>– 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, 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.