Monday, June 30, 2008

Mugabe victory in Zimbabwe elections a Joke

Where are the UN working against violation of the human rights? Where are the African countries, doing the right thing?. Mugabe is a cruel dictator. These elections were not fair.
vdebate reporter

Mugabe Victory in Zimbabwe Elections a 'Joke'
By LOUIS WESTON and PETA THORNYCROFT, The Daily TelegraphJune 30, 2008
HARARE, ZimbabwePresident Mugabe was last night sworn in to a sixth term as president of Zimbabwe, extending his 28 years in power after officials proclaimed he had been re-elected by a landslide

CONTESTED VICTORY President Mugabe of Zimbabwe at his inauguration ceremony yesterday at State house in Harare. Mugabe was sworn in following a run-off election in which he was the sole candidate following the withdrawal of the main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Maintaining the fiction that the vote was a contested poll, the Zimbabwe Election Commission said that Mr. Mugabe received 2,150,269 votes — or more than 85% — against 233,000 for Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change who won the first round in March.
Between the two polls Mr. Mugabe's Zanu-PF movement launched a campaign of violence against the opposition in which at least 86 people were killed, and Mr. Tsvangirai pulled out of the election.
"This is an unbelievable joke and act of desperation on the part of the regime," the MDC's spokesman, Nelson Chamisa, said. "It qualifies for the Guinness Book of Records as joke of the year. Mugabe will never win an election except when he's contesting against himself."
Prayers at the inauguration were led by an Anglican ally who broke away from the church, Nolbert Kunonga. "We thank you Lord for this unique and miraculous day," he said. "You have not failed our leader." Mr. Mugabe waved a Bible as he recited "so help me God," to cheers from his supporters.
Mr. Tsvangirai was invited to the event but declined. "The inauguration is meaningless," he said. "The world has said so, Zimbabwe has said so. So it's an exercise in self-delusion."
Ambassadors in Harare were conspicuous by their absence from the event.
Although Mr. Mugabe offered to hold talks with the opposition the absence of the word "negotiations" was noticeable and analysts said he intends to remain in office as long as possible.
"It is my hope that sooner rather than later, we shall as diverse political parties hold consultations towards such serious dialogue as will minimize our difference and enhance the area of unity and co-operation," Mr. Mugabe said.
Election observers from the Southern African Development Community said that the poll failed to reflect the will of the people.
Almost 400,000 Zimbabweans defied the threat of violent retribution by Mr. Mugabe's thugs to vote against him or spoil their ballot papers, official results released on yesterday show.
According to the Zimbabwe Election Commission's figures, the turnout of 42% was almost exactly the same as the first round.
But many polling stations were virtually deserted throughout election day. Papers were spoiled.
With 21,127 votes in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city and an opposition stronghold, Mr. Mugabe lost to the combined total of 13,291 votes for Mr. Tsvangirai and 9,166 spoiled papers.
Only a few independent observers were accredited for the election.
And the Zimbabwe Election Support Network — which mounted the most comprehensive monitoring exercise in the first round — pulled out in protest.
Consequently, no unbiased verification of the figures is possible and the true tallies may never be known.
For weeks, Zanu-PF militias have terrorized Zimbabweans, warning them they will launch Operation Red Finger, which will target anyone whose digit is not marked with ink to show that they cast a vote.
They will also target anyone who checks show to have backed Mr Tsvangirai.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

The FARC's foreign friends - Mary O'grady

FARC & Chavez did everything possible to make look bad president Uribe, as the computer is showing now......
vdebate reporter

In other words, there is no peace agenda. Only plans for a circus designed to undermine Colombia's democracy. The rest of the region's governments ought to worry about who is next.
Mary O'grady

The FARC's Foreign Friends
by Mary O'grady
Some 11,000 text documents have been retrieved from the computers seized by the Colombian government after a bombing raid on a guerrilla camp in March. That raid killed rebel leader Raúl Reyes.Yet combing through only a portion of the material, which I did recently, is enough to see that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – the FARC – is held together by two common threads.

First is the globalization of the armed struggle.
The FARC's allies and suppliers come from places as far flung as Australia, China, Russia, the Middle East and all parts of Latin America. Some are ideological comrades – both inside governments and operating as illegal cells; others are members of organized crime networks. All are crucial actors in the FARC's bloodthirsty search for power.
The second common thread is the propaganda war.
FARC rebels not only assume that they can manipulate international opinion by claiming a "humanitarian" agenda. They count on it. All this is facilitated by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. The Colombian military has been running up the score against the FARC of late and rebel operations are close to falling apart, as Journal reporter José de Cordoba wrote last week. But the documents show that aid from Mr. Chávez is prolonging the war by keeping FARC hopes alive.
The Venezuelan president has been creative in thinking about how he can help the rebels. The documents show that he has offered $250 million to $300 million but that's not all. In a February memo to the FARC high command, two rebel leaders who had recently met with Mr. Chávez describe proposed money-making schemes. "He offered us the possibility of a business in which we would receive a quota of oil to sell outside the country, which would leave us with a juicy profit."
There was also an offer of Venezuelan state contracts. In January 2007, the rebels penned a memo explaining that a Venezuelan general told them that arms shipments from abroad could be brought in through the Venezuelan port of Maracaibo.
By September, the shipments were being lined up. "Yesterday I received two Australian arms suppliers," one rebel wrote to the high command, "thanks to a contact made through Ramiro [a Salvadoran.]" The Aussies "offer very good prices on all we need."
The list includes 50-caliber machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and missiles. "All of these materials are made in Russia and China," he wrote, and the shipment would take a month or so "to arrive in Venezuela."
Just in case all this military hardware doesn't maim and murder enough civilians to produce a surrender by the Colombian government, Mr. Chávez and the FARC also have been collaborating on Plan B: an effort to acquire legitimacy in the eyes of the international community by branding Colombian President Álvaro Uribe as heartless and unreasonable.
That was supposed to be a slam dunk after Mr. Chávez last year won the role of "mediator" in the effort to free some FARC hostages, including the French-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt. But a series of PR faux-pas, culminating in a fruitless trip to see French President Nicolas Sarkozy, destroyed any credibility he may briefly have enjoyed as a peacemaker.
Shortly thereafter, rebel leaders wrote a memo outlining how they planned to position themselves as humanitarians ready to swap hostages for rebel prisoners "in contrast to the stubborn intransigence of Mr. Uribe."
Among their demands would be exclusion from the international terrorist list and access to diplomatic missions. "If [Mr. Uribe] rejects it, as he surely will," they wrote, "we lose nothing and instead he will remain isolated and under international pressure." That plan, too, went nowhere.
On Feb. 8 of this year, the rebels wrote that Mr. Chávez had a new idea: to create an international group – consisting of Cuba, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, Mexico and Nicaragua – similar to the Contadora Group. Contadora, which was formed in the 1980s allegedly to find a peaceful solution to the Central American wars, in fact provided political cover to the region's Marxists.
According to the rebels, Mr. Chávez said that if Mr. Uribe wants to improve bilateral relations, he would have to accept it and "asks that we bring Ingrid to the inaugural." In preparation for the swap, the group would set up a "humanitarian camp" with "the presence of the press, international delegates and the FARC." In other words, there is no peace agenda.
Only plans for a circus designed to undermine Colombia's democracy. The rest of the region's governments ought to worry about who is next.

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Monday, June 9, 2008

Adventures in the Ransom Trade

Interesting story of a kidnapping in Colombia, that inspire the Movie Proof of Life with
Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe & David Morse.

Adventures in the Ransom Trade
By William Prochnau

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Colombian Army Adaptation to FARC Insurgency

This report is old but interesting to read, if you want understand more abour FARC
vdebate reporter.

Colombian Army adaptation to FARC Insurgency
Thomas Marks
January 2002

Comments pertaining to this report are invited and should be
forwarded to: Director, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War
College, 122 Forbes Ave., Carlisle, PA 17013-5244. Copies of this report
may be obtained from the Publications Office by calling commercial
(717) 245-4133, FAX (717) 245-3820, or via the Internet at


Sunday, June 8, 2008

The forgotten American hostages in Colombia

GREAT NEWS NOW THEY ARE FREE!!!!!!!!!!!! We are so happy !!!!!!!!!!!!! They started living again.
Interesting information, related to the American Hostages hold in Colombia. We will keep you posted in this issue.
vdebate reporter

Their website:

U.S. Hostages Talk About Life In Captivity
October 2003 - 60 minutes - CBS

Contractors Captured In Colombia Tell Dan Rather Their Story
October 2003 - 60 minutes - CBS

Colombia: Private U.S. Operatives on Risky Missions
by Juan Forero, New York Times
February 14th, 2004

Statement on American Hostages in Colombia
Chris Dodd - US Senator -February 2006

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A brief history of Colombia Civil Conflict

I am copying all these articles related with the American hostages by FARC in Colombia.
vdebate reporter
Continuing a series of posts begun here. A very brief history of the Colombian civil conflict, South American narco-trafficking, the link between the two, and the U.S. role:
Since 1964, ideologically communist insurgents have fought a low to mid intensity asymmetrical campaign against the Colombian government. The largest insurgent groups are the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC) and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army, ELN). A third major insurgent group, the Movimiento 19 de Abril (19th of April Movement, M-19) demobilized into a political party in the early 90’s. In the mid 90’s, numerous semi-populist and eventually illegal anti-insurgent paramilitary groups coalesced under the loose banner of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-defense Forces of Colombia, AUC).
The overwhelming majority of the world’s cocaine demand, including approximately 350 Metric tons per year for the U.S., is supplied by the Andean Ridge region of South America; primarily Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. This concentration of cocaine production is largely a function of the agricultural needs of the coca plant combined with the extraordinary remoteness of the jungle covered mountain regions of these three countries. While coca production has shifted wildly from one country to another, the control of the final product has remained consistently in the hands of Colombians. Large, extremely powerful, politically connected, and extraordinarily violent Colombian cocaine syndicates formed during the 1970’s, including the well known Medellín and Cali cartels. During the height of his power, Medellín cartel head Pablo Escobar was elected to congress and was assessed to be one of the wealthiest individuals in the world. Part of the Cartels’ success came from a willingness to use terror tactics: the cartels assassinated presidential candidates, judges, elected officials, and hundreds of police. Eventually the cocaine cartels were decapitated and fragmented. While not entirely gone, they are no longer freely operating massive conglomerates in full control of the cocaine industry.
Throughout the history of Colombian cocaine production, the FARC and other insurgent groups have played a roll. The coca is grown and processed in remote areas frequently dominated by the insurgents. Although the relationship between the insurgents and the cartels was often strained and occasionally violent, the insurgents and the cartels developed a working relationship that involved an informal “taxation” of the coca in exchange for “protection,” both real and symbolic, of the fields, processing facilities, and convoys. With the drying up of Soviet funding for world wide communist governments and proxy insurgents, the FARC and others became dependent upon coca revenue, along with other fund raising methods, such as kidnapping for ransom. With the decapitation and reduction in power of the cartels in the 1990s, the FARC and others, including the paramilitary AUC, stepped in to fill an ever larger direct role in cocaine production, processing, and distribution. Today, the FARC is inextricably linked to cocaine production.
The United States has been a long term supporter of the Colombian government’s struggle against the communist insurgents. This support has ranged from direct combat assistance in the 1960s to largely financial, legal and advisory assistance in the 1990s. During that period, the U.S. walked a fine congressionally controlled line between direct support for counter narcotics and the taboo of involvement in foreign counter insurgency. This decade, largely as a result of expanded counter-terrorism policies approved in the wake of 9/11, U.S. policy shifted to allow military assistance, though not direct operational activity, to Colombia’s security forces fighting the various insurgent and paramilitary groups. The U.S. government recognizes the direct FARC and AUC link with drug trafficking.
It is probably appropriate to mention that no party in this long struggle is pure. While the insurgent forces have waged a cocaine, kidnapping, and extortion funded illegal civil war that has killed thousands, the government forces have a long history of corruption, collusion with the illegal paramilitaries, and human rights abuses. International pressure and the tying of U.S. assistance to a clean up in these areas has resulted in significant improvement. The AUC collusion has been removed as an institutional tie, though accusations of operational level ties remain. Human Rights grievances against national police and the Colombian military have dropped precipitously; though internationally watch dog groups still find much to fault in the Colombian forces. This series of posts is not intended to resolve those disputes, or even weigh in on who is right. These posts are about the hostages.
Which brings us to Marc, Keith, & Tom. Contracted by the US Department of Defense, they were conducting aerial reconnaissance support when their Cessna’s engine died, forcing them to crash land in the vicinity of a FARC patrol. We approach the fifth anniversary of their captivity. The FARC have suffered significant losses during the past 5 years, their numbers dropping, recruitment suffering, and influence waning. But they remain the largest insurgent force in the hemisphere, well armed, solidly funded, experienced, and lead by a cadre committed to continuing the conflict.
Prospects for a peaceful release are dim. While kidnapping for ransom is a common funding method for the insurgents, high profile and political prisoners tend to stay captive for years, and are sometimes executed. The FARC hold hundreds of Colombian national hostages, including Ingrid Betancourt, a presidential candidate captured in 2002, numerous elected officials, civil employees and police officers. The FARC have used their high profile captives as bargaining chips, putting forth various hostage exchange scenarios that would swap some FARC-held prisoners for hundreds of captured FARC members being held in Colombian prisons. On rare occasions, the FARC will make a good will gesture, as they did last week with the release of two long term hostages; Betancourt’s aid and a former Congresswoman, into the care of their perceived ideological sympathizer, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
As I said in the first post:Here is what I propose: In one month, on February 13th, on the fifth anniversary of their imprisonment, I would like to see every blogger and journalist with which we have the slightest influence post something about Marc, Keith, & Tom. Anything. Decry the drug war. Rail against the communist-based, narco-trafficking insurgents. Rage against Western imperialism in Latin America for all I care. Just remember Marc, Keith, & Tom. Express concern for their welfare, and hope for their freedom. Demonstrate to their families that they are not forgotten. Help spread the word. If you have a blog, mark the date, prepare a post. If you don’t, send an email to your favorite blog. I don’t care if anyone link’s to this post, I really don’t. Just get something posted. Let’s spread this far and wide. This is something that can cross nearly all ideological boundaries. I don’t know what good this can do, but I would like to think that it might elevate the issue in the minds of influential parties. Hostages have been released for lesser public relations reasons.

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American Hostage, prisoners of the FARC

I found this article in another blog.
The hostages are:
  • Marc Gonsalvez
  • Keith Stansell
  • Thomas Howes
American Hostage Crisis, Day 1,749: Prisoners of the FARC
On February 13th, 2003 four Americans under contract with the U.S. government and a Colombian citizen onboard a Cessna 208 crashed in the Colombian jungle. They survived. Unfortunately, they were deep within territory controlled and patrolled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, widely referred to as the FARC, the largest armed insurgent force in the Western hemisphere. The revolutionaries soon surrounded the crash site. They executed pilot Tom Janis and Colombian Luis Alcides Cruz on the spot. They took the three other Americans, Marc Gonsalves , Keith Stansell, and Thomas Howes, prisoner. And so they remain to this day. Five years held hostage in the Colombian jungle.
I do not support the U.S. government’s “War on Drugs.” I am highly critical of the U.S government’s foreign policy history in Latin America. But I can find only heartbreak and tragedy in the plight of Marc, Keith, & Tom. They were, quite simply, doing their jobs as employees of California Microwave Systems, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman. They were flying in support of U.S. and Colombian law enforcement agents combating narco-trafficking in Colombia. To a large extent, these three American citizens have been forgotten by their nation, ignored by their media, and flushed from the consciousness of their fellow citizens. They are perhaps caught in the unfortunate position of being contractors; mercenaries in the eyes of many. Ineligible for the “outrage from innocence” that uninvolved citizens would gain, deprived of the patriotic tendency to protect “our boys” in uniform. But they are still citizens, and regardless of your feelings on the drug war and our support for the government of Colombia’s 40 year counter insurgency war, we can not deprive our fellow citizens of our empathy. They were doing their job, aiding U.S. and Colombian law enforcement officials, they crashed, and now five years of their lives have been spent in captivity.
Here is what I propose: In one month, on February 13th, on the fifth anniversary of their imprisonment, I would like to see every blogger and journalist with which we have the slightest influence post something about Marc, Keith, & Tom. Anything. Decry the drug war. Rail against the communist-based, narco-trafficking insurgents. Rage against Western imperialism in Latin America for all I care. Just remember Marc, Keith, & Tom. Express concern for their welfare, and hope for their freedom. Demonstrate to their families that they are not forgotten. Help spread the word. If you have a blog, mark the date, prepare a post. If you don’t, send an email to your favorite blog. I don’t care if anyone link’s to this post, I really don’t. Just get something posted. Let’s spread this far and wide. This is something that can cross nearly all ideological boundaries. I don’t know what good this can do, but I would like to think that it might elevate the issue in the minds of influential parties. Hostages have been released for lesser public relations reasons.
In the coming weeks, I intend to post more about their captivity, the FARC, the hundreds of other Colombian hostages, and Colombia’s 40+ year civil insurgency. I will, without doubt, include much subjective vitriol against USG policy related to the drug war, but that really doesn’t matter. What matters is Marc, Keith, & Tom.

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Chavez revolution at risk

Corruption will end with "Chavez Roboilusion"

Chávez revolution at risk
By Benedict Mander in Barinas

Financial Times, 06 de junio de 2008

“There are three things you can’t hide: a cough, a pregnancy and money,” says Wilmer Azuaje, an ambitious 31-year-old politician running to be mayor of Barinas, the capital of a sprawling cattle-ranching state of the same name in Venezuela’s far west.
The issue of money in Barinas may prove crucial come November’s nationwide state and municipal elections. In running for office, Mr Azuaje is not only going against his political peers – President Hugo Chávez’s United Socialist party (PSUV), from which he was expelled last month after announcing his candidacy – but against the Chávez family, which has been the unofficial ruling clan of Barinas for a decade. The opposition has long accused the Chávez family in the state of malfeasance, and there is a current parliamentary investigation into whether members of the family used public money to accumulate a series of farms.
“Is this what they call socialism?” says Mr Azuaje. “President Chávez has to keep his family under control. They are making him look bad before the eyes of the world.”
Hugo Chávez was born in Barinas, and many of his relatives have influential positions here. His father, Hugo de Los Reyes Chávez, won the state governorship in 1998 a few months before President Chávez came to power in Caracas. Most locals believe that the president’s brother, Argenis Chávez, Barinas’s secretary of state, is also managing day-to-day affairs after the governor suffered a recent stroke. The governor’s wife, Elena, runs a state charity. Of their other sons, Aníbal Chávez is mayor of a town, Sabaneta, where the president was born; Adelis Chávez is a manager of Banco Sofitasa, which services many of the banking needs of the state government; and Narciso Chávez was once tipped to run for mayor of the state’s Bolivar municipality. The only one of the president’s brothers hitherto rarely linked to local politics is the eldest, Adán Chávez, but on Sunday he too joined the state’s political dynasty when a PSUV primary election chose him as the party’s candidate to replace his father as governor of Barinas state.
Accusations of official corruption in the state are numerous and not always directed at the Chávez family. Venezuela’s national assembly opened an investigation in March into claims that Argenis and Narciso channelled at least $3m of state funds to accumulate 17 farms through front men. The brothers have publicly denounced the accusation. Opposition parties have also launched a civil suit alleging embezzlement and kickbacks connected to a million-dollar project to build a sugar refinery in Sabaneta, although no member of the Chávez family is named in the case.
Sitting outside the radio station where he conducts a weekly programme, Argenis Chávez says the attacks against his family are politically motivated and groundless. “These accusations are doing a great deal of damage to our revolution,” he says. “They say I am the owner of shopping centres, that I have a fleet of Hummers, that I own lots of land – they want to kill me politically. But behind [Mr Azuaje’s campaign] is the opposition: it’s not my head they want but the president’s.”
There are few direct indicators of public opinion in Barinas. A recent rally against corruption and nepotism organised in Barinas city by Mr Azuaje drew about 5,000 people, although government supporters argue that many will have been drawn by the presence of famous musicians.
David Hernández, a PSUV member who is running against Aníbal Chávez to be mayor of Sabaneta, says people have lost faith with the president’s family “although we still support the president himself – for now”.
On the national level, local pollsters Datanalisis argue that corruption has become an issue of increasing concern. They suggest that in November the government could lose at least half a dozen of the 24 state and district governorships, 20 of which it currently controls. Hugo Chávez was swept to power on a wave of anti-corruption sentiment, promising to clean up the crooked practices of the past. A decade on, Mr Chávez himself admitted this year that corruption remains one of the biggest problems facing his “Bolivarian revolution”. Confronting it, however, may prove difficult. “The president says we must denounce corruption, inefficiency and bureaucracy,” says Mr Azuaje. “But if you actually go ahead and do so, they accuse you of being a traitor and a CIA agent.”

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Venezuela 'spy' law draws protest

A new intelligence law brought in by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has caused concern among rights groups who say it threatens civil liberties.

Mr Chavez argues the law will help Venezuela guarantee its national security and prevent assassination plots and military rebellions.

The new law requires Venezuelans to cooperate with intelligence agencies and secret police if requested.

Refusal can result in up to four years in prison.

The law allows security forces to gather evidence through surveillance methods such as wiretapping without obtaining a court order, and authorities can withhold evidence from defence lawyers if it is considered to be in the interest of national security.

One part of the law, which explicitly requires judges and prosecutors to cooperate with the intelligence services, has caused concern among legal experts.

"Here you have the president legislating by decree that the country's judges must serve as spies for the government," Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas Director for Human Rights Watch, said.

US 'interference'

"The president is constantly calling opposition leaders coup-plotters and pro-imperialists, and that makes me suspect this law may be used as a weapon to silence and intimidate the opposition," said Alberto Arteaga Sanchez, a specialist in constitutional law.

"Among other problems with this law, any suspect's right to defence can be violated, and that's unacceptable," Carlos Correa, a leader of the Venezuelan human rights group Provea, said.

Mr Correa compared the law to the Patriot Act in the United States, which gave US law enforcement agencies greater powers to intercept communications and investigate suspected terrorists on American soil in the wake of the attacks on 11 September 2001.

Mr Chavez - who called the US Patriot Act a "dictatorial law" - denied the Venezuelan law would threaten freedoms, saying it falls into "a framework of great respect for human rights".

Mr Chavez used his decree powers to overhaul Venezuela's intelligence agencies, replacing the Disip secret police and the DIM military intelligence agency with the General Intelligence Office and General Counterintelligence Office, both under his control.

Interior Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin said the revamp was needed to combat "interference from the United States".

In December, Venezuelans rejected a package of constitutional changes aimed at cementing socialism into Venezuelan law which would have given the president the chance to stand for re-election as many times as he wished.

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Chavez party picks candidates in primary

Chavez party picks candidates in primary

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A television talk show host, a former mayor of Caracas and President Hugo Chavez's older brother are among the winners of the ruling party's primary.

More than a million members of Chavez's party cast ballots in the Sunday vote, nominating candidates for 23 state governorships and 337 municipal offices up for grabs in November. Most are already held by Chavez allies.

Chavez's brother Adan will be the party's gubernatorial candidate in their home state of Barinas, where their father is now governor.

Venezuela's fractured opposition is hoping to unite to hand Chavez his second electoral loss in November, after defeating proposed constitutional reforms last year that would have scrapped term limits and let Chavez run for re-election indefinitely.


Chávez Decree Tightens Hold on Intelligence

Chávez Decree Tightens Hold on Intelligence
Published: June 3, 2008

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chávez has used his decree powers to carry out a major overhaul of this country’s intelligence agencies, provoking a fierce backlash here from human rights groups and legal scholars who say the measures will force citizens to inform on one another to avoid prison terms....

More on:

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Why the FARC's defeat looks to be only a matter of time

LAS FARC are a terrorist group, they are drug dealers and kidnappers.
The Economist 29/05/2008
Peace for Colombia?
May 29th 2008 BOGOTá
From The Economist print edition
Why the FARC's defeat looks to be only a matter of time
PRESIDENTS have come and gone over the past four decades in Colombia but one man remained constant. Pedro Antonio Marín, better known by the noms de guerre of Manuel Marulanda or “Tirofijo” (“Sureshot”), led his FARC guerrillas through army bombardments, bogus cease fires and failed peace talks, never giving up his quixotic and destructive campaign to turn a large South American democracy into a clone of the long-vanished Soviet Union.
Mr Marulanda's death was always going to be of moment for Colombia. In the event, it has almost certainly coincided with the FARC’s demise as a serious military threat to the state.
A FARC commander announced that Mr Marulanda died on March 26th of a heart attack. Army chiefs believe that he might have expired as a result of their bombardments. In the same month, two other members of the FARC’s seven-man secretariat were killed, Raúl Reyes by a bombing raid on his camp across the border in Ecuador and Iván Ríos by his own bodyguard.
Mr Marulanda will be replaced by Alfonso Cano (real name: Guillermo León Sáenz), the FARC's chief ideologue. But there are reasons to suppose that the guerrillas will never recover from their March setback
Mr Marulanda was the last link to the FARC’s origins as a peasant self-defence force against landowners, an offshoot of a rural civil war in the 1940s and 1950s between Liberals and Conservatives. A man of peasant cunning and stubbornness, he was said never to have visited any city larger than Neiva, of some 315,000 people. Later recruits were middle-class Marxist students, such as Mr Cano.
The FARC survived the end of the cold war, but at the cost of its ideological purity, by turning to drug-trafficking and kidnapping. Mr Marulanda was by the mid-1990s leading a force of 19,000 operating in large units, overwhelming army garrisons and threatening Bogotá, the capital. That prompted the government to open peace talks, abandoned after three years in which the FARC carried on kidnapping, bombing and recruiting.
Colombians turned in despair to Álvaro Uribe, their tough president since 2002. He has expanded the security forces by a third, to 270,000, including a core of 80,000 professional soldiers, some of them in mobile brigades and special forces. They are backed by a large helicopter fleet, Brazilian-made Super Tucano tactical bombers and American advice, especially in intercepting communications.
This build-up transformed the war, driving the FARC away from the towns. Recent changes of government strategy are now bearing fruit. These involve encouraging guerrilla desertions and targeting the leadership. The FARC are now losing more deserters than they are gaining new recruits, according to General Freddy Padilla de León, the armed-forces’ commander. “They are reduced militarily, isolated politically, have a reduced social base and we are cutting their finance [by acting against their drug business]. It’s impossible for them to return to the cities,” he says.
What has worried Colombian officials most has been signs that Venezuela has been helping the FARC. But Venezuela’s government is likely to be more circumspect after evidence of ties emerged from documents on Reyes’s computers.
So what future do the guerrillas have? Mr Cano is sometimes portrayed as a moderate, in contrast to Jorge Briceño (aka “Mono Jojoy”), the FARC’s military commander. But in a two-hour interview with The Economist in 2001, Mr Cano showed himself to be a rigid Marxist, unprepared to accept democracy. “Our struggle is to do away with the state as now it exists in Colombia,” he said. The FARC wanted power and would not demobilise in return for “houses, cars and scholarships” or a few seats in Congress.
Mr Cano’s first task will be to prevent the FARC from fragmenting into its constituent “fronts”. Constant army pressure means the fronts now find it hard to communicate with each other. Some, including Mr Cano’s in the centre-south, are on the run; others, such as that in Nariño, in the south-west, are still awash with drug money. Yet others rely on havens across the borders in Venezuela and Ecuador.
By maintaining the pressure, the government hopes to force the FARC into negotiations. Relations of hostages kidnapped by the guerrillas hope that the death of the obstinate Mr Marulanda will speed their release. Neither may happen soon. “Marulanda’s death is not the death of the FARC,” says Camilo Gómez, who negotiated for the government during the peace talks.
Since perhaps 9,000 guerrillas are still under arms, that is clearly true. But defeat looks only a matter of time.

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