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Archive for the ‘Latin America’ Category

The end of impunity in Guatemala

Posted by Charles II on September 2, 2015


In Guatemala, the Legislature voted unanimously to strip President Otto Pérez Molina of immunity from prosecution, clearing the way for his arrest. The ruling echoes the decision by the country’s Supreme Court last week and makes it possible to prosecute Pérez Molina as part of a corruption investigation that has sparked protests calling for his resignation. We’re joined from Guatemala City by Allan Nairn, a longtime journalist who has covered Guatemala since the 1980s.

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, people were cheering, they were crying, setting off fireworks. This is an example for the world. This is a general we’re talking about, one of the generals—one of the U.S.-backed generals who carried out the massacres that devastated the Mayan population of the northwest highland. I met him in the highlands as he was doing that, and his troops described how they strangled, executed civilians and threw them into mass graves. He then became president. Prior to that, he was placed on the CIA payroll. And now he’s going to be treated like a common citizen, and perhaps a common criminal. He could be taken at any moment by the authorities.

Last night after the verdict, I walked by the Casa Presidencial, the presidential house—it’s the White House of Guatemala—and spoke to a soldier outside who is a member—a corporal of the presidential guard. And I asked him how his unit would react if the Ministerio Público, the justice department, comes and tries to arrest the president, Pérez Molina. And he said they would not resist. They would take their orders from the Ministerio Público.

Our State Department, May 8th is, of course, propping up the corrupt, murderous thug:

The U.S. Government takes note of the decision of Guatemala’s vice president to submit her resignation. We support President Otto Perez Molina and his administration’s efforts to address charges of official corruption in Guatemala. [emphasis added]

Apparently they’ve gone silent since Perez Molina was charged. So I guess they’ve transferred the support to the CIA. Jeff Abbott, UpsideDown World:

Throughout the crisis, the embassy has maintained their support for the embattled president, leading many protesters to claim that the United States is meddling in Guatemalan politics once again. But since the announcement of charges against the President, the embassy has remained silent.

Early on in the crisis US Ambassador Todd Robinson appeared beside the embattled Guatemalan President to announce the United States plan to help “reform” and “modernize” the Guatemalan tax collection agency.

Posted in abuse of power, Latin America, State Department | Leave a Comment »

Battalion 316, Honduras, and post-coup State-sponsored Terrorism

Posted by Charles II on June 20, 2015

Heather Gies, UpsideDown World:

After the 2009 military coup against democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, the ousted president said in an exclusive interview with Democracy Now! that Battalion 316 was “already operating” in Honduras under a different name and using “torture to create fear.”

“There was a tremendous resurgence (after the coup) of death squad activity and assassinations of human rights defenders, trade unionists, campesinos, activists of the resistance of all sorts including journalists, lawyers,” Dana Frank, professor of History at the University of California Santa Cruz, told teleSUR. “It was very rare in the 20 years before the coup for these kinds of assassinations to happen … but it shot up dramatically after the coup.”

The post-coup links to Battalion 316 terror were palpable, both in the vast increase in human rights abuses, including torture, assassinations, and forced disappearances, as well as the direct connections of Battalion 316 personnel offering their expertise to the coup regime.

Former head of the Battalion 316, School of the Americas graduate Billy Joya, became a prominent coup regime spokesperson, advisor, and aide to de facto president Roberto Micheletti. According to COFADEH, many other retired Battalion 316 agents also became government advisors.

[Professor Adrienne] Pine, author of “Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras,” said that the numbers of state-sponsored disappearances, tortures, and extrajudicial killings since the coup have far exceeded those of the 1980s.

With striking similarity to the fear campaign of the 1980s, COFADEH documented in 2010, along with dozens of other death threats and assassinations, that a former Battalion 316 agent publicly threatened resistance activist Candelario Reyes with forced disappearance and death, saying that killing such a “communist dog” would make the “best example” for other resistance activists.

“You can see the continuity with some of these individuals including the references to the 80s that are conscious references,” said Frank. “It’s terror, it’s deliberately spreading terror.”

Harkening back to 1980s terror was a deliberate strategy to instil fear in perceived political threats. In 2012, COFADEH human rights defender Dina Meza received a series of threats of death and sexual violence by text message signed with the initials CAM, standing for Comando Alvarez Martinez, early 1980s head of Battalion 316 responsible for grave human rights abuses. According to Amnesty International, CAM was used as a pseudonym in numerous death threats against journalists and activists in the wake of the coup.

According to Frank, an expert on human rights and U.S. foreign policy in Honduras, the clearest and most alarming examples of post-coup strategies that follow the model of Battalion 316 are the TIGRES special units of the police force and FUSINA inter-agency task forces that bring together military, police, military police, prosecutors, and other government officials under military control.

FUSINA was initially headed by School of the Americas graduate Colonel German Alfaro, former commander of Battalion 15, the military unit in the Aguan Valley region implicated in dozens of post-coup murders of campesino activists. Trained by the FBI, DEA, and U.S. Marines, FUSINA is not only troubling for its conglomeration of agency functions under a military mandate, but also for its U.S.-enhanced intelligence capacities.

COFADEH denounced TIGRES as a “crude resurrection” of Battalion 316’s political disappearances, murder, and “criminal behaviour.”

These new constellations of state and military power, designed and deployed to create fear and contain political dissent, have again had a deep social and political impact in Honduras.

“A combination of the ‘soft power’ of USAID and NED-funded (so-called pro-democracy) programs on the one hand, and death squads within the police, the military, and now the military police have succeeded in destroying the post-coup resistance movement,” explained Pine. “This is what makes possible the neoliberal plunder of the country currently underway.”

Courtesy of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Posted in Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Honduras, Latin America, terrorism | 1 Comment »

Dumb Choices: Why Hillary should not be president

Posted by Charles II on October 2, 2014

I had five minutes to read Hillary Clinton’s book, Hard Choices, so I skimmed 10 pages on Latin America. Although I knew where she stood on Honduras, reading her explanation about that and the ongoing Cuban embargo made me realize how much contempt she has for Latin America.

I’m not a fan of Fidel Castro. Read Havana Nocturne (T.J. English) and see if it doesn’t raise questions in your mind about his character. I do recognize that he has done some good things, both in ending extreme poverty in Cuba and in terms of opposing apartheid and elevating world health. But I recognize that he’s done it through undemocratic means. That’s Realpolitik: understanding why leaders can be bad people yet popular, or at least more popular than the alternative.

But the embargo against Cuba–which was just extended for a year–is not just a “relic of the Cold War.” It is a flagrantly and increasingly illegal act, condemned by the entire world. Not even the U.K., not even Japan, not even Poland stands with us (Israel does). But Hillary Clinton goes along with the US line that we have to continue to isolate ourselves in order to force the Cuban government to democratize.

Even though it hasn’t worked for 52 years.

Even though the only people really hurt by it are the Cuban people.

And, according to Hillary, any Latin American country that sees the embargo not as a quaint “relic”, one that we can keep around out of fondness for the death and misery it causes, but as U.S. bullying (not to mention arrogance and stupidity) must be a commie creep like that Chaaavez fellow.

That is not leadership, Madame Secretary. That is contempt for Latin America and for the intelligence of your readers.

And then there’s Honduras. And Nicaragua. And Venezuela. And Brazil (!) All of whom are/were run by “strongmen.” Manuel Zelaya of Honduras is even the “caricature of a strongman.”

No, Madame Secretary. You’re a caricature of American arrogance and blindness. And your justification for your actions during the Honduran coup is transparently dishonest. You tell us that Oscar Arias (correctly) told you that a military coup against a democratically-elected leader could have a “domino effect” throughout a region that had been plagued by coups and dictatorship. You were most entertained by this “novel interpretation” (if I recall your phrase correctly) of the domino theory.

FFFFFFF. If this is the sort of contempt for Latin America that you display in public, what you must feel in your heart!

No more fake Democrats, please.

Posted in Brazil, Chavez, Cuba, Honduras, impunity, Latin America, Venezuela | 6 Comments »

Galt’s Gulch

Posted by Charles II on October 12, 2013

Too weird. The Jeff Berwick of The Dollar Vigilante (via Modemocrat, in a thread appropriately entitled Idiots”):

After months of hard work by the entire staff at Galt’s Gulch Chile (GGC) I am extremely pleased to announce to the world that Ayn Rand’s vision in her iconic book, Atlas Shrugged, has become a reality. It is unfortunate that the world has transformed much into what Rand had envisioned and the need for a place like Galt’s Gulch has become so urgent. But, since that is today’s reality we are very happy to offer the respite from the Western world of oppressive governments to freedom-minded people in which they can build a new, more prosperous community.

The runners up were Mexico and Thailand, famous for the freedom supplied when one’s government is run by narcotraffickers or military dictators respectively. It’s just amazing that mature democracies, where people can actually vote, haven’t discovered the advantages of forming a government based on retreating into survivalist communes.

Posted in Ayn Rand, Latin America, looney tunes | 4 Comments »

The patter of little lawsuits

Posted by Charles II on September 22, 2013

Curt Anderson of AP reports at HuffPo that Chiquita is facing lawsuits over its payments to a right-wing Colombian death squad, the AUC. Chiquita has admitted to paying $1.7 M to the AUC, which it called blackmail, and pled guilty to assisting terrorists. It is now facing civil actions in Florida. It has appealed to the 11th Circuit Court on the basis that the victims families can’t prove a connection between the payments and the murders. One would think that Chiquita’s best defense would be that it also made payments to the FARC, the people who the AUC was supposedly fighting while, in fact, terrorizing the entire population.

The 11th Circuit has previously ruled that a Bolivian Minister of Defense can’t be held liable for killings that resulted from his orders, issued on the battlefield, to fire at certain locations. You know, because pulling the trigger doesn’t necessarily mean that someone at where the gun is pointing is going to be wounded and perhaps die. Or whatever.

According to Telesur, the objective of the AUC violence, according to Raúl Emilio Hasbún alias Pedro Ponte o Pedro Bonito, was to displace local communities in areas where Chiquita wished to grow bananas.

It’s not like I expect any lawsuits against American corporations for their crimes to succeed in the present unjust judicial system, but perhaps, like the patter of raindrops on an autumn afternoon, they may awaken Americans to the dark side of our engagement in Latin America.

Posted in judicial rulings, judiciary, Latin America | Comments Off on The patter of little lawsuits

Yes, remember 9/11… including the one in Chile

Posted by Charles II on September 11, 2013

No one who was over the age of 3 in September 2001 will forget our 9/11. And we shouldn’t. Al Qaida committed an outrageous act of butchery, targeting mostly civilians, purely to terrorizing Americans. This day, like December 7th, 1941, will live in infamy.

But there was another September 11th when terrorists killed thousands. And an American president, in effect, ordered it:


PETER KORNBLUH: Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger launched a preemptive strike against Salvador Allende [President of Chile in 1972]. They decided to stop him from being inaugurated as president of Chile. He hadn’t even set foot in the Moneda [Presidential] Palace, when Nixon and Kissinger just simply decided to change the fate of Chile. Nixon instructed the CIA to make the Chilean economy scream, to use as many men as possible. The first plan was to actually keep Allende from being inaugurated as president. And then, when that plan failed, after the assassination of the Chilean commander-in-chief that the United States was behind, General René Schneider [i.e., the US had Schneider assassinated because he refused to go along with a coup], Kissinger then went to Nixon and said, “Allende is now president. The State Department thinks we can coexist with him, but I want you to make sure you tell everybody in the U.S. government that we cannot, that we cannot let him succeed, because he has legitimacy. He is democratically elected. And suppose other governments decide to follow in his footstep, like a government like Italy? What are we going to do then? What are we going to say when other countries start to democratically elect other Salvador Allendes? We will—the world balance of power will change,” he wrote to Nixon in a secret document, “and our interests in it will be changed fundamentally.”

He [Nixon] had aides who were saying to him, “It’s unbecoming for the United States to intervene in a country where we are not—our national security interests are not threatened.” And he pushed them away. “Nope, we can’t—we can’t let this imitative phenomena—we have to stop Allende from being successful.” He had aides that came to him the day after the coup and said, “I’m getting reports that there’s 10,000 bodies in the streets. People are being slaughtered.” And he said, “Go tell Congress that this new military regime is better for our interests than the old government in Chile.” And we have this fabulous document of him talking to Pinochet, a meeting in 1976, in which his aides have told him, “You should tell Pinochet to stop violating human rights.” And instead he says to Pinochet, “You did a great service to the West in overthrowing Allende. We want to support you, not hurt you.

Never forget when the terrorists came to America.

Never forget when they came from America.

Posted in Latin America, September 11, terrorism | Comments Off on Yes, remember 9/11… including the one in Chile

The Upside Down World

Posted by Charles II on July 21, 2013

An open letter by a number of LatAm experts:

The supposed “irony” of whistle-blower Edward Snowden seeking asylum in countries such as Ecuador and Venezuela has become a media meme.

The media has never noted the “irony” of the many thousands of people who have taken refuge in the United States, which is currently torturing people in a secret prison at Guantanamo, and regularly kills civilians in drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries. Nor has the press noted the “irony” of refugees who have fled here from terror that was actively funded and sponsored by the U.S. government, e.g. from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, and other countries.

But in fact the “irony” that U.S. journalists mention is fantastically exaggerated.  It is based on the notion that the governments of Venezuela under Chávez (and now Maduro) and Ecuador under Correa have clamped down on freedom of the press. Most consumers of the U.S. media unfortunately don’t know better, since they have not been to these countries and have not been able to see that the majority of media are overwhelmingly anti-government…

Yes, the Venezuelan government’s communications authorities let the RCTV channel’s broadcast license expire in 2007. This was not a “shut down”… Even José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch – a fierce critic of Venezuela – has said that “lack of renewal of the contract [broadcast license], per se, is not a free speech issue.”…

A July 10th piece from the Washington Post’s editorial board – which has never hid its deep hatred of Venezuela, Ecuador and other left governments in Latin America – describes another supposed grave instance of the Venezuelan government clamping down on press freedoms. The editorial, which was given greater publicity through Boing Boing and others, describes the case of journalist Nelson Bocaranda, who is credited with breaking the news of Chávez’s cancer in June 2011. The Post champions Bocaranda as a “courage[ous]” “teller of truth” and dismisses the Venezuelan government’s “charges” against him as “patently absurd.” In fact, Bocaranda has not been charged with anything; the Venezuelan government wants to know whether Bocaranda helped incite violence following the April 14 presidential elections, after which extreme sectors of the opposition attacked Cuban-run health clinics and homes and residences of governing party leaders, and in which some nine people were killed – mostly chavistas.

In Ecuador, President Rafael Correa has been widely condemned in the U.S. media – in much reporting as well as commentary – for suing a prominent journalist, Emilio Palacio, for defamation. The defamatory content was, in fact, serious. It relates to a 2010 incident in which Correa was first assaulted and then later held captive by rebelling police in what many observers deemed an attempt at a coup d’etat. Military forces ultimately rescued Correa. But in a February 2011 column referring to the episode, Palacio alleged that Correa had committed “crimes against humanity,” and that he had ordered the military forces to fire on the hospital where he was being held at the time. So Correa sued Palacio for defamation and won.

Many commentators have cited Reporters Without Borders and other media watchdog groups’ criticisms of Ecuador’s proposed new “Organic Law of Communication.”

Organizations such as RSF [Reporters Without Borders] and Freedom House are supposed to be impartial arbiters of press freedom around the world and are rarely subject to scrutiny. Yet both have taken funding from the U.S. government and/or U.S.-government supported organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy (which was set up to conduct activities “much of [which]” the “CIA used to fund covertly,” as the Washington Post reported at the time, and which also provided funding and training to organizations involved in the afore-mentioned 2002 Venezuelan coup) and other “democracy promotion” groups. The NED has spent millions of dollars in Venezuela and Ecuador in recent years to support groups opposed to the governments there…

What an upside down world, when poor countries like Ecuador and Venezuela actually have more real press freedom than a rich country like the US. In Venezuela, the press may be afraid of the government, a little bit, at least. In the US, the press delivers the government’s point of view, or at least the viewpoint of cranky billionaires who are trying to take charge of the government.

And we call ourselves free.

By the way, the latest rankings by Reporters Without Borders have us at #32. That’s the Reporters Sans Frontiers that accepts payments from the US government.

Posted in Latin America, media, Media machine | 2 Comments »

Snowden in Oz; Brazilian fallout continues; FISA court operates lawlessly; Susan Webber Wright resurfaces

Posted by Charles II on July 9, 2013


Ex-NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden has disclosed his first set of documents outlining Australia’s role in NSA surveillance programs, picking out four facilities in the country that contribute heavily to US spying.

The locations of dozens of the US’s and associated countries signal collection sites have been revealed by Snowden, who leaked classified National Security Agency maps to US journalist Glenn Greenwald, which were then published in the Brazilian newspaper “O Globo.”

The sites all play a role in the collection of data and interception of internet traffic and telecommunications on a global level.

Australian centers involved in the NSA’s data collection program, codenamed X-Keyscore, include Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap in central Australia and three Australian Signals Directorate facilities: the Shoal Bay Receiving Station in the country’s north, the Australian Defence Satellite Communications Facility on the west coast, and the naval communications station HMAS Harman outside the capital, Canberra.

New Zealand also plays a role, with the Government Security Communications Bureau facility at Waihopai, on the northern point of South Island, also contributing to the program.

X-Keyscore is described as a “national Intelligence collection mission system” by US intelligence expert William Arkin, according to Australian newspaper ‘Age.’ It processes all signals prior to being delivered to various “production lines” that deal with more specific issues including the exploration of different types of data for close scrutiny.

The different subdivisions are entitled Nucleon (voice), Pinwale (video), Mainway (call records) and Marina (internet records).

Speaking of O Globo, several articles have appeared.
Brazil should offer Snowden asylum, Brazilian senators argue:

Senator Requião (PMDB-PR) called the whistleblower a “Hero” and lamented that other countries on the continent have offered asylum to Snowden, while Brazil, which was the target of espionage, did not. Senator Eduardo Suplicy (PT-SP) supported the complaint of his colleague.

Glenn Greenwald, Roberto Kaz and Roberto José Casado:

One aspect that stands out in the documents is that, according to them, the United States does not seem to be interested only in military affairs but also in trade secrets – “oil” in Venezuela and “energy” in Mexico, according to a listing produced NSA in the first half of this year (see above).

Colombia was the second priority target in Latin America over the past five years – after Brazil and Mexico – in spying activity of the National Security Agency. Agency documents,

Over the weekend, Eric Lichtblau of the NYT reported on the FISA court and how it produces unreviewable decisions based on the presentation by one side, the government:

Created by Congress in 1978 as a check against wiretapping abuses by the government, the court meets in a secure, nondescript room in the federal courthouse in Washington. All of the current 11 judges, who serve seven-year terms, were appointed to the special court by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and 10 of them were nominated to the bench by Republican presidents.

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post did a brilliant segment on the FISA court on Maddow. He named (8:05m) the judges: Reggie Walton, Rosemary Collyer, Claire Eagan, Martin Feldman, Thomas Hogan, Mary McLaughlin, Michael Mosman, Dennis Saylor, Susan Wright, and James Zagel. Susan Webber Wright is the judge involved in the torment of Susan McDougal in Whitewater, as well as the Paula Jones trial.

What are the odds that one of the linchpins of the assault on democracy that culminated in the impeachment of Bill Clinton would end up on the FISA court, free to issue opinions unreviewable by the Congress or the Supreme Court, decisions that bear on the basic liberties of Americans and which the FISA court has issued–without listening to any opposing party–like a rubber stamp?

Posted in Brazil, NSA eavesdropping, wiretapping | 4 Comments »

Ecuador’s London embassy is bugged

Posted by Charles II on July 3, 2013

Estelle Shirbon, Reuters reports that the Foreign Minister of Ecuador has reported finding a microphone inside the London Ecuador office.

Prajap Chatterjee at Corpwatch has the only decent article on this story:

Spy equipment from the Surveillance Group Limited, a British private detective agency based in Worcester, England, has been found in the Ecuadorean embassy in London …

At a press conference in Quito this afternoon, Ricardo Patiño, the foreign minister of Ecuador, held up a photo of a “spy microphone” that was found on June 14 inside a small white box that was placed in an electrical outlet behind a bookshelf. The device contained a telephone SIM card allowing it to broadcast any conversations that it picked up.

Nobody has yet come forward to claim the device but a casual web search reveals that the Surveillance Group boasts of its ability to install tracking devices anywhere.

“We can justifiably claim to be the only company in the world to offer an internationally accredited, covert camera construction, concealment and deployment course,” a company website claims. “We can provide a range of bespoke, unmanned, covert camera options to gather vital video evidence in the most challenging environment or scenarios. The cameras can further be supported by the use of micro tracking devices for deployment with customer property or vehicles.”

The listening device is not the only way that Ecuador suspects that it is being monitored. An article in the Wall Street Journal last week quoted extensively from email correspondence between aides of President Rafael Correa, revealing that someone was hacking internal government communications.

The Journal said it has obtained the emails from Univision Networks, a U.S. based Spanish TV network, but Wikileaks says that the U.S. government could well have provided them with the raw material.

Posted in Latin America, NSA eavesdropping, wiretapping | 7 Comments »

Kerry is a lost cause

Posted by Charles II on June 5, 2013

You may recall that former Guatemalan president Rios Montt was convicted of mass murder for directing the massacre of the Ixil Indians, part of the mass murder of 250,000 people in the roughly 40-year repression initiated by and abetted by the US. In the course of Montt’s trial, the bloody role of current Guatemalan president Otto Fernando Perez Molina emerged. The judge and prosecutor received very public death threats, but they and the witnesses bravely carried the trial to its inevitable end: Montt was convicted.

Then the Constitutional Court, presumably acting at the behest of Perez Molina and the other mass murderers who have not faced justice, arbitrarily reached in and annulled Montt’s conviction. Montt is unlikely to face any punishment greater than the inconvenience of having to go to court. And so Perez Molina is off the hook, too.

And so this is how John Kerry, meeting with Perez Molina, greeted him:

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you very much. Muchas gracias. Estoy encantando de estar aqui en Guatemala y (inaudible) con el Presidente Perez Molina. Gracias.

I want to begin, if I may, by expressing the condolences of all Americans for the loss of life of nine Guatemalans in Oklahoma City in the tornado last month. We know that that is a deep pain for the families, and I bring you the President’s condolences and the condolences of the American people.

… Let me begin by congratulating you, Mr. President, on the enormous progress that you have made with respect to your justice system, the strengthening of your justice system, the independence of that system. And obviously, we are appreciative for your reciprocal law enforcement initiatives that benefit both of us we believe.

I also would express our appreciation for the way in which you have led your internal – your security efforts and particularly citizen protection efforts.

I also want to thank you for your leadership with respect to the professionalization of police, which is very important, and also your efforts to make sure that we live up to the standards of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala. Needless to say, that is so important to Guatemala’s standing on a global basis and we appreciate your efforts.

I realize that diplomacy involves not saying things publicly that would lead to an irreconcilable break. But Kerry has just congratulated Perez Molina for having turned the justice system into a sham, for having demonstrated that Guatemalan impunity extends to confessing the crime and walking undisturbed away.

John Kerry was a man I deeply respected for a long time. He showed courage in battle and then he showed the courage to say that the war in which he fought was wrong.

And now, he’s saying that everything he said and did before was an opportunistic lie.

Posted in Democrats as cancer, impunity, Latin America, State Department | Comments Off on Kerry is a lost cause

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