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ISSUE: #. 42. July 14, 2002

THIS WEEK: THE FORGOTTEN FRONT IN LATIN AMERICA

* MEXICO CRACKS DOWN ON ISLAMIC MILITANTS IN CHIAPAS
*PETRO-OLIGARCHS PLOT NEW VENEZUELA COUP
*ASHCROFT INDICTS FARC COMMANDER

SPECIAL REPORT: U.S. CHEMICAL WARFARE IN THE AMAZON

SECRET OIL COMPANY AGENDAS BEHIND ANDEAN HERBICIDE CAMPAIGN by Peter Gorman, Special Correspondent

ALSO: NEGEV BEDOUIN TAKE BACK THE LAND!

CURRENT HOMELAND SECURITY COLOR ADVISORY CODE: YELLOW



By Bill Weinberg
with David Bloom, Special Correspondent




THE PALESTINE FRONT
1. New IDF Chief: Gaza Next?
2. IDF Kills Two in Gaza Raid
3. IDF Take "Determined Path" to Gaza
4. IDF Probe Faults Troops in Civilian Deaths
5. Palestinian Killed, Israeli Injured in Jerusalem Shootout
6. IDF to Ease West Bank "Closures"?
7. Bomb Attack on Israeli Bus Near Hebron
8. Israel Assassinates Top Islamic Jihad Militant
9. IDF Kills Palestinian Photo-journalist
10. Sharon: "Predator of Press Freedom"
11. "Jewish-Only" Land Bill Nixed by Cabinet
12. Arabs "Stealing" Israeli State Land!
13. Bedouin Protest Housing Demolitions
14. Amnesty Blasts Palestinian Attacks on Civilians
15. Israel Closes Palestinian Moderate's Office
16. Academic Boycott of Israelis Draws Fire
17. IDF: 153 Soldiers Killed in First Six Months of 2002
18. Return of "Terror In Diapers"
19. Settlers Get PR Make-Over
20. Arafat: I Didn't Siphon off PA Funds

AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. US: No Compensation Deal
2. US Won't Seek Clearance From Afghans Before Strikes
3. Wolfowitz: Wedding Strike Aimed at "Bad Guys"
4. German Intelligence Chief: Bin Laden Still Kicking
5. Bin Laden "In Good Health Now"
6. CentCom: No US Soldiers Killed in Khandahar Ambush

THE NEW GREAT GAME
1. U.S. Envoy Pledges Support for Trans-Afghan Pipeline
2. Major Oil Find in Kazakhstan Spurs New Consortium

THE ANDEAN FRONT
1. Dissident Officers Plot New Coup in Venezuela
2. Accusations of White House Involvement in Coup Attempt
3. Did US Agency Fund Coup Plotters?
4. White House "Triangle" Behind Coup Attempt?
5. BBC Investigation: Oil Intrigues Behind Coup Attempt
6. Colombia: Warmonger Wins Presidency, War Heats Up
7. US "Certifies" Colombian Military
8. Ashcroft Indicts FARC Commander
9. Oxy Pulls Out of U'wa Country
10. FARC Kidnaps Peace Advocates
11. Paras Get PR Make-Over
12. Israeli Spook Trained Colombian Paras
13. US Contract Pilots Spray Deadly Mix in Colombia
14. Big Oil Behind Secret Spraying of Ecuador Rainforest?
15. Protests Shut Ecuador Oil Operations

MEXICO
1. Assassins, Paymaster Named in Digna Ochoa Case
2. Accused Guerilla Leader on Hunger Strike, Near Death
3. Guerilla Attacks Continue
4. Aguas Blancas Survivors Receive "Symbolic" Compensation
5. "Intifada" in Rural Mexico
6. Zapatista Political Prisoners: Down To Five?
7. Acteal Survivors Decry Impunity
8. Military Dissident: Army Trains Paras
9. Mysterious Gunmen Terrorize Chiapas
10. Mexico Expels Islamic Missionaries From Chiapas
11. Religious War Looms In Chiapas
12. US Army to Rio Grande?

WATCHING THE SHADOWS
1. Alaska Pols in Denial About Climate Destabilization
2. White House Too
3. Rocky Mountains Sacrificed to Energy Crisis
4. Nigerian Women Occupy Chevron Terminal



THE PALESTINE FRONT

1. NEW IDF CHIEF: GAZA NEXT?
The new hard-line Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Ya'alon, told Bush administration officials the Israeli army would have to launch a huge offensive against the Gaza Strip, should terrorist attacks be launched from there. Of the approximately 70 suicide attacks launched against Israel, none have originated from the Gaza Strip, although senior leaders of Islamic militant groups that have taken credit are based there. So far, there has been no major Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip. It is believed that Gen. Ya'alon will attempt to convince the Israeli cabinet to step up operations in Gaza, despite the fact such an assault could strain relations with Washington. (Sydney Morning Herald, July 10) (David Bloom) [top]

2. IDF KILLS TWO IN GAZA RAID
On July 12, two Palestinians were killed by an undercover IDF unit in the Gaza Strip. One, PA naval policeman Khaled Khattab, 25, was killed in an operation near the central Gaza town of Deir El Balah, officially launched to arrest wanted militants. The target of the raid was arrested, but Israel Radio said some "resisting arrest" opened fire. The IDF returned fire, injuring five. A statement by Palestinian security sources in Gaza said tanks, bulldozers, armored vehicles, and jeeps entered the town. Palestinian sources also claim Muan al-A'daini, 13, was shot and killed by withdrawing troops. The IDF confirms the operation, saying it entered Deir El Balah after its forces were fired on by Palestinian gunmen in the area. It said there was a "massive exchange of fire," but could not confirm any casualties . (Haaretz, July 13) (David Bloom) [top]

3. IDF TAKE "DETERMINED PATH" TO GAZA
On July 14, 17-year-old Palestinian Nidal Amudi was killed by IDF tank fire while walking through a farm in the community of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, said Palestinian Preventive Security forces and Shifa hospital officials. The IDF said it is checking into the report. Also that day, Palestinians fired five mortars at a central Gaza Strip settlement. There were no injuries, but a mobile home was damaged .(Haaretz, July 15)

On July 15, an Israeli Air Force F-16 and Apache helicopter gunships attacked a building in the southern Gaza Strip, in what may be a failed assassination attempt. Yusof Abdel Wahab, a Hamas militant, reportedly left the building just minutes before the attack. The three-story building in Qarara, near Khan Yunis, was destroyed in the attack, and up to 10 injured, according to hospital workers and witnesses. Israeli security sources said the building was used as a bomb-making factory.

During the raid, relatives of people killed in a June 24 air strike took advantage of the chaos to kill a suspected collaborator, accused of assisting the IDF in the strike. Abdelhai al-Sababi, 44 was to be tried in Khan Yunis, but when his guards fled, the relatives shot him five times to the head, witnesses say. (AFP, July 14: AP, July 14) (David Bloom) [top]

4. IDF PROBE FAULTS TROOPS IN CIVILIAN DEATHS
The IDF has completed a preliminary investigation into the deaths of a Palestinian woman and her daughter traveling near the settlement of Netzarim in the Gaza Strip July 6, Randa al-Hindi, 42, and her daughter, 2-year-old Nur, were traveling on the Khan Yunis-Gaza City road on a return trip from visiting family. The probe revealed the two were hit by warning shots Isreali troops fired at suspects--in contravention of IDF "open-fire" regulations. The IDF has yet to determine if the soldiers will face disciplinary measures. IDF Central Command also investigated the June 21 incident in Jenin in which four were killed fleeing a tank. The investigation revealed the tank crew committed serious errors, and that its firing on civilians was unwarranted. (Haaretz, July 11) (David Bloom) [top]

5. PALESTINIAN KILLED, ISRAELI INJURED IN JERUSALEM SHOOTOUT
On July 8, a Palestinian bystander was killed and an Israeli police officer injured when a Palestinian gunman opened fire after being approached by the officer. The incident occurred near the Damascus gate in Jerusalem. The gunman was arrested. (BBC, July 9) (David Bloom) [top]

6. IDF TO EASE WEST BANK "CLOSURES"?
Israel may ease its "closure" of West Bank towns and cities within a week, under a stated policy of making life easier for Palestinian civilians. Seven of the eight largest West Bank cities have been under tight closure--occupied and under curfew--since Operation Determined Path began June 20. Only Jericho remains unoccupied, although it is currently encirlcled. At least 36 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip from June 20 to July 12. According to the Israeli human rights group B'tselem, 17 were unarmed civilians. (NYT, July 13) President Bush said July 8 that Israel had justification in occupying the West Bank until "security improves." (NYT, July 9) The IDF will now withdraw to the outskirts of the cities, encircling them, and re-enter as deemed necessary. The number of soldiers in the West Bank is to be reduced, the IDF also announced. reservists called up for the operation would be sent home as encirclement replaces occupation.

The curfew in Tul Karm was lifted July 12. In Nablus, the curfew has remained in place for almost three weeks without break. The IDF claims that in several places where curfew was temporarily lifted, militants took the opportunity to smuggle suicide bombers to Israeli territory. (Haaretz, July 14) July 11, an Israeli military spokesman said 10 arrests were made in Nablus in connection with attacks on Israeli targets. Palestinian sources put the number of arrested was 13. (AFP, July 11)

On July 13, Israeli forces said they intercepted a vehicle filled with explosives trying to enter Israel. The devices were found after the motorists abandoned the car to flee Israeli "warning fire" near Qalqilya. (CNN, July 13) The IDF also announced apprehension of a would-be suicide bomber who opened fire at a Border Police unit patrolling near the West Bank village of Anin. Security officials say five Palestinians who intended to carry out suicide attacks were arrested in the West Bank between July 11 and 14. (Haaretz, July 14) (David Bloom) [top]

7. BOMB ATTACK ON ISRAELI BUS NEAR HEBRON
A bomb went off near an Israeli bus traveling between the Jewish settlements of Bet Haggai and Kiryat Arba, near Hebron July 12. The driver was traveling alone with no passengers at the time. The device was packed with nails, and the vehicle, an armored bus, sustained some damage, although it was able to continue on its way. (Jerusalem Post, July 12) (David Bloom) [top]

8. ISRAEL ASSASSINATES TOP ISLAMIC JIHAD MILITANT
Islamic Jihad says one of its leaders was killed in a July 9 dawn raid by Israeli special forces. Moammar Darghne, 30, was ambushed in his car as he was driving near Jenin, the organization said. (BBC, July 9) (David Bloom) [top]

9. IDF KILLS PALESTINIAN PHOTO-JOURNALIST
Palestinian reporter Imad Abu Zahara died July 12 of wounds sustained by IDF gunfire in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin. Abu Zahara was shot while photographing the aftermath of an Israeli armored personnel carrier accident. According to the Israelis, two armored vehicles were moving through the streets July 11 when one struck an electrical pole. The curfew having been temporarily lifted, a crowd of Palestinian onlookers gathered around, and some threw firebombs and opened fire at the Israelis. (NYT, July 13)

This account is contradicted by Palestinians and international activists at the scene. A report by Huweida Arraf of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) states "an Israeli armored personnel carrier (APC) intentionally drove into an electricity pole, knocking it down and subsequently causing the live wires to land atop the APC. Soldiers in accompanying tanks and jeeps then opened fire on crowds in Jenin, which were out stocking up on food during the lifting of curfew. Now, the Israeli Army is 'retaliating' for its own blunder, by imposing a 24-hour curfew and threatening to 'shoot to kill' anyone who steps outside. Seven civilian homes have been occupied in the city and four homes have been blown up by the Israeli military." (ISM, July 12)

According to Said Shawqi Dahla, a photographer with the official Palestinian news agency WAFA who was wounded in the incident, the two photographers were wearing vests marked "press" when one of the APCs began shooting. An ambulence was then unable to reach the scene. (NYT, July 13)

Abu Zahara started his own newspaper in 1997, called "Jenin." He criticized Israel's occupation of the city, but also criticized the city's mayor, for which he was jailed by the Palestinian Authority and the paper shut down. (NYT, July 13) He had planned to start a joint Jewish-Arab newspaper. (Jerusalem Post, July 12) (David Bloom) [top]

10. SHARON: "PREDATOR OF PRESS FREEDOM"
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued a strong condemnation of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for the death of Palestinian photojournalist Imad Abu Zahra. "It is intolerable that two journalists have been killed in the past five months by the Israeli army, even more so when Israeli soldiers refused to allow an ambulance to get to the latest victim," said RSF secretary-general Robert Menard Robert Menard. "More than 40 journalists have been wounded in shooting by the Israeli army since Sept. 2000. Since Ariel Sharon became prime minister in February last year, 17 journalists have been wounded, 70 have come under fire, and 15 foreign or Palestinian media offices have been occupied... Since the start of Operation Defensive Shield on March 29 this year, at least 30 journalists have been arrested and six of them--all Palestinians--are still being detained. The Israeli army is acting with complete impunity... How many more must die before the army stops attacking the media?"

Menard concluded, "Reporters Without Borders has decided to add Sharon to its worldwide list of predators of press freedom." (RSF, July 12) (David Bloom) [top]

11. "JEWISH-ONLY" LAND BILL NIXED BY CABINET
The Israeli cabinet voted 22-2 to send the controversial Druckman bill--setting aside state land for Jewish-only communities--into committee, effectively ending the chance it will become law. The bill came as a response to a March 2000 order by the Israel High Court of Justice that the state to reconsider its refusal to let a Palestinian Israeli citizen, Aadal Kaadan, to live with his family in Katzir. Haim Druckman, a member of Effi Eitam's far-right National Religious Party, sponsored the amendment. Among its original 50 supporters were Ariel Sharon and Moshe Katsav--now Prime Minister and President, respectively. The state owns 90% of Israel's land, under the Israel Lands authority (ILA). Less that 2.5% of the land is under the jurisdiction of Arab municipalities, despite the fact the Arab citizens comprise 18% of Israel's population. The Interior ministry says it will build a new Druze community in the north of Israel, the first new non-Jewish community to be established since the founding of the country. The Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund often receive land from the ILA to develop Jewish-only communities. JNF land--inclduing Katzir--is earmarked as "held in trust for the Jewish people." In 1995 Kaadan challenged the law as discriminatory, and the court agreed. However, the ruling has not been implemented in the two years since it was handed down.

The bill was approved by the cabinet July 7 by a vote of 17-2, with some Labor ministers absent. Opposition to the bill built throughout the week, and the cabinet agreed to debate the measure again. Center Party Minister Dan Meridor was one of those who voted against the bill in the July 7 meeting. "Precisely because we are a Jewish state we must oppose such laws of discrimination," he said July 8. Also present at the vote was Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein, who said the bill would "contribute to further unraveling of the delicate threads bridging the rift between Jews and Arabs... Those who want to preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state must work for equality for Arabs." Another prominent opponent was Benny Begin, son of the late prime minister Menachem Begin, and himself formerly a member of the Likud party. Begin, who rarely speaks in public, came out strongly against the bill, calling it antithetical to both Judaism and democracy. Sharon also opposed the bill by the end of the week. Kaadan likes to quote the Begin's political forebear, early Zionist militant Zeev Jabotinsky, who said he wanted Israel to be for the "children of Arabia and Nazareth, and my people." (Haaretz, July 8, 9, 13, 14) (David Bloom) [top]

12. ARABS "STEALING" ISRAELI STATE LAND!
A report by Israel Harel in Haaretz notes with alarm the phenomenon of Arabs and Bedouin "stealing" Israeli state land in both Israel proper and "Judea and Samaria" (occupied West Bank). In the Negev, Harel describes how "the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) estimates that some 600,000 dunams (150,000 acres) of state land in the Negev has been lost to the Bedouin in recent years. No one in the political establishment, including the prime minister...has the courage to deal with the problem. The situation is similar, though not to the same extent, in the Galilee and the Triangle of Arab towns near Netanya."

It started in the Negev, when a few Bedouin families set up an encampment on "state land" at Bir Asluj near Kibbutz Revivim. As the encampment grew to be a permanent settlement, the ILA took the Bedouin to court (Haaretz, July 11). The Bedouin, according to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, are "traditionally nomadic, living in makeshift tents, and traveling to new fields, new water sources, around the year. In the last several years, the Israeli government has been relocating the Bedouin to permanent settlements, yet many choose to maintain the old way of life." (fohs.bgu.ac.il) Late last year, the court ruled the encampment was to be evacuated in two weeks. Due to political and media opposition, the settlement, now at 5,000 inhabitants, has still not been evicted.

Bir Asluj lies a short trek from the Nevatim Air Force base. Harel writes that when the base was established in 1982, "the Bedouin left willingly in exchange for compensation for land that had never really been theirs." But now the nomadic Bedouin have drifted back to the area of the base. According to the base's commander, the Bedouin are known to "trespass" on the base with their sheep, which they access through gaps in the fence.

Saying the proposed law to allocate state land to Jews only "is the result of fears and suspicions that the land is literally slipping out from under our feet," Harel decries that "The Arabs of Judea and Samaria have seized control of 3,350 dunams of state land." The Israeli state comptroller warns against "expansion trends into state lands" by Arabs. Writes Harel:"Nationalistic forces in Arab villages in the Galilee and the Triangle have taken control of state lands...and are treating them as if they owned them." Harel warns that in the reaction to the Druckman bill there is a "comprehensive alignment of the Jewish media with the Arab side." He says the "media know that the Arabs are exploiting the natural Jewish sensitivities toward human rights in order to seize control, for nationalistic reasons and via criminal means, of remaining state lands." (Haaretz, July 11)

An article in Haaretz by Zvi Bar'el criticizes Harel, noting that "this is not the first time that inventors have complained about those who stole ideas from them." Bar'el argues that the settlers should view the Bedouin as their "allies"--as long as the Israeli state does not evacuate the Bedouin from the state land they have taken "illegally," then no precedent is set for the evacuation of Jewish settlers in the occupied territories. Both the Bedouin and the settlers are living on what is defined as "state lands." The Bedouin are following a pattern established by the settlers; establish illegal outposts over a wide area, populate them with their relatives. But Bar'el notes a crucial difference: the Bedouin are citizens of the country whose state lands they are seizing; the settlers are taking Palestinian land for themselves. Another difference: the state does not poison the land around Jewish settlements to make it untitllable. Thousands of dunams (1 acre=4 dunams) around the Bedouin "settlements" have been poisoned by the Israeli government, in an effort to keep the Bedouin from planting. Also, the state does not hook up the Bedouin "settlements" up to the power and water grids. In contrast with the networks of bypass roads built for Jewish settlers on Palestinian lands, the main roads end before the Bedouin "settlements." Bar'el concludes: "People who talk about land reserves in the Negev that are being plundered by the Bedouin would do well to remember that those reserves are intended for all the country's citizens, including them." (Haaretz, July 14) (David Bloom) (See also: WW3 REPORT #s 16, 17, 20) [top]

13. BEDOUIN PROTEST HOUSING DEMOLITIONS
About 400 Bedouin protested July 11 outside the Israeli government complex in Be'er Sheva against Interior Ministry-sponsored housing demolitions in the Negev. According to demonstrators, in the last few months, Israeli "Green Patrol" desert units destroyed homes in seven unrecognized villages. The Bedouin say the government has broken an unwritten agreement not to destroy houses in particularly crowded villages. (Haaretz, July 12) (David Bloom) [top]

14. AMNESTY BLASTS PALESTINIAN ATTACKS ON CIVILIANS
A new 44-page report by Amnesty International, "Without Distinction: Attacks on civilians by Palestinian armed groups," condemns actions by Hamas, al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigades, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). According to Amnesty, 350 mostly Israeli civilians have been killed in over 128 attacks by these groups since the al-Aksa Intifada broke out in Sept. 2000. Contradicting claims by these groups that "under all international declarations and laws, Palestinians are entitled to defend and liberate their land by all means and to redeem their integrity," the report says: "Attacks on civilians are not permitted under any internationally recognized standard of law, whether they are committed in the context of a struggle against military occupation or any other context... In the manner in which they are being committed in Israel and the Occupied Territories they also amount to crimes against humanity."

The report notes that it has documented extensive "violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by Israel in the occupied territories. These include unlawful killings; torture and ill-treatment; arbitrary detention; unfair trials; collective punishments such as punitive closures of areas and destruction of homes; extensive and wanton destruction of property; deportations; and discriminatory treatment as compared to Israeli settlers... However, no violations by the Israeli government, no matter their scale or gravity, justify the killing of Sinai Kenan, Danielle Chefi, Chana Rogan, or any other civilians."

The report states: "The attacks by Palestinian armed groups are widespread, systematic and in pursuit of an explicit policy to attack civilians. They therefore constitute crimes against humanity under international law. They may also constitute war crimes..." Amnesty notes Palestinian dissent against the attacks: "many Palestinians who support armed resistance, as well as those who support non-violent action, believe that targeting civilians is morally and/or strategically wrong... But the critics have in general not been as open or prominent in public as advocates for armed attacks who support, condone or do not criticize attacks on civilians." (Amnesty International, July 11)

Palestinian cabinet secretary Ahmed Abdul Rahman, while noting that prominent Palestinians have condemned suicide bombings (see WW3 REPORT #39), said that "all that is happening to Israeli citizens is a normal consequence of their occupation and rejection of Palestinian rights." Ismail Abu Shanab, spokesman for Hamas' political wing, called the report "completely biased." Shanab added, "It reflects the same American policy that gave the legitimacy to the [Israeli] occupation of West Bank cities and to the daily actions committed by the Israeli army against the Palestinians." (Haaretz, July 11) (David Bloom) [top]

15. ISRAEL CLOSES PALESTINIAN MODERATE'S OFFICE
On July 9, Israeli security forces raided the office of al-Quds University President Sari Nusseibeh, a philosophy professor and a leading Palestinian moderate. Police and Shin Bet security service confiscated Nusseibeh's books, papers and equipment, including his personal papers. Israeli Internal Security Minister Uzi Landau said the office would be closed indefinitely. Palestinians are accused of conducting political activity from the university, in contravention of an Israeli law prohibiting Palestinian political activity on Israeli soil. Al-Quds University is in Abu Dis, a town within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, annexed to Israel proper after the Six-Day War in 1967. Nusseibeh is the Jerusalem representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and the Palestinian Authority's representative in Jerusalem. Landau, defending the raid, said the university serves as "the long arm of the Palestinian Authority for the purpose of undermining Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem." The Likud minister told Israel Radio "Finally after years of concessions and capitulation by previous governments in Israel, which allowed the Palestinian Authority to operate in Jerusalem, we are now implementing Israeli law." Last month, Nusseibeh, along with Hanan Ashrawi, was a driving force behind a petition by Palestinian intellectuals calling for and end to suicide attacks. Nusseibeh also suggested Palestinians give up the demand for a right of return for refugees, for which he was harshly criticized. Nusseibeh offered his resignation to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat at the time, but it was refused.

Several Israeli ministers questioned the move. Matan Vilnai (Labor) said Nusseibeh is "one of the Palestinian leaders with whom it will apparently be possible to talk when the era of Arafat ends. And maybe it was not wise to raid his offices at the university." Transport Minister Ephraim Sneh (Labor) called the closure "foolish and misguided from a political point of view." Labor MK and Knesset House Committee chairman Yossi Katz reacted more strongly, declaring, "The decision to attack those few who are moderate was part stupidity and part lunacy. We have enough wretchedness these days, but it appears that someone is trying to destroy any potential understanding between Israelis and Palestinians..." Nusseibeh was in Greece at the time of the raid. His office issued a comment, noting "wide international protest," to the move. "This action does not contribute to the fight against terror," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleisher said July 10, adding that the White House was trying to convince the Israeli government to reverse its decision. (Haaretz, July 10; Jerusalem Post, July 11)

On July 11, two days after closing his office, Israeli police Nusseibeh after he returned to his home in East Jerusalem following a meeting with Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, Palestinian sources said. Police had attacked his aides, and Nusseibeh intervened. The police left after a crowd gathered near the house. The Police had stationed themselves near Nusseibeh's house for two days, watching who came and went. (DPA, July 11) (David Bloom) [top]

16. ACADEMIC BOYCOTT OF ISRAELIS DRAWS FIRE
Students, faculty members and universities are protesting a boycott of Israeli academics in Britain. The boycott of academic contacts with Israel in response to Israeli military action in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was applied by Prof. Mona Baker of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, where Dr Miriam Schlesinger and Prof. Gideon Toury were removed from the editorial boards of two linguistics journals. The higher education minister, Margaret Hodge, protested the move, saying "any discrimination on grounds of race, religion or nationality is utterly unacceptable" The university also disavowed the action, saying it had no control over the journals, the Translator and Translation Studies Abstract, both overseen by Professor Baker. (BBC, July 9) (David Bloom) [top]

17. IDF: 153 SOLDIERS KILLED IN FIRST SIX MONTHS OF 2002
According to the IDF, 153 soldiers have been killed in the first six months of 2002. Of those 153, 105 were killed in attacks in what the refuseniks call the "War of the Settlements"(Seruv.org). Thirty soldiers died in accidents, either off or on duty. Suspected suicides declined by 30% in this period. The IDF attributes this reduction to the "rise in morale which accompanies warfare." (Jerusalem Post, July 8) (David Bloom) [top]

18. RETURN OF "TERROR IN DIAPERS"
The IDF has released a second photograph of a Palestinian baby portrayed as a militant. In late June the IDF reportedly found the photograph of a baby dressed as a suicide bomber in the house of a Hamas activist in Hebron (see WW3 REPORT #40). The baby's family said the photograph was staged as a "joke." On July 14, the IDF released a second such photograph from Hebron--this time of a baby posing with what the IDF says is a real handgun in its lap, and its hand on a plastic assault rifle. (CNN, July 15) (David Bloom) [top]

19. SETTLERS GET P.R. MAKE-OVER
In an attempt to counter a negative image problem, representatives of the Yesha council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria (occupied West Bank) and the Gaza Strip are currently on a three-week US tour to promote their political agenda--namely, their opposition to a Palestinian state. "If you come to us and visit us, you will see a very normal life," said Council head Shaul Goldstein on a self-produced satiellite radio broadcast on the theme "Rethinking the Palestinian State." Goldstein added: "We have only one Jewish state, very, very tiny and we don't want to establish another terror state inside Israel." Goldstein was appearing with Dick Hellman, president of CIPAC (Christians' Israel Public Action Campaign). Said Likud MK Eli Cohen, a resident of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, "We came to say that we are normal people. Without us, there will be no peace. In a way, we're protecting Jerusalem, Haifa, and Tel Aviv." (Jerusalem Post, July 13) (David Bloom) [top]

20. ARAFAT: I DIDN'T SIPHON OFF P.A. FUNDS
Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper has published a report charging that President Yasser Arafat and other senior PA figures have made "considerable transfers of funds" overseas. The sum is rumored to be in the tens of millions of dollars, meant to finance the Palestinian leadership should they be forced into exile. Yedioth claims the allegations were taken from an official document the Israeli government gave the US as part of a continuing effort to discredit Arafat. East Jerusalem attorney Osama Sa'adi has sent the newspaper's lawyers a letter demanding that Yedioth print a retraction of the allegations against Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, AKA Abu Mazen. Knesset member Ahmed Tibi, a former advisor to Arafat, disputes the charges. "This information is part of the lies and rumors that are being put around by the Israelis before the quartet meeting," Tibi told Army Radio. "It is a part of the war that Israel has declared against the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership." Recently the Kuwaiti daily al-Watan accused Arafat of transferring $5.1 million of Arab aid money to his own account in an Egyptian bank. (see WW3 REPORT# 39) (Haaretz, July 15) (David Bloom) [top]

THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT

1. U.S.: NO COMPENSATION DEAL
The chief American military spokesman in Afghanistan, Lieutenant Colonel Roger King, denied reports that a compensation deal has been reached in the deaths of 48 civilians in Uruzgan Province July 1. King said recent talks between US officials and Afghan president Hamid Karzai have not touched on the question of monetary compensation. But Afghan officials claim the US has promised to finance several projects in Uruzgan province, where the strike took place. (BBC, July 11) (David Bloom) [top]

2. U.S. WON'T SEEK CLEARANCE FROM AFGHANS BEFORE STRIKES
The US refuses to comply with demands from Afghan governors and tribal leaders not to launch further military operations without first clearing them with local Afghan allies, in order to avoid futher civilian casualties. Khandahar governor and staunch US ally Gul Agha Sherzai said six governors, from the provinces of Kandahar, Uruzgan, Helmand, Farah, Zabul and Nimroz, will have to be consulted in the future before each strike. "We have already decided the matter,'' Sherzai told AP July 12. ``In the future, the Americans cannot conduct their operations without the approval of the council. They must also take Afghan forces with them.'' The forces Sherzai referred to are to be part of a 500-member rapid reaction force of Afghan troops, still to be constructed. (AP, July 12) Sherzai met with 300 senior figures and tribal leaders who back his demands. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has not commented on Sherzai's demand. The Khandar governor says he will raise the issue with US officials and President Bush in his upcoming US visit. (Pakistan News Service, July 15)

A spokesman at US Central Command in Florida said the US would continue to cooperate with its Afghan allies but would not allow the Afghans to control US operations. "We have coordinated with the Afghan government over and over again and will continue to do so--this doesn't really change anything," said Maj. Ralph Mills. "We will continue to do what we can to coordinate. However, if it's a situation of imminent danger, we are going to continue to do what we believe is right and take action appropriately." (AP, July 12) (David Bloom) [top]

3. WOLFOWITZ: WEDDING STRIKE AIMED AT "BAD GUYS"
Deputy US Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, on a visit to Bagram air base in Afghanistan, said the US was justified in its air strike that killed 48 civilians and wounded 117 at a wedding celebration in Kakarak because the strike was aimed at "bad guys" believed to be hiding in the area. "We are always concerned when we believe we may have killed innocent people and we think that happened and we regret that," Wolfowitz said during a July 15 visit to Bagram, headquarters for US military operations in Afghanistan. "We have no regrets about going in after bad guys, and there were some there." (CBS, July 15) (David Bloom) [top]

4. GERMAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF: BIN LADEN STILL KICKING
In a July 13 interview in a German newspaper, the head of Germany's foreign intelligence service said he believes Osama bin Laden is still alive, and currently hiding in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. August Hanning, head of the Federal Intelligence Service, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that he estimates over 5,000 Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters remain in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some had returned to their homelands. "They are preparing attacks from their new locations --they will try everything to strike again," the paper quoted him as saying. "We must be prepared for that." (AP, July 14) (David Bloom) [top]

5. BIN LADEN "IN GOOD HEALTH NOW"
According to the editor of the London-based al-Quds newspaper, Osama bin Laden was injured in the US attack on Tora Bora, but has recovered from his wounds. "His people said he was wounded in the shoulder by shrapnel. He is in good health now," the editor, Abdel-Bari Atwan, told Reuters. Atwan said bin Laden's cohorts have informed him that despite his good health, he would not make another video appearance until al-Qaeda had launched another attack on the US. "They said they would attack and take advantage of the political climate in the Arab world at a time when there is a lot of hatred against the United States," Atwan said. (UK Guardian, July 14) (David Bloom) [top]

6. CENTCOM: NO US SOLDIERS KILLED IN KHANDAHAR AMBUSH
US Central Command has denied a story in Pakistan's Baluchistan Post claiming that five US soldiers were killed in an ambush in Khandahar. The July 8 Post story said US soldiers dressed as Afghans, wearing beards and driving in an unmarked civilian vehicle, were attacked by "local anti-US Afghans" on motorbikes. According to the report, the Afghans followed the troops' car until they confirmed those inside were US soldiers, and then opened fire on the vehicle from both sides, killing all five onboard. The report said the attackers escaped, and a "heavy contingent" of US troops removed the bodies.

Commander Frank Merriman of CentCom told WW3 REPORT the US Public Affairs Officer in Bagram confirmed an ambush on a three-vehicle US convoy took place in Khandahar July 2. But he said the only US casualty sustained was an injury to one soldier's foot.(David Bloom) [top]

THE NEW GREAT GAME

1. U.S. ENVOY PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR TRANS-AFGHAN PIPELINE
US Ambassador to Turkmenistan Laura E. Kennedy said her government "is ready to back the commercially viable Trans-Afghan gas pipeline." In a July 4 interview with the semi-official newspaper Neutral Turkmenistan, Kennedy said, "Implementation of this project may have decisive influence on stability and prosperity in Afghanistan and will also increase the volume of gas and diversify export routes for fuel from Turkmenistan." Turkmenistan is hoping to win Western support for construction of a 1,500-kilometer pipeline from the country's Dovletabad gas fields to Multan in Pakistan via Afghjanistan. (Interfax, July 4)

A first meeting of government officials from the three countries to discuss the project took place in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan's capital, July 9-10. A representative from the Asian Development Bank was also in attendance. A follow-up meeting has been set for Kabul in September. (Turkmen State News Service, July 10)

The ambassador's comments are on-line [top]

2. MAJOR OIL FIND IN KAZAKHSTAN SPURS NEW CONSORTIUM
Following an announcement confirming the largest oil find in the Caspian Sea in the past 30 years, officials in Kazakhstan are contemplating new pipeline routes to transport the crude to international markets, according to a Reuters report picked up by the on-line industry jounal Rigzone.com. Kazakh officials said the discovery of between 7 and 9 billion barrels of recoverable crude oil in the giant Kashagan offshore field one of the world's largest energy exporters by the end of this decade, but will require major new infrastructure. A recently completed pipeline running through Russia (built by the Caspian Pipeline Consortium--see WW3 REPORT #s 3, 13, 27) is sufficient for Kazakhstan's existing oil export needs, but the country will need additional routes after the newly discovered oilfield begins production by the end of 2005, said Kazakhstan Minister of Energy Vladimir Shkolnik. "If our forecasts come true, after that time we will definitely need additional export routes and we are studying a number of routes," Shkolnik said. "We look with great interest and China and India; those are the very fast-developing economies in our vicinity," he added.

With the Kashagan oilfield discovery, Kazakhstan plans to triple its output in 15 years from its current level of 900,000 barrels per day. An international consortium led by the Italian firm Agip and including ExxonMobil and Phillips Petroleum, has committed to invest $7 billion in the oilfield over the next few years, beginning with $800 million this year. Other members of the consortium include the Shell, the French TotalFinaElf and Indonesia's Inpex. (Reuters, July 2) [top]

THE ANDEAN FRONT

1. DISSIDENT OFFICERS PLOT NEW COUP IN VENEZUELA
Dissident military officers in Venezuela warn that President Hugo Chavez, the controversial populist who was dramatically restored to power after being ousted for 48 hours by the armed forces April 11 (see WW3 REPORT #30), is facing another coup--possibly bloodier than the first. A second coup is likely within the next several weeks, according to the anonymous officers, who claim to be part of an "institutionalist" movement within the armed forces. "We want to put a stop to an unsustainable situation," said an army captain on condition of anonymity. "If nothing changes, we are heading for civil war." "I am not resigning, and they are not going to topple me," Chavez responded, charging that a destabilization effort is under way similar to the one that toppled socialist Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1973. (San Francisco Chronicle, June 18) [top]

2. ACCUSATIONS OF WHITE HOUSE INVOLVEMENT IN COUP ATTEMPT
The White House had been considering a coup to overthrow President Chavez since last June, claims former US Naval intelligence officer Wayne Madsen, also alleging that the US Navy aided the abortive April 11 coup with intelligence from its vessels in the Caribbean. Madsen told the UK Guardian that US military attaches had been in touch with Venezuelan military officers to explore the possibility of a coup. "I first heard of Lt. Col. James Rogers [the assistant military attache now based at the US embassy in Caracas] going down there last June to set the ground," Madsen said. "Some of our counter-narcotics agents were also involved." He said that the Navy was in the area for operations ostensibly unconnected to the coup, but that they assisted the coup leaders with signals intelligence, and by jamming communications with the Caracas diplomatic missions of Cuba, Libya, Iran and Iraq--the four countries which had expressed strong support for Chavez. Navy vessels on an exercise in the area were reportedly put on stand-by in case evacuation of US citizens in Venezuela was required.

Meanwhile in Caracas, Venezuelan congressman Roger Rondon accused the US ambassador, Charles Shapiro, and two US embassy military attaches of involvement in the coup. Rondon claimed the military officers--named as James Rogers and Ronald MacCammon--had been at the Fuerte Tiuna military headquarters with the coup leaders on the night of April 11. Referring to Shapiro, Rondon said: "We saw him leaving Miraflores palace, all smiles and embraces, with the dictator Pedro Carmona Estanga [who was briefly installed by the military]... [His] satisfaction was obvious. Shapiro's participation in the coup d'état in Venezuela is evident." The US embassy dismissed the allegations as "ridiculous." Shapiro admitted meeting Carmona the day after the coup, but said he urged him to restore the national assembly, which had been dissolved. Carmona acknowledged the meeting took place, but told the Guardian that no such advice was given.

Rondon also claimed that two foreign gunmen, one US and one Salvadoran, were detained by police during the anti-Chavez protest on April 11 in which some 20 were killed, many by unidentified snipers firing from rooftops. "They haven't appeared anywhere. We presume these two gentlemen were given some kind of safe-conduct and could have left the country," Rondon said. Chavez opponents claim pro-Chavez gunmen shot protesters while his supporters say the shots were fired by agents provocateurs. (UK Guardian, April 29) [top]

3. DID U.S. AGENCY FUND COUP PLOTTERS?
Over the past year, the US channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars to US and Venezuelan groups opposed to President Hugo Chavez, including the labor group whose protests led to the attempted coup in April. The grants were provided by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a nonprofit agency financed by Congress. As tensions grew between the White House and Chavez, the NED stepped up its assistance, quadrupling its budget for Venezuela to more than $877,000. While the NED's official mission is to promote democracy around the world, the State Department's human rights bureau is examining whether one or more recipients of the grants may have actively plotted in the coup attempt against Chavez. The bureau has reportedly put a $1 million grant to the NED on hold pending that review. "We wanted to make certain that US government resources were not going to underwrite the unconstitutional overthrow of the government of Venezuela," an anonymous official told the New York Times. Of particular concern is a $154,377 NED grant to the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, international arm of the AFL-CIO, to assist the the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV), whose call for protests and a general strike helped set off the coup. The union's leader, Carlos Ortega, worked closely with Pedro Carmona, the business leader who briefly took over from Chavez, in challenging the government. (New York Times, April 25) [top]

4. WHITE HOUSE "TRIANGLE" BEHIND COUP ATTEMPT?
Reporter Ed Vulliamy, writing in the UK Observer, identified three White House figures implicated in the Venezuelan coup attempt--all with histories of deep involvement in covert action in Latin America. At the top of the list is Elliot Abrams, senior director of the National Security Council for "democracy, human rights and international operations," who is accused by anonymous Latin diplomats of having "given a nod" to the coup attempt. In 1987, Abrams was convicted of misleading Congress in his testimony on the "Contragate" affair, concerning illegal White House aid to right-wing guerillas in Nicaragua.

The diplomats also say numerous of the coup plotters, including Carmona himself, visited several times over the months leading up to the coup with Bush's Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America Otto Reich--who was also accused by Congress of illegally aiding the Nicaraguan rebels during the 1987 Contragate probe (see WW3 REPORT #s 27, 30). At the time he headed the Office for Public Diplomacy, which officially reported to the State Department, but was actually directed by National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Oliver North, who oversaw the illegal arms pipeline to the "contra" rebels.

The final member of the "triangle" is John Negroponte, now ambassador to the United Nations, who was Presdient Reagan's ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985, when the country was turned into a staging ground for the Nicaraguan contras, and a US-trained death squad, Battalion 3-16, tortured and murdered scores of activists who opposed the policy. A diplomatic source said Negroponte had been "informed that there might be some movement in Venezuela on Chavez" at the beginning of the year . (UK Observer, April 21)

Abrams' conviction was overturned by an official pardon of President George HW Bush, signed Christmas Eve 1992, just before he left office. Other Contragate figures pardoned that day were former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane and CIA officers Duane Clarridge, Alan Fiers and Clari George. (Jurist, The Legal Education Network, University of Pittsburgh, archive of presidential pardons) [top]

5. BBC INVESTIGATION: OIL INTRIGUES BEHIND COUP ATTEMPT
The UK Guardian, citing an investigation by the BBC's Newsnight, reports that Chavez had advance warning of the April coup attempt from the secretary general of OPEC, allowing him to "prepare an extraordinary plan which saved both his government and his life." OPEC chief Ali Rodriguez, a former Venezuelan guerrilla leader, reportedly telephoned Chavez from the organization's Vienna headquarters several days before the coup went into action, claiming OPEC had learned that some Arab nations--later revealed as Libya and Iraq--planned to call for a new oil embargo against the US because of its support for Israel. Rodriguez is said to have warned Chavez that the move would prod the US into instigating a coup in order to assure continued access to Venezuelan oil. He reportedly even named April 11 as the day the coup would go into action. Venezuela broke the Arab oil embargo of 1973 by opening its huge reserves to the US.

According to Newsnight, this tip-off from Rodriguez explains why Carmona and the military chiefs who backed the coup surrendered a day later without firing a shot. Several hundred pro-Chavez troops were hidden in secret corridors under Miraflores, the presidential palace, in anticipation of the coup. Juan Barreto, a leader of Chavez's party in the national assembly, was with Chavez when he was under arrest by the military rebels. Barreto told Newsnight that Jose Baduel, chief of the paratroop division loyal to Chavez, waited until Carmona was inside Miraflores--then phoned him to say that, with troops virtually under his chair, he was as much a hostage as Chavez. He gave Carmona 24 hours to return Chavez to power.

Chavez told Newsnight that, after receiving the warning, he had hoped to stave off the coup entirely by issuing a statement pledging that Venezuela would not join a new embargo. But Chavez had already won the White House's enmity by slashing Venezuelan oil output at OPEC behest, causing prices to nearly double to over $20 a barrel. His opponents, in contrast, made clear they would not abide by OPEC production limits, and would reverse Chavez's plan to double the royalties charged to foreign oil companies in Venezuela, principally the Exxon-Mobil.

Chavez also charged direct US involvement in the coup, telling Newsnight: "I have written proof of the time of the entries and exits of two US military officers into the headquarters of the coup plotters--their names, whom they met with, what they said--proof on video and on still photographs." (UK Guardian, May 13) [top]

6. COLOMBIA: WARMONGER WINS PRESIDENCY, WAR HEATS UP
Amid a serious escalation of violence in Colombia's civil war, ultra-right candidate Alvaro Uribe Velez of the Colombia First movement was elected president, squeaking past the Liberal Party's Horacio Serpa and several other contenders--including the Green Party's Ingrid Betancourt, who was kidnapped by the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) guerillas in February and remains a hostage. Uribe ran on a platform of all-out war against the guerillas. As governor of Antioquia department, Uribe established legal paramilitary units known as "Convivir", and as president he plans to double the number of army and national police troops and create a network of a million civilian informants for the military. He expects strong support from the Bush White House. (AP, BBC, CNN, El Colombiano [Medellin], May 26)

On May 21, five days before the elections, Colombian army and police forces left nine dead and nearly 40 wounded in an assault on the Comuna neighborhood of Medellin with tear gas, machine guns and helicopter gunships. The raid was aimed at routing the Armed Commandos of the Peple, an urban militia organized by the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerillas. Most of the dead were non-combatants, and included three children. (EFE, AFP, May 22)

On May 6, a FARC attack on Bellavista in Choco department left over 100 civilians dead. The guerillas were apparently hunting down right-wing paramilitaries of the Campesino Self-Defense Forces of Cordobda and Uraba (ACCU) who had occupied Bellavista. When hundreds of local residents took refuge from the fighting in the town's church, the ACCU troops entrenched themselves around the church. The FARC then firebombed the church, killing 117, including 40 children. (Houston Chronicle, New York Times, May 9) Bellavista residents subseqiuently fled the town to the outlying areas of Bojaya and Napipi, which were then under aerial attack by military planes and helicopters which dropped bombs and sprayed machine gun fire. The military barred journalists from the area, but local rights workers with the Catholic church posted reports of the bombardment on the Internet. ( Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 12) [top]

7. U.S. "CERTIFIES" COLOMBIAN MILITARY
On May 1, US Secretary of State Colin Powell officially "certified" that the Colombian armed forces have met congressionally-mandated requirements on human rights, clearing the way for the release of $104 million in military aid already approved in the 2002 budget. Certification had been stalled since early this year, and US and Colombian officials claimed in recent weeks that they were cutting back counter-narcotics campaigns in southern Colombia for lack of funds. As evidence of progress on human rights, the White House boasted that the second-highest ranking officer in the Colombian Navy, Gen. Rodrigo Quinones, had been transferred to administrative duties because of allegations of complicity in two of the largest massacres comitted by the rightist paramilitary network, United Colombian Self-Defense (AUC). Human rights groups link Quinones to the Jan. 2001 AUC massacre of at least 24 local residents in Chengue, Sucre department, and the Feb. 2000 massacre at least 60 at Ovejas, Bolivar department, as well as the murder of 57 labor and community leaders. Quinones has not been suspended from the military or turned over to the civilian courts. In April, he was appointed military attache to the Colombian embassy in Israel. (Washington Post, May 2; Human Rights Watch/Amnesty International statement, May 1)

Meanwhile, indigenous campesinos in northern Colombia's Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta region appealed to the government to halt the military's indiscriminate aerial bombardment of the area, which they say has destroyed houses, crops and livestock, leaving local residents homeless and without food. Paramilitary forces have also set up roadblocks in the area, stopping food from getting through. (Caracol Noticias, May 4)

(Compiled by Weekly News Update on the Americas) [top]

8. ASHCROFT INDICTS FARC COMMANDER
In a move described by the Washington Post April 30 as "aimed at widening the war on terrorism beyond the Muslim world," Attorney General John Ashcroft announced indictments against the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) and six of its members in the 1999 murders of three US citizens. Ashcroft said the indictments handed up in US District Court for the District of Columbia show the Bush administration's willingness to prosecute terrorists of any background. "Just as we fight terrorism in the mountains of south Asia, we will fight terrorism in our own hemisphere," Ashcroft said.

The victims in the 1999 murders were Terence Freitas, a biologist and environmentalist; Ingrid Washinawatok, a Menominee Indian originally from Wisconsin and a leading Indian rights activist; and Lahe'ena'e Gay, a Native Hawaiian leader. The three were in Colombia on a solidarity mission to the U'wa Indians, who are resisting development of their traditional lands by Occidental Petroleum (see WW3 REPORT #27). The three were abducted by FARC gunmen and held for seven days before being shot to death near the Arauca River on the morning of March 4, 1999. The indictment charges FARC and six of its members with homicide, conspiracy to commit homicide, using a firearm during a violent crime and related crimes. Among those named in the indictment is German Briceno Suarez, a FARC senior commander.

See Ashcroft on the indictment. [top]

9. OXY PULLS OUT OF U'WA COUNTRY
On May 3, Occidental Petroleum announced at its annual shareholder meeting in Los Angeles that it plans to abandon its controversial Siriri (formerly Samore) oil exploration bloc, located on the traditional territory of the U'wa indigenous people. The company cited economic reasons for the move, including a negative result from its first exploratory drill in the region last July. However, the announcement comes after 10 years of effort by the U'wa people and their international supporters to halt the oil development, and observers believe escalating protests and the resultant public relations debacle weighed heavily on the decision. Despite the victory, activists note that other companies are still exploring in the area, such as the Argentine-Spanish firm Respol-YPF, whose Capachos bloc is also on U'wa land. (U'wa Defense Working Group press release, May 3) [top]

10. FARC KIDNAPS PEACE ADVOCATES
On April 21, FARC guerillas forcibly detained Guillermo Gaviria Correa, governor of Antioquia department, and Antioquia peace advisor Gilberto Echeverri Mejia, a former defense minister, as the two were accompanying church leaders and some 1,000 supporters on a cross-country march to promote peace and reconciliation in the region. The march left the regional capital, Medellin, April 17. Gaviria and Echeverri were abducted just three kilometers short of the final destination, Caicedo, some 70 kilometers northwest of Medellin. President Andres Pastrana condemned the kidnapping but criticized Gaviria for ignoring the military's warnings about security in the area. (La Jornada, April 23)
(Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 28) [top]

11. PARAS GET P.R. MAKE-OVER
Colombia's far-right paramilitaries, seeking to clean up their bloody image, have launched an Internet complaints hotline. United Colombian Self-Defense, the outlawed militia known by the Spanish initials AUC, announced that members of the public who suffer "excesses" at the hands of its fighters can write in to a new e-mail address. The AUC, which claims more than 10,000 members and targets leftist guerillas and suspected sympathizers, killed some 1,000 civilians in 2001 alone, according to human rights groups. In one case, AUC members killed 27 peasants with sledgehammers and stones in the village of Chengue, accusing them of collaborating with the guerrillas.

But Reuters reports that AUC boss Carlos Castano, who admits to having killed many times, wants his militiamen "to commit fewer massacres and cut back links with drug traffickers." He aims to win the AUC--which rights groups say still kills as many people as ever--a seat at any negotiating table to end Colombia's bloody conflict.

"Any accusations or complaints should be directed to Commander Adolfo Paz at the electronic address auc_inspeccion@hotmail.com," reads the announcement on the AUC web site .(Reuters, May 3)

The move is likely in part a response to the AUC being placed on the US State Department terrorist list, joining their leftist guerilla enemies. (See WW3 REPORT #1) [top]

12. ISRAELI SPOOK TRAINED COLOMBIAN PARAS
Israel's role in establishing Colombia's bloody paramilitary network is revealed in the strange case of a veteran Israeli military officer who went missing in Africa two years ago. On Feb. 9, 1999, Colombia's Administrative Security Department (DAS) asked the Foreign Relations ministry to request the extradition of Israeli Reserve Lt. Col. Yair Klein, arrested that January in the African nation of Sierra Leone. Klein and three other Israelis--Abraham Tzedaka, Isaac Shoshani Meraiot and Terry Melnyk--were facing charges of "instructing and training terrorists," carrying a maximum of 14 years in prison. Klein's group was accused of having trained right-wing paramilitary death squads from 1987 to 1989--including the notorious Self-Defense Forces of the Magdalena Medio region (AMM) and Death to Kidnappers (MAS), a "private justice" group headed by drug trafficker Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha. Klein's group reportedly trained the paramilitaries for the assassinations of presidential candidates Jaime Pardo Leal and Luis Carlos Galan, and the 1989 bombing of Avianca flight HK-1803 that left 111 people dead. (El Colombiano [Medellin], Feb. 10, 1999; Yediot Aharanot [Tel Aviv], Jan. 28, 1999)

Klein was reportedly arrested a few weeks earlier by the Nigeria-led Economic Community of West African States Ceasefire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) forces, then attempting to restore order in war-torn Sierra Leone. ECOMOG accused Klein of selling weapons to both government and rebel forces in Sierra Leone. In an interview with Reuters at a Sierra Leone prison, Klein denied any connection to the country's rebels. Asked about reports that Colombia was seeking his extradition, Klein accused the US of spreading rumors. Israel's foreign ministry reported that there are no extradition agreements between Sierra Leone and Colombia, but that it would continue diplomatic efforts to win Klein's release. (Yediot Aharanot, Jan. 28)

According to journalists Andrew and Leslie Cockburn, Klein maintained that his commercial venture Spearhead, Ltd.--which offered "instruction and training" for "anti-terror combat units"--"was authorized by the Israeli Ministry of Defense and required permits from the ministry for each 'project' the company undertook, including those in Colombia. Spearhead received a glossy full page in the official Ministry of Defense publication, the Israel Defense Sales Directory." (Antifa Info Bulletin Supplement, July 5, 1998)

In a 1997 interview in the Colombian weekly magazine Semana, Colombian paramilitary Alonso de Jesus Baquero ("Vladimir") admitted to being a top student of Klein's. "They taught us the English and German tactic, which was that the enemy had to be exterminated from the roots," said de Jesus. "Then we went out like maniacs to pursue the collaborators and the armed branch of the FARC." (Semana, July 14-21, 1997)

(From: Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 14, 1999)

Klein dropped out of sight after being sprung from prison in Sierra Leone in 2000. Journalist Ana Carrigan writes for the on-line Crimes of War Project that in the 1980s, when Klein was training Colombian militias, Carlos Castano, now leader of the feared AUC para network, was his "star pupil." Under Klein tutelage, Carrigan writes, Castano and his older brother Fidel became "paramilitary leaders in their own right. They had their own 150-man paramilitary army, 'Los Tangueros,' and ruled a fiefdom in the northern state of Córdoba from which they trafficked drugs, conducted a war in the banana fields of coastal Uraba that put one small guerilla faction (the EPL), out of business, and perfected the art of parlaying services--protection, intelligence, and high-ticket assassinations --to create alliances, first with [drug kingpin] Pablo Escobar, then with the Cali Cartel."

In their book, Dangerous Liason: The Inside Story of the US-Israeli Covert Relationship (HaperCollins, 1991, p. 224-5), Andrew and Leslie Cockburn also write that IDF Col. Leo Gleser's private firm, International Security and Defense Systems (ISDS), provided training in 1984 for a secret Honduran army unit, the 316 Battalion, in a deal arranged by the CIA. The 316 Battalion was later implicated in a string of "disappearances," torture and political assassinations. [top]

13. U.S. CONTRACT PILOTS SPRAY DEADLY MIX IN COLOMBIA
Glyphosate, the herbicide sprayed in Colombia to eradicate coca and poppy plants, releases cyanide when burned. If that weren't toxic enough for the people breathing it, the glyphosate used in the US eradication campaign is being mixed with diesel fuel, informants say. Speaking on condition of anonymity, two pilots who claimed to work for DynCorp, the private firm contracted by the US State Department for the spraying in Colombia, said DynCorp crop-dusters flying over Colombia usually -- and illegally -- deliver the glyphosate mixed with diesel fuel, ostensibly to eliminate drift and allow for precision spraying. Additionally, it is intended to stick on the plant leaves where it lands, allowing the herbicide time to kill. Added one of the pilots: "They say they're using a surfactant called Cosmo Flux. But Cosmo Flux has a chemical signature. If something goes wrong and somebody gets killed by the spraying, you could trace it back to the company that makes it. Diesel has no signature. You can get it anywhere, so nobody is responsible." When asked what happens if someone is caught using it, the pilot responded, "The US will say he was acting on his own and he'll be fired."

The pilots suggested that the normal mix included roughly one part diesel to 100 parts herbicide solution. Glyphosate (N-phosphonomethylglycine) is manufactured by Monsanto Co. of St. Louis, and commonly sold as a weed-killer under the names Roundup and Accord. According to the company's Product Safety Sheet, when it's burned, 4% of the volume released into the air is acetonitrile, or methyl cyanide (CH3CN). Methyl cyanide decomposes into hydrogen cyanide (HCN), the ultra-toxic gas used in the Nazi death camps. Monsanto safety instructions note that, "firefighters or others who may be exposed to vapors or products of combustion should wear full protective clothing and self-contained breathing apparatus."

The vast majority of coca and poppy growers in Colombia are slash-and-burn farmers who burn their fields to produce new potash when their crops are destroyed-which puts those farmers and their families in close proximity to the poisonous vapors being released. Asked about the possible danger to Colombian locals from the herbicide, Monsanto spokesperson Janice Armstrong claimed that "only trace amounts of acetonitrile are found in burning glyphosate." When asked whether she was aware that the glyphosate being used in Colombia was mixed with diesel fuel, she said that any further questions should be directed to the US State Department. At the State Department, Rebecca Brown-Thompson, spokesperson for Rand Beers, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, reiterated that "only trace amounts" of methyl cyanide are released when glyphosate is burned, "about the same amount you get when you smoke a cigarette." When asked whether the government is aware that the DynCorp pilots routinely use diesel fuel in their glyphosate mix, Brown-Thompson said "I am not aware, nor is anyone here, I'm sure, of diesel fuel being used as a fixative for glyphosate." She added, "We'd sure like to know who those pilots are." She insisted that Cosmo-Flux is still being used, and that the spraying is pinpoint-accurate, only affecting drug crops. "We use satellite photos." (Special report by Peter Gorman) [top]

14. BIG OIL BEHIND SECRET SPRAYING OF ECUADOR RAINFOREST?
A lawsuit filed by the International Labor Rights Fund in September 2001 on behalf of indigenous and mestizo communities living in the Ecuadoran rainforest province of Sucumbios alleges that the aerial glyphosate spraying in the neighboring Colombian state of Putumayo is having disastrous effects on thousands of local residents, their food crops and the rainforest ecosystem. The suit, filed against the US contractor DynCorp, suggests that the presence of glyphosate on the Ecuadoran side of the Putumayo River is primarily the result of drift or pilot error.

When asked about the lawsuit, US Department of State spokesperson Rebecca Brown-Thompson was adamant that no herbicide is entering Ecuador. "Our mission is to spray illegal crops of coca and opium poppies. We use satellite imagery to pinpoint areas to be sprayed, then send in planes to verify the presence of large areas of illegal crops. After that the crops are sprayed and subsequently those sprayed areas are checked to see that no additional crops were affected. And if there is any situation involving pilot spraying error or drift that affects non-drug crops, there is a protocol in place for applying for compensation."

But disgruntled pilots claiming to work as crop dusters for DynCorp say that they are routinely sent across the Putumayo River into Ecuadoran territory to spray both illegal crops and rainforest there. The pilots speculate that the actual intent is a general defoliation of the Sucumbios rainforest to allow satellites to detect oil and gas deposits in the area. Satellite imagery is significantly less effective in areas covered by thick foliage such as rainforest, where underground pockets of water can be mistaken for oil in the shale bedrock. A US Geological Survey "World Petroleum Assessment" published in 2000 identifies a minimum of 130 and as many as 300 possible well-sites which contain at least one million barrels of oil per cite in the "Hollin-Napo Assesment Unit," the area straddling the rainforest borders of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, including most of the provinces of Sucumbios and Putumayo. The largest sites are though to contain more than 750 million barrels of oil.

The USGS World Petroleum Assessment 2000 Hollin-Napo Assesment Unit map and statistics are on-line.

(Special report by Peter Gorman) [top]

15. PROTESTS SHUT ECUADOR OIL OPERATIONS
On June 24, local residents shut down the Ecuadoran department of Napo in a two-day civil strike, blockading roads, seizing the oil pumping stations at El Salado and Las Cruces, and shutting down the Trans-Ecuadoran Pipeline System (SOTE), to demand that oil profits be invested in local infrastructure for the remote rainforest region. (La Hora, Quito, June 26, 28) On June 16, residents of San Miguel de Calderon, a village some 20 kilometers north of Quito, Ecuador's capital, seized three trucks carrying tubes for the new Heavy Crude Oilduct (OCP), a new pipeline to run parallel to the SOTE, demanding that OCP consortium (which includes Occidental, Agip, Kerr-McGee and other multinationals) build the community a drinking water and sewage system. In Sucumbios department, some 250 campesinos have blocked OCP construction at several points along the route between Nueva Loja and Quito over the past weeks, demanding compensation for farmlands that will be damaged by the project. On June 6, two were wounded and 11 arrested in Sucumbios when police attempted to recover OCP machinery which had was being held by the protesters. (El Comercio, Quito, June 18)

Some 400 workers building the OCP went on strike on May 1 to protest their pay, hours and treatment. The workers are employed in the area of Baeza by the Argentine construction firm Techint, part of the OCP consortium. Also on May 1, environmental activists protested in front of the main headquarters of the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL) in Rome, Italy, to demand that the bank withdraw its funding for the OCP project. The protest was timed to coincide with the bank's annual shareholders' meeting. The Green Party of Italy, Greenpeace, Legambiente and other groups that organized the demonstration issued a statement also asking the Italian oil company Agip to withdraw from the consortium. (La Hora, May 2)

( Compiled by Weekly News Update on the Americas)

(See also: " Amazonia: Planning the Final Destruction," by Bill Weinberg, Native Americas, Fall/Winter 2001, Cornell U) [top]

MEXICO

1. ASSASSINS, PAYMASTER NAMED IN DIGNA OCHOA CASE
Contradicting government investigators' theory that a prominent human rights attorney committed suicide, Acapulco's El Sur newspaper reported June 5 that Digna Ochoa was ordered killed by a rancher and power baron from the southern state of Guerrero. Journalist Maribel Gutierrez, who conducted months of research on the case, cited an anonymous source who was reportedly a friend of one of the two assassins. He said former Petatlan village boss Rogaciano Alba Alvarez hired the killers to murder Ochoa and then ordered them killed after they completed the mission. Hit man Gustavo Zarate Martinez died in a highway ambush in the mountainous Petatlan community in Guerrero 12 days after Ochoa was found dead in her Mexico City office on Oct. 19, 2001. The other hired gun, Nicolas Martinez Sanchez, reportedly told friends he murdered Ochoa and feared for his life after Zarate was found dead. "I am afraid that they'll kill me because I was involved with [the] Digna Ochoa [murder] in Mexico City, and it's a big problem," the source quoted Martinez. Martinez was killed March 4, when gunmen sprayed his car as on a highway near Petatlan. His son, brother-in-law and a nephew, who were riding with him, was also killed. Gutierrez found the Dodge pickup Martinez was driving parked outside his house, and counted 80 bullet holes.

Alba Alvarez is currently president of the Guerrero Ranchers' Association and from 1993 to 1996 served as municipal president of Petatlan. Just prior to her death, Ochoa had been in the area investigating human rights abuses by the military. She also represented Rodolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera, two campesino ecologists who had blockaded timber operations in the Petatlan area and were arrested on drug and weapons charges in 1999. Based on Ochoa's investigations, Mexico's National Human Rights Commission concluded in a report that the military illegally detained Montiel and Cabrera, and extracted their confessions through torture. Montiel and Cabrera were released on "humanitarian grounds" by President Fox after Ochoa's death. (The News, Mexico City, June 6)

Following the revelation, Renato Sales, the federal prosecutor in charge of the Ochoa investigation who had put forther the suicide theory, submitted his letter of resignation, acknowledging that his report had caused "an intense controversy." (AP, June 21) Federal investiagtors are said to be seeking Alba Alvarez for questioning. (AP, June 9) (See also WW3 REPORT #9) [top]

2. ACCUSED GUERILLA LEADER ON HUNGER STRIKE, NEAR DEATH
An accused member of a leftist guerrilla group was on the brink of death after 48 days on hunger strike in a prison in the state of Mexico, AFP reported June 7. Family members said the health of Jacobo Silva, known as "Comandante Antonio," was deteriorating rapidly after weeks on a diet of honey and two glasses of water daily. He started the fast to press his demand for a revision of the terrorism and conspiracy charges against him, which he claims are fabricated. Silva and his wife, Gloria Arenas, were imprisoned in 1999, accused of being leaders of the Revolutionary Army of the Insurgent People (ERPI) In late May, the government ordered the release of student Erika Zamora, another accused ERPI comander who was on hunger strike for almost three weeks. (The News, Mexico City, June 7)

The ERPI is based primarily in the poor southern state of Guerreo, and its one serious engagement with government troops was on June 7, 1998, when a meeting of the movement's supporters at the hamlet of El Charco was ambushed by the army, leaving 11 guerillas and sympathizers dead. Zamora was arrested at the scene of the massacre on charges of collaboration with the guerillas. She later claimed that her confession was extracted through torture. (Proceso, May 31) The "proof" that Zamora was inciting rebellion was her possession of "propaganda": the indigenous texts Chilam Balam and Pupul Vuh, five primary textbooks and copies of the daily newspaper La Jornada. (La Jornada, April 23)

At the Mexico City jail of Neza-Bordo, 50 family members held a sit-in to demand liberty for Gloria Arenas, accused of being the ERPI's "Col. Aurora," June 19. Arenas was then on her 45th day of a hunger strike. (The News, June 20)

A total of 87 prisoners being held in Guerrero, Oaxaca, Jalisco and the Federal District, have announced an "indefinite" hunger strike to press their demands for re-opening their cases. Most are Zapotec Indians accused of being members of the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) of which the ERPI is a breakaway faction. (La Jornada, April 21) [top]

3. GUERILLA ATTACKS CONTINUE
Two police were killed and a third injured in a shootout with suspected leftist guerrillas outside a water treatment plant in Guerrero state, authorities said May 13. An accused member of the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) was also injured in the gun battle, which occurred before dawn in the town of Buena Vista de Cuellar, 95 miles east of Acapulco. The attack began when a group of 10 men in ski masks pulled out AR-15 rifles and opened fire on a state police contingent assigned to guard a the water plant. The EPR took responsibility for the attack in a communique, authorities said. (AP, May 14)

Authorities in Huecato, Michoacan, reported three Purepecha Indians were killed in a confrontation with federal army troops June 11. The Defense Secretariat said the conflict began when troops on anti-narcotics patrol in the mountains were attacked. (El Norte, Monterrey, June 12) [top]

4. AGUAS BLANCAS SURVIVORS RECEIVE "SYMBOLIC" COMPENSATION
The state government of Guerrero gave 7,514 pesos (US$750) each to survivors of the 1995 Aguas Blancas massacre in what it called a "noble gesture"--but some recipients grumbled the sum was merely "symbolic." A total of $50,000 was distributed. Jeronimo Hernandez, massacre survivor and director of the activist Campesino Organization of the Sierra del Sur (OCSS), to which the victims belonged, noted the Inter-American Human Rights Commission had recommended an indemnity of a million dollars. Seventeen peasants on their way to a protest for land rights were killed in an ambush by state police in the massacre, which prompted then-governor Ruben Figueroa to resign. (The News, June 14) [top]

5. "INTIFADA" IN RURAL MEXICO
Farmers armed with machetes and homemade firebombs took 15 hostages and demanded formal negotiations to end their violent standoff with the government over plans to build an airport on their land 18 miles northeast of Mexico City. Hundreds of protesters have barricaded all roads into the town of San Salvador Atenco, which is surrounded by nearly 1,000 riot police. The conflict began last October, when federal authorities ordered 13,300 acres in the rural municipality expropriated for the $2.3-billion airport. On July 11, the farmers seized government offices in the town, abducted local officials, hijacked and burned vehicles, and attacked police with machetes. About 30 were injured. In addittion to cancellation of the airport plans, Atenco leaders demanded twelve arrested protesters freed. The new facility would replace Mexico City's Benito Juarez International Airport. (LA Times, July 14) Mexican columnist Jaime Aviles calls the affair the "Atenco Intifada," writing that, like the Palestinians, the militant farmers are defending thier "legitimate right to land." (La Jornada, July 13) The hostages were released in exchange for the release of ten prisoners. (AP, July 14) [top]

6. ZAPATISTA POLITICAL PRISONERS: DOWN TO FIVE?
Mexican authorities have freed three of eight jailed Zapatista rebel sympathizers in the southern state of Chiapas, in a step toward fulfilling rebel demands for peace talks. The three men, active supporters of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), were arrested between 1995 and 1998 on charges related to illegal drugs. They were among eight remaining prisoners whose freedom was demanded by rebel leaders as a condition for reviving peace negotiations in the troubled state where the Maya Indian rebels launched their 10-day uprising on Jan. 1, 1994. "I shall rejoin the Zapatista struggle, keep fighting for the needy," said Gustavo Estrada, 45, a Zoque Indian who was freed along with with 44-year-old Alejandro Mendez, a Chol Maya, and Rafael Lopez, 48, a Tojolabal Maya. Mendez and Estrada were released from a prison in the state capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez. Lopez had been held in the colonial highland city of San Cristobal de Las Casas. The five remaining Zapatista prisoners are being held in the states of Tabasco and Queretaro. (Reuters, May 23)

Although the Zapatistas refuse to return to the negotiating table until the government frees the remaining prisoners and approves their plan for constitutional guarantees of autonomous self-government for Mexico's Indians, a truce between the government and rebels still holds. Meanwhile, many imprisoned Zapatista supporters whose release was never set as a negotiating condition by the EZLN remain in Chiapas state prisons. On May 9, 11 Indian women began an indefinite hunger strike in front of the cathedral in San Cristobal to demand release of their imprisoned husbands, who they claim were framed for supporting the rebels. (Milenio, May 13) [top]

7. ACTEAL SURVIVORS DECRY IMPUNITY
The Tzotzil Maya Catholic pacifist group known as Las Abejas commemorated the 54th month since 45 of their members were killed in a massacre by a pro-government paramilitary group at Acteal, Chiapas. The group issued a statement saying the government "does not want to apply justice in this case," La Jornada daily reported. "We are living under impunity," the group added, "and the proof of this is the release of six paramilitaries who are the true material authors of the murder of 45 of our brothers." The six were freed by a judge in November, citing insufficient evidence. (The News, June 24) [top]

8. MILITARY DISSIDENT: ARMY TRAINS PARAS
Human rights spokesman and former political prisoner Gen. Jose Francisco Gallardo accused the army of training paramilitary groups in the conflicted southern state of Chiapas. In a recent interview, he said the paramilitary groups were an "intermediary force," trained by the military to help suppress the Zapatista rebels. "Creating paramilitaries is a common technique when fighting guerillas or low intensity wars," he said, adding that while the army trained the groups, they have since "got out of control." He blamed the paramilitaries for the slaying of 45 people in the Chiapas hamlet of Acteal in 1997, and eight in nearby El Bosque in 1998.

A career army officer, Gallardo was jailed in 1993 after he published an article in Forum magazine calling for the establishment of a human rights ombudsman for the armed forces. Convicted on corruption and embezzlement charges, he was sentenced to 28 years in a military prison. After years of pressure from human rights organizations, who considered him a prisoner of conscience, President Vicente Fox ordered Gallardo's release in February. (The News, May 16) [top]

9. MYSTERIOUS GUNMEN TERRORIZE CHIAPAS
In the latest attack by a new and mysterious group of masked gunmen in Chiapas, four Indians were killed on the road near the community of San Lazaro May 2. Attacks by the group have left several dead over the last two years, both local residents and security forces troops. Authorities say they suspect a drug mafia may be behind the group. (EFE, May 3) [top]

10. MEXICO EXPELS ISLAMIC MISSIONARIES FROM CHIAPAS
Several foreign missionaries working for an Islamic group in Chiapas have been ordered to leave Mexico because they lack proper documents. The missionaries--including Basque converts to Islam from Spain--have converted a number of Tzotzil Maya Indians from the local village of Chamula, but never applied for status as a religious organization, said Javier Moctezuma Barragan, assistant secretary of the National Immigration Institute. He said missionaries from the group, Mission for Dawa in Mexico, entered Mexico on tourist visas, which prohibit them from working, even as volunteers. Authorities began investigating the group, which is linked to the Morocco-based Murabitun World Movement, following the 9-11 terrorist attacks, Moctezuma Barragan told the government news agency Notimex. He did not specify how many missionaries had been asked to leave. Notimex said the written request that they leave--in the form of letters sent to them by the government--was based only on immigration violations, not terrorism concerns. (AP, June 16)

The Murabitun World Movement takes its name from the Moorish dynasty which controlled Spain in the 11th and 12th centuries (also known as the Almoravids), and the rhetoric on their web site speaks of a "post-modernist platform" to unite all Muslims and rebuild an Islamic Caliphate in Europe. It boasts that in a "Christian West of unprecedented darkness" the Murabitun has established "ribats" or outposts "at highly significant points throughout the world." The website warns "Our power...threatens all who come into contact with us." (See also: WW3 REPORT #27) [top]

11. RELIGIOUS WAR LOOMS IN CHIAPAS
On May 8, Chiapas state police arrested Cecilio Pathistan Lopez, a Roman Catholic teacher, after discovering a cache of arms and explosives in his hut in the conflicted village of Chamula, outside San Cristobal de Las Casas. Police claimed an AR-15 rifle and a pair of mortars turned up in the raid. Gustavo Andrade, vicar at Chamula's Catholic church, said that the weapons were planted by Protestant leaders, and that the arrest came three days after Protestant groups in Chamula said they would attack him unless he stopped holding classes and preaching Catholicism in the village. (AP, May 14) The religious conflict in Chamula is intertwined with struggles over access to land and violent feuds between rival families. On June 11, hundreds of Tzotzils from the Chamula hamlet of La Candelaria lynched two local men they accused of murdering one of their comrades, after state authorities didn't respond to their complaints. (La Jornada, June 12)

Those now targetted for conversion by the Islamic Murabitun sect are mostly residents who have been expelled from Chamula by the village bosses for having first converted to evangelical Protestant sects in the 1980s and '90s. These "expulsados" fled to shanty-towns around San Cristobal. In the 1980s, as the local Diocese of San Cristobal started moving towards Liberation Theology under the leadership of Bishop Samuel Ruiz (who would later broker the peace dialogue with the Zapatista rebels), Chamula's village bosses actually broke with the Roman Catholic church and affiliated with a "Mexican Orthodox Church" led by local ultra-reactionary oligrachs, and recognized by the Chaldean orthodox rite. The religious conflicts in Chamula have repeatedly led to outbreaks of violence in the village. (See: Homage to Chiapas: The New Indigenous Struggles in Mexico by Bill Weinberg, Verso Books, 2000, p. 34) [top]

12. U.S. ARMY TO RIO GRANDE?
"The time is right to call for troops on the border in order to protect our national security interests," Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, said, pushing an immigration reform plan that calls for dispatching the US army to the police the frontiers. Tancredo's statements came in response to Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge, who said "cultural and historic" reasons exist to prevent the deployment of troops along the borders with Mexico and Canada. "I want an explanation of these 'cultural and historic' reasons why we can't protect our nation's borders," Tancredo said. Ridge did hold out the possibility that troops could be mobilized for border enforcement after the Office of Homeland Security has been reorganized as a cabinet post. But Tancredo said, "We can't afford to wait for this 'reorganization' to take place."

"We are extremely concerned about the porousness of both our northern and southern borders," chimed in Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-MN) in the joint press release plugging the plan. "And it is particularly disturbing that Canada and Mexico are still not adequately screening immigrant and cargo traffic in and out of their countries." Ramstad said the entry of more than 500,000 immigrants since the 9-11 attacks should serve as a wake-up call. He said that while the US deploys troops to protect other countries, it has allowed its own borders to remain unprotected. Meanwhile, Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX) called Tancredo's proposal "reactionary," and said it would only serve to damage US-Mexican relations. (EFE, June 20) [top]

WATCHING THE SHADOWS

1. ALASKA POLS IN DENIAL ABOUT CLIMATE DESTABILIZATION
In Alaska, the average temperature has risen about seven degrees over the last 30 years, and the results are visible and costly. In the village of Shishmaref, on the Chukchi Sea just below the Arctic Circle, high water from melting ice is eating away so many homes and buildings that residents will vote this summer on moving the entire village inland. In Barrow, the northernmost city in North America, mosquitoes swarm where they once were nonexistent, and rescue parties have been launched for hunters trapped on breakaway ice at a time of year when it was once unheard of. From Fairbanks to the north, where wildfires have been burning off and on since May, hydraulic jacks keep houses from slouching and buckling on foundations that used to be frozen all year. Permafrost, residents say, is no longer permanent. On the Kenai Peninsula, a four-million-acre spruce forest that has been killed by beetles, the largest loss of trees to insects ever recorded in North America, according to federal officials. Government scientists tie the event to rising temperatures, which allow the beetles to reproduce at twice their normal rate. (NYT, June 16)

But state politicians are determined to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil exploitation--and are eager to exploit the Middle East crisis to do so. When opening the ANWR came to a vote before the Senate in April (see WW3 REPORT #33), Alaska's Sen. Frank Murkowski introduced an amendment banning all exports of ANWR oil--except to Israel. Murkowski's amendment extended a US-Israeli oil supply arrangement for another 10 years, and he openly cast ANWR as an antidote to Middle East instability. Murkowski told NPR's Morning Edition: "Iraq's ruling Ba'ath Party confirmed our worst fears when they issued a statement saying, quote, 'Use oil as a weapon in the battle with the enemy,' and of course, they meant Israel. Outrageous statements such as these confirm what we've been saying all along. We simply must not rely on Iraq. We must reduce our dependence on foreign oil, period." (NPR, April 17) [top]

2. WHITE HOUSE TOO
In a report to the United Nations, the US Environmental Protection Agency says that CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the US will increase 43% by 2020. While acknowledging some uncertainties, the EPA says that the recent warming trend "is real and has been particularly strong within the past 20 years...due mostly to human activities." But President Bush, who has refused to sign on to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol setting goals and deadlines for industrial nations to reduce greenhouse emissions, dismisses the 268-page EPA document as a "report put out by the bureaucracy." (Christian Science Monitor, June 7) [top]

3. ROCKY MOUNTAINS SACRIFICED TO ENERGY CRISIS
Environmentalists in the Rocky Mountain states charge that while the media fixates on opening Alaska's ANWR to oil exploitation, the White House is quietly but massively opening public lands to corporate energy development across the West. Intrepid Oil & Gas of Denver and Aviara Energy are negotiating with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to start drilling on 23,000 acres of high desert at Utah's Dead Horse Point, within sight of Arches and Canyonlands national parks. Following a policy outlined in VP Dick Cheney's 2001 energy plan, the BLM is currently revising land-use policy for 77,000 acres in Colorado's Vermillion Basin and 160,000 acres on New Mexico's Otero Mesa, the first step towards approving oil and gas leases. In the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana, the administration supports granting leases for 51,000 wells to exploit natural gas--a plan that would criss-cross the area with 20,000 miles of pipeline, 5,300 miles of power lines and 17,000 miles of roads. The administration calls for making the Powder River Basin "the major natural gas-producing region in the United States by 2015." Restrictions on drilling during the winter antelope migration season have also been lifted in Wyoming's Green River Basin--just one of several rules dropped under recommendation from the White House Task Force on Energy Project Streamlining. In a Dec. 12 memo, the Interior Department ordered BLM personnel to justify their actions in writing whenever their decisions could have "a direct or adverse impact on energy development, production, supply and/or distribution." After Texaco waited five months for permits to drill near an historic trail in Wyoming's Lincoln County, the Petroleum Association of Wyoming lodged a complaint with the Streamling Task Force in October. Approval was quickly granted, and a BLM directive that barred drilling near the state's historic trails was overturned. "The additional reserves we have domestically could help bolster America's energy security," BLM's Rem Hawes sums up the new spirit at the agency. (Bob Burtman in Mother Jones, July/August) [top]

4. NIGERIAN WOMEN OCCUPY CHEVRON TERMINAL
Up to 600 women from villages around the Chevron-Texaco oil terminal in Escravos, Nigeria, have occupied the facility, saying they want the company to direct oil revenues to their remote and impoverished communities. Unarmed but unbudging, the women have blocked access to the helicopter pad, airstrip and docks that provide the only exits for the facility, surrounded by rivers and swamps of the Niger Delta. Chevron-Texaco officials said some of the women's 22 demands would take time to fulfill, while others--such as building 80,000 houses--were unrealistic. The women, from Ugborodo and Arutan villages, want Chevron-Texaco to provide water, electricity, schools and clinics. The protest has shut down the facility, which accounts for most of the company's Nigeria production, at an estimated half-million barrels a day. Oil site takeovers have become common in Nigeria, the world's sixth-largest producer and fifth-largest supplier to the US. But this protest is a departure for Nigeria, where such disputes are often settled with guns and machetes. In the oil-rich Niger Delta, young men frequently resort to kidnapping and sabotage to pressure foreign companies into giving them jobs, protection money or compensation for environmental damage. Some 700 employees are trapped by the unarmed occupation. If the workers attempt to leave, the women threaten to remove their clothes, which is a powerful and shaming insult in the local culture. "Our weapon is our nakedness," said Helen Odeworitse, a representative for the women. (AP, July 14, 15) [top]

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