Tucked inside a small room in a downtown apartment building, an illiterate but mechanically trained rebel operates a remote control device.
Two miles away, a car without a driver slowly creeps along a shadowy street, a camera guiding it to the site where it will blow up with the click of a button.
U.S. Offensive in Latin America: Coups, Retreats, and Radicalization: on U.S. intervention in Venezuela, Columbia, and other countries in the region.
The worldwide U.S. military-political offensive is manifest in multiple contexts in Latin America. The U.S. offensive aims to prop up decaying client regimes, destabilize independent regimes, pressure the center-left to move to the right, and destroy or isolate the burgeoning popular movements challenging the U.S. empire and its clients.
As peace talks fail and the civil war in Colombia heats up, the White House and members of Congress are considering expanding the U.S. military's role in that troubled country. This major shift comes as the anti-drug effort, known as 'Plan Colombia,' has failed to curb coca production, according to the White House's own reports.
But rather than reconsider military intervention in a country with one of the hemisphere's longest-running civil wars, the Bush administration and Congress are considering lifting long-standing restrictions that limit the U.S. military's involvement in Colombia to anti-drug efforts and impose human rights standards on the Colombian military.
Jena Matzen has a carousel of slides from her trip to Colombia, and she's giving slide shows throughout the Triangle. These are not your standard shots of smiling couples standing in front of national landmarks.
One image shows a farmer at the center of his 12-acre field, a former corn crop now utterly decimated. Another shows a white flag raised over a black pepper crop, as a signal to airplanes that this is a legal crop.
According to Matzen, a Hillsborough resident, the white flag did not have the desired effect; the pepper crop was destroyed nevertheless, by planes dropping enormous quantities of an herbicide called glyphosate -- marketed by Monsanto in this country under the brand name Round-Up -- as part of the U.S. war on drugs.
On November 13th the first DynCorp spray planes and their helicopter escorts could be heard coming over the horizon. For the people of El Paraíso, a small group of communities in Valle de Guamuez, the sound of helicopter blades signaled everything was about to change. The families of El Paraíso are among the 37,000 families in Putumayo that signed agreements with the national government over the course of the past year. In these "social pacts," as they are called, the small farmers agreed to replace coca with legal crops like corn and rice over a 12-month period. In turn, the government agreed to make the less lucrative crops more viable by creating transportation infrastructure and providing small farmers with the technical assistance, supplies, and market guarantees necessary for a production shift.
[via ghost rocket]
After pictures of US Army Green Berets operating alongside the Colombian military in the invasion of the safe zone appeared on the front page of the Colombian daily El Tiempo, one politician, Liberal Party presidential candidate Horacio Serpa, called the US military presence "very grave" and demanded a clarification from the government.
General Hector Fabio Velasco quickly replied that the US Special Forces had "come simply as observers." Serpa's opponent for the Liberal Party nomination, the rightist Alvaro Uribe Velez, said he welcomed the US presence and would support the sending of US combat troops to fight in Colombia, rather than merely providing aid and training.
Bolivia Suffers under Plan Colombia: on the impact of drug eradication under the Andean Counterdrug Initiative to the legal growers of coca in Bolivia.
Beyond this, however, we are also sending increasing millions of dollars to Andean governments, especially Bolivia, in order to coerce them to greatly decrease coca production. Since 1997 coca production has decreased by about 75% in Bolivia, almost eliminating that part of the crop which goes to the international cocaine trade. Now, however, we want Bolivia to further decrease coca production. This is what the peasants are protesting, because hundreds of thousands of them make their living from its cultivation for domestic Bolivian consumption.
From a comment to a Toast and Tea post, I found Helping Colombia Fix Its Plan to Curb Drug Trafficking, Violence, and Insurgency, where The Heritage Foundation points out problems with Plan Columbia, the 1999 Columbian plan to achieve peace. The U.S. is supporting the plan through the Andean Regional Initiative and the Andean Counterdrug Initiative, which Bush is expanding to include protection for the Caño-Limon oil pipeline.
A closer examination of Plan Colombia reveals its true objective to be the preservation of the political, social and economic status quo through the implementation of a "carrot and stick" strategy. As is evident in the initial installment of overseas aid--the $1.3 billion U.S. aid package--the Plan intends to utilize a huge stick while offering a tiny carrot. The stick, approximately 80 percent of the U.S. aid, is for the Colombian military and police. The remainder constitutes the carrot: eight percent is going to alternative development; six percent to human rights programs; four percent to the displaced; two percent to judicial reform; and less than one percent to support the ongoing peace process.
Plan Colombia is based on a drug-focussed analysis of the roots of the conflict and the human rights crisis which completely ignores the Colombian state's own historical and current responsibility. It also ignores deep-rooted causes of the conflict and the human rights crisis. The Plan proposes a principally military strategy (in the US component of Plan Colombia) to tackle illicit drug cultivation and trafficking through substantial military assistance to the Colombian armed forces and police. Social development and humanitarian assistance programs included in the Plan cannot disguise its essentially military character. Furthermore, it is apparent that Plan Colombia is not the result of a genuine process of consultation either with the national and international non-governmental organisations which are expected to implement the projects nor with the beneficiaries of the humanitarian, human rights or social development projects. As a consequence, the human rights component of Plan Colombia is seriously flawed.
We saw many remnants of the old Putumayo during CIP's March 9-12 trip there. It is still a beautiful place, overwhelming the eye with vivid green. But we also saw forests knocked down to grow illegal crops, armed groups operating freely, fields devastated by herbicides, and widespread poverty and fear. We were strongly dismayed by the United States' role there, as Putumayo is the main destination of Washington's controversial plan to fumigate drug crops, supported by hundreds of millions of dollars in mostly military aid.
We had come to Putumayo to evaluate this program in the wake of its first phase, an eight-week blitz of aerial herbicide spraying that had ended one month earlier. The policy's supporters call the U.S.-sponsored effort a "balanced approach." But so far it has been purely military, with not a dime spent yet on economic assistance programs that might prevent farmers from moving and re-planting coca, the plant used to make cocaine. We found that the zone where fumigations occurred is dominated not by so-called "industrial" coca plantations, but by families who are now running out of food. We found truth behind claims that the spraying had negative health effects and destroyed legal crops, including alternative development projects. We were disturbed by evidence that the fumigations proceeded more smoothly because of a paramilitary offensive in the zone to be sprayed. We found that the people of Putumayo want to stop growing coca, and that they have clear proposals for how U.S. assistance can help them make a living legally.
Hindsight is 20/20, but not just a few people saw this one coming from the start.
A slide back to war: on how Columbia returned to civil war after 3 years of peace efforts.
Six weeks ago, President Andres Pastrana threatened to call off peace talks with his country’s main guerrilla army, the FARC, only to back down in a display of brinkmanship as the rebels agreed to speed up talks on a ceasefire. But on February 21st, Mr Pastrana’s government began bombing rebel enclaves, the day after announcing that he was ending the talks, and ordering the armed forces to recapture a guerrilla-controlled “demilitarised zone” he had sanctioned to promote peace. Another negotiating ploy? Not this time, it seemed. The president ordered the arrest of guerrilla leaders even as the air force began to bomb and strafe FARC camps and other targets, such as landing strips, in the zone. In the past few days, Colombian troops have invaded the enclave and retaken the major towns and cities, though FARC guerrillas still control much of the countryside.
The Colombian president, Andres Pastrana, has declared his country's three-year-old peace process over and vowed to retake the jungle territory he had granted to rebels as a site for talks.
Mr Pastrana made the announcement in a televised address last night, hours after guerrillas hijacked an airliner and kidnapped Senator Jorge Gechen Turbay, president of the Colombian Senate's peace commission, who was travelling on the flight. The remaining 29 passengers and crew were freed unharmed.
"Today the glass of indignation spilled over," Mr Pastrana said. Calling the hijacking "an international offence classified as terrorism" he added: "It's not possible to sign agreements on one side while putting guns to the heads of innocent people on the other."
Additional military aid from the U.S. for combating the rebels couldn't have anything to do with the decision, I'm sure.
Protection for Oil Pipeline Raises US Profile in Colombia: more on the new U.S. assistance to Columbia in protecting Occidental's oil pipeline from the ELN and FARC. [via Robot Wisdom]
In a normal country, the police take care of the civilian population. In many Colombian municipalities it is the other way around. Disarmed citizens are the ones who end up saving policemen from being gunned down by guerrillas.
Part of Bush's budget allocation for anti-drug activities in Columbia is $98 million dollars slated to equip and train the Columbian military to protect the Caño-Limon oil pipeline. Undersecretary of State Mark Grossman gave this reason in a press conference in Columbia:
As the Foreign Minister and I were speaking before, that pipeline was closed 266 days last year. Colombia loses probably 40 million dollars a month in revenues. For those of you who are interested in the environment, over the last 15 years the attacks to that pipeline has put out into the Colombian soil almost two million of barrels of oil. That equals eight "Exxon-Valdez" spills in Alaska.
That's not the whole reason of course. As the budget summary mentions, "Colombia was the source of about two percent of U.S. oil imports, creating a mutual interest in protecting this economic asset." So, it's not just good for Columbia, it's good for America. Good. But it's not just good for America, it's good for Occidental Petroleum, which gets the oil from the pipeline. According to their 2000 annual report, production through that pipeline was down about 25%, a drop of 32,000 barrels a day, from the previous year due in part to "insurgent activity" and in the 4th quarter of last year, production from that pipeline dropped from the previous quarter by over 2% due to outages. At current prices, the 2000 drop corresponds to rougly $236 million, if I'm doing the math right. What a deal, taxpayers are putting out $98 million to protect a couple of hundred million dollars in oil company profits. Oh, but I forgot - it's good for Columbia and America too.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch and other organizations have reported that Columbia has failed to meet conditions set forth in the Foreign Appropriations Act passed early this year which are required before funding can be continued. In particular, ties between the Columbian military and the paramilitary groups that some of the funding is intended to combat have not been cut. [via Ethel The Blog]