# 9 Nov. 24, 2001
By Bill Weinberg
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. Liberation Or Imperialist Carve-Up?
2. Civilian Casualties Mount; Pentagon Wants More
1. "Anti-Terrorist" Campaign For Western Hemisphere
2. Mexico Anti-Terror Alert
3. Zapatistas Not "Terrorists"
4. Mexican Guerillas Respond
5. Rights Attorney Slain; Eco-Activists Freed
6. Mexico Anti-War Protests
7. Student Killed In Colombia Anti-War Protest
8. "Zionist Terrorists" Attack Mexico: Not!
9. Central America Remilitarized
10. US Recalls Venezuela Ambassador
11. Puerto Rico: Vieques Under Siege & Bombardment
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. LIBERATION OR IMPERIALIST CARVE-UP?
A bloody stalemate has developed since the Taliban's retreat from the Afghan capital of Kabul last week. Afghanistan is now divided between three unstable forces: the increasingly faction-ridden Northern Alliance, the Pashtun warlords who have risen against the Taliban in the south, and the Taliban, now with control of less than a quarter of the country. The US is deploying more elite units to try to tip the balance against the Taliban. Reported the New York Times Nov. 24: "With Taliban troops establishing strong pockets of resistance across a wide swath of Afghanistan, the United States is using two bases in Pakistan to send several hundred Special Operations forces in an attempt to kill Taliban troops and capture Osama bin Laden."
In addition to besieged Kunduz in the northeast and the area around Kandahar in the south, the Taliban have positions just south of Kabul, and two locations near Jalalabad, just 40 miles from the Pakistan border. Many of the Taliban troops are volunteers from Pakistan, the Arab countries and elsewhere in the Islamic world. The Arab fighters were denied requests for a safe corridor to flee to Pakistan, but the New York Times reported Nov. 24 that Pakistani planes are being flown into Kunduz to evacuate Pakistani Taliban fighters. Pakistan, until recently backing the Taliban, is an important US ally and staging ground for the war--while the Arab volunteers may have ties to Osama bin Laden, believed to be hiding in Taliban-controlled territory.
A deal brokered in Northern Alliance-held Mazar-i-Sharif would allow Afghan Taliban fighters to flee Kunduz while Arab volunteers would be held in camps "until the alliance and the US-led coalition could decide what to do with them." But the deal has yet to be finalized, US bombs continue to fall around Kunduz, and panicked refugees are fleeing the city for Northern Alliance lines. They said they were fleeing both the bombardment and Taliban abuses of the civil population. (Newsday, Nov. 23)
The Northern Alliance have been committing their own abuses, with their troops looting in Pashtun villages, stealing cars and other valuables at gunpoint, menacing and roughing up civilian families (Newsday, Nov 20). While refugees from Taliban-held territory report the Taliban commanders are killing fighters they fear will defect, Red Cross workers have found evidence of summary execution of Arab Taliban fighters on a battlefield site outside Kabul. At least 30 were shot in head, several at close-range--presumably by Northern Alliance troops (New York Times, Nov. 19). Thousands of Afghan refugees, mostly Pashtuns, are continuing to stream across the border into Pakistan daily, and the UN says it expects to see more (BBC, Nov. 19).
When several hundred women, emboldened by the fall of the Taliban, held a public protest demanding women's rights in Kabul Nov. 20, it was quickly broken up when Northern Alliance troops said they could not "assure their safety." (New York Times, Nov. 21)
The Northern Alliance also appears poised at the brink of collapsing into ethnic warfare. The western city of Herat is contested by Tajik warlord Ismail Khan and Shiite Hazara warlord Moosa Rezai (New York Times, Nov. 20). Hazara forces advanced on Kabul early in the week, but were stopped outside city by Jamiat-i-Islami troops loyal to Northern Alliance President Burhanuddin Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik (Newsday, Nov. 19).
Many of the Pashtun warlords who have seized power in Afghanistan's southeast are former Taliban loyalists, such as Haji Abdul Qadir, who controls much of Jalalabad (New York Times, Nov. 19). These Pashtun factions are being aided by Pakistan, while Russia and Iran are stepping up aid to the Northern Alliance. Old Soviet tanks, helicopters and AK-47s are being supplied in a multi-million dollar arms deal between Russia and the Northern Alliance, the UK Guardian reported Oct. 23. The arms deal is estimated to be worth between $40-$70 million. News of the arms deal has fueled speculation that Russia covertly encouraged the Northern Alliance to take Kabul--in defiance of entreaties from the US to hold back until a new coalition government could be organized (Pacifica Network News, Nov. 19). The Northern Alliance effectively barred British plans to deploy over 4,000 troops to Afghanistan to oversee the transition to a coalition government--with the US applying pressure on London to back down to avoid antagonizing the Northern Alliance (New York Times, Nov. 20).
The US is encouraging the various anti-Taliban factions to attend a meeting in Berlin next week to forge a new government. Invited are Northern Alliance leaders, Pashtun warlords, loyalists of exiled king Zhair Shah, and (perhaps) "Taliban moderates." The meeting is seen as a step towards a loya jirga, or council of traditional chieftains such as that which established the Afghan monarchy in 1747. But Rabbani is still recognized by the UN as the president of Afghanistan, and may be reluctant to share power now that he is back in Kabul (New York Times, Nov. 21).
Conspicuously absent from the list of those invited to the Berlin conference is the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). The only pro-democracy dissident group which has consistently opposed fundamentalist tyranny in Afghanistan, RAWA does not control any armed factions and is therefore overlooked by the global powerbrokers. RAWA's Nov. 13 statement on the fall of Kabul read: "The retreat of the terrorist Taliban from Kabul is a positive development, but entering of the rapist and looter Northern Alliance in the city is nothing but dreadful and shocking news for about 2 million residents of Kabul whose wounds of the years 1992-96 [when Rabbani's forces held power] have not healed yet... RAWA has already documented heinous crimes of the Northern Alliance... The UN should withdraw its recognition to the so-called Islamic government headed by Rabbani and help the establishment of a broad-based government based on democratic values." The statement was picked up by no major news media.
2. CIVILIAN CASUALTIES MOUNT; PENTAGON WANTS MORE
Despite the Pentagon's usual propaganda about "smart bombs," UN investigators document a "broad pattern of erroneous bombing" and at least 30 civilian deaths in Kabul. Said Ross Chamberlain, coordinator for the UN mine-clearing program in Afghanistan, now examining bombed sites in Kabul: "The Pentagon likes to show the impressive videos" of US missiles neatly destroying their targets without killing the neighbors. But such clean strikes are the exception, not the rule. "There's really no such thing as precision bombing.... We are finding more cases of errant targeting than accurate targeting, more misses than hits." (Newsday, Nov. 25)
The New York Times reported Nov. 23 that three children were injured and one teenager killed in Ghaleh Shafer village when they picked up an unexploded bomb fragment dropped weeks earlier by a US plane. The local hospital lacks electricity and basic sanitation.
Aerial bombardment of the Kandahar region continues. One resident told Reuters he decided to flee when a bomb destroyed a neighbor's house, killing an entire extended family of fourteen. "Only the father and a little daughter survived." Another resident told BBC, "the bombing of the last few days has been terrible. People are terrified. Many ordinary people have been killed, as well as Taliban." (Newsday, Nov. 22)
The Qatar-based al-Jazeera cable TV network now places the total number of civilians killed in the bombing at around 1,000 (Summary by media watchdog Ali Abunimah , www.abunimah.org).
Meanwhile, the Pentagon dusted off the old "one-hand-tied-behind-our-back" argument, portraying even token efforts to spare civilians as an onerous restraint. Reported the Washington Post Nov. 18: "As many as 10 times over the last six weeks, the Air Force believed it had top Taliban and al-Qaeda members in its cross hairs in Afghanistan but was unable to receive clearance to fire in time to hit them, according to senior Air Force officials. The officials said the problems stemmed from delays due to a cumbersome approval process and intense disagreements with the US Central Command, which oversees the war, over how much weight to give to concerns about avoiding civilian casualties."
1. "ANTI-TERRORIST" CAMPAIGN FOR WESTERN HEMISPHERE
On the day of the 9-11 attacks, US Secretary of State Colin Powell was scheduled to meet with Colombian President Andres Pastrana to discuss US-Colombian anti-terrorist coordination. The previous day, the US State Department finally added the United Colombian Self-Defense (AUC) right-wing paramilitary network to the official list of "international terrorist organizations," making financial support for the group illegal in the US. Critics had protested that AUC was not on the list, while Colombia's two leftist guerilla groups have been since it was first drawn up under the 1996 Antiterrorism & Effective Death Penalty Act. "I hope this will leave no doubt that the United States considers terrorism to be unacceptable, regardless of the political or ideological purpose," said Powell. Ironically, his Colombia trip would be cut short by the terrorist attacks in the US. (New York Times, Sept. 11)
In May, the State Department had taken the preliminary move of adding the AUC to the secondary list of "other terrorist organizations" list, which carries no sanctions. In contrast, Colombia's leftist rebel groups, the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN), were on the primary "foreign terrorist organizations" list, which carries full legal sanctions-including visa bans for members and restrictions on money movements. Human rights groups, who have documented AUC responsibility in countless massacres of civilians in Colombia, had long protested the double standard. (AP, May 1)
The move was necessary propaganda for the shift to an "anti-terrorist" stance in Colombia and South America generally. The $1.5 billion Plan Colombia aid package approved last year is ostensibly for anti-narcotics enforcement, even though it is being used to fight the guerillas. Ironically, several Colombian army units receiving US military aid actively collaborate with the AUC, sharing arms and intelligence and coordinating in anti-guerilla campaigns. (Colombia Support Network press release, April 2001, www.colombiasupport.net)
On Oct 15 the AP quoted the State Department's top anti-terrorism official saying the US is prepared to use military force to fight terrorism in the Western Hemisphere. "Our strategy in this hemisphere is similar to our strategy around the world, and it involves the use of all the elements of our national power as well as the elements of the national power of all the countries in our region," said Francis X. Taylor, head of State's Office of Counter-terrorism.
Taylor spoke with reporters at the headquarters of the Organization of American States after addressing a closed-door meeting of the group's Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism. Of the 28 terrorist groups identified by the State Department, four are based in the Western Hemisphere--the FARC, ELN, AUC and Peru's Sendero Luminoso. But Taylor stressed the region's importance in fighting terrorism, citing the long borders with Canada and Mexico which are permeable to terrorists. The "Triple Border" region where Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil meet is also a focal point for Islamic extremists, according to State.
Taylor declined to provide details, but said the State Department is developing a counter-terrorist strategy for Colombia and other Andean nations. This regional strategy--like the global one--will be based on law enforcement cooperation, intelligence exchanges, blocks on terrorist financing and "where appropriate--as we are doing in Afghanistan--the use of military power."
Taylor recently told Capitol Hill the Andean counter-terrorist strategy would complement last year's $1.3 billion package and an $882 million follow-up package that Congress is now considering.
Asked if the same distinction would be made between fighting terrorists and fighting guerrillas, Taylor said the three Colombian groups "get the same treatment as any other terrorist group in terms of our interest in going after them and ceasing their terrorist activities."
On Oct. 16, AP reported Congressional reaction to the policy shift. Said Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-NC), House International Relations Western Hemisphere subcommittee chair: "It's very difficult to separate the counter-drug effort when the rebels or the insurgents are the ones that are living off the income from the drugs. How do you separate the two?" Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA) said separating counter-terrorism from counter-insurgency "would be a very difficult and delicate distinction to make."
Since Vietnam, "counterinsurgency" is still an unpopular word on Capitol Hill, which is why Plan Colombia was sold as a counter-narcotics effort. The new "counter-terrorist" stance may provide a more useful euphemism. Taylor told Congressional leaders FARC is "the most dangerous international terrorist group based in this hemisphere."
Colombian military commanders, recipients of multi-billion US largesse, quickly got hip to the new lingo. Reported the New York Times Oct. 5: "Army officials, who usually refer to the rebel force as 'narco-guerillas' or bandits, have made sure to refer to the rebels as terrorists."
Apparently unintimidated by being added to the terrorist list, the AUC went on a murderous rampage across Colombia in October. In the southern village of Buga, AUC troops pulled unarmed people off buses and out of their homes Oct. 10, killing at least 24 they accused of aiding the guerillas. The massacre was one of several attacks around the country that week. The wave of bloodshed claimed at least 49 lives, including the mayor of one town. Twelve other people are missing and feared dead. (New York Times Oct. 12)
2. MEXICO ANTI-TERROR ALERT
Mexican President Vicente Fox has lined up eagerly in the anti-terrorist campaign, telling reporters Mexico is prepared to go "all the way" to help the US hunt down those responsible for 9-11 attacks (Reuters, Sept. 29). The attorney general's office announced it is reviewing Mexico's laws and treaty obligations to streamline hemispheric anti-terrorust coordination, and is considering major new anti-terrorist legislation (Reforma, Oct 24). Fox's conservative National Action Party (PAN) is proposing an anti-terrorist clause in pending trade agreements with the US, mandating military and law enforcement aid and cooperation (Milenio, Oct 16). Fox also linked the anti-terrorist campaign to expansion of Free Trade, telling reporters: "We must watch over the entry borders of NAFTA. What we must do is wage a full-fledged battle against terrorism in all the territory of NAFTA." (AP, Oct. 16)
Politicians and rights advocates are debating what this means for Mexico's nascent guerilla movement, which has emerged in the country's impoverished south since the 1994 revolt by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in Chiapas. While the EZLN has been engaged in an unsteady peace dialogue with the government, smaller but more hardline groups maintain a low-level campaign of harassment against the government in Oaxaca and Guerrero.
Fox warned the "small guerrilla groups appearing once in a while" in Mexico of his will to "surround them and throw the gauntlet to them." But--perhaps embracing a divide-and-conquer strategy--he explicitly excluded the EZLN. Fox even claimed he was open to revising the San Andres Accords, the package of constitutional amendments on autonomy for Mexico's Indians which were the EZLN's one precondition for laying down arms, but which were gutted by conservative lawmakers before they were passed, causing the rebels to break off the peace dialogue. The gutting of the accords was protested by Indian groups across Mexico, many of whom pledged civil disobedience to pressure congress to reverse the changes. "There is a certain dissatisfaction of some groups in Mexico, and therefore perhaps we still have to give a last review to this subject, to make it satisfactory for all," Fox told reporters. (La Jornada, Oct 16)
The UN representative in Mexico, Angel Escudero de Paz, warned that practically all Mexican guerilla groups--again with the exception of the EZLN--are in danger of being classified as "terrorist" by the international community. "It still isn't determined at what point irregular forces are considered terrorists," said Escudero. "There is a very thin line between guerrillas and terrorists." (Milenio, Oct 5)
But others were quick to make a distinction. Said Emilio Ulloa Perez, a federal deputy with the left-opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and a member of the congressional negotiating team for the peace dialogue with the EZLN: "We can't put the guerrillas in the same category as groups in the Middle East, or the Balkans or the terrorist responsible for the Oklahama bombing in the United States. In Mexico, we don't have guerrillas who put bombs in restaurants." Jorge Luis Sierra, director of Quehacer Politico, a Mexico-City based political magazine, said intense pressure to crack down on "terrorism" is coming not from the UN, but directly from the US. "Mexico has always lacked independence in setting its security policy. The policy followed by the United States has always determined that of Mexico." He warned that a tilt to the hardline could backfire, resulting in more guerilla activity. "If you study the last 30 years, every armed group in Mexico rose up after finding the doors to dialogue closed." But Carlos Raymundo Toledo, a federal PAN deputy, insisted the Fox administration should be more "combative" against the new guerrilla groups. "In light of the events, everything has to be reviewed. There needs to be a toughening of policy. We should be more aggressive in designating resources to fight these groups." (Mexico City News, Oct. 6)
Former President Ernesto Zedillo's administration frequently used the term "terrorist" to refer to the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), a guerrilla group that rose to arms in the state of Guerrero in 1996. On Oct. 13, the magazine ProcesoSur cited a "confidential document" of an unnamed Mexican intelligence service linking the EPR to both Colombia's FARC and the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
There were other voices concerned about the conflating of "terrorists" and "guerillas." Breaking from the US line, European Union ambassador to Mexico Manuel Lopez demanded a clear distinction between guerrilla activity and terrorism throughout Latin America "to avoid dangerous confusion." (Milenio, Oct. 16)
3. ZAPATISTAS NOT "TERRORISTS"
Chiapas Gov. Pablo Salazar rejected any implication that the EZLN are terrorists, noting that their struggle was recognized as legitimate by Mexico's congress, which passed a law in 1995 setting conditions for the peace dialogue: "They are not terrorists, and not just by my definition. The Congress of the Union and all the political parties that wrote up the Dialogue Law...signified in this law that the Zapatistas are a social struggle group." (Reforma, Oct 4)
A group of Mexican federal legislators, many involved in the Chiapas peace dialogue, went further, issuing a statement that none of the country's armed rebel groups are "terrorists." (Proceso, Oct 5)
But the government also used the new "terrorist" threat to pressure the EZLN to return to the negotiating table--despite government intransigence on the peace accords. Fox's peace commissioner for Chiapas, Luis Alvarez, said "it is imperative that the Zapatista National Liberation Army agrees to resume the dialogue as soon as possible" because of "the risk that other movements will opt for the path of terrorism." (Proceso, Oct 2)
Reports in the Mexican press that the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had referred to the EZLN as terrorists were false. The DEA report, "The Mexican Heroin Trade," actually exculpated Mexico's guerilla groups: "With the exception of Mexico, insurgent groups are involved heavily in the cultivation of opium in growing regions worldwide. Proceeds from the sale of opium have been used to fund insurgent activities in Colombia, Afghanistan, and Myanmar (formerly Burma). However, it does not appear that the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) or the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) are involved in narcotics trafficking to sustain their activities."
4. MEXICAN GUERILLAS RESPOND
An EPR communique on the new anti-terrorist stance claimed the Mexican government is working with US and Israeli intelligence to destroy the guerilla movement (Reforma, Oct. 17). A second EPR communique addressed the US bombardment of Afghanistan, saying it "constitutes a brutal offensive against humanity and in particular against the poor peoples who oppose the designs of monopoly capitalism and its economic, political and military subjugation."
Contacted by telephone in her cell at Mexico City's top-security Nezahualcoyotl prison, Gloria Arenas--the accused "Coronel Aurora" of the Revolutionary Army of the Insurgent People (ERPI), another Guerrero-based guerilla faction--denied that guerilla movements commit acts of terrorism. "I hope, desire, believe possible, and I am sure that the ERPI organization will not resort to these types of attacks against civilian victims; we hope it will be this way, as a measure of maturity in the face of the hardline messages from the government..." She also warned that Fox's new hardline stance could backfire: "Vicente Fox declares that he wants to avoid armed organizations in Mexico resorting to violence, but I don't know how he's going to do this given the economic situation and the indigenous law which does not comply with the San Andres Accords." (Milenio, Oct 13)
On Oct. 13, ProcesoSur quoted an unnamed Mexican government report claiming ERPI adherents were trained in Mexico by "persons involved with the Sendero Luminoso organization." The information was said to have been confirmed by the Peruvian government. ProcesoSur also claimed anti-terrorist vigilance on Mexico's Gulf Coast had been increased, and an unspecified number of Iraqis were detained by authorities in the Yucatan.
The EZLN, which broke off dialogue with the government when congress passed the gutted San Andres Accords in May, has maintained its silence throughout the post-9-11 events.
5. RIGHTS ATTORNEY SLAIN; ECO-ACTIVISTS FREED
One of Mexico's most prominent human rights lawyers was found shot to death in her office Oct. 21. Digna Ochoa, 37, was a longtime advocate at the Jesuit-run Miguel Agustin Pro-Juarez Human Rights Center, and most widely recognized for defending two peasants, Rodolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera, who had been protesting logging operations in Guerrero's mountains were imprisoned in May 1999 on dubious gun and drug charges. Ochoa, winner of Amnesty International's Enduring Spirit Award, had been menaced by death threats for years, often in notes pasted together from newspaper cut-outs that appeared under her door. In August 1999, she was kidnapped and beaten by unknown masked men for five hours. Two months later, she was tied, blindfolded and tortured in her home for nine hours. No arrests were made in the attacks. (New York Times, Oct. 21; Reforma, Oct 28)
Suspicion immediately fell on the Mexican army. Ochoa said she believed the men who tortured and interrogated her in the 1999 attacks were from military intelligence, based on their questions about the human rights center's links to guerilla groups, and how much they knew about the center (Milenio, Nov 1). Her brother Jesus Ochoa told reporters she had said that if anything ever happened to her, "members of the Army will be responsible." (Proceso Oct. 29 )
At the time of her death, Ochoa was assisting in the defense of another notorious Mexican guerilla case--five students accused in a series of attempted Mexico City bank bombings (AP Oct. 20). The five alleged members of the Armed Revolutionary Forces of the People (FARP) were arrested in August for setting off small bombs at branches of the Banco Nacional de Mexico, or Banamex--now being purchased by Citigroup. The suspects denied that they belonged to the FARP, which initially claimed responsibility for putting the explosives at three bank branches the night of Aug. 8. Three small explosives contained in tin cans detonated and two more were defused. There were no reports of injuries or major damage. (AP, Aug 23) The arrests sparked large protests by students at the Mexican National Autonomous University (Proceso, Aug. 30).
One positive fallout from the Ochoa murder is that it probably resulted in Fox's decision a few weeks later to order the release of Montiel and Cabrera, the peasant ecologist leaders who blockaded logging roads in Guerrero and were charged with growing marijuana to support guerilla activities in the region. They were sentenced to seven and ten years in prison respectively, despite protests from international human rights groups who claimed they had not received a fair trial, and were adopted as "prisoners of conscience" by Amnesty International. They had served two years at the time of their release. Fox merely commuted their sentence, and stopped short of calling them innocent (Sierra Club press release, Nov. 8; New York Times, Nov 9). Said Montiel upon his release: "He knows we are innocent, but he doesn't declare us innocent because the army doesn't want him to." (Washington Post, Nov. 11)
6. MEXICO ANTI-WAR PROTESTS
Mexico has seen numerous protests against the bombing of Afghanistan. The Zapatista National Liberation Front (FZLN), civil counterpart of the armed group, and the Eureka human rights committee held an anti-war march in front of US embassy Sept. 25, stating "we are all Arabs" and accusing the US of "state terrorism" (La Jornada, Sept. 26). Opposition to the impending war was a major theme in the massive Mexico City march commemorating the Oct. 2 1968 Tlatelolco massacre, in which hundreds of student protesters were gunned down by the Mexican army (Proceso, Oct. 2). On Oct. 24, 10,000 primary and high school students marched in the Chiapas capital city of Tuxtla against the bombing and to commemorate the 56th anniversary of founding of the UN (Milenio, Oct 24).
The newspaper La Reforma reported Oct. 12 that Portugese citizen Alberto Alvarez Betancout was expelled from Mexico after being arrested pasting posters reading "Bush: wanted for terrorism" on walls in the Chiapas city of San Cristobal de las Casas. However, as of an Oct. 24 letter he wrote to La Jornada, Alvarez was still being held at Iztapalapa Immigration Detention Center. He also denied that he had defaced any walls, but claimed to have been chatting with the folks putting up the posters--who ran when police approached.
7. STUDENT KILLED IN COLOMBIA ANTI-WAR PROTEST
The Colombia Independent Media Center reports that Carlos Giovanni Blanco, a medical student at Colombia National University, was shot dead during an anti-war protest in Bogota Nov. 7. A group of students were protesting the bombing of Afghanistan when police attacked the demonstration. The Bogota police commander denies his forces are responsible for the shooting, but a number of witnesses confirm the shot came from police lines. Police occupied the campus for the whole afternoon. By nightfall, many students were camping on the university grounds and preparing for further protests. (colombia.indymedia.org)
8. "ZIONIST TERRORISTS" ATTACK MEXICO: NOT!
The Mexico City daily Cronica de Hoy provided fodder for Jew-hating conspiracy theorists with an Oct. 12 report that two Israelis were detained with pistols and a wide variety of grenades and explosives at Mexico's congress building. Salvador Guersson Smeke, a retired Israeli military official and nationalized Mexican, and Israeli national Sar Ben Zvi were briefly detained while federal police investigated the incident. The story was picked up, with some embellishment (Smecke suddenly became a "Mossad agent"), in the following day's Pravda and various anti-Semitic web sites which trumpeted claims that "Zionist terrorists" intended to blow up the congress building as a provocation. Too bad the conspiracy-mongers didn't read the less lurid account in the more reputable El Universal. According to the Oct. 12 El Universal, the two men were security guards in the employ of the company Private Security Systems Development which was contracted by the Mexican government, the tubes and wires in their suitcase were not bombs after all, and their firearms were legally registered.
9. CENTRAL AMERICA REMILITARIZED
Ten years after the region's guerilla wars and military dictatorships came to an end, Central America's governments are beefing up military spending and security measures in response to the supposed terrorist threat. Since Sept. 11, Guatemala has sought increases for a presidential security detail linked to human rights abuses, Honduras has sought tens of millions of dollars more for its military, and El Salvador's military has seized the country's air and sea ports, barring entry to hundreds of civilian workers employed in baggage handling and security.
The moves struck former Nicaraguan foreign minister Miguel D'Escoto as ironic. D'Escoto served in the leftist Sandinista regime in the 1980s, when the US backed a right-wing Nicaraguan rebel force known as the contras who widely attacked civilian targets. "If the US likes you, you're a freedom fighter," D'Escoto told the New York Times Oct. 20, citing President Reagan's term for the contra rebels. "If they don't like you, you're a terrorist."
10. U.S. RECALLS VENEZUELA AMBASSADOR
The US called home its ambassador to Venezuela for "consultations" after President Hugo Chavez condemned the bombing of Afghanistan as "fighting terrorism with terrorism." The populist Chavez went on TV holding up photographs of Afghan children recently killed in the bombing and said their deaths had "no justification, just as the attacks in New York did not either." He demanded an end to the "slaughter of the innocents." (New York Times, Nov. 3)
Chavez was already in hot water when he told reporters on a European tour that Venezuela sought to ensure the rights of the notorious "Carlos the Jackal," the Venezuelan-born international terrorist now in prison in France. When questioned, a Chavez government deputy foreign minister said the government does not see Carlos as a "terrorist." (New York Times, Oct. 13)
This stance is unlikely to be particularly helpful to the anti-war opposition. Carlos, born Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, is believed responsible for hostage-taking at the French embassy at The Hague in 1974 and at an OPEC conference at Vienna in 1975 (in which three were killed), bombing a Paris-Toulouse express train in 1982 (killing six), another bombing in Paris in 1982 (killing a pregnant woman), bombings at the Marseille railroad terminal in 1983 (killing five and wounding 50), and bombing a French cultural center in West Berlin in 1983 (killing one and wounding 23). He was extradited from Sudan to France in 1994 (Newsday, Aug. 16, 1994). In 1997, he was sentenced to life for the 1975 killings of two French intelligence agents who were investigating attacks on El Al planes at the Paris airport (Newsday, Oct. 24, 1997).
11. PUERTO RICO: VIEQUES UNDER SIEGE & BOMBARDMENT
The 9-11 attacks have meant a setback for Puerto Rican activists seeking demilitarization of the unincorporated US territory. The day after the terrorist attacks, local organizations in the ongoing campaign to halt the US Navy's bombing exercises on the island of Vieques met in assembly and decided to declare a moratorium on civil disobedience until they agree on a new course of action appropriate to the new circumstances. "This is for our security," said Vieques community leader Ismael Guadalupe. "They'll shoot first and ask questions later. We don't want them to shoot a protester and then claim they believed it was a terrorist." This is the first halt in the civil disobedience protests in over two years. The campaign was sparked when a civilian guard was accidentally killed in a Vieques bombing exercise in April 1999. A majority of Puerto Rican voters have called for the Navy's withdrawal, prompting President Bush to announce earlier this year that the US would do so by May 2003. Activists now fear that the Pentagon will use Washington's new war on terrorism to remain on Vieques indefinitely. (Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero for IPS, Sept. 27)
But the self-imposed protest moratorium may soon be lifted--in spite of the risks. Ismael Guadalupe's Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques issued a press release Oct. 31 stating the anti-Navy groups "are now preparing to block the next military exercises, which could take place at the end of November." ( Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 4, www.Americas.org)
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