Talk to Jazeera: Ingrid Betancourt

Dandelion Salad

AlJazeeraEnglish

Al Jazeera talks to former hostage Ingrid Betancourt.

see

Betancourt Update – Is This the Beginning of Colombia’s Leftward Shift?

Response to James Petras’ Critique: “Fidel Castro and the FARC. Eight Mistaken Theses of Fidel Castro”

A Few Words from the FARC By Mike Whitney

Fidel Castro and the FARC – Eight Mistaken Thesis of Fidel Castro

Lies, kidnapping and a mysterious laptop

Betancourt Update – Is This the Beginning of Colombia’s Leftward Shift?

Dandelion Salad

By Mike Whitney
07/14/08 “ICH”

It was a perfectly executed rescue mission and they pulled it off without a hitch. A small group of Colombian military-intelligence agents, posing as aid workers on a humanitarian mission, touched-down in the heart of rebel territory, gathered up Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages, and whisked them away to safety while a small army of rifle-toting Marxist guerrillas looked on dumbfounded. The tale of the daring rescue by Colombia’s finest was immediately splashed across the front pages of newspapers around the world. Finally, the Bush-Uribe combo could point to a decisive victory in the seven year-long war on terror. Score one for the good guys in the ongoing struggle against the forces of evil.

There’s just one problem; the story isn’t true.

Apart from the reports on Swiss Public Radio that “claim that the entire episode was nothing but a sham to disguise the payment of a ransom” and that “the operation had in fact been staged to cover up the fact that the US and Colombians had paid $20 million for their freedom.” And, excluding the fact that “the wife of one of the hostages’ guards acted as a go-between to persuade her husband (who was a member of the FARC) to change sides.” (Times Online) And, ignoring the fact that on June 3rd, Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba said that she had information that the government of Colombia was negotiating a deal with the FARC a to trade money for the release of Betancourt and the mercenaries” and that Mediaparte, the French web site founded by the former chief editor of Le Monde, reported that the rescue was “not an achievement of the Colombian military, but due to the surrender of a group of the FARC members” following “direct negotiations by the Colombian secret services with the guerrilla group that held Betancourt captive.” (“Mounting Questions about the Colombian Hostage Operation” Bill Van Auken)

On Friday, the FARC Secretariat issued a formal statement on their Bolivarian Press Agency website saying that they were betrayed by two members of their organization:

“The escape of the 15 prisoners on July 2 was a direct consequence of the despicable conduct of Cesar and Enrique, who betrayed their revolutionary ideals and the trust we had put in them.”

Of course, none of the western media reported the statement because it casts doubt the Colombian government’s version of the 100% scripted, Rambo-like rescue and calls into question the premature pronouncements of triumph in the war on terror. But it’s clear that the official story has begun to unravel and will require some serious PR airbrushing to keep from falling apart altogether. It’s looking more and more like the whole farce was concocted by Uribe to build public support for changing Colombia’s constitution so he can run for a third term as president. So far, it’s worked like a charm; Uribe’s public approval ratings have soared to nearly 80%.

The daredevil rescue-mission has catapulted Betancourt into media mega-stardom. She has already made a number of appearances on TV and radio including CNN’s “Larry King Live”, “NBC Nightly News” the “Today Show”. She has also announced her intention to write a play about her experiences as a hostage and the publishing industry is buzzing with news of a forthcoming book deal. In fact, as soon as news reached Paris that she had been freed, a 12 page letter she wrote to her mother as a prisoner was re-released in hardback form.

“I am in communication with God, Jesus and the Virgin every day,” Betancourt writes. “Morning overcast, like my spirit…My beloved and divine Mamita…I haven’t being eating; my appetite has shut down; my hair is falling out in clumps; I have no desire for anything…Here, nothing is one’s own, nothing lasts; uncertainty and precariousness are the only constant. The order is given at any moment to pack up and one gets to sleep stretched out anywhere like an animal. Those are the particularly difficult moments for me. My palms sweat, my mind gets foggy, and I end up doing things twice as slowly as normal.”

No one doubts that Betancourt suffered greatly or that she’s been deeply traumatized by her 6 years of captivity in the jungle. Clearly, she was just a blameless victim in a much larger political game. Her medical report shows that she is in good health although she still refuses to discuss whether she was tortured by her captors. According to NPR, she fears she “may slip into depression” and speaks slowly about her ordeal.

“The important thing was to fill the day with activities that could be repeated like in a schedule so like to give you stability in a world of no stability. That was the key.” She added, “I know that I have to give testimony about all the things I lived, but I need time. It’s not easy to talk about things that are still hurting. Probably it will hurt all my life.” (NPR)

To her credit, Betancourt has blasted the Uribe government saying, “That’s the difference between me and Uribe. For Uribe, the end of the FARC means the reestablishment of peace in Colombia. For me, peace in Colombia will come from social transformations.” (There’s still a chance that Betancourt will return to Colombia and run for president. She has dual French-Colombian citizenship)

She also praised Hugo Chavez who worked tirelessly to secure her release in an earlier prisoner swap that was scotched by the Bush administration. Bush and Co. believed the exchange would boost Chavez’s popularity, so Uribe made sure the deal wasn’t consummated. Betancourt said, “It seems to me that Hugo Chávez is magnificent. He can tell the FARC things that they will hear. The FARC didn’t like it at all when Chávez told them that the armed struggle in Latin American was obsolete, and that they had to think in a different way.” Naturally, Betancourt’s remarks about Chavez were not reported in the establishment media.

Betancourt and Chavez are right. Although the revolutionary struggle goes on, hostage-taking subverts the group’s larger goal of a society built on laws and human rights. And even though the FARC was pushed out of the political process by a corrupt and ruthless oligarchy, which killed nearly 5,000 of its leaders and union activists, they will not achieve their objectives by adopting the same methods as the right wing paramilitaries they’re fighting. It is impossible to defeat crime with more crime. Maybe, a presidential bid by Betancourt will provide the spark that is needed to focus attention on Colombia’s glaring social inequities; the massive wealth gap, the deeply entrenched economic and political polarization, and the venal self-serving oligarchy that runs the government like a medieval fiefdom.

Although she is grateful to be free, Betancourt has not “pulled her punches” when talking about Colombia’s shortcomings. On Friday she said, “Uribe and all of Colombia, should correct some things. We have reached the point where we must change the radical, extremist vocabulary of hate, of very strong words that intimately wound the human being.”

It’s too much to hope that one woman will be able to dismantle a repressive system of government that dates back hundreds of years and has the implicit support of the country’s main industrial leaders, its most prestigious families and the United States of America. But the power of reconciliation is stronger than many realize and, as Betancourt said in an interview with Eleanor Beardsley, “The only thing I’ve settled in my mind is I want to forgive.” That’s a good place to start.

Colombia is America’s last right-wing outpost in the hemisphere. There’s a good chance that it will be swept along by the leftist current that has overtaken most of Latin America already. Perhaps Betancourt’s role is simply to open the floodgates and let the tide rush in.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

see

Response to James Petras’ Critique: “Fidel Castro and the FARC. Eight Mistaken Theses of Fidel Castro”

A Few Words from the FARC By Mike Whitney

Fidel Castro and the FARC – Eight Mistaken Thesis of Fidel Castro

Lies, kidnapping and a mysterious laptop

Response to James Petras’ Critique: “Fidel Castro and the FARC. Eight Mistaken Theses of Fidel Castro”

Dandelion Salad

By Joan Marie Malerich
Axis exclusive
axisoflogic.com
Jul 12, 2008

Editor’s Note: We believe that constructive, self criticism within the revolutionary left is vital. The political left is largely bereft of such criticism and when it occurs it is often rejected on the basis of passion or loyalties, not on logic and we are not the “Axis of Passion”. Criticism of one of our beloved leaders, Fidel Castro, by leftist writers is rare indeed. We published an article by James Petras,”Fidel Castro and the FARC. Eight Mistaken Theses of Fidel Castro” on July 8, 2008. Since then we have received a number of responses to the article. Joan Marie Malerich* submitted her critique of Mr. Petras’ article for publication and it is rationally based. We appreciate James Petras who has dared to offer criticism of Fidel Castro, who in our judgement is the greatest revolutionary leader of our time. Equally, we appreciate Joan Malerich who has the courage and insight to effectively debate Petras, a writer whose pen has been an anti-imperialist sword for 5 decades. In fairness to both writers, we recommend that the reader open James Petras’ article in a second page for comparitive analysis.

– Les Blough, Editor


Continue reading

A Few Words from the FARC By Mike Whitney

Dandelion Salad

By Mike Whitney
07/09/08 “ICH”

It was a perfectly executed rescue mission and they pulled it off without a hitch. A small group of Colombian military-intelligence agents, posing as aid workers on a humanitarian mission, touched-down in the heart of rebel territory, gathered up Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages, and whisked them away to safety while a small army of rifle-toting Marxist guerrillas looked on dumbfounded. Whew. What a shocker.

One of the American contractors who was freed in the mission even boasted to NPR that it was “the greatest rescue mission in history”. Indeed, it may be, but it’s a little too early to tell just yet. After all, it took about a week before the Jessica Lynch story began to unravel. This could take even longer. Many readers will remember Lynch as the baby-faced GI who supposedly fought off a swarm of Iraqi regulars “Rambo-like” before making her way to safety.

Unfortunately, the whole story turned out to be an elaborate farce concocted by Rumsfeld’s Strategic Intelligence Unit to drum-up support for the war. In truth, Lynch had simply taken a wrong turn on the road to Baghdad, rolled her vehicle in a ditch, and was patched up by some magnanimous Iraqis. Some hero!

It was the same with Pat Tillman, the Niger uranium, WMD, Saddam in the spider-hole and myriad other whoppers cooked up by the Bush spinmeisters. Every one of them was a fabrication. And what about the 75 Pentagon chieftains who appeared regularly on commercial TV to pollute the public airwaves with their war-promoting bilge? There wasn’t a word of truth in any of it; 100% unalloyed horsecrap.

Already, the holes are beginning to appear in the “official” rescue narrative. First of all, how did John McCain manage to show up in Bogata just as Betancourt was getting off the plane and the champagne was being uncorked? The whole incident was eerily reminiscent of the way the American hostages in Tehran were released on the day of Reagan’s inauguration. Now there’s a coincidence. Seems like “straight talking” McCain might be just as lucky as the Gipper.

Isn’t it reasonable to assume that secret negotiations may have been going on behind the scenes and McCain was tipped off at the last minute so he share the limelight with Uribe and breathe some life into his moribund presidential campaign?

And what about the reports on Swiss Public Radio that “claim that the entire episode was nothing but a sham to disguise the payment of a ransom. SPR cited an unidentified source ‘close to the events, reliable and tested many times in recent years’ as saying the operation had in fact been staged to cover up the fact that the US and Colombians had paid $20 million for their freedom.

“The hostages released on Wednesday, including Ingrid Betancourt, ‘were in reality ransomed for a high price, and the whole operation afterwards was a set-up,’ the public broadcaster said….The report said that the wife of one of the hostages’ guards had acted as a go-between after being arrested by the Colombian Army. She was released to return to the guerrillas, where she allegedly persuaded her husband to change sides.” (Times Online)

Irc.indymedia.org tells a similar story in their article “The Real Operation to Rescue Ingrid Betancourt and US Mercenaries”:

“On June 3rd, Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba revealed that she possessed information that the government of Colombia was negotiating a deal with the FARC a to trade money for the release of Betancourt and the mercenaries.”

Mediaparte, the French news web site founded by the former chief editor of Le Monde, reported that the rescue was “not an achievement of the Colombian military, but due to the surrender of a group of the FARC members” following “direct negotiations by the Colombian secret services with the guerrilla group that held Betancourt captive.” Citing Colombian sources, it reported that Uribe had told a group last May that a surrender of those holding the hostages was being negotiated. Mediaparte added that the Sarkozy government agreed to offer the ex-guerrillas sanctuary in France after their surrender. (“Mounting questions about Colombian hostage operation” Bill Van Auken)

Now how did that little tidbit manage to slip by the New York Times?

And isn’t Betancourt’s announcement that she’s planning to write a play about her experience just one day after her release a bit suspicious? No one recovers from trauma that quickly. Something is fishy here. Clearly, this is not a woman who has been subjected to excruciating psychological pain like the US prisoners at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay. Those unlucky fellows have been put through the full-range of sadistic abuses meted out by the Pentagon’s new breed of Dr. Mengeles and other intelligence “professionals”. Apparently, Betancourt was never water-boarded, beaten, raped, dragged around her cell in a dog-collar, or stacked naked on top of other prisoners. In fact, her medical report indicated that she was in remarkably good health. That says a lot about her captors.

So, what is the FARC (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and why are they traipsing around the jungle with Kalashnikovs instead of engaging in the political process?

The truth is, they were part of the process until the right wing death squads started killing their candidates and party bosses and forced them to go underground. As James Petras explains in his article “Homage to Manuel Marulanda”:

“In the early 1980’s, many cadre and leaders decided to try the electoral route, signed a ‘peace agreement’ with the Colombian President, formed an electoral party – the Patriotic Union – and successfully elected numerous mayors and representatives. They even gained a substantial vote in Presidential elections. …. By 1987 over 5,000 members of the Patriotic Union had been slaughtered by the oligarchy’s death squads, including three presidential candidates, a dozen elected congressmen and women and scores of mayors and city councilors. Those who survived fled to the jungles and rejoined the armed struggle or fled into exile.”

The FARC tried politics, signed a “peace agreement” with the government and were butchered anyway. That’s the way it works in Colombia. So now they are in the jungle waging war to gain entry into the political system. Is that terrorism?

The Colombian government has one of the worst human rights records in the world and much of the repression is facilitated by the billions of dollars they get from the United States via Plan Colombia. Again, James Petras details the effects of US support for the Uribe regime:

“With an unprecedented degree of US financing and advanced technological support, the newly elected narco-partner and death squad organizer, President Alvaro Uribe took charge of a scorched earth policy to savage the Colombian countryside. Between his election in 2002 and re-election in 2006, over 15,000 peasants, trade unionists, human rights workers, journalists and other critics were murdered. Entire regions of the countryside were emptied — like the US Operation Phoenix in Viet Nam, farmland was poisoned by toxic herbicides. Over 250,000 armed forces and their partners in the paramilitary death squads decimated vast stretches of the Colombian countryside where the FARC exercised hegemony. Scores of US-supplied helicopter gun-ships blasted the jungles in vast search and destroy missions — (which had nothing to do with coca production or the shipment of cocaine to the United States). By destroying all popular opposition and organizations throughout the countryside and displacing millions Uribe was able to push the FARC back toward more defensible remote regions.”

Noam Chomsky draws the same conclusions as Petras in this excerpt from his book “Rogue States”:

“In Colombia, however, the military armed and trained by the United States has not crushed domestic resistance, though it continues to produce its regular annual toll of atrocities. Each year, some 300,000 new refugees are driven from their homes, with a death toll of about 3,000 and many horrible massacres. The great majority of atrocities are attributed to paramilitary forces. These are closely linked to the military, as documented in considerable and shocking detail once again in February 2000 by Human Rights Watch, and in April 2000 by a UN study which reported that the Colombian security forces that are to be greatly strengthened by the Colombia Plan maintain an intimate relationship with death squads, organize paramilitary forces, and either participate in their massacres directly or, by failing to take action, have “undoubtedly enabled the paramilitary groups to achieve their exterminating objectives.” In more muted terms, the State Department confirms the general picture in its annual human rights reports, again in the report covering 1999, which concludes that “security forces actively collaborated with members of paramilitary groups” while “government forces continued to commit numerous, serious abuses, including extrajudicial killings, at a level that was roughly similar to that of 1998,” when the report attributed about 80 percent of attributable atrocities to the military and paramilitaries. (Noam Chomsky, “Plan Colombia”, from Rogue States, 2000)

So now we all know something about the FARC and the repressive political program called Plan Colombia which is funded by the United States with the clear intention of perpetuating a war between a venal oligopoly and disenfranchised workers and farmers. But having searched the 4,253 articles written about the “Miraculous Bentancourt Rescue”; one thing appears to be missing, that is, a few candid comments from someone—ANYONE—who can speak for the FARC.

Here’s an excerpt from an Interview with FARC Commander Raul Reyes by Garry Leech that fits the bill. Readers can decide for themselves whether they hear something that “rings true” or if it is just revolutionary mumbo-jumbo:

FARC Commander Raul Reyes: “The goal of revolutionary struggle is peace”

“When we speak of the New Colombia we are speaking of a Colombia without social, economic or political inequalities; of a Colombia without corruption; with neither paramilitarism or state terrorism; of a Colombia with industrial development; of a worthy Colombia, independent and sovereign; a Colombia where resources are invested in scientific research and technological development; a Colombia where the environment is protected; a Colombia whose wealth is used for the benefit of the population; a Colombia that does not continue privatizing, that does not continue selling the businesses of the State but instead uses these businesses to benefit social programs; a Colombia with agrarian reform that includes infrastructure for the peasants and that makes it possible for their children to study; an agrarian reform in which a market and the purchase of their products is guaranteed; an agrarian reform in which they can obtain affordable credits from the State; a Colombia with employment; a Colombia with subsidies for the unemployed; a Colombia that guarantees education, healthcare, homes and all that.

That it is the Colombia that we dream of and that we call the New Colombia…

But to achieve this is a task for titans, because Colombia has a mafia class and a corrupt murderous ruler. And as long as they continue controlling the destiny of our country it is going to be very difficult for the people to become controllers of their own destinies. This is the reason that the FARC continues its revolutionary struggle.

The end of the revolutionary struggle being waged by the FARC is peace. For us, peace is the fundamental thing. We understand that peace is the solution to the problems that affect our people. We understand that peace means that in Colombia we have a true democracy. Not a democracy for the capitalists, but a democracy for the people, who can protest, who can participate, who have the right to live, who have the right to healthcare, to education, who have the right to communication, to electricity, to agrarian reforms, to fight corruption, to not have to kneel before foreign powers, but to be a country free, independent and sovereign with respectful relations with all countries on equal terms. Also, that the weapons of the army not be not used against the people, but just for the defense of our sovereignty and nothing more. To achieve that objective is why we are here in this jungle. And in search of that objective we are willing to continue for as long as is necessary.”

These are comments that you won’t find in the 4,253 articles on Google News, because they stimulate critical thinking and shape hearts and minds. And that’s exactly what the corporate propaganda system hopes to avoid.

see

Fidel Castro and the FARC – Eight Mistaken Thesis of Fidel Castro

Mounting questions about Colombian hostage operation

Unprofessional conduct

Is Betancourt release the end of FARC? + Film emerges of mission

Behind the Colombia hostage rescue

FARC leaders were paid millions to free hostages: Swiss radio

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Fidel Castro and the FARC – Eight Mistaken Thesis of Fidel Castro

Dandelion Salad

By James Petras
07/08/08 “ICH”

I have been a supporter of the Cuban Revolution for exactly fifty years and recognize Fidel Castro as one of the great revolutionary leaders of our time.  But I have never been an uncritical apologist: On several crucial occasions I have expressed my disagreements in print, in public and in discussions with Cuban leaders, writers and militants.  Fidel Castro’s articles and commentaries on the recent events in Colombia, namely his discussion of the Colombian regime’s freeing of several FARC prisoners (including three CIA operatives and Ingrid Betancourt) and his critical comments on the politics, structure, practices, tactics and strategy of the FARC and its world-renowned leader, Manuel Marulanda, merit serious consideration.

Castro’s remarks demand analysis and refutation, not only because his opinions are widely read and influence millions of militants and admirers in the world, especially in Cuba and Latin America, but because he purports to provide a ‘moral’ basis for opposition to imperialism today.  Equally important Castro’s unfortunate diatribe and critique against the FARC, Marulanda and the entire peasant-based guerrilla movement, has been welcomed, published and broadcast by the entire pro-imperialist mass media on five continents.  Fidel Castro, with few caveats, has uncritically joined the chorus condemning the FARC and, as I will demonstrate, without reason or logic.

Eight Erroneous Theses of Fidel Castro

1.      Castro claims that the ‘liberation’ of the FARC political prisoners “opens a chapter for peace in Colombia, a process which Cuba has been supporting for 20 years as the most appropriate for the unity and liberation of the peoples of our America, utilizing new approaches in the complex and special present day circumstances after the collapse of the USSR…” (Reflections of Fidel Castro, July 4, 2008).

What is astonishing about this thesis (and the entire essay) is Castro’s total omission of any discussion of the mass terror unleashed by Colombia’s President Uribe against trade unionists, political critics, peasant communities and documented by every human rights group in and out of Colombia in both of his recent essays.  In fact, Castro exculpates the current Uribe regime, the most murderous regime, and puts the entire blame on ‘US Imperialism’.  Since the “collapse of the Soviet Union”, and under the US-led military offensive, a multitude of armed revolutionary movements have emerged in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nepal, and other pre-existing armed groups in Colombia and the Philippines,  have continued to engage in struggle.  In Latin America, the “new approaches” to revolution were anything but peaceful – massive popular uprisings overthrowing corrupt electoral politicians in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela…costing many hundreds of lives.

The “liberation” of Betancourt has strengthened the iron fist of the Uribe regime, increased the militarization of the countryside, and covered up the on-going death squad murders of trade unionists and peasants.  Contrary to Fidel Castro, the US and Colombia’s death squad president have used their ‘success’ to buttress their arguments in favor of joint US-Colombian military action.  Fidel’s celebration of the Colombian regime’s action as an “opening for peace” serves to deflect attention from the Colombian Supreme Court decision claiming that the re-election of Uribe was illegal because of the tyrant’s bribing Congress people to amend the constitutional provision allowing the president a second term.

2.      Fidel Castro denigrates the recently deceased leader of the FARC, Manuel Marulanda, as a “peasant, communist militant, principle leader of the guerrilla” (Reflections).  In his text of July 5, 2008 (Reflections II), Castro condescendingly refers to “Marulanda of notable natural intelligence and leadership qualities, on the other hand never had opportunities to study when he was an adolescent.  It is said he only finished the fifth grade.  He conceived (of the revolution) as a long and prolonged struggle, a point of view which I never shared.”  Castro was the son of a plantation owner and educated in private Jesuit colleges and trained as a lawyer.  He implies that education credentials and higher status prepares the revolutionary leadership to lead the peasants lacking formal education, but with ‘natural leadership qualities’ apparently sufficient to allow them to follow the intellectuals and professionals better suited to lead the revolution.

The test of history however refutes Castro’s claims.  Marulanda built, over a period of 40 years, a bigger guerrilla army with a wider mass base than any Castro-inspired guerrilla force from the 1960’s to 2000.

Castro promoted a theory of ‘guerrilla focos’ between 1963-1980, in which small groups of intellectuals would organize an armed nucleus in the countryside, engage in combat and attract mass peasant support.  Every Castro-ite guerrilla foco was quickly defeated – wiped out – in Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay (urban focos), Bolivia and Argentina.  In contrast, Marulanda’s prolonged guerrilla war strategy relied on mass grass roots organizing based on close peasant ties with guerrillas, based on community, family and class solidarity, building slowly and methodically a national political-military people’s army.  In fact, a serious re-examination of the Cuban revolution reveals that Castro’s guerrillas were recruited from the mass of urban mass organizations, methodically organized prior to and during the formation of the guerrilla foco in 1956-1958.

Although reliable figures on the FARC are available, Castro underestimated by half the number of FARC guerrillas, relying on the propaganda of Uribe’s publicists.

3.      Castro condemns the ‘cruelty’ of the FACR tactics “of capturing and holding prisoners in the jungle.”  With this logic, Castro should condemn every revolutionary movement in the 20th century beginning with the Russian, Chinese and Vietnamese revolutions.  Revolutions are cruel but Fidel forgets that counter-revolutions are even crueler.  Uribe established local spy networks involving local officials, as was done in Vietnam during that war.  And the Vietnamese revolutionaries eliminated the collaborators because they were responsible for the execution of tens of thousands of village militants.  Castro fails to comment on the fact that Ms. Betancourt, upon her celebrated ‘liberation’ embraced and thanked General Mario Montoya.  According to a declassified US embassy document, Montoya organized a clandestine terrorist unit (‘American Anti-Communist Alliance’), which murdered thousands of Colombian dissidents, almost all of them ferociously tortured beforehand.  The ‘cruelty’ of FACR captivity did not show up in Betancourt’s medical exam:  She was in good health!

4.      Fidel claims “Cuba is for peace in Colombia but not US military intervention”.  It is the Colombian oligarchy and Uribe regime, which has invited and collaborated with the US military intervention in Colombia.  Castro implies that US military intervention is imposed from the outside, rather than seeing it as part of the class struggle within Colombia, in which Colombia’s rulers, landowners and narco-traffickers play a major role in financing and training the death squads.  In the first 6 months of 2008, 24 trade union leaders have been murdered by the Uribe regime, over 2,562 killed over the past twenty years since what Castro describes as the “new roads of complex and special circumstances.”  Fidel totally ignores the continuities of death squad murders of unarmed social movement activists, the lack of solidarity from Cuba toward all the Colombian movements since Havana developed diplomatic and commercial ties with the Uribe regime.

Is balancing between Cuba’s state interest in diplomatic and economic ties with Colombia and claiming revolutionary credentials part of the “complexities” of  Cuban foreign policy?

5.      Castro calls for the immediate release of all FARC-held prisoners, without the minimum consideration of the 500 guerrillas tortured and dehumanized in Uribe’s and Bush’s horrendous high security ‘special prisons’.  Castro boasts that Cuba released its prisoners captured during the anti-Batista struggle and calls for the FARC to follow Cuba’s example, rather than the Vietnamese and Chinese revolutionary approach.  Castro’s attempt to impose and universalize his tactics, based on Cuban experience, on Colombia lacks the minimum effort to understand, let alone analyze, the specificities of Colombia, its military, the political context of the class struggle and the social and political context of humanitarian negotiations in Colombia.

6.      Castro claims the FARC should end the guerrilla struggle but not give up their arms because in the past guerrillas who disarmed were slaughtered by the regime.  Instead, he suggests they should accept France’s offer to abandon their country or accept Chavez’ (Uribe’s ‘brother’ and ‘friend’) proposal to negotiate and secure a commission made up Latin American notables to oversee their integration into Colombian politics.

What are ‘armed’ guerillas going to do when thousands of Uribe’s soldiers and death squads ravage the countryside?  Flee to the mountains and shoot wild pigs?  Going to France means abandoning millions of starving vulnerable peasant supporters and the class struggle.

7.      Fidel Castro totally omits from his discussion the manner in which every political leader involved in the ‘humanitarian mission’ used the celebration of Betancourt’s ‘liberation’ to cover up and distract from their serious political difficulties.  First and foremost, Uribe’s re-election was ruled illegal by the Colombian Supreme Court because he was accused and convicted of bribing members of Congress to vote for the constitutional amendment allowing his running for a second term.  Uribe’s presidency is de facto illegal.  Betancourt’s release and delirious embrace of Uribe undermines the judicial verdict and eliminates the court injunction for a new Congressional vote or national election.  Sarkozy’s popularity in France was in a vertical free fall, his highly publicized intervention in the negotiations with the FARC were a total failure, his militarist policies in the Middle East and virulent anti-immigrant policies alienated substantial sectors of the French public (as did rising prices and economic stagnation).

The release of Betancourt and her effusive praise and embrace of Sarkozy revived his tarnished image and gave him a temporary respite from the burgeoning political and economic discontent with his domestic and foreign policies.

Chavez used the release of Betancourt to embrace his ‘enemy’, Uribe, and to put further distance from the FARC, in particular, and the popular movements in Colombia, as well as to build bridges with a post-Bush US President.  Chavez also returned to the good graces of the entire pro-imperialist mass media and favorable comments from the right-wing US Presidential candidate, John McCain, who “hoped the FARC would follow Chavez demands to disarm.”

Cuba, or at least Fidel Castro, used the ‘liberation’ of Betancourt to display his long-term hostility to the FARC (dating at least from 1990) for embarrassing his policy of reconciliation with the Colombian regime.

8.  Striking a humanitarian and quasi-electoral posture in celebrating Betancourt’s release, Castro lambasted the FARC for its ‘cruelty’ and armed resistance to the terrorist Uribe regime.  Castro attacked the FARC’s ”authoritarian structure and dogmatic leadership”, ignoring FARC’s endorsement of electoral politics between 1984-90 (when over 5,000 disarmed activists and political candidates were slaughtered), and the free and open debate over policy alternative in the demilitarized zone (1999-2002) with all sectors of Colombian society.  In contrast, Castro never permitted free and open debate and elections, even among communist candidates in any legislative process – at least until he was replaced by Raul Castro.

The above mentioned political leaders were serving their own personal political interests by bashing the FARC and celebrating Betancourt at the expense of the people of Colombia.

Conclusion

Has Castro clearly thought through the disastrous consequences for millions of impoverished Colombians  or is he thinking only of Cuba’s possible improvement of relations with Colombia once the FARC is liquidated?  The effect of Castro’s anti-FARC articles has been to provide ammunition for the imperial mass media to discredit the FARC and armed resistance to tyranny and to bolster the image of death squad President Uribe.  When the world’s premier revolutionary leader denies the revolutionary history and practice of an ongoing popular movement and its brilliant leader who built that movement, he is denying the movements of the future a rich heritage of successful resistance and construction.  History will not absolve him.

James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). His latest book is “The Power of Israel in the United States” (Clarity Press, 2006). He can be reached at: jpetras@binghamton.edu.
FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

see

Mounting questions about Colombian hostage operation

Unprofessional conduct

Is Betancourt release the end of FARC? + Film emerges of mission

Behind the Colombia hostage rescue

McCain defends free trade with Colombia

FARC leaders were paid millions to free hostages: Swiss radio

Mounting questions about Colombian hostage operation

Dandelion Salad

By Bill Van Auken
http://www.wsws.org
7 July 2008

As right-wing politicians on three continents basked in the reflected glory of an ostensibly brilliant July 2 rescue of hostages held by Colombia’s FARC (Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia) guerrillas, doubts have surfaced as to the real character of this operation.

The freeing of Ingrid Betancourt, the French-Colombian citizen and former presidential candidate, three US military “contractors” employed by the Northrop Grumman corporation and 11 other hostages has been exploited to refurbish the Bush administration’s discredited Latin American policy, to make a hero out of Alvaro Uribe, the Colombian president implicated in drug trafficking and paramilitary massacres, and to boost the sagging popularity of France’s right-wing president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Even Senator John McCain, the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, who staged a visit to Colombia (a fortuitous coincidence?) the day before the hostage release, got in on the act. While in Colombia, he received a briefing from Uribe, enabling him to associate himself with the upcoming operation.

There is virtually nothing to distinguish McCain from his Democratic opponent on the question of Colombia. Senator Barack Obama issued his own statement hailing the operation, calling the FARC a “terrorist organization” and affirming his support for the Colombian government “making no concessions” to the guerrillas. Nonetheless, if Uribe could do any favors politically, it would no doubt be to the Republicans, after six years as the Bush administration’s closest ally in Latin America.

…continued

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

see

Unprofessional conduct

Is Betancourt release the end of FARC? + Film emerges of mission

Behind the Colombia hostage rescue

McCain defends free trade with Colombia

FARC leaders were paid millions to free hostages: Swiss radio

Unprofessional conduct

Thanks to
Socialist Standard

SOCIALISM OR YOUR MONEY BACK
Blog post
July 4, 2008

They’re still doing it. Calling the FARC rebels in Colombia “Marxist terrorists”, that is. The BBC has just done in the news about the recent freeing of the hostage Ingrid Betancourt. The Guardian has been guilty too.

See this Blog The FARC “Marxist” farce.

Last time this happened, a few months ago, a Socialist Party member sent the following letter to the Grauniad:

“Apropos the contention of Mr Phil Gunson in a recent issue of the Guardian (6 March) that FARC nationalist guerrillas in Columbia are ‘Marxist terrorists’, the following may be of interest.

During the recent IRA campaign of terrorism in Northern Ireland it was not uncommon for some journalists to refer to this essentially Catholic-nationalist organisation as ‘Marxist terrorists’ – obviously exposing overt Marxists to considerable danger from loyalist terror gangs.

After many efforts to rebut this dangerous nonsense – most of which, despite the first four articles in the NUJ Code of Conduct, were suppressed – I wrote a long and detailed comparison of the views of Marx, who utterly rejected terrorism, and Lenin whose strategies were frequently pursued by ‘left-wing’ terrorists. The resultant document I mailed to some members of the journalistic fraternity on the assumption that it might prove an antidote for their dangerous political ignorance.

The Head of Programme Planning at Ulster Television responded to the document with the assurance that he had issued instructions to his staff to avoid reference to ‘Marxist terrorists’ in programmes within local control in the future. Dr Steven King, then an adviser to David Trimble and a Belfast Telegraph columnist, responded and accused himself of ‘sloppy writing’ and, generally, we local socialists felt that some improvement had been effected.

However, on 25 November 2006, referring to three alleged IRA men who had been arrested by the Colombian authorities and accused of giving technical help to FARC, the Security Correspondent of the Belfast Telegraph, Brian Rowan, described another Colombian terrorist group thus:

“ELN is a Marxist insurgent group formed in 1965”

We wrote the following personal letter to Mr Rowan:

Dear Mr Rowan,

According to your article in the Belfast Telegraph of the 25th November 2006: “ELN is a Marxist insurgent group formed in 1965”.

Readers of that newspaper could reasonably expect someone making such a definite pronouncement to be familiar not only with the political and economic philosophy of Karl Marx but with his attitude to the question of political terrorism.

Certainly your statement shows no evidence whatsoever of a knowledge, much less an understanding, of the writings of Marx and his co-worker, Engels. Marx during his lifetime was implacably opposed to political terrorism and fought a bitter battle with the anarchist, Michael Bakunin, which resulted in the expulsion of the latter from the International Workingmen’s Association.

Equally absurd is the implication in your suggestion that a group of Leninist nationalists fighting for land reform in a backward country are using terror tactics to bring about the objectives of Marx and the pioneers of scientific socialism.

Some years ago I prepared the document I enclose herewith to counter absurd statements like yours made by irresponsible commentators and I offered the sum of £1,000 pounds to any of its recipients who could show support for political terrorism or state capitalism in the writings of Marx. Only two – one a Belfast Telegraph contributor – were courageous enough to reply and both expressed apologies.

I look forward to your early advice and, incidentally, the £1,000 still stands.

Yours for a sane world

R.M.

see

Is Betancourt release the end of FARC? + Film emerges of mission

Behind the Colombia hostage rescue

McCain defends free trade with Colombia

FARC leaders were paid millions to free hostages: Swiss radio

Behind the Colombia hostage rescue

Dandelion Salad

by Todd Chretien
http://socialistworker.org/
July 4, 2008

Todd Chretien explains how U.S. weapons and training for the Colombian military has changed the balance in the country’s civil war–and set a precedent for projecting American power in Latin America.

THE REPUBLICAN presidential nominee visits Colombia to meet with President Alvaro Uribe (virtually the only South American leader who has a kind word to say to him) on the very day that the Colombian military–bloated with billions of dollars in equipment provided by the U.S. government–pulls off a major public relations coup by rescuing former presidential candidate Íngrid Betancourt, three American mercenaries and a dozen more hostages from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

But it’s all a big coincidence–at least according to crack investigative journalist Judith Bumiller, traveling with McCain for the New York Times.

“The timing of the rescue, which occurred while Mr. McCain was in Colombia, was in many ways a fortuitous turn of events for a presidential candidate who is using a three-day trip to South America and Mexico to try to show that he is a more agile foreign policy hand than his Democratic competitor, Senator Barack Obama,” Bumiller wrote.

“Although the timing of the rescue was a coincidence and Mr. McCain’s trip to Colombia had nothing to do with it, the event nonetheless put him in the middle of classified talks about covert operations with the head of another government.”

“Fortuitous” indeed! In fact, the Bush administration helped plan the operation and provided unspecified material support. And Uribe even briefed McCain (and his traveling companion, Sen. Joseph Lieberman) on plans for the raid before it took place.

There is even speculation that Uribe was able to pull off the rescue–in which soldiers impersonated FARC guerrillas–precisely because the French government was in the process of securing Betancourt’s release and had been in negotiations with FARC commanders.

Whether or not this turns out to be the case, it stretches the bounds of credulity to believe that Bush did not tip off McCain to the impending operation, allowing him to don his Navy cap and strike a pose on a Columbian anti-narcotics military vessel, while basking in Uribe’s international media limelight.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE FARC’s decision to kidnap Betancourt in hopes of exchanging her for rebel prisoners was a tactical blunder of the first order. However, the FARC’s policy must be understood in the context of the overwhelming brutality of the American-armed Colombian government. According to Human Rights Watch, since 1986, the Colombian military and its associated paramilitary death squads have murdered more than 2,500 trade unionists.

Recently, the FARC has come under intense pressure to negotiate an end to the civil war and is listed as a “terrorist” organization by the U.S. government–a label most American media sources, not to mention mainstream Democrats like presidential candidate Barack Obama, repeat without comment.

However, the FARC’s reluctance to disarm is certainly understandable. In the mid-1980s, many of the group’s members agreed to lay down their weapons and take part in elections in a leftist coalition called the Patriot Union. In exchange for their participation in the “democratic process,” up to 5,000 of them were systematically exterminated by the military and its death squads, including 1990 presidential candidate, Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa.

Despite this bloody history, President Bill Clinton initiated “Plan Colombia” during his second term in office. Between 1996 and 2000, Clinton increased aid to the Colombian military by nearly 14 times, from $54 million to $765 million. George Bush has sent between $400 million and $650 million in military aid to Colombia every year of his presidency.

This avalanche of arms has made the Colombian military one of the mightiest in the region, far more powerful than the Venezuelan military, for instance. And it has also turned the tide in the civil war, driving FARC guerrillas deeper and deeper into the mountains and reducing their fighting force from more than 15,000 10 years ago to an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 today.

Whether or not Uribe pre-empted the French-brokered release of Betancourt, it is clear that the FARC is in trouble, and the Colombian government believes that, if it cannot military win the war in the next few years, it can certainly continue to press its advantage.

Furthermore, the Colombian military’s incursion into Ecuador earlier this spring “in pursuit” of FARC rebels sets a dangerous precedent.

As Latin America turns left, U.S. imperialism is searching for the means to regain the strategic advantage in “its backyard.” Boosting Colombia’s military capacity is not just about defeating the FARC or fighting the “war on drugs.” It is also about sending a bipartisan message to Colombia’s unruly neighbors that the U.S. aims to play an increasingly intrusive role in the region’s future.

Readers are welcome to share and use material belonging to this site for non-commercial purposes, as long as they are attributed to the author and SocialistWorker.org.

see

McCain defends free trade with Colombia

FARC leaders were paid millions to free hostages: Swiss radio

President Chavez and the FARC: State and Revolution

Dandelion Salad

by James Petras
Global Research
July 3, 2008

When President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela called on the FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, to end their armed struggle and declared the ‘guerrilla war is history’, he was following a path taken by many revolutionary leaders in the past.

As far back as the early 1920’s, Lenin urged the nascent Turkish communist to sacrifice their revolutionary independence and to support Attaturk; his successor, Joseph Stalin encouraged the Chinese communists to subordinate their revolutionary movement to the nationalist party led by Chiang Kai Chek. Mao Tse Tung prioritized coalitions in which the Communist Party of Indonesia submitted to the leadership of the nationalist leader General Sukarno.

During the French-Indochinese Peace Agreements in Geneva in 1954, Ho Chi Minh agreed to the division of the country and urged the South Vietnamese communists to end the guerrilla war and work to re-unify the country through electoral means. During the new millennium Fidel Castro stated that ‘armed struggle’ was a thing of the past and that, under present conditions, new forms of political struggle were at the top of the agenda.

Hugo Chavez frequently urged Brazilians leftists to support the social-liberal regime of President Lula da Silva despite his embrace of free market economics at the World Social Forum of 2002. He also called on Latin American social movements to support a number of pro-capitalist regimes in Latin America, despite their defense of foreign investment, bankers and agro-mineral exporters.

These experiences of revolutionary governments calling on their radical co-thinkers to collaborate with non-revolutionary regimes and to submit to their political constraints have generally had disastrous consequences: The Kuo Ming Tang of Chiang Kai Shek turned on the Communist Party and massacred the majority of its workers and drove it into the mountains of the interior. The aboveground, legal Indonesian Communists and their supporters and family members suffered anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million deaths when Sukarno was overthrown in a CIA coup. The South Vietnamese communists who attempted to participate in electoral politics were assassinated or jailed and eventually, their survivors were forced to revert to underground guerrilla struggle.

The reformist electoral regimes which came to power in Latin America have rescued capitalism from the crises of the 1990’s, demobilized the Left and opened the door for the resurgence of the hard right throughout most of the continent.

In the case of Colombia, Venezuela’s President Chavez apparently chose to ignore the FARC’s earlier experience in attempting to shift from armed struggle to electoral politics. Between 1984-89 thousands of FARC guerrillas disarmed and embraced the electoral struggle. They ran candidates, elected congressmen and women and were decimated by the death squads of the Colombian military, paramilitary and private armies of the oligarchy. Over 5,000 militants and leaders were murdered. What is especially striking is that Chavez urgings to join the electoral process takes place under Colombia’s bloodiest and most brutal violator of human rights in recent history.

Why then do radical leaders who themselves led armed struggles, once in office, call on their revolutionary counterparts to abandon guerrilla warfare and engage in electoral processes which have such dubious prospects?

Several kinds of explanations have been put forth at different times to explain what appears to be a political ‘U-turn’.

The Moral Explanation

Some critics of the ‘U-turn’ explain the shift to a ‘moral degeneration’ – the leaders become autocratic, bureaucratic and seek only to consolidate their rule in their own country. This is the common position adopted by the Left Opposition to Stalin’s policies with regard to Russian policy toward the Chinese revolution. Defenders of the ‘U-turn’ in China claimed it resulted from a recognition of ‘changing times’ and ‘objective opportunities’ on a world scale, arguing that the emergence of the ‘world-wide anti-colonial revolution in the aftermath of World War II created a symmetry of purpose between nationalists and communists, which would evolve over time to a non-capitalist state.

That these alliances were fragile, led to regime breakdown and to the emergence of right-wing ‘strong men’ regimes suggests that this line of argument was itself of limited duration. There were and still are numerous variations on these explanation for the political ‘U-turns’ but any structural-historical explanation must come to terms with the difference between a revolutionary movement in the process of coming to power and a revolutionary leadership holding state power.

In the latter case, the revolutionary state must deal with a generally hostile environment, military pressures and interventions, economic boycotts and diplomatic isolation from imperial states and their clients. In this context the revolutionary or radical regime has a continuum of policy choices to enhance its international position, ranging from outright support of overseas radical or opposition movements to attempts to demonstrate moderation, conciliation and accommodation to imperial concerns. Several factors influence the foreign policies of the revolutionary regime. They are likely to pursue a revolutionary policy if:

1. Revolutionary movements are on the upswing and show promise of early success, in either toppling pro-imperial clients or putting in place a progressive or sympathetic government.
2. The revolutionary regime has recently come to power and confronts an imminent military threat to its consolidation, facing an all or nothing situation.
3. The revolutionary regime faces a solid bloc of intransigent opposition led by imperial powers, which show no willingness to negotiate a modus vivendi and are not eager to make any compromises.

In contrast, revolutionary regimes are more likely to downplay or renounce links to revolutionary movements overseas if:

1. There are definite opportunities to pursue diplomatic relations, market, trade and investment agreements with capitalist regimes;
2. The radical movements are on a downslide, losing support or being eclipsed by electoral parties, which promise recognition and improved relations.
3. Internal socio-economic changes within the revolutionary regime evolve toward an accommodation with emerging local or foreign private investors whose future growth is dependent on associating with overseas business elites and dissociation from radical anti-capitalist forces.

In practice, at different time and places, the two polar positions are combined, according to a series of attenuating circumstances. For example, the revolutionary regime may pursue an accommodating position with a large, potentially economically important capitalist regime, while continuing to support revolutionary movements in a smaller, less significant capitalist country.

In other cases, the revolutionary regime may dissociate itself from revolutionary movements, in order to diversify its markets and trade and, at the same time, continue to adopt ‘revolutionary rhetoric’ for domestic consumption and to maintain the allegiance of overseas reformist movements.

Foreign policy, revolutionary or not, is the prerogative of the diplomatic corps, which tends to contain many professionals who have no revolutionary standing and who are holdovers from pre-revolutionary times. Their understanding of foreign policy is to draw on previous ties and relations with their counterparts in the capitalist countries and with the past business elites of their country. Hence, by and large, they are constantly in a ‘negotiating mode’, immune to the internal revolutionary dynamics and look to maximize the greatest number of diplomatic ties and minimize overseas linkages to revolutionary movements which compromise their day-to-day relations with their foreign counterparts.

Government and Party: Solidarity and ‘Interests of State’

It is conceivable to envision a situation in which a revolutionary government pursues a moderate policy of accommodation, while the revolutionary party or parties/movements supporting the government expresses solidarity with overseas revolutionary parties and movements. This presumes that the state and party are mutually supportive but politically and organizationally independent. This dual approach is possible if the political party decides its policies through its own deliberative forums, in consultation with its membership and is not a ‘transmission belt’ of the state and its executive branch.

Unfortunately in the overwhelming number of cases, the party-state tend to merge, leaders of the party and mass social movements take positions in the government and the movements lose their autonomy and become mechanisms to implement state policy. Henceforth the diplomatic maneuvers of the Foreign Office, override the party/movement’s principles of revolutionary solidarity, reducing the latter to inconsequential abstract rhetoric.

While the post-revolutionary state has the responsibility of ensuring the day-to-day security, employment and provision of necessities to its people and therefore must find ways of dealing with existing regimes as they find them, the revolutionary parties and movements have as one of their prime goals the deepening and extension of the revolutionary changes embedded in their programs.

In other words, there is an inevitable tension between ‘reasons of state’ and the ‘revolutionary program’ of the mass movements. With the consolidation of the post-revolutionary state, the dominant tendency of the governing class is to stabilize external relations. This involves two related processes: to limit the revolutionary party to moral support of their overseas counterparts and to dissociate or disown any ties to overseas revolutionary movements. International radical and revolutionary rhetoric remains ritualized for anniversaries of historic victories, heroic revolutionary personalities, denunciations of immediate imperial aggressors; while on a day-to-day basis, all sorts of agreements with capitalist regimes are pursued. To the degree that capitalist countries reach diplomatic, economic and political agreements with revolutionary regimes, the latter recasts their new partners as ‘progressive’, part of a new wave of ‘anti-imperialist’ governments, or as adopting an ‘independent’ position. What is noteworthy of these new re-definitions of capitalist diplomatic/economic partners is that they are not based on any internal structural, class, property changes, nor even any break in relations with imperial countries. The change in political labeling occurs almost exclusively as a result of the country’s foreign relations with the revolutionary regime.

Venezuela: The Paradox of Revolutionary Changes and Conservative Foreign Policy

The Chavez government follows a policy practiced by the great majority of previous revolutionary or radical leaders faced with hostile imperial powers – adopting radical socio-economic policies to weaken internal allies of empire while seeking diplomatic allies externally among reformist and even conservative capitalist regimes. Chavez has backed the neo-liberal Lula regime in Brazil (and urged the popular social movements to do likewise) even as the ex-trade union boss slashed public employee pensions, imposed an IMF stability pact and favored agro-mineral exporters over landless rural workers. Likewise Chavez financially backed the Kirchner regime in Argentina via the purchase of state bonds even as it refused to challenge the illicit privatization of the 1990’s, maintained the socio-economic inequalities of the past, refused to grant legal recognition to the independent trade union confederation CTA. For Chavez, the key issue was Argentina’s opposition to US intervention against Venezuela and opposition to US-promoted integration via ALCA.

Chavez’ foreign policy toward Colombia, the principle US political and military ally in the region has alternated between ‘reconciliation’ and ‘rejection’ depending on the immediate threats to its sovereignty. The points of conflict revolve around several Colombian blatant interventions into Venezuela: In 2006, the Colombian military kidnapped a Venezuelan citizen of Colombian origin who was a FARC foreign affairs representative in downtown Caracas. Prior to that the Venezuelan military captured 130 Colombian armed paramilitary forces in Venezuela less than 100 kilometers from the capital. Following the kidnapping, Venezuela briefly suspended economic relations, but they were renewed shortly after a meeting following an amicable diplomatic meeting between Colombia’s death squad President Uribe and Chavez. Subsequently in 2008, when Chavez attempted to broker a prisoner release and open peace negotiations between the FARC and the Uribe regime, the latter launched a murderous military attack on the FARC’s lead negotiator operating out of Ecuador’s frontier. In the face of Uribe’s defense of his violation of Ecuadorian sovereignty in pursuit of the guerrillas, Chavez was forced to denounce Uribe and mobilize the Venezuelan armed forces and to raise the matter before the Organization of American States. Uribe launched a diplomatic offensive claiming a guerrilla computer, captured in the raid, contained evidence of Chavez ties to the FARC. Subsequently Uribe and Chavez negotiated a temporary settlement on the basis of a half-hearted understanding that Uribe would refrain from future cross-border military attacks. In this context of high military threats and diplomatic tensions, Chavez chose to publicly denounce the FARC, put distance between his government and the revolutionary left and call for its unilateral disarmament to gain diplomatic favor from Colombia, Europe and North America. Clearly Chavez believed that appeasing Uribe would lessen threats to Venezuela’s borders and lessen the chances that Colombia would grant the US use of its border territory as a launching base for an invasion.

Chavez’ decision was deeply influence by the military and political weakening of the FARC over the previous 5 years, the advance of the Colombian military and the calculation that the effectiveness of the FARC as a counter-weight to Uribe was in decline. In this context, Chavez probably considered an immediate diplomatic détente with US-backed Colombia more important that any past solidarity or future tactical recovery of the FARC. In general terms, when revolutionary governments perceive or confront a situation of weakening or defeated revolutionary movements abroad and increasing political threats by imperial powers and their satellites, they are more likely to build diplomatic bridges to centrists or rightist regimes. In order to pursue diplomatic support, the most likely confidence-building measure is to sacrifice any identification with the radical left, including public repudiation of any extra-parliamentary initiatives.

Since the 1990’s economic crises, Cuba has pursued close diplomatic and economic relations with all Latin American states (including Colombia) and has opposed all guerrilla movements and refrained from criticizing center-right regimes, except those which publicly attack Cuba, as happened with US clients such as ex-President Fox of Mexico and his former Foreign Minister, George Castaneda, a notorious mouthpiece of the CIA and Cuban exiles in Miami.

Conclusion

The dilemmas of revolutionary governments revolves around the problem of managing the state, which involves maximizing international economic and diplomatic relations to develop the economy and defending its security in an imperial world order, while living up to its revolutionary ideology and solidarity with popular movements in the capitalist world. The risks of solidarity are lessened when new leftist regimes come to power or popular movements are in the ascent. The risks are greater when the resurgent right is in ascendancy. The dilemma is especially acute because the revolutionary state and the revolutionary party are tightly integrated – and identified as such: The party is led by the President of the State and there is overlap at all levels between government office holders and the party and the latter’s activities reflect the priorities of the government. In the case where there is no independent space between Party and State, diplomatic moves, necessary for everyday policy, undermine the possibility that the Party based in its internal deliberations and principles could act independently in support of their international counterparts. In contrast, the existence of an independent revolutionary party – supportive of the state but with its own internal life – could resolve the dilemma by making overseas class solidarity central to its ‘foreign policy’. By rejecting the role of being a government foreign policy transmission belt, the revolutionary party would operate parallel to the state, conveying their opposition to imperialism and internal class enemies but independent in choosing overseas allies and tactics. Given the different composition of the foreign affairs bureaucracy and diplomatic corps and the radical mass base of a revolutionary party, such a separation of state and movements would reflect the class-political differences inherent between a diplomatic corps developed under previous reactionary regimes and accustomed to conventional modes of operation and newly radicalized popular activists, tested in class struggle and accustomed to exchanging ideas in international forums with overseas revolutionaries.

The risks of diplomatic dependence on unreliable capitalist allies and even riskier fragile temporary accommodations need to be balanced with the gains from solidarity and support from reliable, principled class-based opposition mass parties and movements engaged in extra-parliamentary politics.

© Copyright James Petras, Global Research, 2008

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9500

A Disenchanted James Petras

Dandelion Salad

by Efraín Chury Iribarne
http://www.dissidentvoice.org
June 13th, 2008

Efraín Chury Iribarne: Good day Petras, how’s it going…

James Petras: It’s a good day here in nature, but it seems to me an unhappy day in relation to the latest declarations of President Chávez.

ECI: That’s the question I was just about to ask you…

JP: Here all the bourgeois press is giving lots of favorable emphasis to the denunciations of the FARC and the demands and speeches that President Chávez is making and I imagine it’s a shock for many people to face the aggressiveness with which he’s pursuing this policy.

ECI: Specifically, if I ask you from here, from the south and the interpretation that can be made via the different channels of information, one would say that the outstanding question in all the papers and media that cannot be ignored, is that Chávez is asking the FARC to give up all its hostages and demobilize in exchange for nothing and that moreover they, the FARC, are the excuse for the imperialist presence in the region. I don’t know if that’s the reading that can actually be made…

JP: It’s pure Stalinism, to say that an insurgent group with 40 years of struggle is playing imperialism’s game is pure idiocy; imperialism functions well enough in Venezuela without need for a guerrilla movement, as you know, this can be understood precisely by the role it played in the 2002 coup and all the politics from that moment, and it is functioning in many parts of the world where there is any kind of warlike government or whatever, and to say that the FARC’s armed struggle is a pretext for imperialism is pure stupidity and I must say it. And another thing, Chávez doesn’t explain how the FARC can hand over their prisoners when it has 500 guerrillas rotting, tortured, malnourished, sick in the dungeons of Uribe’s prisons. I believe that my question is why President Chávez wants to sacrifice the lives of the guerrilla prisoners to take up the flags of Uribe, Sarkozy, etcetera — a total unilateral surrender.

…continued

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

see

Chavez tells FARC armed struggle is over

Hard right neocons and AIPAC

Obama & McCain: Two Sides Of The Same Coin By Timothy V. Gatto

In The Great Tradition – Obama Is A Hawk By John Pilger

Ecuador police link plot to militias

Dandelion Salad

By JEANNETH VALDIVIESO
Associated Press Writer
Fri Jun 13, 8:51 PM ET

…continued

h/t: CLG

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

The Coming War on Venezuela By George Ciccariello-Maher

Dandelion Salad

By George Ciccariello-Maher
ICH
03/24/08 “Counterpunch

More than a year ago, I attended the official book release for the Venezuelan edition of Eva Golinger’s Bush Versus Chávez, published by Monte Avila, and the book had previously been printed in Cuba by Editorial José Martí. I recount this to make the following point: long before the publication of Bush Versus Chávez in the current English-language edition, the book was already a crucial contribution to international debates regarding United States’ efforts to destroy Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution. In choosing to publish the English edition of the book, Monthly Review Press has opened that debate to an entirely new audience, and for this we should be grateful. Furthermore, in an effort to streamline production, Monthly Review has further made the appendices to Bush Versus Chávez, largely composed of declassified or leaked documents, available publicly on its website, at the address: http://monthlyreview.org/bushvchavez.htm.

A New Toolbox

Golinger, a U.S.-born lawyer who has recently taken up full-time residence in Venezuela (and Venezuelan citizenship), first shot to prominence with her 2005 book The Chávez Code: Cracking U.S. Intervention in Venezuela. There, Golinger drew on a multitude of documents requested via the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) to thoroughly and convincingly document the role of the U.S. government in funding and sponsoring those Venezuelan opposition groups that participated in the undemocratic and illegal overthrow of Chávez in April 2002, most of which also signed the interim government’s Carmona Decree which dissolved all constitutionally-sanctioned branches of Venezuelan power. All this against Condoleezza Rice’s recent claim, patently preposterous, that “we’ve always had a good relationship with Venezuela.”

In Bush Versus Chávez, Golinger continues this diabolical narrative, this time relying less on FOIA requests than on a series of other key documents and bits of testimony gleaned from anonymous sources. After the failed 2002 coup, Golinger documents how the United States changed its tack slightly, drawing upon the variety of experiences gained in the military overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile and the electoral overthrow of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas. While it would be easy to say that this represented a “Nicaraguanization” of U.S. policy in the aftermath of the botched coup, in reality this new policy draws equally heavily on the many other elements that constituted the multifaceted war against Allende, and hence the thesis of the “Chileanization” of Venezuela remains all-too-relevant.

The key institutional devices deployed by the U.S. in its covert support for the coup remained the same in its aftermath: the neoconservative National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), both convenient mechanisms for bypassing Congressional oversight. What was new on this front, as Golinger demonstrates, was the establishment by USAID in the months following the coup of a sinister-sounding Office of Transition Affairs (OTI). Both the NED and USAID (via the OTI) immediately began to shift strategies, providing covert support for the opposition-led bosses lockout of the oil industry which crippled the Venezuelan economy for two months in late 2002 and early 2003, and when this failed, by providing direct support for efforts to unseat Chávez electorally (a là Nicaragua) in a 2004 recall referendum spearheaded by opposition “civil society” organization Súmate. Needless to say, doing so entailed continuing to support those very same organizations who had proven their anti-democratic credentials in 2002, but such things are hardly scandalous these days.

Through the popular and military support enjoyed by the Chávez government, all these efforts failed, which is unprecedented in and of itself. In response to the emptying of its traditional toolbox, the U.S. government has been forced to diversify its tactics even more drastically than ever before, and this is where Bush Versus Chávez comes in.

Domestic Continuity

In her analysis of contemporary U.S. strategies to unseat Chávez, Golinger speaks of three broad fronts: the financial, the diplomatic, and the military (43-48). But we should be extremely wary of distinguishing too cleanly between such tightly-interwoven categories: the “financial front” remains largely in the hands of the NED and USAID, agencies directly controlled by the U.S. government and the embassy in Caracas, funding the domestic side of the equation through support for destabilizing opposition organizations and even psychological operations (psyops) targeting the Venezuelan press and military.

Since 2004, the NED and USAID have seen massive budgets earmarked for activities in Venezuela: currently, some $3 million for the former and $7.2 million for the latter’s OTI operation (77). Of the NED funds, most went to the very same groups that participated in the 2002 coup, the 2003-4 oil lockout, and the 2004 recall referendum. Súmate, which headed up the recall effort, and whose spokesperson and Bush confidant Maria Corina Machado had signed the Carmona Decree, was granted more than $107,000 in 2005 alone. Súmate, to which Golinger devotes a chapter, had also received $84,000 in 2003 from USAID and $53,000 in 2003 and $107,000 in 2004 from the NED, as well as an inexplicable $300,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (90). All of which demonstrates, for Golinger, that “Súmate is and continues to be Washington’s main player in Venezuela” (91).

While USAID’s funding structure has become more secretive, a turn that Golinger deems illegal, one project in particular has been publicly discussed: the establishment of “American Corners” throughout Venezuela, institutions which even the U.S. Embassy deem “satellite consulates” (145). Aside from the patent illegality of such underground U.S. institutions, Golinger points out that their primary function is the distribution of pro-U.S. propaganda to the Venezuelan population.

Perhaps most frightening on the domestic front is the strategic transformation that such U.S. funding has undergone. Specifically, such funding has increasingly begun to target what had previously been considered core Chavista constituencies, such as the nation’s Afro and Indigenous populations (77-78). What Golinger doesn’t emphasize is the fact that this has occurred alongside a concerted effort by opposition political parties, notably the NED-funded Primero Justicia, to penetrate the poorest and most dangerous Venezuelan barrios, like Petare in eastern Caracas.

While this domestic element has remained shockingly continuous, with the U.S. continuing to directly fund the groups involved in Chávez’s 2002 overthrow, the military and diplomatic fronts are where Golinger reveals some veritably frightening new developments.

Asymmetrical Aggression

Perhaps the most intriguing and frightening revelation in Bush Versus Chávez surrounds a 2001 NATO exercise carried out in Spain under the title “Plan Balboa.” Here we should bear in mind the open support provided by then Popular Party Prime Minister José Maria Aznar for the brief coup against Chávez. And while we might be struck by the irony of naming a NATO operation after the Spanish conquistador who invaded Panama, the name is far more accurate than we might initially believe.

Plan Balboa was, in fact, a mock invasion plan for taking over the oil-rich Zulia State in western Venezuela. In thinly veiled code-names (whose coded nature is undermined by the satellite imagery showing the nations involved), it entailed a “Blue” country (the U.S.) launching an invasion of the “Black” zone (Zulia) of a “Brown” country (Venezuela), from a large base in a “Cyan” country (Howard Air Force Base, in Panama) with the support of an allied “White” country (Colombia) (95-98). The fact that a trial-run invasion was carried out less than 11 months before the 2002 coup against Chávez should further convince us that this was mere contingency planning.

But Plan Balboa would be only the beginning, and Golinger deftly documents a series of increasingly overt military maneuvers carried out in recent years by the U.S. government in an effort to intimidate the Chávez government while preparing for any necessary action. Here, Golinger rightly trains her sights on the small Dutch Antillean island of Curaçao, which she deems the U.S.’s “third frontier.” Curaçao hosts what is nominally a small U.S. Forward Operating Location (FOL) as well as, not coincidentally, a refinery owned by Venezuelan national oil company PDVSA. Furthermore, it sits fewer than 40 miles off Venezuela’s coast, and more specifically, off the coast of the oil-rich “Black Zone” of Plan Balboa that is Zulia State.

Until February 2005, Curaçao probably seemed to be of little concern to Venezuelan security, given that its FOL housed only 200 U.S. troops. But this all changed when the U.S.S. Saipan made its unannounced arrival. The United States’ premier landing craft for invasion forces, the Saipan arrived in Curaçao with more than 1,400 marines and 35 helicopters on board (104). When the Venezuelan government responded to the hostile gesture, U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield claimed there had been a “lack of communication,” while simultaneously declaring that “it is our desire to have more visits by ships to Curaçao and Aruba [only 15 miles off the Venezuelan coast] in the coming weeks, months, and years” (105).

This veiled threat would come to fruition with Operation Partnership of the Americas in April 2006. In that instance, which dwarfed the Saipan‘s visit, the aircraft carrier U.S.S. George Washington arrived in Curaçao with three warships. The total strength of the force was of 85 fighter planes and more than 6,500 marines (106). Were this not worrying enough, then-intelligence chief and Latin American Cold Warrior par excellence John Negroponte admitted around the same time that the U.S. had deployed a nuclear sub to intercept communications off the Venezuelan coast (100). When we factor in the Curaçao-based Operation Joint Caribbean Lion, carried out in June 2006 with the goal of capturing the mock-terrorist rebel leader “Hugo Le Grand,” there can remain little doubt that at the very least, the United States is keen to prepare for the possibility of a direct invasion of Venezuelan territory.

Of Terror and Dictators

But, one might ask, what are the chances that the U.S. would actually invade Venezuela, given the predictably harsh international rebuke that such an invasion would earn? It is here that another aspect, what Golinger loosely characterizes the “diplomatic front,” comes into play, and it is here that U.S. policies and strategies have seen the most striking innovations.

Here Golinger cites a document by retired U.S. Army Colonel Max G. Manwaring published by the Army’s Institute for Strategic Studies in 2005 (112). This document represents above all an inversion of strategies applied to Venezuela, and one which drastically complicates the military picture: Manwaring advocates appropriating the concept of “asymmetrical warfare” that many guerrillas and rebel movements have historically used with success against the United States, and converting it into an explicit U.S. strategy. Somewhat bizarrely, Manwaring compares this employment of asymmetric warfare to the “Wizard’s Chess” of Harry Potter, deeming Chávez a “true and wise enemy” who must be dealt with by a panoply of maneuvers on all levels (112-113. Central to this strategy is the deployment of psychological operations (psyops), which had been previously focused on the Venezuelan press (toward the objective of justifying a coup or electoral removal of Chávez) to the international and diplomatic arena (toward what one could presume to be an objective of direct or indirect military action).

While domestic psyops have continued, notably in the 2005 deployment of “Gypsy” (JPOSE, Joint Psychological Operations Support Element) teams to Venezuela with the objective of spreading propaganda among the Venezuelan military and keeping tabs on radical Chavista organizations (117), much of their focus has been the spreading of news stories in the international arena. These stories, as Golinger astutely documents, tend to follow “three major lines of attack”:

1.) Chávez is an anti-democratic dictator
2.) Chávez is a destabilizing force in the region
3.) Chávez harbors and supports terrorism (125).

Even the briefest of glances at any mainstream newspaper in the United States, or many other countries for that matter, will show to what degree this mediatically-constructed image has been a success.

New Strategies Unfold

This international effort to discredit the Chávez regime, thereby clearing the way for future intervention, brings us to a series of recent events that have transpired since Golinger first published Bush Versus Chávez.

The first was the sudden rebirth of the Venezuelan “student movement” in early 2007, nominally in response to the non-renewal of the broadcasting license for opposition television station RCTV. I have documented elsewhere the fact that this “student movement” was by and large supported if not directed by the traditional opposition parties, but what is more relevant here is that the strategies and even imagery of the movement were adapted directly from those used in countries such as Serbia and the Ukraine. These strategies, consisting largely of “non-violent” direct action, have been formulated and disseminated through institutions such as the Albert Einstein Institution which, in an irony of ironies, Golinger shows to be directly supported by the State Department (135), and linked to prior attempts to train Colombian paramilitaries to assassinate President Chávez (136-137).

Here again we have an inversion, in which the U.S. government has adopted the very strategies that had previously been deployed against it, and in this case the audience was international: the foreign press was so eager to show a violent repression of the students that it exaggerated the response of the largely unarmed police and, in an infamous incident, transformed an armed attack by opposition students against Chavistas at the Central University into just the opposite. The objective? To discredit and isolate the Chávez regime internationally, clearing the way for more directly offensive action.

Secondly, we have seen a concrete example of such offensive action in Colombia’s recent illegal cross-border raid into Ecuador. The particular players involved should not distract our attention: this was a test-run, both militarily and diplomatically, for future U.S. interventions in the region. With Colombia standing in as proxy for the U.S. and the more recently-established Correa government standing in as proxy for the Chávez government, this was above all a test of the international response.

While that response was overwhelming in Latin America, with the OAS and even right-leaning governments condemning the Colombian raid as a violation of sovereignty, the U.S.’s international psyops campaign seems to have been overwhelmingly effective within its own borders. Rather than being presented as an instance of Colombian aggression, the initial raid was immediately erased from the picture in much of the international press, with the focus being diverted to what was perceived as Venezuela’s bellicose response. But such a response was a strategic necessity aimed at discouraging any possible future intervention.

Furthermore, the revelations gleaned from the FARC’s magic laptop, which allegedly implicate Chávez himself in funding the FARC (a charge which Colombia, not coincidentally, eventually decided not to pursue), are also drawn straight from the playbook of Plan Balboa, which was premised upon the threat posed by an alliance between the radical sectors of the “Brown” and “White” countries. The U.S. seems to be preparing to put that plan into motion with its recent legal gestures toward declaring Venezuela a supporter of terrorism, and given recent evidence of a massive influx of Colombian paramilitaries into the “Black Zone” of western Venezuela, the danger that Plan Balboa might become a reality should not be underestimated.

What would be the international response to such an incursion? Here there is little ground for optimism. After all, during the 2002 coup against Chávez, that bastion of the American left celebrated the maneuver, declaring that “Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator.” And all this before the concerted psyops campaign deployed against the Venezuelan government in recent years. Now, one democratic candidate spurns facts to declare Chávez a “dictator” while the other, eager to demonstrate his leftist credentials, deems the massively-popular Venezuelan leader a “despotic oil tyrant,” and is promptly pilloried for his soft line.

George Ciccariello-Maher is a Ph.D candidate in political theory at U.C. Berkeley, who is currently writing a people’s history of the Bolivarian Revolution. He can be reached at gjcm(at)berkeley.edu


FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.