On March 1, 2008 Colombian troops raided a jungle camp of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the world’s largest insurgent army, which is still seeking to establish a Marxist dictatorship in Bogota, nearly two decades after the much-ballyhooed “demise” of the Soviet Union. Since the jungle camp was located in Ecuador, an international fracas dubbed the Andean Crisis erupted, provoking the allied communist regimes in Venezuela and Ecuador to deploy tanks and troops along their respective border with Colombia.
During the assault, Colombian security forces cornered and killed a FARC commander, Raúl Reyes, seizing a laptop with a treasure trove of incriminating emails and other documents that Interpol later validated as “genuine.” Not so coincidentally, one week later Thai authorities arrested suspected Russian arms smuggler Viktor (“Lord of War”) Bout in Bangkok. US counterparts accused the former Soviet Armed Forces lieutenant of attempting to sell surface-to-air missiles to FARC and in November 2010 extradited the self-avowed “businessman” to the USA, where he faces charges of terrorism.
Lately, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London re-scrutinized the “FARC Files” and published a 240-page analysis of the rebel army. On the basis of these documents, think tank president Nigel Inkster contends that the regime of President Hugo Chavez has on certain occasions recruited FARC insurgents to provide urban guerrilla training to pro-government cells in Venezuela, to assassinate Chavez’s political opponents, and to serve as a shadow militia for Venezuela’s intelligence apparatus.
Inkster cautions there is no evidence that Chávez was directly aware of the assassination requests or that “hit jobs” were ever carried out. “We haven’t begun the dossier with the words ‘J’accuse,’ ” said Inkster, who is also one of the book’s editors. “Instead we tried to produce a sober analysis of the FARC since the late 1990s, when Venezuela became a central element of their survival strategy.”
The rocky relationship between ex-paratrooper Chavez and Reyes began during a covert meeting in Venezuela in September 2000, at which time the Venezuelan president agreed to lend FARC US$300 million in hard currency for weapons purchases. Venezuela’s red dictator apparently viewed the communist rebels as “an ally that would keep U.S. and Colombian military strength in the region tied down in counterinsurgency, helping to reduce perceived threats against Venezuela.”
A spokesman for Miraflores Palace, the presidential residence in Caracas, refused to comment on the assertions in the IISS publication. However, over the last three years, the Venezuelan government has denounced revelations from Reyes’ computer as “fabrications.” However, this data in fact led to the recovery of caches of depleted uranium in Colombia and stashes of US cash in Costa Rica, both of which were believe by authorities to represent part of FARC’s terrorism support network.
The IISS book explains how Venezuela’s main intelligence agency, known as the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) since December 2009 but previously as DISIP, enlisted FARC in training state security forces and conducting terrorist attacks, including bombings, in Caracas in 2002 and 2003. A meeting described by the authors shows that Chavez was almost certainly unaware of DISIP’s decision to involve the Colombian guerrillas in state terrorism, but that DISIP officials still “carried out such contacts with a large amount of autonomy.”
Drawing from FARC’s computer archives, the book describes how the guerrillas trained various pro-Chavez organizations in Venezuela, including the Bolivarian Liberation Forces, a “shadowy” paramilitary group operating along the border with Colombia. FARC communications also discussed providing training in urban terrorism methods for cadres of the pro-Chavez Communist Party of Venezuela and several radical cells from 23 de Enero, a Caracas slum that has long been a nest of “pro-Chavez activity.”
The IISS book cites requests by Chavez’s regime for the guerrillas to assassinate at least two of his opponents. FARC discussed one such request in 2006 from Julio Chirino, a security adviser for Alí Rodríguez Araque, a top Venezuelan official. According to the archive, Chirino asked the FARC to bump off Henry López Sisco, who headed DISIP at the time of a 1986 massacre of unarmed members of a subversive group. “They ask that if possible we give it to this guy in the head,” said Reyes. The book acknowledges there
was no evidence that FARC acted on the request before López Sisco left Venezuela in November 2006.
The IISS makes it clear that the Colombian rebels sometimes found their Venezuelan allies “unscrupulous and deceitful.” In one example, Mono Jojoy, who was killed in a bombing raid in 2010, had harsh words for Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, a former Venezuelan naval officer who served as a top liaison between Chavez and the FARC, branding him “the worst kind of bandit.” Jojoy also called Chavez himself a “deceitful and divisive president who lacked the resolve to organize himself politically and militarily.” A member of FARC’s secretariat, Jojoy was the nom de guerre of Víctor Suárez Rojas.
The “FARC Files” also show that the guerrillas contributed US$400,000 to Rafael Correa’s 2006 presidential bid in Ecuador. Socialist Correa is a close ally or, perhaps more accurately, “mini me” of Chavez. “Correa almost certainly approved the use of these funds in his campaign, but this did not translate into a policy of state support for the insurgents during the brief period between Correa’s inauguration and Reyes’ death,” Inkster said during the book launch. Like Chavez, Correa has been reluctant to characterize FARC as a terrorist organization, demanding that the Union of South American Nations do this first.
This past Sunday, Chavez telephoned Correa to congratulate the latter on his victory during the previous day’s referendum, in which a majority of Ecuadoreans affirmed a raft of reforms advocated by Correa. The Venezuelan president “interpreted the results of this victory as an undisputable sign that the will of the Ecuadorian people is to continue building the Citizens’ Revolution of Rafael Correa.” Chavez gushed: “Among the extremely important decisions that were adopted by the Ecuadorian people within
the framework of a new democracy that they are building in this brother country, was the regulation of media content in favour of the citizenship, the limiting of bank participation in the property of that media, and the transformation of the judicial system.”
Chavez’s rosy reference to the regulation of media content in Ecuador and the appointment of Correa lackeys in the judiciary is ironic since the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is concerned that Correa will use the proposed government panel to censor free speech. “We believe the referendum questions are aimed at stifling voices that oppose your administration,” Joel Simon, the group’s executive director, said in an April 18 open letter to Correa published on the CPJ website.
A government crackdown on political opponents and critics, including lawsuits against at least three reporters and the country’s biggest newspaper, El Universo, for
allegedly insulting Correa, may be a sign the government plans to use any new powers to silence dissenters, asserted former President Osvaldo Hurtado in a May 3 email for public consumption.
During their May 8 phone conversation, Chavez and Correa also discussed bilateral relations, including the success of the sucre, a new “virtual currency” used for trade among member states of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, which include Venezuela and Ecuador.
Last Saturday’s popular referendum is only one factor hastening the demise of Ecuadorean democracy, advanced under the guise of a “Citizens’ Revolution.” Again, like Chavez, Correa has provided safe haven for the narco-communist FARC, transforming his small jungle country into a “United Nations of organized crime.” This quote reflects the assessment of Jay Bergman, director of the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s operations for the Andean region of South America.
Ecuador is “sandwiched” between the continent’s two top cocaine producers, Colombia and Peru. On the one hand, FARC controls large swathes of Colombian territory, while on the other hand, a pro-Chavez left-nationalist, Ollanta Humala, is poised to win next month’s run-off election in Lima. A much-diminished Shining Path still lurks in the Peruvian jungles.
“We have cases of Albanian, Ukrainian, Italian, Chinese organized crime all in Ecuador, all getting their product for distribution to their respective countries,” observes Bergman, adding: “If I’m an Italian organized drug trafficker and I want to meet with my Colombian counterpart … I would probably prefer to meet in Ecuador than to meet in Colombia. [It’s easier to] have my passport stamped as Ecuador and say, ‘Yea, I went to the Galapagos islands for vacation.’”
High-profile drug busts suggest that Quito’s attempts to interdict shipments are motivated by a respect of law and order. “They [Ecuadorean officials] are doing a pretty bang up job in terms of basic interdictions with a fraction of the capabilities and the resources of the Colombians,” Bergman admitted. However, in 2008, in a move to boost tourism, Correa dropped a visa requirement so that visitors from any country can stay in Ecuador for up to three months.
In a previous post, we also reported how the Russian mafia, which is a front for the Russian Federation’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR/KGB), has turned Ecuador into a base for shipping arms to FARC.
In the mid-1990s, Colombian and US special forces decimated the Cali and Medellin cartels, only to watch FARC assume control over the production of cocaine but shift responsibility for international shipment and distribution to foreign organized crime groups, including the Mexican cartels. The last, of course, have turned the USA’s southern neighbour into a gruesome battlefield since late 2006. At the last link, Reuters reports: “Powerful Mexican cartels are the largest buyers of [communist-produced] Colombian cocaine to supply the massive U.S. market.”
For the most part, Mexico’s communist insurgents, especially the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), have been strangely silent as the drug lords challenge the legitimacy of the country’s “bourgeois” National Action Party government. “Until this year,” comments Jose Gil Olmos of the Center for Latin American and Border Studies at New Mexico State University, “the Zapatistas had been largely silent on the so-called drug war that has ravaged Mexico during the past few years.”
In a communiqué dated April 28, the leadership of the Chiapas-based, indigenous-Marxist EZLN, named after a hero of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917), declared it “wholeheartedly” supported a call by poet Javier Sicilia to hold multiple anti-drug war protest marches. In a pronouncement signed by the EZLN’s be-masked guerrilla leader, “Subcomandante Marcos,” the rebel force said it would end its sympathy march with readings of statements in Spanish and Indian languages.
The Zapatistas further condemned the Mexican government’s anti-organized crime strategy as a “psychotic military campaign by Felipe Calderon Hinojosa” that has turned into a “totalitarian argument” for spreading fear across the country. The EZLN urged its sympathizers in Mexico and throughout the world (like MIT professor Noam
Chomsky) to support the movement launched by Sicilia, which arose after the poet’s son and friends were murdered in Cuernavaca, Morelos, apparently by narcistas.
Beginning on Thursday, May 5, Mexicans heeded Sicilia’s summons to protest against Calderon’s anti-cartel crackdown. The largest march, reports the leftist Upside Down World, lasted four days and covered nearly 100 kilometers from Cuernavaca, Morelos, to Mexico City. On May 5, about 500 protesters began marching in Cuernavaca. Along the way, more contingents joined the march, while other marches set out from different states to join the primary protest in the federal capital. By the time the marches converged in Mexico City’s main square on Sunday, May 8, an estimated 100,000 people were gathered to protest the war.
On Saturday, May 7, some 20,000 silent masked Indians, waving Mexican and EZLN flags, took to the streets of San Cristobal de Las Casas (pictured above) in a show of support for both the guerrilla army and Sicilia’s national march for peace. The demonstration, the largest organized by the Zapatistas in a decade, was not attended by Subcomandante Marcos. “The governments say that the only good strategy is one that leaves the streets and fields of Mexico bloody, and destroys families, communities and the entire country,” EZLN commander “David” railed in an address to the marchers.
In 1994, following the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the EZLN engaged in several armed conflicts with the Mexican military in Chiapas, but has since then relegated its official opposition to the federal government to formal pronouncements, protest marches, and other publicity stunts replete with warmed-over Cold War-era proletarian rantings.