Issue #. 110. June 2005

PLAN COLOMBIA’S SECRET AIR FORCE PROGRAM IN PERU A Father Waits for Justice as Deadly Accident Reveals Air-Interception Exercises by Peter Gorman COLOMBIA: CHEMICAL WARFARE EXPANDS Ecologists Warn of Disaster as U.S. Sprays Glyphosate in Threatened National Parks by Daniel… Read moreIssue #. 110. June 2005


And Does Ice Cube Save America from Donald Rumsfeld? Well, Duh!

by Shlomo Svesnik

In two of this spring’s Hollywood blockbusters, you have to wait until the very last of the final credits for the real punch line.

“All characters are fictional and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.”

Uh-huh. We’ve heard that one before.

Everybody’s talking about the Bush allusions in Revenge of the Sith, the dark conclusion of the new (and, thankfully, last) Star Wars trilogy. There were several obvious parallels for the fall of the Galactic Republic to a despotic Empire, from ancient Rome to Weimar Germany. What a strange twist of fate that this final installment, in which the dread transition reaches its climax, should be released as precisely this phenomenon appears to be befalling the American republic.

“If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy,” the fledgling Darth Vader notoriously proclaims, echoing nearly verbatim George Bush’s post-9-11 warning “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” The other line everybody points to is: “This is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause.” So speaks pure-hearted Padme Amidala as Senator Palpatine declares himself Emperor. It could be the passage of the Homeland Security Act.

Fewer noticed that the last installment, Attack of the Clones, had the Galactic Senate voting to raise a standing clone army exactly as Congress was voting to approve military action against Iraq here in the real world in 2002, with Chuck Schumer happily voting along like a clueless Jar-Jar Binks. Now the new movie reveals that the Separatist rebellion was a phantom menace to justify war–just as the real-world media are acknowledging as much about Saddam’s WMD threat.

This instance of life imitating art is sufficiently blatant that the right is calling for a boycott. (‘s chat forums are all over it.) If only this FX-fest was a fraction as dangerous as they think. But then, as Obi-Wan says, “Only Sith deal in absolutes.”

There are more than a few ironies to the Star Wars series’ cultural trajectory. When the first one came out in ’77 (remember how spontaneous and refreshing and fun it seemed in comparison to the stiff bogus solemnity of the latter trilogy?), it was bashed by many as a move away from the then-fashionable dystopia genre of sci-fi in favor of mere Flash Gordon nostalgia. In retrospect, Soylent Green and Omega Man were also pretty reactionary, with their Malthusian nightmares and Social Darwinist assumptions. But at least they were addressing (or exploiting) “issues” like ecology and the nuclear threat, while Star Wars was seen by socially-conscious popcorn-heads as apolitical escapism.

Still, in the post-’60s climate, it was mandated that the good guys be the Rebels and the bad guys the Empire. It wouldn’t have worked the other way in an America that had just been through Vietnam and Watergate. The Star Trek heroes with their imperial Federation belonged to a zeitgeist that had passed (for the moment). In fact, the Ewoks, those low-tech guerilla teddy-bears who bring down the ultra-mechanized Imperial forces in Return of the Jedi, were an obvious parallel for the Viet Cong.

Yet (I think Marx called this the paradoxical unity of opposites) the very nomenclature of the Star Wars series was appropriated by Ronald Reagan precisely to reverse the post-Vietnam aversion to militarism and imperialism. The very name “Star Wars” became the popular shorthand for the Strategic Defense Initiative, the system of space-based weapons (which the government is still pursuing, under other names and slightly less grandiose forms). The Soviet Union, of course, became the “Evil Empire.”

So maybe George Lucas thinks he is atoning for his sins in Jedi fashion by making a flick with unsubtle disses of Darth Dubya. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just shrewd–even cynical–marketing. You know how all along the series has had these hifalutin’ pseudo-Taoist pretensions? Yet you notice that Lucas is not above decidedly un-Taoist Burger King promotional tie-ins. (You think Yoda would eat that crap?) Similarly, one of the trailers that ran before the showing of Sith we attended was an ad for the Air National Guard, with digitally-enhanced fighter jets careening around the screen like a (no doubt intentional) harbinger of the dazzle to come in the feature attraction. The kicker–“Guarding America, Defending Freedom.”

Who’s taking who for a ride, Freepers?

Much has also been made of the creepy ethnic innuendos in the second trilogy, with alien species designed to invoke the Yellow Peril, Third World Wogs, and so on. Our fave was Watto, the (literally) elephant-nosed slave-keeper from Episode IV, who was simply an undifferentiated Semite, so he could be appreciated by Judeophobes and Arabophobes alike. The same stereotypes apply: the official Star Wars website helpfully informs us that this digital creation is “shrewd and gruff,” with a “love of credits” and “a knack for haggling.”

Nobody’s talking about ethnic allusions in the new flick, but we can’t help but notice that the notion of Empire as secret pawn of the demonic Sith cult (Sith=Seth, third son of Adam and ancestor of the Jews=Set, Egyptian god of evil) smells a little like the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion–and the current paranoia on both the left and right that the government has been taken over by hidden Semitic puppet-masters (the Israelis or the Saudis, take your pick).

Another thing nobody is talking about is that two of the current cinema extravaganzas are essentially about a right-wing coup d’etat: the other one is State of the Union, second installment in the burgeoning xXx series. xXx is obviously conceived as James Bond for the young, hip and tuxedo-alienated: the anti-Bond. In this one, Ice Cube plays a thug from the ‘hood who becomes Agent xXx and teams up with his old car-jacking homies to save America from the putschist designs of a bellicose Defense Secretary who smells suspiciously like Donald Rumsfeld. (Incongruously, the president he seeks to overthrow seems more like Al Gore–he must be removed for seeking multilateralism, wanting to rebuild bridges with Europe and the UN, cut the Pentagon budget, et cetera.) It is set almost entirely within the Beltway, yet the action is nearly Jedi-like in its implausibility. The most significant difference is that Ice Cube saves the day before going underground at the end of the flick; Obi-Wan and Yoda fail to before they do the same thing.

So is it true? Has Hollywood really been taken over by screaming liberals who seek to undermine respect for authority, cause us to falter in the War on Terror and indoctrinate us in weak-willed globalism?

Don’t be a shlemeil. All they’re interested in is making money, and they are adept at playing both sides of the spectrum in order to do so. The best evidence is that the same guy who directed State of the Union, Lee Tamahori, also directed the last 007 monstrosity, Die Another Day. Not only a square Bond flick in which the hero drinks martinis and wears a tux, but one which shamelessly featured bad guys from the Axis of Evil (the downsized Evil Empire)–North Korean terrorists, Cuban mad scientists.

They’ve been playing this game for a long time. Just like Archie Bunker could be a caricature to laugh at for the liberals or an icon to admire for the bigots. Just like Paul Verhoeven’s sinister 1997 production of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers could be lampooning fascism for the deconstructionist crowd, or glorifying it for teenage testosterone-heads.

As Hakim Bey has written: “The problem is not that too much has been revealed, but that every revelation finds its sponsor, its CEO, its monthly slick, its clone Judases & replacement people.”


See Shlomo Svesnik’s last piece:

Why Both Christian and Muslim Fundamentalists Hate Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven


Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, June 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution



from Weekly News Update on the Americas


An unidentified group of armed men intercepted and abducted Maria Antonieta Carrillo, a local leader of Guatemala’s Campesino Unity Committee (CUC), on May 28 in the village of La Arenera, Puerto de San Jose municipality, in the southern department of Escuintla, according to a communique the CUC released on May 29. “We hold the government and the business sector responsible,” the CUC said. “This act is part of the repressive policy [Guatemalan president Oscar] Berger has mounted against the indigenous and campesino movement.” According to the CUC, La Arenera is a leading community in the “struggle for land and for campesinos’ labor rights” in an area which has the highest concentration of large sugar plantations in the country.

The kidnapping came at a time when human rights organizations say they are the victims of a wave of intimidation. A little more than a week before, a source in Unity for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders told the Cuban wire service Prensa Latina that 656 threats or attacks against activists and social organizations had been reported from the beginning of the year to May 13. The most frequent targets were groups that oppose privatization, human rights violations, increased mining and the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), a trade pact pushed by the US. (PL, May 29; El Nuevo Herald, Miami, May 29)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 5


On May 24, an unidentified assailant shot to death campesino leader Ericson Roberto Lemus on an urban bus in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula. The assailant boarded the bus, went straight to Lemus and shot him four times in the head before fleeing. No arrests have been made. Lemus was regional secretary of the National Federation of Agricultural Workers (CNTC) for the northern region of Honduras, a post to which he was elected in March of this year. “We in the CNTC believe Lemus was murdered for reasons linked to his tasks in the organization, since he was following up with several campesino groups in the region which are fighting for a piece of land,” said CNTC finance secretary Ivan Romero in Tegucigalpa. Romero said the CNTC is demanding that the government investigate the murder and punish those responsible. “With the murder of Lemus now there have been 15 comrades who in the past three years have spilled their blood for a piece of land in this country, and none of the cases have been investigated, nor have any of those responsible been punished,” said Romero. (ACAN-EFE, Panama,. May 25)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 29


Unknown persons broke into the office of Guatemala’s National Coordinating Committee of Peasant Organizations (CNOC) on May 8. The intruders stole 15 computers with sensitive information stored in their hard drives, but other valuable equipment was left behind. CNOC is a member of the Indigenous, Campesino, Union and Popular Movement (MICSP), an umbrella organization opposed to the DR-CAFTA; it organized massive demonstrations against the treaty in March. The information stolen included details of MICSP activities against DR-CAFTA, and the way MICSP is organized, as well as CNOC’s records of land conflict cases and its membership database.

After the break-in, CNOC moved into the offices of the Institute of Comparative Studies in Criminal Sciences of Guatemala (ICCPG). This office was broken into on May 10 in an apparent attempt to intimidate the staff of CNOC. Nothing was taken. On the same night two other MICSP member organizations suffered break-ins: the General Confederation of Workers of Guatemala (CGTG) and the Confederation of Labor Unity of Guatemala (CUSG).

There was a break-in at the offices of Children for Identity and Justice, against Forgetting and Silence (HIJOS) the night of May 11. HIJOS works on behalf of children whose parents “disappeared” in armed conflicts, but it has also been actively opposed to DR-CAFTA. The back doors of the office were forced, and the intruders examined the organization’s files and took two computers containing sensitive information about the organization’s work. A brand-new computer with no information stored on it was not taken, and other valuable office equipment was also left behind. In a possibly related incident, two armed men robbed HIJOS member Francisco Sanchez and tried to abduct him; they stopped when he resisted.

There have been 15 break-ins at human rights and social movement offices this year; eight took place between May 7 and May 12. (Amnesty International Alert, May 13; HIJOS Alert, May 12; Servicio Informativo “Alai-amlatina”, May 17)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 22


Some 300 indigenous people and campesinos from the Honduran provinces of Intibuca, Comayagua and Santa Barbara protested on May 11 in front of the US embassy in Tegucigalpa to demand that DR-CAFTA not be ratified. “For the right to health, education and work, no to the TLC [free trade treaty],” read a banner held by the protesters in front of the embassy, which was surrounded by riot police. The demonstration was timed to coincide with a series of protests in the US against DR-CAFTA. According to Salvador Zuniga of the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), the protesters reject the “servile” role played by the Central American presidents who were meeting in the US to promote DR-CAFTA. “These presidents are offering the riches of the Central American peoples on a silver platter, and in the case of the president of Honduras, asking that an anti-national and anti-Honduran treaty be ratified which will only bring more unemployment and poverty,” Zuniga said. (Tiempo, Honduras, May 12; AP, May 11)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 15


Three Central American presidents gathered in Miami on May 9 to launch a four-day 10-city US tour by a total of six presidents to promote the Free Trade Agreement, which US president George W. Bush is trying to get approved by Congress before the summer. Oscar Berger of Guatemala, Ricardo Maduro of Honduras and Enrique Bolanos of Nicaragua joined with Florida governor Jeb Bush to speak, under tight security, at the Port of Miami. Dozens of protesters–steel workers, retirees, Latino group representatives and others–stood holding placards on the corner outside behind a line of 18-wheelers waiting to enter the port. “It was hard to do interviews because all the trucks were honking [in support of the protesters],” Eric Rubin, the director of the Florida Fair Trade Coalition, told the Miami Herald. “I think we got our message across.” (Florida FTAA press release, May 8; MH, May 10)

Dominican president Leonel Fernandez visited New York on May 10 to talk up DR-CAFTA at a luncheon at the City College of New York in Harlem. Dozens of members of the 1199/SEIU health care union, Dominican community organizations and Central American solidarity groups marched through the campus chanting “No to CAFTA, yes to life” in Spanish. Sonia Ivany of the New York state AFL-CIO told a rally that DR-CAFTA is based on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which she said caused the loss of 780,000 jobs nationally in the garment and textile industries, 56,000 of them in New York. (El Nacional, Santo Domingo, May 12; El Diario-La Prensa, NY, May 11)

Salvadoran President Tony Saca visited Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Fe before arriving in Washington on May 11 to join Fernandez, Berger, Maduro, Bolanos and Costa Rican president Abel Pacheco for what was supposedly the first lobbying action at the US Congress by six presidents at one time. They met with Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R-TN), Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Richard Lugar (R-IN) and other senators. A meeting with House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) was hastily cancelled when the Capitol was evacuated because a small civilian airplane had wandered off course over downtown Washington. On May 12 the six presidents met with President Bush at the White House, where Bush told reporters that DR-CAFTA meant “stability and security, which can only be achieved with freedom.” (AP, May 10, 11; El Nuevo Herald, Miami, May 1 from AP, quote retranslated from Spanish)

Other Central Americans were in Washington to lobby against DR-CAFTA, including Salvadoran legislative deputy Salvador Arias of the leftist Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation (FMLN). Arias also took part in anti-CAFTA demonstrations, along with another FMLN deputy, Lourdes Palacios. Salvadoran interior minister Rene Figueroa reportedly said Arias’ participation in the protests was “no more than an act of treason.” Arias told reporters that “in El Salvador this is a death sentence.” He said the FMLN would be taking extra security measures for him when he returned to El Salvador. (ED-LP, May 14 from AP)

The New York Times reports that DR-CAFTA is “the current centerpiece of President Bush’s trade agenda” but that it “is facing unusually united Democratic opposition as well as serious problems in overcoming well-entrenched special interest groups like sugar producers and much of the textile industry.” The UK Financial Times notes that “[i]n a hemisphere where anti-Americanism has become the norm, Central American governments have been among Mr. Bush’s most loyal allies… [I]f Mr. Bush fails to win congressional support, he will let down his closest friends and send a bleak message to pro-US politicians further south. Defeat on CAFTA would also sound the death knell for more ambitious liberalization such as the continent-embracing Free Trade Area of the America (FTAA).” (NYT , May 10; FT, May 13)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 15

So far only the legislatures of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have ratified the agreement. The US Senate Committee on Finance began considering DR-CAFTA on April 6. The administration would like to hold the vote before July 1, the expiration date for the “fast-track” rule which keeps Congress from changing or amending trade agreements. The Senate is expected to approve, but the measure faces problems in the House of Representatives. On May 4, four centrist representatives–Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Arthur Davis (D-AL) and Ron Kind (D-WI)–announced they were not backing DR-CAFTA. The opposition is “very strong,” Tauscher said, but she couldn’t say whether it would be enough to stop the trade pact.

Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 8


May Day marches in Central America focused on opposition to DR-CAFTA and neoliberal economic policies. (La Jornada, Mexico, May 2 from AFP, DPA, Reuters)

In Guatemala City, nearly 30,000 people marched five kilometers from a labor monument to Constitution Plaza to protest the free trade treaty. The march was organized by the Indigenous, Campesino, Union and Grassroots Movement. Similar protests were held in the departments of Izabal, Quetzaltenango, Suchitepequez, Escuintla and Jutiapa, among others. (EFE, May 1; Guatemala Hoy, May 2)

More than 40,000 workers and students marched in the Salvadoran capital on May Day to protest DR-CAFTA and call for respect for labor rights. Participants were demanding that El Salvador ratify all the International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions, including one which refers to the right of public sector workers to be represented by unions. (EFE, May 1; Argenpress, May 3)

More than 70,000 people marched in 10 Honduran cities to protest DR-CAFTA and Mexico’s Plan Puebla-Panama, as well as government corruption and the high price of basic necessities. The marches in Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba, Puerto Cortes and six other towns were also commemorating the 51st anniversary of a strike by banana workers against the US multinationals Standard Fruit and Chiquita Brands, which marked the birth of the Honduran labor movement. (Argenpress, May 3)

In Nicaragua, there were two opposing May Day marches, together drawing about 4,000 people. One march was headed by rightwing President Enrique Bolanos; the other was led by leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) founder and leader Tomas Borge. (EFE, May 2; LJ, May 2 from AFP, DPA, Reuters)

For the second year in a row, thousands of workers and students marched on May 1 in San Jose, Costa Rica to demand that the government reject DR-CAFTA. This year there were no clashes or incidents. (La Nacion, Costa Rica, May 2; EFE, May 1)

On April 26, Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco announced that he would designate a commission of five “notables”–supposedly with no political, business or union affiliations–to study DR-CAFTA and make a recommendation which will help him decide whether or not to send the measure to Congress for approval. On May 5, Pacheco designated the commission’s first member, Franklin Chang, a US astronaut of Costa Rican descent. Pacheco said that once he gets the report from the commission he will proceed in accordance with his conscience. (La Republica, Costa Rica, May 6)

Thousands of workers and students marched in Panama City to protest proposed social security “reforms,” demand an increase in the minimum wage, and condemn government corruption. (EFE, May 2) As the march ended, three agents from the National Police arrested Carlos Obaldia, finance secretary of the Single Union of Construction and Similar Workers (SUNTRACS), a combative union which has been active in the struggle against the privatization of social security. Obaldia was released after a half hour; he said police claimed they arrested him for painting graffiti, though he denied doing so. (La Prensa, Panama, May 2)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 8


On May 1 in the northern Dominican Republic city of Santiago, transport workers marched with members of neighborhood and grassroots organizations to protest the government’s economic policies and DR-CAFTA. The march was organized by the Alternative Social Forum of the Northern Region, whose spokesperson, Victor Breton, warned that DR-CAFTA will deepen the economic crisis affecting Dominican farmers. Breton noted that “thousands” of workers have been laid off from the country’s “free trade zones,” tourism is down and unemployment is at its highest rate in years. Fidel Santana, general spokesperson of the Alternative Social Forum, also spoke at the march, saying that DR-CAFTA will make Dominicans poorer. Hundreds of workers from the northern region took part in the march in Santiago, which was joined by a delegation of grassroots leaders from Santo Domingo. (EFE, May 1)

The Dominican Senate has conditioned its approval of DR-CAFTA on a series of compensatory measures for national producers, who will be unable to compete with the other treaty partners. On May 3, a mission of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which was in the Dominican Republic to evaluate an accord signed with the government last January, recommended a fiscal reform to recover the income which the country will lose when DR-CAFTA takes effect. (Hoy, NY, May 6 from wire services)

The Alternative Social Forum, which groups more than 50 union and grassroots organizations from throughout the Dominican Republic, organized a mass march to the National Palace in Santo Domingo on April 20 to protest DR-CAFTA and put forth alternative economic proposals. The march was blocked by a heavy police and military presence. The Forum also organized a picket on April 28 outside the National Social Security Council to protest the privatization of health care and demand that the government continue to provide medical insurance to Dominican workers. (Hoy, NY, April 29)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 8

Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #109


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, June 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution



from Weekly News Update on the Americas


On June 20, the last day of ordinary sessions for the Colombian Congress, the Senate approved the “Justice and Peace” law, which paves the way for a “demobilization” and amnesty process under negotiation with the country’s right-wing paramilitaries since last July. The law grants the paramilitaries political status, allowing them to potentially benefit from pardons. Under the demobilization program, paramilitary commanders are supposed to confess all their crimes in order to benefit from reduced sentences of 4-8 years in prison. The Chamber of Representatives approved the law on June 21 in an extraordinary session. Colombia’s right-wing paramilitaries have historically been strongly supported by the state. (El Nuevo Herald, Miami, June 21 from AP; Inter Press Service, June 22)

Under the “Justice and Peace” law, which President Alvaro Uribe Velez signed on June 22, a group of 20 prosecutors will investigate within a maximum period of 60 days the crimes of each of the 10,000 paramilitary members who are eligible to demobilize from now through December.

Congressional representative Gustavo Petro of the leftist Independent Democratic Pole (PDI) party accuses Uribe of pushing through the “Justice and Peace” law in order to benefit relatives linked to paramilitary groups in Antioquia, where Uribe served as governor from 1995 to 1997. Petro said that Santiago Uribe Velez, the president’s brother, formed and financed a paramilitary group called “The 12 Apostles” around 1993-1994. The group, based out of the Uribe family’s La Carolina ranch in Yarumal, Antioquia, killed at least 50 people. Santiago Uribe was interrogated in 1997 about the group but the case was archived in 1999 for lack of evidence. Relatives of the victims of the June 1990 Campamento massacre, in which four people were killed and two disappeared by “The 12 Apostles,” have brought the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Petro also said two first cousins and an uncle of President Uribe led a paramilitary group known as “Los Erre,” linked to the killings of another 50 or more people in Titiribi and Armenia-Mantequilla municipalities in Antioquia. Carlos Alberto Velez Ochoa, Juan Diego Velez Ochoa and Mario Velez Ochoa were initially sentenced in the case but were released from prison after a year for lack of evidence. President Uribe and his family also apparently had close ties to Antioquia drug lords Pablo Escobar Gaviria and Fabio Ochoa Vasquez, who is related to the Velez Ochoa family.
(ENH, June 23 from correspondent; IPS, June 22)

On June 20, Colombia’s Congress approved two other laws pushed by Uribe’s government: a pension reform law which will take effect in 2010, and a law providing foreign investors with legal guarantees protecting their contracts from any changes in law or policy. But Congress rejected four legislative proposals presented by Defense Minister Jorge Alberto Uribe, including one which would have unified the state’s intelligence services and another which would have increased the length of obligatory military service from 18 to 24 months. The defense minister narrowly avoided being fired the previous week when the Chamber of Representatives–but not the Senate–passed a vote of censure against him. (ENH, June 21 from AP)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 26


On June 28, the US House of Representatives voted 189-234 to defeat an amendment which would have cut $100 million in military aid for Colombia from a $734 million “Andean Counterdrug Initiative” in the 2006 foreign operations appropriations bill (HR 3057). The amendment to cut funding for the US-sponsored “Plan Colombia” military program was introduced by Reps. James McGovern (D-MA), Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Dennis Moore (D-KS). The Washington-based Latin America Working Group (LAWG) described the Colombia amendment as “the single most hotly-debated issue on the foreign operations bill.” Congress members who spoke out against it included Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), who noted how Afro-Colombians and indigenous peoples are disproportionately affected by Colombia’s ongoing internal violence, and amendment co-sponsor McCollum, who pointed out that in Colombia, “90% of violent crimes…go unpunished, and human rights abuses among Colombia’s military are all too common.”

Later on June 28, the House voted 393-32 to approve the full bill, officially titled the Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2006. In addition to the $734 million Andean Counterdrug Initiative, the bill will provide military aid of $2.3 billion for Israel and $1.3 billion for Egypt. In order for the bill to become law, a final version must be passed by both the House and Senate and then signed by the president. A subcommittee met June 29 to begin work on the Senate version. (LAWG Update, June 30; News from Lutheran World Relief, July 1; US Department of State Press Release, June 29 via; Press Release from House Speaker Dennis Hastert, June 28 via US Newswire)

Weekly New Update on the Americas, July 3


The Colombian attorney general’s office has ordered the arrest of six soldiers to face homicide charges for the killing of five civilians on April 10, 2004, in the village of Potosi, Cajamarca municipality, Tolima department. The army claimed the five villagers were killed in crossfire as a military patrol was pursuing a group of leftist guerrillas; the soldiers argued that they hadn’t been able to distinguish the victims as civilians because dense fog limited their visibility. The attorney general’s office ordered the arrests after an autopsy on 17-year old campesino Albeiro Mendoza showed he was shot at a distance of between 30 and 60 centimeters–practically point blank. The other victims were Mendoza’s son, six-month old Cristian Albeiro Mendoza Uruena; the baby’s mother, 17-year old Yamile Uruena Arango; 14-year old Julio Cesar Santana; and 24-year old Norberto Mendoza. The family was taking the baby to the doctor for an ear infection when they were killed. (El Tiempo, Bogota, July 1 via Servicio Prensa Rural)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 3

Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #110


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, July 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution



from Weekly News Update on the Americas

On May 21, residents of the northern Ecuadoran provinces of Sucumbios and Orellana began an open-ended civic strike to demand improvements to roads, schools, housing and health care in the region, which borders on Colombia and Peru. The protesters seized 114 oil wells on nine fields operated by the state-run oil company Petroecuador and blocked access roads to oil facilities, forcing a shutdown of drilling and repair work.

As the strike continued on May 25, President Alfredo Palacio declared a 60-day state of emergency in Sucumbios and Orellana, deeming the oil region a “security territory.” The state of emergency allows the restriction of certain civil rights. (La Jornada, Mexico, May 25; AP, May 26)

Late on May 25, after the government signed an agreement promising to address their demands, the protesters ended their strike and left the oil fields. Under the terms of the agreement, Petroecuador and other state agencies must finance roads and electricification projects in the region. The state of emergency remains in effect. (AP, Reuters, May 26)

On May 24, Palacio outlined a six-point plan for restoring stability in Ecuador over the next 18 months with a call for “a great national accord.” The proposed steps include calling a “People’s Assembly” to define an agenda of change; the assembly’s proposals would then be put to a referendum, and in the same election, representatives would be chosen for a constitutional assembly. Palacio became president on April 20 after mass protests forced the ouster of Lucio Gutierrez from office. (LJ, May 25, 26, from wire services)

The National Federation of Campesino, Indigenous and Black Organizations (FENOCIN) and other grassroots organizations in Ecuador are planning protests during the 10th round of negotiations over a free trade treaty (TLC) with the US, Colombia and Peru, scheduled for June 6-19 in Guayaquil. Grassroots groups are demanding that Palacio suspend the TLC negotiations and instead call a referendum on the trade pact. (El Comercio, Peru, May 28, from EFE)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 29

Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #109


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, June 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution



from Weekly News Update on the Americas


On May 29 in Tocache province, in the Huallaga valley of San Martin in north central Peru, at least 3,500 campesino coca growers (cocaleros) armed with sticks surrounded a group of 230 police agents charged with carrying out coca leaf eradication operations. According to police, the resulting clash left 17 agents hurt–one by a bullet, the rest by beatings. Twenty cocaleros were injured; Tocache mayor Nancy Zagerra said three of them are in serious condition with bullet wounds. (La Jornada, Mexico, May 31 from DPA)

The 230 anti-drug police agents had arrived in the area on May 26, along with 50 workers from the Control and Reduction of Coca Crops in the Alto Huallaga (CORAH) project. On May 28, the anti-drug forces set up camp in the village of 5 de Diciembre, where according to cocalero leader Nancy Obregon they forced the campesinos from their homes and destroyed their crops, even after the campesinos showed them documents from the state-run National Coca Company (ENACO) demonstrating that the crops were legal. “They said those [documents] were no good and they threw everyone out. The people have had to sleep outside,” said Obregon Outraged at the incident, Obregon organized nearly 4,000 cocaleros to confront the agents at their camp the next day. (La Republica, Lima, May 30)

On May 31 a representative of the Office of the Defender of the People, Manlio Alvarez Soto, traveled to Tocache from Tingo Maria, in neighboring Huanuco region, to meet with the cocaleros and gather information about the conflict. Alvarez also visited two of the wounded cocaleros in the Tingo Maria hospital, where they were taken for treatment. [LR 6/1/05] On June 3, some 6,000 cocaleros from Monzon and Alto Huallaga marched in Tingo Maria in support of the Tocache cocaleros. (LR, May 6) Obregon said the cocaleros will start an open-ended strike on June 27. (LR, May 30)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 5


On May 24, some 2,000 residents of Espinar province in the southern Peruvian region of Cusco seized a copper mining camp run by the British-Australian corporation BHP Billiton-Tintaya. The protesters looted and burned camp facilities, and police used tear gas to try to remove them; dozens of people were injured. Residents are demanding that the mining company provide $20 million a year in funding for social programs in the region and that it take measures to improve infrastructure and protect the environment. BHP Billiton-Tintaya is the third largest copper mine in Peru, producing 80,000 tons a year, 12.1% of national production.

As the number of residents surrounding the camp swelled to 4,000 on May 25, BHP Billiton-Tintaya pulled its personnel out and shut down operations at the camp. The same day, the protesters beat the mayor of Espinar when he asked them to dialogue with the mining company.

On May 26, a government delegation headed by Energy and Mines deputy minister Romulo Mucho arrived to negotiate with the protesters, who now numbered some 6,000 and were gathered in the plaza in Yauri, the provincial capital of Espinar. The crowd was furious to see that the Energy and Mines minister had not come with the delegation, but eventually agreed to a dialogue.

The company is not participating, saying it will not negotiate under pressure, and that it will not contribute more than what it agreed to in an 2003 contract: 3% of utilities, with a minimum payment set at $1.5 million a year. In the first year of the contract the company paid $2 million. (LJ, May 25 from Reuters; Reuters May 26)

Police in Yauri say that early on May 26 they found pamphlets of the Maoist rebel group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) scattered in the streets, calling on residents to “rid our land of the traitor dogs and those miserable gringos who loot our resources.” The news led some media to suggest that the Espinar protests were organized by “subversives,” but legislator Jose Taco, a member of the government negotiating team, rejected the theory. “I’m from the zone, I know the people, and I deny the subversive character, they’re not criminals, [though] there are groups which take advantage,” he said.

On May 27, after a 12-hour meeting with the government delegation, Espinar residents agreed to suspend their protests while local leaders consult with their bases about whether or not to accept a June 2 meeting to renew dialogue with the company. BHP Billiton-Tintaya has not yet agreed to the dialogue, and says it will keep its operations shut down for security reasons. Economy minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski told the media on May 26 that the company will leave Peru if the protests are not resolved quickly. (Reuters, May 26, 27)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 29


On May 23, thousands of campesinos in seven Peruvian regions began blocking highways in an agrarian strike to demand fair prices for their produce, protest unfair competition from imports and reject a free trade treaty being negotiated with the US, Ecuador and Colombia which they say will exacerbate their current crisis. In addition, the campesinos were demanding that sales tax be reduced from 19% to 4% for the agricultural sector, and that the state agrarian bank, Agrobanco, open up branches in rural areas to grant low-interest credits to campesinos. The strikers mainly produce rice, cotton and bananas in Peru’s northern regions, and potatoes in the south.

The protest was initially called as a 48-hour strike in Tumbes, Piura, Cajamarca, Loreto and Ayacucho departments, and as an open-ended strike in Lambayeque and San Martin. In Tumbes, on the northern coast bordering Ecuador, some 5,000 rice and banana producers blocked several kilometers of the Panamerican highway. In the northern coastal city of Chiclayo, in Lambayeque, police arrested some 20 people who were watching campesinos blockade the Panamerican highway. Strike actions also took place in Piura, also on the northern coast, and in Cajamarca, just inland in the northern Andes.

Further east, on the edge of the Peruvian Amazon, more than 10,000 rice growers from San Martin and Loreto departments blocked the road linking the towns of Yurimaguas (Loreto) and Tarapoto (San Martin) and shut down activities in the zone. Campesino leader Luis Zuniga, president of the National Convention of Peruvian Farmers (CONVEAGRO), noted that Peruvian authorities had encouraged farmers to grow more rice, causing a production glut which has forced prices down.

In Ayacucho, in the south-central Andean highlands, more than 8,000 campesino potato growers began their strike on May 23 by occupying the offices of the Regional Department of Agriculture and blocking the main access highways into the city of Huamanga.

Agriculture Minister Manuel Manrique said late on May 23 that he had reached a pre-accord with the Ayacucho producers, and that they had agreed to lift their strike once negotiations with campesino representatives from the other regions were successful. Under the terms of the accord, the government agreed to purchase 4,100 tons of potatoes from the Ayacucho producers. (Telam, AP, May 23, 24; Prensa Latina, May 24; ANSA, May 23; La Jornada, Mexico, May 26) The strikes ended May 26 after the government signed an accord with the northern producers, in which it pledged to buy this year’s entire crop of rice in order to stabilize prices. (LJ, May 27 from DPA)

President Alejandro Toledo left Peru on May 24 to begin a 17-day trip in which he is to visit China, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the Occupied Territories. Manrique, the agriculture minister, was also scheduled to take part in the trip. (AP, May 24)

The agrarian strike came in a conflictive week in Peru. On May 24, some 7,000 nurses employed by the state-run Social Security agency began an open-ended national strike to demand a wage increase. In the northern city of Trujillo, state workers burned tires and threw paint at offices of the Chilean airline Lan-Peru in a protest to demand a series of labor laws. On May 23, Aymara indigenous residents of the Uros islands in Lake Titicaca began a 48-hour strike to demand that the National Institute of Natural Resources stop barring them from using the lake’s flora and fauna. On May 24, the Aymara announced that their strike would be open-ended. (LJ, May 26 from DPA, AFP, Reuters; AP, May 24)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 29

Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #107


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, June 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution



from Weekly News Update on the Americas


Some 15,000 campesinos, students and other protesters filled the Plaza Murillo in La Paz on May 30 to demand nationalization of Bolivia’s natural gas resources and the seating of a constitutional assembly. Police did not repress the protests, which on May 30 were mainly limited to La Paz and the adjoining city of El Alto. (La Jornada, Mexico, May 31 from AFP, DPA)

The next day, May 31, more than 50,000 people gathered in La Paz for what Associated Press called the biggest demonstration since the latest round of protests began on May 16. Rural school teachers, members of El Alto’s neighborhood organizations, Aymara indigenous campesinos from the Altiplano region of La Paz department and other protesters closed off access to the center of the capital, blowing up sticks of dynamite and blocking all the major intersections with burning tires. Police used tear gas and clashed with the marchers, especially El Alto university students. In El Alto itself, everything was closed by a civic strike which began May 23. As night fell, thousands of protesters remained in La Paz, and police used more tear gas and rubber bullets to try to disperse them. At least 10 people were wounded by rubber bullets and seven people were arrested. (LJ, June 1 from correspondent; El Nuevo Herald, Miami, June 1 from AP)

On June 1, more than 10,000 rural and urban public school teachers marched again through La Paz, as did a huge contingent of small business owners and vendors from El Alto and Aymara campesinos from the Altiplano. By the afternoon of June 1, the protests in La Paz had calmed, but in the communities of Ayo Ayo and El Tholar in the Altiplano, Aymara campesinos began blockading the roads that connect the capital with cities to the south and east. The roads linking La Paz with Chile and Peru to the north and west had already been blocked since May 28. In Cochabamba, campesinos and factory workers led a massive march through the center of the city on June 1 for the same consensus demands of nationalization and a constitutional assembly. In Santa Cruz de la Sierra, where the wealthy business class has been pushing demands for regional autonomy, rightwing paramilitary thugs from the Union of Crucenista Youth attacked a campesino march arriving from the north of Santa Cruz department. Local police broke up the fight with tear gas. (LJ, June 2 from correspondent)

Transport workers in La Paz began a two-day strike on June 2. (Miami Herald , June 4)

At 11 PM on June 2, after the Bolivian Congress failed for the second consecutive day to reach agreement on bills to convoke a constitutional assembly and a national referendum on regional autonomy, President Carlos Mesa Gisbert announced he was issuing Supreme Decree 28195, which sets Oct. 16 as the date when Bolivians will elect representatives for the constitutional assembly and decide the regional autonomy question in a referendum. The decree must be ratified by Congress in order to be valid. In his televised announcement, Mesa emphasized that the constitutional assembly is the best forum to reconsider the hydrocarbons law which took effect on May 17 and to take up the issue of nationalization. La Paz mayor Juan del Granado, a former leftist, played a key role by meeting with Mesa earlier in the day and pressing him to issue the decree. “If this decision is not ratified by Congress,” announced Del Granado, “all the institutions of La Paz will go on hunger strike.” (LJ, June 3)

Abel Mamani of the El Alto Federation of Neighborhood Committees (FEJUVE) said on June 3 that the decree is “illegal” and fails to address “the main demand of the social organizations, which is the nationalization of the hydrocarbons.” (AP, June 3) Movement to Socialism (MAS) leader Evo Morales also blasted Mesa’s decree as “absolutely anti-constitutional” and called it a “show” with which the president seeks to “demobilize the people.” (LJ, June 3) Leaders of the Santa Cruz business class are likewise dissatisfied with Mesa’s decree; they insist the autonomy vote be held on Aug. 12. (Miami Herald, June 4)

Earlier on June 2, Morales and other MAS deputies had blocked Congress from simultaneously considering the bills on regional autonomy and the constitutional assembly, as it had agreed to do the night before. MAS said Congress must first pass the constitutional assembly bill. Congress president Hormando Vaca Diez, a senator from Santa Cruz, blasted the move by MAS, and citing inadequate conditions, suspended legislative sessions until June 7. Hundreds of campesino coca growers (cocaleros) from the Chapare region of Cochabamba department–Morales’ base of support–gathered outside the Congress building and tried to keep the legislators from leaving. They managed to beat up one senator, Gonzalo Chirveches. (LJ, June 3)

On June 3, as the transport strike paralyzed La Paz for a second day and protesters blockaded more than 40 highways in eight of Bolivia’s nine departments, leaders of the Catholic Church announced they would seek to mediate a solution to the conflict. (AP, June 3) Also on June 3, the Confederation of Urban Teachers of Bolivia announced it was rejecting the government’s latest salary offer and would maintain the open-ended national general strike which started May 6. The same day, La Paz teachers took Deputy Education Minister Celestino Choque hostage in an effort to force him to explain why the Education Ministry claimed that unionized teachers earn high salaries and bonuses. (Los Tiempos de Cochabamba, June 4)

In Santa Cruz department, Radio Erbol reported that nearly 2,000 campesinos had seized the gas wells of the Chaco company to demand nationalization and the constitutional assembly. (Resumen Latinoamericano, June 3 from Bolpress)

In San Pablo, Trinidad, a group of military and police agents were attacked with gunfire as they tried to dismantle a blockade from the San Pablo bridge on the highway linking Trinidad to Santa Cruz. Three people were killed. Presidency Minister Jose Galindo said the troops were ambushed by hired professionals. (Los Tiempos, June 4)

As of June 4, highways were blocked at more than 55 points in seven Bolivian departments, with La Paz and Oruro departments having the most blockades. Early on June 4, the Assembly of the Guarani People (APG) set up a blockade along the Camiri-Santa Cruz route, joining the demands for a constitutional assembly and nationalization of the gas. The APG is also demanding the creation of a 10th department in the Chaco region of Bolivia, to include four provinces currently located in Santa Cruz, Chuq uisaca and Tarija departments. In Cochabamba department, cocaleros say they will blockade a main highway through the Chapare on June 6 if the nationalization issue is not resolved. (La Razon, La Paz, June 5; Resumen Latinoamericano, June 3 from Bolpress]

In other news, in a May 25 operation organized by the Santa Cruz departmental government, military troops and police agents forcibly evicted members of the Bolivian Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) from the Los Yuquises estate in Santiesteban province, Santa Cruz department. No injuries were reported. From May 8 to 12, the Los Yuquises squatters had held hostage a group of 60 people who were hired to attack them. (Bolivia Press, from Centro de Documentacion e Informacion Bolivia, CEDIB, May 27; Alai-amlatina, May 25; Bolpress, May 25)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 5

On May 23, some 5,000 Bolivian coca growers (cocaleros) from the Chapare region of Cochabamba department arrived in La Paz after a four-day, 200-kilometer march from the town of Caracollo in Oruro department to press for national control of oil and natural gas resources and the convening of a constitutional assembly. The Federation of Neighborhood Committees (FEJUVE) in El Alto began an open-ended general strike the same day. As the cocaleros passed through El Alto into La Paz, El Alto’s organized indigenous majority chanted demands for “not 30%, nor 50% royalties–nationalization!” Bolivia’s popular movements are pressing for full nationalization of hydrocarbons resources, while MAS leader Evo Morales, who headed the cocalero march, has reaped harsh criticism for his compromise proposal that the government increase gas royalties to 50%.

American Airlines cancelled all its flights to the La Paz international airport–located in El Alto–and other airlines cancelled some flights. As many as 50,000 street vendors and other small-scale merchants joined the cocalero marchers and El Alto residents in mobilizations in La Paz, culminating in a massive rally in San Francisco Plaza. As Morales spoke, some people in the crowd shouted “nationalization” and “close the parliament.” Morales, who is a legislative deputy, insisted that Congress should not be shut down. Other speakers included Bolivian Workers Central (COB) executive secretary Jaime Solares, who called for nationalization, the closing of the parliament and the resignation of President Carlos Mesa Gisbert, and urged the military to join the people in defeating the oligarchy.

Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 29


On May 16, some 10,000 Bolivian workers, campesinos and unemployed people marched into the center of La Paz from El Alto to press for the nationalization of oil and gas resources, the convening of a constitutional assembly and other demands. The protesters tried to topple security fences and push past a heavy contingent of agents from the Special Security Group to reach the Plaza Murillo and seize the national legislature; police barely managed to keep them back using tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons. The tear gas drifted into nearby schools, forcing teachers to abruptly cancel classes and children to flee through the streets in a panic. (El Diario, La Paz; AP, May 17)

At the same time, thousands of miners set up road blockades on May 16 at numerous points in the center of Bolivia, halting transportation between the departments of La Paz, Oruro, Potosi and Cochabamba. The action was organized by the National Federation of Mining Cooperatives (FENCOMIN) to draw attention to specific demands relating to the mining sector, and to push for nationalization of hydrocarbons resources. (ED, May 17)

The same day, May 16, 5,000 campesinos and workers began marching to La Paz from Caracollo, in Oruro department, to demand the nationalization of hydrocarbons and the immediate convening of a constitutional assembly. The marchers included members of the Only Union Confederation of Bolivian Campesino Workers (CSUTCB) and the COB, as well as campesino coca growers from the Cochabamba tropics, oil workers, irrigation workers and members of the MST. ([ED, May 17, 18)

On May 17, Senate president Hormando Vaca Diez signed into law a controversial hydrocarbons bill which maintains royalties on gas production at 18% but creates a new 32% direct tax on production and requires companies to renegotiate their existing contracts with the government to comply with the new rules. Congress passed the bill late on May 5, and Mesa declined to either sign it, return it Congress with recommended changes or veto it outright. Vaca Diez apparently had no choice but to sign the bill; article 78 of the Bolivian Constitution dictates that if the president fails to act on a law within 10 days of receiving it from Congress, the president of the Congress must promulgate it. The law was published and took effect on May 18. (AP, May 17)

On May 17, as soon as Vaca Diez signed the law, the Bolivian Chamber of Hydrocarbons (CBH), a business group of oil and gas companies with investments in Bolivia, issued a communique blasting the new legislation. The CBH said that while the gas companies would remain in Bolivia, they would freeze their investments. “We believe this law has a confiscatory character which affects rights recognized by the contracts, laws and the Political Constitution of the state and international treaties,” said the communique. The main players in CBH are the Spanish company Repsol YPF, British Gas and British Petroleum, Brazil’s Petrobras and the French company Total. (AP, May 18)

On May 17, after Vaca Diez signed the law, Mesa gave a lengthy address on television and radio announcing a new economic and social program called “Bolivia, Productive and in Solidarity,” for the period from 2005 to 2007. Most of the country’s social sectors seem to have ignored Mesa’s plan or dismissed it as a feeble attempt to stem popular protests. “Carlos Mesa is trying, once more, to fool Bolivians; but the simple working people, from the country and the city, have a clear idea that at this moment we have to nationalize the hydrocarbons and call a constitutional assembly to avoid a social uprising with unpredictable consequences,” said Cochabamba factory workers’ leader Oscar Olivera, spokesperson for the Gas Coordinating Committee. (ED, May 18; Servicio Informativo “Alai-amlatina”, May 19) MAS leader Evo Morales called Mesa’s plan a “distractionist maneuver.” (El Nuevo Herald, May 21 from AP)

On May 18, some 1,000 miners and El Alto residents marched into La Paz, firing off sticks of dynamite and demanding Mesa’s resignation; police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse them. (ENH, May 19 from AP)

Later on May 18, the government signed an agreement with the leaders of the mining cooperatives to end the blockades which had kept inter-city transportation in Bolivia almost completely shut down for three days. The government agreed to assign more of the new gas tax revenues to the departments of La Paz, Oruro and Potosi; provide some $7 million in credits and financial assistance, along with help in purchasing equipment and building homes; extend rent agreements between the state-run Bolivian Mining Corporation (Comibol) and mining cooperatives; limit taxes imposed on mining cooperatives; and regulate the companies which buy ore from the cooperatives. (ED, AP, May 19)

On May 19 nearly 2,000 miners, together with campesinos, unionists and El Alto residents, shut down the center of La Paz and forced Congress to suspend debate over a law authorizing a referendum on local autonomy being promoted by the rightwing oligarchies of Santa Cruz–the country’s wealthiest department–and the gas-rich southern department of Tarija. Despite conflicts among the legislators, the Chamber of Deputies gave initial approval to the autonomy referendum and was set to begin debate over each of the bill’s articles when COB leader Jaime Solares and El Alto council members Roberto de la Cruz and Wilson Soria, together with a group of workers, tried to occupy the legislative chamber. Police used tear gas to block their entry, but after Solares threatened to bring in “500 miners with dynamite to close the Parliament” the session was abruptly suspended and the Santa Cruz deputies fled out the back door. (LJ, May 20; ED, May 19)

Thousands of people marched again in La Paz on May 20 to press the same demands for nationalization of the gas, against the autonomy referendum and for a constitutional assembly. The march brought together campesinos, miners and unionists from the COB with university students, teachers and state health workers. Also on May 20, police arrested two people and confiscated 4,589 sticks of dynamite and other explosives in El Alto which they said might be used in protests. (LJ, May 21 from AFP, DPA)

On May 21, the Santa Cruz Provisional Autonomy Assembly (APA) announced it would not wait for Congress to approve the autonomy measure but would instead call its own binding referendum on autonomy to be held on Aug. 12. Tarija has reportedly joined in the call for the Aug. 12 referendum, as have the departments of Beni and Pando in the Bolivian Amazon. (LJ, May 22 from DPA, AFP, Reuters)

La Paz got a break from protests on May 21 and 22 as the city celebrated an important traditional folkloric dance festival in honor of the “Lord of Great Power.” (ENH, May 22 from AP)

Weekly News Update on the Ameicas, May 22

According to the Miami Herald, some of Mesa’s advisers had told him to reject the bill because foreign lenders had made clear that if the bill passed, Bolivia risked a cutoff of credits. High-ranking officials in Argentina, France, Spain and Brazil–home to companies with oil or gas investments in Bolivia–privately told the Mesa administration that if he signed the gas bill Bolivia would face reprisals, including billion-dollar lawsuits by the companies, according to an unnamed Western diplomat cited by the Miami Herald.

Other advisers had reportedly urged Mesa to sign the bill, saying that rejecting it would prompt new protests and perhaps force Congress to consider imposing even higher taxes on corporations. (Miami Herald, May 12 from correspondent)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 15


On May 8, a group of armed assailants hired by local landowners, accompanied by Ayoreo indigenous people they had contracted as thugs, attacked the Pueblos Unidos (United Peoples) rural squatter encampment on the Los Yuquises estate in Santiesteban province in the eastern Bolivian department of Santa Cruz. According to Bolivia’s Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) and the Unity Pact, an eastern region coalition of indigenous, campesino and grassroots groups, at least three squatters were disappeared in the attack and a number of people were beaten. Two people were wounded, one squatter and one assailant. The assailants also burned rice and pineapple crops and several homes. (Bolivia Press, May 10; Adita, May 13)

MST members responded by taking 60 assailants hostage. On May 10, a delegation headed by Minister of Goverment Saul Lara and national police commander David Aramayo went to the area to try to negotiate the release of the hostages. The delegation included representatives from the Ministry of Sustainable Development, the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights of Bolivia (APDHB), the Catholic Church and the International Committee of the Red Cross. On May 12, the squatters agreed to release the hostages after the government promised to prioritize making a determination on ownership of the Los Yuquises estate, and distributed land to MST members. (Adital, May 13; El Diario, La Paz, May 11, 12)

The assailants said they were hired to harvest rice for 50 bolivianos ($6.18) a day, but when they arrived to work they were given weapons and told to violently evict the squatters. Local residents said landowners send recruiters to impoverished neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city of Santa Cruz to hire members for their “shock troops.”

MST leader Silverio Vera said the conflict at Los Yuquises concerns an estate which has no owner, but which is being sought by businessperson Rafael Paz and his brother. The land conflicts in Santa Cruz intensified after the MST exposed the illegal appropriation by business owners of properties in the north of the department which the government had promised to distribute to landless families. Both the squatters and the business owners blame the National Agrarian Reform Institute (INRA) for being too slow in assessing and distributing land. (Adital, May 13)

Bolivia’s conservative media mainly covered the incident at Los Yuquises from the perspective of Santa Cruz business owners who called the MST a “subversive” and “terrorist” group and demanded that the military forcibly evict all squatters in the region. Jose Cespedes, president of the Agricultural Chamber of the East (CAO), said that if authorities don’t stop the MST, “we will be obliged to make use of the legitimate right to defense, with measures proportionate to the constant aggressions we suffer at the hands of the invaders.” Cespedes claimed the MST is using its encampments as training camps for an armed movement. (ED, May 11; Adital, May 13)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 15

Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #108


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, June 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution



Bankruptcy, “Anti-Terror” Laws Make Americans Captive Wards of Credit Industry

by Chesley Hicks

“Bankruptcy should always be a last resort in our legal system. If someone does not pay his or her debts, the rest of society ends up paying them. In recent years, too many people have abused the bankruptcy laws. They’ve walked away from debts even when they had the ability to repay them. This has made credit less affordable and less accessible, especially for low-income workers who already face financial obstacles.”

If someone other than Dubya, who uttered these words upon signing the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, had said that, I might’ve thought, Yes, you must pay for what you buy. My mind might’ve switched away from our country’s shrinking wild forests and shriveling civil liberties to images of absconded executives drinking mimosas in their Caribbean mansions after sinking a company and leaving behind employees without jobs, health care, and earned pensions. I might’ve thought of a deadbeat Dad on the lam with his new girlfriend in the sports car they bought and put in her name; or remembered the girl I knew in college who came from a wealthy family, spent her hearty cash allowance on drugs, and ran up credit card bills buying booze, clothes, and all the records I ever wanted before defaulting on her credit cards when her parents wouldn’t pay the bills.

“The law will also allow us to clamp down on bankruptcy mills that make their money by advising abusers on how to game the system.” Bush also said. Yeah, screw the slimy swindlers! I might say.

But this was Bush talking. So instead I assume that the would-be ire roused in the self-righteous, bill-paying part of me probably reflects what a portion of the rest of the country believes when they hear Bush decree.

The Republicans are masters at making you look with indictment over your shoulder to see if your neighbor might be getting over with your tax money or having ungodly sex in your country, while they go whole-hog with your money, land, and freedom. Though the Bush administration will blithely propound the most preposterous of subterfuges to keep you glaring in the wrong direction, there’s usually some grain of truth in their ruse to give it enough traction to stand for as long as they need the public to look away from reality.

In reality, the new bankruptcy law might very well put the breaks on the deadbeat dad, and teach the profligate college student a hard lesson in fiscal responsibility. But the percentage of bankruptcy filers who got there through wanton indulgence is not representative. A study published in February by the Harvard Medical and Law Schools found that “Half of personal bankruptcies are predated by medical problems, even among the insured–75.7% had insurance at the onset of illness. Even middle class, insured families often fall prey to financial catastrophe when sick. In 2001, 1.458 million American families filed for bankruptcy.” Anyone who is honestly interested in understanding the current dynamics of bankruptcy should look foremost at our volatile economy and a woefully imbalanced health care system.

“America is a nation of personal responsibility where people are expected to meet their obligations. We’re also a nation of fairness and compassion where those who need it most are afforded a fresh start,” Bush also said. Help the truly needy and keep everyone honest, I might’ve said… except:

As for those abusing the system, while Repubs are bearing down on low- and middle-income debtors, the mimosa-sucking executive can keep sucking because there’s a nifty little loophole in the bill that allows the protection of substantial assets from creditors even after a bankruptcy filing. It’s called the asset-trust provision, and according to a March 2 New York Times article, “For years, wealthy people looking to keep their money out of the reach of domestic creditors have set up [offshore asset protection trusts]. But since 1997, lawmakers in five states–Alaska, Delaware, Nevada, Rhode Island and Utah–have passed legislation exempting assets held domestically in such trusts from the federal bankruptcy code. People who want to establish one of these trusts do not have to reside in any of the five states; they need only set it up through an institution located there.” The trusts cost thousands of dollars to establish and maintain, making them an option only for wealthy people, earning the asset-trust provision the title “millionaires loophole.” Bush is sooo predictable.

With that in mind, go online and look over the list of amendments that were rejected during the Senate hearing that ultimately passed the new bankruptcy bill: amendments with names like “To exempt debtors whose financial problems were caused by failure to receive alimony or child support, or both, from means testing,” or “To modify the bill to protect families.” Reading the list of amendments clearly intended to make the bill more equitable but cynically rejected, you’ll see that the “millionaire loophole” was no oversight. Read between the lines and you’ll also see who really benefits from the new bill: the country’s largely unregulated credit industry.

The supporters of the new bankruptcy bill, including credit behemoth MBNA, the sixth highest contributor to Bush’s 2004 campaign, claim that by tightening bankruptcy laws, more money will be made available to a broad spectrum of people seeking credit and loans. While this might sound good in theory, the reality is that the credit industry is helping to create an underclass of people permanently stuck the debt cycle.

According to Business Daily Bulletin of May 15, citing data from the Federal Reserve, “A year ago, approximately 1.59 million people filed for personal bankruptcy, 700,000 more filings than a decade ago. Consumer debt also continues to rise, currently hovering at $2.12 trillion, 100 percent greater than a decade ago.”

We live in a debt culture. Many Americans begin their young adult lives in debt, paying back school loans. Over the last decade, most of us have probably noticed the proliferation of credit card culture. Credit card companies offer feeless cards, free airline miles, student accounts that don’t require a parental cosign, retail tie-ins, and zero-percent introduction rates. For the financially secure, this has been an opportunity to sometimes get something for nothing. For the growing numbers of financially insecure Americans, it’s been a lure into debt indenture. For the credit companies it’s been a windfall.

In 1996, the credit card industry made $1.7 billion dollars on late fees. In 2002, it made $7.3 billion. With the inclusion of other new fees: balance transfer fees, over-the-limit fees, cash advance fees, and foreign exchange fees, the number rises. In 1995 the industry made $8.3 billion in collected fees. In 2004 it made $24 billion.

Add to this the spoils collected via unchecked usury–that is, arbitrarily applying fees to any transaction, and inflating the fees every chance it gets–and you’ve got an industry that’s so far in the black, it’s benighted the entire system.

For those of you with cards, scrutinize the fine print. You’ll find that payment periods have shrunk from 30 to 20 days; grace periods have been eliminated, and a single late payment will result in the raising of your rates to 18, 29, or 35 percent. Some reports say that creditors are sending bills closer to their due dates in order to increase the odds of the bills being paid late. Creditors can also arbitrarily raise the rates on your non-delinquent accounts if they find out you were late paying off another account owned by another creditor.

Despite laws, including 1971’s Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which protect consumers from unfair and inaccurate collection of personal information to form credit profiles, or “scores,” it is only within the last year that consumers have been allowed unfettered access to these reports (see

Still, information can be traded between credit card companies, insurance companies, landlords and other entities that handle your money. Even the recent privacy act (the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999) hasn’t been able to entirely lift the black veil. Insurance credit-evaluation policies, in particular, remain inscrutable. While the collection of credit data for risk-assessment is meant to provide for judicious lending that will ultimately supply more money to more people who will benefit from it, its flaws assist in keeping low- to mid-income people in debt. For instance, an employed mother who uses a credit card to get through a medical crisis, and misses or pays late one credit card bill, might find rates for other cards, with which she has not been late, rise due to those creditors having checked her updated credit score. If she subsequently should try to get her sixteen year-old son car insurance, she might find she is only offered high insurance rates, due to her now flawed record. So she’s now not only paying off her original medical bills, she’s now been sucked into a higher monthly overhead than she ever had. One that includes a credit card debt that exponentially grows, thereby insuring that she will owe more and more money every month. In this way, debtors become trapped.

For instance, with minimum (2%) monthly payments, a debt of $5000 with an 18 percent interest rate will take 46 years to pay off, having accrued $13, 931 in interest. Chances are, the mother, having missed a payment or two, will have even higher rates. But because she and her husband have jobs that place them at or above the median income level in their state, they are ineligible under the new law for chapter 7, or clean-slate bankruptcy. Instead, they have to file chapter 13, which requires, among many other things, that the mother take a course in debt management–at her expense. That mother is probably not going to get too excited about the free airline miles she’s earned.

The implications of this scenario have raised red flags everywhere. On the one hand it is recognized as beating down regular Americans during a time of financial uncertainty. It also places a glaring spotlight–for those looking anyway–on the runaway power of consolidated credit agencies.

Some credit card companies, like Citigroup, now create their own internal credit reports. And as companies such as Citigroup and Chase own so many other companies that handle money across the culture spectrum, they’re allowed access to more information than most consumers realize. With such groups acting as lenders, creditors, and insurers, one wonders how far off we are from finding our health insurance rates raised because there are too many liquor-store, steakhouse, or whitewater-rafting trip purchases on our bills. In a climate where companies are allowed to deny health insurance to–or even fire–employees who smoke, this doesn’t seem so remote.

So my inner fiscal pragmatist and conceder to capitalism says: credit is a good that you don’t have to purchase. I know people who don’t use credit at all, ever. But these are people who either have a spouse who does use credit or have made the choice to not own anything for which they can’t pay in full upfront–a tall order for most people just starting out, as the credit experts say that having no credit history is as bad as having bad credit history. It also assumes a certain degree of cultural detachment: no online tickets, show bookings, payments, or retail, etc. Should you choose to use only a debit card instead, you’ll still be subject to the same kind of tracking and lack of credit history; and for folks seeking to buy a home or car or invest in beginning a new business–the embodiment of the American entrepreneurial spirit–buying with a loan or credit is usually the only option, and one upon which our economy relies. That someone drawing upon these resources should be setting themselves up for the extreme, fiscally fatal punishment allowed in the event they even lightly transgress is deeply insidious. That the government is going to such lengths to sanction and protect this voracious, totalitarian practice is cause for revolt.

And speaking of Senate bills: On May 10, the Senate passed legislation, subsequently signed into law by Dubya, called the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005. It is, indeed, an emergency appropriations bill that approves funds for, among other items, the Iraq war and tsunami relief. However, rolled into this rushed-to-pass legislation was also the REAL ID Act of 2005, which seeks “to establish and rapidly implement regulations” for a national ID system, ostensibly, of course, to protect Americans from terrorists.

However, among the Act’s stacks of flaws is the reality that there is little evidence to suggest harder-to-forge legal IDs would do anything to deter people already working outside law.

Proposals for the ID include using RFID tags–which can be read from several feet away–to store personal information on the card. Supporters say the REAL ID isn’t a national ID card, because states can refuse to follow the law. Yet the ID law states that federal agencies must require the card–and federal agencies control air travel, post offices, banking and other daily life institutions.

It’s tough to say what is more disturbing: the historically redolent implications of having to carry “papers” with you everywhere, all the time; or the fact that there was little debate over the bill before it slithered through the House and Senate. Though convincing arguments against the ID’s efficacy abound, it could be the threat of common criminals that most thwart its implementation, as critics say such a digitized, info-packed ID will provide one-stop shopping for identity thieves. Of course the threat of identity-theft hasn’t slowed the crush of credit hegemony.

So where is it going to end? Maybe here: During the recent Senate session, the Washington Post reported May 18 that both Dems and Repubs resoundingly agreed on one thing: “With startling unanimity, they agreed that without some combination of big tax increases and major cuts in Medicare, Social Security and most other spending, the country will fall victim to the huge debt and soaring interest rates that collapsed Argentina’s economy and caused riots in its streets a few years ago.” Of course reports say that the money lost in tax cuts for the rich could cover the amount needed to repair the deficit, but we don’t tend to riot over that sort of thing here. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I know that Chicken Little never helped anyone. There are numerous websites that will connect you to people and organizations offering detailed information on the bankruptcy law, the credit industry, and REAL ID. These measures will probably face challenge in the courts, where their final outcomes will be defined by attrition. So staying informed and active can only help.


Info on the credit industry:

Consumer Reports

Demos, a nonpartisan think-tank

Credit Card Nation, a Web-based financial literacy group

Detailed breakdowns of the bancruptcy law:

A CommonDreams article by David Swanson

Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) page on the law

PBS article on credit scores

Why the REAL ID won’t work:

Security technologist and blogger Bruce Schneier


Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, June 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution



Pentagon Exploits Humanitarian Mission to Rebuild Military Ties

by John M. Miller

In the immediate aftermath of the massive tsunami that swept through the Indian Ocean on Dec. 26, George W. Bush, safe on his Texas ranch, offered a paltry $35 million in aid to the affected countries. Bush was widely criticized for his hesitation. One U.N. official called the United States “stingy,” prompting Bush to up the aid to approximately a billion dollars.

The U.S. military showed no such hesitation, immediately dispatching ships loaded with aid from its own budget. But in the process the Pentagon seized a number of opportunities that in long run may harm the very people it was purportedly helping. Within days, a Navy strike force with initial orders to head to the Persian Gulf instead loaded up with humanitarian supplies in Guam and was soon diverted to tsunami relief duty. U.S. forces were quickly on the move, anchoring off the coast of Aceh, the area most devastated by the disaster.

The relief mission provided an opportunity to conduct an operation without land bases through “sea-basing,” a strategy designed to allow U.S. forces to operate free from the constraints of land bases and allies. The effort in Aceh was mainly confined to helicopter transport of relief to villages cut off by the disaster. U.S. troops spent very little time on the ground. Indonesia was wary of too many foreign eyes in Aceh, where a decades-long counter-insurgency war continues despite the crisis. In addition, nationalist Indonesians were reluctant to allow the deployment of U.S. troops on any Indonesian soil.

Nonetheless, the Pentagon leadership seized the opportunity to rebuild relations with officers of the Indonesian military forces, called TNI, for Tentara Nasional Indonesia (National Army of Indonesia). Contacts have been limited since the early 1990s, when Congress began to restrict U.S. military assistance to Indonesia because of serious human rights violations in occupied East Timor. The Pentagon also saw in the relief efforts a new excuse to campaign to lift remaining restrictions and fully restore military ties.

The U.S. Air Force flew in mechanics to repair several of Indonesia’s aging C-130 military cargo planes. In announcing the supply of parts, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Jan. 6 that he hoped that “if we can get this taken care of, the government of Indonesia will use the planes for the intended purpose … and would not use them in a way not intended, i.e. going after the GAM.” The GAM is Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, the Free Aceh Movement, which has been conducting a guerrilla war for independence from Indonesia since the 1970s.

Indonesian officials portrayed the supply of spare parts as a major shift in U.S. policy, but Indonesia has been allowed to purchase C-130 parts at least since 2002. Instead of buying the parts, Indonesia preferred to repeatedly misrepresent their availability in an effort to get the United States to remove all restrictions on weapons sales. Sharing the goal, the Bush administration rarely bothered to correct the misrepresentation publicly. Throughout the joint relief effort, senior administration officials, led by then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz described the Indonesian government and military as fully cooperative in the relief effort but argued that the operation would have gone more smoothly if only military relations were normal. What was needed, they said, was restoration of the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program.

Wolfowitz, Indonesia and IMET

Congress first voted to restrict IMET for Indonesia after Indonesian troops wielding U.S.-supplied M-16 rifles massacred East Timorese protesters in Santa Cruz cemetery, Dili, on November 12, 1991. That was the first cut in military aid to Indonesia. Through the 1990s, decisions by Congress and the Clinton administration gradually restricted other forms of assistance to Indonesia in a rare instance of human rights concerns affecting weapons sales. During that decade, as restrictions on Indonesia tightened, Wolfowitz, a former ambassador to Indonesia, help lead the charge against the restrictions, defending the Indonesian regime and exaggerating its very limited efforts to prosecute some mainly low-ranking soldiers, usually in response to intense international pressure.

All military ties with Indonesia were severed in September 1999 as the TNI and its militia proxies razed East Timor after the East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence. At that time, Congress placed some of these restrictions into law. Renewable annually were bans on IMET and sales of lethal military equipment. Conditions for lifting these bans have varied, but have largely focused on transparency in Indonesia’s military budget and accountability for human rights violations, as all senior Indonesian officials responsible for crimes against humanity in East Timor have escaped successful prosecution. Under the Congressional restrictions, IMET could be restored with State Department “certification” that Indonesia was meeting conditions.

Then, when George W. Bush assumed the presidency, Wolfowitz was appointed to the Pentagon. One of his goals was normalization of military relations with Indonesia. The Pentagon saw an opening after the attack of September 11, 2001, arguing that Indonesia, as the country with the largest Muslim population, was an important front in the war on terror and the Indonesian military was needed to fight terror in the region.

Yet under most definitions, the TNI itself conducts terrorist activities; using violence against civilians for political ends has been its modus operandi for decades. A 2002 study for the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, notes that the Indonesian army has become “a major facilitator of terrorism” due to “radical Muslim militias they… organized, trained, and financed.” In the wake of the tsunami, the Indonesian military helped transport some of these militia to Aceh, ostensibly to help with the relief effort, but handy if needed to intimidate foreigners or create an impression of internecine conflict to deflect blame from their own operations. Both are tried and true tactics from East Timor and elsewhere. But the Pentagon’s allies in Congress were willing to set aside those criticisms, authorizing a post-9-11 Pentagon counter-terrorism training program open to Indonesian officers with no restrictions, although IMET and the sale of weapons remains banned.

The Papua Killings

Congress balked at completely lifting the IMET ban after three teachers, two from the United States and one from Indonesia, were murdered on land operated as a mineral concession of the U.S. multinational Freeport MacMoran (and under the control of TNI forces) in West Papua in August 2002. Instead, Congress declared that the ban could be lifted conditioned on certification of Indonesian cooperation in solving the crime. This past February 26, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice certified that Indonesia was cooperating with the FBI and was therefore eligible for full IMET. The certification came just days before the State Department issued its annual human rights report, which detailed how in 2004 Indonesia’s “security force members murdered, tortured, raped, beat, and arbitrarily detained civilians.”

The main argument for certification was an indictment for the murders drawn by a U.S. grand jury (under a legal doctrine retaining jurisdiction over the murder of U.S. citizens abroad) in June 2004 against Anthonius Wamang, an Indonesian. The FBI has said the investigation remains open but has essentially ignored any evidence that implicates the TNI in the killings, and instead blames Free West Papua Movement (or OPM for Organisesi Papua Merdeka), the local pro-independence guerrillas. But according to local human rights investigators, Wamang has extensive ties to the Indonesian military as a business partner of Kopassus, the Indonesian army’s notorious special forces. The TNI is largely funded by profit-making enterprises, and Wamang markets timber and gold in a joint venture with Kopassus. In August 2004, Wamang told Australian television that he obtained the ammunition for the attack from members of the Indonesian military. He has also said that these officers knew that he was about to carry out an attack in the Freeport concession. The TNI routinely uses proxies to stage attacks, in hopes of covering up their role. Furthermore, for the first six months after the indictment was unsealed, Indonesian police did not update U.S. investigators, nor has Wamang been indicted or apprehended in Indonesia. Nonetheless, Indonesia claims to be cooperating with U.S. authorities in the case. Given this lack of progress, rights organizations say the State Department’s certification of cooperation is false and misleading.

In announcing the restoration of IMET, the State Department said it “expects that Indonesia’s resumption of full International Military Education and Training will strengthen its ongoing democratic progress.” It is hard to see how bolstering Indonesia’s least democratic institution can do this. Even Indonesia’s “reformist” Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono told the New York Times Feb. 7, 2005 that the military “retains the real levers of power” and “from the political point of view, the military remains the fulcrum of Indonesia.” On June 23, 2004, while serving as Jakarta’s ambassador in London, Sudarsono wrote in the Jakarta Post, “Six years of civilian-based party politics has not resulted in any measurable degree of effective ‘civilian supremacy,’ much less ‘civilian control.'”

Revolt in Aceh

Aceh, on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra, is the site of one of Asia’s longest-running wars. For three decades, the GAM has fought for independence from Indonesia. On Dec. 9, 2002, an internationally-brokered cease-fire agreement was signed between Indonesia and the GAM, but it collapsed on the following May 19, when then-Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri declared martial law in Aceh. A few hours later Indonesia launched its largest military operation since the 1975 invasion of East Timor. Aceh’s status was changed to “civil emergency” one year later, but the TNI remains in charge, and the reality on the ground has not changed. Hercules C-130 military transports, OV-10 Broncos, F-16 fighters, and other U.S. equipment have all been used during military operations in Aceh.

Support in Aceh for independence from Indonesia is widespread and growing because of the brutality of Indonesian security forces, as well as the desire for a fair share of Aceh’s vast natural resource wealth. The TNI generally assumes the average Acehnese is pro-independence and supports the guerrillas. For the notoriously corrupt TNI, the tsunami is an opportunity to assert further its control, as well as make some money–by pilfering aid, charging fees at road checkpoints, et cetera.

Despite the natural disaster, Indonesia has continued the civil emergency and offensive operations. Prior to the tsunami, Indonesia severely restricted the presence of foreigners in the territory. After the disaster it delayed for several days allowing foreign aid agencies in. The government regularly sets deadlines for most of them to leave. While so far, it has backed down from these threats, Indonesia did force out the UN’s refugee agency in March, arguing that there are no “refugees,” only “displaced persons.”

Norbert Vollertsen, a German doctor who has worked in North Korea, gave a strong sense of the repressive atmosphere in Aceh in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, in which he wrote, “I feel almost as if I am back in North Korea again. The military road blocks, heavily armed police tanks at every street corner and thousands of soldiers everywhere all remind me of the 18 months I spent in the Stalinist state.”

Abuses of humanitarian assistance by the TNI–including withholding food and other relief from civilians who lack proper identification or are alleged to support independence–are regularly reported. Reports also describe the TNI as creating obstacles to local organizations and volunteers who are trying to distribute humanitarian assistance. The Indonesian government says it has killed hundreds of rebels since the tsunami hit. Human rights groups say most of the dead were unarmed civilians. The GAM says that they have seen little let-up in military activity, despite declared post-tsunami ceasefires by both sides.

The Indonesian military also transported fundamentalist Islamic militias into Aceh, ostensibly to help with the relief effort. The groups, the Islamic Defenders Front and the Laskar Mujahidin (the military wing of the Indonesian Mujahidin Council), have a history of attacking opponents of the military, threatening foreigners and exacerbating conflicts, including the Christian-Muslim inter-religious conflict in Indonesia’s Moluccan Islands.

Lessons Learned

Most Acehnese have welcomed the foreign help, civilian and military. Many see the outsiders as far more efficient and less corrupt than the oppressive Indonesian government and military they so distrust. They also hope that the outside presence will temper the TNI’s worst abuses and shed light on the brutal repression in the province.

Most of the US, Australian and other foreign militaries allowed into Aceh after the disaster are now gone, except for a brief return after a massive aftershock hit in March. What remains is an intense debate over who will control the reconstruction and how long outside aid agencies will be allowed to remain, as the TNI awaits a full return to business as usual.

As Aceh moves from the disaster relief phase to reconstruction, the struggle has begun over who will control the planning and the vast sums pledged internationally. Acehnese and Indonesians monitoring the effort fully expect any money given directly to the government to be stolen. They doubt the TNI will be shut out of the lucrative rebuilding effort. History tells them that much aid will be siphoned off, despite government pledges to the contrary. “Every disaster in Indonesia is always colored by corruption, with lots of aid disappearing,” one Acehnese corruption watcher told Australia’s Courier Mail.

The U.S. Navy sees their intervention as much more than a successful effort in helping the disaster-stricken people of Aceh. Rear Admiral Christopher Ames, the commander of the Expeditionary Strike Group that arrived so quickly off the coast of Aceh, told the New Yorker Feb. 7, “We’ve talked about this idea of sea-basing for several years, of being able to project power anywhere in the world without asking permission.” He added, “What we’re doing here validates the beauty of it.”

For the Bush administration, the campaign to restore military assistance to Indonesia clearly received a real boost from the relief effort. Added to their rotating arguments for re-engagement is the need to support the TNI in humanitarian missions. This comes even as some in Indonesia are questioning the dependence on the TNI in dealing with Indonesia’s frequent natural disasters–floods, forest fires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions. Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare recently announced a plan to create an alternative capacity by creating a “a ready-for-dispatch team, such as the National Guard in the United States, whose members are trained like troops, so we don’t need to disturb the military.”

Despite renewed peace talks now underway, the Acehnese and others in Indonesia may end up regretting the long-term impact of the U.S. military help. The restoration of military training and the expansion of other contacts can only serve to embolden the Indonesian military and increase their suffering.


John M. Miller is Media and Outreach Coordinator of the East Timor Action Network and Treasurer of the War Resisters League. This article is adopted from a version appearing in the April edition of the Non-Violent Activist, the magazine of the War Resisters League


For more information on Aceh and Indonesia: East Timor Action Network (ETAN), (718)596-7668,; Opposes U.S. assistance to the Indonesian military. For news and analysis of the situation in Aceh, see Aceh Eye ( and AcehKita ( For information on human rights throughout Indonesia, see TAPOL ( and IndonesiaAlert! (

See also:

WW4 REPORT’s March 31 post on Indonesian army atrocities in West Papua

WW4 REPORT’s last updates on Aceh:







Adopted for WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, June 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution



Uribe’s “Counter-Guerilla” Campaign Targets Indigenous Models for Demilitarization

by Bill Weinberg

The carnage in Iraq has pushed several other US military commitments from the headlines. Afghanistan, with 18,000 US troops, jumps to mind. But nearly forgotten is Colombia, where the US has 800 military troops and 600 more private contractors on the ground. The troops, largely advisors from Army Special Forces, are ostensibly barred from combat missions, but they intimately direct Colombian army operations. And the parallels with Iraq are increasingly obvious for those who care to look.

As in Iraq, US forces have been implicated in torture and attacks on civilian communities. As in Iraq, US-backed forces and increasingly ruthless insurgents alike are making life unsustainable for local people caught between both sides. And perhaps even more so than in Iraq, civilian initiatives for peace and local autonomy are themselves being targeted by all sides in the conflict.

In recent weeks, the government of President Alvaro Uribe has launched a major counter-guerilla offensive, a showcase of his Orwellian “democratic security” program. The offensive itself is called the Patriot Plan, in apparent emulation of the US anti-terrorist legislation. One frontline in this contest is Toribio, a Nasa Indian village in the mountains of conflicted Cauca department, where residents have proclaimed their own right not to participate in the war.

Toribio maintained a precarious autonomy until it was occupied by government troops in August 2003, and secured from guerilla attempts to take the town after several weeks of fighting. This April, the guerillas again mounted an offensive to drive the army from Toribio, and the town has since been a war zone once again.

Ezequiel Vitonas, a former mayor of Toribio and a leading voice in the Association of Indigenous Councils of North Cauca (ACIN), was in New York City in May for the annual meeting of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. “We have a policy of not involving ourselves in the conflict of country,” Vitonas says. “We seek to protect our form of self-government and self-determination. We have our own forms of participation in which everyone in the community is consulted. We have our own health and education systems, and solidarity economics based on collective work. But this project is not liked by either the left or the right. Our community process doesn’t fit their ideologies and interests.”

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) attacked Toribio on April 14, and the government sent in the new US-trained High Mountain Battalion, an elite force of battle-hardened troops, backed up by a larger force of regular troops from the army’s Third Brigade based in Cali. Military planes and helicopters circled above. On the following day, Uribe himself arrived in Toribio, accompanied by Cauca governor Juan Jose Chaux Mosquera–the latest in a series of grand-standing moves to govern from the war zones.

Over the next two weeks, bullets flew through the village intermittently. A young child was killed, some 20 residents wounded and as many homes destroyed. Hundreds of residents have been forced to flee, and many are now being held in public buildings converted into makeshift refugee centers in Santander de Quilichao, a town some 50 kilometers down winding mountain roads on the Pan-American Highway. Vitonas claims residents saw North American soldiers in camouflage directing the Colombian troops on the operations.

Residents also reported mysterious black-uniformed troops–probably special anti-guerilla units of the National Police in the fighting. And the neighboring villages of Silvia, Jambaló, Caloto were also occupied by government forces.

Despite guarantees for indigenous self-government in the Colombian constitution, the Nasa’s model for autonomy is under attack by the government nearly explicitly. Toibio’s indigenous-language community station, Radio Nasa, was ordered closed by the government last August. Army troops invaded the premises and took away the equipment. A narrow bureaucratic rationale was used, but Vitonas has no doubt of the real reasons.

Says Vitonas: “The government demands we broadcast army statements with their war language. We refuse, and they threaten us. And then the armed insurgents do the same and demand that we present their position, instead of respecting our position. So we also refuse to do that. We don’t want to express their views, we want to express our own and expect them to support that. And this brings about the difficulties.”

The move also came three weeks before last September’s historic cross-country march of 60,000 Indians and their supporters on Cali to demand armed groups respect their autonomy. But indigenous technicians devised mobile bicycle-powered transmitters that actually broadcast live from the march, with the signal bounced throughout the region by Radio Payumat, a bilingual Spanish-Nasa community station in Santander de Quilichao. (Payumat is a Nasa salutation.) Then, students in Cali put the live transmissions on the Internet.

The march called for the establishment of a popular congress, with representatives from indigenous and campesino councils from throughout the country to determine a way our of the war and advance a new economic model. Uribe has staked his future to Colombia’s entry into the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), with concomitant privatization of the nation’s oil, mineral and energy sectors. Uribe accused the marchers of “putting forth lies” and having a hidden “political objective”–a barely-veiled reference to the guerillas.

In early March, indigenous communities in Cauca held a consulta, or series of community meetings, in which they overwhelmingly rejected FTAA. This move precipitated further tension over the Nasas’ independent radio initiative. Uribe’s agriculture minister, Andres Felipe Arias Leiva, again responded to the consulta with a veiled accusation that it originated with the guerillas: “certain sectors are taking advantage of fears,” and thereby undermining “our struggle against terrorism.”

On March 9, Arias Leiva arrived at Radio Payumat to tell the “truth” about the FTAA. The station responded with a letter from the indigenous councils demanding an apology and retraction for his earlier statements. The statement also noted that the councils had invited government representatives to debate on the FTAA since the September march on Cali, to no avail. Arias Leiva refused to back down, and Radio Payumat refused to grant him access to their airwaves.

Violence continues in Toribio and surrounding communities. On May 21, DAS–the Administrative Security Department, or secret police–raided home of Vicente Otero, ex-mayor of Caldono village and a key organizer of the consulta that rejected the FTAA. Otero wasn’t home, but his home was roughly searched, a child there threatened–and some 20 other residents of Caldono arrested on suspicion of guerilla collaboration. They are now being held by the Third Brigade in Cali. DAS has announced it has arrest orders for some 200 residents of Caldono.

Vitonas brought three demands to UN in May. The first was for international recognition of the indigenous guard, an unarmed civil defense body made up of village residents. In the prelude to the September march, Toribio’s Mayor Arquimedes Vitonas–Ezequiel’s cousin, who has been officially honored by the UNDP for his efforts to preserve indigenous knowledge–was kidnapped by the FARC with other Nasa leaders. They were released days later when hundreds of indigenous guard members marched on the guerilla camp where they were being held.

His other demands were for a UN special rapporteur to monitor indigenous rights in Colombia, and Colombian government reparations for war damage to indigenous communities.

Peasant peace initiatives are under attack throughout Colombia. In February, eight civilians, including community leader Luis Eduardo Guerra and three children, were massacred in the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, a village in northern Uraba region which eight years ago declared its lands as a neutral and demilitarized zone. Witnesses identified the killers as members of the Colombian military, and peace community members saw the army’s 17th and 11th Brigades in the area around the time of the murders.

Since the massacre, Uribe’s administration has done little to investigate the murders, but the president wasted no time in accusing the peace community leaders of being “auxiliaries of the FARC.” Army and National Police forces have flooded San Jose. All but five of the 100 families that formed the Peace Community have been forced to abandon their homes and land. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is helping to manage a camp which has been formed by displaced residents.

Uribe has still not replied to demands from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to secure the safety of San Jose’s residents. Statements such as Uribe’s make the residents a target not only for the army, but its own (ostensibly outlawed) paramilitary auxiliaries. Gloria Cuartas, an advocate for the peace community and ex-mayor of the local municipality of Apartado, reports receiving threatening telephone messages since she has been publicly demanding justice for the massacre. On May 23, Colombia’s attorney general did announce charges against four army commanders for failure to prevent paramilitary incursions into San Jose de Apartado. Paramilitaries have carried out numerous attacks on village residents over the past two years.

After the massacre, SOA Watch, the group that monitors the US Army’s School of the Americas (now officially the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), reported that the commander of the 17th Brigade of the Colombian army received training at the SOA. Gen. Hector Jaime Fandiño Rincon attended the “Small-Unit Infantry Tactics” course in 1976.

Tolemaida, a key military base outside Bogota, has taken on a reputation as Colombia’s Abu Ghraib. The Bogota daily El Espectador reported claims January 8 that last October US military officers and private contractors had overseen a session at the base in which three young girls from a nearby village were tortured and raped. The sessions were apparently videotaped, and the tapes then distributed in the local village of Melgar, where the girls were from. They were subsequently ostracized and forced to flee the village with their families. The most disturbing thing about the allegations is that the girls were not even suspected of anything; they had been lured to the base in exchange for money and a promise of visas to enter the US, and apparently used in a simple torture demonstration.

El Espectador wrote in an editorial: “The recording of these acts of sadism and the public diffusion of the images is part of the message the invaders must establish that the subjugated people are inferior and deserve any kind of inhuman treatment.” The piece also noted that even if Uribe were to pursue the case, Colombia has no recourse to the International Criminal Court, having signed on to an agreement with the United States not to recognize its jurisdiction over any US personnel.

“The marginal of the planet must find a way to unite to promote our own methods of development,” Ezequiel Vitonas says. But this is becoming a greater challenge every day as Colombia’s war escalates, with Pentagon direction, in a strategy which seeks to polarize and eliminate any political space not beholden to armed factions.


Association of Indigenous Councils of North Cauca (ACIN)

Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado

SOA Watch on the San Jose de Apartado massacre

El Espectador on torture at Tolemaida

See also:

“Colombia: Peace Community Under Occupation” by Virginia McGlone, WW4 REPORT #108 /peacesanjosedeapartado

For more on Gen. Fandiño Rincon see WW4 REPORT #107


Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, June 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution



Ecologists Warn of Disaster as U.S. Sprays Glyphosate in Threatened National Parks

by Daniel Leal and combined sources

In the past few months, the people of Quibdo, capital city of the Colombian Pacific coast department of Choco, have observed daily the landing at their local airport of helicopters and small aircraft, packed with “gringos” from Plan Colombia and their Colombian associates.

They have come with one objective: to spray the illicit crops located in the huge territory of Choco. In the Feb. 11 edition of the Colombian news magazine Semana, Choco journalist Alejo Restrepo, writes that biodiversity and watersheds of the region are threatened by this chemical assault.

For centuries, indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombians have preserved the natural environment of Choco, one of the richest areas in flora and fauna of the country. Their way of life, based on fishing and small-scale cultivation of yucca and banana, is now threatened. Restrepo especially protests the decision to approve the spraying of glyphosate without an environmental impact study.

Bismarck Chaverra, director of the Choco-based Institute for Environmental Studies of the Pacific, interviewed in that same issue of Semana, reported 347 documented cases of people with acute respiratory and dermatological diseases in Choco, with 70% of the affected children under three years old.

Chaverra’s group is part of a coalition of Colombian and international environmental and human rights groups that oppose the spraying. A February petition against the spraying in Choco has been signed by Friends of the Earth Latin America, the Open Society Institute, Washington Office on Latin America and the biodiversity protection organization Grupo Semillas, as well as several Colombian groups.

Also of special concern is potential damage to Colombia’s 50 national parks, which cover 10 million hectares, according to Ecolombia, a network of Colombian environmental groups. Ecolombia also notes the irony that this threat comes just as the parks are increasingly being opened to “eco-tourism” interests. Ecolombia protests this policy as a “privatization” of the nation’s parks. The group writes that “the national parks are the genetic bank of Colombia. To privatize them or bombard them with poison would be much more grave than to put the National Library to the flame.”

In late March 2004, Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo of Independent Workers Revolutionary Movement (MOIR) led a significant number of Colombian legislators in issuing a formal statement of protest against the spraying. The Transnational Institute, a global group of activist scholars, notes that spraying in the national parks would constitute a violation of several treaties to which Colombia is signatory, including the Biodiversity Convention, ILO Convention 169 on the rights of indigenous peoples, the Ramsar Convention on wetlands, and articles 97 and 80 of the Colombian constitution, which protect natural resources.

Under such pressures, the administration of President Alvaro Uribe agreed to suspend spraying in the parks last March pending further study. In the 2003 Colombia aid package approved by the US Congress under the Andean Counterdrug Initiative, conditions were also imposed mandating protection of water sources and protected areas, and restitution for damaged property and legal crops. The measure required that funds for the aerial eradication only be made available if the Department of State certified to Congress that certain condition are being met. In December 2003, the Deparment of State issued a study to Congress, “Report on Issues Related to the Aerial Eradication of Illicit Coca in Colombia,” officially certifying that the conditions were being met. In February 2004, the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), a hemispheric alliance of environmental law professionals, issued a statement contesting the certification and urging Congress to “withhold funding for the chemical eradication program until DoS demonstrates full compliance with the conditions.” AIDA stated: “A thorough look at the DoS report demonstrates that the…conditions have not been satisfied. For example, DoS fails to demonstrate that the spraying does not pose unreasonable risks of adverse effects on the environment, or that complaints of harm to health or legal crops are appropriately evaluated and fair compensation provided.”

But Congress did not act, and the Uribe administration has just announced its intention to resume spraying in three national parks: Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a northern park declared a biosphere reserve in 1986 by UNESCO; and Catatumbo and La Macarena, both in the cloud forests of the eastern Andean slopes.

Colombia’s deputy interior minister Mario Iguarán told reporter Yadira Ferrer of Tierramérica, a Mexico-based trans-American environmental journal, that the renewed spraying is permitted by Resolution No. 0013, issued in 20003 by the Colombian National Narcotics Council (CNE). The Resolution allows fumigation of nature reserves where there is evidence of illicit crops and little possibility of eradicating the drug plants by hand.

Colombian environmental groups have filed a motion to annul the resolution before the Council of State, the highest juridical body for administrative decisions, but Iguarán argued that it does not have the power to suspend the operations. In Ferrer’s May 14 account, Iguarán also noted the March study by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), an OAS body, finding that glyphosate does not have significant environmental impacts.

The report, requested by the US, Colombia and the United Kingdom, investigated the human health and environmental effects of the glyphosate mixture used for drug eradication in Colombia. The report concluded that human health risks from exposure to the spray mixture–glyphosate mixed with a surfactant, Cosmo-Flux–were “minimal,” while the risk of direct effects for wildlife were judged to be “negligible.” But the US Office on Colombia, a coalition of NGOs, notes that buried deep in the 121-page report are concerns about the impact of the spraying on aquatic organisms and amphibians. The report points out that the environmental “toxicity of the mixture of glyphosate and Cosmo-Flux was greater than that reported for formulated glyphosate itself.” (This contrasts with the toxicity of the mixture for humans, which was found to be consistent with the levels reported for glyphosate alone.) The report states that “aquatic animals and algae in some shallow water bodies may be at risk” from “direct overspray of surface waters.” The report recommends the eradication program “identify mixtures of glyphosate and adjuvants that are less toxic to aquatic organisms than the currently used mixture.” There was no immediate response from US or Colombian governments to this recommendation. Colombia praised the report. “This scientific study shows us the way. We are doing the right thing and we are going to continue the spraying program,” said Colombian Interior Minister Sabas Pretelt.

Ferrer’s story questioned the report’s findings that the herbicide’s risk for the environment “is not significant.” Santiago Salazar Córdova, coordinator of a commission of Ecuador’s Environment Ministry that advises the Foreign Ministry on drug fumigation policy, protested to Ferrer that the report failed to define what would constitute a “significant” threat. Spraying in Colombian areas near the Ecuador border has been a source of tension with Quito, which has formally protested to the Uribe government.

Salazar also said the study was conducted between September and March, “too little time to talk in terms of cancer-causing effects, for example…”

Iguarán admitted the ideal option would be manual eradication of drug crops, a method the government hopes to use on some 3,000 hectares of protected areas. But he insisted that it is necessary to fumigate some 75,000 hectares, which include areas of the national parks where the presence of armed groups impedes access by land.

The decision to fumigate in the parks may cost Colombia development aid from EU countries. The Colombian daily El Espectador reported April 28 that the Netherlands asked the national parks director, Julia Miranda, to confirm the decision to fumigate in the protected areas, because the measure “could be motive to request the suspension of activities financed by this Embassy.”

Juan Mayr, a former environment minister, told Ferrer the 2003 CEN resolution has created “one of the gravest situations that can happen in regards to the environment in Colombia” and is “an attack against the collective heritage of the Colombian people.”

Peasants and Bari indigenous peoples who inhabit the threatened areas are also protesting the planned fumigations. The Bogota daily El Tiempo reported May 16 that 11 peasant organizations from the Rio Guayabero region and La Macarena National Park issued a statement calling for manual eradication rather than spraying. Gustavo del Rio, spokesman for the Association of Peasant Environmentalists of the Ariari and Guayabero Rivers (ACARIGUA) said that spraying will only cause the peasants to start planting coca in other areas, destroying more forest. He said that the peasants would be willing to eradicate the crops manually if the government were to provide them with alternatives for survival and eventual relocation outside the park area, where farming is officially forbidden.

Spraying has apparently already begun in Sierra Nevada National Park. Elber Dimas, a community leader from the corregimiento of Guachaca, located on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada, told El Tiempo that that children are suffering from diarrhea and skin problems as a result of exposure, and that some Kogui and Wiwa Indians have been forced to abandon their communities due to the spraying. Col. Oscar Atehortua, commander of the Counternarcotics Police North Region, assured that the spraying is taking place outside the national park and the indigenous reserves.

There are two opposite international perspectives on what has to be done in Colombia to address the roots of the coca phenomenon. The first, dictated by the US, calls for simple eradication of the crops, by force and by chemical spraying. The second, promoted by the European Community, is to address the injustice of the Colombian social structure, and investing in the needs that drive peasants to plant coca. But Uribe is now jeopardizing relations with the EU to pursue a national agenda that calls for privatization and free trade as well as forcible eradication of illicit crops. Free trade and the eradication program were said to be the top items on the agenda in Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s five-hour meeting with Uribe in Bogota April 26.


Alejo Restrepo Mosquera in Semana, Feb. 11

Bismark Chaverra interview in Semana, Feb. 11

“El Choco Tambien es Colombia,” petition online at Rebelion

Ecolombia page on threat to national parks

TNI Drugs and Democracy program page on Colombia

Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) statement

AIDA homepage

Yadira Ferrer in Tierramerica, May 14

US Office on Colombia Info-Brief on the CICAD report

CountryWatch summary of article from El Tiempo, May 16


Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, June 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution