Ecuador, ALBA and the FARC
Ecuador, ALBA and the FARC
by Toni Solo
Recent remarks by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez on the civil war in Colombia and Ecuador's decision not to join the Alternativa Bolivariana de las Americas (ALBA) solidarity based cooperation initiative (1) shows progressive leaders are taking stock on Latin American integration. President Rafael Correa suggests his government's decision is linked to efforts to revive the Andean Community of Nations (CAN) group which Venezuela abandoned when the Peruvian and Colombian government's insisted on negotiating bilateral "free trade" agreements with the United States.
Aporrea.org reports Correa as admitting that he told Chavez in 2007, "you return to the CAN and Ecuador will immediately join ALBA". Venezuela's government may well be quietly relieved, since Ecuador's decision is very ambivalent, keeping its options open and continuing to develop close bilateral trade links with Venezuela. It may well suit the ALBA countries - Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Nicaragua and Venezuela - to consolidate gains so far and to develop ALBA's closely linked PETROCARIBE preferential energy and trade programme covering most of the Caribbean and much of Central America.
Ecuador's announcement comes shortly after the recent European Union-Latin American summit in Peru's capital Lima and follows typically bullying remarks by European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, Tony Blair's legacy-man in Brussels.(2) Mandelson is alleged to have threatened, in a private meeting, to exclude from EU trade negotiations with the CAN group, any country insisting on alternatives to a free trade agreement. This comes at the same time as the US government has announced the reactivation of the US navy's fourth fleet - a massive escalation of the military threat against the ALBA countries in general and Venezuela in particular.
So Western Bloc countries are exerting pressure on all fronts against regional efforts to build autonomous alternatives to corporate globalization. In Nicaragua this week, the interim Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Manuel Coronel Katz felt it necessary to urge foreign diplomats in the country not to intervene in the country's internal affairs.(3) To which the Italian ambassador is reported to have responded, "Nicaragua needs the help of donor countries", as much as to say, "we'll make them an offer they cannot refuse" - no change to Western Bloc soup du jour gangsterism there.
To that background, one has to add Colombian narco-terror President Alvaro Uribe's fierce efforts to internationalize his country's civil war. Uribe's government followed up their March 1st attack in Ecuadoran territory, which killed FARC peace negotiator Raul Reyes and others, with concerted efforts to implicate Ecuador and Venezuela as supposed FARC accomplices. Such accusations have been dismissed even by corporate globalization fellow travellers like José Miguel Insulza Secretary General of the Organization of American States.
But those accusations are readily echoed in Western Bloc corporate media and avidly exploited by the US government as part of its regional destabilization strategy. The latest episode involved a clumsily staged operation to frame an alleged Venezuelan national guard member on the Colombian border in an attempt to "prove" the Venezuelan authorities supply the FARC. Such efforts would be farcical if their consequences were not to provide copy to corporate media propaganda sheets like the New York Times, whose columnist Simon "Judith Miller" Romero, has been acutely criticised by Stephen Lendman.(4)
One should also take into account the recession affecting the United States and Europe which is likely to worsen sharply later this year and well into 2009. As the drive towards corporate globalization stalls, the Western Bloc governments that hoped it would sustain their global economic dominance will be less reluctant to use military force - hence the menaces and military intimidation towards Iran and Venezuela. That is the broad context in which President Chavez recently declared, more forcefully than ever before, that it was time for the FARC to release all prisoners unconditionally and that their guerrilla campaign was no longer a valid strategy.(5)
It may be worth noting that President Chavez did not withdraw his earlier calls for the FARC to be recognized internationally as a belligerent force in Colombia's civil war, now over 40 years old. The FARC's response to the Venezuelan President's appeal (6) repeated the offer they have made for years of a prisoner exchange, although the statement did not rule out the unilateral release of Ingrid Betancourt and other civilians held by the FARC. Among the prisoners they hope will be part of any such exchange are Ricardo Palmera ("Simón Trinidad") and Anayibe Rojas ("Sonia").
Both Ricardo Palmera and Anayibe Rojas were extradited from Colombia to the US on what observers like the lawyer Paul Wolf (7) regard as trumped up charges of narcotics dealing. Rojas was convicted on the evidence of Colombian government officials, paid informers and alleged FARC deserters. The case against Palmera had to be dropped.
Little has been written about the collapse of the case against Ricardo Palmera, presumably because it is extremely inconvenient for all those people who parrot the accusation that the FARC finance their guerrilla campaign by narcotics dealing. Here was an important FARC leader extradited on narcotics charges and the case against him on those charges had to be withdrawn. One might have thought that was worth looking at.
When one does try and find evidence that the FARC finance their guerrilla campaign with profits from the drugs trade one finds that Anayibe Rojas seems to be the only FARC member ever convicted of narcotics offences in the US. Her conviction - for conspiracy not for any actual transaction - was based on the evidence of the FARC's political and military enemies. When Rojas was pressed by US officials in Colombia to accuse her FARC comrades of narcotics dealing she refused to do so. So in over 40 years, only one FARC member has ever been convicted - and then only on a charge of conspiracy to import 5kg or more of cocaine - in a narcotics case in the US.
What, then, is the origin of the routine assertions that the FARC finance their guerrilla campaign with narcotics dealing? The main sources of the accusations seem to be the US military's Southern Command, the Drugs Enforcement Agency and the Presidential Office for the National Control of Drug Policy - zero out of ten for political independence. If one tries to find the origins of that accusation it gets harder and harder not to conclude that it is yet another convenient US government promoted distortion of the reality of narcotics dealing from Colombia to the US.
That reality became very clear on May 14th this year when the Colombian government agreed to extradite 14 leading right wing paramilitary commanders to the US on narcotics charges.(8) One of them, Salvatore Mancuso, had been wanted by the US authorities for nearly ten years on charges of importing 17 tons of cocaine into the US. The obvious reason for their sudden extradition is that they were key witnesses involved in trials in Colombia linking Alvaro Uribe and almost 60 indicted politicians, mostly Uribe supporters, many of them in prison, to mass murder and narcotics dealing. Their removal to the US was mighty convenient for the Uribe regime.
That fact tends not to figure readily in the blithering propaganda fog justifying the US "war on drugs" industry and the multitude of organizations and individuals that thrive on its funding. Propaganda outlets like the New York Times or the UK Guardian are hardly going to report persistently or in any depth that their governments support, arm and train at a cost of billions of dollars each year a government up to its eyes in drugs and mass murder. The New York Times acted fiercely to discredit Gary Webb's "Dark Alliance" revelations of US official complicity in the drugs business. So it should come as no surprise when accusations against the FARC of sustaining their guerrilla campaign by exporting cocaine to the US fail to hold up against the facts.:
Item: One solitary convicted FARC member fitted up by paid informers for conspiracy.
Item: One failed narcotics case against Ricardo Palmera. Charges dropped.
Despite over US$5bn in US military aid in the last six years , the FARC continue to defy Colombia's armed forces totalling over 400,000 soldiers and armed police. By not winning, in effect President Uribe has lost the war against the FARC. So it suits him and his European and United States backers to use his rotten paramilitary and narcotics based regime - completely isolated within the region - to internationalize his failed internal war and attack regional integration processes that threaten to hinder or even stop corporate globalization in Latin America.
Underpinning all the Western Bloc propaganda justifying their governments unjustifiable support for the Uribe regime in Colombia is the determination to continue the war. The FARC have repeatedly offered to negotiate both the immediate issue of the prisoner exchange and the wider issue of the civil war itself. Even when the two prisoner exchanges took place earlier this year, Uribe's forces continued bombing areas where they knew the released hostages were en route to freedom. The murder by bombing of Raul Reyes in Ecuador killed the FARC's leading negotiator for the prisoner exchange.
Neither the Uribe regime nor the Bush regime want peace in Colombia. Just as in Palestine, on Colombia too the US and its allies use double-speak. That is why, whether in Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Somalia or Colombia all the freedom and democracy rhetoric ends in murder and oppression. This procedure is global Western Bloc government policy. It consistently accompanies their programme of corporate globalization. Any resistance to this hypocrisy and its sadistic practice is branded as terrorism.
Andy Worthington points out (9) "In a further attempt to stifle dissent, the Military Commissions Act defined an “enemy combatant” as someone who has either engaged in or supported hostilities against the US..." That twisted logic, defying well-established international law, was rejected and challenged by the FSLN government in Nicaragua when it granted political asylum to three survivors of the murderous Colombian incursion into Ecuador on March 1st. The Mexican Lucía Morett, and the Colombians, Doris Torres Bohórquez and Martha Pérez Gutiérrez, currently remain under the protection of the Nicaraguan authorities. (10)
The FSLN government's support for the survivors of Colombia's illegal attack in Ecuador is just one more example of why it is a target, along with the governments of Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez and to a lesser degree perhaps that of Rafael Correa of the Western Bloc military, economic and diplomatic offensive. Currently, the right wing and centre right parties are cranking up accusations that the FSLN government is moving towards dictatorship. It is the same script used in Haiti, Bolivia and Venezuela. Managua's Radio Ya station reports (11) shock groups have been trained in the US and are now at work preparing destabilization activities around the country.
Western Bloc countries are deploying their military, diplomatic and economic power to undermine the solidarity based ALBA integration initiative and to target directly member countries like Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The recent fabricated hysteria over vague messages in mysterious laptops allegedly captured during Colombia's criminal foray into Ecuador was part of that. The collapse of the trial against Ricardo Palmera set back attempts to morph Venezuela's mediation role in the prisoner negotiations with the FARC into Venezuelan complicity in cocaine imports to the US.
No wonder, in such a context, that Rafael Correa and his government colleagues have decided to hedge their bets. At the same time as trying to coax Venezuela back into the Community of Andean Nations they are negotiating bilateral deals with the government of President Chavez. Nor is it much of a surprise that President Chavez himself, as James Petras has noted, has decided to echo the Cuban official line on the FARC.
The FARC too have survived worse difficulties than they face currently. In terms of regional diplomacy, progressive governments like Ecuador and Venezuela and its ALBA allies seem to be hunkering down. They are preparing for whatever economic or military intimidation the crisis-ridden Western Bloc imperialist countries may have in store before the plutocrats change guard in Washington.
1. "Ecuador dice que no se adherirá al Alba", Aporrea / Agencias 13/06/08 - http://www.aporrea.org/internacionales/n115475.html
2. "Denuncian amenazas de Peter Mandelsoncontra Bolivia y Ecuador", Bilaterals.org, May 21st 2008 - http://www.bilaterals.org/article.php3?id_article=12190
"Europa impone un TLC a los países andinos y amenaza con marginar a Bolivia" Bolpress, May 15th 2008 - http://www.bolpress.com/art.php?Cod=2008051510
3. "Embajadores ignoran advertencia oficial y preparan documento sobre política interna", Radio La Primerisima, June 13th 2008 - http://www.radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias/general/31440
"Nicaragua pide respeto a su soberanía", Multinoticias, June 13th 2008 -
4. "The New York Times v. Hugo Chavez ", Stephen Lendman, Countercurrents.org, April 1st, 2008 - http://www.countercurrents.org/lendman010408.htm
5. "Chavez: "La guerrilla pasó a la historia" BBC Mundo.com, June 9th 2008 - http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/latin_america/newsid_7443000/7443091.stm
"Chávez pide a las FARC la liberación unilateral de los rehenes", Publico.es, June 9th 2008 - http://www.publico.es/124270/chavez/pide/lider/farc/liberacion/unilateral/rehenes
6. "FARC insiste en canje secuestrados por rebeldes presos en respuesta a Chávez", Unionradio.net, June 13th 2008 - http://www.unionradio.com.ve/Noticias/Noticia.aspx?noticiaid=244543
"Sonia ejemplo de dignidad revolucionaria" - http://www.conbolivar.org/antigua/conbol/preso/sonia.htm
"El montaje judicial contra Simón Trinidad y Sonia en Estados Unidos", Paul Wolf, Partido Comunista de Colombia - http://www.pacocol.org/es/Inicio/Archivo_de_noticias/Marzo07/10.htm
7. "FARC not a terrorist group", Paul Wolf, Colombia Journal, January 12th - http://www.colombiajournal.org/colombia270.htm
8. "Colombia extraditó a 14 paramilitares pese a estar acusados de crímenes de lesa humanidad", Gara, Rebelion, May 14th 2008 - http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=67385
9. "The Supreme Court's Gitmo decision" Andy Worthington, Counterpunch, June 13th - http://www.counterpunch.org/worthington06132008.html
10. "Procurador Estrada explica a diputados asilo político legal a las mujeres FARC" Radio La Primerisima, June 4th 2008 - http://www.radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias/general/30865
11. "Comienzan a funcionar grupos de choque facistas en el país" Nuevo Radio Ya, Juen 14th 2008 - http://nuevaya.com.ni/index.php/2008061416178/Noticias-de-Portada/Comienzan-a-funcionar-grupos-de-choque-facistas-en-el-pais.html