The apparent end to the crisis came during the annual Rio Group summit of Latin American nations in Santo Domingo. After a rocky start, with regional leaders trading charges and counter-charges sparked by last Saturday's cross-border raid into Ecuador by Colombia to kill FARC commander, Raúl Reyes and 23 others at the rebel camp, tensions and the threat of regional war seem, for now, to have been narrowly averted.
Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, after sending 10 tank battalions to the border and threatening to nationalize Colombian assets said, "our government only wants peace." But does the United States?
Given short-shrift by Colombia's alarmist claims has been the actual U.S. role in Reyes' assassination. Bill Van Auken reports,
Colombian officials have openly acknowledged the role of US intelligence agencies in instigating and coordinating the March 1 targeted assassination. General Oscar Naranjo, commander of the national police told reporters it was no secret that the Colombian military-police apparatus maintained "a very strong alliance with federal agencies of the US."
The Colombian radio network, Radio Cadena Nacional (RCN), reported Wednesday that Reyes's location was pinpointed by US intelligence as a result of monitoring a satellite phone call between the FARC leader and Venezuelan President Chavez. The February 27 call--three days before the raid--came after the FARC released to Venezuelan authorities four former Colombian legislators--Gloria Polanco, Luis Eladio Perez, Orlando Beltran and Jorge Eduardo Gechem--who had been held hostage for nearly seven years.
Another Colombian station, Noticias Uno, cited intelligence sources as saying that they had received photographs from "foreign spy planes" pinpointing the location of Reyes's camp in Ecuador.
As for the air raid itself, Ecuador's Defense Minister Wellington Sandoval reported the attack included the use of five "smart bombs" of the type utilized by the US military. "It is a bomb that hits within a meter of where it is programmed, from high velocity airplanes," he said. He added that to target Reyes with such weapons, "they needed equipment that Latin American armed forces do not have." (Latin American Crisis Triggered by an Assassination 'Made in the USA,'" World Socialist Web Site, 7 March 2008)
Ecuador, promising to boot the U.S. from its Manta airbase when its lease expires in 2009, will continue to investigate the role that U.S. and Colombian forces based at Manta played in the attack. It seems likely the airbase was an intelligence staging ground for the operation. According to analyst John Lindsay-Poland, "The Manta base houses AWACS aircraft with a capability for detecting satellite phone calls. The location of the FARC guerrilla camp was reportedly determined by a satellite call..."
Increasingly isolated, Washington relies on Colombia as a platform for projecting U.S. power regionally. Lindsay-Poland comments,
Colombia harbors 1,400 U.S. soldiers and military contractors, as well as five radar sites, all operated by the ITT Corporation, and a "Forward Operating Site" in Apiay. Apiay is one of a handful of sites in Colombia where the U.S. Army 7th Special Forces Group trains thousands of Colombian soldiers every year. Washington has appropriated $5.5 billion in mostly military funds since 2000 as part of "Plan Colombia," a bi-partisan initiative purportedly aimed at "going to the source" of cocaine production by fumigating coca fields. In reality it has been a project that helps Colombia's military fight insurgents. Drug trafficking has continued apace since the plan's inception. ...
Colombia's militarization makes its neighbors nervous. The U.S. military base in Manta, Ecuador, set up with up to 500 US soldiers to run counter-drug flights when Panama threw out military bases in 1999, has become a controversial presence that a majority of Ecuadoreans want closed. The U.S. commander in Manta has also stated that the base is "very important" for Plan Colombia. U.S. officials defend the Manta base, asserting that drug traffic in Ecuador and the eastern Pacific has grown in recent years. But if drug traffic has grown since the base began operations in Manta in 2000, it suggests -- at the very least -- that it's ineffective. ("Yankees Head Home," Foreign Policy in Focus, March 6, 2008)
Will the United States take Correa's "no" for a final answer on Manta? It seems as doubtful as the assertion that the current crisis been "resolved" in any meaningful way. Nor will the demonization of leftist leaders by the U.S. media.
The Washington Post's Juan Forero, clearly serving as the Bush administration's Bogotá correspondent must not have gotten the message before filing his story Thursday night. Talking up assertions and wild charges lifted from Uribe's "dodgy dossier," Forero wrote,
A trove of correspondence recovered during a raid on a guerrilla camp is providing a rare window into how Colombia's largest rebel group has drawn closer to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in an effort to acquire money, arms and the political recognition the organization craves.
While the chief of Colombia's National Police, Brig. Gen. Óscar Naranjo "has asked a team from Interpol to examine the laptops and hardrives," the dodgy provenance of the computers render such an examination moot at this late date.
In terms of a black propaganda exercise however, particularly as it relates to the FARC's alleged interest in purchasing "uranium" on international nuclear black markets for building "dirty bombs," and Chávez's "$300 million dollars in aid" to the guerrilla group, Bogotá and Washington's disinformation campaign has been a huge "success."
But BBC investigative journalist Greg Palast is unequivocal in stating these documents are fake. Palast writes,
What the US press did not do is look at the evidence, the email in the magic laptop. "... With relation to the 300, which from now on we will call 'dossier,' efforts are now going forward at the instructions of the boss to the cojo [slang term for 'cripple'], which I will explain in a separate note. Let's call the boss Ángel, and the cripple Ernesto."
Indeed, the entire remainder of the email is all about the mechanism of the hostage exchange. Here's the next line:
"To receive the three freed ones, Chavez proposes three options: Plan A. Do it to via of a 'humanitarian caravan'; one that will involve Venezuela, France, the Vatican[?], Switzerland, European Union, democrats [civil society], Argentina, Red Cross, etc."
As to the 300, I must note that the FARC's previous prisoner exchange involved 300 prisoners. Is that what the '300' refers to? ¿Quien sabe? Unlike Uribe, Bush and the US press, I won't guess or make up a phantasmagoric story about Chavez spending money he doesn't even have.
To bolster their case, the Colombians claim, with no evidence whatsoever, that the mysterious "Angel" is the code name for Chavez. But in the memo, Chavez goes by the code name ... Chavez. ("$300 Million from Venezuela to Colombian Rebels a Fake," Venezuela Analysis, March 8, 2008)
It is no mystery that Chávez views Colombian president Álvaro Uribe as a cat's paw for the United States. Colombia, the recipient of a $5.5 billion dollar handout under the rubric of "Plan Colombia," an alleged counternarcotics program, has diverted these funds--with Washington's encouragement--into counterinsurgency operations against the FARC and Colombian social movements.
Yet official reaction in Washington, Uribe's chief benefactor and paymaster, has done much to exploit the crisis as a convenient instrument to extend the so-called Bush Doctrine to Latin America. The administration's formula for "preemptive war" claims that in the "global war on terror" quaint notions such as respect for sovereign borders and international law no longer apply. This will continue to be the case.
In previous reports on the crisis, I have argued that the raid on the FARC camp was a provocation by Bogotá and Washington to strengthen the far-right Uribe regime, sabotage hostage negotiations, slander regional leftist opponents such as Chávez and Correa, demonize them both by linking them to the FARC, hence to "terrorism," "drug trafficking" and alleged proliferation of "weapons of mass destruction." In this light, the "ebbing of tensions" brought about in Santo Domingo during the Rio Group summit is a fleeting interlude at best. Washington will redouble its efforts in the area. Signs of this are already occurring and it isn't pretty.
According to journalist Okke Ornstein, the situation in Panama, where FARC maintain bases in the nearly inaccessible Darién jungle province separating Panama from Colombia, is explosive to say the least, with U.S. offers of "military assistance" pouring in. Ornstein writes,
Not surprisingly, various measures have been announced to secure the border with Colombia. But, given the terrain, that is an impossible task to accomplish with manpower alone. The United States has now jumped in and is "studying" whether it will equip Panama with sophisticated military hardware to monitor the border. But logic dictates just the hardware will not be enough; high-tech radar systems need experts to operate then, and Panamanian police would have to be trained to use them. That would at the very least suggest US military advisers coming to Panama -- if they aren't already here. ("Panama Caught Up in FARC Crisis," The Narco News Bulletin, March 7, 2008)
Chávez and Correa are sincere, democratically-elected leaders attempting to peacefully ameliorate the region's horrendous economic and social conditions, brought about in large measure by Washington's economic "shock doctrine." As such, they are stand-ins for mobilized Latin American workers and peasants who have said adios to the U.S. model of political repression and resource extraction under the imperialist flag of "managed democracy."
Who then are the targets? The mass movements, trade unions, leftist political parties, students, intellectuals, health collectives, women's rights organizers, indigenous tribal organizations, peasant cooperatives and neighborhood committees in their tens of millions who have rejected the "Washington consensus" and are now focused in U.S. cross-hairs.
Like Chile's Salvador Allende, Hugo Chávez's Bolivarian socialist project remains a U.S. target for annihilation. Unlike Allende however, Chávez has taken some steps to create popular militias to defend the revolution against domestic sabotage and foreign attack, but these initiatives are tentative and may very well be a case of too little, too late.
This apparent "resolution" to the crisis is temporary and will neither curtail nor moderate America's wider strategic goal of orchestrating a "Pinochet option" as a means of extending its global reach through the construction of military bases across the region, thus facilitating U.S. corporate plunder and the continued political and economic domination of Latin America by Washington.
La luta continua...