Thursday, March 6, 2008

Uribe's "Dodgy Dossier" III: The Crisis Escalates

Since the March 1 murder of FARC's second-in command and chief negotiator, Raúl Reyes, the death toll, and regional tensions, continue to mount.

According to the New York Times, some 24 rebels were killed in Colombia's bombardment and ground assault of Ecuador by the paramilitary-linked Uribe regime. Ecuadoran officials insist Colombian soldiers shot some of the rebels at close-quarters as they slept.

Despite yesterday's tepid OAS declaration scolding Bogotá for Saturday's incursion, the crisis appears to be escalating. On Thursday, Nicaragua's president Daniel Ortega, a past recipient of U.S.-style "democracy enhancement" in the form of massacres initiated by neofascist Contra warriors bankrolled by the United States and Colombian drug cartels, broke diplomatic relations with Colombia.

AFP reports that Ortega, speaking at a press conference in Managua after meeting with Ecuador's socialist president Rafael Correa said, "We are breaking with the terrorist policy being practiced by the government of (Colombian President) Álvaro Uribe."

Meanwhile, Bloomberg News reports that the FARC bombed the Transandino pipeline in Putumayo province, and that Venezuela's socialist president Hugo Chávez may move to seize assets and nationalize Colombian companies in the wake of Saturday's slaughter.

Chávez, during a Wednesday night news conference, asked his ministers to "draw up an inventory of Colombian assets in Venezuela," according to Bloomberg News. "Some of them could be nationalized," Chávez said. "We're not interested in Colombian investments here."

It would appear that Colombia's president Álvaro Uribe, a cat's paw for U.S regional interests, is increasingly isolated--at home and internationally--as the crisis threatens to spin out of control.

Ludicrously, Thomas Shannon, the assistant secretary of state for Interamerican affairs claims "that the seized hard drives contain documents that prove links between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Ecuadroean President Rafael Correa."

Shannon told a House committee yesterday, "that Colombia has promised soon to share the hard drives from the captured computers with the United States," according to the McClatchy Washington Bureau.

Ominously for the region, Colombia's attack on the FARC negotiators in neighboring Ecuador may very well have been the first round in a planned escalation by Colombia and its U.S. puppetmaster to reassert control over vital natural resources, particularly Venezuelan and Ecuadoran oil. Latin American analyst Forrest Hylton sets the stage:

Eerily, in a March 1 column, one of Colombia's most prescient political analysts, Alfredo Molano, predicted that a giant storm cloud was about to sweep across some portion of Colombia's borderlands. Molano described how President Álvaro Uribe had brought the war with the FARC to the Darien Gap joining Panama, the Catatumbo region of Northern Santander shared with Venezuela, and the frontiers of Pasto and Putumayo bordering Ecuador. In Molano's view, the fact that Uribe had been politically cornered at home and abroad made a widening war across national borders all but inevitable. As Justin Podur noted, domestic and foreign pressure for a negotiated peace--that is, a political solution to the armed conflict--has led to an escalation of the war by the stronger, more violent party, along Israeli lines. ("Colombia's Cornered President: High Stakes in the Andes," CounterPunch, March 6, 2008)

Since the April 2002 failed coup d'état against democratically-elected president, Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan oligarchy and Washington have been feverishly planning a new "zero hour," in the form of a Pinochet-style seizure of power by the far-right. It would appear, if Hylton's analysis is correct, that the paramilitary president of Colombia and its repressive military apparatus may be working with the Venezuelan "opposition" to topple both Chávez and Correa.

Uribe, reeling from a series of interlinked scandals at home would appear to be seeking to "rally the nation" around his corrupt administration through an escalating series of dangerous provocations. Hylton writes,

Since the end of 2006, Uribe has been beset by the parapolítica scandal, in which some 77 political figures, including 14 congresspersons, nearly all of them staunch allies of the president, are under investigation for ties to rightwing paramilitaries. The scandal reveals how the president and the Casa de Nariño (presidential palace) in Bogotá are tied to the country's regions, where power and authority are delegated, hence most directly exercised. Indeed, most of the para-politicos investigated are local office holders--governors, mayors, legislators, etc. The bedrock of the paramilitary-politico alliance was sealed in 2001 with the "Pacto de Ralito" in Córdoba province. The pact led to the first and second election of Uribe with solid--indeed fervent--paramilitary support in congress and the regional state bureaucracies.

Needless to say, the paramilitary gangsters to which Hylton refers are many of the bloodiest capos of Colombia's far-right narcotrafficking cartels. In the wake of the escalating scandal, politicians under investigation for their ties to death squads include Uribe's second cousin, "Senator Mario Uribe, who fell under suspicion after former paramilitary chieftain Salvatore Mancuso testified to meetings he had with the president's cousin to map electoral strategy in Antioquia and Córdoba provinces."

It wouldn't be the first time a hated politician unleashed the dogs of war to advance his position vis a vis domestic rivals. Consider the case of Uribe's closet ally and "dear friend," U.S. president George W. Bush...

This would also explain why investigations have stalled in Uribe's native Antioquia province. Hylton explains,

Under Uribe's watch, paramilitary activity--along with murders and disappearances of thousands of suspected guerrillas--skyrocketed to record levels through close coordination with the military and provincial government officials.

It would also explain why Uribe and the Colombian oligarchy would seek to slander Chávez and Correa with the most absurd, but serviceable, charges.

Accusing regional and ideological rivals with everything from narcotrafficking, bankrolling the FARC, to ominous allusions to "weapons of mass destruction" and "dirty bombs," Uribe, and his Pentagon masters waiting in the wings, could raise the flag of "international terrorism" as a convenient pretext for a massive "preemptive attack."

Absurd? Think again. McClatchy informs us,

"This guy is really an enemy of the United States," said Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), adding that he hoped the administration had "some kind of plan to deal with this."

Not to be upstaged by his Indiana counterpart, Florida Republican Rep. Connie Mack demanded that the State Department declare Venezuela "a state sponsor of terrorism."

Uribe's "dodgy dossier" is a work in progress; cooler heads may yet prevail in Washington. But if historical precedent is any indication of where U.S. policy is heading we may soon be hearing Chávez demonized as America's new "new Hitler."

After that, all bets are off...

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