Saturday, January 23, 2010

Socialism and Democracy: Book Launch

Latin America: The New Neoliberalism and Popular Mobilization

The BRECHT FORUM, in conjunction with Socialism and Democracy, invite you to the launch of the latest edition of the Journal.

Friday, February 05
7:30 pm

451 West Street (between Bank & Bethune Streets,)
New York, NY 10014
Phone: (212) 242-4201
Email: brechtforum at


With Mario A. Murillo & Gerardo Renique with Comments by Biju Mathew & Christy Thorton

Join us for the launch of Socialism & Democracy Issue #51. The issue addresses the impact of the capitalist crisis in Latin America, focusing on the progressive governments and popular movements with reference to particular popular and indigenous struggles in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.

Biju Mathew is an organizer with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.

Mario A. Murillo, a contributor to this special issue of Socialism & Democracy, is a former producer at WBAI Pacifica Radio, and associate professor and chair of the Department of Radio, Television, Film at Hofstra University.

Gerardo Renique, editor of this special issue, is a professor of history at CCNY-CUNY.

Christy Thorton is a doctoral student at NYU and former NACLA editor.

Sliding scale: $6/$10/$15
Free for Brecht Forum Subscribers

A, C, E or L to 14th Street & 8th Ave, walk down 8th Ave. to Bethune, turn right, walk west to the River, turn left
1, 2, 3 or 9 to 14th Street & 7th Ave, get off at south end of station, walk west on 12th Street to 8th Ave. left to Bethune, turn right, walk west to the River, turn left.
PATH Train to Christopher Street north on Greenwich St to Bank Street, left to the river.
#11 or #20 Bus to Abingdon Square, west on Bethune
#14A or #14D Bus to 8th Ave & 14th Street, walk down 8th Ave. and west on Bethune to the river
#8 Bus to 10th & West Streets

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Profound Critique of the Current Suffering in Haiti

Just received and read this piece from the Guardian UK, sent to me from our friends in En Camino. The devastation is Haiti is unbelievable, and is of course the result of a major natural disaster that was as much unexpected as it was so massive in scope. However, we must also consider the man-made disaster of the long neo-colonial history of Haiti, and the role foreign (US) forces have played in shaping the development of the country.

Our Role in Haiti´s Plight

"Along with sending emergency relief, we should ask what we can do to facilitate the self-empowerment of Haiti's people and public institutions. If we are serious about helping we need to stop trying to control Haiti's government, to pacify its citizens, and to exploit its economy. And then we need to start paying for at least some of the damage we've already done."

-Peter Hallward


Naomi Klein described the application of the "Shock Doctrine" after the tsunami in Asia. Peter Hallward, author of "Damming the Flood", probably the best critical account of Haiti´s recent history, has written the attached piece, which, we feel, deserves careful reading and coherent action. Haiti has been the victim of the "Shock Doctrine" for a long time, through invasions, occupations, military coups, economic coups, coordinated racism and corporate enslavement. What happens in Haiti now is not a "natural disaster", but a struggle between the global regime that will exploit misery and pain convening charity and aid to further subdue the victims, occupy the land and establish exploitation, and the dignity of Haitians and those in solidarity with their struggle to be free and live well.

Haiti is the mirror upon which this hemisphere and, indeed, history, reflects our ugly face. As long as Haiti and Haitians continue to suffer from racism, complacency, murder, misery, exploitation and aid (organized charity for colonial purposes), the entire human history is a tale of shame and disgrace. Now, more than ever, solidarity with Haiti is either a struggle for dignity and freedom or a repugnant complicity with the worse we can be. The system and history are exposed in Haiti, and it angers and hurts. Here goes Peter´s piece:

Our role in Haiti's plight

By Peter Hallward, Wednesday 13 January 2010 20.30 GMT

Any large city in the world would have suffered extensive damage from an earthquake on the scale of the one that ravaged Haiti's capital city on Tuesday afternoon, but it's no accident that so much of Port-au-Prince now looks like a war zone. Much of the devastation wreaked by this latest and most calamitous disaster to befall Haiti is best understood as another thoroughly manmade outcome of a long and ugly historical sequence.

The country has faced more than its fair share of catastrophes. Hundreds died in Port-au-Prince in an earthquake back in June 1770, and the huge earthquake of 7 May 1842 may have killed 10,000 in the northern city of Cap Haitien alone. Hurricanes batter the island on a regular basis, mostly recently in 2004 and again in 2008; the storms of September 2008 flooded the town of Gonaïves and swept away much of its flimsy infrastructure, killing more than a thousand people and destroying many thousands of homes. The full scale of the destruction resulting from this earthquake may not become clear for several weeks. Even minimal repairs will take years to complete, and the long-term impact is incalculable.

What is already all too clear, however, is the fact that this impact will be the result of an even longer-term history of deliberate impoverishment and disempowerment. Haiti is routinely described as the "poorest country in the western hemisphere". This poverty is the direct legacy of perhaps the most brutal system of colonial exploitation in world history, compounded by decades of systematic postcolonial oppression.

The noble "international community" which is currently scrambling to send its "humanitarian aid" to Haiti is largely responsible for the extent of the suffering it now aims to reduce. Ever since the US invaded and occupied the country in 1915, every serious political attempt to allow Haiti's people to move (in former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's phrase) "from absolute misery to a dignified poverty" has been violently and deliberately blocked by the US government and some of its allies.

Aristide's own government (elected by some 75% of the electorate) was the latest victim of such interference, when it was overthrown by an internationally sponsored coup in 2004 that killed several thousand people and left much of the population smouldering in resentment. The UN has subsequently maintained a large and enormously expensive stabilisation and pacification force in the country.

Haiti is now a country where, according to the best available study, around 75% of the population "lives on less than $2 per day, and 56% – four and a half million people – live on less than $1 per day". Decades of neoliberal "adjustment" and neo-imperial intervention have robbed its government of any significant capacity to invest in its people or to regulate its economy. Punitive international trade and financial arrangements ensure that such destitution and impotence will remain a structural fact of Haitian life for the foreseeable future.

It is this poverty and powerlessness that account for the full scale of the horror in Port-au-Prince today. Since the late 1970s, relentless neoliberal assault on Haiti's agrarian economy has forced tens of thousands of small farmers into overcrowded urban slums. Although there are no reliable statistics, hundreds of thousands of Port-au-Prince residents now live in desperately sub-standard informal housing, often perched precariously on the side of deforested ravines. The selection of the people living in such places and conditions is itself no more "natural" or accidental than the extent of the injuries they have suffered.

As Brian Concannon, the director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, points out: "Those people got there because they or their parents were intentionally pushed out of the countryside by aid and trade policies specifically designed to create a large captive and therefore exploitable labour force in the cities; by definition they are people who would not be able to afford to build earthquake resistant houses." Meanwhile the city's basic infrastructure – running water, electricity, roads, etc – remains woefully inadequate, often non-existent. The government's ability to mobilise any sort of disaster relief is next to nil.

The international community has been effectively ruling Haiti since the 2004 coup. The same countries scrambling to send emergency help to Haiti now, however, have during the last five years consistently voted against any extension of the UN mission's mandate beyond its immediate military purpose. Proposals to divert some of this "investment" towards poverty reduction or agrarian development have been blocked, in keeping with the long-term patterns that continue to shape the distribution of international "aid".

The same storms that killed so many in 2008 hit Cuba just as hard but killed only four people. Cuba has escaped the worst effects of neoliberal "reform", and its government retains a capacity to defend its people from disaster. If we are serious about helping Haiti through this latest crisis then we should take this comparative point on board. Along with sending emergency relief, we should ask what we can do to facilitate the self-empowerment of Haiti's people and public institutions. If we are serious about helping we need to stop trying to control Haiti's government, to pacify its citizens, and to exploit its economy. And then we need to start paying for at least some of the damage we've already done.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

CIP: Update on the Colombian "False Positives" Scandal - Impunity Reigns


Since 2006, we've been keeping you up to date with the horrific "false positives" scandal in Colombia, where the military were rounding up young people, often promising them jobs, then killing them, dressing them as FARC guerillas, and chalking them up as combat deaths. Although a number of top officials were dismissed in a high profile photo op by President Uribe in September 2008, it looks like impunity for the crimes is the rule of the day. Here is a brief update from Adam Isaacson of Center for International Policy, CIP-Colombia.



It is with revulsion that we learn of a Colombian court’s decision yesterday to release 17 Colombian Army personnel for the 2008 Soacha murder case.

The officers and soldiers were awaiting trial for conspiring to kidnap and kill unemployed young men in a slum on Bogotá’s outskirts, only to present their bodies hundreds of miles away as those of armed-group members killed in combat. By raising their “body count” through this unconscionable scheme, the soldiers qualified for a schedule of rewards, as established by Defense Ministry orders. This so-called “False Positives” scandal now involves hundreds of cases since 2002 under official investigation all over Colombia, with over 1,000 potential victims.

Because of its high-profile nature — it forced the resignation of Army chief Gen. Mario Montoya — the Soacha case is a key test of whether Colombia would be able to investigate and punish these crimes.

Colombia is failing that test. Yesterday, 17 alleged perpetrators were released because a judge decided that prosecutors’ time had run out. This issue had come up before, in October. At the time, a judge avoided letting the soldiers go free, giving prosecutors a 90-day extension. He agreed that most of the delay was the fault of the soldiers’ defense lawyers, who were clearly trying to “run out the clock” by throwing up a series of procedural roadblocks, including demands that the murders be tried in Colombia’s military justice system instead of the civilian courts.

It appears that the delaying tactics have worked. The message this sends about impunity for human rights abuse — even in the most egregious cases, like Soacha — could hardly be more poisonous. It is also a huge slap in the face to the Soacha victims’ grieving relatives, who had already been receiving threats.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Office in Colombia had uncharacteristically strong words about yesterday’s events.

“I am extremely worried about the impact and the repercussions that this decision could have over the more than 1,200 cases of extrajudicial executions that the Prosecutor-General’s Human Rights Unit is investigating, as well as on the mothers of the victims and the witnesses,” said Christian Salazar Volkmann, representative in Colombia of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Office continues to view as extremely serious the pattern under which many of these acts were committed.

Even Colombia’s Ministry of Defense, headed by a minister who has called human rights prosecutions were the work of “enemies of the fatherland,” appeared chagrined, calling on the justice system to continue its investigations and prosecutions of the Soacha cases, even with so many of the perpetrators now once again enjoying their freedom.

For the U.S. government, the implication of yesterday’s move is clear: as long as impunity continues to reign in these “false positives” cases, it is impossible to certify that Colombia’s human rights performance is improving.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Mary O’Grady Incites Violence in Colombian Peace Community


Here is a tremendous media criticism article posted on Upside Down World, about a Wall Street Journal's columnist and her dangerous op-ed about the Colombian Peace Community in San Jose de Apartado. Please read, and yes, get angry!



Written by Belén Fernández

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

In her latest pro bono public relations initiative on behalf of right-wing Latin American regimes, The Wall Street Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady interviews a former commander of the 5th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)—Daniel Sierra Martínez, alias “Samir”— who deserted the organization in 2008 and is now serving as a primary accomplice in Colombian government efforts to prove campesinos are terrorists. In her Dec. 13 article entitled “The FARC and the ‘Peace Community’,” O’Grady announces that “[l]ast week Colombian authorities agreed to let [Samir] sit down with me and talk about his rebel experience,” an arrangement which presumably did not require much twisting of authorities’ arms.

The peace community in question is that of San José de Apartadó, which was founded in 1997 in the northwestern Colombian department of Antioquia near the Panamanian border and is a network of geographically-proximate villages and outposts that have renounced cooperation with the military, paramilitaries, and guerrillas alike. The unilateral rejection of armed conflict had not prevented the community from suffering 184 assassinations—out of a population of approximately 1500—as of its 12th anniversary this year, however, as nonviolent philosophies do not appear to be compatible with efforts to clear territory of inhabitants in order to exploit coal mines and other local resources.

For the full article, go to Upside Down World.

The Bodies Are Still Piling Up in Honduras

Here's an interesting piece about one of the most forgotten stories of 2009-10, from Counterpunch.

By Joseph Shansky <> , CounterPunch <> .

Now that the world has heard reports of a "clean and fair" election in November, the violence against activists protesting the coup has increased even faster than feared.

Upcoming AlterNet stories on Digg
The bodies of slain activists are piling up in Honduras. While it's being kept quiet in most Honduran and international media, the rage is building among a dedicated network of friends spreading the word quickly with the tragic announcement of each compañero/a.

Now that the world heard from mainstream news outlets such as the New York Times of a "clean and fair" election on Nov. 29 (orchestrated by the US-supported junta currently in power), the violence has increased even faster than feared.

The specific targets of these killings have been those perceived as the biggest threats to the coup establishment. The bravest, and thus the most vulnerable: Members of the Popular Resistance against the coup. Their friends and family. People who provide the Resistance with food and shelter. Teachers, students, and ordinary citizens who simply recognize the fallacy of an un-elected regime taking over their country. All associated with the Resistance have faced constant and growing repercussions for their courage in protesting the coup. With the international community given the green light by the US that democratic order has returned via elections, it's open season for violent forces in Honduras working to tear apart the political unity of the Resistance Front against the coup.

The killings are happening almost faster than they can be recorded.

On Sunday, Dec. 7, a group of six people were gunned down while walking down the street in the Villanueva neighborhood of Tegucigalpa. According to sources, a white van with no license plates stopped in front of the group. Four masked men jumped out of the van and forced the group to get on the ground, where they were shot. The five victims who were killed were:

· Marcos Vinicio Matute Acosta, 39

· Kennet Josué Ramírez Rosa, 23

· Gabriel Antonio Parrales Zelaya, 34

· Roger Andrés Reyes Aguilar, 22

· Isaac Enrique Soto Coello, 24

One woman, Wendy Molina, 32, was shot several times and played dead when one of the assassins pulled her hair, checking to see if anyone in the group was still alive. She was taken to the hospital and survived.

The Honduran independent newspaper El Libertador reports that the group members were all organizers against the coup. According to a resident in the area, "The boys had organized committees so that the neighbors could get involved in the Resistance Front."

This massacre was part of a string of Resistance-related murders during the past few weeks alone. On December 3, Walter Trochez, 25 a well-known activist in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community was snatched off the street and thrown into a van, again by four masked men, in downtown Tegucigalpa. In the report that he later filed to local and national authorities, Walter said he was interrogated for hours for information on Resistance members and activities, and was beaten in the face with a pistol for refusing to speak. He was told that he would be killed regardless, and he eventually escaped by throwing open the van door, falling into the street, and running away.

It wasn't the first time Walter had been subject to these kinds of threats. He was a much-loved organizer against the coup who had been documenting human rights violations, particularly in the gay community. Walter had just published two articles. One following the elections was titled "The Triumph of Abstentionism", on the success of the effort by the Resistance to encourage citizens to refuse to vote. The other was called "Escalation of Hate and Homophobic Crimes against the LGBTT Community Rooted in the Civil-Religious-Military Coup d'état in Honduras".

In both, he concludes: "As a revolutionary I will be today, tomorrow and forever on the front lines of my people, all the while knowing that I may lose my life".

On Dec. 13, one week later, Walter was shot in the chest by a drive-by gunman while walking home. He died at the hospital.

On Dec. 5, Santos Garcia Corrales, an active member of the National Resistance Front, was detained by security forces in New Colony Capital, south of Tegucigalpa. He was then tortured for information on a local merchant who was providing food and supplies to the Resistance. After reporting the incident to local authorities, Santos' body was found five days later on Dec 10, decapitated.

There have been others as well, notably a rise in murders in the LGBT community since the coup. In particular, several transvestites have been recently killed in similarly gruesome ways. Human rights advocates report that "up to 18 gay and transgender men have been killed nationwide -- as many as the five prior years -- in the nearly six months since a political crisis rocked the nation."

The latest victim, Carlos Turcios, was kidnapped outside his home in Choloma Cortes, at three in the afternoon of Wednesday Dec. 16. He was found dead the next day, with his hands and head cut off. Carlos had been vice-president of the Choloma chapter of the Resistance Front, a town located a few hours outside of the capital. Andres Pavón, president of CODEH (Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras), commented: "We believe this horrendous crime joins others where the bodies show signs of brutal torture…This aggression is directed to the construction of collective fear."

It is a sinister effort to shake up a community that is now in fact stronger than ever. As Walter Trochez noted (and CNN confirmed), most of the country refused to go to the polls that day. Many of the world's governments, including most of Latin America, refused to recognize the results.

In this climate of fierce repression, citizens can no longer depend on authorities for the most basic protective rights, and those fearful for their lives cannot report to the police. Complaints they file, such as those of Santos and Walter, could soon become signatures to their own death letters. Many believe with good reason that the killings are state-sponsored. At the very least, they are the result of new conditions which allow for the widespread deterioration of state protection.

Pavón and other human rights leaders in Honduras have been extremely vocal in denouncing these atrocities, but the story has remained under the radar for most Hondurans and almost all international media. At the time when Hondurans most need exposure to these abuses, they've been left to fend for themselves.

How did this happen? Why are people being randomly executed in dark corners of the country for simply standing in opposition to a military coup?

Most of the bloodshed is on the hands of coup president Roberto Micheletti and other leaders of the regime. However, President Barack Obama and the US State Department played a major role in allowing conditions to get to this point. The US government took no concrete action against the thousands of documented violations since the coup took place June 28. It's no shock that the violence has worsened dramatically with the eyes of the world now averted.

In a recent interview, Francisco Rios of the National Front Against the Coup reiterated Frente communiqués which stated that the Resistance, though now lying low, is preparing a massive organization effort for next year and beyond. Rios reported that they have stopped meeting publicly as a safety measure for now, but will soon begin dividing into chapters around the country with plans to emerge as a new, strengthened political force. Walter, Santos, Carlos, and all of the Resistance fighters who gave their lives have inspired others in the movement to continue the struggle for justice in Honduras.

Friday, January 8, 2010


This compelling piece was brought to my attention from our friends at Rights Action.


December 2009


by Colin Murphy, Le Monde diplomatique,

At 7.15am on 4 September last year, Yuri Melini stepped onto the street from his mother's house in a suburb of Guatemala City. A man standing across the road called him. The man had a lost look, and had the dress and manner of someone from rural parts. He was holding a folded newspaper. "Chh chh," called the man, and Yuri Melini crossed the street to help him.

When Yuri Melini was one metre away, the man took a gun out from behind the newspaper. Yuri Melini turned to run, but the man shot him, and then shot him again, six more times. Yuri Melini collapsed and the man approached him. Yuri Melini lay there, awaiting the "coup de grâce", but it never came. The man left.

"And here I am," says Yuri Melini, speaking on the phone from Guatemala, as if happily surprised.

Melini is one of the most prominent human rights and environmental activists in Guatemala, a country where protection for rights and the environment is impoverished, and their protectors are besieged. Since 2000, he has run an organisation called Calas (in English, the Centre for Legal, Environmental and Social Action), which agitates for indigenous rights and the protection of the environment, among other areas.

Guatemala is caught in "a vicious circle", he says, mired in a "historical level of violence", the residue of the civil conflict that lasted from the 1970s to the peace accord of 1996. Not only is violent crime chronic, there is a culture of "total impunity".

Melini's language and analysis is echoed elsewhere. Amnesty International reported that, of 5,781 killings in Guatemala during 2008, 1% resulted in a conviction. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has criticised Guatemala for fostering impunity for killings. Human Rights Watch concluded: "A dozen years after the end of Guatemala's brutal civil war, impunity remains the norm when it comes to human rights violations."


In May of this year, Amnesty International reported that activists working with two leading human rights organisations in Guatemala had received dozens of death threats via SMS text messages. One message read: "You've got one hour, this is the last warning. Stop messing with us. We'll kill your kids first, then you."

Melini elaborates: "In general terms, there is a very low value placed on life. Women and young people are killed on a regular basis. Environmentalists are also killed, when they get in the way of interests. You can contract a hired gunman for a very small price. A group with money can hire in a Colombian group to carry out assassinations."

In the first half of 2009, he says, there were 241 attacks on human-rights defenders. This context is such that, despite a growing international consensus around the need to prioritise environmental interventions, work as an activist in Guatemala is increasingly difficult.

Defence of the environment has become a cross-cutting issue that involves work on human rights, criminality and governance.

He cites examples: in the mining industry, the use of toxic chemicals, such as arsenic, has insidious effects on the health of workers; indigenous Mayan communities living on traditional lands in isolated areas suffer intrusions from narco-trafficking and illegal mining.

Yet there is, he says, "a sign of hope that some things can change". The election of Barack Obama in the US and subsequent substantial investment in "clean" technologies point the way forward at an international level. The global financial crisis "is an opportunity to develop a more sustainable model" and a "just economy". "The economy and environment may seem like distinct themes, but they're complementary. The key elements of development - factories, roads, railways - all have an environmental impact."


There is, as yet, little appreciation of this in Guatemala, though, where there is "a crisis of governmentality". "On the one hand, there is no sense of corporate responsibility and on the other hand, there is total impunity and a justice system that doesn't work."

The attempt on Melini's life has left him reliant on a zimmer frame for walking, and on bodyguards for protection, but it brought him to international attention, which culminated in May this year with an international award for the protection of human-rights defenders from the organisation Front Line. The attack "raised me to the status of a recognised public figure, and has generated a debate in the country about these issues," he says. "The Front Line award has permitted me to launch myself onto a new level, in a way that I couldn't have done before, and that itself is an additional form of protection."

That it may be, but "celebrity" on the international human rights circuit, and even national recognition, is no bulletproof charm. Amidst the culture of impunity that Melini has documented, it could be tempting to despair at attempts to foster change.

Jim Loughran of Front Line concedes this. "Sometimes, when confronted by such an extreme situation, you can feel powerless," he acknowledges. "How do you break the cycle of poverty and violence in a country? Where is your starting point?" This, he says, is where Front Line's philosophy applies: "protect one, empower a thousand". "Your starting point is action to create a safe space around human-rights defenders, those people working on the ground to create change. You take the small steps that enable people on the ground to reduce their risk of arrest, harassment or assassination."

Whether those small steps serve to help Guatemala advance along the path to stability remains to be seen.

(Colin Murphy is a journalist and writer based in Dublin)

CIP: Review of Colombia's Democratic Security Strategy

That is the title of a report released two weeks ago by the Corporación Nuevo Arco Iris, one of a small handful of security-focused think-tanks in Bogotá. It has received a lot of attention in the Colombian media because it warns of some bad news.

For the first time since Álvaro Uribe and his get-tough “Democratic Security” policy entered Colombia’s presidency in 2002, the country’s security indicators are headed in the wrong direction. Nuevo Arco Iris contends that the Uribe government’s policies are experiencing diminishing returns after a high point in mid-2008, when paramilitary leaders were extradited, hostages were freed, and top FARC leaders were killed.

Here are a few points that stood out in my reading of the report.

  • The FARC are more active. Nuevo Arco Iris registered 1,429 actions initiated by this guerrilla group through October 20, 2009 – more than 30 percent more than in all of 2008. Their increased capacity is most evident in the southwestern departments of Cauca and Nariño, the Orinoco-basin department of Guaviare, and the coca-producing Bajo Cauca region in northern Antioquia department. The guerrillas are relying ever more heavily on landmines – including the planting of enormous minefields – and snipers. This, Nuevo Arco Iris says, is part of the FARC’s “Plan Renacer” (Rebirth Plan) begun after “Alfonso Cano” took over the group’s leadership in 2008.
  • “New” paramilitary groups are far more active. In 2008 and 2009, Nuevo Arco Iris detected activity of “emerging criminal bands,” or groups including elements of the now-defunct United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), in 293 of Colombia’s 1,100 municipalities (counties). They estimate 11,000 people belonging to dozens of such armed bands.
  • Crisis in Medellín. While a few years ago Medellín had reduced its murder rate to 32 killings per 100,000 residents, this year the murder rate has shot back up to 73 per 100,000 residents. Nuevo Arco Iris attributes the rise to violence between gangs, narcotrafficking groups and re-forming paramilitary groups, all of them trying to fill the vacuum left by the boss who had dominated the city’s criminality for much of the 2000s: paramilitary leader Diego Fernando Murillo, “Don Berna,” extradited to the United States in May 2008.
  • “New” paramilitaries are also increasingly active in Bogotá, especially poor and working-class neighborhoods in the city’s west and south. They appear to exercise significant influence in the city’s main food wholesaling and distribution center, Corabastos, and over the city’s semi-legal markets in untaxed and often counterfeit goods, known as “Sanandresitos.”
  • Judicial actions in cases of “false positives” or extrajudicial executions. Nuevo Arco Iris reports that Colombia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office (Fiscalía) is currently investigating more than 2,000 members of Colombia’s armed forces on charges of killing civilians and presenting them later as civilians killed in combat. Of this number, 476 are detained, a few serving jail terms and most awaiting trial.

Bolivia refuses to be U.S. slave: VP

This piece comes from the Xinhua News Agency. I send it to you as a public service.

January 5, 2010

Bolivia refuses to be U.S. slave: VP

LA PAZ: The Bolivian government said on Monday that it refuses to
blindly cater to the economic or political desires of the United States.

Bolivia's Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera said that as La Paz
wanted to reset its diplomatic ties with Washington, based on mutual
respect, the country should not become a slave of the United States,
which he described as "the most important power and the market of the

In an interview with Radio Erbol, Bolivia's national radio, Garcia
said Bolivia had been "the most subordinated" Latin American country
to the United States in the past.

"We do not want a market in exchange for them (Americans) telling us
who must be the master. We do not want tax preference in exchange for
them telling us what must be our economic policy, because that will
make us become a slave and a colony again," Garcia said.

According to Garcia, U.S. President Barack Obama, like his
predecessor George W. Bush, had a "strong war policy" which did not
allow ties between the two countries to improve.

"When he (Obama) learns to recognize that the world is a community of
sovereign states, which voluntarily are independent, we will have
better ties with the United States," Garcia said.

However, he added that Bolivia was open to establishing ties with all
the countries in the world based on mutual respect of sovereignty.

Bolivian-U.S. ties were frozen since September 2008, when La Paz
expelled U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg for allegedly interfering
with internal affairs, and Washington took the same retaliatory measure.

This incident also had consequences in the commercial area, as the
Obama administration decided to extend Bolivia's suspension from tax
benefits of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act.

Former U.S. President Bush suspended Bolivia's benefits because he
said the South American country was not sufficiently helping the
fight against drug trafficking.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


Here's an interesting story from NCM Venezuela that a friend alerted me to.

(NCM Venezuela)

Jesús Dávila – Translated by Jan Susler

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, January 7, 2010 (NCM) – The operation in which the commando group killed Macheteros commander Filiberto Ojeda in 2005 was coordinated from the office of the then U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, according to unofficial information provided by a political source connected to the agency.

The source also indicated that the Ojeda case was part of Washington’s strategy towards the South American nation and that currently there are in process political and diplomatic actions whose purpose is to confront the attempts to expand the influence of the Bolivarian revolution in Puerto Rico and the rest of the region.

Among the measures being discussed in Washington political circles is the possibility of promoting a Congressional investigation into the activities of Venezuelan diplomats in Puerto Rico, and even ordering the withdrawal of the Consul General of Venezuela in San Juan. The source assured that he had talked about the topic in the Venezuela section of the U.S. State Department led by Moisés Behar.

This affair has a trajectory that dates back to the end of the 18th century, when the U.S. and England agreed to support Latin American independence in exchange for their not challenging the empire’s supremacy over a series of islands, including Puerto Rico. A few years later, Simón Bolívar tried without success to liberate Puerto Rico, which became a U.S. colony at the end of the 19th century as a result of the Spanish American War.

In the past few years, the U.S. has been evaluating the search for a solution to the colonial case of Puerto Rico, and President Barack Obama assures that he will take definitive steps during this term.

The issue of the conduct of the U.S. State Department— according to the source’s information— also connects politicians from the state of Florida as well as Puerto Rico, including the official spokesman of the New Progressive Party in the Senate, Roberto Arango.

The legislator, an important ally of governor Luis Fortuño, has waged an intense campaign against Venezuelan diplomacy in Puerto Rico, and has sought, without success, meetings with the consular office as well as with the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Washington, to present his complaints.

In fact, during 2009, Puerto Rico was the scene of controversial news related to Venezuela, such as last January, when news emerged about a meeting in San Juan between U.S. officials and Venezuelan opposition businessmen. But the Ojeda case is the first involving a violent death.

The new chain of revelations has been the result of news published last year by the Miami Herald, revealing the supposed Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation of the then Venezuelan consul in San Juan, Vinicio Romero, and his supposed connections to radical groups in Puerto Rico between 2004 and 2005. At that time, the only known operation on this subject in the FBI San Juan field office was the one focused on the capture of Ojeda, commander of the Boricua Popular Army–Macheteros.

NCM News confronted the source with the fact that the U.S. Code provides that when this type of investigation into terrorism is to be carried out on a foreign diplomat, they must not only notify the State Department in Washington, but also the office of the Secretary of State has the legal responsibility to become the link and coordinate everything the agencies do. The source showed no surprise at all and explained that he was always aware this was the case, and he assented when told that this implied that the agency in charge of U.S. diplomacy was present at headquarters in Washington where the bloody deeds were coordinated.

The deeds took place on September 23, 2005, when an FBI commando group assaulted Ojeda’s home in a rural area of western Hormigueros, in an operation where a sharpshooter wounded the veteran military chief and left him to slowly bleed to death. According to the report of the FBI Inspector General, the order not to enter the house until the following day was given directly from headquarters in Washington.

The Inspector General’s investigation concluded that there were errors committed in the operation, but found no criminal responsibility. Similarly, although the attorney at the Justice Department of Puerto Rico determined that the investigation should be continued as a murder case, in the office of the Attorney General they eliminated that part of the report and arranged for its dismissal, having found no sustainable evidence of negligent homicide.

Currently, the only official investigation into the case is the one being handled by the Civil Rights Commission, whose draft is expected to be ready by mid January.

Ojeda’s death had the immediate effect of aborting conversations he was having with the Catholic Church, which explored the possibility of peaceful means for the U.S. to grant independence to Puerto Rico. In fact, the last of the meetings had been cancelled when the Church notified him that they couldn’t guarantee security.

Shortly after his death, U.S. security officials showed the government of Puerto Rico supposed taped evidence which showed Macheteros military training, according to confidential documents. The Macheteros, led by the mysterious “Commander Guasábara” and his Staff, have not carried out any new offensive actions.

Meanwhile, Ojeda, who supported the Bolivarian revolution and who issued a declaration denouncing the 2002 coup against president Hugo Chávez, has received several posthumous honors in Venezuela, and his widow, Doña Elma Beatriz Rosado Barbosa, was received by the Venezuelan leader.


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