#. 77. March 17, 2003
PLANET POISED AT BRINK OF APOCALYPSE!
CHILE IN 11th-HOUR BID TO AVERT GLOBAL DISASTER!!
US ACTIVIST MURDERED BY ISRAELI BULLDOZER!!!
ISRAELI MILITARY IN CHIAPAS RAINFOREST?
CURRENT HOMELAND SECURITY COLOR ADVISORY CODE: ORANGE
By Bill Weinberg
with David Bloom and Subuhi Jiwani, Special Correspondents
THE PALESTINE FRONT
1. US Activist Murdered by Israeli Army Bulldozer
THE IRAQ FRONT
1. Can Chile Avert Apocalypse?
2. Turkey: No U.S. Troops
3. Fear in Baghdad
4. U.S. Exploits Kurds for War Propaganda
5. Brzezinski Warns: U.S. "Globally Isolated"
6. Powell Denies It: No "Jewish Conspiracy"
7. Pope for Peace
8. Iraq Christians for Peace
9. Global Anti-War Protests
10. NYC Joins Municipal Anti-War Dissent
11. Mexicans, Spaniards in Baghdad Peace Flotilla
12. Pentagon Threatens Independent Journalists in Iraq
13. War Maneuvers and Nuclear Fear in Korea
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. More Al-Qaeda Arrests Reported in Pakistan--But Where's Osama?
2. Global Legitimacy at Last: Afghanistan Gets Internet Domain
1. Train Blast Kills Nine in Bombay
THE MEXICO FRONT
1. Fox on the Spot
2. Chiapas Maya: NO A LA GUERRA DE BUSH!
3. More Political Violence in Chiapas
4. Israeli Military in Chiapas Rainforest?
5. Three Drug Choppers Down in Guerrero; Peasants Accuse Army of Reprisals
6. Gulf Cartel Boss Busted--Will "Trophy" Give Fox Cojones to Vote "No"?
THE WAR AT HOME
1. FBI Heightens Security: 11,000 Iraqis to be Questioned
2. More Pakistanis Flee to Canadian Border as Registration Deadline Approaches
THE PALESTINE FRONT
1. US ACTIVIST MURDERED BY ISRAELI ARMY BULLDOZER
On March 16, Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old student from Olympia, Washington, was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer attempting to destroy the home of a Palestinian pharmacist in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. Corrie, a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), had spent most of the afternoon patrolling with other international activists along a small stretch of the border area between Gaza and Egypt where dozens of homes have been destroyed by Israeli forces occupying Gaza. For three hours, the group had been making its presence known visibly and audibly, using banners and megaphones to alert soldiers, a practice that has been employed since the start of the ISM's presence in Rafah last December. Occasionally the bulldozer drivers waved to the protestors, who were standing in front of the houses.
At around 5 P.M., the activists saw the bulldozers were on their way towards a line of houses. "They began demolishing one house," said Richard, an ISM activist. "We gathered around and called out to them and went into the house, so they backed out. During the entire time they knew who we were and what we were doing, because they didn't shoot at us. We stood in their way and shouted. There were about eight of us in an area about 70 square meters. Suddenly, we saw they turned to a house they had started to demolish before, and I saw Rachel standing in the way of the front bulldozer."
According to Richard, "There's no way he didn't see her, since she was practically looking into the cabin. At one stage, he turned around toward the building. The bulldozer kept moving, and she slipped and fell off the plow. But the bulldozer kept moving, the shovel above her. I guess it was about 10 or 15 meters that it dragged her and for some reason didn't stop. We shouted like crazy to the driver through loudspeakers that he should stop, but he just kept going and didn't lift the shovel. Then it stopped and backed up. We ran to Rachel. She was still breathing." The Israeli paper Ha'aretz assumed that since Richard said Corrie "fell off the plow," that she had in fact climbed onto it. But Joe Smith, another activist who was at the scene, told WW3 REPORT that Corrie had ended up on the plow because it scooped her up into it when it dug into the mound on which she was standing.
A March 17 ISM press release read:
"The Israeli Army are attempting to dishonor [Corrie's] memory by claiming that Rachel was killed accidentally when she ran in front of the bulldozer. Eye-witnesses to the murder insist that this is totally untrue. Rachel was sitting in the path of the bulldozer as it advanced towards her. When the bulldozer refused to stop or turn aside she climbed up onto the mound of dirt and rubble being gathered in front of it wearing a fluorescent jacket to look directly at the driver who kept on advancing. The bulldozer continued to advance so that she was pulled under the pile of dirt and rubble. After she had disappeared from view the driver kept advancing until the bulldozer was completely on top of her. The driver did not lift the bulldozer blade and so she was crushed beneath it. Then the driver backed off and the seven other ISM activists taking part in the action rushed to dig out her body. An ambulance rushed her to A-Najar hospital where she died."
Angela, an ISM activist from New York who spent a month in Rafah recently, reports that bulldozers operate with little regard to the presence of people in the area. Once she said a bulldozer pushed a wall over onto a group of activists. She said it was clear the driver was aware of what he was doing at the time.
"The situation was always fluid and the army doesn't live by regular rules," ISM activist James Delano says of his experiences in Rafah. "The bulldozer [driver's] tactic is just to keep coming and hope that people get out of the way. One situation I was in was very dangerous -- the bulldozer just kept coming and it was three or four feet away and there was a wall behind us. I was completely shocked that the driver would act the way he did. It was insane."
"This is a very regrettable incident," an Israeli military source said. "This is a group of protesters who are acting very irresponsibly. They are putting everyone in danger, the Palestinians, themselves, our forces, by intentionally placing themselves in a combat zone. We are checking the details of the incident and believe it to be a very regrettable incident."
"The United States deeply regrets this tragic death of an American citizen," said US State Dept. spokesman Lou Fintor said. "We offer our sincere condolences to Ms. Corrie's family."
Corrie had an interest in water rights and was drawn to Gaza by the critical situation there with regards to the Gazans' water supply. Israeli soldiers often shoot holes in Gaza's water towers, attack the municipal water supply, and have attacked workers trying to repair it. Recently, internationals have been accompanying the municipal workers so they won't be attacked while doing repairwork. Corrie also was a facilitator recently in a mock trial conducted by children which found President George Bush guilty of being a war criminal.
"We were very proud of her," said Craig Corrie, her father. "We're very proud of her courage and what she stood for, and we're very proud of Rachel. She's 23 years old, and while that seems young to me, it's old enough for her to make up her own mind about what she wants to do. There's no holding her back." (ISM report) Rachel Corrie was the first member of the ISM to be killed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Adwan, a Palestinian farmer in Jayyous, West Bank, wrote the following to WW3 REPORT: "Accept my condolences on our friend's death (Rachel Corrie) in Gaza yesterday, and we are very sad and angry in Palestine from this event, but we shouldn't surrender, we have to make everything for peace to win, and support justice in order to [have a] better future." (David Bloom)
(Ha'aretz, March 16, 17 London Times, March 17; ISM, March 17; AP, March 17; Electronic Intifada, March 16: and WW3 Report sources.)
Read email from Corrie to her parents.
Pictures of the events.
Jews Against the Occupation statement.
THE IRAQ FRONT
1. CAN CHILE AVERT APOCALYPSE?
On Sunday March 16, a day before his imposed deadline for military action against Iraq, US President Geroge Bush announced, "Tomorrow is a moment of truth for the world." Two days earlier, he flew across Atlantic to meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish leader Jose Maria Aznar to discuss strategies to win approval for the new resolution they jointly introduced to the UN Security Council authoritzing force against Iraq. US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rica, in an interview with al-Jazeera TV, called the meeting in Portugal's Azores Islands "a last push to see if we can convince people to take on their responsibilities."
Compromise proposals by other Security Council members could result in an extension of the US-declared Monday March 17 deadline for military action. But Blair, facing strong opposition at home for his pro-war stance, could ask Bush and Aznar to withdraw the resolution rather see it defeated. This could mean immediate war.
The US doesn't have more than six of the 15 Security Council members on its side, and France and Russia are nearly certain to use their veto power on any resolution imposing the Monday deadline. China's ambassador Wang Yingfan said, "To me it is clear they just don't have the votes," and predicted the resolution would be withdrawn.
France, Russia and Germany, meanwhile, issued a joint declaration stating that there is no justification for war, and calling on the Security Council to set a "realistic" timetable for Iraq's disarmament.
The White House rejected as "a non-starter" Chile's plan to give Iraq three weeks to comply with a new set of conditions. Under the Chilean plan, Iraq must allow at least 30 scientists to be interviewed outside the country, produce mustard gas shells or full documentation of their destruction, disclose the whereabouts of 10,000 liters of un-accounted for anthrax or documentation that it no longer exists, destroy remaining Al-Samoud 2 missiles, and provide full details on the existence of drone aircraft.
Also rejected was a proposal by weapons inspector Hans Blix to extend inspections for months. Rice said the diplomatic window is only days wide. "We're certainly not talking about weeks because this has gone on long enough." Added Bush: "Crucial days lie ahead for the free nations of the world." US Ambassador John Negroponte: "Time is running out."
As the diplomats issued pronouncements, US and British warplanes bombed a radar station in western Iraq, and the UN began withdrawing its personnel from the country. (AP reports, March 15, 16)
2. TURKEY: NO U.S. TROOPS
Turkey's new prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who took over March 14, insisted his government must win a vote of confidence from lawmakers before deciding whether to make a second attempt for parliamentary approval of deployment of US forces in Turkish territory. In response, Bush said the US is giving up on trying to sway Turkey, and withdrawing its offer of a massive aid package as an inducement. But the White House warned Turkey against unilateral intervention in northern Iraq, warning that it could spark a "war within a war." Meanwhile, 12 US warships off Turkey in the Mediterranean were ordered to the Red Sea, where they can fire on Iraq through Saudi airspace. (LAT, March 15)
Five battle groups--each with an aircraft carrier and accompanying warships and submarines--are now poised to attack Iraq. The USS Roosevelt and USS Harry Truman in the Mediterranean now join the USS Abraham Lincoln, USS Constellation and USS Kitty Hawk in the Persian Gulf. The USS Nimitz group is also en route to the Gulf. (AP, March 15)
3. FEAR IN BAGHDAD
In Baghdad, the citizenry is preparing for war, with neighborhood "cooperatives" organized by the ruling Baath Party erecting sandbag barricades at intersections and organizing to resist invading troops. The government is arming loyal sectors of the populace with AK-47s. (Newsday, March 15)
Yu Jianzing, a Chinese chemist working as a UN inspector, was killed in a Baghdad car accident on March 14. Also that day, Boston Globe reporter David Filipov was ejected from the country for filing a report via satellite phone from his hotel. Reporters were ordered to leave their satellite phones at the Baghdad press center. Filipov's story described an Iraqi drone as held together with duct tape and inscribed with the words "God is Great." (AP, March 14)
Under Saddam's war footing, Iraq is divided into four military zones. The Baghdad area is controlled by the dictator's son Qusai Hussein. The north is under Izzat Ibrahim, deputy chair of the Revolutionary Command Council. Council members Ali Hassan al-Majid and Mizban Khodr al-Hadi respectively control the south and the Euphrates area. (AP, March 16)
4. U.S. EXPLOITS KURDS FOR WAR PROPAGANDA
The US has drawn up a list of Iraqi leaders who could face war crimes charges, including Ali Hassan al-Majid, "Chemical Ali," reportedly responsible for the 1988 Halabja gas attack that killed 5,000 Kurds. On March 14, the 15th anniversary of the attack, Bush invited three Halabja survivors to the White House. (AP, March 15) It is uncertain if these survivors were aware that the US was actively assisting Saddam's chemical warfare program at the time of the attack. See WW3 REPORT #72
5. BRZEZINSKI WARNS: U.S. "GLOBALLY ISOLATED"
Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski publicly warned that the war drive is opening a dangerous rift between Washington and its European allies, stating that the US "never has been so globally isolated, literally never, since 1945." (La Jornada, March 7) Ex-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, in contrast, has taken a pro-war stance. Meanwhile, veteran US diplomats Jeane Kirkpatrick, Thomas Pickering and James Dobbins have joined Stanley Fischer of Citibank and other top business leaders in a "task force" on planning for a post-Saddam Iraq at the Council on Foreign Relations. (La Jornada, March 13)
6. POWELL DENIES IT: NO "JEWISH CONSPIRACY"
US Secretary of State Colin Powell publicly stated that the war drive against Iraq is not the result of a "Jewish conspiracy," but is dictated by "our national interests." The statement came after comments by Rep. James P. Moran of Virginia that "if it was not for the strong support of the Jewish community," the war against Iraq would not be possible, and that Jewish "leaders" are "influential enough" to stop it, and "I think they should." (MSNBC, March 13, 15)
Baghdad's top Muslim leader Ali al-Jubari also told reporter Blanche Petrich of the Mexico City daily La Jornada that the war drive against Iraq was the result of a "Zionist plot." (La Jornada, March 7)
7. POPE FOR PEACE
Papal envoy Cardinal Pio Laghi, who met with Bush in DC on March 5 to convey the Vatican's opposition to war, told reporters that US officials were friendly, but "friendship is not enough." The Pope says war would be a "defeat for humanity." (AP, March 15)
8. IRAQ CHRISTIANS FOR PEACE
In Iraq, Severius Hawa, archbishop of the Syrian Orthodox Church for Baghdad and Basra, denied that an attack on Iraq would signal the start of a war between Christians and Muslims. "It is the reverse. This great injustice should make all men of faith, whether Christian or Muslim, return to their sacred books," he told Blanche Petrich of Mexico's La Jornada. "There can be seen with total clarity who does not want peace." (La Jornada, March 7)
9. GLOBAL ANTI-WAR PROTESTS
Saturday March 15 saw anti-war marches in several cities around the world, with AP reporting 10,000 in Tokyo, 4,000 in Christchurch, 3,000 in Stockholm, 1,000 in Moscow and hundreds in Hong Kong, Bangkok and Manila. 7,500 marched in the Turkish port of Iskenderum, where US ships had recently been unloading war material. Belgian government ministers joined 40,000 protesters in Brussels. 1,400 gathered at the US Rhine-Main Air Base in Frankfurt, blocking the gates for two hours before they were dispersed by police. Hundreds of British Muslims, organized by the Hizb-ut-Tahrir advocacy group, marched in London. (AP, March 15)
Tens of thousands marched in Washington DC in a mobilization called by International ANSWER. (Newsday, March 16) In Portland, OR, hundreds blocked a bridge linking the eastern and western parts of the city. (AP, March 15) On March 14, hundreds turned out at dawn in San Francisco to shut down the Pacific Stock Exchange for two hours before they were dispersed by police, with 80 arrested. Market Street was also blockaded. Protests continued the following day, with some 160 more arrested. (SF IMC, March 15)
10. NYC JOINS MUNICIPAL ANTI-WAR DISSENT
New York's city council approved a resolution expressing its oppsition to unilateral military action against Iraq, joining 141 municipalities around the country which have approved similar resolutions, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, San Francisco, Atlanta, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Seattle and Washington DC. (La Jornada, March 13) See WW3 REPORT 72
11. MEXICANS, SPANIARDS IN BAGHDAD PEACE FLOTILLA
A group of activists from Mexico and Spain--both countries now on the UN Security Council--staged a naval caravan for peace in Baghdad, with 15 boats floating down the Tigris River, which divides the city into al-Rusafa (the west) and al-Karj (the east). Under the bidges of Baghdad, the maritime protesters chanted "No a la guerra!" The Spanish contingent was organized by a Spain-based advocacy group for Arab immigrants, while the Mexican contingent was organized by the Frente Zapatista, civil counterpart of the Zapatista National Liberation Army. (La Jornada, March 8)
12. PENTAGON THREATENS INDEPENDENT JOURNALISTS IN IRAQ
According to veteran BBC war correspondent Kate Adie, the Pentagon has threatened to fire on the positions of satellite uplink equipment of independent journalists in Iraq. When Adie inquired about the potentially fatal consequenses of such actions, a senior Pentagon officer replied, "Who cares.. ...They've been warned." Adie, who covered the last Gulf War 12 years ago, called the Pentagon attitude "entirely hostile to the the free spread of information. I am enormously pessimistic of the chance of decent on-the-spot reporting, as the war occurs," she added, in a interview with Irish National Radio, RTE1. Adie warned that the Pentagon is vetting journalists according to their stance on the war, and intends to take control of US journalist's satellite equipment.
On the same show, war correspondent Phillip Knightley said the Pentagon has also threatened it "may find it necessary to bomb areas in which war correspondents are attempting to report from the Iraqi side." (GuluFuture.com, March 10)(David Bloom)
13. WAR MANEUVERS AND NUCLEAR FEAR IN KOREA
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson is in waters off the Korean peninsula for joint maneuvers with the South Korean military. The carier is to stage a landing exercize near Pohang, where US troops landed in the 1950-3 Korean War. The Carl Vinson is joined by six US F-1117 Nighthawk stealth fighters deployed to a base in South Korea. The Pentagon has also deployed a dozen B-52s and a dozen B-1 bombers to Guam, poised to attack the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea). Wrote North Korea's Rodong Sinmun daily: "The US can attack the DPRK any moment... The US seeks to round off its preparations for nuclear war against the DPRK at its final phase and mount a pre-emptive nuclear attack on it at any time." (AP, March 15)
1. MORE AL-QAEDA ARRESTS REPORTED IN PAKISTAN--BUT WHERE'S OSAMA?
Authorities in Pakistan announced the capture of Yassir al-Jaziri, a suspected high-ranking al-Qaeda operative, in Lahore. The arrest was allegedly based on information from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, arrested March 1 in Pakistan. Al-Jaziri, a Moroccan-Algerian dual national, was reportedly named as an al-Qaeda operative in the 1998 African embassy bombing trial. While thousands Pakistani police backed up by US Green Berets still comb the remote Afghan border area for al-Qaeda suspects, most of the big busts have been in Pakistan's cities. Mustafa al-Hisawi, a suspected financier of the 9-11 attacks, was arrested with Mohammed. On Sept. 11, 2002, Ramzi Binalshibh, suspected would-be 9-11 hijacker who could not get into the US, was arrested in Karachi. In March 2002, Abu Zubayda was arrested in Faisalabad. (AP, March 15)
Pakistan's Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat denied reports that two of Osama bin Laden's sons had been arrested in a joint action with Afghan forces. (AFP, March 7)Pakistan's ISID intelligence agency also denied reports that Osama bin Laden himself had been apprehended. (AP, March 13)
2. GLOBAL LEGITIMACY AT LAST: AFGHANISTAN GETS INTERNET DOMAIN
The UN Development Program announced that agencies and NGOs based in Afghanistan have inaugurated the sufix ".af" for their web sites and e-mail addresses. All private use of the Internet had been banned by the ousted Taliban regime under penalty of death. (UNDP press release, March 10)
1. TRAIN BLAST KILLS NINE IN BOMBAY
THE MEXICO FRONT
At least nine are dead and 60 wounded following an explosion on a suburban commuter train in Bombay. The blast came at the height of the evening rush hour, and authorities said it was the result of a bomb. No group has claimed responsibility. (AFP, March 13)
1. FOX ON THE SPOT
With President Vicente Fox recovering from back surgery just as Mexico could provide a crucial Security Council vote tipping the balance towards war or peace, many Mexican commentators say that the decision to join the Council has placed the country is a lose-lose situation--in which it must either alienate its northern neighbor and top trading partner or nearly the rest of the world. The Italian daily Corriere della Sera wrote: "The Pope is counting on a 'no' vote from Mexico and Chile. They are two Catholic countries which are sensitive to the voice of the Pontiff, whose position in favor of 'no' can prevent the United States from obtaining the votes necessary to approve a new motion." (Reforma, March 13)
In New York, Mexican Exterior Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez said: "Mexico is convinced that it is necessary to explore all the ways, review all the paths and seek all the opportunities to resolve this question by peaceful means." (AFP, March 7) Derbez announced a joint effort with fellow Council member Pakistan to seek a compromise solution that would avoid war. (La Jornada, March 13)
Illustrating the degree of disgust at the war drive in Mexican political circles, noted author and former diplomatic figure Carlos Fuentes compared Bush to Hitler, stating: "The government of Bush...is a haunted, demonized, crazed government, as was that of Hitler in its moment... To threaten another country with reprisals is an act of international juridical barbarism... It is what Hitler did with Poland and Czechoslovakia. There are international laws." (La Jornada, March 7)
At press time, Fox is still recovering at Mexico's Central Military Hospital, with a special "hotline" phone by his side with direct access to diplomats in New York. Meanwhile, on March 14, some 400 protesters, organized by the Alliance of Social Ogranizations, marched on the presidential residence at Los Pinos demanding a "no" vote on any resolution approving military action. (Cuarto Poder, Chiapas, March 15)
On March 15, 14,000 marched on the US embassy in Mexico City in protest of the war drive. The principal speaker was Samuel Ruiz, the former bishop of the Chiapas highlands, who told the crowd: "We must be the light that testifies that preventative wars have no logic, and that what we want for humanity is preventative peace." (La Cronica de Hoy, March 16)
2. CHIAPAS MAYA: NO A LA GUERRA DE BUSH!
On March 14, several hundred Maya Indians from throughout the Chiapas highlands marched through the the colonial city of San Cristobal de Las Casas to protest the pending war against Iraq. They carried flowers and hand-written signs reading "VIVA LA PAZ" and "NO A LA GUERRA DE BUSH." The march was led by Bishop Felipe Arizmendi of the Chiapas highlands diocese, who presided over a ceremony in the city's 16th-century cathedral at the event's climax. Bishop Arizmendi told the packed cathedral: "Thou shalt not kill. This is the cry of all the municipalities and regions of Chiapas, who have been engaged in their own search for peace. God is a god of love, who does not want his children to kill, regardless of nationality, religion or ideology." (Bill Weinberg on the scene in San Cristobal)(photos: Langelle/ACERCA-ASEJ)
The rally culminated a week of daily public fasts and prayer for world peace at the cathedral, in which hundreds of Maya Indians participated. (Carteles de Comitan y San Cristobal, Chiapas, March 15). Hundreds also marched against the war drive in San Cristobal on Feb. 15 as part of the global mobilization. (Expreso, Chiapas, Feb. 16)
3. MORE POLITICAL VIOLENCE IN CHIAPAS
Long-simmering conflicts over control of land and municipal governments are once again erupting into violence in Chiapas. On March 5, in the Tzotzil Maya village of Zinacantan, just outside the highland city of San Cristobal de Las Casas, two followers of the Institutinal Revolutionary Pary (PRI) were killed in what witnesses described as an attack by a group of masked men with military-style uniforms and AK-47 and AR-15 rifles.The PRI, long the all-powerful political machine throughout Mexico, had recently lost control of Zinacantan's government to the left-opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), and local PRI loyalists accused the municipal government of complicity in the attack. They demanded that the municipal president (mayor), Domingo de La Cruz Perez, step down, and threatened they would "take justice into our own hands." On March 7, in an apparent revenge attack, local PRI militants attacked the Zinacantan hamlet of Patosil, a PRD stronghold, burning a vehicle and threatening the residents with death. 300 fled their homes to the nearby hamlet of Nachig, also a PRD stronghold. The municipal president himself is said to have moved his residence to Nachig, fearing reprisals. Bishop Felipe Arizmendi appealed to both sides to "abstain from inciting violence." (La Jornada, March 8, 9)
On March 13, a detachment of federal police entered the neighboring Tzotzil municipality of Chamula, where similar internecine violence left several dead in January. The detachment invaded the Chamula hamlet of Jolbon, where they burned a marijuana plantation of 400 square meters and arrested four men. It was the second such operation in recent weeks. On Feb. 21, federal police destroyed a 180-square-meter marijuana field and arrested two men in Chamula's Jolchen hamlet. (Expreso, Chiapas, March 14) The local press reported that Chamula's municipal authorities cooperated in the raids, but it is an open secret in Chiapas that the village's notorious political bosses, the caciques, profit from the local marijuana trade. See also WW3 REPORT #71
The Maya Indian rebels of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) were also implicated in recent violence. In late February, the "eco-tourist" resort and macadamia nut farm of Rancho Esmeralda, outside the town of Ocosingo, was seized and occupied by presumed Zapatista supporters from the local community of Nuevo Jerusalem. (AP, Feb. 18) Rancho Esmeralda's co-owners, Glen Wersch and Ellen Jones of Idaho, demanded restitution for their lost property from the Mexican government, and claimed that peasants from the Zapatista "autonomous municipality" of Primero de Enero had threatened guests and briefly detained and beaten an employee when they seized the resort. But Chiapas Gov. Pablo Salazar said there was no evidence that the EZLN was responsible for the occupation. (Expreso, Chiapas, March 14) The occupiers say the resort was seized because it was serving as a base for counter-insurgency activities. (See related story, this issue.)
In another attack on "eco-tourists," a group of French and Canadian kayakers were detained by presumed Zapatista supporters on the Rio Jatate, in the state's jungle region, in February. They were briefly held, and claim they were threatened with machetes. (CNN, Feb. 5)
There are also recent cases concerning supposed "defectors" from the Zapatista movement. In the hamlet of Gabino Barrera, Altamirano municipality, supposed Zapatista "defectors" accused followers of the movement of invading their lands, destroying eight hectares of corn and beans. (Voz del Sureste, Chiapas, March 14) Church authorities from the municipalities of Ocosingo and Oxchuc were called in to mediate after a supposed Zapatista "defector," Francisco Aguilar Hernandez, was taken prisoner by local Zapatista authorities in El Nance hamlet, accused of failing to turn over firearms he had been responsible for as an EZLN militant. He was released after several days. (Cuarto Poder, Chiapas, March 14)
In the prelude to the deadline for war in Iraq, the Mexican Navy ordered a special Immediate Reaction Force to the region along the Guatemalan border, announcing that special vigilance is required in light of the world situation. (Cuarto Poder, Chiapas, March 14)
4. ISRAELI MILITARY IN CHIAPAS RAINFOREST?
After members of the local campesino organization ARIC-I reported an incursion of the Chiapas rainforest by a mysterious convoy of jeep-like vehicles filled with men wearing military-style uniforms late last year, La Jornada reporter Hermann Bellinghausen was called in to investigate, fearing a new armed presence in the conflicted region known as the Lacandon Selva--stronghold of the Zapatista rebels. Campesino witnesses told Bellinghausen that the convoy set out in two columns from the town of Ocosingo. One column went to the jungle settlement of Lacanja, near the Usumacinta River, which forms the Guatemalan border; the other went to Laguna Miramar and San Quintin, the main military base for th Selva region. Seeking to quell local fears, Chiapas state authorities said the convoy was just part of an "eco-tourism" expedition. But Bellinghausen's probe turned up evidence of a counter-insurgency role for the expedition, involving Israeli military personnel.
The expedition, dubbed Isuzu Challenge Ruta Maya 2002, was organized from Israel, and its bilingual Hebrew-English web page states that it was a rally intended to raise money for and deliver high-tech communications equipment to assist local authorities in policing the Selva and protecting the rainforest. The leader of the expedition was Ben Nun Avihu, who was Israel's chief of air defense during the 1991 Gulf War. One of the corporations underwritng the expedition was Tadiran, an Israeli firm which was contracted by Guatemala's military dictatorship to build a communications system during the genocidal counter-insurgency campaign in that country in the early 1980s.
A report by a Chiapas group called the Cooperative of Regional Study & Analysis for Resistance (CEARR), "From Iraq to the Usumacinta: Nothing is Coincidence," said that the convoy consisted of 40 vehicles with high-ranking Israeli military personnel and technicians, and specualted that it may have included some of the Israeli officers who trained the Kaibiles, Guatemala's feared elite counter-insurgency troops, in the 1980s. The report also claimed that the military-style vehicles used in the rally were of the same type Israel recently sold to Turkey for use in the pending invasion of Iraq.
A week after the jungle rally, the Chiapas state government reportedly purchased 198 Galil rifles from Israel for use by the state police.
The controversial "eco-tourist" resort Rancho Esmeralda, now under occupation by militant Zapatista campesinos, also figured in the mysterious incident. The expedition was reportedly supposed to stay at the resort before setting out from Ocosingo, but access to the Rancho was blocked by local Zapatista supporters. Instead, the expedition was put up by the Ocosingo Ranchers Association.
(Hermann Bellinghausen in La Jornada, March 4)
See also WW3 REPORT #64
5. THREE DRUG CHOPPERS DOWN IN GUERRERO; PEASANTS ACCUSE ARMY OF REPRISALS
On March 10, two federal police helicopters on an anti-drug mission in the mountains of conflicted Guerrero state were shot out of the sky by AK-47 fire, killing seven on board. Authorities blamed narco gangs for the incident near Xitopontla in Ahuacotzingo municipality. (Expreso, Chiapas, March 11) Three days later, another federal chopper, also on an aerial fumigation mission to destroy marijuana and opium crops, crashed near the Guerrero coastal town of Zihuatanejo, killing the pilot--but this time authorities blamed engine trouble. (AFP, March 13)
Guerrero, home to several drug gangs and guerilla factions, has seen over a third of the 159 attacks on federal police helicopters reported in Mexico since 1997. After the recent incidents, campesino residents in Xitopontla reported to the local Human Rights Center of La Montana that their community was invaded by army troops, who forcibly entered and ransacked their homes in brutal "searches." (Reforma, ;March 13)
6. GULF CARTEL BOSS BUSTED--WILL "TROPHY" GIVE FOX COJONES TO VOTE "NO"?
THE WAR AT HOME
Following a 45-minute gun battle between Mexican federal army and police troops and some 300 hired gunmen of accused Gulf Cartel boss Osiel Cardenas Guillen in the border city of Matamoros, the notorious kingpin was taken into federal custody. Three soliders were wounded in the shoot-out. US Drug Czar John Walters immediately conveyed his congratulations to the Mexican government. Opined the Mexico City daily Uno Mas Uno: "The capture of Osiel Cardenas Guillen is an enormous trophy that will permit Fox to vote for peace at the UN... Sometimes luck is on our side, we shouldn't throw it away." (Uno Mas Uno, March 15)
1. FBI HEIGHTENS SECURITY: 11,000 IRAQIS TO BE QUESTIONED
In the advent of a US war on Iraq, the FBI--in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security--will put into effect its contingency plan to counter possible terrorist threats. 5,000 FBI agents are likely to be mobilized and the FBI headquarters, its 56 field offices and 66 joint terrorism taskforces will become 24-hour staffed command centers.This counter-terrorism effort has been thoroughly planned for a year now and is similar in scale to FBI's national terrorism investigations after the 9-11 attacks. The FBI has put its criminal investigations on hold to concentrate fully on the perceived threat of domestic terrorism through suicide bombers and espionage.
A key component of this effort will be the questioning of 11,000 Iraqis living in the US by the FBI and investigators from the Department of Homeland Security. The FBI has started interviewing Iraqis who it believes might have information that would help guide US military strategy in the event of war. The Department of Homeland Security has said that any interviewee found to have violated immigration law will be detained. It is also likely to raise the terrorism alert this week from yellow to orange or "high risk."
The initial phase of this highly detailed and expansive contingency plan has begun. Last week FBI Director Roberst S. Mueller III met with leaders of Arab-American, Muslim and Sikh groups to ask for their help in identifying possible terrorist suspects and to assure them of FBI protection against bias crimes. (Washington Post, March 17)(Subuhu Jiwani)
See also: WW3 REPORT #62
2. MORE PAKISTANIS FLEE TO CANADIAN BORDER AS REGISTRATION DEADLINE APPROACHES
With the registration deadline for Pakistanis and Saudi Arabians extended to March 21, many Pakistanis from the New York area continue to flee towards the US-Canada border to seek asylum in Canada. For the last two months, Canada's Department of Citizenship and Immigrantion has been turning asylum seekers away at the border and asking them to return weeks later on a scheduled date. Previously, asylum seekers to Canada were never turned away, especially if they faced arrest on their re-entry to the US. Nearly 200 men turned away at the LaColle border crossing south of Toronto were arrested and some were even deported.
Temporary shelters have been set up by non-profit agencies in and around Buffalo, NY, Detroit, MI and in Vermont. Vermont Refugee Assistance--an agency which provides legal advice for refugees--has housed 200 Pakistanis over the last six weeks and is quickly running out of space. Vive La Casa, a Buffalo-based shelter has registered 541 Pakistanis since December and is currently at its full capacity of 118, 60 per cent of whom are Pakistani. Elizabeth Woike, Vive La Casa's Director told Buffalo Times, "These are the largest numbers we've ever had of people heading to Canada. We have 800 people who are waiting for appointments at the Canadian border."
In January and February 2003, nearly 2,000 people sought refugee status at the Ontario border and more than half of them have been Pakistani. 641 of the 1,027 people who filed refugee claims in Quebec this year are Pakistani. Canadian Immigration has granted refugee status to only 54% of the 3,884 applications filed last year by Pakistanis. These people now live in refugee shelters in Montreal and Toronto, awaiting their work permits. (Toronto Globe and Mail, March 15; Buffalo Times, March 7) (Subuhi Jiwani)
See also: WW3 REPORT #69
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