Bush and Uribe v. Chavez and Correa

Call it another salvo in Bush v. Chavez with Ecuador's Raphael Correa as a secondary target and Colombia's Alvaro Uribe as a proxy aggressor. The Ecuadorean incursion was no ordinary cross-border raid.

Call it another salvo in Bush v. Chavez with Ecuador's
Raphael Correa as a secondary target and Colombia's Alvaro Uribe as a proxy
aggressor. The Ecuadorean incursion was no ordinary cross-border raid. It was a
made in Washington affair that escalates a nine year attempt to remove the
Venezuelan leader and return oligarchs in the country to power. It also
threatens two regional leaders who know what they're up against in Uribe and
Washington, "friendly" handshakes in the Dominican Republic notwithstanding.
The situation is far from settled, and here's how events unfolded so far:

— on March 1, the Colombian military illegally
entered Ecuadorean air space and invaded on the ground; the target was a
FARC-EP rebel camp; US intelligence was key by identifying the precise location
to bomb through satellite telephone tracking; Colombian Radio Cadena Nacional
(RCN) reported it heard a FARC-EP leader – Chavez conversation three days
before the raid; Colombian Noticias Uno TV said "foreign spy planes"
photographed FARC-EP's precise location for the country's military to use in
the raid;

— it's also known that US Special Forces train
Colombian counterinsurgents, accompany them on missions, and likely
participated (covertly) in the March 1 operation;

— Colombian (and likely US) forces attacked and
slaughtered over 20 people in total, including 16 Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FACR-EP) members while they slept;

— among the dead was FARC-EP's second-in-command,
Raul Reyes; he was FARC-EP's public voice, its key peace negotiator since the
1990s, and the lead figure in the Chavez-arranged hostage releases; that and
his prominence made him a target so his death may disrupt the process and
current efforts toward resolving a 40 year conflict equitably; Washington wants
it halted, so does Uribe, and that's where things now stand;

— Hugo Chavez and other Latin American leaders were
united in condemning the hostile act; the 35-member Organization of American
States, however, was tepid in its formal March 5 response; Correa called it
welcome but inadequate and insists on a formal condemnation; Chavez was even
more forceful saying: "We demand condemnation of the Colombian government
for this aberrant act," he called it a "war crime (and blamed the
crisis on the US) empire and its lackeys;"

— ahead of the March 7 Dominican Republic XX Rio
Group Summit of Latin American leaders, foreign ministers from Chile,
Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and Peru issued a statement demanding respect for
their national sovereignty; Chavez called the meeting "positive" and
advocated "cooling tensions;" he supported Ecuador and said: "We
don't want war;"

— Chavez, Correa and Uribe exchanged cool handshakes
and pro forma conciliatory statements at the Summit; for what it's worth, Uribe
issued a "formal apology" to the Ecuadorean government and its
people; call it disingenuous diplomacy; it settles nothing in spite of how the
media played it or that Venezuela and Colombia restored diplomatic ties; for
his part, Correa said it will be "difficult to recover trust" and
reestablishing normal relations "will take a little time;"

— one example of media coverage came from
correspondent Simon Romero of The New York Times; he's always disingenuous and
never neutral; he reported "handshakes and warm embraces….ended the
dispute" as though nothing ever happened and it's again business as usual;
in fact, nothing is settled; the incident still simmers, it's just a matter of
time before the next one erupts, and Chavez, Correa and other regional leaders
know it; so does Washington that plans them;

— earlier, Chavez also called Colombia the
"Israel of Latin America" saying both countries claimed "a
supposed right to defense," to bomb and invade neighbors on orders from

— Uribe confirmed it by saying he "refused to
rule out future military incursions into Ecuador or Venezuela," so expect
more provocations ahead with full Washington backing;

— at the same time, huge crowds of Colombians at home
and abroad marched for peace and against terrorist acts; they denounced
violence on both sides and want it ended, but a new disturbing report came out:

— the Colombia weekly Semana wrote that ex-Israeli
military men are fighting guerrilla organizations (meaning the FARC-EP and
ELN), and Defense Minister Juan Santos confirmed that "A group of former
Israeli military officials (including three senior generals, a lower ranking
officer and three translators) is counseling the military's top brass on
intelligence issues;" in addition, FARC-EP claims that Israeli commandos
were engaged against them along with US and British forces.

The hostile words followed with Ecuadorean officials
citing irrefutable evidence that Uribe's attack was premeditated and his worst
ever aggression against their country. Correa expressed "outrage" and
sees no negotiated settlement because "there is nothing to
negotiate." In Brazil for a meeting with Lula da Silva, he said Ecuador is
prepared to go "up to the ultimate consequences (over this even though)
nobody wants war. But we won't fool ourselves. The war was started by Colombia.
We were bombed."

Correa and Chavez both deployed troops to their
borders, and each country went further. Ecuador severed diplomatic ties with
its neighbor, and Correa called Uribe Washington's "unconditional
puppet" for his blatant act of aggression. Chavez also expelled Colombia's
ambassador, and called the strike "a cowardly murder, all of it coldly
calculated" and planned in Washington. He also warned Colombia against
similar Venezuelan incursions that he would interpret as a "cause for

Uribe, in turn, defiantly shot back that Colombia will
charge Chavez in the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for
materially aiding the FARC-EP by "sponsor(ing) and funding genocidal"
groups. Colombia's Radio Caracol then reported Uribe intends to
"revise" or "examine" his charges with no further details
given. And on the same day Vice-President Francisco Santos Calderon
provocatively indicated that relations with Correa "may be recovered,"
but it will be "very difficult" to reach a diplomatic solution with
Chavez. He and Uribe have long been antagonists and have been at odds for
months over Chavez's hostage mediating success that embarrassed the Colombian
president and Washington in the process.

Colombian officials heightened tensions further
through misstatements. First, they claimed bombings occurred on their own
territory. Then they changed the story saying: "Colombia has not violated
any sovereignty, (we) only acted in accordance with the principle of legitimate
defense," and responded to fire from inside Ecuador.

Both statements were untrue and Chavez reacted. He
accused Uribe of lying and called him a "criminal" saying: "Not
only is he a liar, a mafia boss, a paramilitary who leads a narco-government
(that's) a lackey of the United States (but he also) leads a band of criminals
from his palace."

The war of words continues with Washington's OAS
ambassador, Robert Manzanares, accusing FARC-EP of "undertak(ing) repeated
incursions and infringements of national sovereignty (against Colombia's)
neighbors." Defense Secretary Robert Gates "applauded" Uribe's
action, and when asked if US intelligence supported it said: "Well, I
would just say that we are very supportive."

George Bush joined in, and jumped to his ally's
defense. Well he should as Washington provides Colombia with over $600 million
a year and all for one purpose – to support repression and the interests of
capital at the expense of beneficial social change. On March 4, Bush phoned
Uribe with assurances "America fully supports Colombia's democracy (and)
firmly opposes any acts of aggression that could destabilize the region."
He also called sending Venezuelan troops to the border "provocative

In addition, he used the crisis to push Congress to
approve a trade deal that's been stalled over issues of Uribe's paramilitary
links and the country's human rights record. Bush did what he always does. He
cited national security and said ratification is a way to counter leaders like
Chavez who destabilize the region. "If we fail to approve this agreement,
we will let down our close ally, we will damage our credibility (and) will
embolden the demagogues in our hemisphere."

Consider comments as well from US presidential
candidates. On March 3, Barack Obama said: "The Colombian people have
suffered for more than four decades at the hands of a brutal terrorist
insurgency, and the Colombian government has every right to defend itself
against the…FARC."

Hillary Clinton was even more hostile stating:
"Hugo Chavez's order yesterday to send ten battalions to the Colombian
border is unwarranted and dangerous. (Colombia) has every right to defend
itself against drug trafficking terrorist organizations that have kidnapped
innocent civilians, including American citizens. By praising and supporting the
(FARC-EP), Chavez is openly siding with terrorists that threaten Colombian
democracy and the peace and security in the region. (Chavez) must call a halt
to this provocative action. As president, I will….press Chavez to change

Then there's John McCain who even scares some in the
Pentagon and is virulently hostile to Chavez. He calls him a "wacko"
and "two-bit-dictator" and advocates his ouster "in the name of
democracy and freedom throughout the hemisphere." As president, he'd be
the most likely to provoke a confrontation because he's ideologically committed
to militarism "to confront a range of security challenges….in a
dangerous world."

One writer calls him an "authoritarian
maverick" and a man to fear as president. Another describes his
"McCainiac mentality," his notion of occupying Iraq for 100 years or
as long as it takes, and his belief that militarism, nationalism and honor are
their own rewards. Still another expects a McCain administration to confront
Venezuela and Cuba by allying with regional rightest forces for regime change
in both countries. Add Ecuador as well and a determination to declare
"mission accomplished" before his tenure ends if he's elected.

Disturbing evidence of his belligerence is in his
October 2001 commentary titled: "No Substitute for Victory – War is hell.
Let's get on with it." In it, he calls war "miserable business (but
let's) get on with the business of killing our enemies as quickly….and as
ruthlessly as we must….(post-9/11) we have only one primary occupation, and
that is to vanquish international terrorism. Not reduce it. Not change its
operations. Not temporarily subdue it. But vanquish it….We did not cause this
war (but) we must destroy the people who (did)." Is this a man to trust as
president who considers anyone unresponsive to US interests a
"terrorist" and state enemy to be destroyed?

Democrats are no better, so expect the worst under a
new president next year. The "war on terror" will continue, and Uribe
will get full funding and support for internal repression and
Washington-ordered regional aggression.

By that standard, Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro have
every right to invade Florida to capture two resident terrorists for bona fide
crimes against their countries – Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch. Posada
is a former CIA operative who terror-bombed and killed 73 people in 1976 on
Cubana flight 455 that Bosch likely masterminded. Yet South Florida's
Cuban-American community and the Bush administration protect them as an
expression of their judicial double standard.

Heated Rhetoric and Provocative Charges

Further heightening tensions, Colombia's
vice-president, Francisco Santos Calderon, made an outlandish claim. With no
verifiable evidence, even some in the intelligence community are dubious – that
invading forces found provocative material on three recovered laptops that
supposedly show:

— Venezuela provided $300 million in aid to the

— Chavez and Correa have links to the rebel group;

— Chavez is trying to undermine, isolate and
discredit Uribe and wants to cleanse FARC-EP of its (undeserved) pariah status;
and most outrageous of all that

— FARC-EP acquired 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of
uranium for a radioactive dirty bomb it wishes to sell for profit.

Former State Department arms smuggling expert,
James Lewis, discounts the story. He said: "In a lot of cases involving
uranium deals, somebody's usually getting snookered (and the 50 kilos) quantity
sounds really suspicious" because US intelligence would likely spot anyone
securing an amount that large. Chavez as well denounced the claim
and called the documents lies and fabrications. He also closed Venezuela's 1300
mile long Colombian border, and at an extraordinary Organization of American
States (OAS) session, his representative, Jorge Valero, said: "The
Colombian government has lied blatantly. All (its) accusations….against
Venezuela and Ecuador are false, totally false." Retired Venezuelan
general, Alberto Muller Rojas, went further. He denounced Colombia's
"evidence" as an "exercise in falsification (and stated that)
the only foreign government that finances the conflict in Colombia is the
United States," it's done it with billions for years, and in the same way
it destabilizes regions throughout the world.

Corporate Media Responses

A March 5 Washington Post editorial supported
Colombia's aggression, but that's typical for its one-sided type journalism.
The commentary said: "Colombia's armed forces struck a bold blow against
the….FARC, a group specializing in drug trafficking, abductions and massacres
of civilians that (the US has) designated a terrorist organization….it showed
how Colombia's democratic government may be finally gaining the upper hand over
(these) murderous gangs.

Now (Hugo Chavez) has been revealed as an explicit
supporter and possible financier of the FARC. (He) made a show of ordering
Venezuelan troops to the border (and) goaded his client (Correa) into mimicking
his reaction. (They) both may have something to hide (about) financial links
with the terrorists (and) backing an armed (terrorist) movement against the
democratically elected government of their neighbor. No wonder (Uribe acted);
he knows (Chavez and Correa) provid(e) a haven for the terrorists."

The New York Times' Simon Romero's comments were more
measured in an article titled: "Colombia is Flashpoint in Chavez Fued with
US," but his message was much as it always is – one-sidedly supporting
Washington and its allies and hostile to Hugo Chavez. In this instance, it's
his ties to the FARC-EP and supplying it with millions of dollars in aid. In an
editorial, The Times went further. It accused Chavez of "meddling and
manipulation (and trying to) revive his own flagging political fortunes"
by getting involved. It added "Mr. Chavez should just keep quiet. The more
he meddles, the easier it is to believe that the charges against him are

Then there's the Wall Street Journal that's even
further hard right since Rupert Murdoch bought it. It's March 4 editorial was
titled "Chavez's War Drums" with a sub-headline stating "A
laptop spills some of his secrets." The commentary noted
"Colombia's….major antiterror victory" and
"Chavez….threatening war….But the real news (was in) a laptop
belonging to (Paul Reyes) that reveals some of Mr. Chavez's secrets."

Columbia's "military (entered Ecuador) for
legitimate reasons of self-defense….the Venezuelan bully….ordered 10
battalions and tanks to the Colombian border, and warned of war if the
Colombian army staged a similar raid inside Venezuela….The war bluster is
phony because Mr. Chavez is already waging his own guerrilla campaign against
Colombia (by) support(ing) the FARC." The recovered "computer
contains evidence supporting the claim that the FARC is working with Mr. Chavez
(and) showed that Venezuela may have paid $300 million (for the) FARC's recent
release of six civilian hostages."

Documents also "show(ed) that the FARC was
seeking to buy 50 kilos of uranium (and sold) 700 kilograms of cocaine valued
at $1.5 million." The "military found a thank you note from Mr.
Chavez to FARC for some $150,000 that the rebels had sent him when he was in
prison for his attempted (1992) coup d'etat."

This type agitprop never lets up, so expect continued
anti-Chavez rhetoric ahead as the dominant media plays up every chance they get
to demonize him and support Bush's hostile regime change agenda.

Some Background on the Diplomatic Crisis

Venezuelan-American lawyer and activist Eva Golinger
writes on how Washington relentlessly targets Chavez. In November 2006, she
explained what's just as true today – that the Bush administration goes at him
by "three different fronts of attack."

— the financial front by funding opposition groups
"to obtain control in all different parts of the country," including
the electoral process;

— the diplomatic front by accusing Chavez of
destabilizing the region; also by "diplomatic terrorism," including
sanctions "for made-up things" like non-existent drugs trafficking or
not cooperating against it or the "war on terrorism;" and

— the military front with a large US presence in the
region, major support for Uribe, and "use of Colombian paramilitaries
(and) intervention of US Special Forces; the paramilitaries are the
'actors'….they're….sent….to try to assassinate Chavez (but)
command-and-control is directed and controlled by the US Special Forces;"
the paramilitaries and Colombian army "do the dirty work" while the
US is "building up a secret (military) base near" Venezuela's border;
in addition, "there were attempts to push the FARC into Venezuela to
provide an excuse for Colombian troops to enter the country (and) make (the)
border a combat zone." At the time Golinger wrote, she said there were
more than 3000 paramilitaries in the Caracas area alone. That number or more
are still likely there and elsewhere in the country, and in Ecuador as well.

Colombian-Directed Hostility Toward Chavez

Since his 2002 election, Uribe has been hostile to
Chavez, and Colombian paramilitaries continue committing border-area terrorist
attacks and within Venezuela as well. Uribe is Washington's key Latin American
ally, he's liberally funded for his role, and his background makes him ideal –
his hard right ideology, a wealthy land-owning family background, and a tainted
past history:

— he's been linked to the country's
paramilitary death squads and drug cartels;

— for over 20 years in various government positions,
he supported state terrorism, including kidnappings and assassinations – of
trade unionists, opposition group peasants, social and human rights activists,
journalists, and others on the left who oppose the country's corporatist
interests; and

— he frequently violates Venezuelan sovereignty with
full backing and funding of the Bush administration calling the shots.

In his earlier writing, long-time Latin American
expert, James Petras, referred to "the Uribe Doctrine (that) lays the
basis for unilateral military intervention anywhere in the hemisphere (and
echoes) Washington's global pronouncements." They remain unchanged and
claim the right to:

— "violate any country's sovereignty (through)
force and violence;

— recruit and subvert military and security officials
to serve (Colombian and Washington's) interests;

— allocate funds to bounty hunters or 'third parties'
to engage in illegal violent acts within a targeted country;

— (assert) the supremacy of Colombian laws, decrees
and policies over and against the sovereign laws of the intervened
countries;" and

— target Venezuela and militarily act wherever else
Washington directs it in the hemisphere.

Chavez correctly calls Colombia "Latin America's
Israel." And Washington funds it well for that purpose and to aid the Bush
administration's top regional priority – toppling Chavez with Uribe's incursion
the latest episode that signals further escalation. Petras says Uribe acts
openly, and he's supported "at the highest level of the US
government." Bogota ambassador, William Brownfield, is also supportive. He
formerly served in the same capacity in Caracas where he frequently clashed
with Chavez while there.

Petras also explains what Uribe's doctrine is up to,
and it's clear where it originates. First and foremost it's to support Bush
administration regional policies, specifically target Chavez, and get billions
in funding to do it. In addition, it's to:

— "destroy Cuban-Venezuelan trade ties (to)
undermine (Cuba's) government;" efforts to do it may now intensify against
the new Raul Castro government;

— assure Venezuela remains "an exclusive oil
exporter to the US" and sabotage Chavez's efforts to lessen his reliance
on America by serving new markets like China; and

— prop up a key regional ally to assure rightist
forces rule as a reliable Washington proxy and consider its record:

— Colombia is an internally repressive narco-state;

— it practices state terrorism;

— its foreign minister, Maria Consuelo Araujo,
resigned last year after her brother, a senator, was jailed for colluding with
paramilitary death squads; Colombia's Supreme Court also urged federal
prosecutors to investigate her father – a former governor, federal lawmaker and
agriculture minister on kidnapping charges;

— its democracy is a sham; in last year's regional
elections, 30 mostly left of center candidates were murdered; news reporting is
censored; journalists are arrested and killed; civil liberties are debased; and
the rule of law is tenuous at best under a president who roguishly suspends it;
he also packed the country's Supreme Court and bribed and bullied enough
legislators to amend the constitution to allow him to run for a second term –
the first time in over 50 years an incumbent president did it;

— its government is riddled with scandal; over
one-third of his party members are allied with paramilitary death squads; eight
pro-Uribe congressmen were arrested last year for their paramilitary ties, and
dozens of national and regional politicians are under investigation and fled
the country; in addition, Colombia's attorney general arrested Uribe's campaign
manager and secret police chief, Jorge Noguera, for having supplied
paramilitaries with trade unionist names to murder; another former secret
police official is serving an 18 year sentence for purging police records of
paramilitaries and drugs traffickers;

— around two-thirds of Colombians are impoverished;

— many thousands of its people are restless and

— many cross into Venezuela with several hundred
thousand now there;

— wealth concentration is extreme and worsening; and

— in the wake of his blatant aggression, Council on
Hemispheric Affairs' Director, Larry Birns, calls Uribe "Latin America's
most disgraced president." He says he's "scorned throughout (the
region) for being Bush's favored hemispheric figure (but his) legacy (of
aggression) will be a heavy cross for (him) to bear." He calls his
presidency "catastrophic," and his Ecuadorean incursion effectively
dooms it and his influence "on the hemisphere….Metaphorically speaking,
(Paul) Reyes….scalped Uribe and….hung (his) tattered presidential sash upon
a pike and walked the macabre sight through (Latin American) streets."
Uribe will pay an "excessively high" price for "gunning down

Contrast that assessment to conditions in Venezuela
under Chavez. They're mirror opposite so expect lots more trouble ahead.
Tattered or not, Uribe remains a loyal Washington proxy and will continue in
that role while in office. It's why Plan Colombia isn't about eradicating
drugs. Its about weakening Chavez and toppling the FARC-EP and National
Liberation Army (ELN) rebel groups that control sizable portions of the
country. Washington calls them Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), but many
countries disagree. Hugo Chavez calls them a revolutionary army that shares
Venezuela's vision for a Bolivarian Latin America. Workers' Party of Mexico
deputy Ricardo Cantu Garza agrees. He says they're a legitimate belligerent
force confronting a corrupt and unequal political system.

And here's how prominent US attorney, Paul Wolf,
describes the FARC-EP: They're a "belligerent army of national
liberation….they conduct their conduct of hostilities by organized troops
kept under military discipline and complying (with) the laws and customs of
war….international law (doesn't prohibit) revolution, and if (it)
succeeds….international law (allows) the outcome, even though it was achieved
by force."

Progressive scholars and human rights activists agree,
which brings us to what still drives both sides of the struggle. Washington and
Colombia won't give an inch, but rebels won't yield until they do. For his
part, Chavez wants peace, but was grim in his outlook when an American
journalist asked if a confrontation with the US is inevitable: it is,
"because while we want freedom, they want to keep us in chains….We want
a fatherland; they want a colony….we want peace," but Colombia and the
US want war and perpetual conflict. "Venezuela will never again be a US
colony," and he saluted Fidel Castro as he said it and called him a
"great teacher."

Castro responded and called the Ecuador raid a
"monstrous crime. Deadly bombs were dropped….They were Yankee bombs,
guided by Yankee satellites. Absolutely no one has the right to kill in cold
blood….Correa has in his hands the few survivors and the rest of the
bodies." Colombian troops kept two prominent ones as trophies and to
collect millions in Washington-offered bounty. Correa, for his part, "can
(now) cry out like Emile Zola: J'accuse."

So can the FARC-EP. Petras calls them the
"longest standing, largest peasant-based guerrilla movement in the world
(that was) founded in 1964 by two dozen peasant activists (to defend)
autonomous rural communities from" Colombian military and paramilitary
violence. It's now a "highly organized 20,000 member guerrilla army with
several hundred thousand local militia and supporters…."

Pre-9/11, most EU and Latin American countries
recognized the organization "as a legitimate resistance movement,"
and for several years Colombia's Pastrana government negotiated peace with its
leaders. Since 2000 under Clinton and continuing under Bush, however, conflict
replaced compromise with a clear committed aim – support for narco-state
terrorism to "destroy the guerrilla army and its suspected social base
among peasants, urban trade unions and professionals (especially teachers,
lawyers, human rights activists and intellectuals)."

Ever since, a bloody extermination campaign has been
waged, and it spills into Venezuela to topple its government and return the
country to friendly oligarch rule. The scheme involves pouring billions into
Colombia on the pretext of eradicating drugs. In fact, it's to build Uribe's
military and fund a "31,000 strong death squad (paramilitary) force"
that ravages the country, kills thousands of peasants and people on the left,
and engages in US-style abductions and torture. With American taxpayer dollars,
their post-2000 record is appalling:

— over 2.5 million peasants and urban slum dwellers

— more than 5000 trade unionists murdered from 1986
to 2006, by far the most anywhere in the world;

— "30,000 peasants, rural teachers, and peasant
and indigenous leaders have been killed with impunity;" and

— "land seizures by paramilitary leaders, cattle
barons and military officers (that's) concentrating land ownership to an
unprecedented level."

With this going on, the liberation struggle
continues, and expect no amount of billions to crush it. Colombia's
conflict is civil. It's not, as Washington calls it, a "war on
terror," but it's clearly state-directed terror against the Colombian people
that also targets Venezuela. It's the latest salvo in Bush v. Chavez that won't
likely end when a new US president takes office. So the struggle for justice
continues with no early end of it in sight and no chance whatever that those in
it have any intention of quitting.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
[email protected]. Also visit his blog site at

Source: ZNet