Skip to comments.Latest News From Venezuela and Latin America: Marxist Mayhem in Colombia, Brazil
Posted on 02/02/2003 4:00:10 PM PST by Tailgunner Joe
Marxist Mayhem in Colombia
Jan. 31: One of the three main terrorist groups operating in Colombia, Cuban-inspired National Liberation Army (ELN), kidnapped Ruth Morris and Scott Dalton, L.A. Times journalists on assignment in the eastern province of Arauca.
ELN announced Tuesday that the two would be freed only after International Red Cross and other amnesty organizations gave due attention to their version of the facts. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, however, refused today to meet the Marxists' demands to halt military offensives during the handoff.
Foreign reporters used to work under tacit protection by the terrorist groups allowing them to freely report events. No more.
Under increased pressures from Uribe, who won the elections with a majority of 53 percent in May 2002 due to his clear determination to attack guerrilla groups, Colombias terrorists see themselves threatened from the side of the government, their suppliers and other collaborators, and are responding accordingly.
Coca leaf and poppy farmers now have the alternative to substitute their crops with legal products under the U.S.-sponsored Plan Colombia, possibly paving the way for a permanent success of the coordinated crackdown on the guerrillas.
President Uribes hard-line policy against the Colombian guerrillas comes as a radical shift from former President Pastranas strategy to negotiate with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist guerrilla movement that has taken ownership of drug-trafficking operations, thus becoming the establishment among the guerrilla groups.
National Liberation Army (ELN), which surged as a competing movement to FARC in 1965 and whose model is the Cuban revolution, has lately been said to be working in conjunction with FARC in an effort to ally against the enemy, the government.
Third in the landscape are the ultra-radical right-wing paramilitary forces, Colombian United Self-defense (AUC), which gained significance during the 1980s and was organized by the farmers themselves to form an armed opposition to the guerrillas in view of the ineffectiveness of the government to eradicate terrorism.
As a matter of fact, FARCs foremost condition during negotiations with former Pastrana had usually been the elimination of AUC. The current government, however, has proposed dialogues of peace in an effort to demobilize the paramilitaries, to which AUC has agreed as of Dec. 1, 2002.
Moreover, the paramilitaries have been granted judicial benefits as of last Wednesday that only the guerrillas used to have. Such benefits include the termination of legal procedures and the conditional suspension of execution for those who confess.
The tactical move by the Colombian government is possibly designed to detangle the sources of violence and have the paramilitary forces represented by AUC cooperate in dismantling FARC and ELN.
The eastern province of Arauca, core of guerrilla warfare, has become the center of attention by the central government, which has suspended the collection of oil royalties by the provincial government after allegations that FARC works in conjunction with local authorities.
It is a common practice that businessmen pay fees to the guerrillas to secure protection for their companies, but it seems that local authorities have sided with the guerrillas in accepting bribes to follow through with business.
Meanwhile, 60 specially trained U.S. military officials have arrived into the province to aid President Uribes administration and Special Forces in combating the issue.
Uribe, whose public support reaches about 70 percent, according to unofficial polls, has so far been well received by the Colombian population in spite of the increase in violence not only in the provinces but also in the capital, Bogota, which guerrilla groups had usually kept out of.
It seems that the Colombian population is taking the retaliation by the guerrilla groups as a necessary toll to finally give a permanent end to violence.
Lula's Double Play
Jan. 29: Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva received praise in Washington for the first measures taken by his recently elected government. As John B. Taylor, under secretary for international affairs at the U.S. Treasury Department stated, "We're all already quite encouraged by the economic leadership that President Lula and his economic team have shown."
Lulas campaign of ending hunger, fighting corruption and dealing with drug trafficking was also well received.
Lula, a former union leader, had spread fears throughout the hemisphere and financial markets during his campaign for the presidency. His populist rhetoric and anti-American position were not well received by Washington, which fearing a Castro-Chavez-Lula Axis of Evil hyped for the diplomatic evolution of Brazils president.
Since Lula was named president on Jan. 1, his policies have included raising interest rates to halt inflation rather than the deficit-increasing and job-creating policies announced during his campaign.
The U.S. will now become the largest importer of Brazilian products with a volume of US$15.5 billion. However, he remains critical of the U.S. and condemns its protectionist measures, a main point to tackle during the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA).
Brazil and the U.S. co-chair the FTAA negotiation process, which will eliminate tariffs between 34 countries in the Americas, including Canada and the Caribbean. The treaty is expected to be launched in 2005 and bring the about a US$25 billion increase in export revenues. However, Lula said in a joint press conference with French President Jacques Chirac during his trip to Paris last Tuesday, "We can't accept American protectionism as a prerequisite to our participation in a free trade agreement."
Chirac said Lula complained about the highly subsidized U.S. agricultural sector, remarking that, the U.S. spends more on subsidizing its farmers than the EU. Lula announced that he would be working extensively with the EU representing Mercosur, a trading block composed of Argentina, Brasil, Paraguay and Uruguay, including associate members Chile and Bolivia, to expand Brazilian exports in an attempt to reduce dependence from U.S. markets.
At the press conference, he also agreed with the Franco-German axis stance toward war in Iraq, following the slogan that carried him to the presidency, Lula Peace and Love.
Along the same lines, Lula, who is pursuing an international campaign for the hearts and minds of the world, is also scheduled to meet with German President Gerhard Schroeder this week. He mentioned that the relationship between Brazil and Europe was sometimes more sentimental than economic and that in these four years, an immense effort would be made to transform this relationship into a more daring and economically deeper matter.
Lula was the only president who attended both the World Economic Forum, a pro-free-trade gathering that took place in Davos, Switzerland, as well as the World Social Forum, an anti-globalization event that started three years ago with a clear anti-American stance.
His message at Davos was for free markets and trade with promises to attack poverty and hunger. This, of course, spurred criticism among his left-wing supporters, many belonging to his Workers Party, to which he replied, A good coach is not one who begins winning but ends winning the game.
: Miami Herald, Jan. 28
[2, 3]: Wall Street Journal, Jan. 28
: El Universal, Jan. 28
: Financial Times, Jan. 27
Chavez Accused of Terrorism, Crimes Against Humanity
Jan. 28: Spanish lawyer Luis Garcia Perulles has confirmed that a complaint has been filed at the National Spanish Council against president of Venezuela Hugo Chavez alleging crimes against humanity, violation of human rights and terrorism.
The action has come as a result of the death of José Antonio Gamallo, a Spanish citizen who was transported to Spain after having been seriously wounded during the protests that preceded the attempted coup on April 11, 2001.
The massive protest attended by more than 1 million people in the center of Caracas left a death toll of 17, leading to a trial and hearings at the National Assembly that lasted for more than one month. Lawyers representing the dead protesters did not accomplish more than a political discussion at the National Assembly despite having presented video proofs of Chavez backers and members of the government shooting at the peaceful crowd.
The hearings, which had as their high point the disclosure of recorded phone conversations by senior military officials between the president and members of the armed forces at Miraflores, the presidential palace, show that Chavez had ordered to unleash the Plan Avila on the morning before senior military officials asked him to resign.
The Plan Avila is a contingency plan designed to suppress civilians and foresees the seizure of the street by tanks and the armed forces. Gen. Rosendo, who was put in charge of the plan and one of the disclosers of this information at the National Assembly, considered the plan an unjustifiable atrocity toward the unarmed protesters and did not proceed to carry it on.
Following the inability of the Venezuelan judicial system to resolve the case, the lawyers representing Gamallo have taken the complaint to the international arena.
"The Venezuelan State is doing everything possible to obstruct the approval of judicial decisions, said Garcia, one of the lawyers, in reference to the proceedings caused by the events on April 11th.
He assured that the filing of the complaint accusing the government of terrorist activities before the Spanish judicial authorities was based on evidence about the redirection of funds to terrorist groups accounts. Garcia explained that his evidence included audiovisual material that would be evaluated by the assigned judge.
When consulted about the judicial proceedings that will be launched in Spain, Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel declared "this shows gross ignorance about what a state of law is. It is important to exhaust all national judicial resources before an international action is started. Secondly, I think it reveals a complete lack of imagination and sense of responsibility.
He charged that the ones who should be put on trial were those who sabottaged the oil industry, disrupted two months ago with the beginning of the general strike against President Chavez's rule.
PDVSA, the state oil company, remains occupied by military forces and is operating with 5,000 employees less, who had resigned and left their posts as a protest against an increased politization of the company. Meanwhile, oil exports have been restored to about one-third of usual daily production of 3.1 million barrels.
: www.globovision.com, Jan. 28
: El Universal, Jan. 28
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