Colombian human rights defender Emilsen Manyoma | Photo: Conpaz
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.
La Ceiba – The Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Relations released an official statement Monday expressing its concern over Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ announcement that Colombia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are set to further military cooperation. Venezuela’s Bolivarian government recognizes the agreement as a threat against regional peace emphasizing Latin American institutions such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States’ (CELAC) commitment to peace of which Colombia is a member.
Santos celebrated the recently approved agreement and publicly reminisced how the process began nine years ago when he served as Defense Minister under former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s administration.
TELESUR reports that the agreement between the South American nation and Northern hemispheric military organization is based upon pre-existing cooperation tackling organized crime. In 2013, Colombia signed a cooperation memorandum with NATO in Brussels, Belgium the first of its kind for the military organization with a Latin American nation.
The 2013 memorandum was signed by former Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón and NATO Vice-Secretary General Alexander Vershbow. Pinzón expressed then that the agreement sought to “access knowledge, experience, good practices in peace missions, humanitarian missions, human rights, military justice, transformation processes and improvement of the defense and security sector, in addition to help in the fight against drug trafficking.”
Venezuelan Foreign Relations Minister Delcy Rodríguez expressed her nation’s concern Monday via social media platform Twitter where she published the Bolivarian government’s official statement.
“The Venezuelan Government is strongly opposed to the attempt to introduce external factors with nuclear capability in our region, whose past and recent actions claim a policy of war, violate bilateral and regional agreements of which Colombia is a member (UNASUR, CELAC) and through which Latin America and the Caribbean have been declared a Peace Zone,” read the statement.
For the Bolivarian government, Santos’ announcement also “distorts the principles of Bandung that gave rise to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which expressly prohibits member states from forming military alliances.”
Additionally, “the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela, for the sake of union and integration of the Patria Grande, urges the Colombian government to not generate elements of destabilization and war in South America and vows to attend to our Liberators’ historic call for peace and unity.”
NATO was founded in 1949 and has been most recently criticized for waging wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Twenty-eight member states constitute the multi-governmental military organization.
News of Santos’ decision to build a stronger alliance with NATO comes after several tumultuous months for the Colombian people following the devastating results of the Peace Accords plebiscite.
In recent weeks, the Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) reached consensus on revised peace accords which suggest potential opportunities for peace in the South American nation.
Two FARC rebels, identified as Joaco (L) and Monica, were allegedly killed Wednesday by a government sniper. | Photo: Prensa Rural
Eyewitnesses told a verification team that the two rebel fighters with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia killed earlier this week in the northern department of Bolivar died as a result of an ambush by government forces, Prensa Rural reported Friday.
The Ministry of Defense claimed that the armed guerrilla rebels were killed in combat after carrying out criminal activities.
Meanwhile the leaders from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, said they were merely making their way to “pre-concentration” areas where members of the rebel army are gathering ahead of the final process of demobilization as part of the ongoing peace process.
Members of the Association of Agroecological and Mining Brotherhoods of Guamoco, a local organization, spoke to witnesses in the municipality of Santa Rosa del Sur, where the incident took place to collect testimonies.
According to these witnesses, the two victims, FARC rebels who went by the names Joaco and Monica, were standing near two houses near a section of town known as the “Y” when suddenly Joaca, who was on the phone, was struck by a bullet and fell to the ground. Monica then bent down to check on him when she too was struck by a bullet.
The testimonies were collected from people who were inside one of the houses and witnessed the entire series of events. Prensa Rural reported that the house contained four men, two women, a child, and an infant.
Government troops, who were positioned approximately 40 meters away, then fired two bursts of rounds into the air. Troops then ordered a third rebel fighter to the ground and subsequently detained him.
The government troops then harassed the locals, storming into their homes, reportedly insulting those present and demanding they produce identification. They further accused the civilians of being FARC collaborators. Locals reported that they fear reprisals from state security forces after being labeled collaborators.
Witnesses reported that two of the government soldiers wore masks to hide their identities. Others said they recalled seeing some of the government troops, in civilian clothing, visiting the house near where the killings took place.
The testimony from witnesses matched early statements from the FARC. Spanish lawyer Enrique Santiago, who has served as a legal advisor to the FARC during the peace negotiations in Havana, wrote Wednesday on his Twitter account that the two rebels were killed “by a sniper.”
The Tripartite Monitoring and Verification Mechanism, which forms part of the bilateral cease-fire agreement, was activated in order to conduct formal investigation of the events.
However, this early report raises serious questions about the conduct of the government soldiers. It is widely known within Colombia that there are high-ranking officials in the armed forces who oppose the peace process and may try to sabotage efforts to end the five-decade-long conflict.
Witness testimony belied the government’s version of events in an incident in April 2015 that left 13 dead. There the government claimed troops were ambushed but witnesses said the deaths were the product of a lengthy gun battle and that locals had warned the government soldiers not to make camp in the area. That incident took place before a bilateral cease-fire had been established and threatened to derail peace talks.
The details surrounding this latest incident, such as the presence of government troops in civilian clothing days earlier, suggests the killings were not the product of a chance encounter but rather a pre-planned operation.
The killing of the two FARC rebels marked the first documented break in some 80 days of the official bilateral cease-fire and, according to the Center for Resources for Analysis of the Conflict.
The Tripartite Mechanism is expected to issue a series of recommendations to avoid any future incidents.
FARC and government negotiators signed a new peace deal in Havana Saturday, just six weeks after a previous peace plan was narrowly rejected in a nationwide plebiscite. The new agreement includes modifications made after consultations with the “No” side as well as other sectors of Colombian civil society.
Seven is a winning throw of the dice. But in our civil society, seven now signifies the multi-thong scourge, the whip used by the Western world as its instrument of punishment and, in response; seven signifies Nemesis and her sisters, the inescapable agents of the West’s downfall.
The seven scourges of the Western world are used against the people of Asia, Africa, Latin and North America. These whips are constructed, wielded and unleashed especially by the US and the UK.
The seven sisters of Nemesis, the Erinyes, are the Furies who pursue the injustices committed by the Western world against Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe. Those holding the scourge detest and fear Nemesis and the Furies, but are incapable of destroying them. Try as they might, their whip is in corrupt and feeble hands and, of course, it can only follow their orders: Otherwise, it just twitches and remains immobile, while Nemesis pursues the scourgers of humanity.
The Seven-Tailed Scourge of the Western World
The ‘whip’ wielded by the Western world, is used to punish disobedient, ‘rebellious’ people, movements and states. Their multiple lashes have bloodied countless generations and buried millions.
The seven scourges against humanity are unrepentant in their promotion of ‘Western values’ – visible to the terrified world on the red raw backs of oppressed people, their wounds flayed open by the faceless drones proclaiming their gifts of freedom and democracy.
Let us go forward now and describe the pillars holding up the Western empire, the seven-tailed scourge of humanity.
1. Mexico: The Cartel, the Narco-State, US Bankers and Death Squads
Over the last two decades, over a quarter million Mexicans have been murdered by the joint forces of the drug cartels, the Mexican State and its death squads, presided over by the US state and backed by its rapacious financial sector. Cartels and complicit Mexican officials prosper because US banks launder their narco-dollars by the billions. On their part, US corporations grow even richer by relocating their plants to Mexico where terrorized workers can be exploited for 1/5 the cost. Amidst the terror and exploitation, over 11 million Mexican workers and family members have fled to the US running from their local scourges, only to confront the US scourge of deportation. Over 2 million have been imprisoned and expelled under Obama.
2. Honduras and Guatemala: Imperial Wars, Drug Gangs and Narco-Oligarchs
Destitution and state terror are direct products of US–installed regimes in Honduras and Guatemala. Guatemala’s indigenous majority was ravaged by US and Israeli-trained military battalions and death squads. In their wake, scores of narco-gangs, sponsored by local oligarchs and their own private death squads, have emerged. The Honduran people attempted to elect an enlightened liberal President, and were ‘rewarded’ for their peaceful democratic election with a military coup orchestrated by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. They further underscore the lesson of ‘Western values’: Scores of human rights activists and peasant leaders have been murdered and the scourges continue unabated.
3. Colombia: Nobel Prize for Death Squad President
For the past fifteen years, (2001-2016), the Clinton-Bush-Obama regimes launched the seven-billion-dollar ‘Plan Colombia’ terror campaign against the Colombian people. This scourge was so powerful that over two and a half million peasants, Indigenous peoples, and Afro-Colombians have been driven from their homes and villages while, tens of thousands of peasants, trade unionists, human rights activists and civic leaders have been killed. The notorious narco-President Alvaro Uribe and his Vice President Santos worked with the death squads and the Colombian military under the instruction of over one thousand US military advisers and contract mercenaries as they imposed a scorched earth policy – to consolidate a ‘reign of Western values’.
In Colombia, the three-tailed scourge of narco-presidents, death squads and the military decimated rural communities throughout that large and populous nation. They finally induced the FARC guerrillas to submit to a ‘peace’ agreement, which perpetuated the oligarchy. The US remains free to exploit Colombia for its military bases against the rest of Latin America, while foreign corporations exploit its mineral riches. For his part in promoting the ‘peace of the dead’, Colombian President Santos received the Nobel ‘Peace’ Prize.
4. Saudi Arabia: A Household Name Among the Middle East Scourges
No country in the Middle East has financed, organized and directed terrorism in the Middle East, South Asia, North and East Africa, the former Soviet Union and even North America, more than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It currently scourges the tiny nation of Yemen. Using its ISIS mercenaries, backed by jets, missiles, and logistical support from the UK and the USA, the Saudi despots have invaded maimed and murdered tens of thousands of Yemenis, while hundreds of thousands face starvation in a Saudi-imposed blockade.
The Saudi billionaire regime bankrolled thousands of terrorists in Syria and Iraq, giving billions of dollars of business to US and UK arms manufacturers. Saudi monarchs and their extended clans form a parasitic rentier regime unique in the world. They rely on the skills and labor of imported professionals, workers, household servants, mercenary solders, financial managers and even their praetorian guards. They confine their women behind the veil and closed doors, under the absolute rule of male relatives. They chop off the hands, feet and heads of foreign workers and their own citizens for minor offenses, including ‘blasphemy’, criticism of the king or resisting an employer’s abuse. Saudi Arabia, which is totally dependent on Washington’s protection, has become a scourge especially against Muslim people throughout the Middle East and beyond.
5. Israel: The Scourge of Palestine and Free People Near and Far
The Israeli State is the head commanding the tentacles of a far-reaching Zionist Power Configuration operating in the US, Canada, England, France and, to a less degree, in satellite states and institutions. Israel was established on the dispossession and ethnic cleansing of millions of Palestinians from their homes and villages since 1948. For almost 50 years, 600,000 ‘Israeli’ Jews (immigrants given automatic ‘citizenship’ and stolen property based solely on their ‘ethno-religious’ identity) have illegally moved into what remained of historical Palestine, building exclusive ‘Jews-only’ colonial towns on land ripped from its original inhabitants. The Palestinians are herded into apartheid militarized enclaves and squalid camps. Israel invaded and devastated large parts of Lebanon, Egypt and Syria. They have bombed other nations, like Jordan and Iraq, with impunity. The Israeli state uses a virtual fifth column of loyalist organizations and billionaire financiers in the US and EU who ultimately dictate Middle East policy to the ‘elected’ Western politicians. Presidents and Prime Ministers, Cabinet members and legislators must publicly bow to the increasing demands of the overseas Zionist power structure. This has undermined the will and interests of national electorates and democratic procedures. All public discourse on this vital issue has been censored because critics of Israel’s influence are subjected to unremitting campaigns of overt coercion, threats, jailing on trumped up charges, vilification and job loss – within their own countries in the ‘democratic’ West. Meanwhile, Israel has sold its much-vaunted expertise in surveillance, torture and counter-insurgency to its fellow scourgers in Guatemala, Colombia, Mexico and even Afghanistan.
6. Egypt: Modern Scourges of an Ancient People
For decades, Egyptian military dictators have served the Anglo-American Empire and Israel’s ruling colonists in the Middle East, North and East Africa. Generals-turned-‘Presidents’ Hosni Mubarak and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi specialized in murdering, torturing and jailing thousands of Egyptian trade unionists, dissident activists, peasant leaders and the restless urban poor. These violently installed Egyptian rulers are expected to collaborate with Israel and trap millions of desperate Palestinians in the world’s largest open air prison: Gaza. Cairo actively collaborates with the US and Israel in subverting the people and institutions of Gaza, Libya, Somalia and Sudan – guaranteeing that none will be functioning, independent modern states. Egypt’s first and only elected president Mohamed Morsi was overthrown by General Sisi and sentenced to twenty years in a military torture dungeon (a virtual death sentence for a 65 year old) by a kangaroo court under the direction of Washington and Tel Aviv. Egypt, once the epicenter for civil democratic expression — ‘the Arab Spring’ — has become the a major staging area for US-backed jihadi terrorists entering Syria.
7. ISIS, NUSRA Front, Ukraine and Syria: Puppets, Kleptocrats, Fascists and Terrorists
In this very modern Western world, where democratic values are sold to the cheapest buyer, the US, the UK and the EU shop for mercenaries and puppet regimes in order to scourge their critics and adversaries.
The West, led by the Grand Scourger Hillary Clinton, bombed Libya and destroyed its entire modern state apparatus. They opened the floodgates to thousands of mercenaries and terrorist-thugs of all colors and stripes to feed off the carcass of what Mouammar Gaddafi and the modern Libyan state had built over the past 40 years. These criminals, draped in the banners of ‘humanitarian intervention’ or ‘mission civilisatice’, ran amok, killing and ravaging tens of thousands of Libyan citizens and contract workers of sub-Saharan African origin. The tens of thousands of Africans desperately fleeing each year into the Mediterranean are the result of this Western rampage against the Libyan state. The jihadis have moved on… by those who forgot to distinguish between terrorists who support our ‘democratic values’ and those who would attack the West. The West can’t be blamed: Mercenaries change sides so often.
The ethnic cleansing scourges of the past returned to the Ukraine: as (neo) fascists took power in Kiev, storming the Parliament and forcing the President to flee. Nazi-era banners decorated the streets of Kiev under the approving gaze of the US State Department. Neo-Nazi thugs massacred scores of unarmed ethnic Russian citizens in the port city of Odessa when they set fire to the main trade union hall where the trapped men, women and youths were burned alive or bludgeoned while fleeing the flames. The US State Department had spent $5 billion dollars to replace an elected government with a pliant regime in Kiev while large parts of the country fell into civil war. The ethnic Russian populations of the industrialized Donbas region resisted and were invaded by an ethnically cleansed and neo-fascist putschist Ukrainian army – under US-EU supervision. The war has cost tens of thousands of lives, a million refugees fled to Russia and a divided failing state now festers in the heart of Europe. Kleptocrats and Fascists in Kiev oversee an utterly bankrupt economy. The destitute citizens abandon the towns and cities; some fleeing to Poland to pick potatoes as their serf ancestors did a century ago.
Syria has been ravaged by an immense army of mercenary scourges, financed and supplied by the US, EU, Turkey and, of course, Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda had merely to change its battle flags to NUSRA and receive the US benediction as ‘moderate pro-Western democrats’ resisting a Baathist dictatorship in Damascus. In the course of their ‘democratic’ mission they destroyed the ancient, critical cultural and economic center of Aleppo – scourging the Christians and non-jihadi Muslims and other ancient minorities. Over two million Syrians have died or fled the fiery scourge of Anglo-American and Saudi-Turkish terror.
The Seven Sisters: Nemesis and the Furies Confront the Western World
The scourges are falling on hard times: East and West, North and South they face their inescapable Nemesis. Their exposed injustices, crimes and grotesque failures herald their inevitable downfall. The seven furies are even emerging in unusual places:
1. The economic and trade power of China challenges the West throughout world, expanding even into the heartland of the empire. The West’s fear over China’s peaceful economic expansion has led Western political leaders to revive protectionist policies, claiming that barriers against Chinese investors must be raised to prevent takeovers by Beijing. From July 2015 to September 2016, the West blocked nearly $40 billion in productive Chinese investment. This comes after decades of preaching the virtues of foreign investment and the universal benefits of ‘globalization’. Suddenly Western leaders claim that Chinese investment is a ‘threat to national security’ and ‘profits Chinese businesses over Western-owned enterprises.’
Meanwhile, far from this Sino-phobic hysteria, the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America actively seek greater economic ties with China to the detriment of US-EU multinationals. Once servile Asian countries, like the Philippines, have declared unfettered US access to frontline imperial military bases in doubt, as they sign favorable multi-billion trade and investment agreements with China. Western imperial ideology about investment and globalization has boomeranged and met its Nemesis.
2. The Russian Furies: Vladimir Putin
During the 1990s, the US plundered Russia at will. Washington imposed a uni-polar world, celebrated as the New World Order. They bombed and devastated former Russian allies like Yugoslavia and Iraq, setting up ethnically cleansed rump states like Kosovo for their huge military bases. Meanwhile, Washington reduced Russia, under the inebriate Yeltsin regime, to a backwater vassal stripped of its resources, its institutions, scientists, and research centers. In the absence of war, the Russian economy declined by 50% and life expectancy fell below that of Bangladesh. The US celebrated this ‘victory of democracy’ over a helpless, deteriorating state by welcoming the most obscene new gangster oligarchs and pillagers and laundering their bloodstained loot.
The door slammed shut on the pillage with the election of Vladimir Putin and the demise of the Yeltsin gangster-government. Russia was transformed. Putin reversed Russia’s demise: the economy recovered, living standards rose abruptly, employment in all sectors increased, and cultural, educational and scientific centers were restored. Vladimir Putin was elected and re-elected by overwhelming majorities of the Russian electorate despite huge sums of Western money going to his opponents. Russia systematically recovered many strategic sectors of the economy illegally seized by Western-backed Israeli-Russian oligarchs Even more important, Putin restored Russian statecraft and diplomacy – formulating a strategy for an independent, democratic foreign policy and restoring Russia’s defense capability. The loss of this critical vassal state under its dipsomaniacal Boris Yeltsin shook the US EU-NATO alliance to its very core.
In the beginning President Putin did not oppose the US-NATO military invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. It went along with the economic sanctions imposed on Iran. It even maintained its cooperation despite a US-sponsored attack by the government of Georgia against South Ossetia killing scores of Russian peacekeepers. In the wake of those destabilizing disasters, what finally led the Russian government to reverse its complicity with the West was the horrific US-financed invasion of Syria where Russian jihadis from the Caucasus were playing an important role as mercenaries, threatening to return and undermine the stability of Russia. This was quickly followed by the US-sponsored putsch in Ukraine, fomenting a civil war on Russia’s frontiers, threatening is vital naval base in Crimea and repressing millions of ethnic Russian-Ukrainian citizens in the industrialized Donbas region. This blatant aggression finally pushed Putin to challenge the expansionist policies of Washington and the EU.
Putin backed a plebiscite in Crimea and won when its citizens voted overwhelmingly to re-join and preserve the Russian bases. Putin has backed the rebel defense of the Donbas against a NATO-neo-fascist Kiev invasion.
Putin accepted a request for aid from the Syrian government as it battled mercenaries and jihadis to preserve its national integrity. The Russians sent arms, troops and air support for the Syrian Arab Army, rolling back the Western and Saudi armed terrorists.
In response to the Washington-EU economic sanctions against Russia over the Crimean plebiscite, Putin signed multi-billion-dollar trade and investment agreements and joint defense pacts with China – mitigating the impact of the sanctions.
Wherever Washington seeks to seize and control territory and regimes in Eurasia, it now faces the Putin nemesis. In Russia and overseas, in the Middle East and the Caucuses, in the Persian Gulf and Asia, the US meets stalemates at best, and roll-back at worst.
The CIA-stooge Yeltsin and his cronies were evicted from the Kremlin to the indignation of Washington and the EU. Many of the kleptocrats, politicos, thugs and swindlers fled to their new homes in Langley, on Wall Street, in Washington or set up talk-shops at Harvard. Even the gruesome Chechens had their ‘color-coded’ support center (the CIA-American Committee for Peace in Chechnya) based in Boston. Never in modern history has a country so rapidly transformed from degraded vassalage to a dynamic global power as Russia. Never has the US seen its grand imperial design so successfully challenged in so many places at the same time.
The Putin Nemesis has become the inescapable agent of the downfall of the US Empire.
3. The Islamic Republic of Iran became a Muslim-nationalist alternative to the US-Israeli dominated Muslim dictatorships and monarchies in the Middle East. The Iranian Revolutions inspired citizens throughout Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Iraq and Yemen. As a result of its growing influence, Iran was punished by the US and EU with crippling economic sanctions pushed especially by Tel Aviv and its Western agents. Fearful that Iran’s example would destabilize its control, the US invaded Lebanon, promoted the Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon and has backed the terrorist campaign to dismember Syria. The results have been dismal for Washington: Iran continues to support the powerful Hezbollah, a major political and military power in Lebanon. The Saudi’s war against Yemen is largely an ethno-religious campaign to destroy Yeminis who favor independence over Saudi-US control and have Iran’s support. Iraq’s Shia resistance forces are leading the attack against the Saudi-funded ISIS terrorists, with Iranian commanders playing a significant role.
Hezbollah, Iran’s ally in Lebanon, drove out the Israeli occupation forces and raised the cost of another invasion by Tel Aviv.
Against all the impotent, corrupt Arab puppets in the Middle East, only Iran has supported the Palestinians. It is the only force capable of retaliating against an Israeli sneak attack – which is why it is demonized.
Iran is the Nemesis against US plans to conquer and dismember Syria. It has provided arms and volunteers on the battlefield against terrorist mercenaries.
Iran effectively negotiated a partial lifting of Western sanctions, overcoming Israeli intransigence and securing billion-dollar trade agreements with Germany, Russia and China. It holds the prospects for productive trade and diplomatic deals in the near future – to the howling consternation of its enemies in Washington, Riyadh, London and Tel Aviv.
For all the efforts by the tentacles of Israel’s fifth column, Iran has survived and emerged as the Nemesis of Anglo-American and Israeli ambitions in the Middle East.
4. Venezuela became the leading proponent for an independent foreign policy in Latin America. For almost twenty years, the US tried repeatedly to overthrow the government in Caracas. They failed. By ballot or by bullet, despite slapping economic sanctions on Venezuela, the US suffered humiliating defeats and failed coups and aborted uprisings. Venezuela remains Washington’s principal Nemesis, thwarting its efforts to make ‘free trade’ pacts and deepen military alliances in Latin America.
5. Upon taking office in June 2016, the Philippines new president Rodrigo Duterte assumed the lead role of Washington’s most colorful ‘Nemesis’ in Southeast Asia. Under his widely popular presidency, he pivoted to China, promising to sharply reduce joint Philippine-US military exercises in the South China Sea directed against Beijing and, in return, he secured the co-operation of several hundred leading Philippine entrepreneurs in winning an initial $13 billion dollar public-private Chinese investment package for critical infrastructure and trade development..
President Duterte has frequently denounced Washington’s interference in his domestic war on drug traffickers – citing the US hypocrisy in its criticism of his human rights record. He has personally held President Obama responsible for meddling in Philippine affairs. Drawing on the history of the bloody US colonial war against the Philippine people in 1898, he holds the US responsible for inciting ethno-religious conflicts in the southern island of Mindanao – Duterte’s home region.
President Duterte’s declaration of independence from Washington (“I am no one’s ‘tuta’ [puppy dog]”)and his foreign policy priority of ‘pivoting’ from US military domination to regional economic co-operation with Beijing has turned the Philippines into Washington’s prime Nemesis in Southeast Asia.
6. The resistance of the Yemeni people, mainly ethnic Houthi freedom fighters, against the onslaught of bombing and missile strikes by the Saudi-US-UK air force, has aroused widespread solidarity throughout the Middle East.
Despite the ongoing massacre of over 10,000 Yeminis, mostly civilians, the Saudi ‘alliance’ has failed to impose a puppet regime. US links with the Saudi dictatorship have undermined its claims of humanitarian concerns for the people of Yemen. The embattled Houthi rebels have secured the support of Iran, Iraq and the majority of people in the Persian Gulf countries. As the war continues, the Saudi’s increasingly rely on military trainers, fighter bombers and logistical experts from the US, UK and NATO to pick the targets and maintain the starvation blockade. Sooner or later the courageous and tenacious resistance of the free people of Yemen against the Saudi overlords will inspire a domestic Saudi uprising against its grotesque and decrepit theocratic-monarchist state. The fall of the Royal House of Saud will bury a major scourge in the Middle East. In a word, the battle for Yemen has become the Nemesis of US-Saudi domination.
7. Everywhere in the Western world the ruling classes and their media outlets fear and loath ‘populists’ – leaders, movements, electorates – who reject their austerity programs designed to deepen inequalities and further enrich the elite. Throughout the European Union and in North and South America, workers and middle class majorities are on the march to oust the ‘free market’ regimes and restore the ‘populist’ welfare state, with its emphasis on social services, living wages and humane working conditions.
From the UK to France, Poland to Portugal, China to North America, Mexico to Argentina, the Nemesis and Furies of populist rollbacks threaten to dislodge the scourge held by the bankers, conglomerates and billionaires. Scattered populists may hold diverse ideologies; some may be nationalists, leftists, workers, farmers, petit bourgeois and public employees, indebted students, ecologists or protectionists. All are both united and divided by disparate interests and beliefs. And all are preparing for the inevitable downfall of the empire of the free market and wars.
Today the world’s greatest global conflicts have lined up the Imperial West and its frontline scourging allies against the Furies and Nemesis emerging on all continents. These are the inescapable agents of the Empire’s downfall.
The scourges of the West have been free to plunder the wealth of subject peoples and launch wars, which ravage both ancient and modern states and cultures while slaughtering and dispossessing scores of millions. The West derives its lifeblood through its seven-tailed scourge. Western elites rule through a chain of scourging puppet states with their bloody accomplices, from narco-murderers, Islamists terrorists, death squads to ordinary ‘piecework’ torturers.
Without resorting too much to the wisdom of the ancient Greek myths, we have come to believe that states, regimes, movements and people finally will emerge to act as the inescapable agents of the justice leading to the downfall of the Western empire. Modern Nemesis and Furies have a dual existence: While bringing down the old order they seek to create alternatives.
The ‘scourgers’ are by their nature specialists in wanton crimes against humanity. Nemesis and her sisters challenge and oust the latter as they construct their own new centers of wealth and power. China, Russia and Iran have gone beyond the role of Nemesis to the West – they are poised to build a new civilization on its ruins.
It remains an open question whether they can avoid becoming the new scourge against the people and nations who have risen in revolt.
The government of Colombia and the FARC insurgents signed peace accords six days ago to much public jubilation. Today the peace accords were put to a public vote. Polls predicted a landslide approval of 60%.
The public airwaves had been saturated with advertisements for “si” to approve the accords. Practically every wall that I passed here on the coast and earlier this week in the capital of Bogota was plastered with “si” posters.
The “no” side appeared absent except for a fringe represented by former president Uribe and his right-wing cohorts. The Catholic Church, the current Santos government, and the entirety of progressive civil society – unions, Indigenous, Afro-descendants, campesinos – were campaigning for “si.” The outcome seemed preordained.
Yet when the polls opened today, the usual long lines were absent. Turnout was low, allowing an upset victory for “no.”
The right-wing had been threatening activists – many had already been assassinated – to disrupt the peace process. Hence our delegation of North Americans to accompany targeted Colombian activists to provide them some protection by raising their international visibility. The Alliance for Global Justice along with the National Lawyers Guild came to Colombia at the invitation of FENSUAGRO, an agrarian workers federation, Marcha Patriotica, a large progressive coalition, and Lazos de Dignidad, a human rights organization.
The accords would have ended the 52-year civil war – the longest in modern history. The FARC’s position during the intense four years of negotiations in Havana with the Colombian government was there could be no peace without justice. That it makes no sense to end the armed conflict if the conditions that generated that conflict were not addressed. The accords accordingly had provisions for agrarian reform, political participation for the insurgents, transitions from an illicit drug economy, and reparations for victims of the conflict.
Campesino leaders in the rough and rundown frontier town of Maicau on the Venezuelan border, where drug running and sales of contraband are mainstays of the local economy, spoke about the agrarian struggle. The “oligarchs,” they explained, want to “clean” the countryside of small farmers to make way for transnational agribusiness. Yesterday they spoke of the great hope they had for a “si” vote to defeat the oligarchy.
Today Colombia voted against peace and against that hope.
The Obama administration, while giving lip service in support of the peace process, has massively increased lethal aid and transfer of the latest military technology to the Colombian government under the rubric of Plan Colombia. Presumptive president-elect Hillary Clinton has been on the campaign trail stomping for Plan Colombia as the world model for the military subjugation of those who oppose the extension of the US neoliberal empire.
The October 2nd “no” vote on peace in Colombia will have repercussions around the world.
Roger D. Harris is on the State Central Committee of the Peace and Freedom Party, the only ballot-qualified socialist party in California.
A commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has officially asked for forgiveness days after signing a peace treaty that has brought a new spirit of reconciliation to the nation.
“We ask for you to forgive us and that you give us the hope of a spiritual path, allowing us to move forward together with you,” FARC commander Ivan Marquez said Thursday in the town of Bojaya, the site of a deadly 2002 attack by the rebels.
FARC had already offered an apology for the Bojaya attack in 2014 in the Cuban capital, Havana, where peace talks had been underway for almost four years, but this time the commanders did so at the site of the attack itself.
“Once again, we offer an infinite apology, Bojaya,” Marquez said on Thursday.
On May 2, 2002, FARC guerrillas seized Bojaya in an attempt to take control of the Atrato River region from the paramilitary forces stationed there. The operation failed, and approximately 119 civilians were killed, 48 of them children, in the apparently indiscriminate firing of improvised mortars by the FARC rebels.
During a visit to a church that was destroyed in the Bojaya attack, Marquez asked the local community for reconciliation.
“Reconciled, we will move toward an era of fairness, for which humble people from every corner of Colombia have yearned for so much,” he said.
FARC’s highest commander Rodrigo Londono Echeverri, aka Timoleon Jimenez or Timochenko, asked the nation for forgiveness at the peace signing ceremony on Monday.
Timochenko and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signed the peace deal in the Caribbean city of Cartagena, formally ending 52 years of a conflict.
However, the deal remains to be implemented until after it is approved in a referendum, which is to be held on Sunday.
Analysts believe that the majority of Colombians will easily vote in favor of the peace deal, which will see the rebel group laying down arms and the government facilitating their incorporation into the political scene.
The Marxist group, which took up weapons in 1964 to fight social inequalities, exerts notable influence across some poverty-stricken areas of the country.
The decades-long conflict with the central government has left as many as 260,000 people dead, more than six million others displaced, and 45,000 other still missing.
The FARC peace deal has prompted Colombia’s second-largest rebel group, the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN), to also express readiness to engage in their own peace talks with the central government, but Bogota has yet to begin formal peace talks with the group.
A recent article in The New York Times entitled, “The Secret History of Colombia’s Paramilitaries & The U.S. War on Drugs,” contains useful clues as to the U.S.’s true views towards the Colombian death squads and their massive war crimes and human rights abuses.  In short, it reveals a high-level of tolerance of, and condonation by, U.S. policy-makers for the suffering of the Colombian people at the hands of our long-time friends and allies, the right-wing paramilitaries.
The gist of the NYT story is that, beginning in 2008, the U.S. has extradited “several dozen” top paramilitary leaders, thereby helping them to evade a transitional justice process which would have held them accountable for their war crimes and crimes against humanity. They have been brought to the U.S. where they have been tried for drug-related offenses only and given cushy sentences of 10 years in prison on average. And, even more incredibly, “for some, there is a special dividend at the end of their incarceration. Though wanted by Colombian authorities, two have won permission to stay in the United States, and their families have joined them. There are more seeking the same haven, and still others are expected to follow suit.”
That these paramilitaries – 40 in all that the NYT investigated — are being given such preferential treatment is shocking given the magnitude of their crimes. For example, paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso, “who the government said ‘may well be one of the most prolific cocaine traffickers ever prosecuted in a United States District Court,’” has been found by Colombian courts to be “responsible for the death or disappearance of more than 1,000 people.” Yet, as a result of his cooperation with U.S. authorities Mr. Mancuso “will spend little more than 12 years behind bars in the U.S.”
Another paramilitary, the one the article focuses on most, is Hernan Giraldo Serna, and he committed “1800 serious human rights violations with over 4,000 victims . . . .” Mr. Giraldo was known as “The Drill” because of his penchant for raping young girls, some as young as 9 years old. Indeed, he has been “labeled . . . ‘the biggest sexual predator of paramilitarism.” While being prosecuted in the U.S. for drug-related crimes only, Mr. Giraldo too is being shielded by the U.S. from prosecution back in Colombia for his most atrocious crimes.
And so, what is going on here? The NYT gives a couple reasons for why the U.S. would protect such “designated terrorists responsible for massacres, forced disappearances and the displacement of entire villages,” and give them “relatively lenient treatment.”
First, it correctly explains that former President Alvaro Uribe, the most prominent and outspoken opponent of the peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC guerillas, asked the U.S. to extradite these paramilitary leaders because, back home in Colombia, they had begun “confessing not only their war crimes but also their ties to his allies and relatives.” The NYT also writes off the U.S. treatment of these paramilitaries as the U.S. giving priority to its war on drugs “over Colombia’s efforts to confront crimes against humanity that had scarred a generation.”
Unfortunately, these explanations let the U.S. off the hook too easily, for they do not tell the whole story behind the U.S.’s relationship with Colombia and its death squads.
First of all, let’s start with former President Alvaro Uribe who the NYT states has a “’shared ideology’” with these paramilitaries and their leaders. This is of course true. But what does this say about the United States which gave billions of dollars of military assistance to Colombia when Uribe was President, all the while knowing that he had a long history of paramilitary ties and drug trafficking and that his military was working alongside the paramilitaries in carrying out abuses on a massive scale? And, how about the fact that Uribe was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush who considered Uribe his best friend in the region?
The answer is that the U.S. also shares an ideology with both Uribe and his paramilitary friends, and that it has wanted to prevent the paramilitaries from not only confessing to their links with Uribe, but also from confessing their links to the U.S. military, intelligence and corporations.
The NYT, while ultimately pulling its punches here, at least touches upon this issue when it states that “the paramilitaries, while opponents in the war on drugs, were technically on the same side as the Colombian and American governments in the civil war.” But “technically” is not le mot juste; rather, it is an imprecise and mushy term used to understate the true relationship of the paramilitaries with the U.S. The paramilitaries have not just been “technically” on the side of the U.S. and Colombian governments; rather, they have been objectively and subjectively on their side, and indeed an integral part of the U.S./Colombia counter-insurgency program in Colombia for decades.
Indeed, the paramilitaries were the invention of the United States back in 1962, even before the FARC itself was formed (in 1964) and before the civil war there began in earnest. Thus, as Noam Chomsky explains:
The president of the Colombian Permanent Committee for Human Rights, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Alfredo Vasquez Carrizosa, writes that it is “poverty and insufficient land reform” that “have made Colombia one of the most tragic countries of Latin America,” though as elsewhere, “violence has been exacerbated by external factors,” primarily the initiatives of the Kennedy Administration, which “took great pains to transform our regular armies into counterinsurgency brigades,” ushering in “what is known in Latin America as the National Security Doctrine,” which is not concerned with “defense against an external enemy” but rather “the internal enemy.” The new “strategy of the death squads” accords the military “the right to fight and to exterminate social workers, trade unionists, men and women who are not supportive of the establishment, and who are assumed to be communist extremists.”
As part of its strategy of converting the Latin American military from “hemispheric defense” to “internal security” — meaning war against the domestic population — Kennedy dispatched a military mission to Colombia in 1962 headed by Special Forces General William Yarborough. He proposed “reforms” to enable the security forces to “as necessary execute paramilitary, sabotage and/or terrorist activities against known communist proponents” — the “communist extremists” to whom Vasquez Carrizosa alludes. 
While the paramilitaries have been ever-evolving, taking different forms over the years and receiving legal imprimatur at some times and not at others, they have remained until this day, carrying out the same essential functions enumerated by Chomsky above while giving plausible deniability to both the U.S. and Colombian governments.
The potential confession of paramilitary leaders to their links with the U.S. and Colombia, as well as to U.S. multinationals, was as much of a threat to the U.S. as their confessions were to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. And that is why the U.S. extradited the top paramilitary leaders and treated them with kid gloves.
As just one example, paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso told investigators nearly 10 years ago that it was not only Chiquita that provided financial support to the paramilitaries (this is already known because Chiquita pled guilty to such conduct and received a small, $25 million fine for doing so), but also companies like Del Monte and Dole.  However, given that Mancuso was never put on trial (the NYT notes that none of the paramilitary leaders have) but instead was given a light sentence based upon a plea deal, such statements have never gone on the court record, were never pursued by authorities and have largely been forgotten.
That there is more to the story than the NYT is telling us is revealed by the inherent contradictions of its story. Thus, the NYT at one point states that “[t]his is a crime story tangled up in geopolitics. Colombia is the United States’ closest ally and largest aid recipient in the region, and the partnership has focused on combating narcotics, guerillas and terrorism.”
Of course, it is quite true that the U.S. and Colombia have partnered together to fight both the guerillas as well as peaceful activists for social change. As just one example, Colombian President Santos just admitted and apologized for the Colombian government’s role in aiding and abetting the paramilitaries in murdering thousands of candidates and activists of the left-wing Patriotic Union party (UP) back in the 1980’s  – repression which scuttled the peace agreement with the FARC reached back then.
However, the other two listed goals of the partnership appear to be mere pretexts.
Let’s start with the claim, unchallenged in this story, that the U.S./Colombia partnership has been focused on combating terrorism. How could this possibly be given that the U.S. has in fact extradited the worst “designated terrorists” from Colombia – indeed, the NYT at one point acknowledges in the story that the paramilitaries have been the worst human rights violators in Colombia — and ensured that they will never answer for their acts of terrorism?
And, as for combating drugs, the NYT also points out elsewhere in the same story what many of us have been pointing out for years – that in spite of the U.S. dumping around $10 billion in military aid into Colombia since 2000, “[c]oca cultivation has been soaring in Colombia, with a significant increase over the last couple of years in acreage dedicated to drug crops.”
This leads us back to the more plausible claim that the U.S./Colombia partnership has in fact been all about instigating and supporting terror – that is, terror against the Colombian population in order to destroy any movement (whether armed or non-violent) for social change. That is why both the Colombian and U.S. governments are content to hold the paramilitaries harmless for their war crimes, for, after all, it was their job to commit such crimes and it was a job well-done. Indeed, the NYT quotes U.S. lawyers, a retired U.S. prosecutor and the U.S. Judge who gave a light sentence to vicious paramilitary leader Rodrigo Tovar-Pupo (alias, “Jorge 40”) for the proposition that these paramilitaries are viewed as “freedom fighters” whose role in the Colombian civil war is actually a “mitigating rather than aggravating factor in their cases.”
The paramilitaries in Colombia, and the role of the U.S. and Colombian governments in supporting them, should not be viewed as merely an academic matter for the history books. The paramilitaries are still very much alive in Colombia, and are still carrying out massive abuses such as the targeted killings of social leaders; mass displacements of peasants, Afro-Colombians and indigenous; disappearances; and torture.  And, the U.S. and Colombian governments, in order to continue to be able to shield themselves from any blame for the conduct of these paramilitaries, now simply deny that they exist at all. It is therefore more critical than ever that the truth about these paramilitaries, and their high-level backers in both the U.S. and Colombia, is exposed and their misdeeds denounced and punished.
Bogota – The renowned sociologist Gonzalo Sánchez Gómez, one of the best known researchers of Colombian history, now Director of the National Center for Historical Memory created by the Juan Manuel Santos administration, discusses a fundamental issue for peace in Colombia. In the latest edition of the magazine Arcadia (July-August 2016) he deals with the armed conflict and the peace process. The Santos government has been negotiating with the FARC in Havana, Cuba to end that conflict and achieve peace. As the government has stated, we are at the point of signing an agreement.
Gonzalo mentions in his article, titled “A Path without More Dead”, the difficulty in reaching an agreement between analysts and militants over what has been the origin of the conflict. They mention the agrarian conflict of the 1930’s; the liquidation of the popular movement embodied by the followers of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan; the closing of political and social spaces by the bipartisan accord known as the National Front. But they do not mention – I note – that the origin of this was the Conservative violence of the 1940’s.
The conflict did not begin in the 1960’s, as claimed by those who discuss the negotiations that are going forward in Havana. They suppose that it started in 1965, when the armed bands of communists created the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the FARC. These armed bands are charged with originating the conflict. The communications media and those who oppose Santos, with ex-President Alvaro Uribe at the head, are busy spreading the word of the atrocities committed by the FARC. Their goal is to try to impede the parties from reaching a peace agreement, from achieving forgiveness, and from applying “transitional justice”. They don’t want any return to civilian life, or participation in politics, or membership in Congress for the demobilized FARC guerrillas. They want prison for them.
The FARC have indeed been guilty of innumerable acts of violence and crimes against the civilian population. Tirofijo, their maximum commander, created them in 1965 to combat the violence of the Government. He died in his bed in March 2008. But the origin of the FARC is the campesino communist guerrilla, supported by his party, which emerges, like the Liberal guerrillas, in the 1940’s against the violence and persecution which the government of Conservative President Mariano Ospina Perez (1946 -1950) commenced against the Liberal people and against the followers of Gaitan.
Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, a Liberal, had created a dissident political movement of enormous popular force. In 1947, in the elections for Congress, Departmental Assemblies, and Municipal Councils throughout the entire country, Gaitan won an indisputable majority and he achieved the sole leadership of the Liberal Party. The possibility of his being elected President was obvious. The Conservatives, and the historical Liberal leadership, which supported the candidacy of Gabriel Turbay, feared that Gaitan would arrive at the presidency with massive support of the people.
Ospina restricted political safeguards for Liberals and followers of Gaitan and in the countryside the political police, POPOL, and the chulavitas en Boyaca, created by Ospina—some called them home- grown Gestapo— and the armed gangs of Conservative campesinos, “pájaros” in the Valle del Cauca, members of Ospina’s party, pursued and massacred members of the Liberal Party. Their acts were atrocious, extreme in their barbarity. In this period of political violence between 200,000 and 300,000 people were killed, the immense majority campesinos, defenseless civilians. The forced migration exceeded 2 million people. Gaitan denounced this persecution and organized the March of Silence to protest. On the night of February 7, 1948, more than 100,000 people, in absolute silence and with lit candles, marched in the capital. It was an imposing popular manifestation of support for Gaitan and a protest against the violence of the government. Two months later, on April 9, Gaitan was assassinated and the so-called “Bogotazo” exploded in an eruption of public rage, looting, setting of fires and destruction of the city. Gaitan’s murder was a crime of immense proportions. It halted a democratic political change which was in process, and it destroyed the hopes and dreams of a whole people.
Some historians place the period of “The Violence” between 1946 and 1957, coinciding with the Conservative governments of Ospina Perez, Laureano Gomez, Roberto Urdaneta and General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, categorized as dictators. In 1958, with the bi-partisan agreement called the National Front, between Laureano Gomez and Alberto Lleras, the confrontation between Liberals and Conservatives officially ended. Lleras was elected president for the term 1958-1962.
What I mean to say here is that the armed conflict that the immense majority of this country hopes to end, commenced in the 1940’s and not in the 1960’s as they are saying; that the Liberal guerrillas in self-defense came into being in the Eastern Plains (Llanos Orientales), Tolima, Santander and in other regions of the country. The Communist guerrillas, supported by their Party, were armed bands in self-defense against the brutal official persecution which sought nothing less than their extermination. Ospina Perez, Laureano Gomez and his son Alvaro, Urdaneta and Rojas, all of them were involved in the partisan violence and they are all dead. They were responsible for this tragedy plagued by horrendous crimes. The historical reality of the responsibility of the State and of the Presidents for the conflict which is being debated now, is not mentioned. No one has been punished for these crimes of Lesa Humanity. They remain and will remain in impunity.
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator, Edited by Jack Laun)
Clara Nieto de Ponce de Leon is a scholar and diplomat who has been a keen observer of political events in Colombia for many years. A former Ambassador of Colombia to Cuba, she is the author of the celebrated book, Masters of War: Latin America and U.S. Aggression, in English translation with a forward by Howard Zinn, and the book Obama and the New Left in Latin America.
U.S.-based Coca-Cola company along with more than 50 other companies were accused by Colombian courts of financing terrorism for their ties to the now-disbanded paramilitary organization, United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a fact trade union leaders have been denouncing for decades.
The cases against the companies will be heard in a transitional justice tribunal after the peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the government is signed.
Coca-Cola was accused of hiring hitmen from the AUC between 1990 and 2002 to kill at least 10 labor union leaders who were trying to organize Coca-Cola’s plants. U.K. oil company BP has also be taken to court for its funding of AUC, along with kidnapping and human rights abuses.
Other companies suspected of financing terrorism, commonly referred to as the “para-economy,” include Colombia’s largest beverage company Postobon, cement company Cementos Argos, state oil company Ecopetrol and banana distributor Chiquita Brands International.
In June, families of victims killed by paramilitary groups opened a federal lawsuit against Chiquita in the U.S. for supporting the AUC. The company was estimated to have made at least 100 payments to the group worth US$1.7 million between 1997 and 2004.
The right-wing AUC coalition, deemed a terrorist organization by the Colombian government, disbanded in 2006. The paramilitary group was responsible for a number of massacres, human rights abuses, kidnappings and extortions that resulted in the displacement of thousands of Colombians.
Some politicians and authorities have been sentenced in relation to links with the AUC, the majority of businesses involved have not been punished for their illegal financial activities.
Investigations and punishment of businesses involved with paramilitary groups have commonly stuttered over whether payments were voluntary or not and if companies received any benefits in return.
As the Colombian government and left-wing FARC rebels near the signing of a comprehensive peace accord, and though they have already signed a bi-lateral ceasefire which is largely holding, Colombia is still suffering from the worst human rights abuses in the Western Hemisphere. These abuses are being carried out by right-wing paramilitary groups (aka, death squads), which the U.S. and Colombian governments conveniently deny even exist.
These paramilitary groups, in accord with their long-time friend and ally, former President Alvaro Uribe, are openly and aggressively opposed to the peace accords, and will most certainly escalate their violence as a national referendum which will be held to ratify, or reject, these accords draws near. Thus, as Insight Crime recently reported, the Colombian Electoral Observation Mission (MOE) estimates that nearly 250 municipalities (or more than 25% of the 1,105 municipalities in all of Colombia) “are at risk of violence or fraud affecting the referendum on an anticipated peace deal” with the FARC. The departments of Choco, Arauca, Cauca and Putumayo – that is, departments with heavy concentrations of Afro-Colombians and indigenous – are among the departments with the greatest risk. Antioquia, the department of Alvaro Uribe who was governor there, has the greatest number of municipalities at risk.
Meanwhile, the paramilitaries are already exploiting the opportunity presented by the FARC’s ceasefire to gain territory and exact more advantage for the economic elites – both domestic and foreign – which they serve.
For starters, Colombia again, according to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), suffered more assassinations of trade unionists than any country on earth in 2015, and therefore earned its spot as one of the 10 worst countries in the world for workers’ rights. As the ITUC explains in its annual report: “Trade unionists have been murdered with impunity for decades in Colombia. In 2015, 20 murders of trade unionists were recorded in Colombia – the highest number in any country.” And, not surprisingly, it is the paramilitaries who are carrying out such assassinations in the interest of capital.
In addition, 35 human rights defenders have already been killed in the first half of 2016. This is an incredible figure. Indeed, according to Colombia’s El Espectador, this year has been “one of the most violent in regards to the murder of human rights defenders and land claimants,” with the paramilitaries being the perpetrators of these crimes. Indeed, one of the chief perpetrators of the violence, particularly against those advocating for the return of land stolen during the armed conflict, is the paramilitary group known as the “Anti-Restitution of Land Army.” This group has been reinvigorated by the release from jail of infamous paramilitary leader Jose Gregorio Mongonez Lugo, also known as “Carlos Scissors.” He was responsible in the first place for the violent theft of land in the banana region of Magdelena, Colombia, and has now returned to make sure that it is not given back to its rightful owners.
All of this bodes very badly for the prospects of peace in Colombia. And indeed, one of Colombia’s great human rights defenders, Father Javier Giraldo, S.J., recently penned a sobering piece on this very subject, entitled, “Peace in Colombia?” This article was translated by the Colombia Support Network, and is well-worth a read, especially as you will never hear a voice such as his in the mainstream press.
As Father Giraldo opines, despite the progress of the peace talks in Havana which are quickly nearing a conclusion, “the country is profoundly polarized by the growth and the growing power of extreme right-wing forces. It appears as if the forces of the Cold War are coming back to life, powered by the monstrous economic strength of multinational businesses that are rapidly defending their exclusionary interests, using their extremely powerful resources.”
Father Giraldo rightly notes that the Colombian government, while paying lip-service to peace, in fact seeks the surrender and ultimate destruction of both the guerillas as well as Colombia’s peaceful forces for social change. As he explains:
… the methods of persuasion that have been used to promote the peace agreements rely mostly on the practical impossibility of achieving social change by means of armed conflict, given the gigantic and overwhelming military power of the government, supported by the imperial power with the greatest destructive reach in the recent history of humanity: the United States. . . . President Santos has instead, above all, on a peace that will benefit business leaders and transnational investors, who will be able to intensify their extraction of natural resources. But meanwhile his government represses with cruel violence the social protests of communities affected by the ecological and social destruction that has been caused and continues to be caused by these multinational companies.
Father Giraldo then expresses a seldom-uttered truth which I have certainly learned upon my numerous trips to Colombia in the past 17 years – that while the paramilitaries oppose the peace process because it will grant some immunity for rebels, the “popular movements feel more fear of the impunity of the powerful and of the paramilitaries and the agents of the government, whose war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide greatly exceed, both in quality and in cruelty, the crimes of the insurgency.”
And, it is the impunity for the right-wing paramilitaries, who now control large swaths of the Colombian government, which is nearly total. And again, this impunity is made possible by the Colombian and U.S. governments’ denial of the very existence of the paramilitaries, as well as the mainstream media’s near total silence about Colombia and its horrible human rights situation – certainly the worst in the Western Hemisphere. If peace in Colombia has any chance of succeeding, it will need to be supported and cultivated by people of good will throughout the world who are willing to tell the truth about Colombia and who are willing to provide accompaniment to the peace process.
Amid raging corruption, social pathologies and outright political thuggery, a new gang of vassal regimes has taken-over Latin America. The new rulers are strictly recruited as the protégé’s of US financial and banking institutions. Hence the financial press refers to them as the “new managers” – of Wall Street.
The US financial media has once again provided a political cover for the vilest crimes committed by the ‘new managers’ as they launch their offensive against labor and in favor of the foreign and domestic financiers.
To understand the dynamics of the empire’s new vassal managers we will proceed by identifying (1) the illicit power grab (2) the neo-liberal policies they have pursued (3) the impact of their program on the class structure (4) their economic performance and future socio-political perspectives.
Vassals as Managers of Empire
Latin America’s current vassalage elite is of longer and shorter duration.
The regimes of longer duration with a historical legacy of submission, corruption and criminality include Mexico and Colombia where oligarchs, government officials and death squads cohabit in close association with the US military, business and banking elites.
Over the past decades 100,000 citizens were murdered in Mexico and over 4 million peasants were dispossessed in Colombia. In both regimes over ten million acres of farmland and mining terrain were transferred to US and EU multinationals.
Hundreds of billions of illicit narco earnings were laundered by the Colombian and Mexican oligarchy to their US accounts via private banks.
The current political managers, Peña in Mexico and Santos in Colombia are rapidly de-nationalizing strategic oil and energy sectors, while savaging dynamic social movements – hundreds of students and teachers in Mexico and thousands of peasants and human rights activists in Colombia have been murdered.
The new wave of imperial vassals has seized power throughout most of Latin America with the direct and indirect intervention of the US. In 2009, Honduras President Manuel Zelaya was ousted by a military coup backed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Zelaya’s program of agrarian reform, regional integration (with Venezuela) and constitutional elections was abolished. Zelaya was replaced by a US vassal, Roberto Micheletti who proceeded to murder several hundred landless rural workers and indigenous activists.
Washington moved to organize a constitutional cover by promoting a highly malleable landowner, Porfirio Lobo Sosa to the presidency.
The State Department next ousted Paraguyan President Francisco Lugo who governed between 2008-2012. Lugo promoted a moderate agrarian reform and a centrist regional integration agenda.
With the backing of Secretary of State Clinton, the Paraguayan oligarchy in Congress seized power , fabricated an impeachment decree and ousted President Lugo. He was briefly replaced by Vice President Federico Franco (2012-2013).
In 2013, Washington backed , the capital, Asuncion’s, notorious crime boss for President, one Horacio Castes – convicted for currency fraud in 1989, drug running in 1990, and most recently (2010) money laundering.
The Honduras and Paraguayan coups established (in miniature) the precedent for a new wave of ‘big country’ political vassals. The State Department moved toward the acceleration of banking takeovers in Brazil, Argentina and Peru.
In rapid succession, between December 2015 and April 2016 vassal managers seized power in Argentina and Brazil. In Argentina millionaire Mauricio Macri ruled by decree, bypassing constitutional legality. Macri fired scores of thousands of public service workers, closed social agencies and appointed judges and prosecutors without Congressional vote. He arbitrarily arrested social movement leaders – violating democratic procedures.
Macri’s Economic and Finance Ministers gained millions of dollars by ‘buying into’ multinational oil companies just prior to handing over private options on public enterprises.
The all-encompassing swindles and fraud carried out by the ‘new managers’ were covered up by the US media, who praised Macri’s professional team.
Moreover, Macri’s economic performance was a disaster. Exorbitant user fees on utilities and transport for consumers and business enterprises, increased three to ten-fold, forcing bankruptcy rates to soar and households to suffer light and gas closures.
Wall Street vulture funds received a seven billion dollar payment from Macri’s managers, for defaulted loans purchased for pennies over a dollar, twenty-fold greater then the original lenders.
Data based on standard economic indicators highlights the worst economic performance in a decade and a half.
Price inflation exceeds 40%; public debt increased by twenty percent in six months. Living standards and employment sharply declined. Growth and investment data was negative. Mismanagement, official corruption and arbitrary governance, did not induce confidence among local small and medium size businesses.
The respectable media, led by the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post falsified every aspect of Macri’s regime. Failed economic policies implemented by bankers turned cabinet ministers were dubbed long-term successes; crude ideologically driven policies promoting foreign investor profiteering were re-invented as business incentives.
Political thugs dismantled and replaced civil service agencies were labelled ‘a new management team’ by the vulgar propaganda scribes of the financial press.
In Brazil, a phony political power grab by Congressional opportunists ousted elected President Dilma Rousseff. She was replaced by a Washington approved serial swindler and notorious bribe taker, Michel Temer.
The new economic managers were predictably controlled by Wall Street, World Bank and IMF bankers. They rushed measures to slash wages, pensions and other social expenditures, to lower business taxes and privatize the most lucrative public enterprises in transport, infrastructure, landholdings, oil and scores of other activities.
Even as the prostitute press lauded Brazil’s new managers’, prosecutors and judges arrested three newly appointed cabinet ministers for fraud and money laundering. ‘President’ Temer is next in line for prosecution for his role in the mega Petrobras oil contracts scandal for bribes and payola.
The economic agenda by the new managers are not designed to attract new productive investments. Most inflows are short-term speculative ventures. Markets, especially, in commodities, show no upward growth, much to the chagrin of the free market technocrats. Industry and commerce are depressed as a result of the decline in consumer credit, employment and public spending induced by ‘the managers’ austerity policies.
Even as the US and Europe embrace free market austerity, it evokes a continent wide revolt. Nevertheless Latin America’s wave of vassal regimes, remain deeply embedded in decimating the welfare state and pillaging public treasuries led by a narrow elite of bankers and serial swindlers.
As Washington and the prostitute press hail their ‘new managers’ in Latin America, the celebration is abruptly giving way to mass rage over corruption and demands for a shift to the political left.
In Brazil, “President” Temer rushes to implement big business measures, as his time in office is limited to weeks not months. His time out of jail is nearing a deadline. His cabinet of ‘technocrats’ prepare their luggage to follow.
Maurico Macri may survive a wave of strikes and protests and finish the year in office. But the plunging economy and pillage of the treasury is leading business to bankruptcy, the middle class to empty bank accounts and the dispossessed to spontaneous mass upheavals.
Washington’s new managers in Latin America cannot cope with an unruly citizenry and a failing free market economy.
Coups have been tried and work for grabbing power but do not establish effective rulership. Political shifts to the right are gyrating out of Washington’s orbit and find no new counter-balance in the break-up of the European Union.
Vassal capitalist takeovers in Latin America generated publicist anesthesia and Wall Street euphoria; only to be rudely shocked to reality by economic pathologies.
Washington and Wall Street and their Latin America managers sought a false reality of unrestrained profits and pillaged wealth. The reality principle now forces them to recognize that their failures are inducing rage today and uprisings tomorrow.
As was reported following the assassination of prominent Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres in March, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton erased all references to the 2009 coup in Honduras in the paperback edition of her memoirs, “Hard Choices.” Her three-page account of the coup in the original hardcover edition, where she admitted to having sanctioned it, was one of several lengthy sections cut from the paperback, published in April 2015 shortly after she had launched her presidential campaign.
A short, inconspicuous statement on the copyright page is the only indication that “a limited number of sections” — amounting to roughly 96 pages — had been cut “to accommodate a shorter length for this edition.” Many of the abridgements consist of narrative and description and are largely trivial, but there are a number of sections that were deleted from the original that also deserve attention.
Clinton’s take on Plan Colombia, a U.S. program furnishing (predominantly military) aid to Colombia to combat both the FARC and ELN rebels as well as drug cartels, and introduced under her husband’s administration in 2000, adopts a much more favorable tone in the paperback compared to the original. She begins both versions by praising the initiative as a model for Mexico — a highly controversial claim given the sharp rise in extrajudicial killings and the proliferation of paramilitary death squads in Colombia since the program was launched.
The two versions then diverge considerably. In the original, she explains that the program was expanded by Colombian President Álvaro Uribe “with strong support from the Bush Administration” and acknowledges that “new concerns began to arise about human rights abuses, violence against labor organizers, targeted assassinations, and the atrocities of right-wing paramilitary groups.” Seeming to place the blame for these atrocities on the Uribe and Bush governments, she then claims to have “made the choice to continue America’s bipartisan support for Plan Colombia” regardless during her tenure as secretary of state, albeit with an increased emphasis on “governance, education and development.”
By contrast, the paperback makes no acknowledgment of these abuses or even of the fact that the program was widely expanded in the 2000s. Instead, it simply makes the case that the Obama administration decided to build on President Clinton’s efforts to help Colombia overcome its drug-related violence and the FARC insurgency — apparently leading to “an unprecedented measure of security and prosperity” by the time of her visit to Bogotá in 2010.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership
Also found in the original is a paragraph where Clinton discusses her efforts to encourage other countries in the Americas to join negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement during a regional conference in El Salvador in June 2009:
So we worked hard to improve and ratify trade agreements with Colombia and Panama and encouraged Canada and the group of countries that became known as the Pacific Alliance — Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile — all open-market democracies driving toward a more prosperous future to join negotiations with Asian nations on TPP, the trans-Pacific trade agreement.
Clinton praises Latin America for its high rate of economic growth, which she revealingly claims has produced “more than 50 million new middle-class consumers eager to buy U.S. goods and services.” She also admits that the region’s inequality is “still among the worst in the world” with much of its population “locked in persistent poverty” — even while the TPP that she has advocated strongly for threatens to exacerbate the region’s underdevelopment, just as NAFTA caused the Mexican economy to stagnate.
Last October, however, she publicly reversed her stance on the TPP under pressure from fellow Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. Likewise, the entire two-page section on the conference in El Salvador where she expresses her support for the TPP is missing from the paperback.
In her original account of her efforts to prevent Cuba from being admitted to the Organization of American States (OAS) in June 2009, Clinton singles out Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as a potential mediator who could help “broker a compromise” between the U.S. and the left-leaning governments of Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua. Her assessment of Lula, removed from the paperback, is mixed:
As Brazil’s economy grew, so did Lula’s assertiveness in foreign policy. He envisioned Brazil becoming a major world power, and his actions led to both constructive cooperation and some frustrations. For example, in 2004 Lula sent troops to lead the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, where they did an excellent job of providing order and security under difficult conditions. On the other hand, he insisted on working with Turkey to cut a side deal with Iran on its nuclear program that did not meet the international community’s requirements.
It is notable that the “difficult conditions” in Haiti that Clinton refers to was a period of perhaps the worst human rights crisis in the hemisphere at the time, following the U.S.-backed coup d’etat against democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. Researchers estimate that some 4,000 people were killed for political reasons, and some 35,000 women and girls sexually assaulted. As various human rights investigators, journalists and other eyewitnesses noted at the time, some of the most heinous of these atrocities were carried out by Haiti’s National Police, with U.N. troops often providing support — when they were not engaging them directly. WikiLeaked State Department cables, however, reveal that the State Department saw the U.N. mission as strategically important, in part because it helped to isolate Venezuela from other countries in the region, and because it allowed the U.S. to “manage” Haiti on the cheap.
In contrast to Lula, Clinton heaps praise on Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, who was recently suspended from office pending impeachment proceedings:
Later I would enjoy working with Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s protégée, Chief of Staff, and eventual successor as President. On January 1, 2011, I attended her inauguration on a rainy but festive day in Brasilia. Tens of thousands of people lined the streets as the country’s first woman President drove by in a 1952 Rolls-Royce. She took the oath of office and accepted the traditional green and gold Presidential sash from her mentor, Lula, pledging to continue his work on eradicating poverty and inequality. She also acknowledged the history she was making. “Today, all Brazilian women should feel proud and happy.” Dilma is a formidable leader whom I admire and like.
The paperback version deletes almost all references to Rousseff, mentioning her only once as an alleged target of NSA spying according to Edward Snowden.
The Arab Spring
By far the lengthiest deletion in Clinton’s memoirs consists of a ten-page section discussing the Arab Spring in Jordan, Libya and the Persian Gulf region — amounting to almost half of the chapter. Having detailed her administration’s response to the mass demonstrations that had started in Tunisia before spreading to Egypt, then Jordan, then Bahrain and Libya, Clinton openly recognizes the profound contradictions at the heart of the U.S.’ relationship with its Gulf allies:
The United States had developed deep economic and strategic ties to these wealthy, conservative monarchies, even as we made no secret of our concerns about human rights abuses, especially the treatment of women and minorities, and the export of extremist ideology. Every U.S. administration wrestled with the contradictions of our policy towards the Gulf.
And it was appalling that money from the Gulf continued funding extremist madrassas and propaganda all over the world. At the same time, these governments shared many of our top security concerns.
Thanks to these shared “security concerns,” particularly those surrounding al-Qaeda and Iran, her administration strengthened diplomatic ties and sold vast amounts of military equipment to these countries:
The United States sold large amounts of military equipment to the Gulf states, and stationed the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain, the Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Qatar, and maintained troops in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, as well as key bases in other countries. When I became Secretary I developed personal relationships with Gulf leaders both individually and as a group through the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Clinton continues to reveal that the U.S.’ common interests with its Gulf allies extended well beyond mere security issues and in fact included the objective of regime change in Libya — which led the Obama administration into a self-inflicted dilemma as it weighed the ramifications of condemning the violent repression of protests in Bahrain with the need to build an international coalition, involving a number of Gulf states, to help remove Libyan leader Muammar Gaddhafi from power:
Our values and conscience demanded that the United States condemn the violence against civilians we were seeing in Bahrain, full stop. After all, that was the very principle at play in Libya. But if we persisted, the carefully constructed international coalition to stop Qaddafi could collapse at the eleventh hour, and we might fail to prevent a much larger abuse — a full-fledged massacre.
Instead of delving into the complexities of the U.S.’ alliances in the Middle East, the entire discussion is simply deleted, replaced by a pensive reflection on prospects for democracy in Egypt, making no reference to the Gulf region at all. Having been uncharacteristically candid in assessing the U.S.’ response to the Arab Spring, Clinton chose to ignore these obvious inconsistencies — electing instead to proclaim the Obama administration as a champion of democracy and human rights across the Arab world.