paramilitary activity) a structure that persists in the city and that it’s not only general delinquency or criminal gangs like state institutions say,” wrote an open letter signed by dozens of Colombian social justice organizations denouncing her murder.

The letter says that Guisao’s sisters were warned that they and their parents would be next if they show up to her burial. The groups call on the government to ensure the protection of her family and the prosecution of those responsible.

Marcha Patriotica, the leftist political party that worked closely with Guisao and The People’s Congress, says that during the first two months of 2017, more than 20 Colombian social leaders, including six women, were killed. Most of those killed, they say, were Indigenous campesino activists fighting for human rights.

Last January, Indigenous human rights activist Yoryanis Isabel Bernal Varela was murdered in Valledupar by suspected paramilitaries. Eyewitnesses said that she was threatened with a gun by several people on a motorcycle, who then shot her in the head. Varela, a member of Colombia’s Wiwa tribe, fought to protect Indigenous and women’s rights in her community.

“Indigenous people are being threatened and intimidated,” said secretary of the Wiwa Golkuche organization Jose Gregorio Rodríguez shortly after her murder on January 26. “Today they murdered our comrade and violated our rights. Our other leaders must be protected.”

The retreat of the FARC and other left-wing guerrilla groups that have historically defended Indigenous campesino groups has created a power vacuum in areas across the country that right-wing paramilitaries are exploiting.

March 4, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

Colombian Human Rights Leader Assassinated


Colombian human rights defender Emilsen Manyoma | Photo: Conpaz
teleSUR – January 18, 2017

On Tuesday police in the Pacific coast city of Buenaventura announced they had discovered the body of Afro-Colombian human rights activist Emilsen Manyoma, 32, and her partner Joe Javier Rodallega, who had been missing since Saturday.

A prominent leader in the Bajo Calima region since 2005, Manyoma was an active member of the community network CONPAZ where she was an outspoken critic of right-wing paramilitary groups and the displacement of local by international mining and agribusiness interests.

For the past year Manyoma played a key role in documenting attacks on human rights leaders in the region as part of the recently created Truth Commission.

The police said they had found the bodies in an advanced state of decomposition in a jungle area beside the highway. The Justice and Peace Commission, an ecumenical human rights group, reported that both bodies were severely wounded, with Rodallega’s hands reported tied. Radio Contagio reported that both bodies were beheaded.

While police did not release the names of any suspects, just days before their disappearance on Saturday, Rodallega reported being threatened and said a truck had been circling Manyoma’s house.

According to the human rights organization Front Line Defenders, at least 85 human rights defenders were murdered in Colombia in 2016 alone.

January 18, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , | 1 Comment