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ISSUE: #. 54. Oct. 7, 2002

THIS WEEK:

OLIVE HARVESTERS ATTACKED IN PALESTINE!

EPA SNOW-JOB IN COLOMBIA COCAINE ERADICATION!

CURRENT HOMELAND SECURITY COLOR ADVISORY CODE: YELLOW


By Bill Weinberg
with David Bloom and Peter Gorman, special correspondents




THE PALESTINE FRONT
1. Settlers Attack Palestinian Olive Harvesters

THE ANDEAN FRONT
1. Uribe Decree Suspends Rights in Conflict Zones...
2. ...On Behalf of Occidental Petroleum
3. Open Season on Preists in Colombia
4. Ashcroft Indicts Castano: Shadow Play?
5. U.S.: Glyphosate No Worse Than Baby Shampoo
6. U.S. Marines to Peruvian Amazon

ELSEWHERE IN LATIN AMERICA
1. Terrorist Crackdown Targets Rap, Rhumba

NEW YORK CITY
1. Most Comprehensive Study of WTC Collapse: Secret
2. Redevelopment Funds Become Political Football
3. L.M.D.C. Back to the Drawing Board



THE PALESTINE FRONT

1. SETTLERS ATTACK PALESTINIAN OLIVE HARVESTERS
On Oct. 2, International Women's Peace Service (IWPS) reported that Jewish settlers from Tapu'ah in the West Bank were helping themselves to olives from trees belonging to the Palestinian village of Yassouf. The villagers stood helplessly by and watched, with repeated calls to the Israeli police ignored. On the morning of Oct. 2, British peace activist Angie Zelter of IWPS accompanied seven villagers into their groves. Zelter informed the police she and the harvesters were going to the olive groves before setting out. However, the group was shot at 200 yards before they could reach the area. The same police Zelter called were supposed to meet the groves' Palestinian landowner, Mohammed Obied, at the entrance to the Tapu'ah settlement. Instead, the police drove right past him, into the settlement. Less than two minutes later a siren went off in the settlement, and dozens of armed settlers got into their cars and drove to where Zelter and the seven farmers were now sitting on the ground.

Zelter called the police again as the settlers arrived. The police advised her and the villagers to leave. Some of the villagers started to leave, and a group of the settlers charged them, throwing rocks and shouting. They surrounded Zelter, tore her camera from her neck, and snatched her bag."go, or there will be bloodshed and you will be responsible," one settler told her. Zelter asked for her belongings back, and the settlers threw her passport and purse at her. Her other belongings are still missing.

Zelter complained to Israeli authorities, but they would not let her go to Tapu'ah to find those responsible for stealing her things. She went to Ariel settlement to look at pictures of settlers. The police say they are investigating. Later that evening, a huge fire was started in a Palestinian olive grove below Ariel. (IWPS, Oct. 2)

In the Nablus region on Oct. 2, Settlers from Yitzhar attacked harvest workers from Inabus and Burin. (Ha'aretz, Oct. 7)

On Oct. 3, members of Rabbis for Human Rights accompanied Yassouf residents to their fields to assist the harvesters. The organization's leader, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, said at first the police held armed settlers back from attacking harvesters. However, when the settlers became more threatening, the police ordered the group to leave the area, and then left themselves, giving the settlers free rein to attack. The IDF said the Palestinians had not coordinated their harvest with a military liaison unit. They additionally said the region had been declared a "closed military zone" to prevent conflict, but this did not apply to the settlers. (Ha'artez, Oct. 4)

On Oct. 6, Jewish settlers killed one Palestinian harvesting olives and wounded two others. According to Palestinian witnesses, harvesters from the West Bank Palestinian village of Akrabeh were attacked by 10 armed settlers from nearby Itamar and Gidonim. Akrabeh residents said the settlers first fired in the air, then directly at the harvesters. Fadi Beni Jabar, 22, was wounded in the hand, and another harvester sustained a light injury. Other Akrabeh residents rushed to the scene to help when they heard the shots. It was at this point that Hani Beni Maniyeh, 24 was shot and mortally wounded. Police detained several settlers for questioning, and bullet casings were collected from the scene. The settlers claim they fired in self-defense. Police say Palestinians refuse to cooperate with investigators, making it difficult for them to catch the perpetrators. IDF officers speaking off the record to Ha'artez confirmed that a group of young settlers has been attacking the harvesters recently, and that the army has not done much to stop it.

Akrabeh residents say settlers from Itamar and Gidonim have been attacking harvest workers since the harvest began on Oct. 2. On Oct. 5, settlers beat four Akrabeh harvesters with rifle butts and stones. One resident lost an eye as a result. "The settlers watch us from observation posts in the settlements, and as soon as the harvest starts, the attacks begin - with stones, blows and sometimes bullets," said Akrabeh Mayor Ghaleb Miadamah. "They fire wildly, so in practice everybody in the orchard is in danger, even if [the settlers] have not spotted him. I estimate that the residents are unable to get to 70 percent of their lands because of these attacks." The mayor appealed to the Israel Civil Administration and Israeli Police to stop the attacks, with little result. (Ha'aretz, Oct. 7)

The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem sent out an urgent appeal Oct. 6 to Israeli law enforcement agencies to stop the settlers from attacking harvesters. "Such steps are more urgent now than ever," it said, "as the harvest is a critical source of income for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, who are suffering from very difficult economic conditions." (B'Tselem, Oct. 6)

The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is appealing to international activists to come and assist Palestinian olive harvesters. The Olive Harvest Campaign will extend from Oct. 15 to Nov. 15, with the first training session taking place in Bethlehem on Oct. 13. For more information, see ISM.(David Bloom) See also: "Bitter Harvest" by Gideon Levy in Ha'aretz [top]

THE ANDEAN FRONT

1. URIBE DECREE SUSPENDS RIGHTS IN CONFLICT ZONES...
Colombia's hardline President Alvaro Uribe signed a decree invoking special powers to combat armed groups, creating two security zones in which military commanders will be able to conduct searches without warrants, restrict travel and impose curfews. Under the new decree, foreigners wishing to enter the two "Rehabilitation and Consolidation Zones" in northern Colombia would need authorization from the Interior Ministry. The decree names navy Capt. Luis Prada Rivera as commander of one security zone encompassing 24 townships in the provinces of Bolivar and Sucre. Army Brig. Gen. Carlos Lemus Padraza was named commander of the second zone, which circles three townships in Arauca province. The decree gives the commanders power to interrogate civilians within the zones, and to suspend personal permits for weapons. (AP, Sept. 21) [top]

2. ...ON BEHALF OF OCCIDENTAL PETROLEUM
The sweeping new decree was announced just as Uribe is in Washington to visit the White House to discuss War on Terrorism aid. Arauca, one of the two designated conflict zones, is home to the Cano Limon oil field, which is being exploited by the Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum. In the last aid package approved by Bush almost $100 million was slated for training a special brigade to protect the Cano Limon pipeline--which was blown up by guerillas 170 times last year. US Green Berets arrive in Arauca next month to start the training program. (BBC, Sept. 24) [top]

3. OPEN SEASON ON PREISTS IN COLOMBIA
The UN called on Colombian authorities to apprehend those responsible for the killing of a beloved priest, Jose Luis Arroyave, who was shot in the face and chest by hooded gunmen in Medellin. The priest had been working with poor residents in the violence-torn neighborhood for nearly eight years. In March, a gunman shot and killed Archbishop Isaias Duarte in front dozens of people in Cali. Including Arroyave, three priests have been killed in Colombia this year. (AP, Sept. 21) [top]

4. ASHCROFT INDICTS CASTANO: SHADOW PLAY?
Attorney General John Ashcroft unsealed drug-trafficking indictments against three members of Colombia's ultra-right paramilitary forces Sept. 24, including Carlos Castano, grand-daddy of the paramilitary movement. Ashcroft said at a news conference that the paramilitary United Colombian Self-Defense (AUC), are not the "freedom fighters they claim to be" but "criminals...who poison our citizens and threaten our national security." He noted that the AUC is on the State Department's terrorist list, and praised Uribe's "leadership and commitment...to proceed vigorously against drug traffickers and terrorists wherever they are found."

The indictment, issued in US District Court in Washington, charges Castano, AUC military commander Salvatore Mancuso and fellow AUC honcho Juan Carlos Sierra-Ramirez with moving over 17 tons of cocaine into the US and Europe since 1997, and alleges that Castano himself participated in kidnappings, threats and violence to maintain direct control over cocaine production and distribution. All three of the indictees remain at large in Colombia, but Castano responded in a letter to the US Embassy in Bogota repeating an earlier offer to surrender to US authorities to prove his innocence . (Washington Post, Sept. 25)

In a Sept. 25 satellite telephone interview, Castano boasted he was making arrangements to deliver himself to the US to face the charges. To avoid the signal from the 35 minute interview being tracked, Castano was on the move throughout the broadcast, in vehicles and on horseback. His lawyer, Joaquin Perez, has flown to Washington to negotiate terms of surrender. Castano insists he will only surrender to US authorities on condition he is not deported back to Colombia--where he faces a battery of charges, including many for murder, and has been sentenced in absentia to 22 years in prison. (BBC, Sept. 25)

Ashcroft said the indictment marks the"convergence of two of the top priorities of the Department of Justice: the prevention of terrorism, and the reduction of illegal drug use." But the US indictment, while mentioning Castano's use of violence to maintain control of the drug trade, only actually charges him and his two co-defendants with five counts each of drug trafficking . (AFP, Sept. 24) [top]

5. U.S.: GLYPHOSATE NO WORSE THAN BABY SHAMPOO
In amazing testimony before Congress on September 5, the Bush Administration defended its use of glyphosate--the herbicide used to eradicate coca bushes and poppy plants in Colombia--claiming that it caused no health or environmental problems. The administration did, for the first time, admit that those who got glyphosate in their eyes might experience mild eye irritation--"about the same as baby shampoo"--which would disappear in no more than 72 hours.

The testimony by Paul Simons, acting assistant secretary of state for international narcotics matters, came on the heels of the release of a 180-page report demanded by Congress to certify the safety of the chemicals used in the aerial spraying that is a major component of Plan Colombia/Andean Initiative. The report was initially requested by Sen. Partick Leahy (D-VT) who said ''Spraying a toxic chemical over large areas, including where people live and livestock graze, would not be tolerated in our country. We should not be spraying first and asking questions later."

The report included assessments of the aerial spraying program by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The USDA gave the program a clean bill of health. In a letter by Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to Secretary of State Colin Powell that was included in the report, she wrote that ''Glyphosate poses minimal health risks to humans and animals, is environmentally benign, and degrades rapidly in soil and water.''

The EPA, under the leadership of former New Jersey Gov. Christy Whitman, was more cautious, noting that their assessment was based entirely on data from the State Department-which obviously has a vested interest in continued spraying--rather than first-hand study on the ground in Colombia.

The most outrageous claim in both the report and testimony was the assertion that while glyphosate might irritate the eyes of Colombian farmers on the ground it was no more harmful than baby shampoo and "it goes away after 72 hours." Johnson and Johnson did not respond to repeated requests to comment on whether it was fair to say their famous Baby Shampoo would irritate infant eyes for three days per use.

But while administration response to the administration-conducted assessment of the program was generally positive, environmentalists blasted it. "'How much can this analysis tell us?" asked Betsy Marsh of the Amazon Alliance. "It would be like asking a car mechanic to check your oil, and not letting him open the hood."

Environmentalists will not have a say in the conducting of the program, however. The administration has decided to expand its defoliation program this year to a total of 375,000 acres of Colombian forest and plains--about 600 square miles, nearly triple the State Department's assessment of Colombian soil under coca and poppy cultivation. The acreage the administration plans to spray next year is nearly double what was sprayed in 2002.

In a related development, on August 8, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Rand Beers corrected the sworn testimony he gave Feb. 27, 2002, in the federal lawsuit by Ecuadorian farmers against DynCorp, the company with the State Department's coca/poppy eradication contract. In that testimony, Beers evidently made several errors he wished to correct. Among them were his assertions that FARC rebels had trained at al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. Beers' corrected testimony read: "In paragraph 43 [of his Feb. 27 testimony) , I made the following statement: ‘It is believed that FARC terrorists have received training at Al Qaida terrorist camps in Afghanistan.' I wish to strike this sentence. At the time of my declaration, based on information available to me, I believed this statement to be true and correct. Based upon information made available to me subsequent to the filing of the declaration, I no longer believe this statement to be true and correct. Based on information and belief, the paragraph as revised is true and correct."

Beers made several other corrections in his original testimony as well, including allegations that ground-fire, presumably from FARC rebels, at "spray planes and/or escort helicopters" had resulted in three deaths during 1999 and 2000. In his August 8 testimony Beers admitted that there had been no fatalities from hostile ground fire.

Beers' original testimony, coming in the period when President Bush was pushing his anti-terrorism" agenda, had been instrumental in directing US public opinion to see the FARC rebels as terrorists. His corrected testimony was nearly overlooked by US media. (Miami Herald, Sep, 6; Narconews.com, Sept. 11; Congressional testimony, Sept. 8) (Peter Gorman) [top]

6. U.S. MARINES TO PERUVIAN AMAZON
Some 600 US Marines are holding their first-ever exercise in the Amazon Basin of Peru, but Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo insisted the maneuvers are not a precursor to building a US military base in the country. Peru's Congress has approved the Marine operation at the Peruvian navy's Nanay base on the banks of the Amazon near Iquitos, 650 miles northeast of Lima. Previous major US-Peruvian joint operations have been in the Pacific and not inland.

Peruvian press reports maintain Marines aboard the dock landing ship USS Portland would be testing areas in Peru for a military base to police the Colombian border. "I want to categorically deny that the exercise of some US military forces in the Peruvian Amazon are related to a building of any US military base in Peru," Toledo told the AP.

The USS Portland is to enter the Amazon in Brazil to begin a joint patrol with Peruvian forces. The operation is part of the UNITAS program, which deploys US forces for joint operations in a South America every other year. On alternate years, the program is in South Africa. UNITAS deployments, four-month long exercises, began in 1959 as a Navy operation. In 1981 it was expanded to include amphibious operations with Marines. Participating countries include Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.

The US has in the past flown drug surveillance flights in the Amazon with the Peruvian military, but these were suspended April 2001 after a Peruvian military jet shot down a plane carrying US missionaries, killing 35-year-old Veronica Bowers and her infant daughter, Charity. It was determined that a CIA-operated surveillance plane had mistakenly identified the aircraft as a possible drug-smuggling flight.

"We are working together against drug trafficking and terrorism," Toledo told AP. "But there's no a possibility, nor a dialogue, to create an American military base in Peru." Toledo met Colombian president Alvaro Uribe in New York Sept. 25, and is slated to meet President Bush and his national security adviser Condoleezza Rice at the White House. (AP, Sept. 14) [top]

ELSEWHERE IN LATIN AMERICA

1. TERRORIST CRACKDOWN TARGETS RAP, RHUMBA
Nearly two dozen Cuban musicians--including one winner--missed the Latin Grammy ceremonies in Hollywood Sept. 18 because a new law targeting terrorists kept them from securing visas in time. Among the 22 musicians barred from the event was legendary jazz pianist Chucho Valdes, who won the award for Pop Instrumental Album. Also blacklisted were guitarist Rey Guerra, nominated for Pop Instrumental Album, and rapper named X Alfonso, nominated for Best Rap/Hip-Hop album. The musicians were delayed by rigorous CIA/FBI screening mandated for all visitors from nations on the State Department list of terrorist sponsors--including Cuba--under the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act, passed in response to 9-11. (Washington Post, Sept. 19) [top]

NEW YORK CITY

1. MOST COMPREHENSIVE STUDY OF WTC COLLAPSE: SECRET
Private experts brought in as consultants in the litigation between World Trade Center leaseholder Larry Silverstein and his insurers have conducted the most comprehensive study of why the Twin Towers collapsed--far outstripping the official studies done by the federal government. But this private study remains hidden from public view by confidentiality agreements--possibly forever."We're obviously in favor of releasing the information, but w can't until we're told what to do," said Matthys Levy of Weidlinger Associates, a consultant in the case and author of "Why Buildings Fall Down: Why Structures Fail" (Norton, 2002). Monica Gabrielle, who lost her husband Richard in the disaster and is a member of the Skyscraper Safety Campaign, said the study should be made public:"If they have answers and are not going to share them, I would be devastated. They have a moral obligation." (NYT, Sept. 30) [top]

2. REDEVELOPMENT FUNDS BECOME POLITICAL FOOTBALL
The $4.5 billion in federal disaster relief to rebuild transportation systems damaged in 9-11 has become a political football in New York's pending gubernatorial race. Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, is petitioning the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to block plans by Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, to channel $700 million into renovating the South Ferry subway station and Hoboken ferry terminal--projects slated before 9-11--instead of a transit hub linking the subway and Port Authority Trans-Hudson rail stations damaged in the disaster. At issue once again is whether the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., funnel for the funds, is directly answerable to the governor even though its 16-member board is appointed equally by the governor and the mayor, Mike Bloomberg. (NYT, Sept. 30) [top]

3. L.M.D.C. BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
Following overwhelmingly unenthusiastic public response to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation's six initial plans for redevelopment of the WTC site, the LMDC has commission six international architectural firms to come up with new designs. The firms are:

1. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), which has also got the contract to rebuild World Trade Center 7, developer Larry Silverstein's private holding in the WTC complex, as well as to build the new Penn Station (which is slated to jump across 8th Ave. to new digs when the current Penn Station is converted into a Viacom multi-media center).

2. THINK, builders of New York's Whitehall Ferry Terminal and the Tokyo International Forum.

3. Studio Daniel Libeskind, designers of Berlin Jewish Museum

4. Foster and Partners, designers of Germany's new post-unification Reichstag--as well as the London headquarters of Swiss Re, one of the insurers now mired in a massive legal battle with WTC leaseholder Larry Silverstein.

5. United Architects, designers of the Lehman Bros. headquarters in New York, as well as Yokohama International Port Terminal.

6. Meier, Eisenman, Gwathmey and Holl, joining forces after having worked on Los Angeles' Getty Center, New York's Morgan Stanley headquarters and an addition to the Guggenheim Museum.

But the catch is that all these firms are working under the same LMDC-imposed condition that mandates rebuilding a large proportion of the office space lost in the attack--almost guaranteeing that they will come up with another six variations on the uninspiring theme of a small park surrounded by office towers. (Newsday, Sept. 27)

See also WW3 REPORT #50 [top]

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