from Weekly News Update on the Americas
U.S. NAVY HOLDS CARIBBEAN WAR GAMES
The US Navy’s George Washington aircraft carrier strike group entered the Caribbean the week of April 10 to lead large-scale joint military exercises that were scheduled to end in May. According to the Miami-based US Southern Command, the deployment is part of “Operation Partnership of the Americas” and focus on threats such as drugs and human trafficking. The group–which includes, in addition to the 1,100-foot aircraft carrier USS George Washington, the missile-armed cruiser USS Monterey, the destroyer USS Stout and the frigate USS Underwood, along with 71 airplanes–made its first visits on April 10-11, when the Stout stopped in Curacao and the Underwood docked in Cartagena, Colombia. The exercises were to include a visit to St. Martin on April 14; Honduras, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba and St. Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis are also on the itinerary.
The militaries of Honduras, Colombia and the Dominican Republic are participating, along with militaries from countries belonging to the British Commonwealth and those affiliated with France and the Netherlands. The exercises, the first in the Caribbean since 2003, are taking place close to Venezuela; Curacao and Trinidad and Tobago are just miles off the Venezuelan coast. Rear Admiral Joseph Kilkenny told the Miami daily El Nuevo Herald that the US had invited Venezuela to participate in the exercises but hadn’t received a response. “I don’t have the invasion of any country on my agenda,” he said. On April 9 top officials from the US embassy in Caracas met with Southern Command chief Gen. Bantz Craddock aboard the George Washington. According to El Nuevo Herald, US ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield was present. (ENH, April 11; El Tiempo, Bogota, April 8; Sun Sentinel, South Florida, April 11)
(The exercises coincide with the US military’s “Safe Horizons 2006” operation in the Dominican Republic, which Dominican activists have charged is connected to plans for aggression against Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela)
CARACAS: CAMPESINOS MARCH, AGAIN
More than 1,500 Venezuelan campesinos rallied in front of the vice president’s offices in Caracas on March 27 to protest the government’s failure to comply with its prior agreements with the Ezequiel Zamora National Campesino Front (FNCEZ). Among other demands, the FNCEZ is pressing for investigations into the murders of campesino activists, as well as compensation for the victims’ families. In a communique, the campesinos warned the “traitorous, corrupt, pro-imperialist right wing” not to try to confuse or manipulate the “legitimate struggles of Bolivar’s people,” since “our protest is profoundly inspired by the Bolivarian revolution, not against it, and is linked to its historic leader and commander of the revolution, [Venezuelan president] Hugo Chavez.”
The FNCEZ also had a warning for the US: “We are also mobilizing to tell the world and the Venezuelan people that the homeland of Bolivar doesn’t sell out, it defends itself, and in the face of the imperial invasion threat thousands of us campesinos will be here waiting for them with our dignity and fists intact.” (FNCEZ Communique, March 27 via Servicio Prensa Rural)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 16
ANDEAN TRADE BLOC COLLAPSING?
On April 22 Venezuela officially began the process of disengaging from the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), a trade bloc formed in 1969 to strengthen ties between Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. Light Industry and Trade Minister Maria Cristina Iglesias said the process would take five years and that relations between the countries would remain stable while Venezuela reviewed the mechanisms for leaving the group.
In an April 22 letter to the CAN, Venezuelan foreign relations minister Ali Rodriguez Araque cited the free trade accords (TLC) Peru and Colombia signed with the US, in December and February respectively. According to Iglesias, US products may enter Venezuela through Colombia, disrupting Venezuela’s plans for internal development. Left-populist president Hugo Chavez Frias has charged that US products are underpriced because they are “super-subsidized.” Evo Morales, the leftist president of Bolivia, seconded Chavez’s charges on April 19 while in Asuncion, where he and Chavez were meeting with Paraguay president Nicanor Duarte and Uruguayan president Tabare Vazquez. The accord between Colombia and the US “has taken away our trade in Bolivian soybeans,” Morales said. In CAN “there are some nations that have become instruments of disintegration.”
Leaving CAN will put some strain on Venezuela’s economy, but Chavez is looking to increasing trade with Mercosur, the trade bloc formed by Argentina, Brasil, Paraguay and Uruguay. In the Asuncion meeting, Chavez said Mercosur must “avoid” CAN’s fate. Chavez is promoting a Latin American trade bloc–the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA)–in opposition to the US-proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA in English and ALCA in Spanish). (El Barlovento, Mexico, April 19; Rodriguez letter to CAN, April 22, posted on Colombia Indymedia; Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias, April 22; El Nuevo Herald, Miami, April 23)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 23
Weekly News Update on the Americas
See also WW4 REPORT #119
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, May 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution