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ISSUE: #. 30. April 21, 2002


By Bill Weinberg
with David Bloom, Special Correspondent

1. What Happened in Jenin?
2. Israel Bars UN Human Rights Chief
3. UN Human Rights Commissoin Blasts Israel
4. Human Rights Groups: Mass Detainments Illegal
5. Israel Re-Opens Desert Detainment Camp
6. Human Rights Watch: IDF Coerces Civilians
7. "Defensive Shield" Not Over Yet
8. Ramallah Radio Ransacked
9. Bethlehem Stand-Off Enters Third Week
10. Widespread Destruction in Bethlehem
11. Clueless Tourists Provide Comic Relief
12. Violence in Gaza
13. Bush: Sharon "Man of Peace"
14. Sharon: I Won't Evacuate Settlements
15. Zeevi Killers in Ramallah?
16. Tanzim Chief Barghouti Arrested
17. IDF Claims: Arms From Iran, Iraq Uncovered in Ramallah
18. US Wants Israel to "Get Rid" of Arafat?
19. Arafat Condemns Terrorism; Bush Oblivious
20. Endorsements and Praise for Suicide Bombers
21. Protests Follow Powell
22. Powell Sends Surrogate to Jenin
23. Foreign Military Intervention Seen
24. S&P's Downgrades Israel's Economic Outlook
25. Pro-Israel Rally in Washington
26. Pro-Palestine Rally in Washington

1. Al-Qaeda Linked to Tunisian Synagogue Blast
2. More US Troops to Yemen
3. Kristof Does Yemen; Approves of Police State, Disses Food

1. Muslim-Jewish Peace Vigils Persist in Jerusalem
2. Arab-Jewish Comedy Team Stands Up for Peace

1. Return of the King
2. Warlords Jockey for Loya Jirga
3. Survivors of "Operation Anaconda" Demand Compensation
4. US Bombs Canadians
5. US/UK in New Offensive Against Taliban/al-Qaeda
6. More US Troops Killed
7. Green Beret Shot in Kandahar
8. Acid Attack on Woman Teacher in Kandahar
9. More Strife in Khost
10. More Strife in Wardak
11. US Drug Czar Sees Long Opium War in Afghanistan
12. UN Running Out of Money for Refugee Repatriation
13. Archaeologists Launch Cultural Salvage Mission
14. Amnesty International Blasts US on Detainees
15. US Opposes New Provision on Convention Against Torture

1. More US Troops to Mindanao
2. Terror Blast in Mindanao
3. FBI: Abu Sayyaf Funds al-Qaeda

1. Venezuela: Anatomy of the Coup D'Etat
2. Instant Counter-Coup
3. US, IMF Hail Coup Attempt
4. Was White House Pulling Strings?
5. NYT: White House Officials Met with Coup Plotters
6. Petro-Oligarchs Pissed at Chavez
7. More Bombs in Colombia

1. Powell Pawn of Petro-Oligarchs

1. Idiot Politicians Exploit 9-11
2. Demographics on 9-11 Victims Released
3. Indicted Attorney Lynne Stewart Speaks Out on Case


As Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) troops began to withdraw from Jenin, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to send a fact-finding mission to look into what happened at the devastated Palestinian refugee camp. But following heavy diplomatic pressure from the US and Israel, the resolution does not describe the mission as an investigation. As camp residents are starting to retrieve bodies from the ruins, Israeli authorities insist there was "no massacre." (BBC, April 20) Palestinians claim up to 500 residents were killed in Jenin, while Israel puts the death toll at about 50 Palestinians and 23 Israeli soldiers. (CNN, April 19)

Writes reporter Phil Reeves on the scene in Jenin: "A residential area roughly 160,000 square yards about a third of a mile wide has been reduced to dust. Rubble has been shoveled by bulldozers into 30ft piles. The sweet and ghastly reek of rotting human bodies is everywhere, evidence that it is a human tomb. The people, who spent days hiding in basements crowded into single rooms as the rockets pounded in, say there are hundreds of corpses, entombed beneath the dust, under a field of debris, criss-crossed with tank and bulldozer treadmarks... Around the central ruins, there are many hundreds of half-wrecked homes. Much of the camp--once home to 15,000 Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war--is falling down. Every wall is speckled and torn with bullet holes and shrapnel, testimony of the awesome, random firepower of Cobra and Apache helicopters that hovered over the camp... Every other building bears the giant, charred, impact mark of a helicopter missile. Last night there were still many families and weeping children still living amid the ruins, cut off from the humanitarian aid." While Jenin remains a "closed military zone," ringed by Merkava tanks, Red Cross ambulences are finally being allowed in. They had been barred for a week, "in violation of the Geneva Convention."(UK lndependent, April 16)

After touring Jenin, UN special Middle East envoy Terje Larsen said the scene was "horrifying beyond belief," that the most heavily destroyed area "looks like there's been an earthquake here," and is permeated with the "stench of death." Reported Larsen: "I saw people using their bare hands to dig out the body of a 12-year-old boy. More than 2,000 people have been left without a roof over their heads and there is an acute lack of water and food in the camp and town." (Haaretz, April 18)

But Brig.-Gen. Eyal Shlein, commander of the troops in the Jenin area, claimed the area where the buildings were destroyed occupies only a 10th of the camp, a radius of 70 by 100 meters. He also claimed all the destroyed buildings were booby-trapped or used as fortified positions to attack Israeli soldiers. Local Palestinian authorities claim that 80 bodies have been recovered. Israel says 25 have been recovered, and only three of them civilians. Most of the bodies were booby-trapped, said IDF sources. (Jerusalem Post, April 19)

There is controversy over possible IDF removal of bodies to an "enemy's cemetery" at a remote location in the Jordan Valley (see WW3 REPORT #29). In an April 18 press release, the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights & the Environment cites numerous eye-witness accounts of IDF trucks removing bodies from Jenin. A petition to Israel's high court by Knesset member Mohammed Barakeh demanding a halt to removal of bodies from Jenin was denied April 14.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres invited UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to send a fact-finding mission to look into Jenin. "Should the secretary-general send someone to look into the facts of what happened in Jenin and elsewhere, it would be welcome," said a Peres spokesperon. (CNN, April 19) [top]

UN human rights chief Mary Robinson human rights chief repeatedly urged Israel to allow her travel to the country for a delayed fact-finding mission on the conflict, citing "growing concerns over recent events in Jenin." Israeli authorities refused to approve the planned five-day visit by Robinson, who was to travel with former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez and South African independence leader Cyril Ramaphosa. Finally, Robinson's office announced that the mission had been cancelled because it "will not be facilitated by the Israeli authorities." (AFP, April 19) [top]

The UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva condemned Israel for "acts of mass killings" and "gross violations" of humanitarian law April 15. The resolution was approved by 40 votes in favor and five against. The UK and Germany voted against but six other European Union states, including France, Belgium, Spain, Portgal, Sweden and Austria, voted for. Germany's UN ambassador, Walter Lewalter, said Berlin voted against because the resolution contained no condemnation of terrorism. (AFP, ADP, April 15) The resolution also invoked a 1982 UN resolution affirming the legitimacy of "all available means, including armed struggle" by nations resisting occupation. (Jerusalem Post, April 19) [top]

Israel's High Court of Justice gave Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government 15 days to respond to a petition by human rights organizations protesting the mass detention of Palestinian civilians. The court instructed the Israeli government to prove that its policy of indiscriminate arrests does not violate international law. According to figures presented by the government at the hearing, the IDF detained 5,600 Palestinians during Operation Defensive Shiled, and has released 3,900. Under a provisional military order signed by Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak Eitan on April 5, detainees may be held for 18 days before being brought to a judge and are prohibited from consulting a lawyer. Attorney Leila Margalit of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel wrote that the order "is illegal because it contradicts the basic principles of constitutional law, which is binding on IDF operations in the territories." (Jerusalem Post, April 19) [top]

Israel has re-opened the harsh detainment camp at Ketziot in the Negev Desert to hold captives from the West Bank. Ketziot held thousands of Palestinians in the first Intifada (uprising) from 1987-93, and was closed six years ago. Prisoners were overcrowded and exposed to searing heat in the summer and bone-chilling cold in the winter. The IDF says 387 of the thousands detained in Desert Shield are known "terrorist suspects." (Daily News, April 17) [top]

Human Rights Watch released an emergency report, "In a Dark Hour: The Use of Civilians During IDF Arrest Operations," documenting how the Israeli Defense Forces have taken civilians at gunpoint to open suspicious packages, knock on suspects' doors, and search the houses of "wanted" Palestinians in military operations. The report is based on in-depth investigations into four separate IDF arrest raids in late 2001 and early 2002, and claims the practice continues today in "Operation Defensive Shield." Journalists, doctors, and other civilians have reported being coerced at gunpoint to assist soldiers during the most recent IDF incursions into the West Bank. The report is on-line. [top]

While the IDF has pulled out of Jenin, the camp remains surrounded. Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said troops would also be withdrawing from occupied West Bank towns. But anticipating future fighting, Ben-Eliezer said he prefers to call the withdrawal a "redeployment": "The Palestinians have not responded to the demands of US Secretary of State Colin Powell to halt the terrorism and, in practice, they are not prepared to enter into the Tenet and Mitchell plans... Therefore I said 'redeployment' and not 'withdrawal.'" (Jerusalem Post, April 19) On the 21st, Sharon declared an end to "this stage" of Defensive Shield, ordering troops out of Nablus and Ramallah, except for the ring around Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's compound. "We have finished this stage of the operation called Defensive Shield," Sharon told reporters. "We have achieved very profound results but the struggle against terrorism continues. However this time, it will work according to a different method." This is apparently a reference to establishing military "buffer zones" around Palestinian-controlled areas. Sharon also promised that Israel would not relinquish control of Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, where ultra-Orthodox protestors barricaded themselves the night of the 20th, ahead of the IDF's withdrawal from the area. Sharon said he would demand Israeli control of the holy site once talks with the Palestinians resumed. (Haaretz, April 21) [top]

Daoud Kuttab, director of the Institute of Modern Media at Jerusalem's al-Quds University, described in a New York Times op-ed piece April 6 how the Institute's al-Quds Educational Television station in Ramallah was ransacked by IDF troops. The studio and offices were broken into, equipment destroyed and two staffers arrested. [top]

As the Church of the Nativity standoff between Israeli forces and armed Palestinians entered its third week, Bethlehem's mayor Hana Nasser said he would ask Pope John Paul II to come to the holy city and seek a solution. "If we cannot reach a reasonable agreement that could guarantee and and protect those inside the church, I have no other choice but to invite the holy order to save the mother of churches, the Church of the Nativity," Nasser said. About 200 armed Palestinians dashed into the church on April 2, and it was quickly surrounded by Israeli troops. Leaders of Catholic, Orthodox and evangelical churches in Jerusalem proposed a solution to visiting US Secretary of State Colin Powell, urging a three-day Israeli withdrawal from the city to allow the men inside to lay down their weapons and go home. Israel insists the armed men must either face trial in Israel or accept exile. Israel has pledged not to storm the 1,400-year-old church, but there has been periodic gunfire exchanges over the course of the siege, and the Greek Orthodox section of the compound caught fire. (AP, April 18) Palestinians in the church cancelled face-to-face negotiations with Israeli and US officials after the Israelis refused to allow European Union reps to observe the meeting. (Haaretz, April 18)

On April 21, five Palestinians in the church surrendered to IDF troops, but Israeli authorities said they were not among the men wanted for arrest. Raising memories of Waco, the IDF also claimed several Palestinian youth are being held by gunmen in the basement of the church. The claim is based on the testinomy of 20-year-old Palestinian Tair Manassra, who was shot in the leg--likely by an IDF sniper--when he ventured outside the church to pick herbs, and said several Palestinian youths in the basement were running out of food. In a special address in Rome, the Pope asked for prayers so that both sides could find "the courage of peace." "May Israelis and Palestinians learn to live together and may the Holy Land finally return to being a sacred land and a land of peace," the pontiff said. (Haaretz, April 21) [top]

The siege of Bethlehem comes just after a $250 million renovation project of the ancient city was completed, funded by foreign aid agencies and aimed at drawing tourists--especially for the 2000 Millennium celebrations, which brought Pope John Paul II and numerous heads of state to the town of 30,000. Now much of the town is in much worse shape than before the project. Reported the Washington Post April 14: "Israeli tanks have turned historic Madbassah Square into rubble, three years after it was renovated at a cost of $2 million. Fires and explosives have ruined a 300-year-old pilgrims' hostel with soaring arches that took two years to refurbish. A once-sparkling new artists' colony, recently completed for $600,000, has been ransacked and defaced... [A]rmored personnel carriers rumble through the narrow and deserted streets of the Old City daily, ripping up sidewalks, sideswiping stone pillars and banging into storefronts with centuries-old facades."

The extent of the destruction is difficult to measure because residents are confined to their homes under night-and-day curfew, allowed out only for three hours every few days to buy food and medicine. Journalists are also tightly restricted, and forbidden from going anywhere near the Church of the Nativity and other sections of the Old City. But the Post writes that "a survey of winding streets west of the Nativity church revealed few buildings left unscarred. Broken glass and piles of rubble were underfoot everywhere, the wreckage of blackened automobiles littered the alleyways, and the acrid smell of burning plastic mixed in the air with the stench of rotting garbage that hadn't been picked up for almost two weeks. At Bethlehem University, on a hill overlooking the Old City, the heavy masonry walls of classrooms and office buildings have been pockmarked by artillery fire. Even the library didn't escape the shelling."

"To me, it's wanton destruction," Brother Joe Loewenstein, a Franciscan friar and a former president of the university, told the Post. "I don't think there is any window that hasn't been broken. Every single car in sight has been damaged beyond repair. It's heartbreaking. I go home and cry for these people." [top]

Wrote Haaretz from Bethlehem's besieged Church of the Nativity April 18: "Two Japanese tourists, eager to visit the church, were so engrossed in their guide book Wednesday they did not notice they had wandered into the scene of a siege. It was only when news photographers in flak jackets and helmets spotted the oblivious couple and pointed out the bullet-pocked buildings and military hardware around them that they decided to call off their trip to the Christian shrine. 'We have been on the road for the last six months and we did not watch television or read the newspapers,' a bemused Yuji Makano told one photographer, after being informed of recent developments." [top]

On April 19, Israeli forces killed five Palestinians in confrontations in Gaza, and a Palestinian bomber blew himself up in an attack on an Israeli military checkpoint. A day later, an Israeli border officer was shot to death by a Palestinian gunman in the Gaza Strip before being gunned down himself by return fire from an Israeli tank. The al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a militia linked to Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility. Hundreds of chanting Palestinians marched in a Gaza City funeral procession for two of those killed, reportedly Islamic Jihad militants. (AP, April 20) [top]

President George Bush weighed in on Operation Defensive Shield April 19, stating: "I do believe Ariel Sharon is a man of peace. I think he wants, I'm confident he wants Israel to be able to exist at peace with its neighbors. I mean, he's told that to us here in the Oval Office. He has embraced the notion of two states living side by side." Bush said he was satisfied that Sharon was acting in good faith. "He gave me a timetable, and he met the timetable" for beginning withdrawal from re-occupied towns. He also said "Mr. Arafat did condemn terrorism, and now we will hold him to account." (CNN, April 19; Haaretz, April 20) A few hours later, Arafat, in a telephone interview with Tunisian TV, called Sharon "bloodthirsty" and said "his history is known. His hands are stained in blood." (CNN, April 19) [top]

Ariel Sharon told his weekly cabinet meeting April 21 that no government headed by him would evacuate Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Banging on the table, Sharon said he would not even discuss evacuating the settlements until the elections, set for October 2003, or even beyond should he be elected for a second term. The statement came in response to a TV report that top IDF officers are in favor of evacuating isolated settlements. (Haaretz, April 21) [top]

In his statement, President Bush said he understood why Israel was keeping troops in Bethlehem and in Ramallah, where the suspects in last year's assassination of ex- tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi are believed to be in the compound with Arafat. "These people are accused of killing a cabinet official of the Israel government," Bush said. "I can understand why the prime minister wants them brought to justice. They should be brought to justice if they killed a man in cold blood." (Haaretz, April 20) Sharon rejected an offer by Arafat to try the suspected killers of the far-right Zeevi in a Palestinian court. (Reuters, April 20) [top]

April 15 the IDF announced the arrest in Ramallah of Marwan Barghouti, the Fatah politician and Palestinian Legis-lative Council representative who turned Tanzim from a civil guard into a West Bank militia that organized suicide bombings. Israeli authorities say they will consider whether Barghouti will stand trial or be deported. (Haartez, Jerusalem Post, April 16) [top]

Weapons uncovered in Operation Defensive Shield include Soviet-made RPG rocket-launchers that were modified by Iraq, and Iranian-made RPG models, IDF sources said. The sources said the weaponry was probably smuggled into the territories in Arafat's helicopters, which have now been damaged and grounded by the IDF. (Haaretz, April 18) [top]

Bush administration officials who met recently with former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked why Israel is not "getting rid" of Arafat, Netanyahu told Ariel Sharon in a meeting April 18. While in the US, Netanyahu met with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Netanyahu updated Sharon on his recent mission to bolster US support for Israel. (Jerusalem Post, April 19) [top]

On April 7, AP reported that President Bush said Arafat "needs to speak clearly, in Arabic, to the people of that region and condemn terrorist activities. At the very minimum, he ought to at least say something." But Daoud Kuttab for the Electronic Intifada compiled a number of quotes from Arafat and other Palestinian leaders condemning terrorism in Arabic. On March 28, after the Passover suicide attack in Netanya, an Arafat speech broadcast on Palestinian TV in Arabic stated: "On this occasion, I would like once again to reiterate our condemnation of yesterday's operation in Netanya, in which a number of innocent Israeli civilians were killed and wounded. This operation constitutes a deviation from our policy and a violation of our national and human values..." [top]

Palestinian president Yasser Arafat's wife Suha Arafat endorsed suicide bombing attacks in a London-based Arabic magazine, al-Majallah. According to the New York Times, she told the magazine if she had a son, there would be "no greater honor" than to sacrifice him for the Palestinian cause. "Would you expect me and my children to be less patriotic and more eager to live than my country men and their father and leader who is seeking martydom?" Suha Arafat, who has no son, is currently living with her daughter in Paris. (NYT, April 15) Four Palestinian mothers have lost their daughters in suicide bombing attacks this year (see WW3 REPORT #29). Four more almost lost theirs in foiled attacks, two this past week. (Haaretz, April 19)

The Saudi ambassador to Britian, Ghazi Algosaibi, a well-known poet in the Arab world, wrote a poem published in the London-based Al-Hayat praising Ayat al-Akras, who blew herself and two Israelis up in a Jerusalem supermarket on March 29: "Tell Ayat, the bride of loftiness... She embraced death with a smile... Doors of heaven are opened for her" (AP, April 15)

Two prominent Islamic clerics have also endorsed suicide bombings. Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the most prominent religious scholar at al-Ahzar University in Cairo, called "martydom operations" the "highest form of jihad operations" and that such attacks were "an Islamic commandment until the people of Palestine regain their land and cause the cruel Israeli aggression to retreat." (NYT, April 15) (see WW3 REPORT #26) According to the Times, Egypt's new mufti, its highest religious authority, declared that "the solution to the Israeli terror" lies in suicide attacks "that strike horror into the hearts of the enemies of Allah. The Islamic countries, peoples and rulers alike, must support these martyrdom attacks." (NYT, April 15) Last year, a ruling by the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia "declared suicide to be against Islam" (AP, April 15)

One Christian cleric has also endorsed suicide bombing. According to well-known Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, Greek Catholic bishop Hilarion Capucci recently spoke at a rally in Italy where he "thank[ed] in the name of God the kamikazes who massacred Jews in pizzarias and supermarkets, calling them martyrs who go to their deaths as if to a party." (Panorama, Rome, April 15) Capucci was arrested in 1974 for smuggling explosives for Palestinian militants, and released only after intervention by the Pope, who promised Capucci would not take part in political activity again. (Jerusalem Post, May 25, 2000) Fallaci's article has caused an uproar in Italy, where leaders of the Green and Communist parties accused her of impugning the Catholic church for letting Capucci appear at the rally. Said Communist Party parliamentary leader Franco Girodano: "The words are shameful beacuse they feed hate between religions." But others have defended Fallaci, including defense minister Antonio Martino. "I believe she has grounds [for the article]," he said. (AFP, April 12) (David Bloom) [top]

Secretary of State Colin Powell moved on from Israel after having visited the scene of a suicide bombing that killed six Israelis in Jerusalem--but not Jenin, the site of far greater carnage. Powell's arrival in Beirut was met by thousands of protesters, who burned US and Israeli flags. Demonstrations also followed him to Damascus, where over 300 students held a sit-in outside the UN offices. (AP, April 15) At a Cairo protest, a university student was reported killed and over 100 injured as police opened fire with buckshot, tear gas and water cannons. (NYT, April 10) [top]

Colin Powell did send Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William J. Burns to visit Jenin after the Secretary himself had already left Israel/Palestine. Burns called the scene at Jenin a "terrible human tragedy," but refrained from explicitly criticizing Israel, or commenting on Israeli claims that what happened at the camp was a "battle" and not a "massacre." (NYT, April 21) [top]

Writes commentator Aluf Benn in the April 18 Haaretz: "Operation Defensive Shield has fomented a deep change in the political debate in Israel and redrawn the demarcation lines between left and right, which had become blurred in the decade of the Oslo accords and the brutal clash with the Palestinians. The right is now urging that Israel retake control of the territories, while the left is pushing for an enforced settlement with the aid of an international force. Occupation or internationalization: These are the parameters within which the public discourse will henceforth be conducted in Israel." Benn argues that there is "no longer any prospect of reaching an agreement with the Palestinians. Not a permanent settlement, not an interim agreement, not even a temporary cease-fire." [top]

The international credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's has lowered its outlook for Israel from stable to negative as a result of the continuing conflict and fiscal deficits. "Although the emerging global recovery is expected to provide some relief later this year, we rule out a substantial rebound in Israel's economic activity in 2002, due to the persistence of the highly volatile and tense security situation," said S&P's credit analyst Konrad Reuss. Israel's credit rating remained unchanged. (Haaretz, April 13) [top]

An April 15 Washington DC rally organized by American Jewish organizations in support of Israel drew a crowd of 100,000 to the steps of the Capitol. The message from the various speakers consistently hit the same note: that Israel's current military action in the West Bank is justified and part of the same War on Terrorism being waged by the US. "Israel and the United States are fighting the same battle, the same enemy," former right-wing Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the rally to big applause. "The only way to defeat this enemy is to destroy it." Saying that the War on Terrorism now stretches from Afghanistan to what he called "Arafatistan," Netanyahu said "Arafat is like bin Laden with better PR." Among the day's other speakers were Congressmen Richard Gephardt and Dick Armey, New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani (who also received big applause), and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz--who, despite his hawkish credentials, was booed by the crowd when he said, "We know the Israelis are not the only ones suffering. Innocent Palestinians are suffering and dying in great numbers as well. It is critical that we recognize and acknowledge that fact." Mention of Ariel Sharon brought cheers from the crowd, and chants of "No more Arafat." Perhaps the day's most extreme message came from Janet Parshall, a Christian evangelist radio host and head of the National Religious Broadcasters Association. "We will never give up the Golan," she said "We will never divide Jerusalem. And we will call Yasser Arafat what Yasser Arafat is: a terrorist." (JTA, April 15, and WW3 REPORT Special Correspondent on the scene) [top]

75,000 demonstrators converged in Washington on April 20 for the largest pro-Palestinian rally ever in the US, according to the DC police (Washington Post, April 21). Anti-globalization protesters in town for the IMF meeting mixed with Arab and Muslim demonstrators bused in from around the country. Pro-peace placards could be seen, often with Hebrew and Arabic lettering on the same sign. "The only territory Israel doesn't occupy is the moral high ground" read one. One from a Jewish peace group read, "We did not survive Auschwitz to bury Jenin." Some signs pictured an Israeli flag with a blue swastika in place of the Star of David, or Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon depicted as Hitler. Chants of "long live Palestine" and "free, free Palestine" could be heard. Palestinian activists led cadenced chants in Arabic from truck-mounted loudspeakers, much like demonstrations in the West Bank or Gaza, followed by chants in English. At one point, the speakers blared "long live Intifada," a chant taken up by marchers of all backgrounds. At a rally in front of the White House before the march, a variety of speakers exhorted the US to end aid to Israel. In addition to Muslim, labor, and church leaders, speakers representing Jewish groups spoke out in support of Palestinian rights. The rally was simulcast by C-SPAN radio.

Also that day, the Committee for Palestinian Solidarity protested the meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) at the Washington Hilton, while the Mobilization for Global Justice and various anarchist grouplings rallied against the IMF/World Bank meeting. (The Nation, April 26) But the main pro-Palestine demonstration was organized by International ANSWER , (AP, April 19), a group associated with the International Action Center (IAC), which itself is a front organization for the cultish neo-Stalinist Workers World Party (WWP). IAC/ANSWER's unlikely frontman is former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who was a featured speaker at the event. The demonstration was initially intended to protest the US campaign in Afghanistan, and was originally called by the April 20th Mobilization, a coalition of anti-war groups (National Youth & Student Peace Coalition, NYC Labor Against the War, War Resisters League, Colombia Solidarity Committee, Nicaragua Network), who actually maintained their own separate stage near the Washington Monument, MC'd by Amy Goodman of Pacifica Radio. But ANSWER, after securing an agreement from the A20 Mobilization to coordinate the two events (see "Unity Statement"), launched the most aggressive and visible publicity, at least in the NYC area. Well-financed and tightly run, IAC/ANSWER provided marchers with its own mass-produced placards, and also organized buses from New York. For more on ANSWER's attempts to manipulate the mobilization in Washington, see Liza Featherstone's article in The Nation.

The IAC and Ramsey Clark support former Serbian strongman Slobodon Milosovic, now on trial for war crimes, including genocide, by the International Tribunal for War Crimes in the Hague. Shortly after Milosevic's arrival in the Hague, Ramsey Clark offered to defend him, and now serves as his legal advisor (AP, Nov. 24). (See The Mysterious Ramsey Clark: Stalinist Dupe or Ruling Class Spook?" by Manny Goldstein in The Shadow) (David Bloom with Bill Weinberg) [top]

Sounds of the protest, with interviews

Audio Interview with two Palestinian-American women at the protest


A group with the same name as one linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network claimed responsibility for the April 11 explosion at Tunisian synagogue that killed 15 people. In front-page reports April 17, the London-based pan-Arab dailies al-Quds al-Arabi and al-Hayat said they had received a claim of responsibility from a group calling itself the "Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Sites"--the same name used by a group claiming credit for the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The 1998 claim called bin Laden a "source of inspiration" and referred to him as the "warrior sheik." Tunisia's government described the April 13 explosion of a gas-laden truck at the Ghriba synagogue on the resort island of Djerba as a "tragic accident." (See WW3 REPORT #29) But German federal prosecutors, involved because 10 of the dead were German tourists, said April 17 they believed it was an act of terrorism, and that police had arrested a person in Germany believed to have been in contact with those involved.

Al-Hayat said the statement was received in its Islamabad office by fax without reference to the originating phone number. Al-Hayat said the statement was in Arabic and on stationery with al-Qaeda's logo. The statement read: "The martyrdom operation is a response to Israeli crimes against the sons of the Palestinian people... The martyrdom operation is a retaliation to the [Arab] governments refusal to allow their peoples to join Jihad against the Jews."

Al-Quds said it received the statement along with a will said to have been left by the truck driver, identified as Nizar bin Mohammed Nawar and by the nom de guerre Seiful Dinn el-Tunisi, or "Sword of the Faith, the Tunisian." Nawar was quoted as calling on his parents, brothers and sister to contribute to holy war "with their souls and money." The will was dated July 5, 2000. (Jerusalem Post, April 17)

Two days later, German Interior Minister Otto Schily announced he will visit Tunisia with German Federal Prosecutor Kay Nehm to discuss new evidence the incident was a terrorist attack with Tunisian authroties. (Jersualem Post, April 19) [top]

Pentagon officials told NBC News April 19 over 60 US Special Operations forces will soon arrive in Yemen to train Yemeni forces in "counter-terrorism tactics" for hunting down suspected al-Qaeda militants. (See WW3 REPORT #23) But anti-US protests broke out in Sanaa, the capital, that same day. Police fired in the air and used tear gas and clubs to prevent about 5,000 pro-Palestinian protesters from reaching the U.S. Embassy, witnesses said. The protests follow an April 12 bomb attack in the same district as the embassy (see WW3 REPORT #29). The New York Times reported April 10 that 300,000 marched in support of Palestine in Sanaa, and one protestor was killed in the port city of Aden. [top]

Security measures don't seem to be lacking in Yemen. Freedom-hating New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof couldn't resist throwing in a fatuous adjective worthy of tourist-guidebook exoticism as he applauded the regime's efficient police state: "It was reassuring to find myself almost arrested as I arrived in this magical country." Lest anyone accuse him of undue cultural sensitivity, Kristof described the lunch he was served as "brown gobs and green gook" when he visited with Sheikh Othman Mujali al-Fayid, member of parliament and traditional tribal leader, who warned him, "People do not accept foreign powers in Yemen. We don't want anyone involved in our business." (NYT, March 15) [top]


The premier issue of Brooklyn's Judeo-hipster "Heeb" magazine, "the New Jew Review," (Winter 2002) reports in its "Radical Rabbinics" column on the Old City Peace Vigil, a weekly interfaith gathering at a plaza overlooking the Temple Mount/al-Aksa Mosque. The vigils, which attract both long-haired rabbis and Muslim faithful, include drumming, singing and dancing as well as prayer and silent meditation. "People speak of their hopes and nightmares," says NJ-born student Devorah Brous who co-founded the vigil a year and a half ago. "It has a different dynamic each week." Another founder, Haj Ibrahim Ahmad Abu el-Hawa, from a small village near the Mount of Olives, says, "There are three religions but only one God. We need love, and we need to pass that love to one another." The Vigil also organizes efforts to paint over the racist graffiti which has become common in Jerusalem ("Death to the Arabs," "Revenge"). But the authorities are not happy with these good-hearted peaceniks. A recent gathering was broken up by police, who claimed it was a political demonstration and needed a permit. Most Muslim-Jewish dialogue groups have fallen apart, and the peace movement is "in shambles." [top]

Ahmed Ahmed, an Egyptian-American stand-up comic from California, and Bob Alper, a rabbi from Vermont, have teamed up for a comedy act they are taking to synagogues and Jewish community centers around the East Coast. Ahmed became a comedian riffing on the Arab-American experience after frustrations trying to pursue an acting career in Hollywood. "I found myself typecast as as a terrorist, a cab-driver, sleazy Arab princes, 7-Eleven owners and stuff like that." His biggest role was "Terrorist No. 4" in the 1996 Kurt Russell thriller "Executive Decision." Says Alper, who recruited Ahmed for the project: "While I'm not a ful-time practicing rabbi anymore, in a way I really think I am with what I'm doing--going around the world and making people laugh has a very strong spiritual component to it... I know laughter is healing. My feeling, from the Jewish perspective, is that when the Jewish people in the audience see an Arab-American and can laugh with him and see that he's a sweet and decent human being, it's very helpful. Humor bridges cultures." (Newsday, April 12) [top]


Former Afghan king Zahir Shah returned to Kabul from Rome April 18 amid tight security after 29 years in exile. Delegations from all over Afghanistan--holding flowers and pictures of the former king--greeted him at the airport as a newly-trained Afghan honour guard stood at attention. He was escorted home from Italy by Afghanistan's interim leader Hamid Karzai and six government ministers. But in a sign of political sensitivities surrounding his return, there was no announcement of it on radio or TV, and no flags or welcoming banners in the city streets. A joint Afghan-Italian security force will be guarding him during his stay, aimed at convening a Loya Jirga, or tribal summit, set for June to establish a permanent government for Afghanistan. Powerful members of the government--especially those from the Northern Alliance--are wary of his return, fearing it could provide a rallying point for their opponents. Meanwhile, some southern Pashtun groups are calling for a return to monarchy. (BBC, April 18) [top]

Rory Carroll writes in the UK Observer April 14 that Afghanistan's warlords are playing a bloody game to consolidate their local rule and weaken rivals in advance of Loya Jirga, or tribal summit set for June to establish a permanent government. "There are still a lot of different groups trying to make trouble. I think most of them are hold-outs from the Taliban and al-Qaeda, plus small groups linked to [Gulbuddin] Hekmatyar," said Agriculture Minister Saeed Hussein Anwari. The ultra-fundamentalist Hekmatyar has ostensibly agreed to recognize the interim regime (see WW3 REPORT #25), but is now said to back Taliban/al-Qaeda efforts destabilize the new government. Hekmatyar's location is unknown. Meanwhile, according to a confidential UN document, the interim authorities are jailing and intimidating their own political rivals to smear them as "terrorists" and destabilize preparations for the Loya Jirga. The memo was written by the UN's chief negotiator, Michael Semple, and addressed to the organization's senior political officers in Kabul, Anders Fange and Karl Fischer. [top]

Every morning, a procession of local residents whose homes or loved ones were destroyed in the US-led Operation Anaconda (see WW3 REPORT #24) gathers at the gates of the governor's compound in Gardez, demanding compensation. "They are so angry, angry at the Americans," said Gen. Sahib Jan Loodin Alozai, deputy governor of Paktia province, who processes the complaints. "They blame the Americans for all their troubles." Some petitioners claim US airstrikes killed their relatives or destroyed their homes. Farmers complain that US troops blocked access to their fields, ruining their spring planting season. People on the street glare and curse at passing American reporters. A Canadian reporter was seriously wounded last month by a grenade tossed into her vehicle just outside town. (LAT, April 14) [top]

An US F-16 pilot near Kandahar apparently mistook Canadian soldiers for enemy forces and dropped a 500-pound bomb, killing four and wounding eight, Pentagon officials said. As an investigation begins, a key question was why the US forces didn't know the Canadians were training in the area. Canadian Defense Minister Art Eggleton, who called the deaths shocking, said one of the injured had life-threatening wounds and the other seven were in stable condition. (AP, April 18) [top]

US-led forces have launched their first major combat operation in a month against Taliban/al-Qaeda forces. The new offensive involves US, British and Afghan troops, marking the Afghan war combat debut for Britain's elite force of Royal Marines, trained to operate in mountains that rise over 10,000 feet. At Bagram air base near Kabul, British spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Harradine said "They're going to sweep through, destroy any al-Qaida and Taliban that are there and then deny the group control of that area." Authorities did not give a location for the fighting. [top]

At least four US troops were killed and several are injured or missing following a mishap while blowing up unexploded rockets outside Kandahar. "It doesn't appear to be hostile fire--it is related to ordinance," said spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Lapan. This brings the number of US fatalities in the Afghanistan campaign to 36. (BBC, April 15) [top]

A US Special Forces soldier was wounded April 17 in what military sources called a "hit-and-run attack" in downtown Kandahar. Maj. A.C. Roper told reporters at the US base in Kandahar the soldier was on patrol when he was shot in the face by an unknown assailant and was taken to the base, where he is in stable condition. "We're under a constant threat here, not only on the air base but also in the city," Roper said. "There are elements of al-Qaeda and non-Afghan Taliban forces that don't want us here. They don't like the progress that we've made, but we're here to accomplish the mission, and we will not be deterred." (CNN, April 17) [top]

An woman teacher in Kandahar was the target of an acid-attack following a leaflet campaign in the former Taliban stronghold, according to a city official. An assailant threw acid on the teacher as she walked home from school, and tried to flee before being apprehended, Commander Dost Mohammad told Reuters. The hand-written pamphlets warned men not to send their daughters to school or their women to work. Mohammad said he did not know how badly the woman was hurt, but said Kandahar authorities had arrested 37 suspects named by the detained man and found more acid. "Five of them were wearing the Afghan military uniform," he said. Leaflets were also found warning residents not to collaborate with foreign troops. Read the leaflet: "The American forces will leave the country sooner or later, but you will remain here. People helping Afghan security forces are being marked." (Reuters, April 17) [top]

At least three people were killed and two injured when an explosion rocked the main bazaar in Khost April 18, the Afghan Islamic Press reported. The blast occurred within 100 feet of the city's military hospital, the Pakistan-based news service reported, quoting witnesses. It was the third blast in Khost since the fall of the Taliban regime last year. US troops are also stationed in Khost and there have been at least three rocket attacks against them, the report said. (AFP, April 18) [top]

Fighting has erupted between the forces of rival warlords in Wardak province, Afghan Islamic Press reported. Nine were killed and 12 wounded as the forces of interim regime loyalist Commander Muzaffaruddin and rival Ghulam Rohani Nangali fought around Maidan Shahr, the provincial capital, 30 miles west of Kabul. Rockets and artillery were used in overnight fighting April 13. (Reuters, April 13) [top]

Tribal leaders and commanders from Helmand, Paktia and Nangahar provinces demanded "leniency" in implementing the new opium-eradication policy, fearing resistance from farmers. When the eradication program began April 8, protests by opium farmers turned bloody (see WW3 REPORT #29). The CIA estimates Afghanistan supplied 70% of the world's opium before the Taliban cracked down in 2000, and US officials fear a return to those levels if the spring harvest is not eradicated. Pakistan's NNI news service calls the opium face-off the "most serious chalenge so far" for interim leader Hamid Karzai: "Karzai needs to curb opium production to win the backing of the international community, but doing so would undercut his position at home, where local warlords still rule much of the country." (NNI, April 13) Meanwhile, White House Drug Czar John Walters told the Washington Times, "We can not allow Afghanistan again to become a haven for illicit money, a haven for terrorism." He said that crushing the Afghan opium trade would be a long struggle, contingent on a US-allied regime remaining in control. "It will require staying power perhaps as long as two to three years, but banning opium production has got to be a priority," he said. (Frontier Post, April 17) [top]

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers urgently appealed for funds for the $271 million program to repatriate Afghan refugees. Over 267,000 refugees have returned from Pakistan since the program was launched March 1. Another 5,000 have returned from Iran under a similar program launched in April. Lubbers warned the programs would not be able to continue unless international donors come through with promised aid. (UNHCR press release, April 17) The programs offer returning refugees an assistance package including both food and non-food items, as well as a small cash grant. (IRIN, April 17) [top]

Shortly before the Taliban issued orders to blow up the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan in March 2001, a squad systematically ransacked Kabul's National Museum, working from noon to night to smash every "idolatrous" relic--including priceless Greco-Buddhist statuary from the Kushan dynasty. More relics had been pirated for sale on the international market as Mujahedeen factions fought for Kabul in the mid-1990s, but much had been sent to the Switzerland's Afghanistan Museum for safekeeping ahead of the Taliban take-over. The UN Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated the Switzerland museum as Afghanistan's respository in exile, and authorities are consideriung if it is now safe to return the relics. Nancy Hatch Dupree of the Society for the Preservation of Afghanistan's Cultural Heritage says "It is too early to ask for the return of objects, but certianly not too early to talk about it." Meanwhile, UNESCO has dispatched teams of archaeologists to Afghanistan to assess the damage to sites in Kabul, Bamiyan and Herat, as well as the 12th-century minaret at Jam and the ancient city of Balkh. The most ambitious project is inteirm leader Hamid Karzai's proposal for rebuilding the Bamiyan Buddhas. (NYT, April 15) [top]

Amnesty International has attacked the US for its treatment of prisoners held in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay Naval base in Cuba. Said the statement: "The US government has refused to grant any of the detainees in Afghanistan or Guantanamo Bay prisoner of war status, or to bring any disputed cases before a competent tribunal as requested under the Geneva Conventions... The United States' pick-and-choose approach to the Geneva Conventions is unacceptable, as is its failure to respect fundamental international human rights standards." Among other charges, Amnesty said Washington holds prisoners in conditions that could amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and has refused to grant them access to legal counsel. The US is holding 300 Taliban/al-Qaeda suspects at its Camp X-Ray prison in Guantanamo Bay, and more than 200 others at US facilities in Afghanistan. Amnesty said it would renew its bid to gain access to the detainees, as its initial request was not acknowledged by US officials. (Reuters, April 15) [top]

The US is aligned with some of its worst enemies in opposing efforts to strengthen an international treaty that bans torture, diplomatic sources say. Washington finds itself on the same side as Cuba, Libya and Syria in trying to block a proposal before the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva aimed at giving more teeth to the Convention Against Torture. US diplomats insist they do not oppose strengthening the 1987 convention, but say they disagree with the international prison-inspection program proposed by Latin American and European nations. "It's pretty scandalous that some states claiming to defend human rights are blocking this," said Mark Thomson of the Geneva-based Association to Prevent Torture. "If they succeed, it's really putting a spanner in the works in terms of implementing the convention in a meaningful way." (Christian Science Monitor, April 19) [top]


Philippine President Gloria Arroyo sanctioned deployment of hundreds more US troops for the country's restive southern region of Mindanao. Several hundred US troops are already stationed on the island of Basilan assisting Philippine forces against the Abu Sayyaf rebels, allegedly linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network (see WW3 REPORT #26). Arroyo said some 300 military engineers will join the 660 US troops helping to hunt down Abu Sayyaf militants, who are holding a US missionary couple and a Filipina nurse hostage. The US forces provide training for local troops but are barred from fighting except in self-defense. Another 2,700 US troops are due to arrive to take part in the second phase of the "Balikatan" joint exercise in the northern island of Luzon next week, including amphibious operations and night-flying skills. There were daily protests when the exercises began in January, and officials stressed that the US forces will not be involved in combat. (BBC, April 19) [top]

A bomb blast killed 14 people and wounded 55 others outside a department store in the southern Philippine city of General Santos. Minutes after the mall blast, a second explosion went off about one kilometer away in a residential part the city. Police arrested two men in connection with the blasts, and charged them with possession of handguns and grenades. A call to a local radio station claimed responsibility for the mall blast in the name of Abu Sayyaf. (CNN, April 21) [top]

Abu Sayyaf guerrillas have been channeling ransom money to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network, said Philippine Justice Secretary Hernando Perez, citing US FBI sources. Perez said Philippine authorities are working to track the funds with the assistance of the FBI, which alerted the government to the Abu Sayyaf-al-Qaeda financial link. "That is what the FBI is telling us," Perez told reporters. "The volume of money is apparently significant. We were told that perhaps money already in the hands of terrorists here is going toward bin Laden. And I am referring to the Abu Sayyaf." The group is believed to have collected over $20 million in ransom from kidnapping dozens of locals and foreign tourists since 2000. (Financial Times, April 2) [top]


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez returned to power April 14 after his civilian and military supporters overturned a two-day attempted coup d'etat. (AP, April 14) The week leading up to the April 11 coup was marked by heated conflicts between Chavez supporters and opponents. On April 4, middle and upper-level managers began a strike at the state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), to protest Chavez's replacement of the board of directors. On April 6, Venezuelan Workers Confederation (CTV) president Carlos Ortega and Chamber of Commerce Federation (FEDECAMARAS) president Pedro Carmona jointly announced a 24-hour strike for April 9 to support the PDVSA strike. The unions that represent PDVSA workers were divided on the strike.

PDVSA's sales of 2.43 million barrels/day provide 80% of Venezuela's hard currency income and establish the nation as the world's fourth-largest producer--and third-largest supplier to the US, after Canada and Saudi Arabia.

In his weekly radio program April 7, Chavez announced the firing of seven PDVSA managers and the forced retirement of 12 others, and urged an end to the strike. He also announced a 20% increase in the minimum wage for public-sector workers, to take effect May 1, and called on Venezuela's private sector to match the public-sector increase. Chavez refused to negotiate with the CTV, saying the union's leadership is "illegitimate and does not represent the workers of the country." (Miami Herald, April 8; AFP, April 8, 9)

The April 9 strike-which Chavez's opponents said was widely observed and which the government called a failure-was extended to April 10 and then extended indefinitely. On April 10, National Guard Maj. Gen. Rafael Damiani accused Chavez of responsibility for violence against a group of strikers outside a PDVSA facility in Caracas that day. Earlier that day, army Gen. Nestor Gonzalez accused Chavez of lying about his government's support for Colombian leftist guerillas. Gonzalez claimed Chavez had him transferred from a command position near the Colombian border to an administrative post because his troops had been fighitng Colombian rebels who entered Venezuelan territory. (AFP, EFE April 11)

On April 11, shooting broke out as a group of some 200,000 anti-Chavez demonstrators confronted about 5,000 Chavez supporters outside the presidential palace in Caracas. At least 13 were killed--mostly Chavez supporters--and some 150 wounded. The opposition-controlled media portrayed Chavez and his supporters as exclusively responsible for the violence. Chavez responded by ordering temporary suspension of private TV stations he accused of carrying out a "defamation campaign" and inciting violence. (AFP, April 12)

One witness told New York's Weekly News Update on the Americas the gunfire came from snipers in surrounding buildings, city police and Chavez supporters. The city police are under the control of Caracas mayor Alfredo Pena, a Chavez opponent. The snipers were said to be members of an extreme opposition group called Bandera Roja. The Sweden-based e-newsletter Vientos del Sur ( confirmed that the snipers were from Bandera Roja, an ultra-left group working with the right opposition. (VISUR, April 13)

Army commander Brig. Gen. Efrain Vasquez and nine high-ranking military officers-including Gonzalez and Damiani-responded by demanding Chavez resign. FEDECAMARAS president Carmona offered to head a transition government that would call new elections as soon as Chavez left. (AFP, April 12) Early on April 12 Carmona announced he was assuming the presidency because Chavez had resigned. Carmona quickly dissolved the National Assembly and dismissed the Supreme Court. Carmona insisted Chavez was "in custody, not arrested," and that soon the ousted president would travel "according to his wishes, outside the country." Anti-Ch˝vez demonstrators attacked the Cuban embassy, believing that Chavez's vice president, Lt. Diosdado Cabello, was hiding there. (El Nuevo Herald, Miami, April 13)

On April 12, Chavez's daughter, Maria Gabriela Chavez, confirmed that her father was being detained. She told Cuban TV she had spoken with him that morning and he told her to "let the world know that at no moment did he resign, and at no moment has he signed a decree dismissing Vice President Cabello." (La Jornada, Mexico, April 13) [top]

On April 13, tens of thousands took to the streets of Caracas and other Venezuelan cities in a popular uprising to demand Chavez's return. The slums spontaneously mobilized, and hundreds gathered outside the presidential palace in downtown Caracas, defying police tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to chant "Chavez will be back!" and "Democracy, not dictatorship!" (AP, April 13) Some Chavez supporters seized control of the state TV station. More violence and repression ensued, with at least 9 more killed. (BBC, April 14)

On the afternoon of April 13, commanders at Maracay air base rebelled against the coup leaders and proclaimed their loyalty to Chavez. Gen. Vasquez announced that the armed forces would support Carmona's government only if 12 points were respected, including reestablishment of the legally elected powers-of-state. The National Assembly then reconvened and swore in Cabello as president; Carmona resigned and was promptly arrested, along with other coup leaders. At 1:45 a.m. on April 14, Chavez headed by helicopter from the Venezuelan island of Orchila in the Caribbean, where he had been detained, to Caracas to reclaim the presidency. Before noon on April 14, Chavez returned to the presidential palace and appeared in public, cheered by thousands of supporters. (La Jornada, CNN, AP, EFE, April 14)

The New York Times reported: "Bleary-eyed from emotion and exhaustion, Chavez walked into a throng of supporters like a war hero." "What I feel is a people full of love," he said. "This is one of the biggest days in history... I say thank you, God." In a nationally televised speech just before dawn, Chavez described the uprising that brought him back to power as a "counter-revolution to a counter-revolution." (NYT, April 14)

Both Gen. Vasquez and co-plotter Gen. Ramirez Poveda are graduates of the US Army School of the Americas (SOA)--renamed last year as the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation (WHISC). Vasquez attended the school, in Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1988, taking a course in "Command and General Staff Officer Training." Ramirez took a course called "Auto Maintenance Officer Training" in 1972, when the school was located in Panama. (SOA Watch, April 12) [top]

Although the US stopped short of recognizing the de facto government that briefly replaced Chavez, White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer refused to protest Chavez's overthrow or even to describe the events as a coup. "We know that the action encouraged by the Chavez government provoked this crisis," he told reporters on April 12. (New York Times, La Jornada, April 13)

A New York Times editorial April 13 called Chavez "a ruinous demagogue" who "courted Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein." With his "resignation...Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator... Washington has a strong stake in Venezuela's recovery. Caracas now provides 15% of American oil imports, and with sounder policies could provide more..." (NYT April, 13)

IMF spokesperson Thomas Dawson said April 12, "We stand ready to assist the new administration in whatever matter they find suitable." (Xinhua, April, 13)

About eight hours after Chavez was removed from power, Merrill Lynch, the largest US brokerage firm, upgraded its assessment of Venezuela. "With a change in the government, the odds are very favorable for an improvement in the economic and political situation," the firm announced. (La Jornada, April, 13)

Chavez's "demise as a political leader likely means a power vacuum and declining influence for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries," the Miami Herald's Gregg Fields wrote before Chavez's return to power. "For the United States, it looks like a win-win: Lower oil prices, and the departure of a Western hemisphere leader who never missed a chance to annoy Washington." Chavez had pushed OPEC to reduce production, forcing up oil prices. (MH, April 14) International oil prices fell about 6% on April 12, when it seemed Chavez was out of the way. (NYT, April 13) They immediately rose again as the coup failed, jumping 75 cents in one day to $24.22. (CBS News, April 15)

Latin American governments were less supportive of the coup. At a special OAS summit in Costa Rica called to address the crisis, Mexican President Vicente Fox said Mexico "will abstain from either recognizing or not recognizing the new government in Venezuela and will limit itself to continuing diplomatic relations with that government." Cuba's government condemned the "coup mafia" and called for the "immediate return" of Chavez. But Colombian foreign minister Clemencia Forero Ucros described de facto Venezuelan President Carmona as a "great friend" of Colombia, adding, "We expect to have the best relations with the interim government." (MH, April 13) [top]

An April 13 New York Times editorial insisted the attempted "removal" of Chavez (the Times never called it a "coup") "was a purely Venezuelan affair." But an April 14 analysis piece said while there "is so far no evidence that the United States covertly undermined Mr. Ch˝vez...the open White House embrace of his overthrow will not be lost on Latin American leaders who dare thumb their noses at the United States, as did Mr. Ch˝vez." The article noted that US Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Otto Reich was involved in efforts to overthrow Nicaragua's leftist government in the 1980s. Reich is a rightist Cuban-American and former US ambassador to Venezuela (1986-1989). (See WW3 REPORT #27) "The fall of Mr. Chavez is a feather in [Reich's] cap," according the Times article, written before Chavez's return to power. (NYT, April 13)

The coup attempt coincided with a visit to Washington and Miami by Venezuelan Air Force Col. Pedro Soto, who in February became the first officer to call for Chavez to step down. Soto said he had planned to meet with two right-wing Cuban-American legislators, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Dâaz-Balart (both Republicans of Florida), but avoided answering questions about possible meetings with US officials. Soto denied that his trip had any particular purpose. "It was just in response to invitations," he said. (La Jornada, April 13)

(Above reports condensed from April 14 issue of Weekly News Update on the Americas, 339 Lafayette St., NY NY 10012) [top]

Senior members of the Bush administration met several times in recent months with leaders of the abortive Venezuelan coup, and agreed that Chavez should be removed from office, White House officials admitted. "They came here to complain," one anonymous official said of the anti-Chavez group. "Our message was very clear: there are constitutional processes. We did not even wink at anyone." A Pentagon official involved in Venezuela policy was less committal: "We were not discouraging people. We were sending informal, subtle signals that we don't like this guy. We didn't say, 'No, don't you dare,' and we weren't advocates saying, 'Here's some arms; we'll help you overthrow this guy.' We were not doing that."

The disclosures come as rights advocates and Latin American diplomats accuse the White House of having connived in the coup. In the immediate aftermath of the ouster, White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer suggested the administration was pleased. "The government suppressed what was a peaceful demonstration of the people," Fleischer said, which "led very quickly to a combustible situation in which Chavez resigned." (NYT, April 16)

A State Depatment official also admitted that Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich telephoned de facto president Pedro Carmona on the very day he took over, and urged him not to dissolve the Natoinal Assembly, saying it would be a "stupid thing to do." The official said, "In our opinion, he needed to work with them," meaning Carmona and his co-conspirators. Carmona ignored Reich's alleged appeal, and shut down the National Assembly and Supreme Court, sparking the counter-coup that returned Chavez to power. (NYT, April 17) [top]

In December, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez introduced a new law nearly doubling the royalties private oil companies must pay and giving the state a majority share in all new projects. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves outside of the Middle East, and international oil companies called the new legislation hostile to private investment. But Chavez defended it, saying, "This a liberating law because it breaks the chains that have bound us for so many years. This is a law for the poor. Of every 10 Venezuelans, seven are poor. One of the reasons for this was the mismanagement of the petroleum industry." Under the law, which took effect Jan. 1, the state-owned company PDVSA must hold a minimum 51% stake in all future Venezuelan oil development. Venezuela's private-sector bosses first started calling for a strike against the Chavez government after the law was passed. (BBC, Dec. 1)

International investors are looking to Venezuela as an artery for exploiting the oil wealth of South America's remote interior. A new transmission line bringing Venezuela hydro-power from the Orinoco River over the Gran Sabana plateau to the cities of the Brazilian Amazon was just completed, and is to be followed by a parallel gas pipeline to carry Amazonian fossil fuels to global markets via Venezuela. (See: "Arteries for Global Trade: Consequences for Amazonia," Amazon Watch, April 1997) The Arawako, Pemon and other Indian nations of the Gran Sabana had repeatedly blockaded construction roads through the region. (WBAI News, April 30, 1998) But in 2000, local Indian groups and the National Indigenous Council of Venezuela (CONIVE) both signed off on the project--partially in return for autonomy guarantees in the new constitution instated by Chavez. (Christine Halvorson, Rainforest Foundation, New York) Both these autonomy provisions and Chavez' insistence on a government stake in the development are seen as hindrences to unbridled corporate exploitation of the Amazon-Orinoco region. (See also: "Amazonia: Planning the Final Destruction," by Bill Weinberg, Native Americas, Fall/Winter 2001, Cornell U.)

During its brief tenure in power, the de facto government overturned 49 economic laws passed by the Chavez-controlled National Assembly which they said bottlenecked foreign investment. (NYT, April 13) The Venezuelan coup attempt came as oil prices are rising--and just a week after Iraq announced an embargo of Western markets in protest of the Palestine carnage, calling for a replay of the 1973 Arab boycott (see WATCHING THE SHADOWS). [top]

A bus exploded as the motorcade of Colombia's leading presidential candidate Alvaro Uribe passed outside a market in Barranquilla April 14, leaving the ultra-rightist politician unharmed but killing three bystanders and wounding 15 others. Gen. Armando Sandoval, local police commander, said "Attributing blame at this moment would be speculation. We know it was a remote-control device." Uribe is a hardliner who wants to expand Colombia's bloody counter-insurgency war against leftist guerillas. (AP, April 14)

On April 7, a coordinated two-bomb attack in downtown Villavicencio killed 12 and wounded dozens more. The first bomb killed four, and drew spectators from bars and restaurants. Then the second, larger one, hidden under a car, exploded, killing eight more. National Police commander Gen. Ernesto Gilbert blamed the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC). That same week, a car bomb exploded in Fuente de Oro, injuring 13, and a priest was shot to death by attackers during a service just south of Bogota. (AP, April 7) [top]


Secretary of State Colin Powell's Middle East peacemaking mission is being closely watched by oil analysts, wrote Tom Raum for the AP April 13. While the US is better positioned to ride out a disruption in Mideast oil now than during the 1973 Arab boycott, tensions in the region have helped drive up fuel costs for Americans. With the summer driving season approaching, US gasoline prices have already risen by 32 cents since February, to an average price of $1.46 per gallon. "There's no oil shortage as such," said John Lichtblau, chairman of the New York-based Petroleum Industry Research Foundation. "It's all fear. If Powell does manage to get a cease-fire, there's no doubt that the price of oil would decline."

Iraq's announced 30-day cutoff of oil to Israel's allies caused a spike in prices the first week in April. President Bush warned that higher prices could stall the economic recovery, and prodded the Senate to approve opening Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploitation. "You know my opinion about Saddam; the world's not going to follow him. But it just goes to show how important it is to diversify our supply away from places like Iraq," Bush said. Republican Sen. Frank Murkowski of Alaska, sponsor of the Alaska proposal, called the Middle East crisis "justification for moving as rapidly as possible" on the legislation.

Analysists say Powell's failure to strike a deal could drive the price of crude to $30 a barrel. It has already risen to about $26 from $16 last fall, and reached $27 after the Iraqi cutback. Raum writes, "The picture had been complicated by labor turmoil affecting oil shipments in Venezuela, the world's No. 4 oil exporter and the third biggest supplier to the United States. But army commanders just ousted the leftist president, Hugo Chavez, and the businessman picked by the military to lead the country promised an end to anti-Chavez strikes that had severely cut oil production." Analysts predicted that Venezuela's de facto president Pedro Carmona would abandon Chavez's strict compliance with OPEC quotas. [top]


New York gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Cuomo (Clinton's HUD chief and son of former governor Mario Cuomo) cynically exploited both 9-11 and the personality cult around former NYC mayor Rudolph Giuliani to score cheap points against his rival, sitting governor George Pataki. Said Cuomo: "There was one leader for 9-11: It was Rudy Giuliani... It defined George Pataki as not being the leader. He stood behind the leader. He held the leader's coat." Pataki said he was "stunned" by the comments, and Giuliani immediately came to his defense, saying, "I held his coat as often as he held mine." (NYT, April 18) NYC fire union president Pete Gorman was livid. "It's an outrage that someone like Andrew Cuomo, who had no formal role in the World Trade Center aftermath, [would] criticize Gov. Pataki." (Daily News, April 19) [top]

The NYC Health Department released data on the gender and ethnic breakdown of the 9-11 victims. The preliminary summary based on 2,617 death certificates showed 2,008 males to 609 females, and 1,987 "non-Hispanic white" to 630 combined Black, Asian/Pacific, Hispanic and other. (Newsday, April 19) [top]

New York activist attorney Lynne Stewart, accused of violating federal prison rules governing visits with a client accused of terrorism conspiracy (see WW3 REPORT #29), slammed the US Justice Department's case against her as political grandstanding. "It smacks of the fact that they're running out of gas" on the 9-11 case, she told reporters while leaving a hearing at federal court in Manhattan. She noted that her indictment came down when Attorney General John Ashcroft was in town to visit Ground Zero. But the client in question, the "Blind Shiek" Omar Abdel-Rahman, was not linked to the 9-11 attack. The blind Egyptian cleric was convicted of plotting to blow up other New York City landmarks in 1995. Stewart is accused of violating SAMs or "special administrative measures" prohibiting her from passing on communications from the imprisoned shiekh to his followers. But Stewart notes that the government continued to allow her to visit the shiekh for two years after the alleged violations. Meanwhile, the FBI has seized Stewart's files and Rolodex, and dozens of her clients--including mafia turncoat Sammy "the Bull" Gravano--will have to go before judges to decide if they still want to be represented by a woman accused of terrorist links. Stewart says issues of attorney-client privilege are at stake, and vows to fight to the end. "I think I'm being used as an example and they feel that if they can defeat me in this case, basically everybody else can be a pushover." (Newsday, April 11)



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