Andean Theater

Chavez: Bush trying to kill me

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez charged Feb. 21 that President Bush is behind a plot to assassinate him—and warned that if it succeeded, Venezuela would halt oil exports to the US.  "If I am assassinated, there is only one person responsible: the president of the United States," Chavez said during his weekly radio and TV show, Hello President, claiming he had received a tip from his good friend Fidel Castro. "If, by the hand of the devil, these perverse plans succeed...forget about Venezuelan oil, Mr. Bush," Chavez said. Addressing his own people, he added: "I will not hide, I will walk in the streets with all of you...but I know I am condemned to death." (UK Guardian, Feb. 22)

Kyrgyz, Venezuelan presidents silence opposition

Bad news for freedom of speech on opposite sides of the planet. The presidents of both Kygyzstan and Venezuela seem to have gone litigation-happy against opposition figures.

Catastrophic floods hit Pakistan, Venezuela; Chavez sees climate threat

Pakistan's restive province of Baluchistan was hit with devastating floods when torrential rains burst the Shadikor Dam near Pasni, sweeping people, homes and livestock into the Arabian Sea. A smaller dam also burst elsewhere in the province, while landslides also claimed casualties in the Himalayan region of Kashmir. The confirmed death toll has reached 360, with 1,500 more missing. (The Scotsman, Feb. 14)

Venezuela defends Russian arms purchases

Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel responded angrily to charges by US Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Roger Noriega that his government's new arms deal with Russia is intended for trafficking to Colombian guerillas. "Venezuela is a sovereign country," Rangel said. "We are only accountable to Venezuelans and the country's institutions," adding that the arms are intended only for "purposes of national defense" and accusing the State Department of "provocations." The State Department expressed concerns about Venezuela's deal to buy 100,000 AK-47 rifles and several military helicopters from Russia. (Venezuelanalysis, Feb. 8)

COLOMBIA: REBEL LEADER EXTRADITED, MASSACRES MOUNT

by Weekly News Update on the Americas

REBEL LEADER EXTRADITED TO U.S.

On Dec. 31 a leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Juvenal Ricardo Ovidio Palmera Pineda (alias Simon Trinidad), was taken from a maximum security Colombian prison and flown to Washington on a US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) plane. In Washington, Palmera was taken to US District Court--kept open late on New Year's Eve, just for him--where the Justice Department said he appeared before Magistrate Judge John Facciola; he was then driven to an undisclosed location. Palmera has been indicted in the US on charges of drug trafficking, kidnapping and supporting terrorists. The US government says Palmera shipped five kilos of cocaine to the US; the kidnapping charges stem from the FARC's February 2003 capture of US military contractors Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves after their plane crashed in the southern department of Caqueta.

VENEZUELA: MURDER CASE LEADS TO MIAMI?

by Weekly News Update on the Americas

Investigators probing the Nov. 18 car bomb assassination of Venezuelan state prosecutor Danilo Anderson have found telephone records suggesting that the killing was planned at a meeting in Miami this past September. One of the participants at the meeting was Jose Augustin Guevara, a brother of ex-police agents Otoniel and Rolando Guevara, who were arrested on Nov. 26 on charges of "premeditated homicide" and conspiracy in the Anderson murder. Otoniel Guevara is accused of being an agent of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). A cousin of the three brothers, Juan Bautista Guevara, is suspected of having planted the bomb on Anderson's car. Eyewitnesses place him at the scene shortly before Anderson's car exploded.
 
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested Jose Guevara in Miami in 2001 when he attempted to withdraw funds from a bank account belonging to Peru's then-fugitive spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos Torres, who was wanted in Peru in connection with corruption and human rights abuses. The FBI then released Jose Guevara into its witness protection program. The Guevara brothers are said to have been paid $1 million for hiding Montesinos in Venezuela. Montesinos was arrested in Caracas on June 24, 2001. Venezuelan government spokespeople have also accused Florida-based rightwing Cuban-American Rodolfo Fromenta, head of the anti-Castro paramilitary group Comandos F-4, of links to the Anderson murder.
 
Venezuela's Attorney General's Office has taken over the investigation of the Anderson murder after concerns were raised about irregularities in the probe conducted by agents from the Scientific Criminal Investigations Corps (CICPC), including links between the Guevara brothers and the CICPC. (Venezuelanalysis.com, Dec. 2; El Nuevo Herald, Miami, Dec. 1; La Republica, Lima, Nov. 27) On Nov. 26, CICPC agents fatally shot lawyer Antonio Lopez, a possible suspect in the Anderson case, in an alleged gunfight. The same day, former police agent Juan Carlos Sanchez, also wanted in connection with the Anderson killing, died in a confrontation with police. Both Lopez and Sanchez were linked to the Guevara brothers. Authorities later raided Lopez's home and said they found high-powered weapons and explosives. (AFP, Nov. 26; NYT, Nov. 24)

At the time of his death, Anderson was heading up investigations into some 400 opposition figures for possible involvement in an April 2002 coup against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez Frias or other destabilization attempts against the government. On Nov. 26, two of the men Anderson was investigating sought asylum in the Salvadoran embassy in Caracas. Lazaro Forero and Henry Vivas, former chiefs of the Caracas Metropolitan Police, were arrested by Venezuelan authorities on Dec. 3 after the Salvadoran government turned down their request for asylum. The two are accused of responsibility for violence which killed 20 people and wounded dozens more at an opposition march in Caracas on Apr. 11, 2002. Opposition forces used the violence as a pretext for their coup attempt against Chavez the next day. (BBC, Reuters, Dec. 3)

Another two opposition figures who were under investigation by Anderson, former Venezuelan national guard officers Jose Antonio Colina and German Rodolfo Varela, appeared in their final US asylum hearing on Nov. 29 at the Krome detention center in West Miami-Dade. The two sought asylum in the US on Dec. 19 of last year; they are accused in Venezuela of bombing the Colombian and Spanish diplomatic missions in Caracas on Feb. 25, 2003. At the Nov. 29 hearing, US prosecutors told Immigration Judge Neale Foster that neither Colina nor Varela deserve asylum because they fled to evade prosecution--not persecution. Attorneys for the two men blasted US prosecutors for allegedly favoring Chavez, and accused Foster of bias. Foster ordered closing arguments in writing by Jan. 14, promised to weigh the evidence fairly and said he would issue a ruling early next year. (Miami Herald, Dec. 1)
 
Venezuelan actor and anti-Chavez activist Orlando Urdaneta, interviewed in October on a Miami television station, urged that efficient commandos be hired to assassinate Chavez and his associates in Venezuela. The interviewer, Maria Elvira Salazar, suggested to Urdaneta that the commandos would ideally be Israeli; Urdaneta agreed. On Nov. 25, the Israeli embassy denied any connection with sectors trying to destabilize the Venezuelan government, and denied that any Israelis were involved with the Anderson assassination. (EFE, Nov. 29, Newsday, Nov. 20)

Newly declassified intelligence documents have confirmed that the CIA was aware that dissident military officers and opposition figures in Venezuela were planning a coup against Chavez in 2002. In a senior intelligence executive brief dated April 6 of that year, the CIA said that "disgruntled senior officers and a group of radical junior officers are stepping up efforts to organize a coup against President Chavez, possibly as early as this month." The documents were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by Jeremy Bigwood, a freelance investigative reporter in Washington. In interviews with the New York Times and other news organizations in the days after the April 12 coup, administration officials vigorously denied having had advance knowledge of plans to oust Chavez, who regained power on April 14. (NYT,. Dec. 3)
 
On Nov. 22, the foreign minister of Spain's socialist government, Miguel Angel Moratinos, criticized the rightwing government of former Spanish president Jose Maria Aznar for supporting the coup in Venezuela. On Dec. 1, Moratinos reiterated his accusations but apologized for having made them in the wrong place and at an "inappropriate" time. While Aznar didn't instigate or help plan the coup, he also "didn't condemn the coup d'etat, endorsed it and offered it international legitimacy," Moratinos charged. (AFP, Dec. 1)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 5

See also WW3 REPORT #103

PERU: ONE KILLED IN MINE PROTEST

by Weekly News Update on the Americas

On the evening of Nov. 16, some 2,000 campesinos took over the Buenaventura mining company's La Zanja camp in the Pulan district of Santa Cruz province, Cajamarca department, in northwestern Peru. The Front for the Defense of the Environment--a previously unknown group, according to governor Segundo Amado Linares--apparently organized the takeover of the camp in order to press a community demand for an end to mining explorations in the zone. Local campesinos fear mining will bring contamination to the area, harming their health and the agriculture they rely on for survival. The campesinos--many of them members of the organized defense groups known as rondas--burned the camp's buildings and vehicles as the 200 workers based there fled. Police intervened with tear gas but were unable to regain control. Campesino Juan Montenegro Lingan was killed by a bullet, and several people were wounded. Police finally retook the camp on Nov. 17 and arrested 18 people, who were all released later in the day after appearing before a judge. Judge Adolfo Arribasplata also ordered the arrest of 23 other people believed to be involved in the attack on the camp, including the mayor of the village of Tongod, Roberto Becerra Mondragon. (La Republica, Lima, Nov. 19, 25; AFP Nov. 17)

ECUADOR: RUMSFELD DOES QUITO

by Weekly News Update on the Americas

At a meeting of Western Hemisphere defense ministers in Quito, Ecuador, on Nov. 16, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called for increased Latin American action against terrorism, hinting that the region's militaries should be more involved in domestic law enforcement. The US has had "to conduct an arduous yet essential re-examination of the relationship between its military and law enforcement responsibilities," he said. Many Latin American countries suffered from human rights abuses while they were under the rule of US-backed military regimes in the 1970s and 1980s. As a result some, like Argentina, have tried to bar the military from policing operations. US officials have suggested that the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda is moving into the hemisphere; the US has offered no evidence, and some experts are skeptical. (Reuter, Nov. 17)

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