First some background. On March
1, the Colombian military (with US Special Forces help) illegally
attacked a FARC-EP rebel camp inside Ecuador. US satellite telephone
tracking located the site. Washington signed off on the mission. Over
20 people were killed, including 16 or more FARC-EP members while they
slept. Key among them was Paul Reyes, the FARC-EP's second-in-command,
key peace negotiator and public voice, and lead figure in the
Chavez-led hostage negotiations with Colombia.
The action was a clear act of
aggression and premeditated murder. It's not how the dominant media
played it. Hostile verbal exchanges took place between Hugo Chavez and
Ecuador's Raphael Correa on the one hand and Colombia's Alvaro Uribe
and George Bush on the other. US presidential candidates, as expected,
supported the White House and Bogota.
Tensions heightened further
when Colombia's vice-president, Francisco Santos Calderon, revealed his
nation's army recovered three laptops and other material at the FARC-EP
camp with provocative evidence on their hard drives. He claimed it
showed Chavez and Correa have links to the FARC-EP, and Venezuela
provided weapons, munitions, and $300 million or so to the rebel group.
In addition, the FARC-EP was accused of acquiring 50 kilograms (110
pounds) of uranium, that it wishes to sell it for a radioactive dirty
bomb, it also sold 700 kilograms of cocaine for about $1.5 million, and
The story is preposterous, but
the media grabbed hold of it. No evidence exists, so they invent it. In
March, Colombian authorities asked Interpol to examine the computer
files for authenticity. The organization released its report on May 15.
On its web site, it states that Secretary General Ronald Noble "advised
senior Colombian law enforcement officials that INTERPOL's team of
forensic experts discovered 'no evidence of modification, alteration,
addition or deletion' in the user files of any of the three laptop
computers, three USB thumb drives and two external hard disks seized
during a Colombian anti-narcotics and anti-terrorist operation on a
FARC camp on 1 March 2008."
But Interpol admitted that
lacking evidence doesn't prove "there was no tampering." In fact, some
files had future date stamps and other indications of data alteration.
It questions their authenticity, and Interpol (deep in its report)
acknowledged that Columbia likely manipulated the contents – with an
explanation needing close reading to understand. It delegitimizes
Colombian claims and would get an international court to dismiss them
out of hand. Reporters doing their job should as well. Data accuracy
can't be verified or worse – they may be entirely fraudulent, and
made-in-Washington mischief may be behind it.
Interpol's report continued
saying "between 1 and 3 March, direct access to the seized computer
exhibits….did not follow internationally recognized principles in the
handling of electronic evidence under ordinary circumstance." Its
experts "verified that this….had no effect" on file contents, but
other report evidence contradicts that statement. Interpol, in fact,
stated that "Direct access may complicate validating this evidence for
purposes of its introduction in a judicial proceeding because law
enforcement is then required to demonstrate or prove that the direct
access did not have a material impact on the purpose for which the
evidence is intended."
In short, hard drive data prove
nothing and may, in fact, be fake. With US involvement clear, it
wouldn't be the first time, and Washington is rich in talent to do it.
Independent computer experts
are also troubled. They believe that failure to follow standard
evidence handling procedures seriously jeopardizes its reliability.
With care, forensic specialists or computer professionals can add,
delete or alter hard drive material without leaving a footprint.
Dominant media reports ignored
this and more. They passed over or played down key findings, including
Interpol's statement: that its experts didn't "evaluate the accuracy or
the source of the exhibits' content." How could they? The volume was
enormous amounting to the equivalent of "39.5 million pages in
Microsoft Word…." At the rate of 100 pages a day, "it would take more
than 1000 years to read" it.
That alone begs the question.
In a few days or even weeks, how were Colombian authorities able to
analyze the data to discover provocative information therein. That
notion also got no attention in the dominant media. Neither did most
other parts of the truth.
Spinning the News – How Big Media Does It
Here's how Murdoch's Wall
Street Journal's played it on May 16. Its editorial page said
Interpol's May 15 report "won't make Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez's
day." It reported Interpol's claim about no evidence of file tampering,
but ignored the issues of authenticity, accuracy, manipulation, or
impossible "speed-reading" skills of Colombian verifiers. It concluded
that "Interpol's certification proves that Mr. Chavez is trying to
destabilize a US ally (and that he's a) proven supporter of terrorism
in our own hemisphere."
The New York Times' Simon
Romero was little better. His May 16 article was headlined: "Files
Tying Venezuela to Rebels Not Altered, Report Says." He called
Interpol's report "a setback for Venezuela, which had claimed that the
computer files….were fabrications…." It "may advance efforts under
way in the Congress to add Venezuela to the United States' list of
state sponsors of terrorism…."
Well down in his report, Romero
admitted that "Interpol could not vouch for the accuracy of the files"
and that "a Colombian antiterrorism unit (seized them improperly and)
in violation of internationally recognized rules on handling electronic
evidence…." No further comment was added.
In contrast, Romero played up
State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, saying these "are serious
allegations about Venezuela supplying arms and support to a terrorist
organization….that has deep implications for the people of the
region." He had to acknowledge, however, what credible experts agree
on. Given the importance of US and Venezuelan relations, chances of
declaring the country a state sponsor of terrorism is highly remote –
"particularly without more evidence (read any evidence) of the
country's support of the FARC…"
Latin American history
professor Greg Grandin goes further. He believes "Almost all of Latin
America and most of the world would take Venezuela's side in this
dispute. Any move (against the Chavez government) would further isolate
the United States in a region where it has been hemorrhaging influence."
That doesn't phase Romero.
Piling on is his specialty. Truth isn't. He returned on May 18 with a
provocative feature story headlined: "Chavez Seizes Greater Economic
Power." Some key points in it are:
— "Chavez is intensifying
state control of the Venezuelan economy through a wave of takeovers of
private companies and creation of government-controlled ventures with
allies like Cuba and Iran; fears are intensifying (over) more
— it's happening "just months
after voters rejected a referendum to give the president sweeping
constitutional power (leading critics to accuse him of being) more
interested in consolidating power than in fixing Venezuela's problems;"
— "while he has argued that
(he aims) to correct social injustices and fight soaring inflation, his
critics say his moves are instead compounding these troubles;" no
supporter voices in sight;
— to avoid "outright
confiscation (he's) offering 'some' compensation;" unmentioned is it's
fair market value and nothing was, is or will be "confiscated;"
— Romero stresses Venezuela's
ties to Iran and China with joint ventures and infrastructure projects;
also that Chavez will "export more oil to China in exchange for more
Chinese investment in Venezuela;" implied, of course, are his relations
with US rivals, and, in the case of Iran, a country George Bush calls
"the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism;"
— he ignores Venezuela's
successes; along with Argentina, it's the fastest growing regional
economy and one of the fastest in the world at a time of economic
weakness; its impressive employment growth with most of it coming in
the private sector; that Chavez is friendly to business and boosts the
private economy; the country's huge social gains; and Chavez's immense
popularity and growing world stature; instead he lists problems – high
inflation, less foreign investment, food shortages, capital flight, and
more that are only mitigated by "high oil prices;"
— near the article's end, he's
forced to admit what economist Mark Weisbrot explains – that Chavez "is
so far mainly just reversing some of the privatizations that took place
in the 1990s;"
— Romero reverts to form with
some provocative ending quotes about Chavez "stimulating a
pre-insurrectional climate;" that his nationalizations aim "to
annihilate the productive apparatus so that we depend more on
petroleum, which is to depend more on the state, or in other words, to
depend more on Chavez."
For the dominant US media,
Chavez-bashing is full-time. Washington Post writers excel at it on any
pretext, and Juan Forero's May 16 Interpol report article was typical.
It's headlined: "FARC Computer Files Are Authentic, Interpol Probe
Finds." He echoed the Wall Street Journal and New York Times and said
files seized "contain e-mails (Interpol never mentioned any) and other
documents that show how Venezuela's populist leader had formed such a
tight bond with guerrilla commanders that his key lieutenants had
offered help in obtaining sophisticated weaponry such as surface-to-air
missiles while delivering light arms. The files also document links
between FARC and Ecuador's president, Raphael Correa, a close ally of
Similar reports appeared
throughout the US and western media. They never miss a chance to play
down facts and attack populist leaders. In response, Hugo Chavez
dismissed the allegations as "ridiculous." He urged Colombia's
president to have "a moment of reflection (and added) The government of
Colombia is capable of provoking a war….to justify a US intervention
in Venezuela." He also called Colombia's assertion "a new act of
aggression." It means relations with his neighbor will come "under deep
review," and Reuters reported May 15 that "Venezuela is deeply revising
diplomatic, economic and political relations with Colombia" following
Interpol's report and the Uribe government's allegations.
Ecuador's Correa was abroad in
France, but took time to say the computer file documents "prove
absolutely nothing. We have information that the Colombian government
had the computers for some time and prepared all this." Quite possibly
because the entire story is unraveling. But don't expect Big Media to
Revving Up Gunboat Diplomacy
While it continues, the
Pentagon announced in April that it's resurrecting its Fourth Fleet in
Latin America and the Caribbean after a 60 year hiatus. It was created
during WW II and disbanded in 1950. Reasons given were vaguely stated –
to "conduct varying missions including a range of contingency
operations, counter narco-terrorism, and theater security cooperation
US Naval Forces Southern
Command chief Admiral James Stevenson said the move would send a
message to the entire region, not just Venezuela. Commandant of the
National War College, General Robert Steel added that: "The United
States' obsession with Venezuela, Cuba and other things indicates they
are going to use more military force, going to use that instrument more
often." Bolivian President Evo Morales called the move "Fourth
The Fleet begins operating in
July and will be headquartered out of Florida's Mayport Naval Station.
It'll be part of the Pentagon's Southern Command, extending from the
Caribbean to the continent's southern tip. Its strength will be
formidable – aircraft carriers, submarines, various attack ships, and
several nuclear-armed ones.
With no Latin American threat,
why then this move, and why now with an administration nearing its end
and bogged down in two unwinnable wars? Like the Middle East and
Central Asia, the region's importance is crucial. Venezuela alone is
why. Its proved oil reserves were just raised to 130 billion barrels,
but include what's uncounted and they're far higher. On its web site,
the US Department of Energy (DOE) estimates the country's extra-heavy
oil at 1.36 trillion barrels, or 90% of the world's total. That's more
than all "proved" world reserves combined and in addition to
Venezuela's "proved" light sweet resources of around 80 billion barrels
that alone ranks it seventh in the world behind the five largest Middle
East producers and Canada.
With stakes that high, it's
significant that Admiral Joseph Kernan will become Fleet commander when
it's activated. He currently heads the Naval Special Warfare Command
that includes Navy Seals and other counterinsurgency units. His choice
is troublesome, and regional leaders are mindful. Hugo Chavez
especially. It may be why he's buying nine Russian submarines, but
against America it hardly registers. In total, Venezuela spends $1 – 2
billion on its military annually or less than half of 1% of the
Pentagon's budget. Nonetheless, it's another reason Washington targets
him with a hawkish commander now charged to do it.
Rumor also is that the Pentagon
plans building a Colombian military base near Venezuela's border.
Washington's Colombian ambassador, William Brownfield, said it's
possible if its Manta, Ecuador one is closed. Its lease expires in
2009, and Raphael Correa said renewal depends on the US granting
Ecuador equivalent basing rights in South Florida – his way of
confirming renewal won't happen.
Chavez is justifiably alarmed
at the prospect of US troops on his border. He warned Colombia not to
do it and said this action will force Venezuela to revive a decades-old
territorial conflict over its possible La Guajira location. He further
added: "We will not allow the Colombian government to give La Guajira
to the empire." Stationing US troops there will be "a threat of war at
us." So far, neither Washington or Colombia confirm what's planned. But
Colombia's defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, denies the base rumor,
at least in La Guajira. In a May 14 televised address, Chavez called it
"good news." Nonetheless, the situation bears watching.
Chavez is justifiably wary. As
long as he's president, he'll be vilified and targeted. Latin America
is vital to Washington. Venezuela is a key part of it. But America's
dominance is weakening, neoliberal pillage caused it, the Bush
administration accelerated it, Bolivarianism challenges it, so muscular
militarism may replace diplomacy to restore it.
Colombia's belligerency, the
FARC-EP files, Fourth Fleet reactivation, continued funding of
Venezuela's opposition, CIA's covert mischief, disruptive street
violence, and other planned schemes are troublesome. They're to
reassert regional control and rid Washington of its leading hemispheric
antagonist. No guessing who, and no telling when the next attempt will
come or in what form. Everything tried so far failed. Even worse, it's
been counterproductive. Chavez has enormous stature and immense popular
That makes him an even greater
threat and hints at something bigger coming. So far, it's just
speculation, however, with the administration's tenure winding down.
But it may or may not deter those running it who are always wrong,
never in doubt, and apparently willing to risk making a bad situation
worse. Stay tuned, expect surprises, and be assured the months ahead
won't be boring.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected].
Also visit his blog site at
sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on
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