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US-Colombia military deal: Threat of imperialist-backed war on Venezuela

By Kiraz Janicke

November 9, 2009 -- Venezuelanalysis.com  -- The possibility of an imperialist-backed war in the Americas came a step closer on October 30, when Colombia and the United States finalised a 10-year accord allowing the US to massively expand its military presence in the Latin American country. The move comes as the US. seeks to regain its hegemony over Latin America – which has declined over the past decade in the context of a continent-wide rebellion against neoliberalism spearheaded by the revolution in Venezuela, led by President Hugo Chavez.

In order to regain control of its “backyard”, the US is increasingly resorting to more interventionist measures. This is reflected by the recent military coup in Honduras, the destabilisation of progressive governments in Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Paraguay, and a massive military build up in the region, including new military bases in Panama and the reactivation of the US navy's Fourth Fleet.

Over the past decade the Venezuelan government, which is the fifth-largest oil exporter in the world, has used its control over this resource to massively increase social spending. This has resulted in significant achievements, such as poverty levels being reduced by half, the eradication of illiteracy, and the provision free universal education and healthcare for the poor.

In 2005 Chavez declared the revolution to be socialist in its aims. Since then, in addition to regular elections and referendums, the government has sought to promote grassroots democracy and participation, through the creation of institutions such as urban land committees, health committees, grassroots assemblies, communes, workers’ councils and communal councils.

However, these pro-poor and redistributive policies have increasingly brought the Chavez government into conflict with powerful economic interests both in Venezuela and the US. The new military bases deal with US ally Colombia poses a direct threat to this radical process of social change.

Propaganda campaign

Hand in hand with this military build up has come a fraudulent propaganda campaign that tries to paint the democratically elected Chavez government as a “dictatorship” and claims that include that the government promotes drug trafficking and supplies arms to left-wing guerrillas in Colombia.

Tensions between Venezuela and the US-aligned government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe have also increased with the deal. As the negotiations came to light in July, Chavez ordered the “freezing” of all diplomatic and commercial relations with Colombia.

With the finalisation of the US-Colombia accord Chavez declared that Colombia had handed over its sovereignty to the US. “Colombia today is no longer a sovereign country... it is a kind of colony”, he said.

Under the deal, the US military has access, use and free movement among two air bases, two naval bases and three army bases, in addition to an existing two military bases, as well as all international civilian airports across the country. The deal also grants US personnel full diplomatic immunity for any human rights abuses or other crimes committed on Colombian soil.

Among other things, US military, civilian and diplomatic personnel and contractors covered by the accord are also exempt from customs duties, tariffs, rent and taxes, while ships and planes are exempt from most cargo inspections.

Although US officials claim publicly that only 800 personnel will operate in Colombia the deal places no limits on the numbers of military personnel that can be deployed.

Launch pad for military intervention

US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have repeatedly denied that under the accord Colombia will be used as a launching pad for military interventions in other South American countries.

However, as James Suggett pointed out in a recent Venezuelanalysis.com article, the US military’s financial documents tell a different story.

“The Pentagon budget for the year 2010 says the Department of Defense seeks ‘an array of access arrangements for contingency operations, logistics, and training in Central/South America,’ and cites a $46 million investment in the “development” of Colombia’s Palanquero air base as a key part of this”, Suggett wrote.

Also the 2010 fiscal year budget of the US Air Force Military Construction Program describes the Palanquero base as a “Cooperative Security Location (CSL)”, which “provides a unique opportunity for full spectrum operations in a critical subregion of our hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from narcotics funded terrorist insurgencies, anti-US governments, [author’s emphasis] endemic poverty and recurring natural disasters.”

“A presence [at the Palanquero base] will also increase our capability to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), improve global reach, support logistics requirements, improve partnerships, improve theater security cooperation, and expand expeditionary warfare capability”, the budget document states.

“It also supports mobility missions by providing access to the entire continent, except the Cape Horn region, if fuel is available, and over half of the continent if unrefueled”, the budget continues.

On August 10, Chavez said in an open letter to all South American presidents that the US-Colombian bases deal shows that the US empire wants to “control our resources”.

Colombian paramilitaries operating illegally in Venezuela’s oil rich border regions, together with the right-wing opposition in Venezuela, are the advance guard of this imperialist project to destabilise and ultimately defeat the Bolivarian Revolution.

`Pre-war situation'?

Tensions flared in recent weeks when the bodies of nine Colombians believed to have been executed by an illegal armed group were found dumped in the border state of Tachira. The Venezuelan government said the group was part of a “paramilitary infiltration plan”.

In addition, Venezuela announced that it has captured three Colombians accused of spying for Colombia’s intelligence service, the Administrative Security Department (DAS), as well as documents that indicate that Colombia sent spies to Venezuela, Ecuador and Cuba as part of a CIA operation.

Then on November 2, two Venezuelan National Guard members were shot dead at a border checkpoint by armed gunmen. In response the Venezuelan army has begun massive security sweeps of the border region where paramilitary groups, Colombian guerrillas, extortion and kidnapping rings and smugglers are rife.

Trade between the two countries dropped a dramatic 49.5% for September, after Chavez ordered commercial relations to be “reduced to zero” to protest the bases.

Former Colombian President Ernesto Samper, who has criticised the bases deal, said in a recent interview “we are in a pre-war situation… the situation could harden and reach extremes”.

Brazil, the major economy in South America, has called for “dialogue” between Chavez and Uribe.

While an armed conflict is a possibility, the current tactic of the US is to continue undermining and destabilising the Venezuelan revolution in the hope that it will collapse under its own weight.

A war would also be dangerous for US imperialism already bogged down in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Even a proxy war via Colombia would be likely to spiral out of control. Latin America’s poor, downtrodden and marginalised have had a taste of independence; it is likely they would fight back.

[Kiraz Janicke is a member of the Australian Socialist Alliance resident in Venezuela. An abridged version of this article was published on November 7, 2009, in Green Left Weekly].

 

Official US Air Force document reveals true intentions behind US-Colombia military agreement

By Eva Golinger

November 5, 2009 -- Venezuelanalysis.com -- An official document from the Department of the US Air Force reveals that the military base in Palanquero, Colombia, will provide the Pentagon with “…an opportunity for conducting full spectrum operations throughout South America”. This information contradicts the explanations offered by Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe and the US State Department regarding the military agreement signed between the two countries on October 30.

Both governments have stated that the military agreement refers only to counternarcotics and counterterrorism operations within Colombian territory. President Uribe has reiterated numerous times that the military agreement with the US will not affect Colombia’s neighbours, despite constant concern in the region regarding the true objetives of the agreement. But a US Air Force document, dated May 2009, confirms that the fears of South American governments have been right on target. The document reveals that the aim is to allow the US to engage in “full spectrum military operations in a critical sub-region of our hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from narcotics funded terrorist insurgencies … and anti-US governments...”.

The military agreement between Washington and Colombia authorises the access and use of seven military installations in Palanquero, Malambo, Tolemaida, Larandia, Apíay, Cartagena and Málaga. Additionally, the agreement allows for “the access and use of all other installations and locations as necessary” throughout Colombia, with no restrictions. Together with the complete immunity the agreement provides to US military and civilian personnel, including private defence and security contractors, the clause authorising the US to utilise any installation throughout the entire country -- even commercial aiports -- for military ends signifies a complete renouncing of Colombia's sovereignty and officially converts Colombia into a client state of the US.

The US Air Force document underlines the importance of the military base in Palanquero and justifies the US$46 million requested in the 2010 budget (now approved by US Congress) in order to improve the airfield, associated ramps and other installations on the base to convert it into a US Cooperative Security Location (CSL).

“Establishing a Cooperative Security Location (CSL) in Palanquero best supports the COCOM’s (Command Combatant’s) Theater Posture Strategy and demonstrates our commitment to this relationship. Development of this CSL provides a unique opportunity for full spectrum operations in a critical sub-region of our hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from narcotics funded terrorist insurgencies, anti-US governments, endemic poverty and recurring natural disasters”, the document states.

It’s not difficult to imagine which governments in South America are considered by Washington to be “anti-US governments”. The constant agressive declarations and statements emitted by the US state and defence departments and the US Congress against Venezuela and Bolivia, and even to some extent Ecuador, evidence that the ALBA countries are the ones perceived by Washington as a “constant threat”. To classify a country as “anti-US” is to consider it an enemy of the United States. In this context, it’s obvious that the military agreement with Colombia is a reaction to a region the US now considers full of “enemies”.

“Access to Colombia will further its strategic partnership with the United States. The strong security cooperation relationship also offers an opportunity for conducting full spectrum operations throughout South America to include mitigating the counternarcotics capability.” This statement clearly evidences that counternarcotics operations are secondary to the real objectives of the military agreement between Colombia and Washington. Again, this clearly contrasts the constant declarations of the Uribe and Obama governments insisting that the main focus of the agreement is to combat drug trafficking and production. The Air Force document emphasises the necessity to improve “full spectrum” military operations throughout South America – not just in Colombia – in order to combat “constant threats” from “anti-US governments” in the region.

Palanquero

The Air Force document explains that “Palanquero is unquestionably the best site for investing in infrastructure development within Colombia. Its central location is within reach of … operations areas … its isolation maximizes Operational Security (OPSEC) and Force Protection and minimizes the US military profile. The intent is to leverage existing infrastructure to the maximum extent possible, improve the US ability to respond rapidly to crisis, and assure regional access and presence at minimum cost. Palanquero supports the mobility mission by providing access to the entire South American continent with the exception of Cape Horn…”

Espionage and warfare

The document additionally confirms that the US military presence in Palanquero will improve the capacity of espionage and intelligence operations, and will allow US armed forces to increase their warfare capabilities in the region. “Development of this CSL will further the strategic partnership forged between the US and Colombia and is in the interest of both nations… A presence will also increase our capability to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), improve global reach, support logistics requirements, improve partnerships, improve theater security cooperation and expand expeditionary warfare capability.”

The language of war included in this document is evidence of the true intentions behind the military agreement: preparing for war in Latin America. The past few days have been full of conflict and tension between Colombia and Venezuela. Just days ago, the Venezuelan government captured three spies from the Colombian intelligence agency, DAS, and discovered several active destabilisation and espionage operations against Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela. The operations -- Fénix, Salomón and Falcón, respectively -- were revealed in documents found with the captured DAS agents.

Approximately two weeks ago, 10 bodies were found in Táchira, a border zone with Colombia. After completing the relevant investigations, the Venezuelan government discovered that the bodies belonged to Colombian paramilitaries infiltrated inside Venezuelan territory. This dangerous paramilitary infiltration from Colombia forms part of a destabilisation plan against Venezuela that seeks to create a paramilitary state inside Venezuelan territory in order to breakdown President Chávez’s government.

The military agreement between Washington and Colombia will only increase regional tensions and violence. The information revealed in the US Air Force document unquestionably is evidence that Washington seeks to promote a state of warfare in South America, using Colombia as its launching pad. Before this declaration of war, the peoples of Latin America must stand strong and unified. Latin American integration is the best defence against the Empire’s aggression.

*The US Air Force document was submitted in May 2009 to US Congress as part of the 2010 budget justification. It is an official government document and reaffirms the authenticity of the White Book: Global Enroute Strategy of the US Air Mobility Command, which was denounced by President Chávez during the UNASUR meeting in Bariloche, Argentina, on August 28. I have placed the original document and the non-official translation into Spanish of the relevant parts relating to Palanquero on the web page of the Center to Alert and Defend the People, a new space created to guarantee that strategic information is available to those under constant threat from imperialist aggression. The original document in English is at http://www.centrodealerta.org/documentos_desclasificados/original_in_english_air_for.pdf.

 

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PSUV backs Chavez call to prepare for invasion

Monday, November 09, 2009
By Patrick J. O'Donoghue

VHeadline News

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) held a Monday morning session to analyze commentaries made yesterday by President Chavez during his Alo Presidente radio show.

Maria Cristina Iglesias and Jorge Rodriguez said at a press conference afterwards that the PSUV leadership supports President Chavez' call for the country to get ready to defend national territory and sovereignty because of the US-Colombian military agreement to tackle unfriendly governments in the region.

Rodriguez declared that the decision of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to treat Chavez' call as an aggression against his country and lodge a formal complaint at the UN and Organization of American States (OAS) is "cynical" because by signing on the dotted line with the USA, Uribe has declared war on all his neighbors.

Rodriguez warned that the presence of US troops (and mercenaries) on Colombian soil would herald an increase in the drug trade as occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The PSUV has called its patrols, especially in border states, to a rally on Friday against imperialism and in favor of peace.

Iglesias confirmed that everything is ready for elections on Saturday to choose delegates to the party's extraordinary congress the following Saturday.

During question time, Rodriguez denied that the party had discussed internal problems, stating that different currents of opinion flourish in the party but there is a solid unity. The differences, he concluded, are political but not ideological.

Former Executive Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel has criticized the reaction of the opposition, which he dubs "dumb and insensitive" to the possibility of war ... "it hasn't said a single word about something that the whole of the region has condemned,"

Colombian paramilitaries operating inside Venezuela, he maintained, are the fifth branch of the Colombian Armed Force ordered to do its dirty work. Rangel complained that in Venezuela people did not pay attention to opportune denunciations when the phenomenon first appeared. There are 7,000 paramilitaries operating inside Venezuela, he claimed, not just in border areas but in the barrios of Caracas and the main cities.

Union Radio has just published news that the Brazilian Senate received Chavez' warning as a "bombshell." On Friday, the Senate will vote Venezuela's entry into the Southern Cone Economic Zone (Mercosur).

Venezuela Launches Military Operations on Border

Mérida, November 6th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) -- On Thursday, Venezuela announced the expansion of military operations along its western border in order to fight drug trafficking and protect a recently discovered reserve of coltan from illegal mining. 

In what is titled Operation Blue Gold, 15,000 Air Force, Army, and Navy personnel will protect the coltan reserve, which straddles the states of Bolivar and Amazonas.

The government announced the discovery of the Coltan reserve last month. It coincided with the announcement of a public investment plan for the coming year aimed at boosting domestic manufacturing.

On Thursday, Vice President and Defense Minister Ramon Carrizalez visited the site of the reserve in an indigenous community called El Paloma, and said the troops would help combat drug trafficking and illegal armed groups in the region, in addition to protecting the reserve.

“We have more than 15,000 men deployed along our western border, combating all the crimes that occur along the border, as you know, crimes which come from another country and are not ours,” said Carrizalez to reporters from the state television channel VTV.

Carrizalez also displayed a sample of coltan in its unprocessed form, and explained that it is a highly coveted mineral because of its usefulness in satellites, missiles, computers, cellular phones, and other electronic devices.

“It is a mineral of strategic character, and therefore it stimulates the imperial appetite and the appetite of the business people who seek to obtain maximum profit without giving importance to environmental damage or the destabilization of countries,” said Carrizalez.

Carrizalez made specific reference to the civil war-plagued Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it is estimated the world’s largest coltan reserves lie, and where Belgium and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) collaborated of the U.S. government to overthrow the first democratically elected prime minister in 1964.  

Zulia, Tachira, and Apure States

Also on Thursday, Minister for Justice and Internal Affairs Tarek El-Aissami said 3,000 troops would be deployed to the Sierra de Perija region in the states of Tachira and Zulia in order to impede the passage of drug traffickers and eradicate the illicit cultivation of crops that are processed into illegal drugs.

The sparsely populated and forested Sierra de Perijá is one of the most conflict-ridden regions of Venezuela. In addition to drug traffickers, it is suspected that illegal armed groups from Colombia travel in the region. Local indigenous peoples have protested coal mining and violent persecution by large estate owners, and accused the government of not granting them the land titles due to them by law.

Last year, El-Aissami announced that the government plans to build five military bases in the Sierra de Perija region to fight drug trafficking and impede overflow fighting from the Colombian civil war.

“The Bolivarian government has been assuming responsibility for the fight against illicit drug trafficking and its consequences. For this reason, for the third consecutive year, Venezuela was certified by the United Nations as one of the countries where there is no cultivation of plants with which illegal drugs are produced,” said El Aissami on Thursday.

The minister also said the Armed Forces will deploy air and ground troops to the extensive, flat plains of Apure state to destroy illegal airplane landing strips that drug traffickers use to transport drugs from Colombia to the United States and Europe.

Venezuela sustains anti-drug cooperation agreements with 37 countries and extradited suspected drug traffickers to Colombia, Italy, the United States, Belgium, and France last year. Drug seizures have increased by two thirds since Venezuela stopped collaborating with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in 2005 on suspicion that the DEA was spying.

'Venezuela does not want war'

Venezuelan Information and Communication Minister: 'Venezuela does not want war'

Venezuela does not want a war between brothers and sisters; it will not accept a fratricide war. Instead, the Venezuelan state always seeks mechanisms of dialogue and encounter as the only way to make democracy work, said on Thursday the Minister of People's Power for communication and Information Blanca Eekhout.

"With this conviction, we are going to defeat media lies and barbarism, and achieve real peace and union," highlighted the Venezuelan minister during a press conference offered at the Miraflores Presidential Palace.

A group of Colombian brothers and sisters attended this press conference to bear witness to what the reality of Colombia is and how they have found a place to live in Venezuela without giving up their sense of belonging to the Colombian people.

Eekhout explained that Venezuela has been an absolutely peaceful country along its history and that the only time the Liberator Army left the country was to free and build free nations and republics and defeat tyrannies to build sovereignty in the continent.

The Venezuelan official pointed out that Venezuela has rather been the victim of recent attacks, particularly of a campaign against Venezuela and President Hugo Chávez, one of the most authentic democrats of the world, which has won 15 elections.

She noted that democracy is not only guaranteed by elections, but by ethics, morals and the absolute condition of humanity of President Chávez and the Bolivarian government.

Minister Eekhout also stressed that it is the interest of the United States to start a war between fraternal countries since it is a nation that has started wars all around the world, where they are the only winners because they sell the arms and then seized territories as they did with Iraq.

"We do not accept a fratricide war and we always look for mechanisms of dialogue. we understood that it was necessary to keep spaces opened in order to achieve real peace and union because we are the same people," she indicated.

Bolivarian News Agency / November 12, 2009

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