>– 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.