Monthly Archives: February 2010

>Latin America File: Russian FM ends regional tour in Mexico City, US State Dept. gives green light to Russian-Mexican plan to suppress drug cartels

>– Moscow Presents Mexico City with Its Own Version of US Merida Initiative, Offers to Sell Helicopters, Weapons; Russian Military “Advisers” Next?

– 200,000 People Flee Drug War in Ciudad Juarez since 2008, 30,000 Seek Shelter in Neighboring El Paso, Texas; Mexican City’s Once-Prosperous Economy in Danger of Collapsing

On February 16 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held talks with Mexican counterpart Patricia Espinosa in Mexico City, wrapping up a four-nation tour of Latin America, which included stopovers in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Cuba and Nicaragua, of course, are reliable vassal states in the Communist Bloc.

While rubbing elbows with President Daniel Ortega in Managua, Lavrov announced that the two Cold War allies will hold joint military exercises. The date and place of these drills was not stated but, with the expectation that Russian troops could arrive in Central America in the near future, we published this news under a “Red Dawn Alert.” If a Soviet-Sandinista drill had taken place during US President Ronald Reagan’s watch, then the world would have trembled on the brink of nuclear war. Twenty years later, the Obama White House and the MSM cannot be roused from their self-delusions.

In any case, emerging from the Russian-Mexican tete-a-tete was an agreement to start direct flights between Moscow and Cancun. The 14-hour flight to the popular resort destination on the Yucatan Peninsula will offer Russian tourists another vacation hotspot in addition to Cuba. Both countries also emphasized their interest in signing an Investment Promotion and Reciprocal Protection accord, as well as advancing cooperation agreements in energy, nuclear power, maritime and air transportation, and customs clearance.

Espinosa repeated Mexico’s invitation for Russia to participate in events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, which transformed the USA’s southern neighbor into the world’s first socialist republic in February 1917. Mexico City later became a haven for Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky, who was attempting to dodge Joseph Stalin’s assassins. The Bolshevik killers eventually caught up with Trotsky, who succumbed to a pickax in the head in 1940.

Pictured above: Espinosa and Lavrov at a previous meeting in Moscow, on October 8, 2008. At the time they discussed reforming the international financial system or, that is, making the world less dependent on the US dollar.

Many decades later, the Soviet strategists still have sinister plans for Mexico. State-run Novosti reports that while visiting Mexico City, Lavrov reiterated Moscow’s readiness to establish joint Russian-Mexican efforts to suppress the drug cartels, whose insurrection also threatens US national security, especially along the porous US-Mexican border.

Under the terms of the Merida Initiative, Washington pledged to supply weapons and other military equipment to the armed forces of Mexico and Central American allies like Honduras. In terms of combating international terrorism, narcotics trafficking, and money laundering, the Merida Initiative parallels Plan Colombia and the October 2009 US-Colombian military pact. In a New Year’s speech, President Felipe Calderon declared that his government’s top priority for 2010 is suppressing the cartels. The US government, though, has been slack in expediting the arrival of badly needed counter-insurgency hardware.

The presentation of a Russian version of the Merida Initiative, therefore, dovetails nicely with the Soviet strategy for destabilizing Mexico prior to attacking the USA. We have elsewhere documented that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the main source of South American coke, and the Mexican drug cartels are recipients of arms supplied by the Russian Mafia. The latter is a well-known front for Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), itself a repackaged version of the Soviet KGB’s overseas department, and the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces (GRU).

Most troubling of all, the US State Department, long infiltrated by communist agents, has given Moscow the green light to arm the Mexican military. State Dept. spokesman Mark Toner recently soothed: “There are no grounds for anxiety. I mean, Mexico is a close neighbor, friend, partner with the United States. I would just say it’s welcome to pursue bilateral relationships with any country it wants to, including Russia.” When reporters asked Toner whether the strengthening of ties between Russia and Mexico would adversely affect US-Russian relations, Toner said: “No, I don’t believe so.”

Lavrov, too, downplayed Moscow’s geopolitical interest in Latin America, as well as its marketing campaign for Russian-built weapons:

We have recently increased supplies of Russian arms in various regions of the world, including Latin America; our interests are purely commercial.

Russia is still behind the United States [in terms of sales], but we’re seeing certain rather serious progress. The Mexican government is interested in acquiring different types of weapons, including helicopters for coastal monitoring, and other equipment to fight drug trafficking and organized crime, that I hope will help our Mexican friends to combat this scourge.

The epicenter of Mexico’s narco-insurgency is Ciudad Juarez, a once-prosperous city whose population of 1.5 million has contracted by 200,000 since mid-2008. Fearing for their lives, wealthy and middle class families, as well as skilled workers have fled the war zone for other cities such as Guadalajara and Monterrey. Nearly 30,000 residents have sought shelter over the border to El Paso, Texas.

About one quarter of the city’s houses is vacant. Many shops and restaurants are shuttered. Mounds of garbage fill streets where the only parked cars are bullet-riddled ones. Civilians are scarcely seen in streets patrolled by soldiers and elite police units. Drug gangs in league with corrupt law enforcement officers run extortion rackets.

Although factories continue to operate, US businessmen are curtailing investment in the region and the exodus of skilled workers threatens to create a labor shortage. In 2008 the region handled US$50 billion in trade, but now faces a bleak future.

Drug killings in Ciudad Juarez exploded in early 2008 when Mexico’s most-wanted drug lord, Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, dispatched his henchmen to wrest the city’s drug corridor from the local cartel headed by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes. From the vantage of Latin America’s cocaine kingpins Ciudad Juarez is strategically situated at the midpoint of the US-Mexican border and boasts highway and rail links deep into the target country. Not so coincidentally, from the vantage of Russia’s military planners, the US Army’s second-largest installation in the Continental USA, Ford Bliss, is located nearby.

Since 2008 more than 4,500 drug operatives–working for half a dozen feuding cartels– civilians, soldiers, and police have been shot dead and/or decapitated in the city’s bloody turf wars. A dozen drug murders occur every day. Across Mexico 18,000 people have died since Calderon launched his crackdown in 2006. Casualty estimates vary and it is therefore likely that we have quoted different figures in different posts.

Having fomented Mexico’s narco-insurgency, the Soviet strategists now offer “solutions” consisting of an expanding net of bilateral relations and opportunities to legitimately insert Russian military “advisers” into Mexico. At the same time, the drug cartels can be expected to intensify their war against the government, while the beleaguered populace once again demands United Nations intervention, such as was issued by Ciudad Juarez business leaders last November. If either scenario comes to pass, then you can be assured that we will issue another “Red Dawn Alert.”

>Blast from the Past File: Possible repeat of 1982 Falklands war brewing as Argentina imposes blockade, Chavez threatened to attack Royal Navy in 2007

>On February 16 President Cristina Kirchner, a close ally of Russia, Cuba, and Venezuela, issued a decree asserting the right to control all shipping between Argentina’s coast and the Falkland Islands, in effect granting her government the power to blockade the disputed islands. Argentina is trying to prevent British companies exploiting what geologists estimate could be 60 billion barrels of crude in the seabed around the islands.

“Any boat that wants to travel between ports on the Argentine mainland to the Islas Malvinas, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands . . . must first ask for permission from the Argentine Government,” threatened Aníbal Fernández, chief of Kirchner’s cabinet.

Buenos Aires is annoyed by London’s refusal to halt oil explorations in the face of its long-standing claim of sovereignty over the “Islas Malvinas,” which Argentina controlled between 1774 and 1883. At this point Britain seized the archipelago on the basis of reestablishing a still earlier settlement.

Pictured above: Kirchner visits the ailing Fidel Castro in Havana in 2009.

Last week, Argentine authorities detained a ship, Thor Leader, which they contended had been illegally transporting pipes to the Falklands. The impending arrival of the Ocean Guardian drilling rig has exacerbated tensions, amid reports the platform has been shadowed by Argentine fighter jets during the final leg of its transatlantic journey from Scotland. The majority of the exploration rights in Britain’s South Atlantic Overseas Territories has been awarded to London-based Desire Petroleum, which will drill in the area for the first time since Royal Dutch Shell gave up its bid in 1998.

Britain has stationed a large garrison of soldiers and four Typhoon fighter jets in the capital, Port Stanley, while more than 300 sailors aboard the HMS York destroyer are patrolling the waters around the Falklands. This week a spokesman for the British Ministry of Defense (MOD) related:

The Government is fully committed to the South Atlantic Overseas Territories which include the Falkland Islands. A deterrence force is maintained on the Islands. That deterrence force comprises a wide range of land, air and maritime assets which collectively maintain our defence posture. We have a permanent presence in the South Atlantic including one frigate/destroyer, a patrol vessel, a survey ship and a replenishment vessel. We also have 1,076 service personnel on land.

Referring to the HMS York, a senior Royal Navy source reportedly stated “The ship will discourage the Argentines from trying anything with our shipping. If they do, the Navy are there to stop them.”

Falklanders are complacent about the prospect of a new conflict. “There has been an economic blockade of the Falklands from Argentina for many years,” observed Roger Spink, director of the Falkland Islands Company, adding: “It’s something we’ve come to expect.”

On February 18, BBC News quoted Prime Minister Gordon Brown as saying that “We have made all the preparations that are necessary to protect the Falkland Islands.” The MOD also denied reports that a naval taskforce has been dispatched to the Falklands.

Britain and Argentina last crossed swords over the South Atlantic archipelago in 1982, beginning on April 2, when Argentine troops invaded and occupied the Falklands and South Georgia. Argentina surrendered on June 14, but only after the deaths of 255 British and 649 Argentine soldiers, sailors, and airmen, and three civilian Falklanders. At the time Margaret Thatcher, a close ally of the USA and personal friend of US President Ronald Reagan, was the British prime minister, while General Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri Castelli led the military junta that ruled Argentina. Galtieri was ousted from power soon after the British retook the “Islas Malvinas,” whose invasion he ordered.

Nearly 30 years later the political climate in Latin America has changed dramatically. Anti-communist military dictatorships no longer prevail throughout the region. Instead, the Soviet/Cuban-backed guerrillas operating throughout the Western Hemisphere relinquished their guns (for now), donned dress jackets, and achieved power through the ballot box. These are the politicians who will now most likely cluster in support around President Kirchner.

In September 2007 Venezuela’s communist dictator Hugo Chavez rushed to the defense of his Argentine ally by denouncing the “British occupation” of the Falkland, South Georgia, and South Sandwich Islands. At the time Cristina’s husband, Nestor, was president. Ranting on his weekly show Alo Presidente, Chavez explained how the Venezuelan armed forces would trounce the Royal Navy if London and Buenos Aires come to blows again: “If we [Venezuela and Argentina] had been united in the last war, we could have stopped the old empire. Today we could sink the British fleet. British history is stained with the blood of South America’s indigenous people. We will avenge the cowardly sinking of the General Belgrano.” The last is a reference to the ARA General Belgrano, an Argentine Navy cruiser sunk during the Falklands War by the Royal Navy submarine HMS Conqueror, with the loss of 323 lives.

Journalist Martin Arostegui, writing for The Times, opined: “Military analysts say Venezuela’s lengthening military reach might seriously impede any British attempt to dispatch a new task force.”

>Red Dawn Alert: Russia to potentially deploy troops in Central America as Lavrov arrives in Managua, announces joint military drills with Nicaragua

>– Russian Foreign Minister on Four-Nation Latin America Tour, Visits Cuba, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico

– Lavrov Denies Rumors that Russia and Guatemala also Contemplating Joint Military Drills; Center-Left President Colom to Visit Moscow in March

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in the midst of a four-nation Latin America tour that took him to Cuba and Nicaragua, both communist-controlled states, as well as Guatemala and Mexico. Guatemala’s center-left government is pro-Cuban and also beholden to Venezuela’s red dictator Hugo Chavez by way of Petrocaribe, which sells oil to participating states on preferential terms. Meanwhile, the Soviet strategists are arming the Mexican drug cartels with the intent of destabilizing US national security by creating a failed state south of the Rio Grande.

On February 11 Lavrov arrived in Havana where he met with Cuban President Raul Castro, a long-time KGB asset along with his cadaverous older brother Fidel. Cuban state television showed images of the cordial exchange, which follows the official visits of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Cuba in November 2008, of President Castro to Russia in January 2009, and Russia’s top general, Nikolai Makarov, to Cuba in September 2009. Comrade Raul asked Lavrov to convey his greetings to the Russian president and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Russia’s KGB-communist dictator. Also participating in the meeting were Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and Russia’s ambassador to Havana, Mikhail Kamynin.

Upon signing three documents of bilateral cooperation, former Soviet apparatchik Lavrov gushed: “I believe that all this work has enriched and strengthened our relations, converting them into a truly strategic association.” Granma, the website of the Communist Party of Cuba, relates that the Russian and Cuban foreign ministries established a plan covering the 2010-2011 period that will “fortify the excellent existing political links between the two governments via periodic interchanges on general, regional and multilateral issues.” Russia has already pledged to upgrade the Soviet-era weapons and air defense systems of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba, as well as train Cuban soldiers in up-to-date combat techniques.

In true communist fashion, Moscow and Havana released a joint statement that acknowledged the 65th anniversary of the victory over fascism, which “underlines its significance and contains the parties’ intention to contribute to the consolidation of the ideals of peace, greater understanding and friendship among the peoples.” The joint statement also acknowledged the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the reestablishing of diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and Cuba, significantly “confirming a will to celebrate that important date.”

For his part, relates Granma, Lavrov reiterated Russia’s “total condemnation” of the US economic blockade against the communist island. Russia’s foreign minister intoned: “Russia and Cuba share many things, such as our adherence to common ideals, international law and legality, to the UN and to joint efforts to resolve all kinds of problems. We share a very strong human warmth between the Russian and Cuban peoples and this warmth gives our relations a solid foundation.” Lavrov wrapped up his Cuban cruise by placing a wreath at the monument to Jose Marti in the Plaza of the Revolution.

The Kremlin-run media has been gloating over the resumption of open ties between Russia and Cuba, right under the nose of “US imperialism.” On February 12 Russia Today showed its true color (red), by extensively quoting a Kommersant article by Vitaly Makarov. Prior to the staged dissolution of communism, Comrade Makarov worked in the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. “There is no longer an ideological opposition between Russia and the US,” he writes, “and the opportunities of Russian and American cooperation with Cuba have grown significantly.” Comrade Makarov continues:

Lavrov’s visit to Cuba is devoted not only to the bilateral relations. The agenda is much broader, which is only logical. Cuba may occupy a new place in the world architecture if the process of creating polycentric international system is successful.

One of the main issues of current politics–resetting Russian-US relations–requires not only overhauling many bilateral principles, but also taking into account a number of international factors, including those linked to Cuba.

That country was one of the main irritants in our relations with Washington for many years. Since the breakup of the USSR we have become estranged from Cuba, which we once called the Island of freedom. However, not long ago a new rapprochement between Moscow and Havana began.

Clearly, Washington is watching this suspiciously, and it could not be otherwise. Cuban geopolitical situation for centuries has determined the competition between the Old World and the New World for influence on that country. And this competition continues, affecting, in particular, Russian-US relations.”

Cubans have already been following the way of independence for half a century. There is no longer an ideological opposition between Russia and the US, and the opportunities of Russian and American cooperation with Cuba have grown significantly.

At the same time, these opportunities depend in many ways on taking into account the positions of all sides, especially Cuba as the most sensitive partner in relations with the giants in this group of three. That is why Moscow supports the demand that the blockade against Cuba should be lifted.

South American countries are increasingly becoming a new center of international political alignment. They now have their own interests in world politics that in many ways do not coincide with US interests. But Russia’s course towards strengthening partnership with the countries of the region is a strategic one, and is not aimed against other states, as some analysts say.

Of course there’s no longer any “ideological opposition” between Russia and the USA, as Makarov comments above. The Soviets feigned their demise and a socialist president, Barack Hussein Obama, sits in the Oval Office. Peaceful East-West convergence is precisely what the Soviet strategists wanted and have thus far achieved.

After pumping up Russia’s Cuban allies, Lavrov flew to Managua where he met with his Nicaraguan counterpart Samuel Santos Lopez (pictured below) and Lopez’s boss, Daniel Ortega (pictured above). Afterward, Lavrov made the following announcement that conjures up the unpleasant scenario of Russian troops arriving in Central America: “Russia and Nicaragua are preparing for joint military exercises. Russia will continue its humanitarian aid to Nicaragua.”

For his part, Ortega announced that Nicaragua and Russia plan to boost efforts to eradicate drug trafficking and organized crime: “We have military and technical cooperation to jointly strengthen the potential of our army and police in fighting against drug trafficking and organized crime.” To further that cooperation, the Nicaraguan and Russian foreign ministers announced the creation of a Nicaragua-Russia Commission that will not only coordinate cooperation in the suppression of the narcotics trade, but also in the areas of telecommunications, transportation, infrastructure, and agriculture.

Incidentally, that the Moscow-Managua Axis would announce its commitment to combating the drug cartels is disingenuous at best since the role of Ortega in the Soviets’ narco-subversion plot against the West, at least back in the 1980s, has been well documented at this blog and in books like Joseph Douglass’ Red Cocaine (1990).

Lavrov’s official trip to Nicaragua was an historic first, since no Soviet/Russian foreign minister has ever travelled to Managua since the two countries established formal diplomatic ties in 1944. Lavrov, however, is not the first high-ranking Russian official to visit Nicaragua since Ortega became president again in January 2007. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, the GRU’s liaison with Latin America’s guerrilla armies during the Cold War, travelled to Managua twice in 2008 and once in 2009. Reliable KGB asset Ortega made his first post-Cold War pilgrimage to Moscow in December 2008. Fellow Sandinistas Lopez and the country’s previous top army commander, General Omar Halleslevens, have also materialized in Moscow.

After conspiring with Ortega, Lavrov flew to Guatemala City where he was welcomed by President Alvaro Colom, the country’s first center-left leader since the military deposed the communist-backed President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman in 1954. Lavrov also conferred with his Guatemalan counterpart, Haroldo Rodas. In a joint press conference with Rodas, Lavrov announced that Russia and Guatemala had developed a framework to jointly combat drug trafficking and organized crime that will involve training, joint exercises and technology transfer. As with the first and second Sandinista regimes in Nicaragua, any Kremlin involvement in the war against drugs must be viewed as a tactical feint to hide the fact that the Red Mafiya/SVR/GRU is arming the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Mexican drug cartels.

Colom, moreover, indicated that he was interested in seeing Russian oil and gas companies exploit Guatemala’s energy reserves, as well as Russian companies develop the Central American country’s telecommunications and tourism industries. Lavrov denied reports that he and Colom had discussed the subject of “military exchange” (drills?), although his host had apparently voiced interest in that prospect. Apart from then President Vladimir Putin, who visited Guatemala in 2007 to inaugurate Russia’s first embassy, this is the first time that a Soviet/Russian foreign minister has visited Guatemala. President Colom plans to visit Moscow in March.

The Guatemala Times summarized Guatemalan-Russian relations in the following way: “Both countries advocate the creation of a democratic multipolar world order, respect for the principles of international law, sovereignty and consideration of the legitimate interests of all countries, and a stronger role for the UN as a universal mechanism for preserving peace and strategic stability.” In other words, Guatemala City and Moscow both reject a US-dominated world and support world government.

After rubbing elbows with the Guatemalan president, Lavrov wound up his Latin American excursion by flying to Mexico City, where he was received by President Felipe Calderon and Calderon’s foreign minister Patricia Espinoza Castellano. In the Mexican capital Lavrov attended the opening of a Russian Language Center at the National Polytechnical Institute. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesentity Andrei Nesterenko provided a synopsis of the agenda under consideration by Russian and Mexican leaders. Joint cooperation in the oil and gas sectors was high on that agenda. Nesterenko comments:

The visit is intended to promote a further strengthening of the political dialogue between our two countries, and practical headway in mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields.

People in Russia regard Mexico as a state that is traditionally friendly to us, and as earnest and trusted partner in the international arena. Our relations are one of the main orientations of Russia’s foreign policy in Latin America region.

Russia and Mexico are brought together by striving to exercise democratic principles in practice in efforts to settle international problems of current concern, and strictly observe international law, primarily the United Nations Charter, and strengthen the central role of the UN and the UN Security Council as the universal instrument for the maintenance of peace and settlement of conflict situations.

Both countries agree that a serious threat to universal security is posed by such phenomena as international terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism. Moscow and Mexico City are interested in establishing an effective interaction in the interests of counteracting new threats and challenges of our times, first of all the trafficking of narcotics, and transnational organized crime.

Our two countries devote appreciable attention to the problems of overcoming the global financial and economic downturn and with this end in view actively interact in a multilateral format in the interest of reforming international financial institutions, and raising the efficiency of regulation and transparency of the financial sector.

Our cultural and humanitarian contacts are notable for traditional dynamism. Days of Russia in Mexico and Days of Mexico in Russia (festivals) are held on a regular basis, and a wide experience has been gained in exchanges of cultural treasures.

Nesterenko concludes with the troubling observation: “Many Russian scientists work in Mexico on a contractual basis; joint research projects are being implemented, and Mexican specialists are trained in Russian institutions of higher learning.” As with Russia’s other Latin American allies, we see that Mexico City and Moscow both reject a US-dominated world and support world government. As above, too, any Kremlin involvement in the war against drugs must be viewed as a tactical feint to hide the fact that the Red Mafiya/SVR/GRU is arming the FARC and the Mexican drug cartels.

Analyzing Soviet Strategy in Latin America in Light of the Announced Russian-Nicaraguan Military Drills

The announcement of Russian-Nicaraguan military drills should be viewed, we believe, in the context of other developments that suggest the incremental formation by Moscow of a Red Dawn-style military coalition in Latin America:

1) On September 10, 2008, one day before the seventh anniversary of the 911 attacks, the Russian Air Force dispatched two supersonic Blackjack bombers to Venezuela, providing President Chavez another opportunity to thumb his nose at the USA. Under the watchful presence of two Russian bomber crews, the Venezuelan armed forces repulsed a mock US invasion. In November the Russian and Venezuelan navies held a combined drill in the southern Caribbean Sea. Afterwards the Russian destroyer Admiral Chabanenko transited the Panama Canal in a “first” not witnessed since the Second World War.

2) In October 2008 Nicaragua Today published an article alleging that Ortega and Chavez are plotting to provoke a war with Colombia in order to justify a military assault against the US ally and summon Russian intervention in the Caribbean region. Both Venezuela and Colombia are presently militarizing their common border in expectation of hostilities as Chavez rants against the US-Colombian pact that will see the deployment of 800 US counter-narcotics troops in the South American country. The same Nicaragua Today article contends that Russian special forces, as they reportedly did in the 1980s, are training in Nicaragua’s remote North Atlantic Autonomous Region, a haven for cocaine trafficking.

3) In November 2008 Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Sechin travelled to Managua, where he pledged to rehabilitate the Soviet/Cuban-built runway at Punta Huete, north of Lake Managua. This never-used military airstrip, which featured anti-aircraft batteries, can accommodate the Kremlin’s Tu-160 and Tu-95 strategic bombers. These, of course, could be brought into Nicaragua under the guise of the military drills announced last week. Moscow has also pledged to upgrade the weapons systems of the Nicaraguan National Army, known as the Sandinista Popular Army until 1995 and still under Sandinista control. In December 2008 the Russian destroyer mentioned above weighed anchor at the port of Bluefields, on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast. There it unloaded what was supposedly generators and computers for the Nicaraguan army and police.

4) Last September it was first announced that the Nicaraguan military is scheduled to hold a two-month drill with its Venezuelan counterpart between May 1 and June 30, 2010. Although a skeleton crew of 30 Venezuelan soldiers is expected, the number of Venezuelan warplanes and warships to be brought into Nicaragua has not been revealed. Both Ortega and Chavez have articulated their commitment to transforming the political-economic-cultural bloc known as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas into an “anti-imperialist” (meaning anti-USA) military pact. Russia, moreover, has expressed its interest in joining this international alliance, which includes Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador and several Caribbean states.

During last year’s Honduran crisis, the interim government of President Roberto Micheletti charged that Venezuela and Nicaragua were planning to invade Honduras and re-install Manuel Zelaya, now in exile in the Dominican Republic. It is a published fact that within 24 hours of the June 28 coup that deposed Zelaya, Chavez threatened to throw his military against Honduras. Latin America’s Red Axis does not accept the legitimacy of duly elected President Porfirio Lobo and, thus, Honduras remains an irritant to the region’s leftist leaders.

5) In a possibly related story, last December state-controlled Russian wireless communication company Yota installed a 4th-generation Internet network in Nicaragua in record time. In a previous post we speculated that one day the Russian Armed Forces might show up in Central America and utilize this communication system that has definite military application. It seems this may be the case. On February 12 Russian Foreign Ministry spokesentity Nesterenko, quoted above, commented on Nicaragua’s Kremlin-assisted boost into the Cyber Age:

The past year saw the realization of the first stage of the project to deploy a Mobile WiMAX-based fourth generation wireless communication network in Nicaragua. There has been created a Russian-Nicaraguan joint venture “Yota – Nicaragua” (founder from the Russian side being the company “Yota”,” which is a part of the Rostekhnologii State Corporation). In December 2009, in Managua, the Yota-Nicaragua telecommunications network was put into trial operation.

Just in time for the retooled version of Red Dawn to hit the screens, we are awaiting word for the return of Cuban troops to Central America in what appears to be a quietly growing Soviet-Cuban-Venezuelan-Nicaraguan military quartet.

>Latin America File: Colombia captures 10 Marxist rebels, FARC allied with Venezuelan insurgents; Peru arrests 3 Shining Path guerrillas

>– Colombia Establishes Anti-FARC Security Pact with Panama, Alliances with Region’s Few Center-Right Governments Include Honduras

– Communist Party of Venezuela Lifts Page from Chavez Script, Alleges USA, Colombia, and Rightist Paramilitaries Conspiring to Subvert “Bolivarian Revolution” and Provoke War with Venezuela

– Chavez Avoids Encounter with Colombian Counterpart Uribe, Bails out of Unasur’s Haiti Aid Summit in Quito

The “Red Spread” in Latin America that we closely monitor at this blog consists not only of democratically elected leftist regimes, but also leftist insurgencies that sometimes cultivate not-so-covert ties to the former. The region’s Red Axis, as we have documented on many occasions, is also inextricably entwined with the illegal narcotics trade.

Last Tuesday the Colombian army captured 10 Marxist rebels in several operations in Norte de Santander province, which borders Venezuela. The detentions were made in the towns of Teorama, El Tarra, and Convencion. All of the detainees are accused of belonging to the financial and military network of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the larger of the two communist insurgent armies in that country. The FARC operates from bases in Venezuela and Ecuador, both of which sport leftist regimes sympathetic to the aims of the guerrillas, which is to overthrow the “bourgeois” government of President Alvaro Uribe and establish a “proletarian dictatorship.” Uribe is pictured above at the Unasur summit in Quito, on February 9, 2010.

Yesterday, according to Reuters, five people were killed and four wounded after FARC guerrillas ambushed and attempted to kidnap a candidate for the governor’s post in the southern province of Guaviare. Gunmen shot up a convoy transporting Conservative Party candidate Jose Alberto Perez. Perez, who will be running in a special February 28 election organized after the previous governor resigned, was among the wounded. “Once a mighty peasant army that controlled large swaths of Colombia,” relates Reuters, “the FARC has been battered by the loss of several top commanders and a flood of desertions as its fighters come under increasing military pressure.”

Still, Colombia’s communist insurgency is not dead yet, which is one reason why Bogota is seeking to establish a security pact with the center-right government in Panama City. On Friday Colombian Foreign Minister Gabriel Silva traveled to Panama where he met with President Ricardo Martinelli to discuss deeper cooperation between the two countries in suppressing the FARC along their short common border. Earlier this month President Uribe flew to Tegucigalpa where he met with Honduran counterpart Porfirio Lobo. There the two leaders established a similar security pact to crush the region’s narcotics trade. At the time we suggested that Bogota would be well-advised to expand its alliances with the few center-right governments in Latin America. It appears we are vindicated in that prediction.

According to Bogota’s El Tiempo daily, since at least 2002 four armed militias in Venezuela are in close contact with the FARC. Citing Colombia’s spy agency, the Department of Administrative Security (DAS), El Tiempo reports that the FARC has “direct connections” to the Carapaica Revolutionary Movement, Tupamaro Popular Resistance Front, Bolivarian Liberation Forces, and Cuban-Venezuelan Liberation Troops.

The DAS obtained much of this evidence from the now infamous laptop computers of FARC leader Raul Reyes, who was killed when the Colombian army stormed his jungle camp in Ecuador in March 2008. The data on Reyes’ computers, which were authenticated by Interpol, has in fact yielded a wealth of incriminating evidence that links the FARC to the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador, as well as to alleged Russian GRU agent and arms dealer Viktor Bout. Bout, who was arrested about the same time as Reyes’ death and is still cooling his heels in a Thai jail, is the subject of a US extradition request. Moscow disavows any connection with the self-avowed “businessman,” who was a young soldier when the Soviet Union “collapsed” more than 18 years ago.

According to the DAS, archives and emails from the FARC laptops show how the Venezuelan militias plan to undertake military training with the FARC. The liaison between the Venezuelan and Colombian rebels is a man named “Simon Leguizamon,” who apparently moves freely across the border.

An email from the FARC’s 33rd Front reportedly gave instructions to “people from the Sector 23 de Enero” in Venezuela. In January 2009 the Carapaica Revolutionary Movement released a video that depicted armed and masked members of the group in Barrio 23 de Enero, a neighborhood in Caracas. In the video the group’s leader, known as “Commander Murachi,” denounced the “pseudo-revolutionaries” in President Hugo Chavez’s government. A US intelligence report estimates that in 2008 there were 40 members of Carapaica.

Apparently hard-core commie Chavez, who has appointed Cuban Vice President Ramiro Valdez to head a commission to resolve Venezuela’s energy crisis, is not hard-core enough for Venezuela’s armed leftist formations. Of course, Venezuela’s guerrillas could very well be in cahoots with Chavez, who will one day sick them on the Venezuelan people in a final bid to crush the opposition.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV), which has representation in the National Assembly and openly supports the Chavezista regime, alleges that the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia is conspiring with the Colombian government to assassinate and kidnap “social fighters and revolutionary personalities” in Venezuela, especially in the western state of Zulia. PCV spokesman Eduardo Marmol issued this claim to the press in Maracaibo this week. On the anti-communist paramilitaries’ hit list is reportedly Oscar Figuera, secretary general of the PCV.

Taking a page from President Chavez’s monotonous “anti-imperialist” script, the PCV Politburo charges that the USA is prodding both the Colombian government and paramilitaries into taking actions that will subvert Chavez’s “Bolivarian Revolution.” One such plot hatched by Washington and Bogota, contends PCV Politburo member Yul Jabour, is to kidnap revolutionary leaders, transport them across the border to Colombia, simulate a clash with the FARC, and then accuse Venezuelan leftists of aiding the Colombian guerillas.

The reality, of course, as reported above, is that the Venezuelan government and assorted state and non-state actors in the region are in fact colluding with FARC. We rather suspect, however, that all of the conspiracy theories floated by Red Axis actors are simply providing cover, or plausible deniability, for their own secret plan to provoke war with US ally Colombia. When a border clash finally erupts between Venezuelan and Colombian soldiers Chavez and his red buddies in the region will very likely use this incident to justify their own aggression.

In a related story, Chavez, in a last-minute decision, bailed out of last Tuesday’s Union of South American Nations (Unasur) summit in Quito, called by Ecuadorean counterpart Rafael Correa to pool resources to help quake-ravaged Haiti. According to Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, Chavez elected to stay in Caracas to manage problems related to the domestic power shortage. It may be, too, that Venezuela’s red dictator hoped to avoid his arch-nemesis, Uribe, who was also scheduled to attend the Unasur meeting.

Diminished Shining Path Approaches Fourth Decade of Insurgency

Although nowhere near the force it was during the 1980s and 1990s, when Communist Party of Peru cadres killed nearly 70,000 civilians and soldiers, a numerically diminished Shining Path still operates in Peru’s Upper Huallaga Valley and the Valley of the Apurimac and Ene Rivers, or VRAE, region. Both territories are centers of coca cultivation and cocaine production. This past week, Peruvian police arrested three suspected Shining Path guerrillas in Huanuco province, located 250 miles northeast of Lima, the national capital.

The Maoist insurgents, who were captured in different towns, are accused of belonging to the Shining Path’s Huallaga Regional Committee. The men were arrested at their homes under court-issued warrants as part of the investigation into the murder of two people in 2009 and the murders of seven family members in 2005. Police counterinsurgency units captured two other suspected Shining Path commanders last week in the same province. Peru’s Interior Minister Octavio Salazar insists that the police operations are “closing the circle” around the rebel army’s “Comrade Artemio,” the nom de guerre of Filomeno Cerron Cardoso.

On January 27, possibly with the intent of regrouping and rearming, “Comrade Artemio” proclaimed a cessation of armed actions and called on the government to “enter a dialogue.” “This is an announcement of the suspension of military actions and we will limit ourselves to agitation and propaganda. [But] we will respond if we are attacked,” stated Cardoso in a message broadcast over Amistad radio, in the jungle region of Ucayali. “Comrade Artemio” rejected the label of “narco-terrorists” that Peruvian officials have sought to pin on the insurgents. He also denounced another Shining Path faction under the command of “Comrade Jose” and “Comrade Raul,” who have publicly urged the execution of the guerrilla group’s jailed founder, Abimael Guzman, who was captured in 1992. Lately, more than 40 Peruvian soldiers have died in ambushes and attacks by Shining Path fighters in the VRAE.

Chinchilla Likely to Reprise Arias’ Role as Regional Voice of Dialogue and Moderation

Meanwhile, one week ago Costa Rican voters elected their first female president, Laura Chinchilla, outgoing president Oscar Arias’ anointed successor from the center-left National Liberation Party. A social conservative opposed to abortion and “gay marriage,” Chinchilla has promised to continue President Arias’ welfare and free trade policies. In the late 1980s, during his first presidential term, Arias won a Nobel prize for facilitating a peace deal that ended the ideological civil wars in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

This past weekend’s election in Costa Rica is also historically significant because Chinchilla’s running mate was Luis Lieberman, a Polish Jew by descent. The former banker, now Costa Rica’s first Jewish vice president, denied that his religion had any bearing on his candidacy. About 3,000 Jews live in the Central American country, out of a total population of 4.2 million.

Chinchilla’s victory was hailed from various quarters, including the Organization of American States; the US ambassador in San Jose, Anne S. Andrew; the Spanish and Colombian governments; and Central American leaders such as Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom, a center-leftist like Chinchilla,Link and Nicaraguan Vice President Jaime Morales, a former Contra who was invited by Sandinista Comandante Daniel Ortega to run on a national reconciliation platform in 2006.

The only other female head of state in Latin America is Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner, yet another center-leftist, but one who is a close ally of Chavez. Michelle Bachelet, the socialist president of Chile, will finish her term next month, when she is replaced by Sebastian Pinera, an economic conservative who has promised to retain the outgoing Concertacion government’s social welfare policies.

No doubt, upon her inauguration in May, Chinchilla will reprise Arias’ role as a voice for dialogue and moderation, a position that will very likely irk communist demagogues like Chavez and his buddies in Latin America’s Red Axis. The fact that Costa Rica’s new VP is Jewish will also probably annoy Chavez in view of his anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian/Iranian/Hezbollah sentiments.

>Communist Bloc Military Updates: Kremlin bold over Yanukovich win: Russia, Ukraine, other "ex"-Soviet Bloc states to hold joint military drills

>The government daily Komsomolskaya Pravda announced yesterday and the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed that the Russian and Ukrainian armed forces will stage a combined air force exercise this autumn. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has refused to comment on the news. Russian Air Force commander General Alexander Zelin acknowledged that his country will also conduct military drills with Belarus, Armenia, Uzbekistan, and “former” Soviet Bloc states, not just apparently “former” Soviet republics.

Pictured above: Supporters of presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich attend a rally outside Ukraine’s central electoral commission in Kiev, on February 10, 2010.

Tellingly, Komsomolskaya Pravda admits that since pro-Moscow candidate Victor Yanukovich won the presidential run-off election in Ukraine last Sunday, joint military exercises involving both Russia and Ukraine are likely to happen more often. “The vast air space will fit both [nations] again,” gushes the Kremlin-connected tabloid. Yanukovich, it should be noted, is an “ex”-cadre of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union so he has much in common with Russia’s KGB-communist dictator, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin has repeatedly fulminated against NATO’s enlargement into its old turf in Eastern Europe. However, Yanukovich’s victory–which he was denied in 2004 when Viktor Yushchenko was awarded the presidency by Ukraine’s Supreme Court–will once again firmly place Kiev in Moscow’s orbit and halt the “Orange” regime’s march toward NATO. Recently, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council and former chief of the Federal Security Service (FSB/KGB), accused “former” Warsaw Pact countries that bolted to NATO in the late 1990s and early 2000s of trying to “drag” Ukraine and Georgia into the treaty.

“The Russian-Ukraine military exercise,” opines the Polish media, “might be interpreted as a demonstration of how close the ties between the two countries my be currently construed, as the post of the president of Ukraine was taken by Victor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian politician who opposes Ukraine’s membership in NATO.” Under a Yanukovich presidency Ukraine could very well join the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which may as well be a placeholder for the supposedly defunct Soviet Armed Forces.

Meanwhile, twice-convicted violent felon Yanukovich is demanding that his chief electoral rival, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko step down from her post: “I call on the prime minister to resign and go into opposition. I want to remind Mrs Tymoshenko that the basis of democracy is the will of the people. Democratic leaders always accept the results of the elections. The country does not need a new crisis.” Yanukovich is widely perceived as being in the backpocket of the Donetsk mafia, a clique of powerful businessmen in the province over which the president elect was governor between 1997 and 2002. For her part, Komsomol businesswoman Tymoshenko intends to launch a legal challenge against the election results.

Elsewhere in the “post”-Soviet space Tajiks are despairing over the available options in the parliamentary election to take place on February 28. President Emomalii Rahmon’s allies are poised to win most of the seats in the lower house of parliament. The opposition Islamic Renaissance Party holds only two seats in the 63-seat chamber, while the pro-government People’s Democratic Party of Tajikistan and Tajik Communist Party control the rest. “Ex”-CPSU cadre Rahmon led pro-Russian forces in a devastating 1992-1997 civil war against an alliance of Islamists and liberal democrats.

>EU/USSR2 Files: Belarusian police arrest ethnic Polish activists, journalist employed by Warsaw’s Belsat TV; Poland withdraws ambassador from Minsk

>As we suspected in a previous post, the Soviet strategists are enflaming nationalist tensions between Belarusians and ethnic Poles in Belarus in order to drive a wedge between Warsaw Pact-turned-NATO state Poland and “former” Soviet republic Belarus.

On Monday police evicted the staff of the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB) from their building in the town of Ivyanets, 50 kilometers from Minsk. The ZPB staff included elderly Belarusian Poles, as pictured above. ZPB activist Andrzej Poczobut related that he was prevented by police from driving to Ivyanets. In protest, the Polish government has withdrawn its ambassador from Minsk and summoned Belarus’ ambassador Viktar Haysionak to the foreign ministry building in Warsaw. There Haysionak was told by Deputy Foreign Minister Andrzej Kremer that “Poland considers such repressive actions to be unacceptable.”

The ZPB, which is led by Anzhelika Borys, has spent years trying unsuccessfully to register with the Belarusian government. The ZPB, which boasts 20,000 members, promotes the Polish language and cultural traditions among ethnic Poles living in Belarus. About four percent of Belarus’ 9.7 million people are ethnic Poles.

In an attempt to manipulate the country’s Polish minority, Belarusian officials have registered an alternative organization called the Union of Belarusian Poles, which is loyal to President Alexander Lukashenko. This phony group is led by Stanislaw Semaczko, who recently urged officials in Ivyanets to confiscate the ZPB’s building and give it to his organization.

This past Monday’s detentions follow the February 3 arrest of independent Belarusian journalist Ivan Shulha, who was convicted of petty hooliganism and sentenced to 10 days in jail. Shulha was detained when police showed up at the apartment of Mikhail Yanchuk, a correspondent of the Warsaw-based Belsat television channel. Belsat director Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy complained that “The police action was an attempt to discredit independent journalists in Belarus.”

Shulha is a member of the nongovernmental organization Belarusian Journalists Association and is a contributor to Belsat TV programs. Belsat is a satellite television channel founded by the Polish Foreign Ministry and the Polish public television company Telewizja Polska in 2007. Belsat broadcasts to Belarus and operates a network of journalists in Poland, Belarus, and Lithuania.

In a related story, on Monday Krzysztof Skubiszewski, Poland’s first post-communist foreign minister, died at the age of 83 years. Skubiszewski served in four successive governments from 1989, when non-communists were admitted into a power-sharing arrangement with the ruling Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR), until 1993. He helped to improve ties between Poland and the newly reunited Germany with an accord confirming their shared border. He also coordinated negotiations with NATO and the European Union which ended with Poland joining both groups, in 1999 and 2004 respectively. During the communist era Skubiszewski was an informer for the Security Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, where he was known under the code name “Kosk.”

In New Lies for Old (1984) Anatoliy Golitsyn predicted the PZPR’s abdication of the open monopoly of power and Poland’s subsequent “flight” from the Soviet Bloc. The KGB defector explained that these were contrived exercises designed to confuse the West about communist intentions and permit the Soviets to carry out a strategic military withdrawal from Central Europe. Risk of exposure and prosecution after the “fall of communism” no doubt made Foreign Minister Skubiszewski a pliable tool in the hands of the Soviet strategists.

Last September Belarus was the site of a joint Russian-Belarusian military drill, Zapad-2009, that simulated a nuclear attack against Poland–a US ally that will begin hosting Patriot Air Defense Units next month–and follow-up amphibious landing. Moscow’s saber rattling along the Polish-Kaliningrad-Belarusian border suggests that this part of the world could once again, as it did in 1939, become a flashpoint for war. This is certainly the opinion of Pravda’s communist editors, as we related some weeks ago.

>Blast from the Past File: Russian co. buys Latvian military ghost town, Skrunda-1 housed 5,000 Soviet/Russian troops until 1994, radar base until 1998

>In another stealthy move that reflects the “creeping” re-Sovietization of the Baltic republics, Russian company Alekseevskyoe-Serviss has bought the military ghost town of Skrunda-1 for US$3.1 million.

The Latvian government was all too happy to divest itself of the 110-acre property that housed 5,000 Soviet/Russian troops, including their families and support personnel, until their withdrawal in 1994. At the time the Russian Defense Ministry cut a deal with the Latvians to lease the nearby radar base until 1998, when the last residents of Skrunda-1 departed. Finally, in 2008 the Latvian government decided to sell the property by auction.

Located 95 miles west of Riga, the national capital, Skrunda-1 consists of 70 dilapidated buildings, including a former barracks, officer’s club, warehouses, garages, 10 apartment blocks, hotel, shopping centre, and school. Built in the 1980s, Skrunda-1 was given a code name and not marked on Soviet maps since it boasted two “enormous” radar installations that scanned the skies for incoming NATO missiles.

The Latvian government has placed no restrictions on how the new owners develop the land. Internet search engines, moreover, yield no information on Alekseevskyoe-Serviss, such as whether this company is a Kremlin entity or whether its board of directors has personal links to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Anete Fridensteina-Bridina, spokeswoman for Latvia’s privatization agency, offered no details concerning the buyer’s intentions. However, according to the February 8 print edition of the Daily Telegraph, Fridensteina-Bridina gushed: “The successful privatization of Skundra-1 could give it a new lease of life.” Indeed. Perhaps in the not-so-distant future the Red Army, er, rather the Russian Ground Forces will return and plant some pretty flowers around those gray, Soviet-era apartment blocks.

>Latin America File: Cuba consolidates control over Venezuela, Chavez appoints Cuban VP to fix energy crisis; Russia gives Cuba 100,000 tons of wheat

>– Caracas’ El Universal, Citing “Sources Close to Havana”: 65,000 Cuban Agents in Venezuela

– Cuban Staff Helping Chavez Automate Personal Identification and Registration under Terms of 2005 Bilateral Agreement

Yup, communism’s dead. That’s why last week President Hugo Chavez appointed Cuban Vice President Ramiro Valdez to head a committee that will resolve Venezuela’s chronic power shortages. Outraged opponents of Venezuela’s Cubanization took to the streets in protest, painting their hands white to display their disapproval of Chavez and his Cuban masters. Police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of students who marched to the National Assembly in Caracas, where they hoped to deliver a proposal to tackle the energy crisis.

“We came to demonstrate and tell the national government that today is not a day of celebration. … There are many problems and the government is not attending to them,” opined student leader Roderick Navarro.

The 77-year-old Cuban VP, who is also the island’s information and communications minister, is a close ally of Fidel and Raul Castro, having taken up arms with the revolutionary duo in 1953 to overthrow dictator Fulgencio Batista. “Valdes has only governed Cuba with repression and a rifle in his hand. That’s all he is good for. He has never managed engineering issues,” protested Enrique Marquez, spokesman for opposition party Un Nuevo Tiempo. Valdez’ portfolio, however, does include supervising Cuba’s Basic Industry Ministry, which covers electricity.

Pictured above: Cuban VP Valdez salutes in front of an image of communist terrorist Ernesto “Che” Guevara during an event for the national election commission in Havana, on January 6, 2010.

Venezuela, which is observing the eleventh year of Chavez’s presidency, has already been rocked by several weeks of protest against the openly Marxist president, who lately shut down six opposition television stations and nationalized a chain of French-Colombian superstores. On the international stage a “mini Cold War” has festered between Venezuela and Colombia ever since the March 2008 Andean Crisis.

On January 3 Chavez, whose ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) faces a parliamentary election in September, blasted the “counter-revolutionaries.” “Keep trying to topple our revolutionary government with your white hands,” he ranted, adding: “If you challenge us with arms, we are ready with Bolivar’s sword. When the Cubans come the counter-revolutionary fury is immediately unleashed. I know the people pay no attention to these stupidities.”

Chavez uttered these threats against his countrymen while wearing an army uniform and brandishing Simon Bolivar’s sword at a rally in a military base. Some PSUV cadres waved the Cuban flag. Latin American leftists like Chavez have adopted nineteenth-century liberator Bolivar as their poster boy. Most analysts expect Chavez, whose popularity level has stabilized around 50 percent, to retain his majority in the next election, though with a reduced number of seats for the PSUV and its main supporters, like the Communist Party of Venezuela.

Pictured here: This political cartoon of Ramiro Valdez was emailed to us under the subject line “VENEZUELA: Confirmado el fin de la Democracia” by Brazilian blogger Luis Afonso Assumpcao. Luis hosts the blog Swimming Against the Red Tide.

Chavez blames drought for the low water levels in Venezuela’s hydroelectric reservoirs and rolling blackouts. Critics of his regime acknowledge the lack of rain, but blame the president for failing to upgrade power generation capacity. Ironically, Cuba itself has suffered numerous electricity crises since the collapse of the Soviet Union removed a major source of oil and financing. The Cuban dictatorship now imports much of its petroleum from Venezuela.

The appointment of the Cuban VP to head an important government committee in Venezuela is only the latest development in the communist island’s expanding control over this South American country. For example, Caracas-based El Universal reports that more than 65,000 Cubans reside in Venezuela, a figure that has “increased by the day” since October 2000, when the two countries signed their first cooperation agreement. Luis Alfonso Davila, who was minister of the interior during the first months of the Chavez government, was quoted as saying that there are more than 60,000 Cubans in Venezuela. According to “other sources close to Havana,” though, there are actually 65,000 Cubans in Venezuela.

In April 2003 the first Cuban doctors arrived in Caracas’ Libertador municipality to work in a social healthcare program called Barrio Adentro. According to Venezuelan official statistics, more than 30,000 Cuban doctors are posted across the country. No doubt all of them, we might add, are well versed in Marxist dogma. In addition, in 2006 there were 6,525 Cuban doctors training Venezuela’s medical practitioners and health technicians. This information comes from the website of the Venezuelan embassy in Havana. The same source notes that in 2006 there were 395 Cuban teachers in Venezuela’s school system. Lastly, in the same year there were 4,544 Cuban sport trainers working in the South American country.

Although most of the Cubans living in Venezuela are working in the health and education sectors, Chavez has requested Cuba’s assistance in many strategic areas related to national development. For example, Cuba provides technical and marketing assistance in both the sugar and hotel industries, in which the island has “great experience.” Cubans are also helping the Venezuelans improve and expand their railway and subway systems, as well as their food, construction, and shipbuilding industries. Most ominously, following a 2005 bilateral agreement, a “significant number of Cuban staff” is helping the Chavezista regime automate personal identification and registration.

In a 2004 article published by The Miami Herald, Alfonso Chardy reported on the “expanding influence” of Cuban advisors in the Venezuelan government. “We see a very worrisome spread in Castro’s infiltration of Venezuela under Chavez. Cuban advisors are always something more sinister than simple technicians,” commented a US State Department official at the time. Former officials of the Chavezista regime assert that most of the Cuban advisors have been spotted in the following key government ministries: Directorate of Intelligence and Preventive Investigations (DISIP), which was repackaged as the Bolivarian Intelligence Service in December 2009; Department of Military Intelligence (DIM), Interior Ministry, Central Bank, and Immigration Department (DIEX).

Since Cuba’s Intelligence Directorate was birthed by the Soviet KGB during the Cold War, one should be forgiven for speculating about the possibility that Chavez’s domestic spy outfit has now fallen indirectly under the baleful influence of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). In 2001 Washington “trimmed back” cooperation with DISIP because of its “increasing links to Cuban intelligence services.”

‘”It is fairly apparent that President Chavez does not consider himself the best friend of the United States,” opined Roger Noriega, assistant US secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, in 2004. He added: “But as for Fidel Castro, it is very clear that he is increasingly active in the region. And this has stirred great concern among Latin American leaders . . . because they understand that he’s not committed to the democratic process and may be trying to undermine it in their countries.’”

In January 2004 Fidel Castro hinted that Chavez has turned Venezuela into “something more than a friend.” “U.S. officials are saying that I will die soon and that once the dog is dead the rabies dies,” Castro demurred, but then remarked: “Well, now Venezuela has turned into a dog.’”

Meanwhile, as co-dependent communist states Cuba and Venezuela prop each other up, Russia under Vladimir Putin has once again become the island’s main benefactor. This past Thursday, a spokesentity for the Russian Foreign Ministry revealed that Russia will donate 100,000 tons of wheat to Cuba in 2010. In September 2008 Moscow dispatched four planeloads of humanitarian aid to Cuba, which had been battered by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Russia sent the island 23 tons of wheat last April.

In another worrisome development that will probably appear on the agenda of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as he begins his Caribbean tour later this week, Russian and Cuban civil aviation officials plan to increase cooperation. Last week Rogelio Acevedo, president of the Institute of Civil Aeronautics of Cuba, visited Russia, where he met with representatives of the Russian Ministry of Transport and the Kremlin-run United Aircraft Corporation. Together the Russians and Cubans analyzed the prospect of upgrading the island’s Soviet-era commercial aviation fleet with the An-148 or An-158 and the Su-100 Superjet, Russia’s newest airliner. Cuba will also receive six new Russian-built radars to replace 15-year-old equipment that has lost part of its capabilities.

Representatives of Aeroflot, which still sports the hammer and sickle on its logo, and Cubana airlines also proposed a joint flight plan in which Russian airplanes would carry passengers from Moscow to Havana. From there Cuban airplanes would fly these Russian travelers to leftist states like Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Brazil. Among the Russian “technicians,” “businessmen,” and “tourists” visiting Central and South America and the Caribbean will no doubt be hidden agents of the SVR and the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces (GRU).

>WW4 File: Medvedev inks preemptive nuke strike doctrine, Bucharest to host Aegis missile units; Russian colonel: We will target US military in Romania

>This month, following the arrival in Moscow of delegations from the leftist regimes in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Guyana, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a former Soviet apparatchik, will make his first official visits to Nicaragua and Guatemala, as well as Cuba and Mexico. Lavrov will visit Cuba between February 11 and 13, Nicaragua on February 14, Guatemala on February 15, and Mexico on February 15 and 16. During his Latin American excursion Lavrov will discuss bilateral military, energy, and oil exploration cooperation.

Communist Cuba, of course, is a long-time Soviet ally, while the Sandinistas are once again trying to consolidate a communist dictatorship in Nicaragua.

Mexico’s ruling National Action Party is center-right in its orientation, but that country’s narco-insurgency has the potential to transform Mexico into a failed state, unless the US government expedites the delivery of badly needed military equipment, such as combat helicopters, to the Mexican army. Mexico’s drug cartels obtain much of their own firepower from the Russian Mafia, which provides a convenient cover for agents of the Kremlin’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), formerly the foreign component of the Soviet KGB, and the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces (GRU).

Guatemala’s first center-left president in 50 years, Alvaro Colom, is not apparently a red, but he has hooked his country to the Havana-Caracas Axis by way of receiving subsidized petroleum via Hugo Chavez’s Petrocaribe. Although Colom was recently cleared by the United Nations of complicity in the 2009 murder of a Guatemalan lawyer, the primary internal threat against his presidency is the drug-related violence that has bumped up Guatemala’s murder rate to 18 corpses per day.

In 2008 Lavrov denied that the revitalization of Russia’s interest in Latin America was part of a “diplomatic tug of war” with the USA, which Moscow berates for fashioning a “unipolar” world around its own interests. “Disapproval of attempts to impose unilateral approaches, readiness to respect partners’ interests not in word but in deed, to honor the principle of non-interference in sovereign nations’ affairs, and to choose crisis and conflict settlement through talks has brought Russia closer to Latin America,” he intoned at the time. Sure, Comrade Sergei, whatever you say.

If one day Washington decides to take Moscow to task for “setting up shop” in America’s “backyard,” then the response from the Soviet strategists will be predictable. Moscow will simply take Washington to task for persisting in deploying anti-missile defenses in its old stomping grounds, Eastern Europe.

Indeed, the Kremlin has not only threatened to beef up its Baltic Fleet in response to next month’s planned deployment of a Patriot Air Defense Unit in Poland, near the border with Kaliningrad, but is now demanding “clarification” with respect to US plans to deploy “missile defense elements” in the “former” Soviet Bloc state of Romania by 2015. Although Obama scrapped predecessor George W. Bush’s plans to install long-range interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar base in the Czech Republic, the White House is moving ahead with alternate plans to install the tactical missile defense offered by the Patriot system. On Thursday Romanian President Traian Basescu, moreover, announced that his country had approved a US plan to deploy Aegis interceptor missiles as part of a missile shield to protect Europe from Iranian attack.

This week the Islamo-Nazi regime in Tehran highlighted its long-range missile capabilities by launching a third satellite, Kavoshgar 3 (Explorer), into a short orbital insertion. On board were a rat, two turtles, and worms. In 2008 Iran fired two rockets, Kavoshgar 1 and 2, into space but neither was carrying any payload. Notwithstanding the drama in the Middle East, the Kremlin is not buying Washington’s specter of a menace from Middle East mullahs.

“We expect the United States to provide an exhaustive explanation, taking into account the fact that the Black Sea regime is regulated by the Montreux Convention,” Lavrov huffed on Friday. He added: “Russia acted on the assumption that there is an agreement between the two presidents [Obama and Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev] on the joint study of common threats, with the participation of the European Union. When we understand that we have a common understanding of possible threats, it will be possible to say what measures could be taken in response.”

A Russian military analyst, retired Colonel Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of National Defense magazine, is even less impressed by the new US-Romanian pact. “We are talking about the placement of the land-based Aegis system in Romania by 2015 which uses the new Standard Missile interceptor, SM-3. This weaponry, without a doubt, could significantly reduce Russia’s deterrent capability,” complained Korotchenko, adding:

SM-3 missiles would be able to intercept Russian ballistic missiles shortly after launch and on their initial flight trajectory. Russia must warn Romania that if the elements of the U.S. missile shield are placed in the country they will become a target of Russia’s preventive missile strikes.

With ship-based SM-3s in the North, Black and Mediterranean seas, and mobile land-based SM-3s in Central Europe the western borders of Russia will be surrounded by U.S. missile interceptors by 2015.

In that Korotchenko articulated these sentiments to state-run Novosti, it is very likely that an “offended” Kremlin is telling Washington to “back off.” That Romania’s “ex”-communist president would acquiesce to a US military presence in his country, however, only suggests that Basescu is purposely luring the USA into yet another confrontation with his masters in Moscow. Warsaw and Prague have also endorsed Washington’s new and improved missile plan. Much the same, therefore, can be said with respect to the Czech Republic’s interim prime minister, Jan Fischer, yet another “ex”-communist in the saddle in Eastern Europe. In this Soviet-scripted confrontation America plays the bully who needs to be “put in his place.”

The Kremlin’s new “preventive nuclear strike” doctrine, approved by President Dmitry Medvedev last week, will provide the Russian Armed Forces with the legal tool needed to “take out” US air defense units in “former” Soviet Bloc states. “The president informed the members of Russia’s Security Council on Friday that he has approved two documents – the military doctrine and the Fundamentals of the state policy on nuclear deterrence until 2020,” related Medvedev’s press secretary Natalia Timakova.

According to Russian officials, reports Novosti, the “adjustment” of the country’s military doctrine was prompted by “real threats and challenges.” The state-run news agency chronicles the transformation of Russia’s “post”-Soviet military doctrine from a purely “defensive” posture in 2000 to one of “prevention”:

Under the new doctrine, Russia will continue developing and modernizing its nuclear triad, increasing its capability to overcome missile defenses of a potential enemy. The new military doctrine also aims to transform the Armed Forces into a more effective and mobile military force. Their structures will be “optimized” through the use of combined arms units performing similar tasks. The previous document was adopted in 2000. It outlined the role of the Russian military in ensuring the defense of the country and, if necessary, preparing for and waging war, although it stressed that the Russian military doctrine is strictly defensive.

The Kremlin reportedly plans to hike the current defense budget of US$40 billion by 50% over the next three years.

>Latin America File: Medvedev hosts Guyana leader, reasserts Russia’s role in W. Hemisphere; Red Mafiya (KGB) moves into Ecuador, sells arms to FARC

>– February 5, 2010 Update: Russia’s “Merchant of Death” to Appear in Thai Court; USA Accuses Alleged GRU Agent Viktor Bout of Selling Arms to FARC

On February 3 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev affirmed again that “Russia will develop its relations with Latin America and the Caribbean.” The former Soviet Komsomol graduate issued the statement while hosting the communist president of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, in Moscow (pictured here).

Medvedev continued: “We made the strategic decision of revitalizing the links with Latin American countries, as a way to seek the balance of forces worldwide.” By this comment the Russian president means that the Kremlin intends to end the USA’s post-Cold War career as the world’s sole superpower. With a nod toward the International Left’s bogeyman, global warming, Medvedev said: “To boost the links with the region Russia could also help solve problems in the world, including those related to climate change.”

President of Guyana since 1999, Jagdeo obtained a master’s degree in economics from Patrice Lumumba University (PLU) in 1990. Once renowned as the Soviet Union’s terrorist indoctrination center for Third World recruits, Jagdeo’s alma mater is now called People’s Friendship University of Russia. Incidentally, Honduras’ new “center-right” president, Porfirio Lobo, is also a Soviet-era grad of PLU.

With a population of 907,000 inhabitants, Guyana borders Venezuela on the west and Suriname on the east. Guyana, which is a member of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), produces gold, bauxite, sugar, and rice. Two socialist parties have dominated the government since 1964, the People’s National Congress and after 1992 the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), which was co-founded by Afro-Guyanese Forbes Burnham. In 1955 there was a split in the PPP between Burnham and Indo-Guyanese Cheddi Jagan, prompting Burnham to form the PNC in 1958. Prime minister between 1966 and 1980 and president between 1980 and 1985, when he died, Burnham aligned Guyana with the Soviet Union and Cuba. As a testimony to his subservience to Moscow, Burnham’s body was mummified by the Laboratory of the Lenin Mausoleum.

To the east of Suriname is French Guiana, an overseas department of France and thus part of the European Union. In April Russia will launch a geosynchronous satellite from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou for the first time. Normally, the French space agency CNES and the European Space Agency launch satellites from this site. Two to three hundred Russian technicians are in French Guiana assembling the launch tower. Last November two Soyuz launchers arrived at the port of Pariacabo, after completing a transatlantic voyage from St. Petersburg. In past posts we have suggested that Russia could conceivably use French Guiana as a platform to launch ICBMs at the Continental USA, but no one in appears to be paying attention.

Incidentally, Russian engineers are also present in Venezuela where they are supervising the construction of two plants that will build under license Kalashnikov automatic rifles and their ammunition.

In November 2008 Medvedev visited four Latin American countries: Brazil, Peru, Venezuela and Cuba. While rubbing elbows with Venezuela’s communist dictator Hugo Chavez in Caracas, he also met with Daniel Ortega and Evo Morales, the presidents of Nicaragua and Bolivia. The heads of state of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Venezuela reciprocated by making official trips to Moscow in 2009. All of these countries have communist or center-left governments that are to varying degrees anti-USA. Chile’s outgoing center-left Concertacion government will be replaced by a center-right coalition in March, when President-Elect Sebastian Pinera is inaugurated.

Meanwhile, Chavez and his nemesis Colombian President Alvaro Uribe both plan to attend the upcoming Union of South American Nations meeting in Quito to consider an aid package for quake-shattered Haiti. This will be the first time that the two leaders have been in the same venue at the same time in almost six months. Chavez and Uribe attended the last Unasur summit in Argentina last August. The presidents of Paraguay, Peru, and Bolivia have also confirmed their attendance. Ecuador currently holds Unasur’s rotating presidency.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, a slavish ally of Chavez, called the Unasur meeting several months after restoring low-level diplomatic relations with northern neighbor Colombia. These relations were severed in March 2008 when Colombian security forces stormed a jungle camp maintained by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on Ecuadorean soil. Ecuador and Venezuela dispatched troops and tanks to their borders with Colombia in anticipation of war. Tensions were diffused one week later and Venezuela’s ambassador returned to Bogota.

However, last October’s security pact between Colombia and the USA, which will permit the latter to deploy 800 counter-narcotics troops in the former, has provided Chavez with a pretext to once again sever diplomatic relations, end trade links, and militarize the Venezuelan-Colombian border. He is presently awaiting the arrival of Russian-made tanks and military helicopters to fortify border units, a move that has prompted the Colombian government to respond in kind. Uribe has accused Chavez of supporting Colombia’s Marxist guerrillas, a not-so-covert link that has been well documented at this blog and which Chavez himself has done little to hide (see picture below).

In this photo, snapped on November 8, 2007, Chavez (center) is accompanied by senior FARC commander Ivan Marquez (left) and Colombian senator Piedad Cordoba (right), a FARC groupie, as he leaves Miraflores Palace in Caracas.

Comrade Correa’s FARC-Friendly “Narco-Democracy”

That Ecuador’s socialist president is hosting the next Unasur meeting is ironic in that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is expected at its meeting in February in Abu Dhabi to include Ecuador on its “high-risk jurisdiction list” at the request of G20 finance ministers. FATF is the international body tasked with combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

FATF analysts, explains Deutsche Welle, admit that their concern about Ecuador has increased since an Ecuadorean government commission revealed last December that the FARC possesses an extensive support network in Ecuador that includes some of President Correa’s closest aides. FATF is also concerned that Colombia’s communist insurgents partly funded Correa’s 2006 election campaign. The commission relied heavily on 600 gigabytes of data mined from computers used by FARC second-in-command Raul Reyes, slain in the 2008 raid mentioned above. This data was later authenticated by Interpol, but Correa denounced the investigation results, which he initiated.

In 2007 the FATF warned that President Correa’s government had failed to comply with 48 of its 49 recommendations on money laundering and terrorist financing. FATF officials also identified two other factors that simplified the ability of international crime groups to work out of Ecuador. First, in 2000 the Ecuadorean government adopted the US dollar as the country’s national currency. Second, eight years later Quito removed visa requirements for nationals of most countries. A recent study by Ecuador’s San Francisco University concluded that up to US$1 billion (0.7 billion euros) are laundered annually through Ecuadorean banks.

The FARC has not only infiltrated supporters into Correa’s ruling Proud and Sovereign Fatherland Alliance, but has apparently also corrupted the Ecuadorean military. The commission initiated by Correa, for example, pointed out that Lieutenant Colonel José Hidalgo Obando was tried for frequently failing to arrest FARC patrols on Ecuadorean territory. “The judicial process was annulled on Oct. 1, 2008, and the reports of his actions rest in the archives of the armed forces,” the commission concluded. A similar situation prevails in Venezuela, where the armed forces are reportedly conducting joint patrols with FARC irregulars, ostensibly in order to thwart the activities of Colombia’s anti-communist paramilitaries.

Commission coordinator Francesco Huerta warned that “Ecuador is becoming a narco-democracy.” Journalists also quoted Huerta as saying: “FARC wields influence throughout Ecuadorian society in politics, the church, the military, justice, civil society and the media.” Huerta also charged the prosecutor general’s office with “dragging its feet” on investigating crimes listed in his report. He was careful, however, to avoid directly blaming President Correa.

Before he was killed in the Colombian raid on his jungle camp, Reyes, writing in his journal, was less tactful in his assessment of Correa:

This place is a trap. They have me tied up here under the pretext that I should receive the international delegations. All this stuff is very false… The revolutionaries who visit me, save for a few people, only want money and deals. I ask myself, how many of them are infiltrators who work as double agents? I feel the presence of double agents in Correa’s intimate group, without a doubt… Trusting Correa was suicide. All the contributions of money for Correa’s campaign weren’t worth a damn.

On the sidelines of Ecuador’s “narco-democracy,” US officials are also concerned that Ecuador has become a haven for Iranian funds. An agreement between Quito and Tehran has allowed the Export Development Bank of Iran (EDBI) to deposit US$120 million in Ecuador’s central bank to fund trade between the two countries, both of which are closely allied to Venezuela. The US Treasury imposed sanctions on EBDI one month before Ecuador concluded this agreement with Iran, which also allowed Bank Saderat, an EBDI subsidiary, to open a branch in Quito.

In a related story, also covered by Deutsche-Welle, the Washington-based International Assessment and Strategy Center (IASC) confirms that transnational criminal organizations from Latin America, Russia, China, India, and Africa have transformed Ecuador into a base of operations. A recent IASC report attributes this problem to the FARC’s penetration of the Ecuadorean government and judiciary, Ecuador’s weak institutions and anti-money laundering laws, nonexistent anti-terror financing laws, and porous borders with Colombia and Peru, where the FARC and Shining Path operate and/or protect drug labs.

The IASC report concludes that the Russian Mafia–which is a well-documented front for the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), and Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU)–is arming FARC: “Ecuador is increasingly attractive for Russian organized criminal groups, both for weapon sales to the FARC and to launder money.” Before an organizational shuffle in the early to mid-1990s, the FSB and SVR represented the domestic and foreign components of the Soviet KGB.

Mainland China’s Triads, according to the IASC, have also set up shop in Ecuador: “Chinese triads, particularly those involved in smuggling human beings, have greatly increased their presence in Ecuador.” The Communist Party of China’s collaboration with these centuries-old criminal secret societies is well documented. “As these gangs have become more powerful, their existence depends entirely on the cooperation and tolerance of the Communist Party,” related Ko-lin Chin, professor of criminal justice at Rutgers University, to The New York Times last November. At the time Red Chinese officials held a mass public trial that exposed a vast web of corruption in the city of Chongqing.

Thus, while the Kremlin moves to either establish or re-establish, as in the case of Cuba and Nicaragua, formal political, military, and commercial linkages with Latin America’s leftist regimes, the Soviet strategists are also operating in the Western Hemisphere on a subversive, “unseen” level. The latter entails consolidating relationships between the KGB-controlled Red Mafiya and proxies such as the FARC, the Mexican drug cartels, and corrupt Latin American politicians. For these reasons we have indicated Ecuador as a “Red Cocaine State” on our Red World 2010 map, accessible via this blog’s right column.

>Latin America File: USA, allies recognize new Honduran govn’t; Uribe visits Tegucigalpa, signs security pact with Lobo; Ortega joins anti-Lobo chorus

>– FARC and ELN Forge Alliance to Launch Counter-Offensive against Colombian Government, US Troop Deployment

– Bogota’s El Tiempo: Cuban Agents Have Long-Standing Linkages with Colombia’s Marxist Insurgents; FARC to Open Office in Europe as “Bolivarian Continental Movement,” Establish Contacts with Leftists, Students

– Exporting Revolution 21st Century Style: Venezuelan Director Admits ALBA Company Bought Nicaraguan Opposition TV Station, Ortega Advisor Calls Paniagua “Crazy”

In the wake of Honduran President Porfirio Lobo’s January 27 inauguration, the countries of the Western Hemisphere are aligning into two groups, one recognizing the new Honduran government’s legitimacy, the other not. The pro-Lobo group includes the USA, Peru, Costa Rica, Canada, Panama, and Colombia, even though the first three countries sport center-left governments. Chile’s incoming center-right government has promised to recognize Lobo only if he “legitimizes” democracy in his country.

Washington, which has 600 counter-narcotics troops stationed in Honduras, is moving ahead aggressively to normalize diplomatic relations with Tegucigalpa. These were severed last June 28 when a transfer of power sanctioned by the Honduran Congress, Supreme Court, and military command ousted President Manuel Zelaya in the region’s first post-Cold War coup. Zelaya was rightly perceived as a slavish devotee of Venezuela’s communist dictator Hugo Chavez, who within 24 hours of the coup threatened to hurl his armed forces at Honduras.

Last Friday newly sworn in President Lobo declared: “I am happy that with the visit of U.S. ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, we are practically normalizing the ties with the United States of America.” For his part, Llorens explained Washington’s position was in part tied to the presence of one million Hondurans living in the USA:

More than one million Honduran people living in the United States demanded a friendly tie between both countries. We always said that the elections [of November 29, 2009] were an essential condition, but not enough, and the other element was the fulfillment of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Agreement. Honduras will be able to appoint its ambassador [to the USA] without problem. That will be done with normality.

The anti-Lobo group pretty much represents the region’s Red Axis, consisting of hard-core communist regimes like Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, as well as more moderate center-left governments, such as those in Brazil and Argentina. Hence, in an important sense the Honduran crisis continues to fester.

On Saturday night Nicaragua’s past/present Marxist dictator Daniel Ortega voiced his opposition to President Lobo, but offered to maintain economic and trade relations with his northern neighbor. “I have no reason to believe that those who forced Zelaya out of office were no longer in power. We feel threatened,” Ortega protested, contributing to the wider Red Axis propaganda that portrays Lobo and allies like Colombian President Alvaro Uribe as “tools of US imperialism.”

Last summer Zelaya transformed Managua into a base of operations to overthrow the government of interim president Roberto Micheletti. Zelaya is now living in exile in the Dominican Republic, the president of which, Leonel Fernandez, mediated negotiations between Lobo and his predecessor.

In a somewhat surprising departure from the hard-line stance articulated by the Red Axis of which it is part, El Salvador’s ruling Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), as we reported in a previous post, has recognized Lobo’s government. This divergence could possibly represent an internal party schism between President Mauricio Funes, the moderate face of the FMLN, and Vice President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a hardened Marxist-Leninist terrorist who is widely considered to be the country’s real ruler.

If San Salvador changes its tune toward Tegucigalpa in the near future, then this could signal a move by the FMLN Politburo to assert itself over Funes’ “compromised” position. We are watching the situation in El Salvador closely since many citizens there believe Sanchez Ceren would not hesitate to resort to assassination to usurp Funes’ post.

In a display of solidarity with Lobo, Uribe stopped by Tegucigalpa to sign a security pact with Honduras as he flew back to Colombia from a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. After conferring with Lobo and his government ministers, both presidents (pictured above) signed a brief declaration in which they pledged to implement an “action plan in security matters,” effective February 15.

Although the Latin American Herald Tribune does not specifically describe the new Honduran-Colombian security pact as a military defense pact, there appears to be “room” for this interpretation: “The accord states that the authorities responsible for security in the two countries will exchange experiences and best practices. They will also develop mechanisms for bilateral cooperation aimed at strengthening the institutional capabilities of the two countries in security matters, according to the declaration that Lobo and Uribe signed in Tegucigalpa.”

“Colombia and Honduras have maintained magnificent relations, we need to strengthen those relations every day, and we are very pleased that the action plan in matters of security will begin on Feb. 15,” enthused Uribe in a statement released to the press at the end of his meeting with Lobo. The Colombian president added: “Both Honduras and Colombia are harmed by drug trafficking and terrorism, scourges that destroy morality and ethics, while creating in society an attitude of contempt for the law.”

On the whole, the new Honduran-Colombian security pact appears to be a wise move and should be expanded to include other center-right states in the region, such as Panama and Mexico, not to mention Chile where billionaire businessman Sebastian Pinera will be inaugurated as president this March.

This past week El Tiempo published several revelations concerning the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and a smaller Marxist terrorist group known as the National Liberation Army (ELN). In line with one of our previous posts, VHeadline news editor Patrick J. O’Donoghue, citing the Bogota daily, reports that the two insurgent armies have signed a unity agreement for the purpose of “re-aligning for an offensive against the State and have established their rearguard in Venezuela.”

The main purpose behind the new FARC-ELN alliance is to prevent the USA from deploying 800 counter-narcotics troops at Colombian military bases. This plan has also outraged the guerrillas’ chief state sponsor, President Chavez, who has mobilized his country for war against Colombia. In summarizing the El Tiempo article, O’Donoghue writes:

After signing a unity agreement, both organizations have singled out as the enemy the USA and its military bases in Colombia. The salient point of the editorial is the use of Venezuela as rearguard for the chiefs of both groups. The editorial brings in the Cubans, alleging that Cubans intelligence can make contact with the guerrillas in Colombia … after all, it claims, the two groups’ ideology, diplomatic strategy and military training has its origin in Havana.

Thus, according to El Tiempo, Cuban agents have long-standing linkages with Colombia’s communist guerrillas.

Although it is not clear whether the Dutch media is citing the same El Tiempo article, Radio Netherlands reports that the FARC intends to open a storefront in Europe, possibly in Amsterdam, Brussels, or Paris. This news is based on an alleged email intercept by the DAS, Colombia’s security and intelligence agency. El Tiempo contends that the Marxist insurgents intend to use their European office to establish contact with leftists and students, as well as arrange a large meeting among FARC sympathizers next month. Like the US State Department, the European Union regards the FARC as a terrorist organization.

Accordingly, the Bogota daily reports that the insurgent army will open its office under the cover of the “Bolivarian Continental Movement” (MCB). This little-known cabal of subversives is perceived as a political branch of the FARC, but not mentioned on any official lists of terrorist organizations. Last December the MCB recently held a terrorist pow-wow in Caracas that was personally hosted by Chavez and attended by Salvadoran communists, and operatives of Spain’s Euzkadi Ta Askatasuna and Italy’s New Red Brigades.

This past Saturday four police officers and three soldiers were killed in northeastern Colombia when their patrol came under grenade attack and small arms fire by unknown assailants, presumed to be FARC irregulars. The encounter took place in Aruaca, a province on the border with Venezuela. “This is an attack by FARC, which has brutally and inhumanely taken the life of men who are serving the public good of our country,” announced regional police chief Marlon Granados. Radio Caracol quoted witnesses who stated the FARC guerrillas retreated across the border into Venezuela after the ambush.

If these reports are accurate, then they supply more evidence that the FARC has indeed, per El Tiempo’s assertions, “established their rearguard in Venezuela.” Last week the city of Aruaca was the sight of a reported incursion by a Venezuelan military helicopter, an incident that Bogota protested and that Caracas denied.

On Sunday Chavez mocked the DAS for alleging that a Venezuelan National Guard was attempting to carry out a military operation in Colombia when he sped across a river bordering the two countries in a smuggler’s boat. Sergeant Juan Gomez was expelled from Colombia for “reasons of national security” last Wednesday, the same day that the Venezuelan helicopter reportedly violated Colombian airspace. Chavez taunted: “Only people like Rambo or the Terminator undertake solo missions. The sergeant reacted well because he didn’t go crazy but was armed and shot out the [boat’s] motor.” Gomez, who was armed with an AK-103 rifle, was detained by Colombian soldiers when he reached the opposite side of the river.

Finally, the Venezuelan national who heads up ALBA de Nicaragua S.A. (Albanisa), Rafael Paniagua, has confirmed that US$10 million in company funds were used to buy Nicaragua’s most important private television station, Channel 8 (Telenica). Albanisa is a petroleum consortium created by Ortega and Chavez as part of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). “It is true that we bought Channel 8,” Paniagua told Managua’s El Nuevo Diario without blushing. “What’s wrong with that?” he challenged.

Nicaraguan law, however, prohibits foreign capital to control more than 50 percent of the shares of a news company, but Caracas’ PDVSA holds a controlling interest of 51 percent in Albanisa, while Managua’s Petronic holds 49 percent. Ortega was apparently not happy about Paniagua’s candor. Bayardo Arce, Ortega’s top economic advisor, insisted on Tuesday that “The Nicaraguan government did not purchase the private TV network Canal 8 as Rafael Paniagua said last week. Paniagua is crazy and spoke too much.” Indeed.

Thus, even as Chavez cracks down on media freedom in Venezuela, sparking country-wide street protests, he is helping not-so-wealthy red comrades elsewhere in Latin America, like veteran KGB asset Ortega, to do the same.

>Middle East File: S. Yemenis agitate for revived Marxist state, gunmen attack security forces in 2 S. provinces, police arrest secessionist editor

>Although northern Yemen’s Iran-backed Shia insurgency has attracted more media attention, a concurrent rebellion in the southern part of the country, instigated by the formerly ruling communists, is prompting some Middle East analysts to ponder the possibility that Yemen is fast becoming an incipient failed state like Pakistan or Mexico or, worse still, an outright failed state like Somalia.

Pictured above: Saudi soldiers walk near the border with Yemen, on January 27, 2010.

In early January, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, fearing that Al Qaeda had established a stronghold in the country, warned that “instability in Yemen is a global as well as regional threat.” This observation will no doubt serve as a pretext for Washington and its allies to throw more money at the despotic regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In the north, unrest, which has erupted sporadically since 2004, has spilled over into Saudi Arabia. On January 25 Prince Khalid bin Sultan, the Saudi deputy defense minister, acknowledged that the Shia rebels had been forced out of the border area between the kingdom and Yemen. Prince Sultan admitted that 109 Saudi troops were killed in the three-month operation to recapture the area.

Notwithstanding these claims from officialdom in Riyahd, on Tuesday Reuters reported that fighting continues between Saudi troops and Yemen’s Shia rebels: “Saudi Arabia had said rebel snipers were still entering Saudi territory. The insurgents later denied this and said they were still being attacked by Saudi military. Saudi fighter jets carried out 24 strikes on 10 northern districts on Monday and fired more than 200 rounds of rockets and heavy artillery, the rebels said on their website.”

The southern separatist insurgency began in earnest in the spring of 2009. On January 24 of this year unknown gunmen suspected of belonging to the Southern Movement killed three soldiers in Ataq, capital of Shabwa province. Two other soldiers survived the attack. The Chinese state media commented that “some voices rise in the south, calling for disengagement from the north and the restoration of the southern state.”

Two days later a security officer was shot dead and another policeman injured when Yemeni security forces dispersed dozens of Southern Movement protestors in al- Ghaidha, capital of al-Maharah province. The protesters were urging for the inclusion of their region’s troubles in the agenda of a conference on Yemen’s development, sponsored by the British government in London the following day.

This past Friday, the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), which once ruled southern Yemen, stated that party cadre Saeed Ahmed Abdullah bin Daoud was shot dead in the southern town of Zanjibar in Abyan province. The party website admitted that the province was in “an unprecedented state of disorder.” Zanjibar residents acknowledged that bin Daoud was “involved with separatists seeking independence from the central government.”

Nearly one month ago, on January 6, Yemeni police arrested the owner and editor of the largest southern newspaper, Al-Ayyam, which was banned along with seven other publications last May on charges of inciting separatism. The 66-year-old Hisham Bashraheel was taken into custody two days after police laid siege to the daily’s offices to dislodge 30 supporters and 20 security guards holed up on the premises. A policeman and guard were killed and seven people wounded at the time. Among those who gave themselves up on January 5 was Bashraheel’s son and Ali Munassar, a cadre of the “ex”-communist YSP.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s opposition has chosen a new leader, Abdul-Wahab Mahmmoud, Secretary-General of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party (ASBP), to lead the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) against President Saleh’s ruling General People’s Congress (GPC). The JMP includes the YSP, ASBP, Islamic Islah Party, Nasserite Union Party, al-Haq Party, and Popular Forces. The ASBP is a pan-Arabic party that has ruled Syria since 1963 and which ruled Iraq until 2003, when the US and British militaries ousted the regime of Saddam Hussein. US soldiers captured Hussein after the invasion and Iraqi authorities executed the dictator in 2006. The ASBP maintains a presence in the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is the de jure government of the so-called West Bank (Judea and Samaria), and other Arab states.

The Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) were unified in 1990 according to a treaty between the GPC and the YSP. However, the deal fell apart four years later, leading to a short civil war, which the “ex”-communists lost. Although the PDRY was openly allied with the Soviet Union, which maintained a naval base in Aden, President Saleh, who was first president of the YAR and since then of the current Republic of Yemen, is any case a reliable ally of Moscow. Saleh lately purchased millions of dollars of weaponry from Russia.

It is believed too that Moscow is hoping to reestablish a naval presence in Yemen. Since the Soviet strategists are always careful to control both sides of any conflict, this is quite possible, whether Saleh or Yemen’s communists prevail.