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ISSUE: 92, September 2003

PIPELINE PROTESTS ROCK PERUVIAN AMAZON
by Bill Weinberg, Oct. 31

HOW THE ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT IS BLOWING IT: REVISITED Oct. 29

PLAN COLOMBIA MILITARIZES PERUVIAN AMAZON
Oct. 17

COLOMBIA: NASA INDIANS CAUGHT IN CROSSFIRE
Photo essay by Maria Anguera de Sojo

INDIGENOUS ECUADOR MEETS MEETS THE NEW BOSS

CANCUN: GLOBOPHOBES KICK CORPORATE ASS!
Photo essay by Orin Langelle

CHILEANS REMEMBER SEPT. 11--1973

HAITI: TERROR WAR NEW COVER FOR RACIST IMMIGRATION POLICY

THE REAL CULPRIT IN NORTHEAST BLACKOUT: DEREGULATION

COST OF IRAQ WAR: $72,065,800,000 AND COUNTING

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."

President Dwight D. Eisenhower
April 16, 1953

CURRENT HOMELAND SECURITY COLOR ADVISORY CODE: YELLOW

By Bill Weinberg
with David Bloom, Wynde Priddy, and Soren Ambrose, Special Correspondents
Photos by Maria Anguera de Sojo, Andrew Epstein and Orin Langelle





THE IRAQ FRONT
1. Cost of War
2. Halliburton War Profiteering Under Fire
3. Chaotic Violence Spreads
4. Israeli Pipeline Conspiracy Advances
5. Sham Election in Tikrit
6. Kurd-Turkmen Violence Escalates
7. Turkey's Kurds March for Peace
8. US Crackdown on "Human Shields"
9. CO Funk Gets Six Months
10. Latin America Provides Cannon Fodder for Occupation

THE PALESTINE FRONT
1. Israel Keeps Building in Territories, Violating Roadmap
2. Maariv: Sharon Desperate to Settle Jordan Valley
3. Kach Summer Camp Recruits "Hilltop Youth"
4. Israeli Border Police Force Palestinian to Fuck Donkey
5. Israeli Troop Accused of Forcing Palestinian to Drink Toxic Fluid
6. Sadistic Israeli Officer Gets Slap on Wrist
7. Israeli Rights Group Claims Widespread Torture by Shabak
8. Palestinians Describe Prison Abuse
9. Israeli Soldiers Staged Mock Execution
10. Jewish Terror Cell Indicted for Killing 8 Palestinians

THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. NATO Takes Over as Taliban Resistance Grows
2. Central Government Still Largely a Fiction
3. 30 Suicide Attempts at Gitmo

THE CAUCASUS FRONT
1. Chechnya War Spreads North

THE SUBCONTINENT
1. Bombay Bombings Escalate Indo-Pakistani Tensions
2. US Maneuvers in Kashmir
3. Separatist Violence Rocks Northeast India
4. Nepalese March for Peace

SOUTHEAST ASIA
1. Terror in Jakarta
2. Billy Nessen Free; Aceh Bloodbath Continues
3. Ethnic Warfare in Laos?

THE AFRICAN FRONT
1. Oil Wars Rage in Niger Delta
2. Timber Wars Rock Liberia
3. Glimmers of Hope in Congo...
4. ...As Ituri Bloodshed Continues

THE ANDEAN FRONT
1. Rumsfeld Does Bogota
2. US-Aided Flight Shoot-Downs to Resume
3. "Plan Colombia II"
4. Uribe: No More Pussyfooting
5. Uribe Disses Human Rights Groups
6. Washington-Bogota Accord on War Crimes Court
7. Colombian Army Declares War on Euphemism
8. Colombian Mayoral Candidates Threatened
9. US Trains Colombia Anti-Kidnapping Unit
10. Para Civil War in Colombia?
11. Crackdown on Medellin Paras?
12. Paramilitary Demobilization?
13. US State Department: Yes, Negotiate With Terrorists!
14. Southern Command "Moderately Optimistic"
15. Fumigation Figures Released
16. Colombian Air Force Chief Resigns Under Fire
17. FARC-ELN "Fusion"
18. Clueless Tourists Oblivious to Colombia War
19. Student Strike in Popayan
20. Ecuador: Workers, Indigenous Protest
21. Ecuador: Ex-President Flees
22. Ecuador: Army-FARC Collaboration?
23. Peru Truth Commission Doubles Death Estimate
24. Sendero Slavery in Peru?
25. Bolivia: Protests Swell
26. Chileans Remember Sept. 11--1973
27. Argentina: Iranian Arrested in Jewish Center Attack
28. Argentina: "Dirty War" Immunity Lifted

CENTRAL AMERICA
1. Guatemala Opens Borders to US Anti-Drug Forces
2. Honduras: Rumsfeld Proposes New Bases
3. Honduras: Thousands Protest IMF Measures
4. Honduras: Indigenous Protest Water Law

MEXICO
1. Zapatistas Inaugurate New Rebel Government
2. Students Clash With Police in Chiapas
3. Rural Disputes Continue in Chiapas
4. Unions Support Indigenous Autonomy
5. Amnesty International Protests Ruling on Digna Ochoa
6. More Campesino Leaders Assassinated
7. UN Complaint Filed Against Puebla-Panama Plan

WATCHING THE SHADOWS
1. Halliburton in the News
2. Poindexter Ditches DARPA
3. The Real Culprit in Northeast Blackout: Deregulation



THE IRAQ FRONT

1. COST OF WAR
The web site Cost of War is maintaining an ongoing count of the costs of the Iraq campaign to the US tax-payer. At press time, it stood at $72,065,800,000, but it is rising fast, so log on and check it out. The figure total is based on estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that if US troop levels in the Persian Gulf region remain at the current 180,000, the Iraq campaign will cost $29 billion per year. (AP, Sept. 3) Since 9-11, Congress has approved $93 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and President Bush is asking for an additional $65.5 billion for the Pentagon next year. (AP, Sept. 10) [top]

2. HALLIBURTON WAR PROFITEERING UNDER FIRE
Reports the public advocacy group Common Cause: "In what may be the most egregious recent example of unchecked spending, Halliburton, Inc. (Vice President Cheney's former company) is making close to $2 billion for the rebuilding of Iraq, hundreds of millions more than we were first told... We ask you to express your outrage to Vice President Cheney about the LACK OF AN OPEN BIDDING PROCESS in awarding some of these contracts to Halliburton and the SECRECY ABOUT THE ACTUAL COSTS that taxpayers are being asked to pay for their services. Ask him why one-third of the $1 billion per week spent on keeping our troops in Iraq is going to private contractors like Halliburton...

"First we find out in February that HALLIBURTON got a $37.5 million contract from the Army Corps of Engineers. Now, six months later, we learn that Halliburton really has contracts worth OVER $1.7 BILLION under 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' and that it stands to make hundreds of millions more from another 'no-bid' contract with the Army Corps of Engineers. Why is Halliburton still the only company benefiting from a contract worth up to $7 billion despite promises to create a competitive bidding process? Are Halliburton's connections to Vice President Cheney influencing decisions about who gets Defense contracts? A spokesperson for Halliburton says that suggestions of war profiteering are an 'affront' to its employees. Common Cause thinks these shadowy back-room deals, with well-connected political contributors, are an "affront" to the American public."

For more information see the Aug. 27 Washington Post

To plug into the Common Cause campaign for Halliburton accountability

See also: HALLIBURTON IN THE NEWS, under WATCHING THE SHADOWS, this issue [top]

3. CHAOTIC VIOLENCE SPREADS
Bloody resistance to the US occupation is growing in Iraq--both in the form of spectacular terrorist attacks and nearly daily armed skirmishes. Ethnic and religious violence are also increasing. And US moves to crack down only seem to be fueling popular anger.

On Aug. 5, US troops from the 3rd Armored Regiment raided homes and detained dozens in the Fallujah-Ramada "Sunni Triangle," a stronghold f resistance. 70-year-old famrer Hamad Antar was killed, and his three sons wounded, as US troops fired on his car. (Reuters, Aug. 5)

On Aug. 7, a truck bomb left left 17 dead at the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad. (Reuters, Aug. 9) Two days later, British troops clashed with protesters in Basra. One Iraqi and one British Gurkha troops were killed in Basra street clashes. (Reuters, Aug. 10)

Aug. 12, a burning oil pipeline near Baghdad sent flames hundreds of feet into the air, while US occupation authorities said they were uncertain if the cause was sabotage. That day, a US troop was killed and two wounded as a military convoy triggered a wire-controlled bomb. Another two US troops were killed in a Mosul traffic accident. (AP, Aug. 12) Aug. 16, a Danish soldier was killed as he tried to stop looting at power lines in south Iraq. (Reuters, Aug. 17)

Aug. 17, a US troop from the 1st Armored Division was killed in an attack with an explosive device in Baghdad, while two more were wounded in a grenade attack on a convoy near Tikrit. US occupation administator Paul Bremer admitted that attacks on oil and other infrastructure are slowing US rebuilding efforts. A suspicious fire was reported raging on the main pipeline to Turkey. (AP, Aug. 18)

Aug. 18, Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana was shot dead as he filed outside a US-run prison--making him the second Reuters cameraman killed by US forces in Iraq. (Reuters, Aug. 18) That day also saw the death of the first Spanish troop in combat in Iraq. (Reuters, Aug. 18)

Also Aug. 18, a dramatic truck-bomb attack during a press conference at the UN's Baghdad headquarters left distinguished UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello dead--along with 16 others.

Aug. 29, a car bomb exploded at the Imam Ali mosque during Friday prayers in Najaf, killing 75--including one of Iraq's most important Shiite clerics, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, 64, who had just delivered a sermon calling for Iraqi unity. Both al-Hakim supporters and figures in the US-backed interim government blamed Saddam loyalists. The mosque, an important Shiite shrine, appeared to have suffered only minor damage, with some mosaic tiles blown off. Ayatollah al-Hakim was the spiritual leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. His brother Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim is leader of the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and a fellow member of the US-picked interim government. (AP, Aug. 29) 100,000 Shiites marched in Najaf for the Ayatollah`s funeral. (CNN, Sept. 3)

Sept. 2, a car bomb attack on Baghdad's police headquarters killed one Iraqi officer and wounded 15 more. (Reuters, Sept. 2)

Sept. 7, two missiles were fired at a US transport plane in Baghdad hours before US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld flew out of Iraq following his first visit to the country since its "liberation." (Reuters, Sept. 7)

Sept. 8, the Jabour-Kirkuk pipeline was shut down after an attack left a section in flames. Paul Bremer admitted that Iraq is losing $7 million per day in lost oil exports to Turkey. (AP, Sept. 8) The UK announced it was sending 1,200 more troops to Iraq. (AP, Sept. 8)

Sept. 9, a car bomb attack on the police headquarters in Basra killed one Iraqi officer and wounded 15 more. (Reuters, Sept. 9)

Sept. 10, a suicide car bomb left three Iraqis dead in an attack on the US intelligence headquaters in Irbil. (AP, Sept. 10)

Sept. 11, a convoy of the US 3rd Armored Cavalry Division was attacked by rocket-propelled grenades in Fallujah, sparking a fierce firefight in which one US troop was wounded. (AP, Sept. 11)

Sept. 12, US troops killed eight US-trained Iraqi guards and a Jordanian in a "friendly fire" incident in Fallujah. (Reuters, Sept. 12)

According to an Aug. 18 AP report, the collapse of Iraq's irrigation system has resulted in a poor date harvest, just one-third the usual size.

On Sept. 16, a voice purported to be that of Saddam Hussein was heard in a new audiotape, with a special message for the US: "Leave the country as fast as possible and without conditions." (AP, Sept. 17) [top]

4. ISRAEL PIPELINE CONSPIRACY ADVANCES
Israeli infrastructure minister Yosef Paritzky told Army Radio he was invited by the US to develop a proposal for a Kirkuk-Haifa oil pipeline. "I intend to examine the idea of an oil pipe, but the contacts are only preliminary," Paritzky told the station. The U.S. request followed Paritzky's demand in March this year to examine the possibility of renewing the transfer of oil from Iraq to Israel, according to Haaretz.

The pipeline transferring oil from Iraq to refineries in Haifa was shut down after the 1948 war, and the oil was thereafter piped to the Mediterranean through Syria. There have been several efforts to renew the line's operation in Haifa, the last one during the Iran-Iraq war, after the Gulf was closed to Iraqi tankers, and after Syria agreed to Iran's request to block the land pipe that transported Iraqi oil to the west. Then-prime minister Yitzhak Shamir offered Iraq to renew the activity of the old pipeline and transfer the oil to Haifa. (Haaretz, Aug. 24)

See also WW3 REPORT 83 [top]

5. SHAM ELECTION IN TIKRIT
Iraqis hand-chosen by US occupation authorites elected an interim council for ousted President Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit in a ballot hailed by the US as a step toward democracy and assailed by critics as a charade. Participants and results were vetted by US officers and a US-appointed governor retains ultimate decision-making power. Before the voting in a palace on the banks of the Tigris, Apache helicopters fired onto a river island at men suspected of mounting mortar sites to target the delegates and their US supervisors, a Pentagon source said. (Reuters, Sept. 15) [top]

6. KURD-TURKMEN VIOLENCE ESCALATES
An ethnic feud between Kurds and Turkmen over a religious shrine in northern Iraq`s Tuz Khurmatu escalated into riots in which eight people were killed Aug. 22, while three others were slain two days later in Kirkuk. The violence in Tuz Khurmatu started when a group of Turkmen Shiites began to march to the shrine of Imam Ali Zein Abeddine, one of their most revered holy men. The domed shrine had been destroyed during the Hussein dictatorship. Townspeople rebuilt it after the Iraqi leader was deposed, and were celebrating its inauguration Aug. 21. The Turkmen procession apparently encountered hostile Sunni Kurds, who are Sunni Muslims, and exchanged insults with them. Overnight, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the shrine's dome, caving it in. The next morning, enraged Turkmens marched through town. Gunfire broke out, and US armored vehicles and helicopters attached to the 173 Airborne Brigade fought off the rioters, according to US officials. The primary source of the tension is said to be a Kurd-Turkman struggle over the administration of Tuz Khurmatu. Two days later in Kirkuk, Turkmens marched on the heavily fortified mayor's office. Shooting broke out, and the Turkmens burned a police station as well as a Kurdish flag. US troops guarding city hall intervened. (Washington Post, Aug. 24) [top]

7. TURKEY`S KURDS MARCH FOR PEACE
Over 10,000 Kurds, many chanting "Peace!" rallied Sept. 1 in Diyarbakir, urging the Turkish government to make peace with Kurdish guerillas. The guerillas, meanwhile, declared an end to their unilateral cease-fire, but insisted they will pursue peace if the government responds to their calls for a cease-fire. "It will be up to the Turkish government to make the decision for peace or war," the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was quoted by the Germany-based Mesopotamian news agency. Turkey does not recognize its estimated 12 million Kurds as an official minority. The guerillas fought for 15 years before declaring a unilateral cease-fire in 1999. Some 37,000 people have been killed in the fighting. Rejecting guerillas calls for a cease-fire, the Turkish army has continued its hunt for rebel fighters. Imprisoned Kurdish guerilla leader Abdullah Ocalan was quoted as warning from his prison cell that he will not urge the rebels, who now go by the name KADEK, to hold their fire. "Those who insist on war should know that we will come to the same point," Ocalan was quoted by the Germany-based pro-Kurdish Ozgur Politika newspaper. (AP, Sept. 1) [top]

8. U.S. CRACKDOWN ON "HUMAN SHIELDS"
Retired schoolteacher Faith Fippinger of Sarasota, FLA, was fined $10,000 by the US government for travelling to Iraq as a "human shield." She says she will refuse to pay, and may face 12 years in prison. (AP, Aug. 11) [top]

9. C.O. FUNK GETS SIX MONTHS
Stephen Funk, 21, received a six-month sentencee from a military court Sept. 8. He was the first of 28 Marine conscientious objectors who refused mobilization to Iraq, and the only one to face prosecution. The military says he was the only one prosecuted because he was the only one who actually deserted. He also told the military he was gay, but the presiding military judge forbade that from being an issue in his court martial. (Democracy Now, Sept. 9) [top]

10. LATIN AMERICA PROVIDES CANNON FODDER FOR OCCUPATION
The Spanish-commanded Plus Ultra Brigade, including 238 troops from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, left Spain's Zaragoza air base for Iraq Aug. 19. They will be stationed in the southern cities of Qadisiya and Najaf, a secor commanded by the Polish military. (EFE, Aug. 20)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 24 [top]

THE PALESTINE FRONT

1. ISRAEL KEEPS BUILDING IN TERRITORIES, VIOLATING ROADMAP
On Sept. 4, the Israeli Ministry of Housing and Construction issued a tender for 102 new housing units in the Jewish-only settlement of Efrat, located between Jerusalem and Bethlehem in the Gush Etzion bloc. According to the anti-settlement group Peace Now, Israel is effectively announcing the death of the "Road Map." according to the "Road Map," by the end of May 2003 Israel was to have frozen "all settlement activity (including the natural growth of settlements)." But this was not to be the case.

A mid-July decision to issue a tender for 22 new units to be built at the settlement of Neve Dekalim in the Gaza Strip drew an equivocal response from the US State Department at the time. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said there were "very involved aspects" to the issue, but that US policy did call for a freeze. (Ha'aretz, Sept. 4)

According the settler news site ArutzSheva.com, on Aug. 29, the West Bank settlement of Kedumim continues to expand. A new "neighborhood" [read: outpost] of the settlement, to be called Mitzpeh Yishai, was recently officially dedicated.

Arutz Sheva explains that "what makes this neighborhood unique is that most of Kedumim, located north of Ariel and west of Shechem, lies on the northern side of the highway, while Mitzpeh Yishai is on the south side. The new neighborhood joins Har Ephraim Yeshiva High School in extending Kedumim across the highway." Mitzpeh Yishai already has 30 housing units occupied, another 70 under construction, and "another 400 are in the planning stages."

Kedumim Mayor Daniella Weiss, desribed by Arutz Sheva as "one of the most veteran Yesha pioneers," credits a recent government policy instituted by hard-line Housing Minister and settler Effi Eitam granting subsidies "to those purchasing apartments in national-priority areas" with increased sales of housing units in Kedumim. (Arutz Sheva, Aug. 29) (NOTE: "Yesha" settler Hebrew acronym for the occupied territories, standing for Judea, Samaria, and Gaza)

While in the West Bank recently, WW3 REPORT visited the settlement of Zufim. Zufim is planning to expand 1,000 housing units northward onto land already seized from the Palestinian town of Jayyous for "security" reasons. This in spite of the fact that only 220 of 1,000 units already built are currently occupied. Since January, the number of signs advertising houses in settlements along the sides of settler-only roads in the West Bank has mushroomed. It's pretty clear there are a dearth of customers for houses already built in the settlements. All throughout the "northern Samaria" region of the West Bank, WW3 REPORT saw large swaths of empty settlement. In addition, a recent poll by Peace Now indicated that 83% of settlers would leave the territories and move back to Israel immediately if the Israeli government would subsidize their relocation. (David Bloom) [top]

2. MAARIV: SHARON DESPERATE TO SETTLE JORDAN VALLEY
An Aug. 7 article in the Israeli daily Ma'ariv shows the measures Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is willing to take in order to convince young Israelis to settle in the sparsely-populated and isolated Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley:

"Sharon wants to encourage settling in the Jordan valley and offers those who go there a free apartment. The Office of the Prime Minister is seeking to allocate 400 ml shekels to expand settlement in the Jordan valley. Today 6,000 Israelis live in the Jordan valley.

"Young newly-weds who will make a commitment to live in the Jordan valley for at least 4 years will get a free apartment, one full scholarship for academic studies and if one of them works in the valley, also an annual stipend of 12,000 shekels.

"In addition, the Office of the Prime Minister asked government offices to take part in developing the area. For example, the Finance Ministry was asked to give 15% income tax deduction for the residents, the Tourism Ministry was asked to create tourist attractions in the area, and the Education Ministry was asked to empower the college in Ariel.

"'We hope to reach 10,000 residents in a couple of years, but we are aware it is highly ambitious,' says a high-ranking source in the Prime Minister Office.

"The program has not yet been submitted to the government for ratification."

(Trans.- Nirit Ben-ari)(Maariv, August 7) [top]

3. KACH SUMMER CAMP RECRUITS "HILLTOP YOUTH"
A series of summer camps for ultra-right-wing youth has been held this summer to recruit for the "hilltop youth" movement, which has become the vanguard of the settlement movement. The camps, in which seven groups of 25 young people participated, were run by Metzudat Yehuda [Fortress of Judea], an organization which includes the Kahane Lives and Kach movements. The camps were set up in two parts of the West Bank, one in the north and one in the south. The participants, mostly boys aged 14-18, came from inside the Green Line, not from settlements. They were instructed on how to answer questions when being interrogated by the Shin Bet security service, taught self-defense techniques, and spent time helping out in outposts, to prepare for joining outposts themselves someday. They were lectured by ultra-right rabbis and taught how to become shepherds. Hilltop youth use sheep herding to take control of land surrounding outposts. Metzudat Yehuda leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, a former Kach activist, told Ha'aretz, "we have internalized the fact that the central struggle against the Palestinians now is the fight over the land and the hills, and we are acting accordingly." Some of the youths attending the camp clashed with Palestinian boys tending sheep during the last camp. (Ha'aretz, Aug. 21)(David Bloom) [top]

4. ISRAELI BORDER POLICE FORCE PALESTINIAN TO FUCK DONKEY
According to an article in Al-Jazeera, three months prior to its publication date of Aug. 29, two Israeli Druze border police forced a Palestinian villager to have sex with his donkey. The incident occurred in Baqa al-Sharqiya, north of Tul Karm. The victim, a shepard named Nazhi Salah, 24, was forced to dismount from his donkey by the police. The police removed the donkey's saddle and put it on Salah's back, explaining, "you are the donkey now." They then ordered Salah to have sex with his donkey. Salah replied that he could not. The police then held a gun to Salah's head and threatened to kill him if he didn't comply, so he did. There were several witnesses to the abuse, and the incident was confirmed by a major Israeli newspaper and WW3 REPORT sources. (Al-Jazeera, Aug. 29)(David Bloom) [top]

5. SOLDIER ACCUSED OF FORCING PALESTINIAN TO DRINK TOXIC FLUID
A female Israeli soldier has been indicted by an Israeli military court for allegedly coercing a Palestinian woman at a Gaza checkpoint to drink cleaning fluid. According to the military prosecutor, the incident occurred in February, at the Tufah junction checkpoint between the Gaza Strip city of Khan Yunis and the Gush Katif bloc of Jewish settlements. The indicted soldier pointed her comrade's M-16 assault rifle at the Palestinian woman's head and chest, and then demanded that the woman drink the contents of a bottle the woman held in her hand. The soldier also forced the bottle further into the woman's mouth. The bottle contained a chemical used to dry fiberglass. As a result of consuming the liquid, the victim "became feverish and her body began to shake. She vomited, suffered serious pains, and her mouth and esophagus were severely burned before she was evacuate to hospital," according to Ha'aretz.

According to the soldier's attorney, she asked the woman what was in the bottle, and she replied it contained water. The soldier ordered the woman to drink the fluid to prove it was water, and she refused. It was only then she compelled the woman to drink, the soldier claimed. Her attorney added that the soldier "acted according to her authority and duty based on precise warnings that terror organizations were intending to sneak poison into Israel for the purpose of mass terror attacks." Israeli military spokesman Capt. Jacob Dallal said the army believes the soldier is lying, and that she asked another soldier to lie about the incident as well. "In any case, forcing someone to drink at gunpoint is not appropriate and not lawful to do," Dallal pointed out.

The soldier's attorney said other soldiers would corroborate her client's story, and added, "It is strange that the military prosecution believes the reports of a Palestinian and not those of two of its soldiers, even after the accused successfully underwent a polygraph test." (Ha'aretz, June 22)(David Bloom) [top]

6. SADISTIC ISRAELI OFFICER GETS SLAP ON WRIST
An Israeli army officer convicted of abusing a Palestinian youth has been sentenced to several weeks of community service and demoted one rank from lieutenant colonel to major. Battalion commander Lt. Col. (res.) Geva Sagi is the highest-ranking Israeli army officer to be tried for abuse during the recent Intifada. During Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002, he ordered a Palestinian youth stripped, held a piece of flaming paper near his genitals, and tried to insert a bottle into his anus. Sagi also used a Senegalese housemaid as a "human shield" during the search of a Palestinian home. Although the military court described Sagi's behavior as "ugly, wrong and forbidden," it took into account character witnesses from the army who described him as a "decent, moral" person, and concluded his actions were counter-balanced by his contributions as a "dedicated, professional" reserve officer . (Ha'aretz, Sept. 4)(David Bloom)

See also: WW3 REPORTs # 45, 51, & 52 [top]

7. ISRAELI RIGHTS GROUP CLAIMS WIDESPREAD TORTURE BY SHABAK
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) claimed in a Sept. 3 press release that there is "considerable use of means of torture and ill treatment" of Palestinian detainees during interrogations performed by Israel's General Security Services (GSS), also known by its Hebrew acronym, Shabak. The report claims the practice continues despite an Israeli High Court of Justice ruling in 1999 forbidding the use torture during investigations, except in the case of "ticking bombs"--detainees with information concerning pending attacks. PCATI notes that the "necessity defense" is always permitted by the Israeli Attorney general. PCATI states that during the first half of 2003, "hundreds of Palestinians were subjected to one degree or another of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment at the hands of the GSS. By way of comparison - in September 2001 PCATI estimated that the total number of detainees being subjected to torture and other forms of ill treatment reached 'only' dozens." The organization also notes that "58% of the interrogees were exposed to direct violence, including beatings, slapping, kicking, bending and placing in other painful positions, intentional tightening of shackles, and shaking, that 52% of interrogees were deprived of sleep and that 79% were subject to cursing, threats and humiliation ." (PCATI press release, Sept. 3)(David Bloom) [top]

8. PALESTINIANS DESCRIBE PRISON ABUSE
Several Palestinians described to WW3 REPORT abuse at the hands of Israeli Security forces in prisons. The following stories are commonplace in Palestine:

A young man named Mohammed described how was snatched by Israeli forces while watching a demonstration at Annajah University in Nablus. The Israelis took him to a prison and strapped him into an metal chair a few sizes too small, blindfolded, for a long period. They let him go to the bathroom only once every three days. After he was released into the general prison population, he learned that he was strapped to the chair for 72 days. He never confessed to anything. His jailers seemed to agree finally he wasn't "guilty" of anything, but they still kept him in jail for another 17 months, claiming it was for his own good, to "keep him out of danger." His brother was also seized in another demonstration while taking photographs. He was beaten badly, including around his eyes, for seven hours. His back hurts him now, especially when the weather is cold. Muhammed from Tul Karm told WW3 REPORT how Israeli forces abducted him from his bed in 1995. His crime: he was an excellent student, and in tactics left over from the first Intifada, the Israelis targeted good pupils for abuse. Mohammed spent 21 days in a dark cell with small mattresses. Occasionally a trapdoor in the ceiling of the cell was slipped back for his jailers to drop in a fine yellow powder. It was some kind of intense irritant. The prisoners kept their heads wrapped in whatever they could to avoid contact with it. If any of it got on their skin, it burned for a long time. (David Bloom) [top]

9. ISRAELI SOLDIERS STAGED MOCK EXECUTION
During April 2002's Operation Defensive Shield, Israeli soldiers staged a mock execution of a Palestinian prisoner to coerce information out of his colleagues about hidden weapons. The details of the event ememrged during the recent trial of Lt. Col. Guy Sagi.

Three reservists who had arrested three Palestinians a few days earlier took part in the staged execution. The soldiers questioned the Palestinians about hidden weapons. When they refused to respond, one of the Palestinians was taken behind an armored vehicle, and shots were fired in the air. The soldiers returned and asked the remaining two Palestinians, "so, who's next?" The Palestinians then told the soldiers where they could find the weapons. (Haartez, Sept. 12)(David Bloom) [top]

10. JEWISH TERROR CELL INDICTED FOR KILLING 8 PALESTINIANS
Three members of a Jewish terror cell have been indicted in Jerusalem District Court for the death of eight Palestinians, including a baby, in a number of attacks. Israeli police uncovered a weapons cache in a cave near the Jewish settlement outpost Adei Ad in the West Bank. The weapons included M16s, anti-tank missiles, machine guns and dozens of grenades. Ballistics tests matched rifles stolen from soldiers sent to protect Jewish settlements in the West Bank to previous attacks on Palestinians. One of the indicted three is Yitzak Pass, whose daughter Shelhavet was one of the youngest victims of the past three years of violence. She was killed by a sniper in Hebron on March 26, 2001. An additional nine alleged members of the cell were recently released by Israel for lack of evidence. (Ha'aretz, Sept. 19; AP, Sept. 19; Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 26, 2001) [top]

THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT

1. NATO TAKES OVER AS TALIBAN RESISTANCE GROWS
In its first mission outside Europe, NATO has taken command of the 5,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. The bulk of the troops currently come from Germany and the Netherlands, who jointly lead the force. The UK and Turkey previously led the force in a six-month rotation. Non-NATO countries can also participate, under NATO command. (AP, Aug. 9)

The new command comes at a time of escalating attacks by Taliban guerillas and al-Qaeda remnant forces. In Pakistan's The News, Taliban leader Mohammed Amin pledged to open a northern front in the guerilla war, stating that Mullah Mohammed Asim Muttaqi has been appointed military commander for northern Faryab province. Over 100 Afghan troops and civilians have been killed in attacks attributed to Taliban/al-Qaeda so far this year. (Reuters, Aug. 10) Taliban riads on police stations in the south left many dead or captive in mid-August. (AP, Aug. 18) [top]

2. CENTRAL GOVERNMENT STILL LARGELY A FICTION
Outside of Kabul, the only presence of Afghan's central government is regional militias which have ostensibly been integrated into a national army, but in fact remain violently divided by ethnic and religious turf wars. In northern Faryab province, Deputy Defence Minister and regional Uzbek warlord Gen. Rashid Dostum was charged with collecting excess arms from Farouq Khan, commander of the 24th Division (previously the Jamiat-i-Islami militia, bitter rival of Dostum's Junbish militia). But Khan's troops resisted disarmament, with the leader's encouragement, resulting in clashes that left several dead. 13 of Dostum's troops were also killed in motor accident while collecting arms from tribal militas. (Reuters, Aug. 5) On Aug. 13, 60 were reported dead in one day in Afghan violence--including 25 in faction fighting in Uruzgan province, and 15 in a bus blast in Helmand, said to be the work of Taliban/al-Qaeda. (AP, Aug. 14) [top]

3. 30 SUICIDE ATTEMPTS AT GITMO
Yet another suicide attempt at the Pentagon's prison for terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, brought the number of suicide attempts to 30 since the high-security prison was opened in January 2002, Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Barbara Burfeind said. (AP, Aug. 14) [top]

THE CAUCASUS FRONT

1. CHECHNYA WAR SPREADS NORTH
An Aug. 1 suice truck-bomb attack on a military hospital in North Ossetia left 50 dead. Russian authorities blamed Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev. Over 150 were reported dead in attacks in Russian-occupied Chechnya and southern Russia since May. (AP, Aug. 4) Days after the suicide attack, six Russian troops were killed in an ambush near the Chechen border. Moscow is calling for Oct. 5 elections for a new Chechen leader to undermine fugitive president Aslan Maskhadov, elected in 1997 during Chcehnya's three years of de facto independence. (Reuters, Aug. 8) On Sept. 3, bombs exploded under a commuter train in southern Russia's Rostov-on-Don, killing four and wounding dozens in another attack attributed to Chcechen rebels. (AP, Sept. 3) [top]

THE SUBCONTINENT

1. BOMBAY BOMBINGS ESCALATE INDO-PAKISTANI TENSIONS
India blamed Lashkar-i-Taiba, a Pakistan-based Islamist group, for a car bomb attack that killed nearly 50 people in Bombay Aug. 25. L.K. Advani, deputy prime minister, said the group, which also was believed to have been responsible for a suicide attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001, was attempting to "[destabilize] every part" of the country. He called on Pakistan, which condemned the incident, to hand over 20 alleged terrorists, including five who are believed to be responsible for earlier attacks in Bombay. "Only then can we believe that they [the Pakistani authorities] meant what they said yesterday when they condemned the attacks," Advani said. (Financial Times, Aug. 27) [top]

2. US MANEUVERS IN KASHMIR
A contingent of US Special Forces carried out joint exercizes with Indian troops in Ladakh, a mountainous region of conflicted Jammu and Kashmir state. (Reuters, Sept. 8) Over 90 have been killed (including 33 civilians) and over 100 wounded in a new wave of attacks by Islamic separatist guerillas in Kashmir since Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited the state in August to propose a new peace initiative. (AP, Sept. 9) [top]

3. SEPARATIST VIOLENCE ROCKS NORTHEAST INDIA
On Aug. 14, separatists blew up a bus on a highway in northeast India's Manipur state, leaving six dead. The bomb was placed under a bridge and detonated as the bus passed. The previous day, suspected separatist rebels fired into a crowded market in Jubotara, Tripura state, leaving two dead. Over 30 rebel militias are said to be active in India's northeast, and 11 such groups had issued a jiont statement calling for a strike on India's independence day, Aug. 15. Separtists protest that profits from oil, mineral and timber exploitation in the region are not returned to the local populace. (AP, Aug. 14) [top]

4. NEPALESE MARCH FOR PEACE
Thousands marched in Kathmandu Aug. 29 to press the Nepalese government and Maoist guerillas to resume peace talks, just days after the insurgents announced an end to a truce. Over 10,000--including school children and their teachers--began a five-km silent march after offering prayers at the Martyrs' Memorial in the heart of the city. The Maoist chief, known only as Prachanda, said two days earlier that the guerrillas are abandoning a seven-month truce and breaking off peace talks after the government refused their demands for a new constitution to limit the power of the king. Over 7,200 have been killed in the revolt, that began in 1996. While the government has asked the rebels to resume talks, it has also declared them "terrorists"--a move which gives sweeping search and detention powers to the army and paramilitary forces. (Reuters, Aug. 29)

On Sept. 8, six bomb exploded in Kathmandu, killing a 12-year-old boy and wounding 12 more. Fierce fighting was also reported in the countryside. (Reuters, Sept. 8) [top]

SOUTHEAST ASIA

1. TERROR IN JAKARTA
An apparent suicide bomb at the Jakarta Marriott left 13 dead Aug. 5. Nobody claimed responsibility, but the attack came as Jemaah Islamiyah leaders face charges for last October's terror attack on a Bali nightclub. (AP, Aug. 5) Days after the attack, the supposed Jemaah Islamiyah leader known as Hambail was arrested in Thailand. (Newsweek, Sept. 1) [top]

2. BILLY NESSEN FREE; ACEH BLOODBATH CONTINUES
US freelance journalist Billy Nessen, arrested by the Indonesian military June 24, was freed Aug. 3. He was initially detained for having "reported without informing authorities" in Aceh, where the army is fighting the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels. His sentence was reduced to one month and 10 days on immigration charges. Nessen didn't appeal, and was released to head to Jakarta. (SF IMC, Aug. 5) Meanwhile, the bloodbath in Aceh continues. The Indonesian government claims 677 rebels have been killed and 1,400 captured since the offensive began in May, but critics say many of these are simply members of the civil population. (AP, Aug. 14)

See also WW3 REPORT 91 [top]

3. ETHNIC WARFARE IN LAOS?
Unidentified gunmen ambushed a bus in northern Laos, killing five passengers and wounding over 10 others. National Lao Radio said police shot dead five gunmen after the attack on the bus running between Xam Nua and Viangxai. Several gunmen escaped into the jungle. The radio, monitored by Rueters from Bangkok, said police believed the attack was sparked by a business conflict. But an Asian diplomat in the Lao capital, Vientiane, told Reuters the assailants could have been opium growers forced out of business by state-enforced relocations. "They have been forced to relocate from the hills to the lower land and ordered to replace opium cultivation with other crops," said the anonymous diplomat. "But the lack of water and irrigation system put them in poverty and could have forced them to rob." There have been a string of bus attacks in northern Laos this year. In April, at least 12 people were killed and dozens wounded when gunmen attacked a bus between the tourist town of Luang Prabang and Vientiane. Ten people, including two Swiss tourists, were killed when gunmen attacked a bus in the same area in February. On Aug. 4, a bomb exploded in a busy market in Vientiane, wounded 10, including three children.

A Communist government has ruled Laos since 1975 and there have been sporadic attacks since then on official buildings and spots popular with foreigners by anti-government groups, believed to be ethnic minority Hmong guerrillas. The Hmong fought alongside the US against Communist forces during the war in the 1960s and early '70s. (Reuters, Aug. 26) [top]

THE AFRICAN FRONT

1. OIL WARS RAGE IN NIGER DELTA
Nigeria and Ivory Coast have united to end the crude oil theft and smuggling operations that are fuelling turmoil in the battle-torn Niger-Delta. Nigerian officials maintain that Ivory Coast`s state-owned refinery purchases crude oil from pirates working in the Niger Delta fields who steal oil from pipelines and wells. Profits from the scam have paid for sophisticated weaponry that has found its way into the violent ethnic conflict in the Warri region.

The Ivory Coast government denies importing the "discounted crude," but oil industry officials estimate that over 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day are siphoned illegally from facilities in the Niger Delta. Only recently, the Delta State governor, James Ibori, disclosed that as much as 350,000 barrels per day is lost to crude oil theft.

The major oil company operating in the region, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), disclosed that it lost over 18 million barrels of crude oil in the first quarter of this year to theft and pipeline vandalizing. The company also closed its office in Warri and issued a stay-at-home directive to its workers.

Violence contiunues in the region between ethnic militants from the Ijaw and Itsekiri groups with the Nigerian army trying unsuccessfully to restore peace. According to an Aug. 22 report from Rueters, the Ijaw group claims that Nigerian President Obasanjo favors the opposing Itsekiri group in distribution of the oil wealth, and the resulting violence has left at least 50 people dead and over 5,000 people homeless in recent weeks. While extra troops and police are being sent to the area, fighting between ethnic militants and security forces in Warri continues. International traders are beginning to worry as similar clashes in March forced Chevron-Texaco and Shell to halt work, slashing the country's production by 40 percent. (Allafrica.com, Aug. 26) (Wynde Priddy) [top]

2. TIMBER WARS ROCK LIBERIA
The Liberian government warned Aug. 26 that the country's main rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) was advancing and had overtaken former president Charles Taylor's farm and the headquarters of his "anti-terrorist" unit in the rice fields about 80 miles east of the capital, Monrovia. After hearing gunfire, and fearing a new wave of fighting, thousands of civilians fled the area. One camp for internal refugees reported the arrival of nearly 6,000 people. But a LURD spokesman denied any new fighting and accused the Liberian government of intentionally intimidating people. (Washington Post, Aug. 27)

Nigeria-led West African "peacekeepers" entered Monrovia in early August, pledging to put an end to the violence which had left 2,000 dead in recent weeks, and much of the capital without food or water. (Reuters, Aug. 7)

The UN-mandated sanction on Liberian timber will continue, according to an Aug. 26 decision made by the Security Council. The sanctions went into effect July 7 and the UN says that timber revenues are being used to fuel the bloody conflict in Liberia. However, the Security Council agreed that as soon as the situation becomes more stable, it will consider ways to curtail the devastating economic impact of the sanctions. (Allafrica.com, August 26) (Wynde Priddy) [top]

3. GLIMMERS OF HOPE IN CONGO...
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) opened both its National Assembly and its Senate for the first time on Aug. 22. The new parliament will exist for two years, after which the DRC is expected to conduct the nation's first democratic elections in more than 40 years.

The meeting of the National Assembly of 500 members and the Senate of 120 members formalizes a peace accord among opposing forces in the country. The civil war, which has lasted almost five years, has seen the slaughter of between 3.3 and 4.7 million people.

The government will establish five civilian oversight bodies: a national human rights observatory; a high authority for media; a truth and reconciliation commission; and national elections council; and a commission for ethics and the fight against corruption. Several countries, among them the Netherlands and Belgium, have pledged financial support to the transitional government.

An agreement was also reached between the warring militias who have continued fighting in the northeastern province of Ituri. Meetings took place between 29 representatives from various militias, resulting in an agreement to work together and with the transitional government to restore state authority across the region.

The militias have agreed to integrate their respective troops into the national force in order to help police of the mineral rich Ituri region. With this support, President Joseph Kabila hopes to bring an end to the ongoing violence in Ituri. (NFTF.org, Aug. 25)(Wynde Priddy) [top]

4. ...AS ITURI BLOODSHED CONTINUES
On July 28, as violence contunued to escalate on the group in Congo's eastern Ituri region despite a new peace accord in the distant capital, Kinshasa, the UN Security Council voted to expand the Congo "peacekeeping" force from 8,700 to 10,800. The US was initially reluctant to approve the French-backed measure, but finally failed to block it. The rules of engagement are also broadened under the new mandate. Under the previous mandate, UN troops could only fire in self-defense. (AP, July 28)

The UN mission in Bunia, a principal town in Ituri, was the scene of a violent confrontation Sept. 16. UN officials say peacekeepers fired in the air to disperse protesters, but a spokesman for the Hema ethnic militia Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) told reporters that one man was killed and three wounded by UN troops. Also in Bunia, a UN helicopter fired on 10 guerillas in a pickup truck after they allegedly aimed their weapons at the Indian air force gunship. Two unidentified guerillas were wounded. (AP, Sept. 16)

See also WW3 REPORT 89 [top]

THE ANDEAN FRONT

1. RUMSFELD DOES BOGOTA
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Bogota Aug. 19 to meet with his Colombian counterpart Martha Lucia Ramirez. He pledged to improve technical cooperation, including streamlining the sharing of satellite data on guerilla positions with the Colombian military, and to provide training for a special jungle division. Said Ramirez: "The idea is to bring the war to the jungle... to arrive right in the heart of the encampments where they hide." 6,477 Colombian troops trained by US last year. (El Tiempo, Bogota, Aug. 17) [top]

2. U.S.-AIDED FLIGHT SHOOTDOWNS TO RESUME
While US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was in Bogota, the US government announced that drug interdiction flights could resume within 72 hours in Colombia, with US intelligence cooperation. The flights were suspended in Colombia and Peru in April 2001, after a Peruvian military plane accidentally shot down a civilian aircraft, killing a US missionary and her adopted infant daughter. The flight interdiction program, dubbed "US Airbridge Denial," has not yet been resumed in Peru.

The US role in the drug interdiction plan will consist of working closely with Colombian officials to identify suspect planes, and passing along coordinates from US and Colombian radar stations to Colombian crews flying Cessna Citation surveillance planes. The surveillance planes will then direct Colombian Air Force jets toward the suspect aircraft. The surveillance planes will have at least one bilingual observer, most likely from the US, to maintain contact with radar operators and Colombian Air Force commanders, US officials say. The pilots have also undergone extensive language training. (Language barriers are believed to have contributed to the April 2001 incident.)

The State Department has now taken over the US Airbridge Denial Program from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and has contracted with the Maryland-based aviation company ARINC to train Colombian pilots for the surveillance aircraft and other technicians. Previously, the work was conducted by the private firm DynCorp. Officials said orders to shoot down a plane could come only from Colombia's air force commander, Gen. Hector Fabio Velasco, and planes would have to be within Colombian airspace.

Jose Miguel Vivanco, director of the Americas division of Human Rights Watch, criticized the program: "To use force is equivalent to an extrajudicial execution," he said. Vivanco also criticized the role of Gen. Velasco, who is considered responsible for the Colombian Air Force's Dec. 13, 1998 bombing that killed 18 civilians--including seven children--in the village of Santo Domingo, in Tame municipality, Arauca department. (NYT, AFP, Aug. 20)

ARINC has apparently been working on the Airbridge Denial program under a US army contract, even while the flights were suspended. An Apr. 24, 2002, news release on the ARINC website said the company was "awarded a competitive contract by the US Army Communications and Electronics Command to act as contractor for the US Airbridge Denial Program in Colombia and Peru." According to the press release, the contract was "valued at up to $16 million through July 28, 2003." ARINC was to be assisted in that contract by two subcontractors: Provincial Air Lines of St. John's, Newfoundland (Canada); and ITI Solutions of San Antonio, Texas. (ARINC Press Release, April 24, 2002)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 24 [top]

3. "PLAN COLOMBIA II"
President Alavaro Uribe's government has drawn up a document outlining the "second phase" of Plan Colombia--aimed primarily at "terrorism and kidnapping" rather than drug trafficking. The first phase of the Plan, designed by President Andres Pastrana, called for an annual $500,000,000 in US aid, a sum expected to continue under phase two. (El Tiempo, Bogota, Aug. 2) [top]

4. URIBE: NO MORE PUSSYFOOTING
In a harsh warning to his own generals who failed to show results in the war against the guerillas, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said Aug. 11: "They are going to hand in their resignations." The previous day in San Martin, Meta department, a car bomb left one dead and 17 wounded. Two days before that, a car bomb in Saravena, Arauca department, left five dead. Although the apprent target was a military patrol, two children were among those killed. Guerilla attacks on Ecopetrol facilities in Putumayo also left two oil wells in flames. (El Colombiano, Medellin, Aug. 12) [top]

5. URIBE DISSES HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS
In an interview with the weekly Semana, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe blasted human rights groups and NGOs as "terrorist collaborators." Uribe said the groups fall into three categories: "respectable human rights organizations"; "theorists who I disagree with, but still respect"; and "writers and political gasbags (politiqueros), who ultimately serve terrorism and cravenly hide behind the banner of human rights." Elaborated Uribe: "Every time Colombia puts forward a policy of security to defeat terrorism, when the terrorists begin to feel weak, they immediately call upon their mouthpieces who speak of human rights. Many of these criticisms come directly from the Internet page of the FARC. They have no shame nor limitations. They publish books in Europe filled with rumours and calumnies." (El Tiempo, Bogota, Sept. 9) [top]

6. WASHINGTON-BOGOTA ACCORD ON WAR CRIMES COURT
Colombia President Alavaro Uribe reached a face-saving compromise with his Washington paymasters over the issue of potential extradition of US war crimes suspects to the new International Criminal Court at The Hague. While Colombia is not officially granting Washington the blanket immunity from extradition it had demanded, it is ceding to the US sole authority to determine if enough evidence exists against US personnel accused of war crimes on Colombian territory to allow extradition. The accord allows US aid to Colombia to continue. (El Tiempo, Bogota, Sept. 18) [top]

7. COLOMBIAN ARMY DECLARES WAR ON EUPHEMISM
The Colombian military announced that 17 guerillas had been killed in a new campaign against the FARC's Frente 33 in Norte de Santander department, dubbed "Operation Holocaust." (El Pais, Cali, Sept. 8) A further four guerillas were reported killed in Putumayo department in "Operation Pillage" (Depredador). (El Pais, Sept. 10) [top]

8. COLOMBIA MAYORAL CANDIDATES THREATENED
In 100 municipalities in 13 departments, mayoral candidates are facing threats from guerillas or paramilitaries. Candidate Freddy Quira in Angostura, Antioquia department, was assassinated Aug. 25, another candidate in Toledo, Antioquia, was kidnapped, and an assassination attempt was reported against a thrid in Segovia. (El Tiempo, Bogota, Aug. 27)

Over 100 Colombian mayors have already been forced into internal exile, having fled their municipalities for Bogota or other cities under threat from armed groups. In a joint statement, the exiled governors said that guarantees for their safety were not sufficient to allow them to return to their municipalities. (El Tiempo, Aug. 28)

On Sept. 13, Fabio Guillermo Gomez, mayor of Almaguer, Cauca department, was assassinated as he drove through a rural region of the municipality. The gunmen allegedly claimed they were carrying out "orders of the Secretariat of the FARC." (El Liberal, Popayan, Sept. 14)

Mayoral candidates and even mayors are also targetted in the government's supposed crackdown on the guerillas. A mayoral candidate was among 143 supposed FARC-ELN guerilla collaborators captured in a National Police sweep in Ovejas, Sucre department, along with the supposed masterminds of a "burro-bomba" (donkey-bomb) attack, in which a donkey was blown up in an attack on police in the municipality two years ago. (El Tiempo, Aug. 18) Victor Olime Hormiga, former mayor of Cartagena del Chaira, Caqueta department, was among 74 arrested by the army and flown to Bogota on charges of FARC collaboration. Also arrested was a hygiene insprector from the municipal hospital. (El Tiempo, Sept. 11)

Gubernatorial candidates are also threatened. On Sept. 4, a car bomb exploded in Medellin, injuring four and damaging numerous homes and businesses. Nobody claimed responsibility, but among the damaged buildings was the campaign office of Antioquia gubernatorial candidate Gerardo CaĖas. (El Colombiano, Medellin, Sept. 5) [top]

9. U.S. TRAINS COLOMBIA ANTI-KIDNAP UNIT
US State Department anti-terror czar J. Cofer Black announced a new package of helicopters, logistical support and training for an elite anti-kidnapping squad of the Colombian army, the Unified Freedom Action Groups (GAULAS). (El Tiempo, Bogota, Aug. 28) [top]

10. PARA CIVIL WAR IN COLOMBIA?
After an eight-hour gun battle near Mapiripan, Meta department, some 100 members of the Campesino Self-Defense Forces of Casanare (ACC) surrendured to gunmen of the Centaur Bloc of the United Colombian Self-Defense Forces (AUC), led by Carlos CastaĖo and Salvatore Mancuso, and agreed to accept AUC command. The ACC and AUC had previously been maintaining separate disarmament negotitions with the government. (El Tiempo, Bogota, Aug. 18) [top]

11. CRACKDOWN ON MEDELLIN PARAS?
Colombian National Police announced Aug. 1 that 26 presumed paramilitarties had been captured in Medellin, and that 14 face charges of kidnapping, extortion and homicide. In June, 55 more presumed paramilitaries were said to have been captured in the city. (El Tiempo, Bogota, Aug. 2)

Meanwhile, two women--community leaders from Medellin's conflicted Comuna 13 district, who used aliases to protect them from reprisals--told reporters that they had been forced to flee their homes by threats from the AUC's Metro Bloc, and that one of their houses had actually been taken over by the paramilitary to use as a clandestine base. Authorities investigating the case found a common grave with 15 bodies, apparently victims of the paramilitaries, in the district. (El Tiempo, Aug. 21) [top]

12. PARAMILITARY DEMOBILIZATION?
Colombian Defense Minister Marta Lucia Ramirez, in a press release outlining her strategies for the armed forces, boasted that in the past two years 6,000 guerilla and paramilitary fighters had been voluntarily demobilized. However, she also said that in the following year, 7,000 new "campesino soldiers" would be incorporated into the armed forces. Critics call the new "campesino soldier" program an institutionalization of the paramilitary concept. (El Colombiano, Medellin, Aug. 23) [top]

13. U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: YES, NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS!
US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher announced in Washington that Colombia's AUC paramilitary network would remain on the US list of "foreign terrorist organizations" for another two years, noting that their pattern of terrorist activity had not abated. However, he also expressed his support for the "forces of the Colombian government" and his hope that "the peace negotiations now in progress can result in a total end to the terrorist activity" of the AUC. (El Tiempo, Bogota, Sept. 11) [top]

14. SOUTHERN COMMAND "MODERATELY OPTIMISTIC"
In an address before the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC, US Southern Comand chief Gen. James Hill said he was "moderately optimistic" about the Colombian war, noting that "the FARC are wounded, and are suffering reverses." But he warned that "some think they are waiting for Alvaro Uribe to leave power before they attack." He also warned that Peru's Sendero Luminoso are "copying the FARC's model" of financing themselves by protecting cultivation of illicit crops, and that Middle Eastern terrorist groups are establishing cells in South America. (El Tiempo, Bogota, Sept. 11) [top]

15. FUMIGATION FIGURES RELEASED
From Jan. 1 to Aug. 17, Colombia's National Police announced, 97,586 hectares of coca and 2,247 hectares of opium had been fumigated. The goal for the year is to fumigate 120,000 hectares. (El Tiempo, Bogota, Aug. 24) According to the latest UN figures, there are now 69,000 hectares of coca under cultivation in Colombia, down from 102,000 last year. The figure, which stood at just 45,000 in 1994, peaked at 163,000 in 2000. (El Tiempo, Sept. 18) [top]

16. COLOMBIAN AIR FORCE CHIEF RESIGNS UNDER FIRE
Citing personal reasons, Gen. Hector Fabio Velasco resigned as air force commander effective Sept. 1. He had been under US pressure in recent months over accusations he impeded an investigation into a 1998 air force bombing that killed 18 civilians in the village of Santo Domingo in Arauca Province. In June, before stepping down as US ambassador, Anne Patterson delivered evidence about his alleged stonewalling to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez, unnamed US officials told the Los Angeles Times. The FBI had determined that shrapnel at the site was consistent with cluster bombs the air force used. The incident led Washington to cut off US funding for the air force unit responsible for the bombing. US officials said Uribe assured Patterson that by the end of the year Velasco would no longer be in charge of the air force. Velasco acknowledged US pressure but said he was resigning to give other officers a chance to advance. He said he had tried to resign three times previously, but that those attempts had been refused. Uribe reportedly has appointed him ambassador to Israel. His likely successor is Gen. Gonzalo Morales, the air force's deputy commander. (AP, Reuters, LAT, El Espectador, El Tiempo, Aug. 25, 26)

Reprinted with permission from Colombia Week. Subscribe to that free bulletin by writing to colombiaweek@mn.rr.com. [top]

17. FARC-ELN "FUSION"
On Aug. 10, the leaders of Colombia's two largest guerilla groups, the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forced (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN), held a summit at a clandestine location (said to be in the mountains of Tolima), and issued a joint communique saying they "hope to unify forces" and establish a joint command structure. The Aug. 24 edition of the Bogota paper El Espectador wrote that the new stance was more likely to be a "fusion" than a "union," with neither surrenduring autonomy, noting that the two groups have actually engaged in armed conflict against each other in recent years, and that a 1992 effort to launch a joint Coordinadora Guerrillera Simon Bolivar ended in failure.

This was the second joint FARC-ELN communique in recent weeks. The August 27 edition of the Communist weekly Voz printed the complete text of a July joint statement (signed from the "Mountains of Colombia"). While the statement contained only obvious denunciations of the government of President Alvaro Uribe, Voz noted that it was the first joint statement by the two groups in over ten years, splashing front-page photos of FARC Comandante Manuel Marulanda and ELN Comandante Nicolas Rodriguez Bautista over the headline "Historic Joint Communique."

( www.geocities.com/vozxcol/bogota.htm) [top]

18. CLUELESS TOURISTS OBLIVIOUS TO COLOMBIA WAR
Eight tourists--four Israelis, two British, one German and one Spaniard--were apparently kidnapped by FARC guerillas while hiking in search of the "Lost City," a remote pre-Columbian ruin in Colombia's remote and conflicted Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. While the military said an extensive search was underway, a FARC source suggested the tourists had actually been kidnapped by the military in ruse to "show results" in the war. (AP, BBC, Sept. 15) [top]

19. STUDENT STRIKE IN POPAYAN
3,500 students from the University of Cauca and teachers from throughout the department of Cauca, in southern Colombia, took to the streets repeatedly the week of Sept. 6 in Popayan, the department capital, to protest President Alvaro Uribe's plan to privatize the nation's education system under an upcoming national referendum. Protesters, calling for a boycott of the referendum, blocked access Parque Caldas, the city's central square. Riot police were called in, and some street fighting was reported.

Protesters were also opposed to application of Law 715, which mandates that all public schools in Colombia provide an inventory of their costs and resources in preparation for privatization. The ongoing protests were called off when Popayan's municipal government agreed to convene a series of citizen roundtables on education issues. (El Liberal, Popayan, Sept. 6, 9, 10) [top]

20. ECUADOR: WORKERS, INDIGENOUS PROTEST
Thousands of Ecuadoran indigenous people, teachers, campesinos, retirees and others marched and demonstrated throughout the country on Aug. 21 as part of a day of protest against the economic policies of President Lucio Gutierrez. Some 1,500 people marched in Quito, the capital, where there were minor clashes with police outside the Congress. In Guayaquil, Ecuador's main commercial city, the protesters blocked streets; police used tear gas against retirees and arrested 13 teachers.

The march in Quito was organized by the National Federation of Campesino, Indigenous and Black Organizations (FENOCIN), together with labor federations, electrical workers, the National Teachers Union (UNE) and followers of the Popular Democratic Movement (MPD). The country's largest indigenous organization, Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), did not call its members out for the march, even though it had originally announced that Aug. 21 would mark an "uprising" against Gutierrez' economic policies. That announcement was made a day after the Aug. 6 departure of the indigenous Pachakutik party from the Gutierrez government. CONAIE president Leonidas Iza clarified on Aug. 20 that his organization, along with its regional affiliates ECUARUNARI, CONFENIAE and CONAICE, supported the call for the Aug. 21 day of protest, but would not mobilize their bases for it. (El Telegrafo, Guayaquil, Aug. 22; CNN en Espanol, Aug. 21)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 24 [top]

21. ECUADOR: EX-PRESIDENT FLEES
Ecuadoran former president Gustavo Noboa Bejarano arrived on Aug. 23 in the Dominican Republic as a political asylee. The Dominican government granted Noboa asylum on Aug. 11--the same day Ecuador's Supreme Court of Justice ordered his house arrest as part of an investigation into whether he improperly used $126 million in government bonds to bail out state-run banks. Noboa sought asylum on July 28, and spent the intervening weeks holed up in a Dominican diplomat's apartment in Quito. On Aug. 22, the Ecuadoran government finally granted Noboa safe conduct to leave the country, allowing him to avoid arrest.

The investigation into Noboa's financial dealings came at the request of former president Leon Febres Cordero, his political enemy. Prosecutors have not accused Noboa of stealing and he does not face charges. Noboa called the judicial probe "political persecution." (Reuters, Aug. 22; CNN en Espanol, Aug. 23)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 24 [top]

22. ECUADOR: ARMY-FARC COLLABORATION?
The Ecuadorain government announced charges against 37 armed forces officials in an alleged conspiracy to divert arms--including 29 rifles, 16 heavy machine guns and 110 grenades--to Colombia's FARC guerillas. (El Pais, Cali, Sept. 10) Three weeks earlier, Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe had made a visit to Ecuador to enlist the aid of President Lucio Gutierrez in his "anti-terrorist" crusade. (El Colombiano, Medellin, Aug. 23)

On Aug. 21, on the eve of Uribe's visit to Quito by Colombian president Alvaro Uribe Velez, Ecuador's indigenous coalition CONAIE issued a communique declaring Uribe persona non grata in Ecuador. Some 3,000 police agents were mobilized to protect the Colombian president--more than double the number assigned for the previous day's protests on economic police. (La Republica, Lima, Aug. 23, via Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 24) [top]

23. PERU TRUTH COMMISSION DOUBLES DEATH ESTIMATE
In a chilling final report, Peru's Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded that 69,000 people--twice the previous official estimate--died in two decades of guerilla and state-sponsored. "The last two decades of the 20th century were marked by horror and dishonor for Peruvian society," the commission's President, Salomon Lerner, told a ceremony at the government palace as he handed over the nine-volume report. "The most likely figure of victims is more than 69,000, who died at the hands of subversives and forces of the state," he said, calling the number "overwhelming." The report is based on two years of investigations into human rights violations between 1980 and 2000, and nearly 17,000 testimonies. The commission had unprecedented access to internal military documents, and conducted interviews with imprisoned guerilla leaders, ex-presidents and other public figures. Supporters say the report, which includes recommendations to ensure such atrocities never happen again, will help bring justice to millions of victims.Critics say the commissioners are too sympathetic to the guerillas to be objective, and are already dismissing the findings as biased. After handing the report to the government, the Truth Commission is to present the findings publicly in Ayacucho, the cradle of Shining Path guerilla movement. The document is available at the commission's Web site: www.cverdad.org.pe (Reuters, Aug. 28) [top]

24. SENDERO SLAVERY IN PERU?
During a Peruvian national police operation dubbed "Tormenta V," 10 adults and 14 children of the Ashaninka indigenous group in the Amazon region were rescued from a camp of the Sendero Luminoso guerilla group, where they said they had been held for slave labor by the rebels, according to a press release from the Interior Ministry. (AP, Sept. 11) [top]

25. BOLIVIA: PROTESTS SWELL
On Sept. 8, hundreds of Bolivian unionists and campesinos arrived in La Paz after marching from Caracollo, Oruro department, and from other parts of the country. The marchers were protesting government plans to join the FTAA and export natural gas to the US through Chile or Peru under an IMF-sponsored deal, as well as a new tax code and "citizen security" law.

One group of marchers was led by Roberto de la Cruz, leader of the Regional Workers Federation (COR) of El Alto, the city adjacent to La Paz. Another group consisted of campesinos from 20 provinces of La Paz department, grouped in the Tupac Katari Departmental Federation of Campesinos; they reeached the capital on Sept. 8 after a two-day march from Huarina. Also arriving in the capital was another group of campesinos from La Paz department, represented by the Only Union Confederation of Bolivian Campesino Workers (CSUTCB) and the Federation of Campesino Workers of La Paz. (El Diario, La Paz, Sept. 8, 9; Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, Sept. 8)

Some 2,000 campesinos went on hunger strike Sept. 10 to demand that the government of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada make good on a 72-point accord reached in 2000 with the administration of then-president Hugo Banzer Suarez. Under that accord, the campesinos were supposed to get land titles and 1,000 tractors, among other demands. The campesinos are now also demanding the release of Edwin Huampo, secretary general of the Federation of Campesinos of Cota Cota, detained in San Pedro prison for alleged participation in the killing of a thief in Pucarani last July. Led by Aymara indigenous leader and legislative deputy Felipe Quispe Huanca, campesinos have threatened to step up their actions by blockading major roads beginning Sept. 15. In preparation for the blockades, the Bolivian government moved on Sept. 13 to militarize main roads through the Altiplano. (Clarin, Buenos Aires, Sept. 14; DPA, Sept. 11)

A road blockade near the town of Caihuasi was suspended Sept. 9 after the government agreed to unfreeze the town's bank accounts and recognize mayor Santos Ramirez of the Free Bolivia Movement (MBL) and his slate of council members as the town's government. (El Diario, Sept. 10) Huanuni miners also blockaded a highway intersection at Machamarquita on Sept. 9 to demand a wage hike; they lifted the blockade on Sept. 11 after the government agreed to raise wages by 8 percent. (Los Tiempos, Sept. 12)

Prisoners in the cities of Cochabamba, La Paz and Santa Cruz went on hunger strike Sept. 8 to demand sentence reductions and an increase in prison allowances. (Los Tiempos, Sept. 9) The prisoners ended the fast on Sept. 10 after the Constitution Commission of the Chamber of Deputies promised to push a bill in Congress modifying a sentencing law (Law 2298). (El Diario, Sept. 11)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 14 [top]

26. CHILEANS REMEMBER SEPT. 11--1973
During the week of Sept. 11, thousands of Chileans took part in events marking the 30th anniversary of the CIA-organized 1973 coup d'etat against democratically elected Socialist president Salvador Allende Gossens (1970-1973). Some 3,000 Chileans--a figure eerily mirroring the Sept. 11, 2001 death toll--were killed or "disappeared" in the aftermath of the coup. Recently declassified Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) documents show the US government provided substantial funding for efforts by the right-wing opposition to destabilize the Allende government. (La Jornada, Mexico, Sept. 13)

The Chilean commemorations included, for the first time, a number of official tributes to Allende. In a Sept. 10 ceremony Socialist president Ricardo Lagos unveiled a plaque dedicated to the ex-president on the spot where Allende shot himself rather than resign, after air force jets bombed the presidential palace, La Moneda, during the Sept. 11, 1973 coup. Lagos also renamed a meeting room in the palace after Allende. (Washington Post, Sept. 11)

On Sept. 11, Lagos paid homage to Allende by reopening a side door to La Moneda presidential palace through which Allende's body was carried out during the coup. The door--known for its address, Morande 80--had been kept sealed; Lagos was the first person to walk through it since the coup. (LAT, Reuters, Sept. 11) The same day, some 3,000 gathered in Santiago's Constitution Plaza for a solemn tribute to Allende organized by the "30 Year, Allende Lives" Committee. Also Sept. 11, the Chamber of Deputies held an official mass to remember Allende; rightwing opposition parties boycotted the event. (El Mostrador, Chile, Sept. 12)

On Sept. 12 the Chile Stadium in Santiago was renamed for one of Pinochet's victims: singer-songwriter and Allende supporter Victor Jara, who was detained, tortured and executed there by Pinochet's agents in the days after the coup. Jara was among some 5,000 political prisoners detained at the stadium at the time. (Reuters, Sept. 8)

Supporters of Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte were upset by the tributes to Allende, and held their own events honoring the coup leader and former dictator who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990. On Sept. 10, the Pinochet Foundation sponsored an event in Santiago attended by some 3,500. Keynote speaker Sergio Onofre Jarpa, a cabinet minister of Pinochet's government, complained about "a campaign organized by Marxist sectors to deform historic facts." Among those present was former army commander in chief Ricardo Izurieta, who expressed pride in having participated in Pinochet's military government. Pinochet himself made a brief, silent public appearance on Sept. 11 in front of his home in the La Dehesa district of Santiago. Accompanied by some 40 supporters, Pinochet handed over his old presidential sash to the Pinochet Foundation. Pinochet's wife, Lucia Hiriart, made a speech praising her husband's rule. (La Tercera, Chile, Sept. 12)

On Sept. 13 French attorney and human rights advocate William Bourdon announced in Paris that a French court will put Pinochet and 18 accomplices on trial next year for human rights violations. (DPA, AFP, Sept. 13 Pinochet has so far escaped trial in Chile, although several of his officers have been convicted, dozens of ex-soldiers and security agents are in custody, and about 200 other soldiers and officers are facing charges. In some of the cases, judges have been able to get around Chile's amnesty laws by treating disappearance cases as ongoing kidnapping crimes. (LAT, Sept. 11)

Some violence occassioned the commemorations. A 5,000-strong Sept. 14 march to Santiago's main cemetery to remember victims of the military regime was attacked by police after the closing ceremony. At least three people were injured, including a police agent and a child. Organizers blamed infiltrators for the violence, which allegedly began when masked youths threw molotov cocktails and other objects at a McDonalds. The march was organized by the Assembly of Human Rights. (AP, Sept. 14) On Sept. 9, some 50 hooded youths clashed with Carabineros Special Forces agents around Santiago's Metropolitan University of Educational Sciences. The youths threw indendiary devices, rocks and other objects at police, who used tear gas and water cannons. (La Tercera, Sept. 10)

On Sept. 9, human rights activists occupied the consulates of Sweden, Portugal and Mexico in Santiago in an effort to draw the international community's attention to a proposal promoted by President Ricardo Lagos which activists say would guarantee impunity for rights violators. The activists, who included members of the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Movement (MPMR) and relatives of Pinochet's victims, left the consulates peacefully after two hours. (El Mostrador, Sept. 10)

On Sept. 10 in the northern city of Arica, at least 50 university students and other activists demonstrated outside the city's courts; some of the activists chained themselves to the doors of the court building, and two people were arrested. Later that night, victims' relatives and survivors of rights violations were to speak out at a vigil at the Arica jail. (El Mostrador, Sept. 11)

Late on Sept. 10, nine high-tension electrical towers were downed in remote areas near the northern city of Copiapo, causing blackouts in the region. Deputy Interior Minister Jorge Correa said pamphlets of the leftist Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front (FPMR) were left at the sites of the sabotage, but authorities were said to be skeptical. The towers were not downed with explosives but pulled down by trucks using ropes, said Correa. (AFP, Sept. 12)

On the night of Sept. 11, and into the morning of Sept. 12, violence erupted in the working class Santiago neighborhoods of Villa Francia, Lo Hermida and La Victoria and around La Florida avenue. Protesters blocked intersections with flaming barricades and police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons to try to disperse the crowds; at least 24 agents of the militarized Carabineros police were injured, four of them seriously, and nearly 400 people were arrested. Protesters allegedly threw chains on power lines, leaving more than 5% of Santiago's 5.5 million residents without electricity. (Miami Herald, Sept. 13; El Mostrador, Sept. 13; La Jornada, Sept. 14)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 14 [top]

27. ARGENTINA: IRANIAN ARRESTED IN JEWISH CENTER ATTACK
The British police agency Scotland Yard arrested Iranian national Hadi Soleimanpour in Durham, England, on Aug. 21 in connection with the July 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires, in which at least 85 people were killed and 300 wounded. Argentine federal judge Juan Jose Galeano made a request with Interpol on Aug. 13 for the arrest of Soleimanpour and 12 other Iranians; the rest are living in Iran. Soleimanpour, who was Iran's ambassador to Argentina 1991-1994, had been living in England with his family since February 2002 while he pursued a doctorate in Islamic and environmental studies at Durham University.

The AMIA bombing, said to be the deadliest anti-Semitic attack worldwide since World War II, has been a major ongoing scandal in Argentina. Investigators have repeatedly pointed to elements of the Iranian government as prime suspects, and at least one witness has charged that the Iranian government paid former president Carlos Saul Menem (1989-1999) $10 million to impede the investigation. Current president Nestor Kirchner announced in June that the government would open up its secret files on the bombing.

The Iranian government reacted angrily to Soleimanpour's arrest. On Aug. 23 it suspended cultural and economic relations with Argentina; since 1998 the only diplomatic representation has been through charges d'affaires. Conservative Iranian media have demanded the expulsion of British ambassador Richard Dalton from Teheran, along with the Argentine charge d'affaires. (Clarin, Buenos Aires, Aug. 23, 24; Miami Herald, Reuters, Aug. 22)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 24 [top]

28: ARGENTINA: "DIRTY WAR" IMMUNITY MEASURE LIFTED
On Aug. 22 Argentina's Senate voted 43-7 with one abstention for a measure annulling two laws from 1986 and 1987 that gave military officers almost total impunity for crimes committed during the 1976-1983 "dirty war," in which as many as 30,000 suspected leftists were murdered or disappeared by the military. The Chamber of Deputies passed the measure a week earlier. Legal experts say that annulling the amnesty laws will not automatically open up officers to prosecution. The measure does not affect pardons that a number of high-ranking officers received in 1990; it can also be challenged on constitutional grounds before the Supreme Court of Justice. (Clarin website, Aug. 21; La Jornada, Mexico, Aug. 22)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 24 [top]

CENTRAL AMERICA

1. GUATEMALA OPENS BORDERS TO U.S. ANTI-DRUG FORCES
On Aug. 21 Guatemala's Congress voted 86-3 to approve a measure giving US planes, ships and agents the rights to enter the country's airspace and waters in joint anti-narcotics operations, or in pursuit of drug suspects--without prior notice. "We supported it because the growth of drug traffic is intolerable and the situation is very serious and we believe that the support is necessary," said Congresswoman Nineth Montenegro. (AP, Aug. 21) [top]

2. HONDURAS: RUMSFELD PROPOSES NEW BASES
In a brief stop in Honduras on his way down to Colombia, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld met with officials to discuss establishment of a new US Foward Operation Location (FOL) in the Central American nation as a base for anti-drug flights. Since the closing of the Howard Air Force Base in the Panama Canal Zone, the US has maintained FOLs in Ecuador and Curacao. Former US Southern Command chief Gen. Fred Woerner said Honduras "could be strategic" in closing gaps in US control over the region's airspace. (El Tiempo, Bogota, Aug. 17) [top]

3. HONDURAS: THOUSANDS PROTEST IMF MEASURES
Honduran unions and popular organizations marched and blocked roads in Tegucigalpa Aug. 26 to protest two laws promoted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). More than 100 organizations participated in the "March for National Dignity," said to be the largest protest in Honduras in the last decade. The sponsors were the country's three labor federations--the General Confederation of Workers (CGT), the Workers Confederation of Honduras (CTH) and the Unified Workers Confederation of Honduras (CUTH)--and the Popular Bloc, a coalition of grassroots groups. Indigenous groups supported the protest, which included a 48-hour hunger strike by 20 indigenous activists outside the president's offices starting on Aug. 25. 36 activists had also held a one-day hunger strike on Aug. 22.

Some 12,000-15,000 people participated in the Aug. 26 day of action, which opened at 4:30 am when thousands of protesters from around the country occupied the four main access routes to the capital. For some eight hours they blocked roads and bridges with burning tires; they also sang popular songs and performed folk dances to calm down the motorists immobilized by the action. In the afternoon the four contingents converged at the center of the city and marched on Congress, chanting: "If [President Ricardo] Maduro can't govern, he should quit." During a rally outside Congress, a group of people tried to storm the building. Police responded with tear gas and rubber and wooden bullets, while some protesters threw molotov cocktails.

After negotiations by organizers and the police, calm was restored for about an hour. Then a group of people began to break windows at banks, a McDonalds and an electronic appliance store owned by President Maduro. People not connected to the protest apparently took advantage of the chaos to loot stores and rob several street vendors. Some 12 protesters and nine police agents were reportedly injured, and seven people were arrested.

A week earlier Congress had passed the Water Law, which allows for privatization of municipal water services. It was also expected to pass a Civil Service Law to control the salaries of 100,000 public employees. The IMF has made passage of these two "reforms" a precondition for an agreement giving Honduras $350 million in credits and $1 billion in debt relief. The protesters demanded that Maduro veto the Water Law and that Congress not pass the Civil Service Law. They also opposed a new law on land ownership.

After the demonstration, Maduro insisted he would not "give in to blackmail." Attorney General Sergio Zavala said on Aug. 27 that the seven arrestees would be charged with sedition as well as damage to property. He also claimed that he had videos in which a legislative deputy can be seen "inciting the masses to sedition"; he said he would seek the suspension of that deputy's parliamentary immunity.

Organizers of the day of action say the disorders were started by gang members infiltrated into the march by police. The Democratic Unification Party (UD) said nine of its Congress members, including alternates as well as deputies, were in the protest, but denied any of them were involved in damaging property. On Aug. 29 the UD filed a complaint with Human Rights Commissioner Ramon Custodio, charging the government with violating the protesters' constitutional rights to assembly, petition and due process.

On Aug. 27, congressional leaders signed an accord with the three labor federations agreeing that laws applying to labor unions would not be debated or approved before they had been discussed with the labor federations. (Tiempo, Honduras, Aug. 25-30; Reuters, Aug. 27-8)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 24 [top]

4. HONDURAS: INDIGENOUS PROTEST WATER LAW
Some 500 indigenous Hondurans gathered on the steps of the Legislative Palace in Tegucigalpa Aug. 19 to demand that the legislature reject the pending Potable Water and Drainage Law. Members of the Honduran Council for Peace (COHAPAZ) and the Mother Earth Movement had gathered there earlier in the day to press the same demand. The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) had organized the delegation of Lenca Indians to come to the capital from the departments of Intibuca and Lempira. COPINH adviser Salvador Zuniga said the law must not be ratified because it would allow "concessions, and that is privatization." (El Tiempo, Honduras, Aug. 20)

The Lenca protesters pledged to remain in front of the Congress until the law was withdrawn. On Aug. 21, 12 Lenca protesters "crucified" themselves in front of the legislature on giant crosses which symbolized the different measures adopted by the government under pressure from international lending institutions. (El Tiempo, Aug. 22)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 24 [top]

MEXICO

1. ZAPATISTAS INAUGURATE NEW REBEL GOVERNMENT
With government approval of their peace plan--calling for constitutional changes recognizing indigenous autonomy--now stalled for nearly seven years, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas announced a reorganization of their own autonomous rebel government. A July EZLN communique stated that "Good Government Juntas" would be formed to oversee the Zapatista "autonomous municipalities" on a regional basis, and are to be based in five new political centers known as "caracoles" (snails). The Good Government Juntas would settle land disputes, mediate in community conflicts and work with NGOs active in Chiapas, but not with Mexico's ruling national government.

The EZLN's Subcommander Marcos denied that the project was separatist, assiling critics' claims that the rebels are attempting to build an independent "Maya Nation." Marcos asserted that, on the contrary, President Vicente Fox's Puebla-Panama Plan will "fragment the nation," relegating the poor and heavily indigenous south to a super-exploited zone whose resources will be plundered to benefit the industrialized north. Marcos, with characteristic humor, said the Zapatistas will counter the Puebla-Panama Plan with a "La Realidad-Tijuana Plan" to unify the nation around a pro-democracy program--a reference to the Chiapas jungle village of La Realidad, which is the EZLN's unofficial capital, and the northern border city of Tijuana. (Milenio, July 28)

The EZLN announced that the new autonomous rebel government would be inaugurated at an Aug. 8-10 national meeting at the Chiapas highland village of Oventic. Thousands from throughout Mexico, as well as international supporters, gathered in Oventic for the "mega-fiesta." (Orbe, Aug. 9)

The Zapatistas also inaugurated their new shortwave station, Radio Vox Insurgente, broadcasting at 5.8 megahertz from a clandestine location in the Chiapas mountains. Marcos' address to the "mega-fiesta" was delivered over the rebel airwaves. He instructed listeners to "move your dial in the same way you would your hips in a cumbia and hunt until you find us." (Reuters, Aug. 10; Chiapas IMC, Aug. 9) Comandantes Esther, Tacho and David addressed the mega-fiesta in person. (FZLN press releases, Aug. 9, 12)

Reaction to the declaration of the Good Government Juntas was mixed. Chiapas Gov. Pablo Salazar affirmed that the new Juntas are legal. (AP, July 31) The federal government's official advisor on indigenous issues, Xochitl Galvez, said the Juntas could play a "pivotal role" in restoring peace to Chiapas. (Reuters, Aug. 20) Chiapas Bishop Felipe Arizmendi also applauded the reorganization as a step towards peace, noting that the Zapatistas had pledged to dismantle roadblocks in their territories. (AP, Aug. 10) Ironically, one of the harshest criticims came from Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon, who won international fame by opening a criminal investigation into former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998, but who exchanged angry words with Subcommander Marcos after the rebel leader criticized him in a communique for supporting a harsh crackdown on Basque separatists. Garzon, on a visit to Mexico following the Zapatista announcement, told the press the Juntas are "illegal" and usurped legitimate government authority. (Proceso, Aug. 8)

As the Zapatistas announced the Good Government plan, an increased army presence was reported in the EZLN's support zone. (Orbe, July 28) Mexico's federal government drew up a 50-page plan to restore government control in Chiapas, which was leaked to AP. The plan calls for social programs as a "counter-weight to the radical activism of the support bases" of the Zapatistas, removing rebel roadblocks, and cracking down on armed activity. (AP, Aug. 4)

The announcment of the Juntas was immediately followed by a new wave of government harrassment of the Zapatista "autonomous municipalities"--this time in the name of cracking down on illegal timber harvesting. Three Maya arrested by federal police for illegal traffic in wood at Flores Magon "autonomous municipality" were forcibly freed by a mass mobilization of over 100 local Indians. Two others arrested at Miguel Hidalgo "autonmous municipality" are being held at the highland city of San Cristobal, where over 100 Zapatistas--unarmed, but wearing their trademark ski masks--are currently maintaining a permanent vigil outside the jailhouse to demand their release. Armed riot police have been sent in to San Cristobal, and the situation is reported to be tense. (La Jornada, Sept. 7, 8, 9) [top]

2. STUDENTS CLASH WITH POLICE IN CHIAPAS
200 were arrested and over 30 injured as police attacked student protesters in Tuxtla, capital of Chiapas state, firing tear gas at the crowd from a helicopter. Students, supported by campesinos, occupied public buildings to protest new state regulations of teaching positions they say would hurt rural education. (AP, Aug. 7) The driver of a bus carrying protesters to Tuxtla was also shot dead by unknown gunmen at a roadblock. (El Universal, Aug. 14) [top]

3. RURAL DISPUTES CONTINUE IN CHIAPAS
On Sept. 6, 20 indigenous campesinos from Ocozocuautla launched a permanent hunger strike in front of the government palace in Tuxtla following their violent eviction from disputed lands at El Armadillo by state police, in which a pregnant woman lost her baby. (Orbe, Sept. 7)

At the highland Maya village of Chenalho, 35 army troops were detained by traditional indigenous authorities in a dispute over damage to a local road by military vehicles on an anti-marijuana operation. They were released the following morning, after local military authorities agreed to repair the road. (La Jornada, Sept. 6, 7)

In other Chiapas news, state police put down a riot at the harsh and dangerously overcrowded Villas Crisol youth prison, leaving several injured. (AP, Sept. 8) [top]

4. UNIONS SUPPORT INDIGENOUS AUTONOMY
Mexico's new Social-Sindical Convergence (CSS), representing several trade unions in the energy, education and telecom sectors, issued a statement supporting autonomy for Mexico's indigenous peoples. The statement specifically supported the struggle of local Nahua Indians in Ocotepec, Morelos, against plans to build a gasoline station on lands they claim as their traditional territory. (La Jornada, Aug. 15) [top]

5. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PROTESTS RULING ON DIGNA OCHOA
On July 19, Special Prosecutor Margarita Guerra, charged with investigating the 2001 slaying of Digna Ochoa, a human rights attorney who had represented indigenous and campesino protesters, announced an official finding that the death was likely a suicide. But Amnesty International protested that "myriad deficiencies have thus far marred the government's investigation." (AI press release, July 19)

See WW3 REPORT 42 [top]

6. MORE CAMPESINO LEADERS ASSASSINATED
August saw the assassination of two indigenous and campesino leaders in Mexico. Griselda Teresa Tirado of the Totonaca Independent Organization (OIT) was killed by unkown riflemen at her home in Huehuetla, Puebla. (La Jornada de Oriente, Aug. 7) Carlos Sanchez, a Oaxaca state deputy with the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) was shot dead in his home town of Juchitan. (La Reforma, Aug. 18) [top]

7. U.N. COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST PUEBLA-PANAMA PLAN
Calling the Puebla-Panama Plan mega-development project "a crime against our communities," Marcelino Diaz de Jesus of the Nahua Council of the Alto Balsas, an indigenous group based in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, formally filed a complaint before Geneva hearings on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, held by the UN Subcommission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. A complaint against the mega-project was also filed by the US-based International Indian Treaty Council (IITC). (Proceso, July 30; La Jornada, Aug. 9) [top]

WATCHING THE SHADOWS

1. HALLIBURTON IN THE NEWS
Jurors in a federal weapons case can hear testimony on Halliburton Corp.'s ties to a Canadian anti-terrorist consultant who faces trial next week, but they can't hear about Vice President Dick Cheney. Federal Judge John Conway ruled that Cheney, who headed Halliburton in the 1990s, was irrelevant to the impending trial of David Hudak, who faces 50 years in prison if convicted of stockpiling 2,400 missile warheads, providing military training to troops from the United Arab Emirates and various other charges. His trial started Aug. 19, a year after the warheads were found at his Roswell-based High Energy Access Tools Inc., or HEAT--a counterterrorism consulting and training company. Authorities allege he did not register the material with federal authorities as required. Hudak was arrested last August with co-defendant Michael Payne, who pleaded guilty in exchange for a recommendation of leniency. Hudak, who has been in federal custody for a year, contends Halliburton initiated the sale of the missile tips, billing them as demolition devices rather than warheads. A Halliburton spokesperson confirmed selling demolition devices, but not warheads. Cheney did not come aboard as CEO at Halliburton until a year after the 1994 purchase of the explosives. The defense claims the explosives were only intended for legal demolition work. But prosecutor Greg Wormuth said the explosives are warheads regardless of what Hudak intended. (AP, Aug. 11)

See also: HALLIBURTON WAR PROFITEERING UNDER FIRE, under IRAQ FRONT, this issue [top]

2. POINDEXTER DITCHES DARPA
Former National Security Advisor (and pardoned Contragate convict)John Poindexter announced he is stepping down from the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Aug. 29, almost 20 months after he came on board to launch a controversial surveillance project known as Total Information Awareness (TIA). The Senate version of the new defense appropriations bill would cut off all funds for TIA; the House version would merely bar domestic use of TIA without specific congressional approval. Poindexter wrote that he hoped a House-Senate conference in September would agree to "permit a continuation of at least the non-controversial parts." (AP, Aug. 14) On DARPA's web page, director Tony Tether admits that the agency investigates ideas "the traditional R&D community finds too outlandish or risky." (AP, Sept. 2) [top]

3. THE REAL CULPRIT IN NORTHEAST BLACKOUT: DEREGULATION
Now that terrorism has been dismissed as cause of the August 14 blackout that plunged New York City and much of the rest of the Northeast into darkness, Buffalo's indefagtiable media watchdog Dr. Michael I. Niman exposes the true culprit in an on-line commentary:

"The problem is that in this climate of deregulation, utility companies are not required by the government to properly maintain the power grid. Hence, while investors pour money into profitable new power plants, there is little incentive to invest in the less profitable wires that carry juice to consumers, and more importantly, between power districts. During the last decade the grid has begun to resemble New Hampshire‚s highways. That state has become a haven for anti-tax retirees drawn by New Hampshire‚s low taxes. Their tax savings allow them to buy expensive luxury cars, but fiscal realities leave these pensionados driving their bling bling cars on some of the country's most dangerous ill-maintained roads. In a nutshell, that's our power grid, with new plants on the generating end, new power-sucking appliances on the consumer end, and shitty wires in between.

"This brings us to dark Thursday, when those of us lucky enough to have power got to hear George W. Bush proclaim that, surprise of surprises, he suspects that our power grid needs updating, calling the blackout 'a wakeup call.' He explained that, 'We'll have time to look at it and determine whether or not our grid needs to be modernized. I happen to think it does, and have said so all along.' Lame as this proclamation appears to be, it also is the opposite of the truth, since Bush has opposed Democratic initiatives to upgrade the grid since seizing office in 2001. That year, California congressional representative Sam Farr authored a bill to provide $350 million in government loans to begin modernization of the nation's energy grid. Borg-like Republicans...voted the bill down three times at the urging of their clonemaster-in-chief. The first defeat was in the Appropriations Committee, then in the Rules Committee, and finally the bill failed to pass on the floor of the House of Representatives.

"One week before the bill failed, former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, in a rare pre-9/11 moment, accused Bush of 'obstructionism,' arguing that the 'president' was 'committed to helping the big energy special interests' who opposed the bill. Three months later the nation became distracted, with the Weasel Chief Gephardt more interested in lining up behind a "Wartime" Bush, then in arguing about electricity. The power grid, predictably, failed 26 months later. How's that for homeland security? Bush went on in 2001, fighting to roll back efficiency standards for air conditioners, a move that will further strain the overstressed grid.

"For the next two years the congress continued to fail to pass a bill mandating modernization of the power grid. This was primarily due to Bush administration insistences that any such bill should also contain riders to further deregulate the energy industry, open wilderness areas to oil and gas drilling and further subsidize the nuclear power industry while relieving it of safety regulations. The current House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, told The New York Times that Bush put the interests of energy companies ahead of the American people by insisting that we let oil companies drill in wilderness areas 'rather than modernize our energy system.' Bush‚s kindergartenish 'my way or no way' insistence on linking environmental destruction and corporate welfare to any bill to update the grid is blackmail, with the nation's power grid held as hostage. Recent post-blackout Republican rhetoric blaming the power failure on the oil industry‚s inability to drill in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge is just the most recent example of this campaign.

"Let‚s get one thing straight. The power failure was not due to a lack of energy. It was due to an antiquated delivery system. In any event, electric energy should not be a problem in this country, with biomass, wind and solar technology now developed to a point (no thanks to the federal government) where it is a feasible and sustainable power source, both on the grid (my house is powered by a 100% biomass and solar mix at a slightly lower cost than conventional electricity thanks to the Energy Cooperative of New York www.ecny.org) and off the grid.

"The problem is political. The keyword here is deregulation. Deregulation of the electric industry began in 1992, initiated by George Bush Senior. The electric industry, according to BBC investigative reporter Greg Palast, rewarded the Bush family by contributing $16 million to the Republican party in 2000--a donation that would have been banned under prior rules governing electric utilities instituted by President Franklin Roosevelt.

"The current industry-centered deregulation of the national power grid has created market-driven chaos, with electric bills skyrocketing as high as 300% in California while power systems become less and less reliable--all at a time when the shrinking cost of renewable energy should be providing lower costs and a more reliable system"

"The recent blackout illustrates the problem. The current theory is that the first power failure began after a transmission line under the control of First Energy subsidiary Toledo Edison failed. This caused an undetected power overload in another transmission line which picked up the load. It overheated and eventually failed, short circuiting into a tree. Greg Palast recounts how Toledo Edison was 'messing around' for an hour, failing to either fix or contain the problem, before it spread throughout the grid. As First Energy's plants went down, a power surge moved east like an electron wave, knocking out adjacent plants until the problem reached Niagara Mohawk's territory in Western New York. Once the surge hit NiMo, Palast argues, there was no containing it, with NiMo spreading it to adjacent systems like 'Typhoid Mary.' This, he argues, is because under deregulation, NiMo was bought by the 'notoriously incompetent' British power company, National Grid, who immediately fired 800 NiMo maintenance workers. This and other cuts to an already stressed and worn system allegedly resulted in a one shot windfall of almost $90 million for NiMo stockholders while setting the system up for failure.

"If the Bush administration has its way, none of the utilities responsible for the blackout will be penalized. To the contrary, they'll be rewarded for their greed and incompetence with rate hikes. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham argues that 'the people who benefit from the [current] system,' who in his mind are the already overcharged consumers and not the corporate shareholders, 'should have to be part of the solution here.' Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press, he clarified himself, explaining, 'That means the rate-payers are going to have to contribute. We think the rates need to be sufficient to incentivize the building of new transmission [sic.].' This is akin to being mugged, only to face your mugger in court and have the judge tell you that you have to compensate your assailant for the time he had to spend mugging you. And the current Bushista call for more nuclear power and wilderness oil drilling as a solution to the problem, is akin to the judge ordering you to spend more time walking in dark dangerous areas. Under the Bush administration, this is what we call an 'Energy Policy.'" [top]

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