>– 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 dot.gov 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.