>Africa/Middle East Files: Anti-, pro-Mubarak forces clash, Obama concedes Muslim Brotherhood’s role in “new Egypt,” Syrian branch threatens uprising

>– Yevgeny Primakov, Russia’s Foremost Arabist and Ex-Boss of KGB/SVR, Reflects on Egyptian Turmoil, Cautions “Social Revolutions Not A Thing of the Past”

– Israel Faces Strategic Disaster as USA’s Crypto-Muslim President Prepares to Hand Egypt over to Islamic Extremists

5,000 Criminals Escape in Massive Prison Breaks Last Weekend, Hamas and Hezbollah Terrorists among Escapees

– Tunisia’s Interim Interior Minister Accuses Security Services of Fomenting New Unrest to Thwart Transition to Democracy

– Jordan’s King Abdullah II Capitulates to Muslim Brotherhood and Leftists, Fires Prime Minister, Implements Reforms

– President Assad Alleges Country “Immune” to Unrest, Next Day Syrian Branch of Muslim Brotherhood Promises Civil Disobedience

– Algerian Opposition Plans More Anti-Government Rallies, Demands Ouster of National Liberation Front President Bouteflika

Pictured above: Backdropped by the Egyptian Museum, Cairo’s Tahrir Square on February 3. Note the rows of many devout Muslims praying.

Over the past 10 days, more than 300 Egyptians have been killed in fighting between anti-government protesters and security forces and also between pro- and anti-government forces. In the midst of President Hosni Mubarak’s attempts to cling to power, the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in the future of Egypt has entered the international media spotlight.

On Wednesday, thousands of supporters and opponents of Mubarak clashed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, which is near the headquarters of the long-ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). Mounted on horses and camels, some wielding whips, pro-Mubarak militants stormed barricades set up by oppositionists. The next day, army tanks and soldiers finally cleared away pro-government rioters and positioned themselves between the attackers and protesters seeking Mubarak’s ouster. The clash followed a call by the army for protesters to return home, prompting the latter to accuse state security of employing thugs to break up the barricades.

The new head of government promptly made an unprecedented apology for the assault by regime backers. Appointed this past weekend, Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq acknowledged that the assault on the anti-Mubarak protesters was likely organized and promised to investigate who was behind it. Shafiq is a former air force commander and lately president of Egypt Air. Observing the political turmoil from Washington, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs admonished: “If any of the violence is instigated by the government, it should stop immediately.”

On Wednesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, chief architect of the new Union for the Mediterranean, urged a speedy political transition “to respond to the desire for change and renewal forcefully expressed by the population.” Sarkozy has come under criticism for appearing to support the regime of Tunisian dictator President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, toppled in mass protests last month.

Internet service was restored throughout Egypt, having been cut off for days by the government. State television reported an easing of a nationwide curfew and declared that parliament was suspended until the results of last year’s contested elections were revised.

Adding uncertainty to the political turmoil were several prison breaks that occurred over the weekend, as a result of some police officers abandoning their posts. Last Sunday, a total of 5,000 inmates escaped from a penitentiary in Faiyum Governorate, located about 130 kilometers southwest of Cairo. A top prison official holding the rank of general was killed in the incident. Among the escapees in Faiyum were members of Egypt’s banned Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, the political party/terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip.

On the same day, at the Wadi Natrun prison north of Cairo, incarcerated members of Hezbollah fled after guards abandoned their posts. In April 2010, a Cairo court sentenced 26 people, including members of the Lebanese political party/militia, in connection with a plot to carry out terrorist attacks against the Suez Canal and resorts on the Sinai Peninsula. Four were sentenced in absentia.

This week, the Muslim Brotherhood reiterated its demands for the president’s departure and the end of the Socialist International-affiliated NDP regime. On the organization’s website the Brotherhood urged Egyptians to resist pro-government militants and “stand in one trench against the ruling autocratic regime.” On Tuesday, Mubarak vowed to complete his present term, which expires in September, but promised that he would not stand for re-election. Despite opposition demands, the Egyptian dictator refuses to leave the country.

On Thursday, Kremlin-run Novosti reported that “Egypt’s banned Muslim Brotherhood movement has unveiled its plans to scrap a peace treaty with Israel if it comes to power, a deputy leader said in the interview with NHK TV.” Speaking to the Japanese media, Rashad al-Bayoumi announced: “After President Mubarak steps down and a provisional government is formed, there is a need to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel.” Egypt was the first Arab country to officially recognize Israel and sign a peace agreement with the Israeli government in 1979.

Since January 25, the Muslim Brotherhood has participated in the mass anti-government rallies in Cairo, Alexandria, and other cities, prompting some political analysts to speculate about the Islamist organization’s role in a post-Mubarak government. The Brotherhood has in fact publicly declared its intention to join pro-Iranian opposition leader Mohamed El Baradei in a government of national unity following the next presidential election, slated for September.

This week, various news agencies diligently ferreted out the US government’s real stance regarding Egypt’s expected transition to democracy. Not surprisingly, the administration of crypto-Muslim US President Barack Hussein Obama is prepared to hand Egypt over to radical Islamic and pro-Iranian forces. According to the Israeli media, citing The New York Times, “Obama believes that the Muslim Brotherhood should participate in the political process in Egypt.” Online business magazine Globes, noting the White House’s disappointment with Mubarak’s decision to postpone his departure until September, continues:

The option to approach the Muslim Brotherhood came during a meeting of over a dozen foreign policy experts at the White House on Monday [January 31]. The meeting, led by deputy national security adviser for strategic communications Benjamin Rhodes, and two other National Security Council officials, Daniel Shapiro and Samantha Power, examined unrest in the region, and the potential for the protests to spread.

The New York Times quotes participants as saying that White House staff members said that Mr. Obama believed that Egyptian politics needed to encompass ‘non-secular’ parties: diplomatic-speak for the Muslim Brotherhood.

In keeping with Obama’s position, the US State Department has acknowledged that the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest and best-organized opposition party, may play a role in Egypt’s transition from autocracy if the group agrees to a peaceful, democratic process. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley denied that US officials in Cairo or Washington have spoken to Brotherhood representatives. However, he conceded that the Brotherhood is “a fact of life in Egypt.” The Brotherhood won 88 seats in the 2005 parliamentary elections, but lost every one in last year’s poll, partly provoking the current unrest.

An anonymous official at the US embassy in Egypt acknowledged that Ambassador Margaret Scobey had spoken to a “large number of people,” including former United Nations nuclear watchdog chief El Baradei. “Embassy has been in touched with a large number of people, but I don’t know all the names for sure. However, Muslim Brotherhood—no.”

Located at the intersection of the Asian and African continents, Egypt is a key ally of the USA and Israel. Until 1991 Egypt was armed principally by the Soviet Union. Since the so-called demise of communism, however, the Mubarak regime has turned to the USA for $1 billion in military aid each year. Cairo has used these funds to buy tanks, F-16 fighter jets, Patriot anti-aircraft missiles, and other weapons systems. Foreign policy analysts warn that “US military and intelligence agencies would lose vital air, land and sea assets if Egypt falls into the hands of radical Islamists, as Iran did in 1979.”

Ken Allard, a retired US Army colonel and military analyst, predicts: “Let me count the ways. They are our biggest strategic partner in the Middle East. At that point, you’ve lost your biggest Arab partner. Geostrategically, the mind boggles.” The US Navy would not be able to navigate the Egyptian-run Suez Canal, which reduces sailing time for Atlantic-based carriers groups going from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. The US Air Force would probably lose overflight rights into the Middle East, while the US Army would lose a partner in building the M1A1 tank.

“If we lose Egypt to the Brotherhood, it is absolutely devastating,” fretted former US Representative Peter Hoekstra, who led the House Select Committee on Intelligence. “The Egyptians are a key stabilizing force for us throughout the Middle East.” During a 2009 visit to Cairo, US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates stated: “Our military has benefited from the interactions with the Egyptian armed forces—one of the most professional and capable in the region. We are always looking for ways to expand these ties through education, training and exercises.”

The Obama White House has been courting the Muslim Brotherhood for some time. In January 2010, Washington lifted a ban preventing Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan from entering the USA. Ramadan, an Egyptian then living in Switzerland, is a leading member of Europe’s Muslim Brotherhood branch and the grandson of the movement’s founder Hassan al-Banna.

Russia has waded cautiously into Egypt’s political turmoil, but nevertheless directed subtle warnings toward the USA and Israel not to interfere in the country’s domestic crisis. On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov emphasized that Egypt remains Russia’s strategic partner, minimizing Mubarak’s alliance with the USA:

Egypt is our strategic partner and a key country in the Middle East region. That it why we are not indifferent to what is happening there and are interested in Egypt being a stable, prosperous and democratic state and want today’s socio-economic and political problems to be peacefully solved as soon as possible.

We do not consider it useful to produce any recipes from outside or deliver ultimatums – it is political forces in Egypt who should speak out.

On Tuesday, the aging Yevgeny Primakov, a trained Arabist who was formerly head of the Soviet KGB but currently presides over the Russian Federation Chamber of Commerce, noted the absence of overt Islamic slogans in the Egyptian protests. However, he asserted that it is erroneous to believe that social revolutions are “a thing of the past.” Primakov’s full comments were published in the Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily:

We have concentrated in our analysis quite fairly on radical Islamism, which has been gaining strength in the Muslim world, and we have somewhat overlooked “traditional” roots of social revolutionary explosions. Generally, we have erroneously assumed that revolutions, which sweep away conservative and authoritarian regimes, are a thing of the past, including in developing countries. The situation in Tunisia and Egypt show that we are wrong.

Having focused on the dangers of extremist Islamism, we have underestimated the influence of modernization, primarily on advanced Muslim states, in terms of their socio-cultural development. Spontaneity backed by chatting on the Internet and via mobile phones played a role in the revolutionary movement that shook Tunisia and then Egypt.

There were no Islamic slogans in demonstrations in Egypt and Tunisia, even through the Muslim Brotherhood has rather strong positions in Egypt.

It is a sign of serious importance. But it gives no guarantee that the Islamists will not try to ride the revolutionary wave. The Muslim Brotherhood did so during the revolutionary events in Egypt in 1952-1953.

Whatever concessions it makes to faux rightist conspiracy theories, the New American exposes the role of the Communist Party of Egypt in the present revolutionary convulsions by quoting the party website:

Hundreds of patriotic and democratic forces and cadres of our Party in the Cairo district of Abidin and in other places in the capital as well as other demonstrations in Port Said and Alexandria against the inheritance of power to Gamal Mubarak, or an extension for Hosni Mubarak…

Our party has participated in the demonstration raising banners of the Communist Party Banners to fly the red in the field of Abdeen and confirm the position of the Communist Party of rejection of this system.

Elsewhere in the Arab world, the Syrian chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood is threatening civil disobedience against the socialist dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad. On Tuesday, Syrian Muslim Brotherhood leader, Riyadh Al Saqfa, warned the Ba’athist regime to “learn from what happened in Tunisia.” He rumbled: “If the [Syrian] reimge continues to ignore the views of the people and corruption and discrimination continues, we will incite the people to demand their rights until this reaches the point of civil disobedience.” A statement released by the organization demanded that the Ba’athist party remove Article VIII of the constitution, which enshrines single-party rule, terminate all emergency and martial laws, release all political prisoners, and ameliorate the country’s poverty.

This ultimatum from the Syrian section of the Muslim Brotherhood comes one day after Assad proudly declared in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that his country is “immune” to the unrest gripping the Arab world.

In Jordan this week, King Abdullah II capitulated to demands from the Islamic Action Front, the national branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, and leftist parties to dismiss the government and implement political reforms. In Algeria, oppositionists plan a large anti-government demonstration for February 12 with the intent of ousting National Liberation Front President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and ending a state of emergency that began when the Algerian Civil War erupted 19 years ago.

In Tunisia, where the revolutionary wave began, the new interior minister accused members of the security services of instigating further unrest to block efforts to establish democracy following the ouster of Ben Ali. Farhat Rajhi also announced the detention of his predecessor, Rafik Belhaj Kacem, who led the crackdown in December and January against protesters seeking to end Ben Ali’s 23-year rule.

>Africa File: Mubarak reportedly flees Cairo as radical Islamic, pro-Iranian forces poised to take control of Egypt, emperil Israel’s national security

>– Mubarak Clings to Power, Appoints Loyalists to Posts of Vice President, Prime Minister, Reportedly Retreats to Red Sea Resort

– Tanks Surround Anti-Government Protesters in Cairo, F-16 Fighter Jets Swoop in Low over Tahrir Square

– Protesters Storm Interior Ministry Building on Saturday Night, Army Negotiates Escape for Hated National Police

– Muslim Brotherhood and Mohamed El Baradei Propose National Unity Government, US Jewish Leader Calls Ex-Director of IAEA “Stooge of Iran”

– Anti-Government Protesters Vow One Million-Person Turnout on February 1, Army Promises No Shooting (source)

The Suez Canal should be closed immediately. The flow of gas from Egypt to Israel should cease in order to bring about the downfall of the Mubarak regime. The people should be prepared for war against Israel.
— Muhammad Ghannem, Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, quoted by Iran’s Al-Alam, January 31, 2011

After a week of violent protests throughout Egypt, spurred on by the successful “Jasmine Revolution” in Tunisia, which toppled President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Islamic and pro-Iranian forces are poised to take over the Egyptian state from long-time socialist dictator Hosni Mubarak. Anti-government forces have called for an “indefinite strike” until Mubarak resigns. According to the British media, Mubarak has retreated to the Red Sea resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh for safety, fearing the turmoil created by anti-government mobs occupying Tahrir Square in Cairo for the past week.

Over the weekend, Mubarak shored up his ebbing power by appointing two loyalists to the government, which he sacked on Saturday. Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s spy master since 1993, was tapped for the post of vice president, while Ahmed Shafiq, former air force commander and currently president of Egypt Air, was dropped into the post of prime minister. “He’s got a back of steel,” remarked Edward S. Walker, former US ambassador to Egypt and Israel, referring to the 75-year-old Soviet-educated Suleiman. He added: “He’s got some moderation but he’s not a liberal. He’s not a democrat.”

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood is eyeing a national unity government with Mohammed El Baradei, former United Nations nuclear watchdog chief. On Saturday, the Brotherhood called on Mubarak to relinquish power in a peaceful manner following the resignation of the Egyptian cabinet. The Islamist group is also demanding an end to 30-year-old emergency laws, which in the wake of President Anwar Sadat’s assassination by Islamic fundamentalists in the army, have been used often to arrest and harass dissidents.

Speaking to CNN on Sunday, El Baradei stated that he had a “popular and political mandate” to negotiate the formation of a unity government. El Baradei declared: “I have been authorized — mandated — by the people who organized these demonstrations and many other parties to agree on a national unity government.”

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, has accused El Baradei of covering up Iran’s true nuclear weaponization capacities while he directed the International Atomic Energy Agency. “He is a stooge of Iran, and I don’t use the term lightly,” Hoenlein asserted in an online recorded interview with Yeshiva World News. “He fronted for them, he distorted the reports.”

In a related story, on Sunday, a number of Hamas operatives, including the group’s commander for Khan Younis, escaped from a jail in Egypt and were believed to be making their way back to the Gaza Strip. Along the same theme, Egyptian troops have arrested two armed members of Hamas who entered the country illegally from Gaza. The Muslim Brotherhood and the virulently anti-Israeli, pro-Iranian Hamas are closely allied.

In the streets, tens of thousands of Egyptians are resolved to oppose the Mubarak regime unto death. On Sunday, the army, which is an otherwise respected institution, deployed tanks to create a cordon around Tahrir Square, where much of the protesting has taken place, and even built a meter-high barricade around the state television building. The air force dispatched US-built F-16 fighter jets to scream low over the square in order to intimidate oppositionists, but they stood their ground. “You must tell the world that the army forces try to make all the people scared,” mechanic Abo Farah, 48, shouted. “But we are not afraid. We are brave. We will defend our cause [even] after we die. Mubarak must go.”

Elsewhere in Egypt’s capital, on Saturday night protesters attacked the Interior Ministry with Molotov cocktails. The country’s much-hated police force responded with roof-top sniper fire, killing 13 civilians. The next morning, the army negotiated “safe passage” for the police, who fled the building in black vans, guns blazing.

The Israeli government is anxiously watching events in Egypt. The Mubarak regime has upheld the Camp David Accords for nearly 30 years in what some Middle East analysts call a “cold peace” between the two countries. A pro-Iranian national unity government consisting of El Baradei’s forces and the Muslim Brotherhood could endanger Israel’s national security along its southwest border. On February 1, the Jerusalem Post reported: “A leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt told the Arabic-language Iranian news network Al-Alam on Monday that he would like to see the Egyptian people prepare for war against Israel . . .”

“The Egyptians are cracking down on Hamas,” related a senior Israeli defense official said on Sunday. Israeli authorities who contacted the Egyptian government on Sunday “expressed confidence” in former spy master Suleiman’s ability to take control of the military and prevent a regime change. “This is the end of Hosni Mubarak’s presidency, but the situation could be brought under control by Suleiman,” said the anonymous official mentioned above.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke by telephone on Sunday to discuss the political turmoil in Egypt.

>Middle East File: Islamic Action Front, trade unions, leftists lead anti-government protests in Amman, demand Jordanian PM resign

>Political unrest in the Arab world has spread from North Africa to Jordan which, like Egypt, has a peace treaty with Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood is not only leading anti-government protests in Egypt, but also in Jordan, where the national chapter is called the Islamic Action Front. Yesterday, Al Jazeera reported on protests taking place in the capital Amman:

Thousands of people in Jordan have taken to the streets in protests, demanding the country’s prime minister step down, and the government curb rising prices, inflation and unemployment. In the third consecutive Friday of protests, about 3,500 opposition activists from Jordan’s main Islamist opposition group, trade unions and leftist organisations gathered in the capital, waving colourful banners reading: “Send the corrupt guys to court”.

The crowd denounced Samir Rifai’s, the prime minister, and his unpopular policies. Many shouted: “Rifai go away, prices are on fire and so are the Jordanians.”

Another 2,500 people also took to the streets in six other cities across the country after the noon prayers. Those protests also called for Rifai’s ouster.

King Abdullah has promised some reforms, particularly with respect to election laws. However, many Jordanians believe he will not cave in to demands for the election by parliament of the prime minister and his cabinet officials. These are traditionally appointed by the king.

>Africa File: Egyptian dictator Mubarak orders government ministers to resign, but backs armed response to oppositionists after 5th day of protest

>– Gaza-Egypt Border Unpatrolled, Hamas Infiltrating Egypt, Collaborating with Muslim Brotherhood in Anti-Mubarak Protests (source)

– Protesters Briefly Occupy Egyptian Embassy in Caracas, Egyptian-Venezuelans Express Solidarity with Anti-Mubarak Forces (source)

– Egyptian Government Blocks Internet, Text Messaging, Data Planning Services in Parts of Country

– Mubarak Sends Goon Squads into Streets of Cairo, Baseball Bat-Wielding Plain-Clothes “Baltageya” Employed by State Security

– Egyptian Communists Endorse Removal of Mubarak Regime at Party Website, Applaud Ben Ali’s Ouster in Tunisia

– US University Professor Warns of Danger of Islamic Fundamentalists or Communists Taking Over Egypt, Nullifying Peace Treaty with Israel

On Saturday, January 29, Egypt’s political opposition continued its street protests against the dictatorship of President Hosni Mubarak for the fifth straight day. The government has imposed a curfew upon the population, which the otherwise respected institution of the Egyptian army has threatened to enforce. Thus far, most confrontations with anti-government protesters have taken place with the police, who do not enjoy the military’s prestige.

After four days of pitched street battles, Mubarak budged, if only slightly, sacking his government ministers. The New York Times reports that Mubarak “appeared on television early Saturday morning and ordered his government to resign, but backed his security forces’ attempts to contain the surging unrest around the country that has shaken his three-decade-long authoritarian rule.” Significantly, “He did not offer to step down himself and spent much of his speech explaining the need for stability, saying that while he was ‘on the side of freedom,’ his job was to protect the nation from chaos.”

Friday’s demonstrations began with tens of thousands of oppositionists taking to the streets of Cairo (pictured above) and the historic port city of Alexandria. The anti-government protests in Egypt ride on the crest of political unrest throughout the Arab world, beginning in Tunisia, where President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted one week ago, and spreading to Algeria, Jordan, and Yemen.

Spearheading the anti-Mubarak movement is Mohamed El Baradei, a presidential aspirant and former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency. El Baradei returned to Egypt on Thursday, ending his exile in Austria. He joined the street protests in Cairo, but shortly thereafter sought refuge in a mosque after police attacked him with water cannon. Incidentally, under El Baradei’s watch, the IAEA gave Iran’s nuclear program a pass mark with respect to apparently having no ambitions to build atomic warheads.

After an initial reticence, the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and best organized opposition force in Egypt, has also sent its cadres into the streets to agitate for regime change. At least five senior leaders and five former members of parliament were arrested in raids.

“Two, three days ago I didn’t think the Brotherhood would join the protests because they thought it would be business as usual,” comments Josh Stacher, a political scientist at Kent State University who specializes in modern Egypt studies. “But I think the Brothers realize it’s on now. They sense they’ve got a legit chance of chasing Mubarak out of the country.”

In addition to water cannon trucks, security forces, which are stationed along Cairo’s main avenues, are armed with tear gas and rubber bullets. At least five protesters have been killed since Tuesday and the government admits 800 people have been detained. Human rights groups report there have been more than 2,000 arrests.

In an attempt to thwart opposition strategizing, the Egyptian government ordered telecommunications company Vodafone to suspend service in parts of the country, blocking Internet, text messaging, and data planning services. It has also deployed goon squads throughout the capital.

On his Twitter feed, CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman reported that the government has sent “waves” of baltageya, plain-clothes thugs employed by state security, into the streets to intimidate protesters. Wedeman witnessed a car load of baseball bats arriving on the grounds of the government TV building. Incidentally, some people like Wedeman still have Internet access via cellphones registered in foreign countries.

In Washington, US President Barack Obama straddled the fence by noting that political reforms were “absolutely critical” to Egypt’s “long-term well-being,” while acknowledging Mubarak is a “critical U.S. ally” in the Arab world. The Christian Science Monitor opines: “Egyptians pushing for regime change and democracy in Egypt have won this round, simply by making good on their promise of the largest protest against the government since three days of bread riots in 1977.”

The website of the Communist Party of Egypt is outspoken in its endorsement of the street protests against Mubarak, as well as the ousting of Ben Ali in Tunisia. Wave Nunnally, professor of Biblical studies at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri was quoted by the local News-Leader as warning: “Should Islamic fundamentalists or Communists take over they would probably declare the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel null and void, which would inject more instability into the region.”

In spite of some party name changes, the same regime has essentially held sway in Egypt since 1952, when military officer Gamal Abdel Nasser and his cohorts in the Free Officers’ Movement overthrew King Farouk I. In 1949, Nasser organized the founding committee of the Free Officers, which consisted of 14 men from different political backgrounds, including Young Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Communist Party of Egypt, as well as the aristocracy. Nasser aligned his country with the Soviet Union.

>Red Terror File: Medvedev sacks transport top cop as “FSB trace” lurks behind Moscow airport bombing, suspect emerges but no claims of responsibility

>– Chechen Rebel Leader Umarov Blamed FSB for Organizing 2010 Moscow Metro Suicide Bombing

– They Just Don’t Get It File: NORAD/US NORTHCOM Commander Overlooks Kremlin’s Plausible Deniability “Card” in Domodedovo Attack

Following the deadly bombing at Russia’s busiest airport this past Monday, President Dmitry Medvedev has fired Major General Andrei Alexeyev, a top official of the country’s transport police. Ahead of next year’s presidential election, Medvedev, who is widely perceived as Vladimir Putin’s “lap dog,” appears anxious to assert that he is “in control” after suicide bombers killed 35 people at Domodedovo International Airport.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Putin, with his characteristic “tough guy” swagger, vowed retribution for the attack, but specified no targets.

The Kremlin-controlled Russian news media, generally citing unnamed sources, have portrayed the bombing as conducted by a man and a woman, and that the bomb was either strapped to one of them or in a suitcase. At least one accomplice drove the “Black Widow” and her male colleague to the airport. According to Britain’s Guardian newspaper, quoting witnesses interviewed by Russian TV news, the male bomber, just before the device detonated, shouted: “I’ll kill you all!”

Witness Artyom Zhilinkov related to Pravda: “He blew himself up in front of my very eyes. It was a man, he was wearing a black coat and a black hat – that’s all I can remember. He literally blew up into pieces.” The explosion sprayed the airport’s baggage claim area with shrapnel, screws, and ball bearings, and dismembered innocent travellers. Zhilinkov survived the tremendous blast because he hid behind a column.

In addition to the dead, more than 170 people were injured. Eight foreigners were killed, including two Austrians, two Tajiks, and one each from Britain, Germany, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. The bombing has demoralized many Russians, weary of 16 years of separatist violence in the Northern Caucasus region, including last year’s double suicide-bombing of the Moscow subway system, in which 40 people were killed.

Tellingly, at least for those seeking an “FSB trace” behind the latest atrocity in Russia, no claim of responsibility for the bombing has been made. In our first post on this subject, we reported that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB/KGB) was aware that a terrorist attack might take place at Domodedovo but, apparently, did nothing to improve security at the airport. This is suspicious in itself.

Some reports have suggested that the suicide bombers were Islamic guerrillas from Chechnya or Dagestan, such as the Nogai Brigade, an insurgent group in the Stavropol region of southern Russia. The Nogai Brigade allegedly operates under the operational umbrella of the Imarat Kavkaz, or Caucasus Emirate. Imarat Kavkaz was formed in 2007 with the objective of implementing Islamic law in the North Caucasus.

The latest wave of terrorism in Russia began in February 2010, when Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov announced that Russian cities would be included in his organization’s “zone of military operations.” Umarov claimed responsibility for the March 29, 2010 Metro suicide bombing in Moscow. The Georgian media, however, quoted Umarov as blaming the FSB itself for the Metro attack:

An audio address of head of the Caucasus Emirate of Doku Umarov appeared in the Internet, in which he states that the explosions in the Moscow metro were organized by the FSB. “The Chechens would not have done that. They have done everything as though Russian security services had nothing to do with this, but in reality they are guilty. The FSB is to be blamed for the explosions in Moscow,” – said Umarov. According to official figures, 39 people were killed during the explosion in the Moscow metro.

A previous attack on the Moscow Metro took place in 2004.

With respect to the latest terrorist attack in Moscow, Vitaly Razdobudko, 32, has emerged as the chief suspect (pictured above). Investigators allege Razdobudko has been missing from his apartment in the southern resort town of Pyatigorsk in the Stavropol region since last November, along with his wife and a newborn baby. Police reportedly zeroed in on Vitaly Razdobudko after connecting him to the Nogai Brigade and a December 31, 2010 bomb blast at a home in Moscow. In that incident, a would-be Black Widow accidentally blew herself up.

Razdobudko converted from Christianity (presumably Russian Orthodoxy) and adopted Islam when he was a student in the local technical university. He was formally converted by a local imam in Pyatigorsk, a Russian named Anton Stepanenko. Stepanenko, whose Muslim name is Abdullah, was convicted of holding a man hostage in 2006. At the time, police found Wahhabist literature, audio and video materials, as well as a manual on explosives, in Stepanenko’s home.

In the light of Umarov’s self-defense, we can only speculate that Stepanenko may be an “arm’s length” asset for recruiting and brainwashing Islamic terrorists on behalf of the FSB.

According to state-run Novosti, Razdobudko was not the man seen at Domodedovo. A video camera “clearly shows that it is a different person,” a police source told the agency. Instead, he is suspected of being a possible organizer of the January 24 suicide attack.

US terrorism experts and authorities were quick to offer a synopsis of the Moscow airport tragedy. Juan Zarate, deputy national security adviser under President George W. Bush and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, commented: “In the last five years, the Russians believed they had pacified the problem. But the attack on the subway last year and this attack [on January 24, 2011] underscore there are festering issues and conflicts still unresolved.”

Ironically, especially for those of us who suspect Domodedovo was another case of plausible deniability for the Kremlin ahead of a Spetsnaz-led WMD attack on US soil, NORAD/US NORTHCOM commander Admiral James Winnefeld made the following observation about US-Russian relations:

People think of us and the Russians as adversaries, and we’re not, and particularly in this area. We feel very badly for what happened to them in Moscow because that could have just as easily happened here. Military-to-military relations between the U.S. and Russia are improving. I would welcome the opportunity, candidly, and I would also welcome the opportunity to host a Russian counterpart here.

Winnefeld’s strategically naïve worldview proves that the Soviet communists may have lost the Cold War economically, but they won it ideologically. US Northern Command and the joint US-Canadian military command known as the North American Aerospace Defence Command are both headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

>Africa File: Egypt’s socialist dictatorship uses 1981 emergency law to suppress Tunisian-inspired protests, riot police disperse opposition in Cairo

>– Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s Largest Opposition Group, Promises “Strong Presence” in Protests Slated for January 28

– Tunisia’s Interim Government Issues Arrest Warrant for Deposed President Ben Ali, Releases Political Prisoners

– Tunisian General Workers’ Union Announces General Strike with Intent of Toppling Interim Government

Political unrest continues to sweep across North Africa, challenging long-ruling socialist dictatorships.

In Egypt, unprecedented protests against President Hosni Mubarak have entered their third day as regime opponents converge in central Cairo, awaiting the arrival in country of main opposition figure, former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed El Baradei. Protesters are demanding that the long-ruling National Democratic Party, which descends from Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Arab Socialist Union, dissolve itself. Mubarak became president after Anwar Sadat, who signed Egypt’s current peace accord with Israel, was assassinated by Islamic fundamentalists in the army.

Clashes between oppositionists and security forces were also reported in the eastern Egyptian city of Ismaliya.

On Wednesday morning, an Egyptian opposition group called for a second day of protests in Cairo, just hours after police fired tear gas and beat anti-government protesters to clear a central square in the city. The 6th of April Youth Movement used its Facebook page to urge oppositionists to continue their defiance of President Mubarak’s 30-year-old regime.

The day before, rock-throwing demonstrators occupied Cairo’s Tahrir Square for hours, resisting attempts to dislodge them by police wielding tear gas and water cannons. The demonstrations began peacefully, with police at first showing restraint. Several witnesses, however, allege the clashes began after protesters attempted to seize a water cannon truck. After Tuesday’s protest, which was illegal under a 1981 emergency law, Egypt’s Interior Ministry promptly re-banned all new demonstrations.

Several thousand Egyptians demonstrated in the historic port city of Alexandria. There were also large protests in Mansoura and Mahalla al-Kobra. Three protesters and a police officer were killed in Tuesday’s unrest. The latter was inspired by Tunisia’s so-called Jasmine Revolution, which led to the ouster one week ago of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Since Ben Ali’s departure from Tunisia, at least five Egyptians have attempted suicide by self-immolation, imitating the young Tunisian whose burning death in December rallied protesters there. Similar protest marches and self-immolations have occurred in defiance of Algeria’s long-ruling National Liberation Front regime, prompting a swift police crackdown in Algiers.

Egypt’s opposition groups, including the Kifaya movement, used Facebook and Twitter to organize the protests. However, on Tuesday Twitter’s owners stated their social networking website had been blocked in Egypt, presumably by government authorities. Legal parties such as the liberal Wafd and the banned Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest and best organized opposition group, did not officially endorse the demonstrations, but a number of their members participated. The Muslim Brotherhood, however, has promised a “strong presence” in demonstrations slated for January 28.

Meanwhile, Tunisia’s interim government, which is still dominated by former members of the long-ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally, have issued an arrest warrant for Ben Ali and his family. The Ben Ali clan is charged with theft and currency offenses. Interpol has been asked to help arrest the deposed president, his wife Leila Trabelsi, and other family members who have fled the country. According to interim Justice Minister Lazhar Karoui Chebbi, Ben Ali, who is reportedly in Saudi Arabia, “amassed vast riches” during his 23 years in power, while his family controlled many of Tunisia’s most influential companies.

Chebbi also noted that six members of the presidential guard will be tried for inciting violence after Ben Ali’s departure. He indicated that 2,460 prisoners had been released since last week, but would not reveal how many were jailed for alleged political crimes. Immediately after Ben Ali’s flight from Tunisia, the prime minister promised to release all political prisoners.

The Tunisian General Workers’ Union, a prime mover in the anti-government protests, announced a general strike on Wednesday in Sfax, Tunisia’s second city and economic center.

>EU File: Violent demos rock Tirana, police kill three protesters, Albania’s “ex”-communist PM accuses “ex”-communist party of staging “coup d’etat”

>Blogger’s Note: Albania is not a member of the European Union. However, we have placed this news item in our “EU File” category since many former communist states have relations with the EU.

This past Friday, Albania’s opposition Socialist Party, once the ruling Marxist-Leninist party, participated in a violent protest against the government, which is led by the ostensibly center-right Democratic Party. Police shot dead three protesters, while a fourth remains in a critical condition.

Albania’s parliament has voted to establish a special commission to investigate the deadly demonstration. In an extraordinary parliamentary session, Prime Minister Sali Berisha accused opposition leaders, who are “former” communists like himself, of attempting to seize power in a failed coup attempt.

“This inquiry commission will examine all the evidence to reveal the truth about the coup d’etat staged January 21 with the aim of overthrowing the constitutional order,” intoned parliament speaker Jozefina Topalli. The commission will have a three-month-mandate to investigate the clashes, which took place when tens of thousands of people demonstrated outside government headquarters in downtown Tirana (pictured above).

Albania has been in a political standoff since its last elections in July 2009. The Socialist Party refuses to recognize the results, blocking legislation and reforms in parliament. Despite pleas for peace from international representatives, Berisha has summoned Democratic Party supporters to meet in Tirana next Saturday for an “anti-violence rally.” Socialist leader and Tirana mayor Edi Rama also called for new protests after attending the burials of two of the victims on Sunday.

Albania is a “former” communist state that once hosted a Soviet submarine base on the Adriatic Sea. Prior to communist partisans seizing power at the end of the Second World War, the country was under the domination of Fascist Italy, which invaded in 1939. Albanians are the dominant ethnic group in Kosovo, the neighboring Serbian province that many countries worldwide (except Serbia and Russia) recognize as an independent state. The Albanian government, fearing Serbia as a potential enemy, joined NATO in 2009.

>Africa/Middle East Files: Protests, riots inspired by Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution” erupt in Algeria, Yemen, Egypt, demand removal of dictators

>– Tunisia’s Main Trade Union “Instrumental” in Downfall of Ben Ali Regime, Organizes “Caravan of Liberation” March to Oust Interim Government

– Self-Immolations Spread to Algeria in Defiance of 50-Year Rule of National Liberation Front

– Yemeni President Denies Authoritarian Nature of Regime, Contends with Marxist Separatists in South, Six Soldiers Killed in Ambush

This past Friday, relatives of Tunisia’s ousted president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, arrived in Canada, an official of Ottawa’s Citizenship and Immigration Department told Agence France-Presse and Postmedia News in an email. However, Canadian official Douglas Kellam made it clear that the Ben Ali clan is persona non grata: “Mr. Ben Ali, deposed members of the former Tunisian regime and their immediate families are not welcome in Canada.”

One of Ben Ali’s many brothers-in-law arrived in Montreal aboard a private jet accompanied by his wife, their children, and a governess, Kellam related. Ben Ali’s wife, Leila Trabelsi, has several brothers, but it was unclear which one had arrived in Canada. Members of Ben Ali’s family reportedly checked into a hotel in Montreal.

The deposed president’s daughter, Nesrine Ben Ali, and her husband, businessman Sakher El Materi, purchased a US$2.5-million home in the upscale, English-speaking Montreal neighborhood of Westmount two years ago. The stately house is currently uninhabited and partly under construction. Tunisia’s central bank seized El Materi’s own bank last week.

Ben Ali himself has sought refuge in another authoritarian regime, Saudi Arabia, where Christians and Jews can be executed for spreading their beliefs, even though Western countries have welcomed hate-spewing Islamic radicals and terrorists with open arms.

On Saturday, hundreds of mutinous police officers joined thousands of protesters in Tunis in a rally against interim Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi. They called on the new government to quit because of the presence of old regime figures in key posts, including Ghannouchi, as well as the defense, interior, and foreign ministers. Pictured above: More anti-government protests in Tunis on January 24.

At the same time, a protest march backed by the Tunisian General Workers’ Union, which has played an instrumental role in the recent upheaval, departed central Tunisia for the capital in a bid to topple the interim government. Participants dubbed their protest a “Caravan of Liberation” and spent their first night in Regueb, a town 265 kilometers south of Tunis, and claimed their march would gather momentum as it moved toward the capital.

Meanwhile, protests and riots inspired by Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution” have spread to other Arab countries with authoritarian regimes, such as Algeria, Yemen, and Egypt.

In Algiers, police, armed with batons and tear gas, clashed with 300 pro-democracy protesters on Saturday, leaving multiple casualties, as they blocked a march on parliament. The opposition said at least 42 people were injured during the six-hour standoff, including two seriously. The Interior Ministry insisted that the number of injured was only 19, including 11 protestors or passers-by, and eight police.

Said Sadi, head of the opposition Rally for Culture and Democracy, admitted the protest was organized in defiance of a government ban. The Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights warned that “the blanket government ban on peaceful protest could cause social upheaval” in the North African country. “The fact of banning peaceful marches undertaken by the parties and civil society is leading us towards an explosion,” ALDHR president Mostefa Bouchachi told the AFP news agency.

Also on Saturday, Karim Bendine, 35, died in a hospital in Douera, a suburb of Algiers, where he was admitted earlier last week with most of his body covered in third-degree burns. Bendine had set himself alight near the town hall of Dellys, near the capital, for unknown reasons. Seven other Algerians have immolated themselves since January 12, apparently inspired by the self-immolation in Tunisia of 26-year-old Mohammed Bouazizi, whose protest suicide against unemployment unleashed a wave of violent protests that ended in the ouster of strongman Ben Ali. Another protest self-immolation took place in Boukhadra on Monday.

The pro-Soviet socialist National Liberation Front (FLN) has effectively ruled Algeria since 1962, although its dominance was challenged in 1991, when the Islamic Salvation Front won the first round of an election that was later cancelled by the ruling authorities. This led to the Algerian Civil War and finally the defeat of the Islamic Salvation Army and the Armed Islamic Group. FLN cadre Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been president of Algeria since 1999.

Elsewhere in the Arab world, hundreds of Yemeni students held protests at Sanaa University, with some demanding that the president to resign. Since the Tunisian uprising, Yemenis have frequently called for an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s decades-long rule, which extends back to his stint as president of North Yemen in the 1980s. “No to inheritance, no to extension, learn from the Jasmine Revolution,” read a banner carried by the students.

The long-ruling pro-Soviet Saleh was re-elected in September 2006 for a seven-year mandate. A draft amendment of the constitution, under consideration in the parliament dominated by Saleh’s General People’s Congress, could further extend his tenure by allowing a lifelong mandate. In a recent televised rant, Saleh lashed out at his critics, who have accused him of planning to transfer power to his son: “Talking about hereditary rule is an impudent symphony, we are a republican and democratic system and we are against hereditary rule. We are against hereditary rule of villages, of tribes, of power, of unity, of ministries, we are against hereditary rule.”

Last year, Saleh, with Saudi military intervention, put down an Iranian-backed Shia Muslim insurgency in northern Yemen. However, he still faces a violent upheaval in the southern part of the country where the Yemeni Socialist Party, which once ruled South Yemen, is demanding the restoration of the People’s Democratic Republic. In fact, on January 8, Marxist separatists attacked a checkpoint in the town of Radfan in Lahj province, killing six soldiers and wounding four others. Lahj is a key stronghold of the Southern Movement. Faysal Jubran, who has led the movement since March 2007, told Xinhua that the clash left one of his followers wounded.

In Egypt, oppositionists called for a “national day of action” to take place on January 25 by all groups seeking to end the 29-year regime of President Hosni Mubarak, who succeeded Anwar Sadat after the latter’s 1981 assassination by Islamic fundamentalists. “If the Tunisians have done it, Egyptians should get there too,” Mohamed El Baradei, a leading Egyptian opposition figure and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told German news magazine Der Spiegel.

Last summer, police dragged Khaled Said, a small businessman in the historic city of Alexandria, from an Internet café and beat him to death in the street. Although Said was not politically active, the unprovoked police attack was in obvious retaliation for Said’s decision to post a video on his blog of crooked cops pocketing the contents of a drug bust. Shortly after the murder, an anonymous administrator created a Facebook page under the name “We Are All Khaled Said.” As of January 21, 2011, nearly 69,000 people visited the Facebook page to sign up for the January 25 protest.

Egypt’s traditional opposition groups have joined the call for protest on Tuesday. El Baradei stopped just short of backing the demonstration. On Thursday night, he finally offered tacit support, if only via Twitter: “Fully support call 4 peaceful demonstrations vs. repression.”

>Red Terror File: Suicide bomber kills 35 in baggage claim area of Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, worst attack since March 2010 Metro bombings

>An explosion ripped through the baggage claim area in Domodedovo International Airport in Moscow today, killing 35 people, including foreign travellers. The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB/KGB) acknowledged that last week it had received warnings that a terrorist attack might take place at the airport. President Dmitry Medvedev postponed his planned departure for this week’s World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, and has convened an emergency meeting of security officials.

Moscow suffered its worst terrorist attack in six years in March 2010 when two female suicide bombers from Russia’s Dagestan region set off explosives in the Metro, killing 40 people.

>Africa File: Revolution in Tunisia: Protests continue as ruling socialist party collapses after 54 years in power, PM, interim president abandon RCD

>– Constitutional Democratic Rally’s Central Committee Dissolved, Party Loyalists Still Control Oppressive Interior Ministry

– Arab League Economic Summit Convenes in Egypt, Soberly Assesses Ben Ali’s Downfall, Prospects for Other Arab Regimes

Pictured above: A woman places a kiss on an army tank on Avenue Bourguiba in Tunis, on January 21, 2011.

Today, Tunisia’s civil servants staged a revolt against the new caretaker government, refusing to work until ministers associated with the party of ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali step down. Staff uprisings have taken place at the state television, two state-run newspapers, and at private firms controlled by the ex-president’s family. Filmmakers held an extraordinary meeting to depose the party-approved head of their union.

Yesterday, Tunisian police fired shots into the air to try to disperse thousands of protesters who gathered outside the Tunis headquarters of the Socialist International-affiliated Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), but they would not be cowed. Ben Ali fled the country last Friday, reportedly seeking refuge in Saudi Arabia. “We are demanding the departure of the RCD because the RCD is not a party. It’s an intelligence service. It’s an armed militia,” said Hafeh Mesrati, a physics professor.

Apart from Habib Bourguiba, Ben Ali was Tunisia’s only post-colonial president. Former President of the Chamber of Deputies Fouad Mebazaa, who left the party on January 18, currently holds this post in an interim capacity.

Demonstrators on Mohamed V Avenue, near the center of the national capital, chanted: “After Ben Ali and his wife, we want to bring down his thieves!” They burned the party logo and waved banners declaring: “Government out!” One of the demonstrators, who gave his name as Aymen, said: “We are here. We are not going to move until the RCD falls. We will come every hour and every day.”

In Sidi Bouzid, the central Tunisian town where the revolt against Ben Ali erupted last week, residents demanded more change. It was here that a vegetable seller immolated himself after being accosted by police. “We want the dissolution of this party. This is the solution, and we want to hold its members responsible for their corruption,” Lazhar Gharbi, a teacher and trade unionist told Reuters. As we previously blogged, Tunisia’s trade unions have been at the forefront of the revolution that toppled Ben Ali.

State TV reported that the RCD’s central committee has been dissolved, although the party will continue to operate legally. The RCD has been in power under several names since 1957, when France granted Tunisia independence. The prime minister and caretaker president abandoned the RCD earlier this week, followed by still more government ministers in a bid to restore the party’s credibility after four opposition ministers jumped ship.

In another blow to the government, a junior minister resigned on Thursday. “I am stepping down for the higher interests of the country in this delicate situation to try to bring the country out of crisis and ensure a democratic transition,” announced Zouheir M’Dhaffar, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, to the official TAP news agency.

There were protests in other towns across this North African country. In an interview with Reuters, union activist Hedi Radaoui stated that between 3,000 and 4,000 people gathered in Gafsa, 350 kilometers south of Tunis, to protest the presence of the RCD in the interim government. State TV reported there were also anti-government demonstrations in the towns of Kef and Sfax.

On Wednesday, 33 members of the ousted dictator’s clan were arrested for “crimes against the nation.” In a further move to emasculate Ben Ali’s power base, Tunisia’s central bank assumed control over another bank owned by the former president’s son-in-law, Mohamed Sakher El Materi. The Swiss government also froze Ben Ali’s family assets in that country. Although Tunisians, including expatriates, are jubilant over the fall of Ben Ali and the collapse of the ruling party, Dan Murphy, writing for the Christian Science Monitor, cautions:

For now the most powerful positions in government are still held by men who loyally served the RCD and whose positions were preserved by the use of torture and intimidation by the state security apparatus, largely run out of the Interior Ministry. The business of unwinding the party’s control of government, weeding out the most corrupt of the judges and policemen, and delivering on [interim President] Mebazaa’s promise will be a long and difficult one.

The revolution in Tunisia does not bode well for the Arab world’s many other entrenched dictators and, indeed, has cast a long shadow over the Arab League summit, now underway in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik. In his opening comments to delegates, Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League and Egypt’s former foreign minister, soberly observed: “The Tunisian revolution is not far from us. The Arab citizens entered an unprecedented state of anger and frustration.”

This is the Arab League’s second economic summit since 2009, when member states agreed “to set aside political differences to address the social and economic problems plaguing their societies.” Taking stock of the fact that high unemployment, not to mention years of political oppression, led to Ben Ali’s downfall, Arab League delegates resolved to throw US$2 billion at job creation programs throughout the region.

Pro-Soviet leftist military officers, like Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein (Egypt, 1952), Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi (Libya, 1969), and Gaafar Muhammad an-Nimeiry (Sudan, 1969) seized power in several Arab countries after de-colonization, sometimes overthrowing a monarchy installed by the departing European power. In most cases, they later formed mass-based parties that attempted to institutionalize their revolutions.

By contrast, Bourguiba, “the father of modern Tunisia,” and his New Constitutional Party were not initially socialist but, rather, turned in this direction in 1964 to facilitate economic development. Nor was Bourguiba particularly pro-Soviet but, instead, adoped an independent stance with respect to the Soviets and other Arab regimes.

>WW4 File: Red China deploys unknown number of troops, 50 tanks, APCs at NK port on Dec. 15, 1st such presence since PLA left Panmunjom in 1994

>– North Korean Soldiers Cross Frozen Yalu River to Pursue Refugees, Kill Five, Wound Two; Kim Jong-un Issues Shoot-to-Kill Orders

On January 17, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that about four weeks ago troops of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) arrived in North Korea’s special economic zone of Rajin-Sonbong. This is the first time since December 1994, when the People’s Republic of China (PRC) withdrew from the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission in the truce village of Panmunjom, that Beijing has stationed forces in the North. How many PLA troops are in North Korea is unknown.

“The move is unusual,” remarks the South Korean news source, “since North Korea is constantly calling for U.S. forces to pull out of South Korea and stressing its ‘juche’ or self-reliance doctrine.”

A source based in Red China who is familiar with North Korean affairs related: “In the middle of the night around Dec. 15 last year, about 50 Chinese armored vehicles and tanks crossed the Duman (Tumen) River from Sanhe into the North Korean city of Hoeryong in North Hamgyong Province.” This incursion would have taken place about three weeks after communist troops shelled South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island, killing two marines and two civilians.

Residents of Hoeryong, which is only about 50 kilometers from Rajin-Sonbong, woke up to the roar of armored vehicles. Other witnesses asserted that they saw military jeeps moving from the Chinese city of Dandong in the direction of Sinuiju in the North at around the same time. “The Chinese armored vehicles could be used to suppress public disturbances and the jeeps to round up on defectors from the North,” the source mentioned above speculated.

“Pyongyang and Beijing have reportedly discussed the matter of stationing a small number of Chinese troops in the Rajin-Sonbong region to guard port facilities China has invested in,” explained an official at Cheong Wa Dae, the official residence of the South Korean president. “If it’s true, they’re apparently there to protect either facilities or Chinese residents rather than for political or military reasons.”

Nam Joo-hong, South Korea’s ambassador for international security, predicted: “What China is most worried about in case of a sudden change in the North is mass influx of defectors, which would throw the three northeastern Chinese provinces into confusion. With its military presence in Rajin-Sonbong, there is a likelihood that China could intervene in Korean affairs by sending a large number of troops into the North under the pretext of protecting its residents there in an emergency.”

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Red China have “engaged in lively military exchanges” since two visits to the PRC by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2010. Guo Boxiong, vice chairman of the Chinese Central Military Commission, reciprocated by visiting the North last October. At the time, Guo met with leader Kim Jong-il and his son and heir Jong-un. In the meeting, the elder Kim emphasized “blood ties” between the two communist states.

It is known that the PRC established a commercial mission in Rajin-Sonbong last month and that, furthermore, Red China is transporting natural resources from its northeastern region to the south via the Port of Rajin-Sonbong, which was recently renovated. According to the Xinhua news agency, Red China first used the port on December 7, when it transported 20,000 tons of coal from a mine in Hunchun, Jilin Province to southern parts, including Shanghai. There is speculation that China will supply its own electricity to Rajin-Sonbong beginning in April 2011.

Quoting a North Korean source, the online newspaper Daily NK stated that in December the North and Red China signed an investment pact that will lead to the building of three more piers at the port, and a highway and railroad between Quanhe in Jilin Province and Rajin-Sonbong.

Witnesses in the port city have observed that “the number of Chinese people arriving in the special zone has grown as a result of the North’s quest for investment.” Another North Korean source confirmed: “The North Korean State Security has more or less stopped checking Chinese people. The North has apparently concluded that it is unavoidable to accept the Chinese military presence on its land to woo Chinese investment, even if it’s not happy about it.”

Beijing denies that it has sent troops into North Korea, or has plans to do so. “China will not send a single soldier to other countries without the approval of the UN,” stated an anonymous official at the Chinese Ministry of Defense in an interview with China’s Global Times daily.

Meanwhile, South Korea continues to monitor war preparations in the North, including the expansion of Pyongyang’s already substantial special forces units, as well as the deployment of a new battle tank, called the Storm, and the creation of the new tank brigades. North Korean commandos total 200,000, outnumbering by 10 times their Southern counterparts, who are pictured above.

Last month, according to the South Korean defense ministry, some North Korean troops stationed along the Demilitarized Zone were observed wearing a camouflage uniform similar to that worn by South Koreans, apparently to practise intrusion drills. This development prompted the South to expedite the supply of new uniforms for its own troops to avoid confusion. “It’s been confirmed some North Korean frontline troops are wearing uniforms with woodland camouflage pattern which is similar to those of South Korean uniforms,” a South Korean official stated.

About one week ago, North Korean soldiers crossed the frozen Yalu River in order to pursue seven refugees into Red China, before shooting five escapees dead and wounding two others. Then, with the permission of PRC authorities, they dragged the living and the dead back to North Korea. It has been reported that Kim Jong-il’s son and heir apparent, Kim Jong-un, has ordered soldiers to shoot anyone who tries to flee the country. He has denounced refugees as traitors.

Communist troops from the PRC and the DPRK, with air support from Soviet fighter pilots, first overran the Korean Peninsula 60 years ago, until they were pushed back by United Nations forces under the command of US General Douglas MacArthur. North Korea is itself a creation of occupying Soviet forces at the end of the Second World War.

>Africa File: Tunisia’s long-time socialist dictator abdicates, flees country in wake of violent protests over food price spike, high unemployment

>– January 17, 2011 Update: Protesters Take to Streets of Tunis on Monday, Demand Ruling Party Relinquish Power; Leftist Leader Admitted into Interim Government

– Tunisian Businessman: Ben Ali Was North African Country’s “Big Brother,” Ruling Party Recruited KGB-Style “Citizen Watchers” (Informers)

– Tunisia’s Present Regime Hosted Palestine Liberation Organization’s Headquarters between 1982 and 1991

Yesterday, Tunisia’s long-time socialist dictator, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, abdicated his post and fled the country after Tunisians violently protested high unemployment and a surge in food prices (pictured above). He has reportedly sought refuge in Saudi Arabia.

At least 23 people died in clashes with security forces this week. The violence was provoked by the suicide of a university student who immolated himself after police confiscated produce authorities say he was selling without a permit. The Tunisian General Workers’ Union was one of the forces coordinating the subsequent protests. In one of his last official edicts, President Ben Ali authorized troops to shoot protesters.

On Saturday, Tunisia’s Constitutional Council declared that the departure of Ben Ali is “permanent” and that parliament speaker Foued Mebezza has temporarily assumed power in the North African country. The Constitutional Council, Tunisia’s highest legal authority on constitutional issues, explained that the country’s new leader has 60 days to organize a presidential election.

Between 1980 and 1984, Ben Ali served as Tunisia’s ambassador to Communist Poland. He later became interior minister and then prime minister, seizing power from Habib Bourguiba, the country’s only other post-independence leader, in a bloodless coup d’etat in 1987.

In spite of his stint in Warsaw, Ben Ali later banned the Tunisian Workers’ Communist Party, perceiving the radical Marxist-Leninist group as a threat to his Socialist International-affiliated Constitutional Democratic Rally. The RCD has been the dominant force in post-independence Tunisia, known until 1964 as the New Constitutional Party and then until 1987 as the Socialist Constitutional Party. The last was the only legal party between 1964 and 1981.

One Tunisian recounts the RCD’s pervasive, Soviet-like influence in that country, including the party’s recruitment of “citizen watchers” (informers):

He remembers the form. You filled it out to become a “citizen watcher” for the party of Zine el Abidine ben Ali. It meant you would spy. Inform on your friends, your family, the people at work and get paid for it. Again and again throughout his 30 years, Ahmad Chebil says, they approached him. They offered him perks and advantageous jobs, home loans and car credit. But each time he refused entreaties to join the president’s Constitutional Democratic Rally, or RCD, its French initials.

It is not clear if the RCD will be dissolved as a result of Ben Ali’s departure. In a late-breaking report from January 17, the MSM reports that protesters took to the streets of Tunis on Monday, demanding that the ruling party relinquish power. Protesters chanted: “Out with the RCD!” and “Out with the party of the dictatorship!” Tunisian security forces responded with water cannon, tear gas, and warning shots from their firearms.

Ahead of promised free elections, Najib Chebbi, founder of the leftist Progressive Democratic Party, which opposed Ben Ali, will become regional development minister in the interim government. Opposition leaders will also get the education and health portfolios.

Between 1982 and 1991, the Palestine Liberation Organization was based in Tunis. On October 1, 1985, the Israeli Air Force bombed the PLO’s Tunis headquarters, killing more than 60 people.

Before leaving Tunis, Ben Ali dismissed his government, declared a state of emergency, and banned public gatherings. He promised political and media reforms and slashed prices on food staples. On Friday night, rioters set fire to the main train station in Tunis and looted shops. Today, officials acknowleded that 42 detainees died in a prison fire after at least one inmate tried to escape. The military closed Tunisian airspace on Friday, but it was reopened on Saturday.

>Middle East File: Hezbollah withdraws from Lebanese government over UN probe, IAF conducts mock raid over S. Lebanon, UNIFIL scales back patrols

> Pictured here: Ousted by a parliamentary coup while absent from Lebanon, Saad Hariri (left) and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan pose for cameras before a meeting in Ankara, on January 14, 2011. The former prime minister was in Turkey for talks expected to focus on the collapse of his government.

On January 12, Lebanon’s coalition government collapsed when 11 Hezbollah ministers made good on earlier threats to bolt from the cabinet, even as Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri met with US President Barack Hussein Obama in Washington.

Hariri’s fragile alliance with Hezbollah emerged from a peace agreement ending an outbreak of civil strife in May 2008, when at least 80 people were killed after Hezbollah and its allies seized control of west Beirut. The Shiite Muslim political party and militia withdrew from the government after months of negotiations brokered by Syria and Saudi Arabia failed to produce a compromise over the United Nations tribunal examining the 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri, Saad’s father.

As soon as the Hezbollah ministers walked, the Lebanese army deployed extra troops in the streets of Beirut in case of new skirmishes between supporters of the pro-Western March 14th coalition and the pro-Syrian/ Iranian March 8th coalition. The Beirut stock market dropped precipitously when word of Hezbollah’s departure from government reached investors.

“We are in a new political and ministerial crisis,” commented Boutros Harb, a legislator allied with Hariri, adding: “There is no room for bargaining over the tribunal and justice. We remain open to dialogue without compromising [our] general principles.”

Hezbollah, whose ally Syria is blamed by many Lebanese for the killing, has demanded an end to the UN probe. In a November 11, 2010 rant, Hassan Nasrallah warned that Hezbollah will not allow its members to be detained and would “cut off the hand” of any authorities who attempt to make arrests. An initial UN inquiry charged four pro-Syrian officials in Lebanon’s security services with Rafik’s murder. They were held in jail for four years before being released in 2009 due to a lack of evidence, after some witnesses changed or retracted statements.

A senior US official travelling with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Qatar was reluctant to predict the eruption of more violence in Lebanon, noting that “Hezbollah and its allies so far have been using only legal means to bring down the government and there have been no signs that they are trying to mobilize supporters in the streets.” This may be so, but in leaving the government, Hezbollah is sending a clear message that it will no longer tolerate the March 14th coalition’s pro-USA stance. Hezbollah may also be disengaging itself from the Lebanese government so it can ramp up war preparations against Israel.

Meanwhile, regional leaders are closely watching political developments in Lebanon. World Bulletin reports that on Wednesday Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was then also in Qatar, spoke with ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the telephone. “The two officials assessed the developments in Lebanon,” the news site’s sources revealed. Both Erdogan and al-Assad are openly hostile to Israel. In fact, Syria, which never concluded a peace treaty with Israel after the Yom Kippur War in 1973, remains in a de facto state of war with the Jewish state.

The Israeli government is also monitoring political developments in Lebanon. This was evidenced by the Israeli Air Force’s low-altitude mock raid over southern Lebanon on Wednesday. The jets flew over Nabatiyeh, Iqlim al Tuffah, Marjayoun, and Khaim, although the UN Security Council forbade such military actions in Resolution 1701, which ended Israel’s 2006 offensive against Lebanon. It is believe that Hezbollah militiamen have redeployed thousands of Russian-built missiles, procured through Iran and Syria, throughout southern Lebanon, with the intent of annihilating the Jewish state.

Possibly in anticipation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, the Israeli media reports that United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has scaled back its patrols in southern Lebanon: “UNIFIL has reduced the scope of patrols in south Lebanon following the political crisis in the country, Lebanese newspaper al-Akhabar reported on Friday. According to the publication, which is affiliated with Hezbollah, most of the foreign commanders in UNIFIL spoke with diplomats from their countries as well as officials in Beirut in order to guarantee their troops’ safety.”

>Mexican Narco-State File: PRI boss/Socialist International VP huddles with Castro in Havana, Paredes’ colleague poised to win presidency in 2012

>– Nieto Victory in 2012 Election Detrimental for Shaky US-Mexican Alliance, While Obrador Victory Downright Disastrous for US National Security

– Army Uses New Law to Arrest Police Chief in Nuevo Leon on Charges of Informing Los Zetas of Troop Movements

– Drug Gang Abducts and Beats US Business Exec in Monterrey, Steals Man’s Armored Car, Police Hush Up Incident

– Wealthy Mexicans Flee Monterrey for Houston, Other US Cities, Foreign Businesses Curtail Investment, Bolster Private Security as Cartels Invade City

– “Bishop” of Holy Death Cult Apprehended on Charges of Extortion, Kidnapping, Police Withhold News of Arrest for Two Weeks

For seven decades the Socialist International-affiliated Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) ran a single-party dictatorship in Mexico, ceding power to the center-right National Action Party (PAN) in 2000. Beginning in the 1980s President Miguel de la Madrid broke with some of his predecessors, who snubbed the USA in favour of relations with Communist Cuba, by shifting the PRI in a capitalist direction. As a result, the left wing of the party bolted, merged with the Mexican Communist Party and some other leftist groupings, and founded the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) 20 years ago.

Although the Mexican Revolution, which began in 1910 and lasted until 1920, contained several ideological strains, including socialism, Mexico, fortunately, never became a full-blown communist state. This did not prevent President Calvin Coolidge’s administration from referring to the country as “Soviet Mexico.” Hope springs eternal, however, and today Mexico’s far left, including it would seem leftist elements in the now largely centrist PRI, continues to nurse plans for communist revolution south of the US border.

In an effort to rebuild relations with Communist Cuba, on Wednesday Beatriz Paredes, president of the PRI and vice president of the Socialist International, arrived in Havana. There Paredes and Castro (pictured above) talked about the current state of relations between the PRI and the Communist Party of Cuba. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez also attended the meeting.

Under the PAN presidencies of Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderon, Mexican-Cuban relations turned chilly. For example, in 2004, the Mexican government ended a gentleman’s agreement that permitted Cuba’s Intelligence Directorate to operate with impunity from the Cuban embassy in Mexico City. A PRI victory in the 2012 presidential election would no doubt re-install a pro-Cuban regime south of the Rio Grande, creating strategic implications for US national security. The latter is already endangered by Mexico’s out-of-control drug cartels and questionable border security practices under the tri-national Security and Prosperity Partnership.

During last July’s elections, the PRI captured nine of the 12 governorships up for grabs. In those states where Panistas won, this was only possible through an awkward left-right alliance with the PRD. Significantly, political analysts in Mexico noted that the PAN-PRD coalition won with candidates who were members of neither party, or who were former Pristas.

Still, they were reserved about the PRI’s potential for victory in the 2012 presidential election. “The PRI learned you can’t do politics as usual and think you’re going to win,” said Ana Maria Salazar, a television and radio political commentator in Mexico City. Salazar continues: “The PRI was not a winner in the sense of the expectations. But, clearly, the PRI is a force to contend with. It’s too early to handicap the 2012 race because you don’t know who the candidates are yet. But the party is extremely well-positioned to take over in 2012.”

Six months later, voter preference polls indicate that the PRI is definitely poised to recapture the presidency, even if it does not make any gains in Congress. Last month, according to a poll conducted by Berumen y Asociados and published by El Universal, Enrique Pena Nieto, the telegenic PRI governor of the state of Mexico, received the endorsement of 41 percent of respondents in a possible race against Calderon’s finance minister, Ernesto Cordero, and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. In that scenario, Cordero garnered 12 percent support, while Obrador, who ran on the PRD ticket in the 2006 presidential race, gleaned 15 percent.

It goes without saying that a PRD victory in the 2012 election would be disastrous for US national security, since former party chief Obrador openly praised Fidel Castro last year and reportedly met with Gennady Zyuganov, long-time chairman of the (secretly ruling) Communist Party of the Russian Federation, in 2007. At the time, Zyuganov paid little-reported visits to communist counterparts in Cuba, Venezuela, and Mexico. In a private 2009 conversation with Dennis Blair, former director of US National Intelligence, published by WikiLeaks, President Calderon admitted that he believes Obrador is a pawn of Venezuela’s communist dictator, Hugo Chavez.

Both the PRI and PRD would move Mexico into the Communist Bloc’s orbit, only the PRD, as we can see, would move the country faster and farther. A Panista victory next year is therefore essential to sustain the uneasy alliance between the USA and Mexico, as well as the unpublicized role of US military advisors who are training Mexican army officers in counter-insurgency tactics against the drug cartels.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s mafias showed no signs of letting up their bloody rampages in the new year. Last weekend, for example, 51 people succumbed to drug violence, including mutilations, beheadings, drive-by shootings, and summary executions. The murders occurred in southeast Guerrero and northern Chihuahua states, as well as in Mexico City. A grisly discovery near an Acapluco beach included 15 decapitated bodies courtesy of the Sinaloa cartel, which left its calling card in the form of handwritten posters signed “El Chapo Guzmán,” which refers to Mexico’s most wanted criminal.

In Monterrey, Mexico’s most prosperous city and until last year sheltered from the drug war, gunmen fired shots and hurled grenades at the Topo Chico prison, in what might have been a bid to free inmates. Bullets hit the prison walls and a guard post, while a grenade damaged several vehicles parked outside the facility. Police found dozens of bullet casings from assault rifles and a grenade that did not explode on a side street. Yet another grenade blew up on Cuautla Street, shattering the windows of nearby houses and parked cars.

This episode of narcista violence follows the discovery of the partly nude body of 31-year-old convict Gabriela Elizabeth Muñiz Tamez, who was found hanging from a Monterrey pedestrian overpass on December 31. Jailed for kidnapping, Muñiz Tamez had recently escaped as she was being transported from prison to a hospital. It would appear that her partners in crime considered Muñiz Tamez a liability.

In a related story, earlier this month army troops arrested a municipal police chief in Nuevo Leon for allegedly providing assistance to Los Zetas. Jesus Almazan Barbosa served as police chief of San Nicolas de los Garza, a suburb of Monterrey. According to the Mexican army, Almazan ordered some of his officers to monitor the movements of troops so he could report them to the former enforcement wing of the Gulf cartel.

“The cleaning out of police officers in Nuevo Leon is constant, but this arrest should tell mayors that they must push these actions further,” urged Jorge Domene, spokesman for the state government’s security council. He added: “Nuevo Leon has a law on the books that punishes those who spy on the army to assist organized crime groups. It was frustrating before seeing people who were arrested for this getting out immediately with small bail, but now this new law means that those who are arrested for this crime are detained.”

Home to global cement maker Cemex, top Latin American beverage company Femsa, and foreign factories including General Electric and Whirlpool Corp., the Monterrey region generates eight percent of Mexico’s gross domestic product. In early January, a US executive was abducted, beaten and robbed of his armored car in Monterrey, although police declined to comment on the incident.

Some wealthy Mexicans have fled to US cities such as Houston. While no precise figures are available, demand for so-called immigrant investor visas, which require foreigners to invest at least $1 million in the USA, are “surging” in Monterrey. “We are talking about an exodus,” remarked Jose Cornide, a private wealth advisor who assists applicants with the immigration process. No large foreign companies have withdrawn from Nuevo Leon because of the drug war, but some executives are curtailing investments. In fact, companies are now spending five percent of cash flow on security, a cost that was unnecessary only a few years ago.

Although the drug war rages, Mexican authorities have apprehended some more important figures in the country’s criminal underworld. Between December 18 and 20, 2010, police arrested David Romo Guillen, leader of the Traditional Catholic Church, known as the Holy Death cult, and eight other suspects. However, the arrests were not made public until January 4. Romo and cult followers have been charged with extortion and kidnapping.

On December 14, authorities allege, the sect leader and his cohorts, posing as members of Los Zetas, invaded a private residence, stole jewelry, and tied up a domestic worker. The suspects face additional charges for setting up bank accounts to receive ransom deposits, as well as stealing automobiles, jewelry, cash, and documents from various unnamed victims. The suspects have been also been linked to other cases, including an extortion racket “targeting a federal legislator” and the kidnapping of a corporate accountant. “The arrests are politically motivated and plans to build a church in the northeastern section of the capital will not be scrapped,” Romo protested at the time of his detention.

Holy Death, which claims five million adherents worldwide, is headquartered in Mexico City. In recent years, the cult has spread across the country, including the US border region, where followers erect altars, make offerings, and ascribe miracles to their “god,” who is a spitting image of the Grim Reaper. Mexican authorities acknowledge that several drug lords are among the sect’s adherents, since altars and images of the Holy Death have been discovered during police raids.

On January 5, the army announced that it had arrested Jesus Israel de la Cruz Lopez in Tijuana. Cruz Lopez, alias “El Tomate,” is believed to be a lieutenant in the Sinaloa cartel, Mexico’s largest mafia. One year ago, Mexican authorities arrested Teodoro Garcia Simental in La Paz, Baja California Sur. Garcia was a top lieutenant for the Tijuana cartel until he defected to the rival Sinaloa cartel after a power struggle. Over the years, US and Mexican police have discovered a number of sophisticated drug tunnels in the San Diego-Tijuana cross-border region.

President Calderon has touted the fall of the Tijuana cartel, which was pronounced “dead” in 2008, as an example of a “success story” in his government’s war against the mafias. However, a Tijuana police spokesman recently commented that there has been a resurgence of cartel activity in the city.

>Grey Terror File: Gunman assassinates US federal judge outside Tucson Safeway, shoots US Congresswoman in head, kills girl, 4 others

>– Fox News Intimates Link between Accused Gunman and “Anti-Zionist, Anti-Semitic, Anti-Immigrant” Group American Renaissance

– YouTube Profile Reveals Loughner’s Favorite Reading Material: Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto and Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf

– Fidel Castro Laments Giffords Shooting, Implicates US Right Due to Opposition to Arizona Politician’s Immigration Reform Policies

Blogger’s Note: We are back from a much-needed vacation that began before Christmas. Communism continues to fester here and there so once again we take up the keyboard to wage our information war against socialists of all hues.

The shooting spree that took place in Tucson, Arizona, this past Saturday is an appalling event that tarnishes the USA’s image as the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” For leftists of all leanings, the Tucson killings re-confirm their view that America is a racist, warmongering superpower that needs to be knocked down a peg or two.

In his murderous rampage, Jared Lee Loughner (pictured above) allegedly gunned down six people, including federal judge John Roll and nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, and wounded 14, including one gravely, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Apparently arriving by taxi at the crime site, accused gunman Loughner rushed Giffords, shooting her in the head. Giffords survived the attack, but faces the prospect of life-long brain damage. The weapon seized from the suspect was a semi-automatic Glock pistol. Loughner has been charged with attempted assassination, among other federal charges.

The killings occurred outside a Safeway supermarket where the 40-year-old three-term legislator Giffords was attending a political meeting. Giffords, a “Blue Dog” Democrat who survived last November’s Republican sweep through the House of Representatives, is married to NASA astronaut Navy Captain Mark Kelly. She is the first Jewish woman to represent Arizona in Washington DC and is viewed as a “rising star” in the Democratic Party. Giffords is a former member of the Arizona regional board of the Anti-Defamation League.

Authorities are not confirming any political motivation behind the Tucson shootings or the existence of any sort of conspiracy. In their search for a motive, though, police investigators are examining a rambling Internet manifesto left by the 22-year-old Loughner, or someone writing under his name. There was no “coherent theme” to the diatribe, which accused the US government of mind control and demanded a new currency.

It is known that Loughner withdrew from Pima Community College in October 2010 after several close calls with campus police. He was told to obtain a mental health clearance if he wished to return to school “to show his attendance would not present a danger to himself or others.” The US Army also confirms that Loughner attempted to enlist in December 2008, but was rejected for “unspecified reasons.”

Ironically, while an Arizona State Senator, Giffords advocated bills supporting mental health initiatives and was named by the Mental Health Association of Arizona as 2004 Legislator of the Year.

Following the Tucson murder spree, FBI Director Robert Mueller trotted out the well-worn government theory of a “lone wolf” gunman, pointing out that Loughner had attended a public event held by Giffords in 2007. Early news reports suggested that Loughner may have had an accomplice, but these were quickly suppressed. “An unidentified man who authorities earlier said might have acted as an accomplice was cleared Sunday of any involvement,” admits the MSM, adding: “Pima County sheriff’s deputy Jason Ogan told The Associated Press on Sunday that the man was a cab driver who drove the gunman to the grocery store outside of which the shooting occurred.”

Not surprisingly, insinuations of a “far right” (neo-fascist/neo-Nazi) conspiracy have popped up in the MSM. According to Fox News, reports the Politico blog, the US Department of Homeland Security suspects Loughner may have been influenced by the white supremacist outfit American Renaissance, since the alleged gunman mentions this organization in several Internet posts.

In a memo that was apparently issued to law enforcement, DHS states that “The group’s ideology is anti-government, anti-immigration, anti-ZOG (Zionist Occupational Government), anti-Semitic.” However, contradicting the Fox News story, a “source familiar with the matter” told Politico that DHS in fact issued no formal memo pertaining to Loughner to US law enforcement.

In any case, the head of American Renaissance, Jared Taylor, told Fox News that the claim of a connection between Loughner and his organization “is complete nonsense.” He denies that Loughner ever subscribed to his group’s monthly publication or attended its conferences. Taylor also denied that American Renaissance is “anti-Zionist” or “anti-Semitic.”

American Renaissance’s website, continues Politico, has praised the work of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which was active in promoting Arizona’s anti-immigration legislation, SB 1070. FAIR, founded by John Tanton, has acknowledged that its legal affiliate, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, “assisted [Arizona State Senator Russell] Pearce in drafting the language of SB 1070.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has reported on Tanton’s “warm ties” with American Renaissance.

Centrist Giffords supports the Obama White House’s deployment of the National Guard to the US-Mexico border, but denies SB 1070 does anything significant to halt the illegal alien invasion. Ironically, she also supports the right to bear arms.

Cuba’s retired communist dictator, Fidel Castro, was quick to empathize with Giffords’ plight and duly noted that the US Right–embodied by the Tea Party, former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, and Giffords’ political rival Jesse Kelly–had targeted the Congresswoman for “destruction.” On Saturday, Comrade Fidel wrote:

She is a supporter of migrant reform, stem cell research and alternative energy, measures that are hated by the far right. She was re-elected as the Democratic representative in the past elections. When her father was asked whether she had any enemies, he replied: The entire Tea Party”.

It is known that the former US vice-presidential candidate in the 2008 elections and Tea Party leader, Sarah Palin, published on her website, as the aim for supporters of her party, a map of the congressional districts of 20 of the representatives who had backed President Obama’s proposed health reform bill and she had them marked with the viewfinder of a rifle.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ political opponent was a former Marine who appeared in the electoral campaign with an M-16 in a message which apparently stated: “Help get rid of Gabrielle Giffords…shoot the entire ammo chamber of an M-16 with Jesse Kelly.”

In March 2010, Gabrielle’s district office was attacked. She stated that when people do that they were going to have to be aware of the consequences; political leaders should get together and set limits.

Any sensible person could well wonder whether such an act happened in Afghanistan or in an electoral district in Arizona.

Investigators say they had found an envelope at Loughner’s residence with the handwritten phrases “I planned ahead” and “My assassination,” along with the name “Giffords” and what appeared to be his signature. In a Myspace post left the morning of the shooting, Loughner apparently wrote: “Goodbye friends. Please don’t be mad at me. The literacy rate is below 5%. I haven’t talked to one person who is literate. I want to make it out alive. The longest war in the history of the United States. Goodbye. I’m saddened with the current currency and job employment. I had a bully at school. Thank you. P.S. –plead the fifth!”

Loughner’s YouTube profile states that some of his favorite books are Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. To this day, fascists and communists feed on the discontentment created by unemployment, identifying Jews, capitalists, and Jewish capitalists (!) as the source of society’s woes.

Suspect Loughner will be represented in court by Judy Clarke, the lawyer who defended Ted Kaczynski, who gained notoriety in 1996 as the anti-technology anarchist known as the Unabomber.

The Kremlin media was all over the Giffords shooting, reporting that US Congressman Danny Davis, a Democrat who represents a federal district in Illinois, received a death threat via email on Sunday. “It was some person who emailed one of my staff persons and said that ‘Danny Davis is next,’” Davis related, adding “The [District of Columbia] Capitol Police and Chicago police have been notified. You know some things are cranks, some things are pranks. Some things you simply don’t know about, but I think in this climate it pays to be as cautionary as one can be.”

Last November, the China Confidential blog, citing unidentified Western intelligence sources, reported that Iran and Venezuela, two of Russia’s most reliable client states, were plotting with the Mexican drug cartels and neo-fascists to launch ballistic missiles, biowarfare, and “Mumbai-style swarming assaults” against the USA. We have no hard evidence that Loughner was part of a wider conspiracy. However, ahead of Missile Day, a Kremlin-orchestrated swarming assault in North America could definitely take on the parameters of multiple, coordinated Tucson shooting sprees, targeting officials, indiscriminately shooting civilians, and diverting law enforcement from high-value targets.

Reserving its Spetsnaz units for sabotage operations against US military and nuclear installations and high-profile assassinations (such as the US President), Moscow can farm out other “wet jobs” to the Hezbollah fanatics and Mexican assassins who are already operating on US soil. Should these be in short supply, Russian military intelligence can recruit disaffected, radicalized, unemployed, or mentally ill drifters like Loughner, Timothy McVeigh, and John Allen Muhammad (the Beltway Sniper).

>USSR2 File: Belarusian dictator “wins” 4th term as president, police clash with 20,000 protesters in Minsk, Medvedev shrugs off fraudulent victory

>– East-West Converge (on Communist Terms): President Lukashenko Invites European Union to Merge with New Moscow-Dominated Customs Union, Create Eurasian Customs Union

Blogger’s Note: We begin our Christmas vacation on December 23. Hence, we expect this will be our last post until the New Year.

Pictured above: Police disperse a group of anti-Lukashenko protesters holding a picket in central Minsk, on Monday, December 20, 2010. The banner reads “Go out!”

On Monday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev shrugged off the results of the presidential election in Belarus as an “internal matter” and would not comment on a violent police crackdown that followed the vote on Sunday. Medvedev carefully avoided praise or criticism of President Alexander Lukashenko, who the state election commission declared won a fourth term on the basis of nearly 80 percent of the vote. Medvedev said:

Elections in Belarus are Belarus’s internal matter. What is happening there is, in the final analysis, the internal matter of a neighboring state. I hope that as a result of these elections, Belarus will continue on the path of creating a modern state based on democracy and friendship with its neighbors. For us, Belarus, regardless of who heads the country, will always be one of the closest states.

On Sunday, authorities arrested seven of nine opposition candidates, some of them when riot police clashed with 20,000 demonstrators, who were protesting alleged vote fraud outside the main government building in Minsk. Two of the opposition candidates, Grigory Kostusyev and Dmitry Uss, were released on Monday. According to the AP news agency, “international observers say the count was seriously flawed.” “The KGB [Belarusian secret police] has thoroughly infiltrated the opposition,” the EU Observer quoted an anonymous European Union diplomatic contact as saying.

Lukashenko, like many other older leaders in the Not-So-Former USSR, including Vladimir Putin, is an “ex”-cadre of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Prior to the December 19 poll, the Communist Party of Belarus openly endorsed Lukashenko’s candidacy. Lukashenko is also a close personal friend of Gennady Zyuganov, chairman of the (secretly ruling) Communist Party of the Russian Federation. Zyuganov has visited Minsk on a number of occasions since the “collapse” of the Soviet Union. For his part, a youthful Medvedev joined the CPSU in the 1980s, so his indifference to Lukashenko’s heavy hand is not surprising.

By contrast, a number of US senators expressed dismay at the post-election police crackdown in Belarus, warning Lukashenko that his oppressive regime will “pay a very price.” “Having pursued engagement with Belarus in recent months, the United States and our allies should now consider a tougher approach,” Senators John Kerry, John McCain, and Joe Lieberman said in a joint statement. Tellingly, the US government will not impose serious sanctions on the Russian Federation, which is also guilty of suppressing public dissent, but instead enters negotiations with the Moscow Leninists to reduce the US nuclear stockpile.

Medvedev’s cautious remarks came after mounting tension between Moscow and Minsk earlier this year prompted speculation that Russia might undermine Lukashenko’s 16-year stint as Belarusian president. However, the Kremlin eased tensions just before the vote by agreeing to remove duties on oil exports to Belarus, thereby giving Lukashenko a boost. The two “former” Soviet republics are politically, economically, and militarily joined at the hip through the Union State of Russia and Belarus, Commonwealth of Independent States, Collective Security Treaty Organization, and the new Customs Union of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

For the most part, Comrade Lukashenko has proven to be a reliable vassal of the Soviet strategists, as was seen on December 9 when the presidents of Customs Union states met in Moscow to discuss details of the Single Economic Space (SES). On December 20, Yury Solozobov wrote for Russia Beyond the Headlines:

Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, with a combined population of 170 million, account for almost 83 percent of the former Soviet Union’s economic potential. The three countries’ combined GDP is equivalent to $2 trillion and the value of their aggregate trade is $900 billion.

The Russian Academy of Sciences predicts that household incomes in the three countries will increase by 40 percent when the SES is “up and running” on January 1, 2012.

At the December 9 summit, Kazakhstan’s president, “ex”-communist Nursultan Nazarbayev, enthused: “The establishment of the Customs Union is the second stage of the integration process. The first is a free trade area. The third is a common market, a common economic space, to be followed by an economic union according to the European model, but without losing sovereignty.” With typical communist bombast, Lukashenko chimed in: “If the European Union or any EU member state wants to join our Union, we will at least look into their application.”

A summit document articulated the long-range objective of the SES: “By developing the Single Economic Space, we are moving toward the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union.” Such an entity as the Eurasian Economic Union would certainly revive Vladimir Lenin’s dream of a “World Soviet Republic.”

>Mexican Narco-State File: Pemex pipeline blast kills 28 in Puebla, Congress revokes immunity of PRD deputy, Guatemala declares state of siege

>– WikiLeak Revelations: President Calderon’s Fears Regarding Iranian-Venezuelan-Drug Cartel Nexus Bolster Media Reports of Plans to Launch Missiles against USA

– Organized Crime Launders an Estimated US$40 Billion through Mexican Banks, New Laws to Clamp Down on Illicit Financial Activity Stalled in Mexican Senate

On Sunday, December 19, at least 28 people were reported killed in a Pemex oil pipeline explosion in central Mexico. The blast hit San Martin Texmelucan before dawn, destroying homes and vehicles, and sending streams of flaming crude through the city’s streets (damage shown in photo above). Up to 13 of the fatalities appear to have been children. Authorities suspect a criminal gang was tampering with the 30-inch diameter pipeline in an effort to steal crude when the blast occurred.

The attempt to steal fuel from Pemex in Puebla state is part of a broader crime wave against the state-run oil giant, which in 2008 involved the theft of five million barrels of oil worth US$750 million. “It’s not an isolated incident. It’s part of the constant problem we’re living every day,” remarked David Shields, publisher of the Mexico City-based Energia magazine.

Last week, the lower house of Mexico’s congress, the Chamber of Deputies, voted to revoke the political immunity of a federal politician allegedly linked to La Familia drug cartel, paving the way for his prosecution. Julio Cesar Godoy, who is a member of the center-left Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), faces a federal arrest warrant in his home state of Michoacan. All Mexican legislators are immune from criminal prosecution unless the lower house of congress removes their immunity by vote. Legislators, including his own party, voted 384-2 to withdraw Godoy’s protection.

Alejandro Encinas, who leads the PRD faction in congress’s lower house, hastened to distance the party from Godoy: “I want to make it clear that we are completely disconnected from any criminal activity and organized crime. The country needs transparency and coherence from those who are in public office.” The PRD originated in 1989 through a merger of several leftist parties, including the Mexican Communist Party, as well as left-wing members of the formerly long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which beginning in the 1980s moved to the political center.

The Attorney General’s Office supplied lawmakers with a recording in which a voice, presumed to be Godoy’s, converses with Servando “La Tuta” Gomez Martinez, an alleged boss of La Familia. Godoy was sworn into Congress in September in spite of an arrest warrant against him. He is the stepbrother of Michoacan’s governor. The same month, Godoy insisted upon his innocence during a news conference and denied any ties to drug gangs. Godoy can return as a deputy to Mexico’s congress if exonerated of the charges.

Last week, authorities in Michoacan killed cartel boss Nazario Moreno Gonzalez during a gun battle that also killed five policemen, three civilians, and three gang members. The US government has referred to La Familia as “one of Mexico’s newest and most violent drug cartels.” The cartel specializes in the methamphetamine trade. In true Robin Hood fashion, it also publicly identifies with “the people” vis-à-vis the government, offering consumer loans with low interest rates.

In August, President Felipe Calderon proposed new laws to unify Mexico’s poorly equipped and hopelessly corrupt municipal police forces under state-level commands, as well as hinder the cartels from laundering up to US$40 billion per year through Mexican banks. However, he is encountering opposition from the PRI, PRD, and colleagues in his own National Action Party (PAN). “The president introduced this initiative with a lot of force but it got stuck in the Senate,” Jose Trejo, a PAN senator who heads the body’s finance committee. “If it passes, it will only be with various changes. It will be complicated in this session.”

A US diplomatic cable, published by WikiLeaks, contains a conversation between Calderon and US National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, in which the Mexican president alleges that Venezuela’s communist dictator, Hugo Chavez, financed the 2006 presidential campaign of his pro-Cuba rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. According to the October 2009 cable, Calderon contends that Chavez uses social programs, including sending medical doctors to Mexico (much as Cuba does worldwide), to gain political influence in the country. Calderon insisted that Latin America “needs a visible US presence” to counter Chavez’s revolutionary influence throughout the hemisphere.

Calderon also fretted about Venezuela’s alliance with Iran, the influence of the “very politically active” Iranian embassy in Mexico City, and a possible covert alliance between Iran, Venezuela, and the drug cartels. Along the same theme, Die Welt recently reported that Iran and Venezuela have negotiated a secret pact to set up a medium-range missile base in the South American country, capable of striking the USA. In November, the China Confidential blog, citing unnamed Western intelligence sources, alleged that Iran and Venezuela intend to use northern Mexico as a platform to launch “ballistic missile attacks,” “Mumbai-style swarming assaults,” and biowarfare against the USA.

The US diplomatic cable also relates Calderon’s attempts to “isolate” Venezuela in the Rio Group and his disappointment with former Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who did virtually nothing to restrain the exportation of Chavez’s “Bolivarian Revolution.” Incidentally, Brazil’s new president, Dilma Rousseff, is an “ex”-guerrilla who enjoys Chavez’s open endorsement. Since the center-right PAN took power in 2000, diplomatic relations between Mexico and Venezuela have been “tense.”

In a December 2, 2010 Twitter posting, Obrador, who does not recognize the legitimacy of Calderon’s presidency and intends to run for office again in 2012, demanded that Calderon present proof that he is in Chavez’s backpocket. Obrador stepped down from the leadership of the PRD in 2008 and is now running on a smaller center-left ticket.

Over the last three weeks, Mexico’s drug war claimed more lives and terrified more citizens caught in the cross-fire between rival cartels and between the narcistas, in the one camp, and the army troops and federal police opposing them.

On Monday, December 6, two gunmen burst into a kindergarten in Ciudad Juarez, the mafia-controlled city across the border from El Paso, Texas, and set fire to the school. No one was killed or injured. Police say the would-be extortionists left a message saying the school had not paid a protection fee, which they had demanded from teachers at least three weeks ago. Classes in the school have been suspended and parents have said they will pull their children out of school until safety improves. (No kidding.)

On December 5, “armed commandos” attacked two drug rehabilitation centers in Ciudad Juarez, killing four people and wounding five. Three were killed in one center and one was killed in another. Over the last two years, narcistas have killed dozens of patients at rehabs across Mexico, including nine last summer in Durango and 19 in Chihuahua City, capital of the border state in which Ciudad Juarez is located. In October, gunmen mowed down 14 people at a Tijuana rehab. In some cases, cartels actually run rehabs to recruit addicts, exposing patients to attacks from rival gangs.

On the same day, on Mexico’s Pacific coast, nine bodies were found in Acapulco and nearby neighborhoods. Eight of the men, who ranged in age from 25 to 50, were shot, but one victim’s body was burned. On December 4, police found two headless bodies hanging from a freeway overpass in the resort city, a common tactic used by cartels to scare rivals. Authorities say the battle for control of the fractured Beltran Leyva cartel is responsible for the rising violence in the famous tourist destination.

On December 3, the Mexican army announced that it had arrested a 14-year-old boy on suspicion of being a hired killer for the South Pacific cartel. Officials said US-born Edgar Jimenez, nicknamed El Ponchis (“The Cloak”), was apprehended as he boarded a US-bound plane in Cuernavaca with his two sisters. The military alleges that the teen assassin took part in a number of beheadings under the influence of drugs supplied by the cartel. The army source said one of Edgar’s sisters was accused of disposing of the bodies. The Reforma newspaper quoted Jimenez as saying: “I felt bad doing it. I was forced to do it. They said they would kill me if I didn’t do it. I only beheaded them, but never hung [bodies] from bridges, never.”

Lastly, Reuters reports that some 5,000 businesses based in the northern states have fled to the relative safety of the Mexican capital, once known for its high crime rates and kidnappings. “Ten years ago everyone wanted to leave Mexico City because of the crime, no one would have believed it would become one of the safest places in the country,” said Eduardo Gallo, head of the citizens group Mexicans United Against Crime.

Mexico City authorities have staved off the worst cartel violence by installing thousands of surveillance cameras to monitor city streets and subways. Near the city’s central square, at one of several new command centers, more than 100 police scan 24-hour video feeds designed to track criminals. However, report Mica Rosenberg and Anahi Rama, “even as the sprawling metropolis of 20 million people escapes the grizzliest drug murders and daytime shootouts, traffickers are moving into the city’s outskirts and threatening to encroach on the capital’s relative calm.”

Over the past 12 months, the Mexican government has scored a number of victories against the cartels, killing or arresting several powerful crime bosses. To protect their operations, the country’s mafias have branched out internationally.

On December 15, reports the Washington Post, agents of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and police from the District of Columbia’s Narcotics and Special Investigations Division arrested eight men with ties to La Familia who had set up shop in America’s capital. Authorities also seized millions of dollars worth of methamphetamine as part of the investigation. In a raid near Atlanta, police confiscated an estimated US$5 million worth of crystal meth. Other, coordinated raids took place in Temple Hills, Maryland, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Mexico’s drug war has also spilled into Guatemala’s border province Alta Verapaz, where Los Zetas–which was founded in the 1990s after a group of Mexican special forces officers joined the Gulf cartel–have reportedly established training camps. On Sunday, President Alvaro Colom declared a state of siege in Alta Verapaz, empowering the Guatemalan military to detain suspects without warrants, confiscate weapons, and shut down groups viewed as subversive. The province’s El Petén jungles have a well-established reputation for lawlessness.

The Guatemalan army, which waged a counter-insurgency operation against communist guerrillas in the 1980s, has a documented history of involvement with organized crime. Past corruption, therefore, may be a hurdle as the army tries to combat drug traffickers from Mexico. “Military officers are easily bought off and so are the police. We have a state where impunity is the order of the day,” comments Anita Isaacs, a political scientist who studies Guatemala at Haverford College, near Philadelphia.

>Bolivarian Revolution File: "Militarization of ALBA states" proceeds apace as Venezuela’s ruling socialist party awards decree powers to Chavez

>The red regimes in Managua and Caracas, no doubt taking queues from their masters in Havana, are preparing to rule by decree and martial law ahead of hotly contested elections in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Venezuela’s communist dictator Hugo Chavez has ruled by decree on three occasions since democratically taking office in 1999, while Nicaragua’s past/present communist dictator Daniel Ortega imposed a state of emergency between 1982 and 1988, when Central America was in the grip of the Cold War.

Pictured above: On December 15, 2010, in Caracas supporters of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez beat oppositionists with sticks during a demonstration near the National Assembly, where the governing party and its allies passed laws allowing the president to rule by decree.

This past Monday, the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front exploited its “El Pacto” alliance with the so-called opposition Constitutionalist Liberal Party to ratify three national defense bills that will once again place Nicaragua under a military government, establish a KGB-style internal security apparatus, and confiscate property in the name of national security. Intriguingly, without offering details of the meeting’s agenda, Cuba’s foreign minister, fresh from encouraging the FMLN regime in San Salvador, popped in for a visit with Ortega last week.

Last week, too, Victor Boitano, a former Sandinista and ex-colonel, asserted that the re-communization of Nicaragua is part of a wider conspiracy of Red Axis regimes in Latin America: “These laws are being imported from Cuba and Venezuela as part of a new plan to militarize the countries of ALBA [Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas]. The defense bill package is an attempt by Ortega to democratically impose a military boot upon Nicaragua’s democracy and force the population to participate in the revolution.” Ominously, he added: “This is a terrible, terrible militarization of the society in an undercover way; Nicaragua’s past is returning.”

In light of this past Tuesday’s vote in the Venezuelan National Assembly, Boitano’s contention has proven correct. The ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) ratified President Chavez’s request to rule by decree for one year, beginning on January 5, 2011. On state television this week, Chavez insisted he needs the powers to cope with a national emergency caused by floods that have killed 40 and left 130,000 people homeless. In his usual overheated bombast, he responded to his critics by saying that they need to “take Valium” or “see a psychiatrist.” Jesus Faria, a spokesman for the PSUV, said dismissively: “The advance of the revolution brings with it conflict.” Tal Cual, the country’s main opposition newspaper, dubbed Chavez’s renewed rule-by-decree powers “a totalitarian ambush … a Christmas ambush.”

The PSUV-dominated National Assembly is taking advantage of the last days of the current legislative session to implement a new package of laws that will allow the government to shut down anti-government websites and impose a sales tax increase to pay for damage caused by the floods. It also named nine new Supreme Court judges, even though current terms have not expired, thereby precluding the need to negotiate the selection of such high-ranking officials with the opposition.

Venezuela’s opposition, lately emboldened by the acquisition of new seats in the National Assembly in September, admits their influence next year will be limited by the president’s decree powers, and by the fact that as a minority they cannot introduce counter-legislation. More importantly, looking ahead to 2012, the opposition coalition lacks a common leader or platform, other than simply opposing the Cubanization of Venezuela. In 2010 alone, the Chavezista regime nationalized more than 200 businesses, including foreign-owned companies.

>WW4 File: South Koreans stage country’s largest-ever mass evacuation drill, prepare for possible attacks by North Korea

>Pictured here: Obeying a government-organized air raid drill, motorists in Seoul abandon their vehicles near Hannam Bridge, don gas masks, and flee to emergency shelters, on Wednesday, December 15, 2010.
News Updates

– North Korea vows “stronger retaliation,” deadlier than November 23 artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island, if South proceeds with live-fire drills in the Yellow Sea. (source)

– Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, warns SK live-fire drills, beginning December 18, could spark “uncontrollable clash” with North. (source)

– Gen. Burwell B. Bell III, commander of US forces in the Republic of Korea between 2006 and 2008, stated in a recent interview: “The situation is near a point where South Korea is going to strike out at North Korea, where we could see an uncontrolled escalation.” (source)

– On Wednesday, reports the AP, “South Koreans stopped their cars, donned gas masks and ducked into underground shelters today in the country’s biggest-ever evacuation drill — a government attempt to prepare traditionally indifferent citizens for possible new attacks by North Korea.” (source)

– New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richardson, on his way to visit NK, was scheduled to stop in Beijing on Thursday. Richardson, reports the source above, “has often acted as a diplomatic troubleshooter and has made regular visits to North Korea.”

>Neo-Sandinista File: FSLN re-imposes 1980s dictatorship as National Assembly ratifies martial law, Ortega relies on sordid “El Pacto” with Aleman

>Strategic Implications of Revived Sandinista Dictatorship:

– Nicaraguan Constitutional Experts: Ortega Intends to Declare State of Emergency, Invoke New Laws ahead of November 2011 Elections

– Retired Nicaraguan Army Colonel: Martial Law Package Part of Wider Red Axis Plot to “Militarize” ALBA States

– Ortega Now Possesses “Legal” Mechanism to Revive Cold War-Era Internal Security Apparatus, Suppress Opposition to Revived Russian Presence in Nicaragua

– Sandinistas’ New Military Government Opens Door to Cooperation between Office of Defense Intelligence, Cuba’s Intelligence Directorate, and Venezuela’s Bolivarian Intelligence Service

Pictured above: Anti-government protesters outside Nicaragua’s National Assembly on December 13, 2010.

Nicaragua’s post-civil war democracy died on Monday, December 13, 2010, as we long suspected would happen when Daniel Ortega was re-elected in 2006, after he stewed on the political backburner for 16 years. The MSM has rightly exposed President Ortega’s long-standing alliances with the USA’s most implacable enemies, such as Russia, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and Libya, not to mention his new-found and most lucrative partnership with Communist Venezuela. However, it has devoted less time to exposing the re-communization of this Central American country. Only a few English-language news sources like Inside Costa Rica and Tico Times/Nica News, are closely monitoring the demise of Nicaragua’s fledgling democracy.

Originally slated for a parliamentary vote on December 6, a defense bill package sent to the National Assembly by President Ortega for rush approval was postponed until this past Monday. On December 13, the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front secured the consent of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) in passing the bills, which effectively re-establish a communist dictatorship in Nicaragua. With the support of 70 of 91 deputies, the Sandinistas rammed the three bills—the National Defense Law, the National Security Law, and the Border Law—through parliament in less than 10 days, before the year-end recess, avoiding a legislative process that normally takes months.

The role of the PLC as a true opposition party is questionable ever since former president Arnoldo Aleman, who is widely recognized as one of the world’s most corrupt politicians, formed “El Pacto” with Ortega in 1999. Government critics suspect that, in return for ratifying Ortega’s bills, the PLC will be awarded seats on the Supreme Court and Electoral Commission next year.

In any event, Sandinista lawmakers chortled over their victory, which will probably lead to a declaration of a state of emergency before the November 2011 elections. Deputy Edwin Castro gloated: “Nicaragua is the real winner here. We have achieved laws that, contrary to what people are saying, have been discussed amply.” Journalist Tim Rogers, writing for Tico Times, expounds:

The three laws will empower the military’s role in administering the state, create a new intelligence-gathering network and possibly leave the door open for forced military recruitment in times of ‘emergency’ . . . The laws themselves form only the skeleton of the state’s new defense and security policies. The ‘meat’ will come next year, when Ortega passes the ‘reglamentos’ or presidential interpretations of how the laws will be enacted.

Earlier this month, in an address to the top military command, Ortega, who is constitutionally forbidden to contest the next elections, went so far as to label those who oppose his bills “traitors” to the nation.

Specifically, warns lawyer Victor Boitano, Nicaragua’s new military government provides “Comandante” Ortega with the legal mechanisms needed to employ Sandinista paramilitary groups and a revived state security apparatus to repress and spy on the opposition in the name of national security. In addition to practicing law, Boitano is a former Nicaraguan military colonel who graduated from a Cuban military academy in the 1980s. He resigned from the army in 2007. Boitano elaborates:

These laws are being imported from Cuba and Venezuela as part of a new plan to militarize the countries of ALBA [Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas]. The defense bill package is an attempt by Ortega to democratically impose a military boot upon Nicaragua’s democracy and force the population to participate in the revolution.

If the laws are passed and the new system of national security is implemented Ortega would move quickly to arm and mobilize Sandinista groups–the Sandinista Youth and the Councils of Citizen Power–under the pretext that they are “volunteer reservists” organizing to defend national security.

This is a terrible, terrible militarization of the society in an undercover way; Nicaragua’s past is returning.

Gonzalo Carrión, legal director for the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, warns: “These laws would change the whole dynamic of society from that of an institutional democracy to one that is subordinate to the military.” He adds:

The goal here is to militarize the country at a time when the trend in democratic societies is to demilitarize. The defense package shows that Ortega and the Nicaraguan Army still share an ‘umbilical relationship’ that goes beyond the president’s role as commander-in-chief. Ortega constantly reminds the police and army of their Sandinista roots. The message is that Ortega is more than just the head of state, he’s also the head of the political party and the revolution that gave birth to the army.

Constitutional expert Gabriel Alvarez agrees that Ortega’s military government is designed to subvert the constitution prior to the president’s unlawful re-election bid:

Since Ortega wasn’t able to get the votes he needed in the National Assembly this year to reform the Constitution to allow for his re-election, this package of laws is meant to substitute for the constitutional reforms. If the defense bills pass as is, Ortega will have use of the army and Sandinista-sponsored paramilitary groups to physically enforce the de facto Supreme Court ruling that okayed his re-election last year.

Any protests of his candidacy or demonstrations against next year’s possibly fraudulent elections can then be put down forcefully under the argument that such unrest represents a threat to national stability and democratic order. These laws would institutionalize Ortega’s paranoia and authoritarian style of government. And they would provide a permanent green light to legalize and legitimize the use of paramilitary force. This would institutionalize people’s fear of repression.

The defense-bill package does not represent a political vision based in democracy, rather that of a police state or an authoritarian state. Even the language of the bills, which talks about the need to promote a value-based “culture of defense” and the rights and obligations to defend their democracy and “supreme interests,” sounds “quasi-North Korean.”

Reviewing certain provisions of the three laws offers insight into “Comandante’s” intentions. We have previously looked at the stipulations of Nicaragua’s new Border Law.

The National Defense Law establishes the “right and obligation of Nicaraguan citizens to participate actively and belligerently in national defense.” Article 3 calls for “national mobilizations,” in which “all human, technical and material resources are put at the disposal of national defense in situations of conflict and emergency.” Article 21 calls for the creation of a “reservist force” led by ex-military personnel. Article 25 requires “all media outlets” to “collaborate in the education and divulgation of the values, principles and directives of National Defense with the goal of creating cohesion of the entire Nicaraguan society around the execution of an effective National Defense Policy.”

Article 3 of the National Security Law establishes “permanent, immediate and direct actions to preserve the integrity, stability and permanency of the state of Nicaragua, its institutions, democratic order, rule of law, people and property against any threat, risk or aggression.” Article 8 of the same bill creates a “National Security System,” consisting of “institutions specialized in intelligence and information” and empowered to collect information using “specialized methods of human and technical resources.”

Article 9 calls for the submission of intelligence reports to the president and, with a nod toward the red regimes in Havana and Caracas, the “cooperation and collaboration with intelligence services of friendly countries and international organizations.” Finally, Article 11 states that the army’s Office of Defense Information and the military intelligence network will be subordinate to the “Commander in Chief,” meaning the president of the republic.

It would appear, then, that the Sandinistas’ manufactured border dispute with Costa Rica and their opposition to the US Navy’s presence in Costa Rican waters are pretexts to militarize Nicaraguan society, re-consolidate their 1980s dictatorship, and justify cooperation among Latin America’s Red Axis intelligence agencies.

Nicaragua’s new martial law regime, moreover, will enable Ortega to suppress opposition to a potential revived Russian presence in that country. This dilemma exposed itself in December 2008 when a Russian destroyer appeared off the country’s Caribbean coast, the first time since the Cold War, to deliver “humanitarian aid.” Nicaragua’s opposition, no doubt recalling the baleful presence of Soviet Bloc advisors in Managua in the 1980s, went so far as to brand the Russian Navy’s arrival “unconstitutional” and a “violation of sovereignty.”

Nicaragua may be a small, poor country and its border tiff with Costa Rica a “tempest in a tea cup,” but its refurbished Soviet-built air base at Punta Huete can accommodate Russia’s strategic bombers. These did not materialize during the Cold War, but could conceivably land at Central America’s longest runway at any time in the future. The arrival of two Tu-160 bombers in Venezuela on September 10, 2008, suggests that the Kremlin may try such a provocation in the upcoming months.

>USSR2 File: FSB recruits child informers, Kremlin mulls biggest mass relocation since Stalin, analysts await Putin’s presidential plans for 2012

>– Communist Party of Belarus Backs Lukashenko’s Re-Election Bid, Head of Presidential Administration Alleges Opposition to Disrupt December 19 Poll with Bombings

Pictured above: On December 11, the head of the Presidential Administration of Belarus, Vladimir Makey, appeared on RTR Belarus TV.

The Russian Federation’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which was hived off the old Soviet KGB, has reverted big time to its old communist-era ways by recruiting schoolchildren in the war on terror with a series of cartoons on how to spy on terrorists and neighbors.

The eight 20-second cartoons, which have been aired on TV and presented in schools and movie theaters, portray a boy outwitting a terrorist and informing on him to the FSB. Other videos show the seven-year-old hero setting up a roadblock around a suspicious package and spying on neighbors to see if they have weapons stashed in their loft and basement. He is finally shown receiving a medal from grateful police chiefs while a man sporting a Muslim-style moustache is led away in handcuffs.

Critics, reports the Croatian Times, claim the cartoons will promote paranoia among children and lead to “Hitler Youth-style” or, rather, Komsomol-style spying by youngsters. Russian intelligence services expert Andrei Soldatov said: “This is complete propaganda and makes people more suspicious and increases the number of unwittingly false calls from frightened children.”

Child psychologist Rais Skrynnikova, who works for the Russian Children’s Fund in Volgograd, added: “The cartoons contain elements of fear and negativity. The denunciations of the KGB are still strong in the memories of communities and these cartoons come into conflict with children’s sense of norms and morality.”

Incidentally, Ivan Melnikov, vice chairman of the (secretly ruling) Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), chairs the State Duma’s education committee so it’s no surprise the FSB has a green light to brainwash and potentially once again turn Russian schoolchildren against their own parents. Last month, Comrade Melnikov feted Cuba’s visiting parliamentary president Ricardo Alarcon.

Meanwhile, according to information leaked to the Vedomosti daily, the Kremlin is planning on packing Russia’s widely scattered 141 million citizens, 90 percent of which lives in towns with less than 100,000 residents, into 20 urban centers. Unlike Joseph Stalin’s genocidal internal deportations, however, when entire nationalities were forced to move at gunpoint on the grounds of being “counter-revolutionaries” or Nazi collaborators, relocating would be optional and encouraged on economic grounds alone.

“Much of rural Russia is dying,” points out the United Kingdom’s Telegraph, “as young people move to towns and cities and entire Soviet-era settlements which were built around just one or two factories are no longer economically viable.”

Russian analysts opined that the plan, which resurrects the Soviet-era idea of urbanizing the entire country, is likely to be heavily promoted by President Dmitry Medvedev as part of his agenda to modernize Russia. With speculation mounting about whether Medvedev or his mentor Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will run for the presidency in March 2012, the Kremlin’s new urbanization plan could be a useful electoral tool for Medvedev.

Last month, Pravoye Delo (Right Cause), a party little known even in Russia, endorsed Medvedev as its presidential candidate, even though the 2012 election campaign has not officially begun. Undaunted, party leaders Leonid Gozman and Georgy Bovt informed journalists that they support the president’s modernization program.

“This party has no seats in the Russian parliament. There are some Pravoye Delo members in regional parliaments, but these people often hide the fact that they belong to it,” remarked Vladimir Pribylovsky, president of the Panorama think tank, to the Moscow News. The same news site acknowledges that, like just about every other party of “post”-perestroika Russia, including Sergei Mironov’s Just Russia and Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Pravoye Delo “has been formed with support of the Kremlin, which coordinated the appointment of its leaders.”

Since 2008, political analysts have speculated that Putin, who took up his old post of prime minister, is biding his time, waiting for Medvedev to complete his term as president, before reassuming this position for another eight years, that is, until 2020. They also observe that United Russia is little more than a parliamentary support group for Putin, lacking a durable popular base. By contrast, contends Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the CPRF “remains the best organized force and in polls usually scores second to the pro-Kremlin United Russia,” which itself was founded by “ex”-cadres of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union/Russian Federation.

According to a survey conducted by the Kremlin-friendly VtsIom polling agency, Medvedev would easily win re-election if it were held today, provided that Putin stayed out of the race. Other possible candidates, including Zyuganov, polled in the single digits, the telephone survey showed. Both Medvedev and Putin have declined to state publicly whether they will run in 2012. A separate survey on the public’s trust toward politicians had Putin topping Medvedev 48 to 42 percent.

It would appear, then, that if the Soviet strategists want to install an open communist in the Kremlin on the basis of a “free and fair” election, Zyuganov will have to move into the background, hiding behind a younger, “moderate,” EU-friendly frontman. However, the communist platform has changed little since Soviet times. According to RFE/RL, Zyuganov and his henchmen “call for mass nationalization, progressive income tax, and a state monopoly on alcohol production and sales.” Incidentally, Hugo Chavez is following Zyuganov’s script to a “T,” only in Venezuela, not Russia.

Meanwhile, in the former Soviet republic of Belarus, the communists are again throwing their name behind President Alexander Lukashenko’s re-election bid, to take place on December 19. Explains House of Representatives deputy Igor Karpenko:

The Communist Party calls upon Belarusians to vote for the candidature of Alexander Lukashenko and his policies. The country’s future largely depends on fulfilling civic responsibilities and the active participation in the vote.

Representatives of the CPB have joined the election campaign, during which they will carry out explanatory work among the population about the coincidence of the CPB’s main policies with the domestic and foreign policies pursued by current leadership of the country, for the benefit of an absolute majority of citizens.

The Communist Party of Belarus and the CPRF are united under an umbrella organization called the Union of Communist Parties-CPSU, which is based in all of the old Soviet republics and committed to restoring the Soviet Union from the ground up. Therefore, the UCP-CPSU, which Zyuganov has chaired since 2001, acts as a sort of placeholder for the old CPSU.

Lukashenko and Belarusian authorities are anxious to assure European Union counterparts that the presidential election will be “transparent,” even as they allege that the opposition intends to wage an armed insurgency after the election.

>WW4 File: Russia’s military on combat alert, monitoring Korean situation; NK FM in Moscow, justifies nuke deterrent; Japan deploys Patriots

>Pictured here: Tourists look toward North Korea from an observation post, just south of the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, about 205 miles northeast of Seoul, on December 14, 2010. South Korea believes that the North has been secretly enriching uranium at new locations outside its main nuclear site.

News Updates

– On Tuesday, Russian news agency Interfax quoted Russia’s top general, Nikolai Makarov, as saying about political tensions on the Korean Peninsula: “Without a doubt, we have taken measures to increase the combat-readiness of our forces. The [Russian] military is continuing to monitor the situation.” (source)

Ten Japanese fighter jets intercept two Russian Tu-95 strategic bombers on December 14, as Russian aircraft completed 12-hour flight over Sea of Japan and Pacific Ocean. (source)

– Over the weekend, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency, in a terse one-sentence news flash, reported that Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun had left for Russia. (source)

– NK FM boasts of Pyongyang’s nuclear deterrent in interview with Interfax: “We once again feel convinced that we have made the right choice in strengthening our defenses with the nuclear deterrent.”

– On Monday, in a meeting with Pak, Russian FM Sergei Lavrov condemns NK shelling of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island on November 23, killing four, including two marines.

– Under new defense policy guidelines, Tokyo plans to boost its deployment of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor missiles at air bases to counter the threat of NK’s ballistic missiles. (source)

>Latin America File: Cuban FM wraps up trip to red regimes in San Salvador, Managua; Castro to visit El Salvador, Funes out of favor with FMLN leaders

>– WikiLeak Revelations: President Funes Suspects FMLN’s Marxist Leaders Tapping His Telephone, Organizing Anti-Government Protests

– US Embassy in San Salvador Assesses El Salvador’s Government as “Schizophrenic,” Predicts Open Break between Funes’ Moderate Camp and FMLN’s Party Leadership

Pictured above: El Salvador’s President Mauricio Funes shakes hands with Arturo Valenzuela, US Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, in San Salvador on December 8, 2010. Funes’ vice president and the leadership of the ruling FMLN are not so kindly disposed toward the USA.

The communist regimes in Havana and San Salvador are closing ranks since the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) won its first election last year, 17 years after the end of the Salvadoran Civil War. This past Monday, while visiting El Salvador, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez praised the importance of ties with the small Central American country. Rodriguez met deputies from the National Assembly’s commission on foreign affairs, with whom he discussed bilateral medical cooperation. In a move to ward off protests, he added that “This is by no means a political intervention. Medical cooperation is strictly humanitarian.”

For his part, Salvadoran Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez lauded the importance of Rodriguez’s visit, the first by a Cuban diplomat in the history of bilateral relations between the two countries. “It is proof of El Salvador’s maturity in diplomatic relations with Cuba,” Martinez gushed.

Rodriguez was not only slated to meet Martinez, but also the leadership of the FMLN, which includes Medardo Gonzalez, and Salvadoran Vice President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, the FMLN’s former battlefield commander. During the Salvadoran Civil War, “doctrinaire Leninist” Sanchez acquired a reputation for ordering assassinations. Today, he is widely perceived among Salvadorans as the real ruler of the country. Indeed, cynical Salvadorans joke that he is only “nine millimeters” from the presidency, referring to the caliber of a certain bullet. Significantly, Sanchez dutifully present himself to his Cuban masters in December 2009, nearly a year before President Mauricio Funes made the same trek.

During his San Salvador stay-over, Rodriguez was scheduled to place flowers at the grave of Schafick Handal, formerly head of the Communist Party of El Salvador and later leader of the FMLN. The Cuban FM also paid tribute to Oscar Arnulfo Romero, the Catholic archbishop who opposed the military dictatorship and was assassinated in 1980. Finally, Rodriguez placed flowers at the Wall of Memory in Cuscatlan Park to remember the 75,000 victims of the civil war.

The Cuban FM is on a whirlwind tour of Latin America, having attended the 21st Ibero-American Summit in Argentina prior to showing up in San Salvador. Following his pep talks with the FMLN, Rodriguez then flew to Managua, where President Daniel Ortega is trying to implement martial law in an effort to subvert the 2011 elections and rebuild his Cold War-era dictatorship. Afterward, he was slated to depart to Cancun, where the previous mayor employed a Cuban assassin, to participate in the United Nations’ Climate Change Summit.

Reciprocating Funes’ pilgrimage to Cuba in October, dictator Raul Castro plans to visit El Salvador “as soon as the corresponding agreements are made through diplomatic channels.” This is an important development in view of the latest WikiLeak revelations, which expose the political chasm between El Salvador’s “moderate” president and the hard-core Marxists who run the FMLN.

Funes is a former CNN Espanol journalist who did not bear arms during the civil war and who did not join the FMLN until the presidential campaign in late 2008. He has distanced himself from Latin America’s hard-left leaders who have tense relations with the USA, such as Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, and Rafael Correa. Instead, he has embraced former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, another “moderate” center-leftist. Unlike Vice President Sanchez, who advocates El Salvador’s incorporation into the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas bloc of socialist nations, Funes has snubbed the idea.

By contrast, FMLN party leaders, states a February 23, 2010 cable from the US embassy in San Salvador, “have pushed him to strengthen ties with Venezuelan and Cuba while de-emphasizing the U.S. relationship.” Another message dated January 26 described El Salvador’s government as “schizophrenic.” Posted online by the Spanish newspaper El Pais, the earlier message continues: “The part of the government Funes controls is moderate, pragmatic, responsibly left-of-center and friendly to the [U.S. government]. The part he has ceded to hard-line elements of the … Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front … is seeking to carry out the Bolivarian Chavista game-plan, including implacable hostility toward the [U.S. government.]”

Salvadoran Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez downplayed the content of the Wikileak revelations, which have annoyed and outraged politicians around the world: “The subjective opinions of one official are not going to affect the strong and strategic relation we have with the United States. We think the issue is being given an importance that it doesn’t have.”

FMLN Lawmaker Benito Lara also insisted the party has a “good rapport” with Funes. “I have not heard the president express concern about the FMLN,” Lara opined. However, according to a report sent on August 21, 2009, one Funes ally told US embassy officials that the president “suspects hard-line FMLN elements are intercepting Funes’ and his inner circle’s telephone calls.” Another message that month claimed “hard-line FMLN members” orchestrated street protests against the construction of a hydroelectric dam advocated by Funes.

By last January, the US embassy, looking ahead to the 2012 legislative elections, warned: “If things continue to deteriorate, we could see an open break between the two sides.” The cable elaborated: “The FMLN response would be ugly – massive street protests, labor strikes, road blockages, threats of violence, legislative logjams – and paralyze some government operations and place a further drag on the struggling economy.”

>Communist Bloc Military Updates: Medvedev charms Warsaw as Russia arms Bulava SLBMs with “nuclear payloads,” deploys tactical nukes to NATO borders

>– Kremlin Takes the West’s Money and Runs, Feigns Dismantling of Chemical Warfare Agents

– Putin Promotes East-West Convergence (on Communist Terms), Russia’s Accession to Eurozone, World Trade Organization

Pictured above: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev takes part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Monument of Soviet Soldiers killed during World War II in Warsaw, on December 7, 2010.

A December 7 article from Novosti implies that the Russian Navy’s ballistic missile submarines are armed with nuclear warheads as they prowl under the world’s oceans. The Kremlin-run news source quoted the engineer who designed the new Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), Yuri Solomonov, as saying:

Nuclear warheads have been completed for Russia’s new Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile. The nuclear payload will have been completed by the time the missiles are installed in the carrier [submarine]. Four Bulava test launches will be carried out in the second half of December from the Borei-class nuclear-powered missile submarine Yury Dolgoruky.

Solomonov’s comments were originally published in the December 2010 issue of Russia’s Natsionalnaya Oborona (National Defense) journal. This is not a comforting thought, especially in view of the mystery missile launch off the coast of Los Angeles last month, which some have attributed to Red China, but which the Pentagon insists was not its own.

In a late-October test, a Bulava was successfully fired from the nuclear-powered Dmitry Donskoi submarine in the White Sea, hitting a target on a test range in Russia’s far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula, some 6,000 kilometers to the east. This was the second successful firing in a month, following several failures.

A Kremlin source explained that the second phase of Bulava tests will start at the end of May 2011, if the remaining launches in 2010 are a success. The Bulava (NATO designation SS-NX-30) SLBM carries up to 10 MIRV warheads and has a range of over 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles). The Russian Navy plans to deploy Bulava on modified Project 941 and the new Project 955 Borei-class submarines. The Russian military expects the Bulava, along with the Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile, to become the core of Russia’s nuclear triad.

Meanwhile, according to classified US intelligence, this past spring Russia deployed tactical nuclear warheads to sites near NATO countries, prompting concern that Moscow may not in fact be committed to a new strategic arms reduction treaty. Unnamed US officials, cited by the Wall Street Journal, “say the movement of warheads to facilities bordering NATO allies appeared to run counter to pledges made by Moscow starting in 1991 to pull tactical nuclear weapons back from frontier posts and to reduce their numbers.” According to the November 30 edition of WSJ:

The U.S. has long voiced concerns about Russia’s lack of transparency when it comes to its arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons, believed to be many times the number possessed by the U.S.

Russia’s movement of the ground-based tactical weapons appeared to coincide with the deployment of U.S. and NATO missile-defense installations in countries bordering Russia. Moscow has long considered the U.S. missile defense buildup in Europe a challenge to Russian power, underlining deep-seated mistrust between U.S. and Russian armed forces despite improved relations between political leaders.

The Kremlin had no immediate comment.

Republican critics in the US Senate opined that President Barack Hussein Obama was hasty in agreeing to a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia (New Start), without addressing outstanding questions about Moscow’s tactical nuclear weapons. “New Start,” explains WSJ, “would cap the Russian and U.S. deployed strategic nuclear arsenals at 1,550 per side. It doesn’t address tactical weapons, which are smaller and for use on a battlefield.” If you, like Obama, believe that the neo-Soviet leadership is committed to peace, then I have a tropical time-share in Novosibirsk to sell you.

In November, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis said he raised concerns about Russian tactical weapons with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and senior defense officials in Washington. “Being a NATO member, of course, someone could say, ‘Don’t worry,’” fretted Azubalis. “But when you’re living in the neighborhood, you should always be more cautious. American officials expressed worry but they also don’t know too much about where the weapons are and the conditions under which they are kept.”

Senator Christopher Bond (Republican-Missouri), vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, refused to comment directly on the tactical nuke issue, but acknowledged that the Russians cannot be trusted to honor arms control promises. “We know from published reports of the State Department that the Russians have cheated on all their other treaties, Start, chemical weapons, [biological weapons], Open Skies,” Bond said. No kidding.

Mistrust, says WSJ, “runs deep” between Washington and Moscow. According to US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks, a February 2010 cable quoted Defense Secretary Robert Gates as telling a French official that Russia is an “oligarchy run by the security services.” Two senior Obama admin officials did not deny that the tactical nuke issue has arisen in private conversations between the White House and legislators. However, they insisted that the 1991 US-Soviet pledges, known as the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives, are “not legally binding on either side and were difficult to verify.” So what good are they? More fluff for public consumption.

In fall 1991, just before the implosion of the Soviet Union, Western estimates of the number of Moscow’s tactical nukes ranged from 12,000 to nearly 21,700. At a May 2005 conference, the Kremlin insisted that this arsenal “has been reduced by four times as compared to what the Soviet Union possessed in 1991,” and was “concentrated at central storage facilities….”

Even as they prepare for war against NATO, the Soviet strategists are carrying out their latest charm offensive along several fronts. This week, reports Voice of America, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev spearheaded that offensive by completing a two-day good will visit to Poland. In 1989 Warsaw was one of the first Eastern European countries to supposedly dump communism, although the Polish United Workers’ Party continues to exercise its baleful influence in Polish politics through the Democratic Left Alliance.

Medvedev, the first Russian president to visit Poland in eight years, signed a package of economic agreements with counterpart Bronislaw Komorowski and also discussed “sensitive issues” with Prime Minister Donald Tusk. One of the issues was the investigation into the April plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others, including Poland’s top generals, near the western Russian city of Smolensk.

Medvedev’s entourage was greeted by several dozen protesters holding posters that read “Smolensk: We Want the Truth.” As we have blogged before, some Polish rightists, especially those associated with the Law and Justice Party, believe the plane crash was orchestrated by the Kremlin.

However, Wojciech Borodzicz-Smolinski, who works for the Warsaw-based Center for International Relations, explains that the Smolensk crash actually improved relations between the two countries. He commented: “This significant change took place just after the Smolensk tragedy. We as Poles saw on TV the feelings that were shown by the Russian politicians and the Russians themselves, and that significantly changed the climate between our two countries.” According to Borodzicz-Smolinski, “feelings” trump the fact that the Russian and Belarusian armed forces carried out a mock nuclear attack against Poland in 2009.

Last month, Poland welcomed a declaration by the Russian State Duma, regarding the 1940 massacre of over 20,000 Polish officers in the forest of Katyn, to which President Kaczynski and his colleagues were heading. For the first time, Moscow officially admitted that the killings were carried out under the direct orders of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. At a press conference on Monday, Polish President Komorowski enthused: “The Duma’s declaration is very important. This is not only a new chapter in Polish-Russian relations, but a good chapter.”

For decades Russia claimed that the Nazis were responsible for the massacre. To this day, Gennady Zyuganov, chairman of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, maintains this stance.

Medvedev’s visit coincided with WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of US diplomatic cables, some of which reveal that NATO recently devised plans to defend Poland and the Baltic states from a possible Russian attack. Aggrieved, Russia responded that “NATO was wrong to think of it as an enemy.”

Another tactic in the Kremlin’s arsenal of lies is its professed commitment to dismantling its chemical weapons. According to state-run Voice of Russia, “The first unit of a new Russian chemical weapons disposal site has just been commissioned in the Bryansk region west of Moscow. The 15 billion ruble facility, built with some help from Germany and Switzerland outside the town of Pochep, is already the sixth such plant in Russia and the biggest in Europe.”

Approximately 19 percent of the chemical warfare agents left over from the Soviet Union, or 7,500 tons, are stored at the Pochep weapons depot. The first four bombs filled with chemical agents were destroyed on November 26. In accord with the Chemical Weapons Convention, enacted in 1997, all signatories must scrap their chemical stockpiles by 2012. The Bryansk facility is the latest of many similar facilities built in Russia in the past decade.

By pretending to be a lamb, when it is in fact a lion (or bear), the neo-Soviet leadership hopes to integrate Russia into both the European Union—a Kremlin-concocted plot from the beginning— and the World Trade Organization.

On November 26, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, while conferring with business leaders and counterpart Angela Merkel in Berlin, stated he was confident that Russia will one day join the Eurozone. Putin praised the measures taken by the European Central Bank to stabilize the euro and predicted that the sovereign debt crisis will be reversed. Lifting a page from the Soviet script for “neutralizing” Europe ahead of a communist-forced East-West merger, Putin trilled: “A rapprochement between Russia and Europe is inevitable, if we want to be successful and competitive. Can we assume that Russia together with Europe will one day be in a single currency zone? I can assume that.”

In the last section of his 1984 predictive work New Lies for Old, “The Final Phase,” KGB defector Anatoliy Golitsyn describes the above scenario, in which German capitulationism, especially, facilitates the Soviet takeover of Western Europe.

The previous day, local newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported that Putin called for establishing a free trade zone between Russia and the European Union, a vision (not presently) espoused by the German government. Criticizing the dominance of the US dollar in the world economy, Putin also declared that Russia may join the WTO as early as 2011. “Not even the new single economic area that Russia is building together with Belarus and Kazakhstan will prevent this country form joining the WTO,” insisted Putin. Moscow has been pressing for WTO membership for 17 years.

Aside from a few petty differences, Putin and Merkel have much to talk about. Both spent time in Communist East Germany. In the 1980s, KGB agent Putin was stationed in Dresden, while Merkel was a secretary for “agitprop” in the ruling Socialist Unity Party’s youth section, Free German Youth.

Merkel’s father was a Lutheran clergyman who accepted a pastorate in the German Democratic Republic in the 1950s. One of Merkel’s biographers, a former colleague in the Christian Democratic Union, believes that Pastor Kasner had a “special understanding” with the red regime in East Berlin. In 1989, Angela joined the (communist-controlled) dissident group Democratic Awakening. However, Comrades Vladimir and Angela are good capitalists now.

>MISSILE DAY ALERT: Die Welt: Iran to deploy Shahab 3, Scud-B/C missiles at jointly manned base in Venezuela, many US cities vulnerable to attack

>– FLASHBACK: December 2008 Reports Allege Iran Deployed Troops and Missiles in Eritrea, Endangering Israel

According to the November 25, 2010 edition of Die Welt, citing Western intelligence sources, Iran is planning to place medium-range Shahab 3 missiles on Venezuelan soil. The German news source states that the agreement was signed between the two countries while Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez visited Tehran on October 19.

Die Welt contends that Venezuela’s communist dictator has agreed to allow Iran to establish a military base jointly manned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Venezuelan missile officers. Tehran has apparently given permission for the missiles to be used in case of “emergency.” In return, Venezuela can use the proposed missile base for “national needs,” greatly endangering neighboring Colombia. The German daily claims that Shahab 3 (range 1300-1500 km), Scud-B (285-330 km) and Scud-C (300, 500 and 700 km) will be deployed at the site.

“If a missile base can be opened in Venezuela,” warns Hudson New York Briefing Council, “many US cities will be able to be reached from there even with short-medium range missiles.” This news dovetails nicely with a recent post at the China Confidential blog, also citing Western intelligence sources, alleging that Iran and Venezuela plan to use northern Mexico as a platform to lob ballistic missiles at the USA.

What would US President Barack Hussein Obama do if this Iranian-Venezuelan plot comes to fruition? Not much. According to a Tweet by CBS reporter Mark Knoller, who covered Obama’s participation in last month’s NATO summit in Lisbon, Obama joked about diverting Air Force One to Caracas so he could visit Chavez. Upon learning of Obama’s wish, the Venezuelan president fired back: “We would sit down to talk, to eat socialist arepas.” Arepas is a corn-based pancake popular in that country.

Two years ago, a similar report surfaced concerning Iran’s deployment of missiles and troops in Eritrea, endangering Israel’s security.

>Neo-Sandinista File: Ortega swimming in drug money, WikiLeaks exposes financial umbilical cord to Chavez, Costa Rica closes embassy in Managua

>– Cuban Foreign Minister Arrives in Nicaragua from El Salvador as Sandinistas Ram Martial Law Bills through National Assembly

– Ortega No-Show at Ibero-American Summit, Seeks Support from Unasur over Military Occupation of Costa Rican Island

– New York-Based Worker’s World Party Sides with Sandinistas in Border Row, Labels Costa Rican President Agent of “US Imperialism”

– UK Authorities Arrest Assange as (Ironically) Chavez and “Mini Me” Ally Correa Praise Whistleblowing Website Founder

Pictured above: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is welcomed by Nicaraguan counterpart Daniel Ortega at the Augusto C. Sandino International Airport in Managua, on April 14, 2010.

The collusion between President Daniel Ortega and his interior minister Tomas Borge with Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar was established in 1984 when a US government sting operation photographed the drug lord and Borge’s henchman Frederico Vaughan loading cocaine onto a C-123 in Managua. Ortega and Borge had extended safe haven to Escobar, who was eventually killed by Colombian police in 1993. The C-123’s pilot was CIA asset/DEA informant/businessman (smuggler) Barry Seal.

In October 1985, Seal testified before the President’s Commission on Organized Crime. A few months later, in February 1986, the Medellin cartel dispatched hitmen to assassinate Seal outside a Salvation Army halfway house in Baton Rouge. In March of that year, President Ronald Reagan, who was determined to solidify Congressional support for the Contras, displayed one of Seal’s sting photos on national television. No mention was made of Seal.

In November 1986 Reagan set up the Tower Commission to investigate (smother?) the Iran-Contra scandal and within several years the major players in the Contra training/supply operation–such as Oliver North and John Poindexter–either received pardons or their convictions were overturned. In early 1990, “Comandante” Ortega lost the presidential election and began 16 years of political hibernation, the Soviet Union collapsed on Christmas Day 1991, and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front gave up its armed struggle in El Salvador in January 1992.

Communism, Americans were told, was dead. The US public forgot about Iran-Contra, the Sandinistas, the Salvadoran civil war, and the Soviet military buildup in Central America. The region’s communists, however, were merely biding their time before striking again, this time at the ballot box.

In 2006, Ortega was re-elected and appointed the aging Borge ambassador to Peru, home to a renewed Shining Path insurgency. In attendance at “Comandante’s” January 2007 inauguration was former Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, who promised to revitalize the Moscow-Managua Axis. Reports surfaced alleging, too, that communist dictator Hugo Chavez had financed Ortega’s comeback with PDVSA revenues. In 2009, the FMLN, carefully concealing its hard-core Leninist leadership behind a “moderate” frontman, won the general election and became El Salvador’s first leftist government. As with the Sandinistas, rumors abounded intimating that Chavez had financed the FMLN’s “peaceful” takeover of El Salvador.

Over the last four years we have endeavored to find hard evidence implicating the neo-Sandinista regime, like its predecessor in the 1980s, in the illicit drug trade. High-profile drug busts by the Nicaraguan army and police, and indignant rhetoric from President Ortega condemning other regional leaders for complicity in narco-trafficking imply Managua’s sincerity in cracking down on this scourge. However, the anarchic conditions that prevail in the “cocaine paradise” of Bluefields, a town on Nicaragua’s sparsely settled Caribbean coast, suggest that the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front has turned a blind eye to the flow of narcotics from South America to the USA.

Ironically, the Wikileaks scandal has provided this blog with the evidence needed to once again implicate the Sandinistas in the drug trade. Actually, Ortega’s chummy alliance with Chavez, whose top general Henry Rangel Silva is on the US Treasury Department’s “bad list,” suggested this nexus all along.

According to a US diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks and reprinted by Spain’s El Pais: “Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas have regularly received money to finance [his party] FSLN electoral campaigns from international drug traffickers, usually in return for ordering Sandinista judges to allow traffickers caught by the police and military to go free.” Another cable from the US embassy in Managua asserts that Nicaraguan officials returned from visits to Venezuela with “suitcases full of money”:

We have first-hand reports that [Nicaraguan] officials receive suitcases full of cash from Venezuelan officials during official trips to Caracas. Multiple contacts have told us that Daniel Ortega uses Venezuelan oil cash to fund the [ruling party’s] municipal election campaigns. Several unconfirmed reports indicate that Ortega will have as much as $500m at his disposal over the course of 2008.

The cables were written and sent months before the November 2008 municipal elections, in which the FSLN won sweeping victories, but later faced widespread fraud allegations. Reuters comments on the Wikileaks revelation: “The Nicaraguan and Venezuelan governments were not immediately available for comment.” I’ll bet.

In May 2006 former US ambassador to Nicaragua, Paul Trivelli, authored the following cable confirming the existence of the Reagan White House’s anti-Sandinista sting operation 20 years before:

In 1984, Daniel Ortega negotiated a deal with Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar whereby Escobar received refuge for several months in Nicaragua after he had ordered the killing of the Colombian minister of justice. In return, Mr Ortega and his party, the FSLN, received large cash payments from Pablo Escobar.

Interior Minister Tomas Borge and his subordinates went so far as to assist Escobar with the loading and unloading of drugs onto his airplanes in Nicaragua. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) managed to place a hidden camera on one of Escobar’s airplanes and obtained film of Escobar and Ministry of the Interior officials loading cocaine onto one of Escobar’s planes at Managua’s international airport.

But according to a 2010 cable allegedly dictated by Trivelli’s successor, Robert Callahan, Ortega’s alliance with Chavez could be “chilling” as the latter faces domestic challenges to his own presidency in 2012: “There are indications that the Ortega-Chavez revolutionary partnership may be suffering a cold snap. Over three years, Chavez has supplied Ortega with nearly a billion dollars in badly-needed ‘assistance,’ but Ortega’s constant need for operating cash to off-set forfeited donor assistance is likely now wearisome for Chavez, who faces growing domestic economic difficulties.”

Incidentally, British authorities have arrested the much-maligned founder of Wikileaks, Australian-born Julian Assange, on a European-wide warrant alleging he sexually assaulted two Swedish women. The Wikileaks scandal, which portends the online publication of tens of thousands of classified US diplomatic cables, has provoked official outrage worldwide and a bumper crop of conspiracy theories.

Among conspiratorially minded bloggers, the Wikileaks scandal has morphed into a government-ordered anti-freedom “psychological operation” (psyops). For example, rightist blogger J.N. Kish asserts that “fascist/communist elements” in the US government are using Assange’s transgressions as a pretext to shut down the Internet. At the other end of the political spectrum, leftist bloggers note that one of Assange’s female Swedish accusers is associated with anti-Castro CIA asset Luis Posada Carriles, a Bay of Pigs veteran who is awaiting trial on terrorism charges in the USA.

Among conspiratorially minded leftist politicians, Chavez and his Ecuadorean “mini me” Rafael Correa have lauded Assange for allegedly exposing the international machinations of the “US empire.”

Pictured here: This week in Managua, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez met with President Ortega, wife Rosario, and Nicaraguan FM Samuel Santos Lopez.

Meanwhile, Ortega is using his manufactured border row with Costa Rica as a pretext to implement martial law, subvert the November 2011 elections, re-consolidate his Cold War-era communist dictatorship, and build a transoceanic canal with financing from Russia, Venezuela, and Iran. On December 7 the Cuban foreign minister arrived in Nicaragua from El Salvador even as the Sandinistas this week try to ram three bills granting Ortega and the military more power in states of emergency.

Since San Jose has the ear of the Organization of American States, which ordered Managua to remove its troops from Costa Rica’s Isla Calero, at the mouth of the San Juan River, Ortega has sought international support elsewhere. Last Thursday, Nicaragua’s Minister of Development Lumberto Campbell reported that he had a “fruitful exchange” with Guyanan President Bharrat Jagdeo, who is the new president pro tempore of the Union of South American Nations, an EU-style international organization founded in 2008. Nicaragua, of course, is in Central America, but the Sandinistas are ideologically aligned with the numerous leftist regimes that populate South America.

The neo-Sandinista regime certainly has no friends in Costa Rica, which closed its embassy in Managua on Monday. Nicaraguan Vice President Jaime Morales, a former Contra rebel, regretted the withdrawal of the Costa Rican diplomats, glibly remarking: “This does not help to solve the problem.” Morales also stated that he was “surprised” that Nicaraguan newspaper La Nacion quoted the Costa Rican president as saying that Nicaragua is an “enemy” country. “I found it strange that this newspaper said that Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla made these statements,” protested Morales.

On the sidelines of the 20th Ibero-American Summit in Mar de Plata, Argentina, this week Chinchilla had this to say about her conniving Nicaraguan counterpart:

What we did speak of, in that telephone conversation, is to agree to instruct our respective ambassadors at the OAS to seek a mutual out from the situation. The surprise came the following day when not only did we not have an agreement, but Nicaragua came up with a last minute document which was a travesty to our interests. That was the last time I spoke to him [Ortega] and from then on I did not want any conversations unless there were witnesses all around.

Chinchilla’s reference to a “last minute document” is the Nicaraguan government’s white paper, The Hidden Truths of Costa Rica, which smears San Jose’s squeaky-clean, army-less eco-tourism image. Ortega, reports Inside Costa Rica, was “conspicuously absent” from the Ibero-American meet-and-greet. Spain has offered to mediate the border row.

Into the Nicaragua-Costa Rica dispute has ventured the New York-based political entity known as the Worker’s World Party. Shilling for the Sandinistas, these US Stalinists gleefully point out: “Costa Rica’s government is aligned with U.S. imperialism. Nicaragua is a member of the Bolivarian Alliance for Our America or ALBA, which includes Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda. The U.S. State Department considers ALBA hostile to U.S. interests.”

After chronicling the main events of the Nicaraguan Civil War, the Workers’ World Party portrays Chinchilla as Washington’s lackey:

An OAS team flew over Calero Island on Nov. 8 and reported that neither the Nicaraguan flag nor its army was there. Nevertheless, the Chinchilla government continues the accusations.

It’s also still fanning the flames of racism and xenophobia against Nicaragua, and the half-million Nicaraguans living and working in wealthier Costa Rica face discrimination. However, Costa Rican groups, unions and political parties are not participating in this and are opposing their government’s actions.

According to the US Stalinists, Chinchilla’s greatest crime against the neo-Sandinista regime was to invite the US Navy into Costa Rican waters this past summer to interdict drug boats. “This has turned Costa Rica into a U.S. military base,” complains the Worker’s World Party, adding: “U.S. troops can move, armed to the teeth, throughout the whole country and enjoy the characteristic impunity to any of their crimes that accompanies these imperialist enforcers throughout the world. Their contract to patrol ends at the end of 2010, but there are many places the U.S. military, once in, has refused to leave.”

Like Latin America’s most strident leftist leaders—Chavez, Ortega, Correa, Raul Castro, and Evo Morales—the US Stalinists view the Washington-San Jose alliance as part of a wider “fascist” conspiracy against the region’s “progressive” governments: “This move into Costa Rica fits with the increased U.S. military role in Latin America, including the re-establishment of the Fourth Naval Fleet, the Pentagon’s deal to use seven military bases in Colombia, the occupation of Haiti, new bases in Panama, and an additional U.S. base in Honduras. It is part of Washington’s confrontation with the ALBA countries, including the recent coup attempt in Ecuador.”

>Buncha Commies Corner: Barista National Liberation Front seizes control of South American country, forces everyone to drink delicious organic coffee

>Today the Barista National Liberation Front seized power in a South American country that doesn’t exist.

Comandante Juan Valdez has been appointed interim president. His donkey will be ambassador to Moscow. All Starbucks outlets will be nationalized and renamed the “People’s Coffee Collective.”

Julian Assange denies everything.

Pictured above: BSLN guerrillas launch final assault against capital’s trendiest “bourgeois” coffee house.

>WW4 File: North Korea bolsters forces near DMZ with 100 multiple-launch rockets and 200 tanks, new SK DM threatens air strikes

>Pictured here: South Korean soldiers carrying boxes of food arrive on Yeonpyeong Island on Saturday, December 4, 2010.

News Updates

– Kim Kwan-jin, South Korea’s Minister of National Defense-Designate, said yesterday that Seoul is prepared to launch air strikes and “punish the attacker thoroughly” should North Korea instigate further military provocations (source)

– A SK government source told the JoongAng Ilbo that the Korean People’s Army had recently augmented their forces along the Demilitarized Zone with 100 more multiple-launch rockets and 200 more tanks

>Mexican Narco-State File: UN climate summit kicks off in Cancun as police arrest heavily armed would-be kidnappers, authorities smother story

>– WikiLeaks: President Calderon to US National Intelligence Director Blair: Links between Iran, Venezuela, Drug Trafficking, and Mexico’s Democratic Revolutionary Party (source)

– More than 100,000 Residents of Ciudad Juarez Flee Drug War, Seek Refuge in USA since 2008

– Narcistas Gun Down Their First Female Police Chief near Ciudad Juarez, Garcia in Post for 50 Days

– Mexico’s Men Cower as Housewives and Rookie Officer Step Forward to Fill Top Cop Roles in Chihuahua’s Embattled Police Departments

Mexico’s besieged authorities are worried that the country’s powerful drug cartels may disrupt the 12-day United Nations summit on climate change that kicked off in Cancun on Monday. The resort city on the Yucatan Peninsula, according to the Canadian media, has been “mostly immune” to the narco-insurgency in the northern and Pacific coast states. However, the recent explosion at a hotel in Playa del Carmen that killed five Canadians, prompting the opening of a homicide case; allegations that a former Cancun mayor with Cuban connections helped to protect two drug cartels; and the unearthing of 12 torture-and-murder victims in graves just outside Cancun this past summer have shaken up the region’s hospitality industry.

More troubling still, at least for the UN summit organizers, is a news story, first published on November 22, in which Mexican police arrested heavily armed men who had detailed plans of the security arrangements for the summit. Accompanying the plans were photographs of the Moon Palace Hotel, one of the conference venues, and lists of police and army checkpoints. The Mexican government later insisted that the reports were false, but this did not stop news agencies from “running” with the story.

Toronto-based terrorism expert Alan Bell commented: “It is especially important in a country where crime is outpacing the government’s ability to react and respond to it. Delegates attending the Cancun summit are potential targets for extremists and narco-terrorists.” Pointing to the type of mass disobedience that occurred at the recent G20 summit in Toronto, Bell wondered how Mexico would handle such a threat.

Meanwhile, this week narcistas gunned down two police chiefs, including Alvaro Gilberto Torres Ramirez, head of the Ciudad Juarez police department, and Hermila Garcia Quinones, head of the Meoqui police department in Chihuahua state. Both Torres, who was killed on Wednesday, and Garcia, who was killed on Monday, were ambushed in their personal vehicles.

Garcia held her position for only 50 days and had received no previous death threats. She is one of many brave women in Chihuahua, including two housewives, who have stepped forward in recent months to assume police posts that many men are too scared to occupy. In October, a 20-year-old male cadet was the only candidate for police chief of Praxedis G. Guerrero, near Ciudad Juarez.

The body count in Mexico’s drug war grew elsewhere too. On a ranch near the town of Palomas, in the same state and across the border from Big Bend National Park in Texas, soldiers unearthed 20 bodies, one of which was identified as a US citizen. The discovery came only hours after Garcia’s assassination. It was not immediately clear when the killings took place.

Since the summer, when police arrested Texas-born Edgar (“La Barbie”) Valdez Villarreal, alleged boss of the Beltran Leyva cartel, now awaiting extradition to the USA, Mexican authorities have scored several such victories. Several weeks ago, authorities nabbed Carlos Montemayor, Valdez’s replacement.

On November 22, police surrounded a house in Morelia, capital of Michoacan state, and arrested Jose Alfredo Landa, alleged boss of La Familia cartel, the country’s main trafficker of methamphetamine. In 2006, La Familia made headlines by rolling severed heads into a discotheque in the city of Uruapan and, in June 2010, by ambushing and killing 12 federal police.

On December 1, federal police captured Eduardo Ramirez Valencia, a regional boss of Los Zetas, which is vying with the Gulf cartel to control the state of Tamaulipas (pictured above). According to regional security chief Luis Cardenas, Ramirez collaborated with Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, alleged leader of the Zetas, by handling smuggling operations between Panama and the Dominican Republic.

Mexico’s drug war has led to the long-feared tragedy and crisis of refugees, some fleeing northward to the USA, others internally displaced. In Ciudad Juarez, more than 5,000 families have abandoned their homes in the last six months, bringing to a total of 230,000 the number of residents who have fled the border city since 2008. The independent Safety and Civic Coexistence Observatory estimates that more than one half of these refugees have sought refuge in the USA. Ciudad Juarez, which is located across the border from El Paso, Texas, suffers an average of eight murders a day and has registered 2,700 murders this year and nearly 8,000 homicides since the beginning of 2008.

The teachers and administrators of Ciudad Juarez’s schools also live in fear of the mafias, especially since a series of graffiti messages appeared on school walls, threatening attacks if teachers do not hand over their Christmas bonuses. Chihuahua state Governor Cesar Duarte traveled to Juarez to speak out against the threats. “We could not ever allow what is being signaled, even with the severity of the security crisis, but an attempt is being made to destroy the integrity and the tranquility of the teachers, the principals, the parents and the children,” he said. “To the criminals we say that whoever dares to extort will face life imprisonment.”

Large northern cities like Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, and Reynosa have suffered a total or near-total breakdown in law and order. The Gulf cartel and the Zetas are presently fighting for control of Mexico’s third-largest and wealthiest city, Monterrey. “The deterioration happened nearly overnight,” explains the AP news agency, “laying bare issues that plague the entire country–a lack of credible policing and the Mexican habit of looking the other way at the drug trade as long as it was orderly and peaceful.” Last week, the Mexican government announced that it would increase the army presence in Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, home to Monterrey.

“When warfare erupted between the Gulf cartel and the Zetas,” explains US ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual, “there was no viable law enforcement [in Monterrey] to counter the onslaught. The Zetas control the local police.” Other police forces aligned with the Gulf cartel in the turf war. Nearly one half of the 750 police officers in Monterrey have been fired on suspicion of links to organized crime. “Rather than becoming part of the solution, they [the police] become part of the problem,” Pascual said.

In Monterrey more than 500 people died in drug violence during the first 10 months of 2010, compared to 56 slayings for all of 2009. Daily routines are frequently interrupted by carjackings and narcobloqueos, in which narco-traffickers block roads with stolen vehicles to hold off police and soldiers while the cartels conduct “transactions.”

In March, two students at the prestigious Monterrey Tech University died when they were caught in a gunfight between soldiers and gunmen near the campus. Five months later, the US State Department ordered diplomats to remove their children from the area after a shooting outside the American Foundation School, a private school attended by many US children and the children of Monterrey’s wealthiest families.

With the promise of regular military patrols, the residents of Ciudad Mier, Tamaulipas, have begun to cautiously return to their bullet-scarred homes, and re-open schools and businesses. Nine months of gun battles between the Gulf cartel and the Zetas forced most of the city’s 6,000 inhabitants to flee to Mexico’s first shelter for drug war refugees, in neighboring Miguel Aleman.

Joint US-Mexican efforts to halt cross-border narco-trafficking led to a small victory last Thursday when police from both countries discovered a nearly half-mile long drug tunnel and seized over 20 tons of marijuana. The tunnel had two entrances on the US side, some 800 feet apart in the Otay Mesa industrial complex in southern San Diego, where another major tunnel was found on November 4.

The southern end of the tunnel, which was almost 40 feet underground, emerged in Tijuana, inside a residence outfitted with a garage large enough to handle deliveries by tractor trailer truck. The newly discovered tunnel was equipped with “advanced rail, electrical and ventilation systems,” US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a statement.

At least eight people were arrested, including three in the USA. “This discovery again shows the cartels’ growing desperation in the face of beefed up border security and the costly extremes these organizations are trying,” remarked the chief US investigator in this case, Miguel Unzueta. US officials explained the tunnel was located after ICE investigators grew suspicious about a tractor trailer parked near an Otay Mesa warehouse. After stopping and searching the truck, they discovered some 27,600 pounds of marijuana on board. A similar set of circumstances led to the finding and closure of the previous drug tunnel.

Since the beginning of 2010, authorities have found a dozen tunnels used for drug and immigrant smuggling near San Diego-Tijuana, the busiest crossing along the US-Mexican border. In past years, the US Border Patrol and security experts have noted that international terrorists could readily use drug/human smuggling tunnels as conduits to secrete weapons of mass destruction into the USA. The lawless states of northern Mexico, some of which have coastal access, like Tamaulipas and Sinaloa, make this a particularly acute threat.

>Neo-Sandinista File: Ortega to implement martial law, emergency powers; army commander denounces Honduran-Colombian-Costa Rican “conspiracy”

>– Ortega Demands Rush Approval of Bills that Revive First Sandinista Regime’s State of Emergency between 1982 and 1988

– Nicaragua and Costa Rica Trade Accusations of Aggression, Environmental Damage in Formal “White Papers”

– President Chinchilla Backtracks on Promise to OAS, Sends National Police Back to Disputed Border, Urges Costa Ricans to Enlist in Armed Forces Reserves

Pictured above: Ortega addresses troops during Soldado de la Patria (Motherland Soldier), an anniversary event for the Nicaraguan Army.

It is clear that Daniel Ortega has no intention of allowing his tyrannical ambitions to be challenged, even if it is at the expense of the security of the people of Nicaragua and the stability of their democracy.
— Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, US Congresswoman (Republican-Florida), statement made in April 2010

And, so, while the shopping mall regime naively believes Ronald Reagan made Central America safe for democracy 20 years ago, according to the Dutch media, “President Daniel Ortega has asked Nicaraguan lawmakers to pass emergency laws to give him greater power to mobilize troops, amid a surge in tensions over a border row with Costa Rica.” Knowing fully that the 1995 constitution prevents him from running for re-election next year, KGB asset Ortega is using every trick in the communist playbook to re-consolidate his dictatorship.

On Tuesday afternoon, with less than three days left before Nicaragua’s National Assembly breaks for a year-end recess, reports the Tico Times, President Daniel Ortega submitted three bills requiring urgent approval. The three bills, titled “National Defense Law,” “National Security Law,” and “Border Law” seek to expand the government’s military powers in times of “national emergency.” In addition to new defense and security measures, the bills place restrictions on property rights.

In a telephone interview, Jose Pallais, opposition legislator and president of the National Assembly’s Judicial Affairs Commission, asserted: “These bills give the impression that Ortega is preparing for war. Instead of creating the image of a civil country, these initiatives give the image of a warmongering country. This is very dangerous.” The “Border Law” bill specifically designates all land within 15 kilometers of international borders “national territory” in cases requiring “special treatment for the protection of the environment, culture and socioeconomic development.”

“This could be used to appropriate land,” predicted Pallais, who acknowledged that other countries have land-use restrictions along borders, but insisted that 15 kilometers was “disproportionately large.” He concluded that the Border Law bill “could be interpreted as an effort to establish the legal foundation needed to appropriate land around the San Juan River for whatever project the government might be secretly planning in the zone.”

Last week, Ortega admitted that his government intends to build a transoceanic canal, a prospect that led to the US invasion of Nicaragua in 1912 and a subsequent 21-year occupation that was challenged by guerrilla leader Augusto Sandino. The fact that several weeks ago, too, Costa Rican authorities arrested 86 Nicaraguans fleeing army enlistment lends some credence to the above reports.

More ominously, the provisions of the “National Defense Law” bill hearken back to the state of emergency by which the Sandinista National Liberation Front suppressed “counter-revolutionaries” and “Somozistas” between 1982 and 1988. Article 22 of the proposed bill reads:

When the president of the republic and council of ministers decree a state of emergency for reasons of conflict or public calamity and order the mobilization of forces, means and public goods, the institutions and regional and municipal governments, as well as their public employees, will become part of the utility for defense of the supreme interests and strategic national objectives, and by express orders of the president of the republic will be under the control of the National Army for the amount of time that the state of emergency lasts.

Former president Arnoldo Aleman, who cut a sordid political deal with Ortega in 1999 called “El Pacto,” commented: “It appears that Ortega is trying to reestablish the state security and mandatory military service that existed during the leftist Sandinista revolutionary government he led from 1979 to 1990.”

On a technicality, opposition lawmakers were able to postpone the vote on Ortega’s rush legislation until Monday, December 6, but the FSLN commands a slim majority in the National Assembly. Therefore, it is expected that the bills will pass both the first and second readings, which will likely take place on the same day.

Meanwhile, Nicaragua’s top general, Julio Aviles Castillo, a former Sandinista guerrilla, has painted a black portrait in which his country is the victim of an international conspiracy masterminded by the governments of Honduras, Costa Rica, and Colombia. The object of these “expansionist interests” is to seize Nicaraguan territory, especially along the San Juan River. Aviles, in the company of the Nicaraguan president, delivered his comments during the commemoration ceremony of the Soldado de la Patria (Motherland Soldier).

At this time, Aviles put in a plug for Ortega’s 76-page white paper “exposing” Costa Rica’s fabrications in the border row, Truths Hidden by Costa Rica. Among other remarks, he also condemned Honduras’ security minister, Oscar Alvarez, for alleging that Nicaragua is training and arming 3,000 guerrillas to overthrow President Porfirio Lobo Sosa and re-install Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a military-backed parliamentary coup in 2009.

Costa Rica has responded with its own counter-propaganda by releasing La verdad sobre la incursión, ocupación, uso y daños del territorio costarricense por parte de Nicaragua. At an event marking the country’s 62 years without an armed forces, President Laura Chinchilla, contrary to promises made to the Organization of American States, announced that she would be sending the national police back to the disputed border, urged Costa Ricans to join the armed forces reserves, and requested that the Public Security Ministry “accelerate” the training of border police.

>WW4 File: SK, USA to hold more naval exercises in Dec., US Navy requests transfer of 30,000 tons of jet fuel from Japan to SK

> Pictured here: More South Korean soldiers arrive on Yeonpyeong Island after last week’s shelling by North Korean artillery.

News Updates

– South Korean intelligence chief warns “high possibility” North will attack South again (source)

– USA and SK plan more military drills for December after current naval exercise wraps up on Wednesday (source)

– SK to conduct week-long live-fire naval drills at multiple locations around the country (source)

– USA and Japan to hold joint naval maneuvers between December 3 and 10, Tokyo facing renewed territorial disputes with Russia and Red China (source)

– US Navy requests transfer of 30,000 tons of jet fuel from Japan to SK, Pentagon insists request is “routine” (source)

– The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson begins a scheduled seven-month deployment to the western Pacific and Persian Gulf regions (source)

>Latin America File: Russian communist leaders fete Cuban parliamentary president, re-consolidate Cold War-era links; Alarcon wraps up PRC visit

>“Post”-communist Russia continues to re-consolidate political linkages with Cuba and Nicaragua, as well as build relations with leftist regimes that came to power in Latin America “after” the Cold War.

On Monday, Ricardo Alarcon, president of Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power, met with Boris Gryzlov, speaker of the Russian State Duma, in Moscow (pictured above). Although a member of the potemkin ruling party United Russia, Gryzlov, like Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, began his career in the Soviet Komsomol. Together Alarcon and Gryzlov reviewed the state of bilateral and interparliamentary relations between the two communist countries.

Before talks with his Russian counterpart, Alarcon will meet with the vice president of the Duma, Ivan Melnikov, who is also vice chairman of the Central Committee of the (secretly ruling) Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), legal heir of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Melnikov welcomed the Cuban leader upon his arrival in Russia last Friday.

On Saturday, Alarcon attended a solidarity event at the Cuban embassy, where Cuban and Russian children recited poems and songs in Spanish, dedicated to the Cuban “martyrs” of the 1959 revolution. During this activity, Alarcon acknowledged his appreciation of Russia’s opposition to the 50-year-old US economic blockade and support for the release of five Cuban “antiterrorist fighters” (espionage agents) imprisoned in US federal prisons.

Alarcon’s agenda also includes a meeting in the Duma with the general secretary of the CPRF, Gennady Zyuganov, and with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. On Wednesday, Alarcón will travel to St. Petersburg, where he will meet senior leaders of this city and the Leningrad region.

The fact that Russia’s Communist Party leaders, who technically are in opposition, are feting the Cuba’s parliamentary president on behalf of the Russian state shouts volumes. Indeed, it proves that Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, an “ex”-cadre of the CPSU, are more than comfortable with letting (their masters) Zyuganov and Melnikov carry out Kremlin foreign policy with Russia’s most important ally in the Western Hemisphere.

The People’s Republic of China also enjoys warm relations with fellow communist state Cuba. Prior to showing up in Moscow, Alarcon rubbed elbows with the Butchers of Beijing, perhaps with the intention of seeking inspiration for Havana’s proposed economic reforms.

>Communist Bloc Military Updates: PRC boosts Venezuela’s airlift capacity with Shaanxi Y-8 sale, Moscow extends US$4 billion weapons loan to Caracas

>– Chavez and Ortega Take Step toward Forming “Anti-Imperialist Army” by Establishing ALBA Defense School in Bolivia

Pictured here: Leaders of the eight-nation Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas meet in Caracas on April 19, 2010.

Over the weekend, the state-run Bolivarian News Agency announced that Venezuela will buy up to 12 Shaanxi Y-8 transport aircraft from the People’s Republic of China. “These Y-8s will provide support for the operations of our C-130 Hercules transport planes…that have a range covering South America and to the north of Spain,” explained Major General Jorge Oropeza last Friday.

Oropeza continued: “Negotiations for the purchase of the Y-8s are in the hands of the Defense Ministry and it is hoped that these aircraft will be delivered to Venezuela sometime next year.” Oropeza indicated that the K-8 aircraft and JL11 radar systems that Caracas has also purchased from Beijing will be on display at the main ceremony marking the 90th anniversary of the Venezuelan air force.

The Y-8 aircraft is a medium-sized, medium-range transport aircraft produced by Shaanxi Aircraft Company and based on the Soviet Antonov An-12. It is one of the PRC’s most popular military and civilian transport/cargo aircraft, with many variants produced and exported. The An-12 is no longer made in Ukraine, but the Y-8 continues to be upgraded and produced. The Y-8 is capable of carrying 20 tons of cargo, as well as 96 soldiers or 82 paratroopers, dropping supplies, and functioning as an air ambulance. This means the Venezuelan air force will by 2011 be able to deploy 1,000 paratroopers, in addition to the nearly 400 airborne infantry that its six US-built Lockheed C-130 Hercules planes can currently transport.

The announcement follows a visit earlier this month to Caracas by General Chen Bingde, chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and the shipments earlier this year of 18 K-8 trainer/light attack aircraft and JL11 radar systems. On November 11, Chen led a high-ranking PLA delegation from Beijing on a three-nation tour of South America that not only took him to Venezuela, but also Ecuador and Peru. Ecuador’s socialist President Rafael Correa is closely aligned with Caracas, while Peru’s social democratic President Alan Garcia is closely aligned with the USA.

In General Chen’s entourage was Zhu Jinlin, commander of the PLA Xinjiang Military Area Command (MAC); Hou Jizhen, chief of staff of the PLA Shenyang MAC; Jia Xiaowei, chief of staff of the PLA Guangzhou MAC; Lin Jianchao, director of the General Office of the PLA General Staff Headquarters; Liu Zheng, chief of staff of the Headquarters of the PLA General Logistics Department; and Ci Guowei, deputy director-general of the Foreign Affair Office of the Ministry of National Defense.

This past September, Red China’s defense minister visited Mexico City, where he promoted bilateral military cooperation with President Felipe Calderon’s government, which is struggling to contain a major narco-insurgency, and contributed a PLA honor guard to celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s independence.

Thus, in light of the Y-8 purchase, if Venezuela’s communist dictator Hugo Chavez wishes to intervene in any potential conflict in South America, Central America (like Honduras?), or the Caribbean Basin, his military will have the technology to do so. Before instigating two failed coups d’etat in 1992, Chavez was himself a paratrooper.

Incidentally, Venezuela’s fleet of 20 US-built F-16 fighters has fallen into disrepair since Washington imposed a military sales embargo in 2006. Since then, Chavez has augmented his air force with 24 Russian-built Sukhoi Su-30 multi-role strike fighters.

Last week, following a recent annual pilgrimage to Moscow, the Kremlin extended another, US$4 billion loan to Caracas for the purpose of acquiring additional armament from Russia. Venezuela has become Russia’s most important client state and energy partner in the Western Hemisphere. “We were in Russia not long ago and the Russian government has now given us a $4 billion credit to help us with defense equipment,” boasted Chavez said on Saturday at a ceremony to celebrate the Venezuela’s air force’s 90th anniversary. “We are simply doing the task of defending the fatherland from the threat of [the US] empire and its allies.”

In April, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin revealed that Venezuela intends to order up to another US$5 billion in weapons via state-run Rosoboronexport. Venezuela is awaiting delivery of T-72 tanks and air defense systems from Russia. Fearing an imaginary US-led invasion, Chavez has announced that he will deploy both the tanks and air defense systems along the Colombian border, although relations with Bogota have improved somewhat since the departure of President Alvaro Uribe.

On Saturday, per an earlier threat, Chavez promoted General Henry Rangel Silva to the highest rank in the army. Rangel Silva is on the US State Department’s “drug kingpin” list because of accusations he has helped the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia smuggle cocaine. Chavez retorts that such charges are motivated by Washington’s ongoing campaign to discredit his socialist government.

In a related story, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, a bloc of socialist states led by Havana and Caracas, has taken a small but important step toward forming an “anti-imperialist army.” Bolivia’s defense minister Ruben Saavedra was quoted by state radio as saying that ALBA will establish a defense school in Bolivia. The military doctrine and academic content will be developed in concert with member states Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Chavez and Nicaraguan counterpart Daniel Ortega first floated the idea of a pan-Latin American military in 2007.

Other states with socialist or social democratic regimes that hold observer status in ALBA are (formerly communist) Grenada, Haiti, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Syria.

>WW4 File: USA, SK, Japan reject Beijing proposal for talks re. N. Korea, civil defense officials prepare 4,000 shelters for Seoul residents

>Pictured here: A Super Hornet jet fighter lined up for a landing on the aircraft carrier USS George Washington yesterday during a joint exercise with South Korea in the waters south of Yeonpyeong Island.

News Updates

– USA, South Korea, Japan reject Beijing’s proposal for emergency talks regarding North Korea, White House refuses to “reward” Pyongyang’s provocative behavior (source)

– South Korean civil defense officials preparing nearly 4,000 emergency shelters, gas masks, air purification machinery for some 20 million residents of Seoul (source)

– North Korea warns of “all-out war any time” if US and SK navies continue exercise in Yellow Sea (source)

>WW4 File: SK military to resume routine drill on Yeonpyeong, exercise provoked NK to shell island last Tuesday

>Pictured here: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak speaks during a televised address on Monday, November 29, 2010.

“The South Korean military,” reports the Japan Broadcasting Corporation, “is expected to resume a routine drill on Yeonpyeong Island soon. The drill was suspended after the island near the maritime border between the 2 Koreas came under artillery attack from North Korea last week.” The same source points out:

The military on Monday ordered residents on the island to evacuate so that the artillery drill can resume. North Korea had been protesting the drill, prompting it to bombard the South Korean island last Tuesday. The resumption of the drill is likely to escalate the tension between the 2 countries.

As Washington sends a stern message to Pyongyang by way of a joint naval drill with Seoul, diplomatic arm-twisting takes place behind close doors:

Meanwhile, the US and South Korean joint naval exercise in the Yellow Sea off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula enter its 3rd day on Tuesday.

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington and Aegis-equipped destroyers are rehearsing the interception of enemy vessels and aircraft that intrude into South Korean airspace or territorial waters.

On Monday, South Korean President Lee Myung Bak announced his determination to resolutely deal with further North Korean provocations. But the South has no real power to contain the North’s military threat.

South Korea will send Foreign Minister Kim Sung Hwan to an international conference in the central Asian country of Kazakhstan from Wednesday in a bid to rally support from countries such as the US and Russia.

The same article concludes: “North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly Chairman Choe Thae Bok is expected to visit China on Tuesday to engage in frank discussions with Chinese leaders.” During this communist tete-a-tete the Korean Workers’ Party will discover whether the Communist Party of China intends to throw North Korea to the capitalist “wolves.”

>WW4 File: SK DM: South Korean, US forces will "immediately" strike North Korean targets should Pyongyang launch another attack

>Pictured here: Members of the Republic of Korea’s National Emergency Management Agency check gas masks as they inspect emergency evacuation facilities in a Seoul subway, on Sunday, November 28, 2010.

On Monday, November 29, 2010, the Korea Times reported: “Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said Monday that fighter jets and warships of South Korean and U.S. forces will immediately strike North Korean targets should the North launch an attack on the South’s soil again.” Strong language from South Korea’s DM. Seoul better follow through or the Pyongyang communists will grow ever bolder.

Since it shelled the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong last Tuesday, killing two marines and two civilians, the Korean People’s Army has deployed surface-to-air missiles on its Yellow Sea coast. “The missiles appear to be targeting our fighter jets that fly near the Northern Limit Line,” a South Korean source told Yonhap news agency.

>WW4 File: Koreas on brink of war: News updates from Yonhap

>Pictured here: File photo of USS George Washington, which is taking part in US-South Korean naval drill in the Yellow Sea.

News updates from Yonhap for morning of November 28, 2010 (MDT):

Chinese government to make `urgent` announcement 11-28 14:46
(2nd LD) Chinese government to make `urgent` announcement 11-28 15:19
(URGENT) Explosion sounds of artillery fire heard on Yeonpyeong Island, official says 11-28 11:43
(URGENT) S. Korea`s military spots signs of N. Korean artillery firing: official 11-28 11:51
N. Korea deploys SA-2 surface-to-air missiles near Yellow Sea border 11-28 10:26

S. Korean artillery mistakenly fired on DMZ 11-28 17:18
(URGNET) Emergency evacuation order issued for civilians on Yeonpyeong Island, official says 11-28 11:26
(URGENT) S. Korea`s military lifts evacuation order on Yeonpyeong Island: official 11-28 12:00
(LEAD) S. Korea evacuates islanders on signs of N. Korean shelling 11-28 11:57
(URGENT) Pres. Lee made clear to Chinese official resumption of six-way talks ˝not timely˝: Cheong Wa Dae 11-28 17:54

(URGENT) China calls for early resumption of six-party nuke talks 11-28 17:50
President to address nation Monday on N.K. attack of border island 11-28 14:00
(2nd LD) Signs of N. Korea`s artillery firing detected: South`s military 11-28 12:48
S. Korea asks journalists to leave Yeonpyeong Island 11-28 15:24
(LEAD) S. Korean artillery mistakenly fired on DMZ 11-28 18:13

North says Korean Peninsula in state of `ultra-emergency` 11-28 19:02
S. Korea clarifies objection to early resumption of six-way talks 11-28 18:15
Top Chinese official makes abrupt visit to S. Korea amid tension over N. Korean attack 11-27 23:22
S. Korea orders civilians on Yeonpyeong Island to evacuate to shelters 11-28 11:39
(LEAD) Chinese government to make `urgent` announcement

>WW4 File: Koreas on brink of war: 1,000 SK military vets rally in Seoul, burn, trample NK flag, demand revenge for attack on Yeonpyeong Island

>News Updates

– Pyongyang recalls 20,000 North Korean workers in Far East Russia to support war preparations (source)

– NK conducts artillery tests as US military commander visits South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island, where NK shells killed four people last Tuesday (source)

– SK military was aware of NK’s redeployment of 122-mm Multiple Launch Rocket System to coastal artillery base prior to the shelling of Yeonpyeong, SK artillery responded in wrong direction (source)

– As marines laid to rest, 1,000 South Korean military veterans, former special forces, rally in Seoul, burn and trample NK flag and portrait of Kim Jong-Il (source)

– SK and USA to launch large-scale naval exercises in Yellow Sea on Sunday, continue through Wednesday; USS George Washington aircraft carrier, with more than 6,000 sailors and 75 fighter jets aboard, to join drill (source)

Just in time for Christmas: Korean War 2.

>Latin America File: Honduras’ security minister alleges Nicaragua training, arming 3,000 guerrillas; Sandinistas to overthrow Lobo, re-install Zelaya

>Has the Cold War returned in earnest to Central America? Do Central American communists have unfinished business with the region’s bourgeoisie and other US “lackeys”? With the re-election to the Nicaraguan presidency of Daniel Ortega in 2006, this may be the case, especially if our main story below is confirmed by other sources.

Ever since the military-backed parliamentary coup that toppled Honduras’ socialist president Manuel Zelaya in June 2009, there have been indications that the Havana-Caracas-Managua Axis is determined to restore Hugo Chavez’s slavish follower. Within 24 hours of Zelaya’s ouster, Venezuela’s communist dictator threatened to hurl his fairly substantial armed forces against Honduras if the interim government harmed his diplomats in Tegucigalpa.

Within days, Nicaragua’s past/present communist dictator Daniel Ortega was hosting a Red Axis strategy session attended by Zelaya, Chavez, and Cuba’s communist dictator Raul Castro in Managua. For several months thereafter, Zelaya used Managua as a base of operations to try to illegally re-enter his homeland. In July, Honduras’ de facto president Roberto Micheletti asserted that Nicaragua had deployed troops to their common border, a charge that both Ortega and the Sandinista-controlled Nicaraguan army denied.

In September, Ortega issued an emergency decree permitting a small contingent of Venezuelan troops, warplanes, and warships to enter Nicaraguan territory for a joint exercise to be carried out in May and June 2010. The maneuvers were to take place as part of Chavez and Ortega’s drive to create an “anti-imperialist army” opposed to “US hegemony” in the Western Hemisphere. Strangely, this Nicaraguan-Venezuelan military drill did not materialize or, if it did, the MSM forgot to report it because Google searches bring up no results.

Appointed head of Petrocaribe’s Political Council by Chavez in March, Zelaya is currently living in exile in the Dominican Republic. However, he also frequently appears in Managua and did so again last month. At this time, Ortega publicly threw his support behind the coalition of Honduran leftist groups composing the National Popular Resistance Front, the vehicle agitating for Zelaya’s restoration.

In what could be a related story, last month at least 50 Nicaraguan soldiers occupied Costa Rica’s Isla Calero, at the mouth of the San Juan River, which otherwise belongs to Nicaragua. Ortega has bolstered troop strength in the border region to protect a dredging operation that will widen the river for a new interoceanic canal, discreetly financed by Russia, Venezuela, and Iran. Outraged by this invasion, San Jose has taken its grievances to the Organization of American States (OAS) and the International Court of Justice.

Incidentally, Moscow has cautiously “waded” into the Nicaragua-Costa Rica river border dispute. On Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that “Russia has received with concern reports about the tensions between the Republics of Nicaragua and Costa Rica.” The statement continued: “We are convinced that Managua and San José will be able to resolve their territorial differences by way of mutual respect and bilateral dialogue between the countries and peoples historically the uniting bonds of friendship.”

Now Honduras’ democratically elected government is accusing Nicaragua’s neo-Sandinista regime, which opposes the former’s re-admission to the OAS, of training and arming guerrillas in northern Honduras. The scandal broke on Wednesday when Honduran Security Minister Oscar Alvarez informed media outlets he was in possession of military and police intelligence suggesting that leftist rebels are being trained and armed in Bajo Aguán, in the rural, north-central department of Colón. Alvarez said some 3,000 insurgents are being supplied with guns shipped across the border from Nicaragua.

President Porfirio Lobo Sosa, according to the security chief, considers the situation a “danger to national security.” Even though putatively a rightist, Lobo was educated at the Soviet Union’s Patrice Lumumba University, which during the Cold War indoctrinated Third World students in Marxism-Leninism and “national liberation.” Since 1992 PLU has been known as the People’s Friendship University of Russia.

The Nica Times continues: “Alvarez claims the alleged guerrillas aim to destabilize the Lobo government, which the left-wing governments of Latin America–including Nicaragua–consider to be the illegitimate product of last year’s coup.” Alvarez told the daily La Tribuna that army and police intelligence have detected trafficking of “weapons such as AK-47s, M16s and possibly other more potent weapons that are going to be used by groups that want to destabilize the democracy of our country.”

The Honduran army also has information that Hondurans are being recruited and trained outside the country. “The information we have is that they have been mobilizing all the way to Nicaragua, which is a concern,” Alvarez explained to La Tribuna. The security minister reflected that in the 1980s Honduran leftists were recruited by the first Sandinista regime, then allied with the Soviet Union, and trained in Cuba to destabilize the Honduran government.

Leonel Sauceda, security ministry spokesman, confirmed the Honduran media reports. In a telephone interview with The Nica Times on Thursday he insisted that “Without a doubt the guerrillas are being trained and supplied with weapons of war. Police are investigating the matter.”

Not surprisingly, the Nicaraguan army is “categorically denying unsubstantiated reports” that its soldiers are “training and supplying” Honduran guerrillas in a plot to overthrow President Lobo. Nicaraguan army spokesman Colonel Juan Ramón Morales told The Nica Times on Thursday that “military intelligence has ‘no knowledge of any support’ for alleged Honduran guerrillas reportedly being recruited and trained in a rural area in northern Honduras.”

According to Morales, the Nicaraguan army maintains “close contact” with its Honduran counterpart, “even during moments of political tension during last year’s coup,” and “has not received any official communication from Honduran authorities on the subject.” He called the Honduran security minister’s allegations “curious.”

Analyzing all of this information, we must pose at least one question: Is the occupation of Costa Rica’s Isla Calero by Nicaraguan troops a feint to distract attention from Sandinista-backed guerrillas in Honduras, or is it another issue in its own right? Two weeks ago, Costa Rican authorities intercepted and then released six military trucks bound for Nicaragua at the Caribbean port of Limon. Were these vehicles heading for the Nicaraguan army or, perhaps, Honduras’ anti-government guerrillas? Time, as they say, may tell. Our blog, of course, exists to expose this and other aspects of the 21st century communist conspiracy.

>EU File: Poland’s ruling Civic Platform accuses Law & Justice party of “treason” as delegates arrive in DC, demand US-led probe into Kaczynski death

>– Polish President Komorowski Invites Aging General Jaruzelski, “Ex”-Communist Politicians, Secret Police Informer Walesa to Attend National Security Council Meeting

– National Security Council Discusses December Visit by Russian President Medvedev

– Communist General Jaruzelski Imposed Martial Law 1981-1983, Assumed Post of President in 1989 during Transition from Single-Party Rule

On November 17, World Net Daily articulated the anxieties of many observers of “post”-communist Eastern European politics, namely, “Why has Poland’s ruling Civic Platform meekly submitted to Moscow’s hasty explanations concerning the demise of President Lech Kaczynski’s airplane over western Russia this past April?”

Kaczynski was staunchly anti-communist and pro-Washington in his orientation. Aboard the Polish Air Force jet, which crashed in foggy conditions near Smolensk, home to a Russian military base, were a number of high-ranking Polish leaders, including the country’s top generals from all branches. Russia’s leadership continues to harbor grievances against its former Soviet-era satellite, going so far as to carry out in tandem with Belarus a mock nuclear attack against Poland in September 2009.

On November 17, armed with a petition signed by 300,000 Polish citizens, former foreign minister Anna Fotyga and parliamentary committee chairman Antoni Macierewicz, who represents the Law and Justice Party, arrived in Washington. There they sought official US support for the creation of an international commission to investigate the April 10 crash.

Harvey Kushner, a counter-terrorism expert who did consulting work for some of the officials who died with the Polish president, told WND he met Fotyga and Macierewicz the day they arrived in the USA. Kushner stated:

There are so many unanswered questions that for the Russians to take foul play off the table so quickly into the investigation is quite suspicious. There’s nothing in history like this. Where you have an airliner that goes down with such important people, and within a matter of hours the Russians announce that it was pilot error or someone was in the cockpit. This is sheer nonsense.

Accompanying the petition was a letter written by Law and Justice party chief Jaroslaw Kaczynski, twin brother of the late president. In an interview with Poland’s TVN24, Macierewicz explained that Poles are “concerned over the investigation, [its] lack of clarity and growing difficulties” and “the absence of any information and the elimination of evidence.”

Kushner noted that both Moscow and Prime Minister Donald Tusk stridently oppose Jaroslaw’s appeal to the Americans. Kaczynski has accused the Polish and Russian governments of “completely abandoning” the investigation and has called on Tusk and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski (pictured above) to resign. Polish government spokesman Pavel Gras threatened: “It is absolutely scandalous, on the verge of treason.” Kushner, who believes the Polish government’s response is scandalous, queries: “What do they have to hide?” Indeed.

Russian reports immediately after the crash, for example, contend that the Polish pilot, confronted with fog, ignored four commands from Russian air-traffic control to divert the flight to Moscow or Minsk. Some speculated that Kaczynski, distrustful of the Russians, may have ordered the plane to land anyway.

Kushner denounced the Russian investigation as “sloppy at best,” enumerating a number of investigative “transgressions”: 1) forensic evidence has not been properly examined, 2) the Russian company that normally refurbished the plane is leading the technical investigation, “casting a cloud over the entire probe,” 3) the crash site was not “locked down” until only a couple of weeks ago, and 4) Russian soldiers who were supposed to secure the scene stole credit cards from the victims, sliced up parts of the plane and smashed windows, and left the wreckage exposed to the elements for six months.

Kushner alleges that the Russians still possess the Tu-154’s “black boxes,” but according to the MSM Moscow handed over the flight data recorders in late May. Furthermore, he continued, families of the victims want to exhume the bodies, but the Polish government has rejected their requests. “The investigation,” he argues, “was carried out under the Chicago Convention, which is for civilian aircraft, even though there were NATO commanders on the plane.”

In June, US Congressman Peter King (Republican-New York) submitted a resolution calling for an international commission to investigate the crash, but he failed to obtain any support from his peers. According to Kushner, most US legislators are not enthusiastic about pressing for a third-party investigation since Warsaw itself is nonchalant about the whole affair. He issued a stern warning at the end of his WND interview:

Congress should pay attention to it, not for the tragedy that befell Poland, the decapitation of their leaders almost 70 years after the Katyn massacre, but because it’s in the vital national security interest of the United States to support an ally in a region of the world that is crucial for U.S. geopolitically.

The fact that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promptly installed himself as chief investigator should have tipped off the West that the truth behind President Kaczynski’s fiery demise would remain buried in the forest of Katyn.

The lack of unity among Poland’s politicians with respect to Warsaw-Moscow relations and Poland’s communist past was evident on Wednesday when the National Security Council met upon President Komorowski’s invitation. The purpose of the summons was to discuss the forthcoming trip to Poland of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in December. Following Lech Kaczynski’s death, parliamentary speaker Komorowski became acting president of Poland and, then, in July won the country’s presidential election.

Komorowski was forced to defend his decision to invite former communist leader General Wojciech Jaruzelski to the pow-wow. “I can’t change history,” Komorowski huffed, after meeting with the National Security Council, which included the usual roster of past and current presidents and prime ministers, past and current foreign and defense ministers, and parliamentary faction leaders. General Jaruzelski, who imposed martial law on Poland between 1981 and 1983, was head of state for about a year and a half following the first “free” elections in June 1989. “I have to be consistent,” Komorowski added.

Not surprisingly, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who did not attend the meeting, criticized Komorowski for inviting Jaruzelski. Former president Lech Walesa also frowned upon the general’s presence, but attended the meeting anyway. Jaruzelski’s invitation was also criticized by members of Komorowski’s own Civic Platform, such as Senator Jan Rulewski, who told the Polska Times daily: “The general is not an expert on present day Polish-Russian relations. His knowledge and skills go back to the Soviet Union, and not the new Russia.”

In addition to secret police informer Walesa and Jaruzelski, the following past heads of state and government were present at the national security meeting: “ex”-communists like Aleksander Kwasniewski and Jozef Oleksy, and communist-controlled politicians like Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, and Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz.

Neither Komorowski nor Tusk, despite their “fishy” friendliness with Moscow and Jaruzelski, are overtly connected to the formerly ruling communist Polish United Workers’ Party. However, like many “center-right” Polish politicians, they began their careers in parties that trace their origin to the Solidarity trade union, like Civic Platform. In the early 1980s, according to KGB defector Anatoliy Golitsyn in New Lies for Old (1984), Solidarity contained more than 2 million active communist party cadres, which raises the issue of communist party control over Poland’s Cold War-era “dissident” movement.

In December Komorowski will also travel to the White House to meet US President Barack Hussein Obama.

>Mexican Narco-State File: Narcistas kill Colima’s ex-gov, troops clash with gunmen in Nayarit, Ciudad Mier’s 6,000 citizens flee Zetas’ “Mad Max” tank

>Mexico’s drug war has moved into some of the country’s Pacific coast states. Regional politicians, including mayors and governors, are also increasingly being targeted by out-of-control cartels. Fourteen mayors and mayors-elect have been murdered across the country this year. A candidate for governor in the lawless northeast state of Tamaulipas was killed in June as he campaigned for election.

On November 22 gunmen attacked the former governor of Colima, Silverio Cavazos Ceballos, on the steps of his house in the state capital. Cavazos was hospitalized with fatal injuries, while his wife was also wounded. A member of the once long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, Cavazos was governor between 2005 and 2009. President Felipe Calderon, Mexico’s second National Action Party president, condemned the attack as a “cowardly murder.” Prosecutors are investigating the motive for the attack on Cavazos.

The previous day, Mexican troops clashed with five narcistas in Tepic, capital of Nayarit, another Pacific coast state. All of the gunmen perished. Found at the site of the gun battle, which occurred at a private residence, were six AK-47 assault rifles and military-issue ammunition and grenades. State police seized three vehicles.

In a separate incident, Nayarit authorities found three men decapitated inside two vehicles abandoned on Federal Highway 200. Last week, Nayarit Governor Ney Gonzalez complained that the drug war had come “uninvited” to his state. Grisly beheadings and dismemberments are SOP for Mexico’s mafias. More than 30,000 narco-traffickers, police, soldiers, civilians, and tourists have died in drug-related violence since Calderon deployed troops to crack down on organized crime in December 2006.

Meanwhile, the Mexican Red Cross is distributing at least 15 tons of aid to the 6,000 residents of Ciudad Mier who fled the colonial border town due to internecine warfare between the Gulf cartel and its former enforcement arm, Los Zetas. Most residents beat a hasty retreat to Texas or other Mexican cities, leaving only 400 people to cower behind bullet-scarred and rocket-blasted walls. At least 250 people from Ciudad Mier are living in a shelter established in the neighboring municipality of Miguel Aleman, where they are receiving food and lodging. Starting this week, they will also receive 500 pesos (US$40) to take care of personal needs.

Ciudad Mier, once a tourist destination known as “Magic Town,” is not the only Tamaulipas municipality that becomes a ghost town every evening. Residents of Reynosa, Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, and Tampico, expecting little or no help from the federal government, take measures to ensure their own safety and avoid venturing outside unless it is an emergency.

The Mexican army nervously patrols Ciudad Mier, mindful of the cartels’ firepower and ingenuity. In the municipal impound lot are the burned-out remains of five crudely armored, “Road Warrior”-style pickup trucks and SUVs. Each truck sports half-inch steel plate welded over most of the windows, leaving only narrow firing slits. Incidentally, the promotional poster for the first Mad Max movie (1979) reads: “When the gangs take over the highway.”

Outside of town squats another burned-out vehicle of war (pictured above) that definitely evokes images from the Mad Max movie trilogy. Fearful locals refer to the veritable tank as “The Monster.” The 10-wheel gravel truck has a five-yard freight box protected with 1 1/4-inch steel plates to cover firing positions for 10 gunmen. Thick steel plates also cover the engine, the windshield, and the doors. Hinged covers indicate the presence of gun ports. Massive steel rams are welded onto the “prow” of the gravel truck.

“What is terrifying about ‘The Monster,’” comments National Public Radio, “was not that the Zetas drug gang built it and used it in the almost medieval war for Ciudad Mier, but that the Cartel del Golfo—which roared back into Mier with a vengeance on Feb. 23, 2010, to retake the turf—brought it down.”

Tamaulipas Governor Eugenio Hernandez admitted to reporters earlier this month that “some cities had become ungovernable and authorities were overwhelmed.” This has particularly been the case since November 5, when Los Zetas launched a new offensive against the Gulf cartel after Mexican marines gunned down cartel boss Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen. Local and state police officers, Hernandez lamented, do not have the firepower to take on the cartels, requiring a larger federal presence in Ciudad Mier, Miguel Aleman, Guerrero, Camargo, and Diaz Ordaz.

In a related story that offers some hope in the midst of Mexico’s bloodshed, the government announced that, with the assistance of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, federal police had captured the new boss of the Beltran Leyva cartel, Carlos Montemayor. The crime chief was arrested in Mexico City on Tuesday. Montemayor admitted that his henchmen were responsible for kidnapping and killing 20 Mexican tourists in Acapulco, mistaking them for members of the rival Familia cartel.

The Beltran Leyva cartel’s previous boss, Texas-born Edgar Valdez (“La Barbie”) Villareal, is cooling his heels in a federal prison in the state of Mexico. He is awaiting extradition to the USA, where he faces charges of kidnapping, illegal firearms possession, and cocaine trafficking. Mexican authorities arrested Valdez in August. Control of the Beltran Leyva cartel has been up for grabs since Mexican marines gunned down its founder, Arturo Beltran Leyva, in December 2009.

>WW4 File: 200 N. Korean shells pound South’s Yeonpyeong Island, 2 marines killed, other soldiers, civilians injured; S. Korean artillery responds

>– News Reports Widely Characterize Heavy Exchange of Artillery Fire as Worst Skirmish since Korean War

– Yeonpyeong Island Home to South Korean Naval Base, More than 1,000 Personnel

On Tuesday morning, North Korea, citing the “provocative” maneuvers of South Korea’s annual nationwide military drill Hoguk, pounded the South’s Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea with 200 shells. Two marines were killed and a number of other soldiers and civilians. More than 70 houses were destroyed by the North Korean artillery barrage (pictured above). Yeonpyeong is home to a military base with 1,000 marines and sailors.

The Republic of Korea dispatched F-16 fighter jets to the area and South Korean artillery responded with 70 to 80 salvoes. The South Korean government evacuated the entire civilian population, numbering 1,780, to an air raid shelter on the mainland. Meanwhile, South Korea President Lee Myung-bak and his cabinet convened an emergency meeting in a bunker under the presidential compound in Seoul.

Both North and South Korea have vowed further reprisals if the other should carry out further military actions, using phrases like “merciless retaliatory strikes” and “enormous retaliation,” respectively. A political analyst from the People’s Republic of China, North Korea’s only major ally, suggested that Kim Jong-il’s heir apparent, Kim Jong-un, instigated the attack to consolidate his authority over the Korean People’s Army. Kim Jong-il has visited Red China twice this year. Russia’s Foreign Ministry urged the two Koreas to avoid “colossal danger.”

Israel’s Debkafile reports that the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, which includes the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, has been placed on alert should the military situation on the Korean Peninsula escalate. The fleet is based at Yokosuka. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, according to the MSM, has ordered his government “to be prepared for any developments on the Korean peninsula.”

According to Debkafile, Kan specifically called US President Barack Hussein Obama with the demand to organize a US-South Korean-Japanese military reprisal against Communist North Korea. Following the skirmish, US Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reaffirmed the White House’s commitment to the US-South Korean alliance.

Over the weekend, US academic Siegfried Hecker, who recently toured North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear complex, stated that he saw more than a thousand operational uranium-enrichment centrifuges at the facility.

>Latin America File: Cuba’s delayed “perestroika” admission of Stalinist model’s failure, possible lead-up to federation with Venezuela

>– Cuba’s Communist Bloc Allies Pour Billions of Dollars into Modernizing, Expanding Island Infrastructure

On November 8, Cuba’s communist dictator Raul Castro, in what amounts to a much-belated Gorbachev-style perestroika (restructuring), announced that the regime will likely dismiss 500,000 public employees, expand private economic activity, and enact massive cuts in state subsidies. Over the next two or three years, another 800,000 state workers will be ousted. Eventually up to two Cubans in five will no longer work for the state.

The ruling Communist Party of Cuba (CPC) will allow more foreign investment and possibly open the real estate market. The Castro regime has also released 50 political prisoners, even as it demands the release of its jailed espionage agents in the USA, otherwise known as the “Cuban Five.”

“Only socialism is capable of … preserving the gains of the revolution,” cautions a 32-page document published as a guide for discussion leading up to a party congress in April, the first since 1997. Not wanting to raise the hopes of diehard anti-communists everywhere and Miami’s Cuban exile community, the CPC document insists: “Planning will be paramount, not the market.” The food ration card, which provides 10 days of food per month, will be “eliminated in an orderly fashion” in a drive to slash subsidies, the party organ elaborated. “China is worth studying,” added Granma nonchalantly.

A week after Raul’s announcement, former comrade in arms Fidel blessed little brother’s proposed reforms in a speech delivered at Havana University. “Fidel recognizes that he is happy, because the country is moving despite all the challenges,” asserted one report published in Granma, which is named after the yacht that ferried the insurgent Castro Bros. from Mexico to Cuba in 1956. Another state-run news agency shouted: “Fidel Castro endorses his brother Raúl’s economic reform.”

However, the Miami Herald points out that much of Comrade Fidel’s university speech was a verbatim reiteration of another given five years ago. “I confess that I was surprised by the currency of the ideas in the 2005 speech, Castro declared. Taking a page from the Nikita Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization playbook, the retired Cuban dictator reread parts of the speech in which he acknowledged that the regime “had made mistakes in its communist path” “Subsidies or grants, only for essential and vital things,” he declared to the audience several days ago. “The only thing not allowed is the irresponsible . . . squandering of resources.”

“For the first time since the 1960s Cubans will be able to employ other Cubans, even though the constitution bans such ‘exploitation,’” mocks The Economist. The same news site, too, reminds us that “The economists advising Mr Castro are barred from talking of ‘reform,’” while “No Cuban official has matched Deng Xiaoping’s embrace of “market socialism.’” The Economist identifies another critical issue facing the Castro Bros., who are 84 and 79 years old, namely passing the torch of communist revolution to a younger generation. This important matter could be high on the agenda at the April congress.

“In the meantime,” wishes this respected journal, “his new boldness represents an opportunity for those who hope that Cuba will eventually join the rest of Latin America in accepting democracy and the market economy, for once the market’s green shoots appear they tend to flourish.”

Sounds nice, but don’t hold your breath. The political left is not only in the ascendancy throughout the Western Hemisphere, but organized and united in its goal of implementing “21st century socialism.” That Cuba’s terminally ill economy needs a “jumpstart” is recognized even by other Communist Bloc countries like Russia, which has promised to exploit Cuba’s oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico and upgrade its Soviet-era military; Red China, which is to lead a US$6 billion modernization of the Cienfuegos refinery; Brazil, which has promised to build new port facilities at Mariel, near Havana; and Venezuela, which has promised to connect the two countries with a fiber optic communication cable under the Caribbean Sea.

However, even as the Castro regime sacks hundreds of thousands of faceless functionaries, Cuba’s sister regime in Venezuela is doing just the opposite, seizing private companies, foreign and domestic, nationalizing them by the score, and chasing regime opponents from the country. Could it be that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his communist mentors in Havana actually intend to meet somewhere in the “middle,” that is, with the intent of creating “Cubazuela” or “Venecuba”? Yup. This idea of a two-state federation was first broached by Comrade Fidel five years ago.

“We are moving towards the economic union between Cuba and Venezuela” triumphed President Castro at the close of a July 2010 summit between the two leftist states. Comrade Raul droned on: “It is this a new type of relationship that will allow a better management of joint projects and is at the same time, an important step towards the goal of achieving real economic complementarities, based on the optimal use of the infrastructure, knowledge and existing resources in both countries and, above all, the political will of our peoples.”

“We have found 139 projects with potential for establishment in the medium term, of which a significant number can implement immediately,” elaborated Castro, referring to cooperation in the food, health, energy, mining, and other industries. At the closing session the minutes were signed by Venezuelan Vice President Rafael Ramirez, who is also boss of state-run PDVSA, and Vice President of Cuba’s Council of Ministers Ricardo Ramírez Cabrisas.

Castro’s November 8 proclamation of the next Communist Party congress was highly significant because it was made in the presence of Chavez himself. According to Reuters, South America’s red tyrant showed up in Havana to “celebrate their decade-long socialist alliance in a ceremony that formally extends an economic cooperation pact and should insure a regular flow of oil to Havana for another 10 years.” There Comrades Raul and Hugo ratified an extension of the Integral Cooperation Accord the two countries adopted in October 2000. In a quid pro quo, PDVSA oil revenues have bolstered Cuba’s stagnant command economy, while 65,000 Cuban agents guide Venezuela’s military, intelligence, and security apparatus.

With faithful lackey Chavez at his side, Castro chortled: “The continuance of the accord assures not only that political and economic cooperation will continue, but that there will be a strategic union between the countries.” Reuters comments: “Their alliance is bound by a shared belief in socialist principles and animosity toward the United States, which both the Castros and Chavez routinely refer to as ‘the empire.’” Cuba can therefore count on Venezuelan petrodollars to finance Havana’s version of perestroika.

>Latin America File: Ortega admits troop deployment related to interoceanic canal; Costa Rica detains 86 Nicaraguans fleeing army enlistment

>– Costa Rica Issues Arrest Warrant for Dredging Boss Pastora, Files Suit at The Hague Demanding Nicaragua Cease Canal Construction

– Sandinista Legislator Urges Establishment of Military Post on Costa Rican Island

Events continue to unfold in the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border dispute that confirm our earliest contentions, namely that Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is determined to build a “Nicaragua Canal” with help from other Communist Bloc states, and he is unifying Nicaraguan public opinion ahead of his illegal bid for re-election in 2011. Jaime Daremblum, senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Latin American Studies, a project of the Hudson Institute, makes the same observations:

The attempted land grab confirms, yet again, that Ortega (and his party) never really changed. Though he won election fairly as the Sandinista candidate in 2006, he’s still the same corrupt, authoritarian thug who ruled Nicaragua with an iron fist during the 1980s, a time when he was receiving significant aid from the Soviet Union. Back then, Ortega looked to Moscow for both economic assistance and ideological guidance. Today, he looks to Caracas. Indeed, with each passing month Nicaragua becomes more and more like Venezuela. ……

The Obama administration must take a firm stand against Nicaragua’s belligerence. The occupation of Calero Island represents, quite simply, a cross-border invasion. (Costa Rican president Laura Chinchilla is not exaggerating when she uses that word.) If the U.S. and its democratic partners in Latin America don’t firmly and effectively pressure Nicaragua to leave the island and quit its warmongering, other pro-Chávez governments may feel emboldened to pursue similar adventurism.

While the stakes in the San Juan River dispute may appear small, they’re actually quite large. Ortega is testing the willpower of his democratic neighbors. Their response will have serious consequences for the entire region.

About one week ago, Costa Rican officials detained 86 Nicaraguans in the area of San Isidro de Pocosol, near the conflict zone. Although most of the illegal immigrants professed to be looking for work in Costa Rica, a number of them admitted that the group was in fact fleeing army enlistment ahead of a potential shooting war between Managua and San Jose. Some of the Nicaraguans–perhaps recalling similar fears more than two decades ago–worried that they might have to repel a US invasion.

“I’ve heard rumors that it is happening but I can’t confirm it is true,” said Alexis Núñez, assistant director of Costa Rica’s national police in the border town of Los Chiles. The Tico Times also quoted Nunez as saying: “I know that was what the Nicaraguan military did in the 1980s, but I have yet to hear of any confirmation of that thus far.”

The neo-Sandinista regime has deployed at least 50 soldiers to Isla Calero, at the mouth of the San Juan, supposedly to interdict narco-traffickers. In defiance of a resolution passed by the Organization of American States (OAS), Ortega, with Hugo Chavez’s imprimatur, refuses to recall the troops. Angered by their opposition to his schemes, “Comandante” accused Latin America’s center-left and center-right leaders of complicity with the region’s drug lords. Notably, he exempted his far-left allies in the hemisphere, such as Chavez, Evo Morales, and Rafael Correa, all of whom have evicted the US Drug Enforcement Administration from their countries.

Although Ortega has secured the support of the country’s other major parties in this obvious provocation against Costa Rica, on November 16 mass organizations affiliated with the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front marched in defense of the president and Nicaraguan sovereignty over the San Juan (pictured above, note obligatory “Che” mugshot on Cuban flag).

“The San Juan River is 100 percent Nica,” shouted pro-government demonstrators. “It’s clear that Nicaragua is the owner of the San Juan River, of its waters. There’s not the slightest doubt,” exclaimed Foreign Minister Samuel Santos Lopez to the demonstrators.

On November 17, in a move obviously designed to frustrate Ortega’s plans, the Costa Rican Prosecutor’s Office issued a warrant for the arrest of Edén Pastora, the Sandinista revolutionary hero in charge of dredging the San Juan. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the warrant was issued in response to Pastora’s alleged acts of environmental damage that violate Costa Rica’s forestry law.

In recent weeks, the ministry of security in San Jose has produced several photos and videos of such damage near the mouth of the San Juan and Laguna de los Portillos. The alleged damage includes cutting down of trees, disruption of wetlands, and dumping of river sediment into Costa Rican territory. The Prosecutor’s Office has not yet explained how it will pursue the arrest of Pastora.

Last Thursday, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla affirmed that her country respects the OAS resolution directing both countries to withdraw security forces from the conflict zone. She insists that San Jose no longer has a police presence there, nor are the national police performing aerial reconnaissance of Isla Calero. A Nicaraguan army official cast contempt on the ultimatum by retorting: “It’s not disputed territory; it’s Nicaraguan territory.”

On November 19, Nicaragua’s former foreign minister and now legislator, Francisco Aguirre Sacasa, responded to news of Costa Rica filing suit against Nicaragua with the International Court of Justice by warning that if the two countries cannot come to “some permanent agreement” on the ownership of the island, Nicaragua should install a permanent military post in the area. San Jose’s legal suit demands that Nicaragua cease “the construction of a canal on Costa Rican soil.”

This past Sunday, Ortega, flanked by his wife Rosario Murillo, admitted for the first time in a televised address that Nicaragua intends to build an interoceanic canal. “No one can prohibit us. No one,” challenged Ortega, adding: “Nicaragua reserves the right to build a canal along the San Juan River connected to Lake Nicaragua. It is a right.” He made no mention of the Nicaraguan troops on Isla Calero. “The river,” he continued, “according to the 1858 Jerez-Cañas treaty and confirmed by a ruling of the International Court of Justice at The Hague on July 2009, belongs to Nicaragua.”

While most of the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border is well defined along the San Juan’s south bank, at Isla Calero the south bank belongs to Costa Rica. Taking advantage of a Google Maps error, the neo-Sandinista regime decided that the “historic” path of the river is the real border, thus making the island its own, rather than following today’s flow, which would and does make the island Costa Rica’s. Referring to the 19th-century treaty, Ortega insisted that the Nicaraguan army has a “right” to enter Costa Rican territory, while Costa Rica has a right to be compensated.

In his TV speech, Ortega acknowledged that the dredging of the river and the building of the canal will cause some environmental damage, but then justified his army’s invasion of Costa Rica by suggesting that a hypothetical shipping disaster along an “undredged” San Juan could cause still more damage. He boasted that Nicaragua’s canal will be “better” than Panama’s since it will be a “modern” canal. The Panama Canal was built nearly a century ago, but will be widened by 2014 to double its capacity.

In a related development that is no doubt motivating “Comandante,” San Juan will also be the site for Nicaragua’s largest-ever electricity-generating plant. The 250 MW Brito hydroelectric dam will be completed in 2015 at a cost of US$600 million. Managua has hired a Brazilian company to conduct a feasibility study for the proposed dam. Clearly, Ortega intends to leave a lasting imprint on Nicaragua.

Army-less Costa Rica has no means to forcibly eject Nicaragua’s military presence on Isla Calero, but is holding out for an OAS-sponsored meeting of regional foreign minister to be held on December 7. Ortega has vowed his country will be a no-show. As for the ICJ case, this could take at least four years. Thus, San Jose continues its diplomatic activity at the OAS, while Chinchilla has vowed to take her country’s case all the way to the United Nations Security Council.

Thus far, the Russian Federation has been quiet about the Nicaragua-Costa Rica spat. Should the situation deteriorate, Moscow’s response, as usual, will be telling. In all likelihood, the Kremlin will side with its long time ally, the Sandinistas.

In a related story, the neo-Sandinista regime continues to portray itself as a serious partner in the eradication of the illicit drug trade, notwithstanding its collusion with Pablo Escobar in the 1980s. Over the weekend the Nicaraguan army and police intercepted a speedboat off the country’s Caribbean coast. The vessel, manned by five smugglers from Honduras, Panama, and Colombia, contained a ton and a half of cocaine. “During the arrest,” reports Voice of Russia, “the drug dealers put up a fierce resistance. As a result of the shootout one of the smugglers was killed.”

>Mexican Narco-State File: Venezuela, Iran to launch attacks against America from N. states; Ciudad Juarez, Reynosa under total mafia control

>– Texas Governor Rick Perry Urges President Obama to Send US Troops to Mexico

– Mexican Authorities Open Homicide Case in Investigation of Playa del Carmen Resort Blast

– Mexico’s Narcistas Follow in Path of Their Suppliers in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Recruit Child Assassins

– Businessman Flees Reynosa, Makes New Life in Texas, Predicts Mexico Will Fall to Drug Cartels after 2012 Election as Next President Cuts Deal to End War

Reynosa is the largest city in Tamaulipas, a harrowing state bordering Texas that is all but lost to federal government rule.
– Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times, November 6, 2010

On Tuesday, gunmen abducted Francisco Ruiz Palacios, billings manager for the international oil services firm Weatherford, in front of the company’s offices in Tihuatlan, Veracruz. The next day, his bullet-riddled body was found outside the city. Ruiz’s employer has a drilling contract with Mexico’s state oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex). Veracruz state Attorney General Salvador Mikel says investigators have no suspects and have not determined a motive. A Weatherford spokeswoman in Houston, Texas, Christine Mathers, only acknowledged that “We deeply regret the loss of our employee.”

This is not the first time that Mexico’s powerful drug cartels have kidnapped and murdered oil company employees in Mexico.

On Wednesday afternoon, Mexican troops killed 11 suspected Los Zetas members in a shootout near the Texas border. After the gun battle, authorities captured two suspected Zetas and seized 25 pounds of marijuana, automatic weapons, a grenade launcher, and ammunition. CNN affiliate KGBT reported that the clash took place in Nueva Ciudad Guerrero, Tamaulipas, which is located beside Falcon Lake, the site where US citizen David Hartley was reportedly shot and killed in September.

On Thursday, Texas Governor Rick Perry urged Washington to send US troops to Mexico to help President Felipe Calderon’s government defeat the narcistas, as we call the cartel gunmen. In August, Perry delivered a handwritten letter to President Barack Hussein Obama, in which he demanded the federal government do more to secure the border. Perry complained that the additional National Guard troops the White House authorized earlier this year are insufficient. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano retorted that Perry has the authority to deploy as many guardsmen as “he sees fit,” as long as Texas foots the bill. Pictured above: Republican presidential aspirant Perry?

Although there is still no indication of terrorism in the explosion that killed seven people, including five Canadian tourists, at the Grand Riviera Princess resort in Playa del Carmen this past Sunday, Mexican authorities have opened a homicide case. They have also retreated from an early theory that posited the buildup of swamp gas in the hotel, leading to the huge blast that raised an entire floor.

The geopolitical ramifications of Mexico’s drug war are worth consideration. Last week, the China Confidential blog alleged that Venezuela and Iran are colluding with the Mexican mafia and neo-fascists to establish bases in northern Mexico from which to launch ballistic missile strikes, biowarfare, and “Mumbai-style swarming assaults” against the USA. The blogger cited exclusive but undisclosed intelligence sources. The fact that Mexican border cities like Ciudad Juarez and Reynosa are no longer under de facto federal government rule, offers easy cover for America’s enemies to smuggle weapons of mass destruction into the lawless border region.

This theme of “northern Mexico as staging ground for attacking the USA” has figured in off-mainstream literature for at least 10 years, to wit Scott Gulbransen’s 2003 book Silent Invasion, detailing the alleged presence of Russian, Red Chinese, North Korean, and Cuban reconnaissance units south of the US border.

It is well known, though, that Venezuela’s communist dictator Hugo Chavez and Iran’s Islamo-Nazi dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have formed an alliance committed to destroying the USA and the “Zionist entity,” meaning Israel. By exploiting his alliance with Colombia’s communist rebels, Chavez has also transformed his country into a veritable narco-state. Both the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN, formerly DISIP) and the Venezuelan military are up to their armpits in red cocaine.

Lurking behind proxies Chavez and Ahmadinejad, of course, is Russia’s KGB-communist dictator Vladimir Putin, who in 2005 called the collapse of the Soviet Union the “greatest catastrophe of the 20th century.” Russian technology has turned Iran into a nuclear power and is on the verge of doing the same for Venezuela.

Tracy Wilkinson’s frightening November 6 article in the Los Angeles Times, “Caught behind Enemy Lines: Mexico under Siege,” reveals the extent to which the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas are terrorizing Reynosa, a city of 700,000 citizens across the border from McAllen, Texas, and the state of Tamaulipas in general. One Reynosa official estimates that 10 percent of the city’s residents are now refugees, many in the USA. “Reynosa is the largest city in Tamaulipas,” she reports, “a harrowing state bordering Texas that is all but lost to federal government rule.” In past posts we have described Reynosa as a city under the near-total control of Mexico’s mafia. It appears we understated the case.

After a week “behind enemy lines” in this city, Wilkinson submitted a lengthy report that we can only briefly quote. She introduces her subject as follows: “Traffickers brazenly patrol its streets, setting up roadblocks, harassing citizens, gunning down enemies and even censoring the news. Those who can flee have. Others find ways to cope.” The city-dwellers she interviewed “were terrified to speak of their experiences and agreed to do so only under the strictest anonymity. Most did not want to be seen in public with a foreign reporter and would meet only in secret. One insisted on meeting across the nearby border in the United States.”

“Narcos” patrol the airport parking lot in Reynosa. Taxi drivers are on the cartel payroll, “ordered to spy on visitors and monitor the movements of the military and state investigators. Their license plates brazenly shed, they cruise streets dotted with paper-flower shrines marking the dead.” Ironically, in the midst of the chaos and carnage, “The Burger Kings and California-style shopping malls give the city a sense—a false sense—of normalcy. Cars circulate down wide streets. Evangelical churches and donut shops and beauty parlors are open for business.”

The Gulf cartel has long dominated “economic activity” in Tamaulipas, but things got nasty in February 2010 when Los Zetas, the cartel’s paramilitary wing, broke away from its employer. States Wilkinson: “Battles raged in the spring and early summer, with uncounted scores of people killed. The Gulf cartel fought the Zetas, and the Mexican army fought them both. Bombs and grenades exploded at nightclubs, television stations and city offices. The man who was likely to be the state’s next governor was assassinated in broad daylight, along with most of his entourage.”

The Mexican army appears listless and uncoordinated in its “offensive” against the cartels. “Combat still erupts regularly,” Wilkinson says, “But Reynosa is as much a prison camp as a war zone. Army patrols periodically pass through — listening to the bad guys listening to them on radio frequencies — and on the outskirts man roadblocks and hand out leaflets pleading for citizens’ cooperation.”

The mafia has infiltrated “everything”: federal border customs, city hall, police department, taco vendors, and bootlegged compact disc kiosks. The Gulf cartel has carved up the city, while Zetas, sporting “Z” cattle brands on their foreheads, “lurk” for about 60 miles in any direction. Highways between major Tamaulipas cities are “extremely dangerous,” patrolled by one gang or the other. Reynosa residents use terms like “refugees” and “displaced” to describe their plight. Even the mayor is “displaced,” that is, hiding out in Texas.

“There is a great sense of uneasiness in the city,” worried Armando Javier Zertuche, a psychologist who also serves as Reynosa’s secretary of economic development. “It used to be that if someone got kidnapped or killed, you knew they had something to do with [drug trafficking]. Now, with this war, everyone is at risk. It has fallen on top of regular citizens.”

Wilkinson then relates some grueling stories from Reynosa’s “regular citizens”:

A commuter who works in Reynosa, but lives in another city, sometimes uses US roads to bypass cartel roadblocks, which she and her husband have encountered on at least three occasions. “My life has changed totally,” she tells Wilkinson, speaking in a hotel room with a TV on to mask the conversation. “To drive on the highways is to tempt death. This is out of the government’s hands. Mexico has been sacrificed and sold to the narcos. It is the narcos who have the power. The narcos rule our lives. They order. We must obey.”

A dentist who works in Reynosa confides to Wilkinson that “she rushes to finish all her tasks in the daytime, to avoid going out at night. Friends have been kidnapped, and everyone has a story of being caught in a gun battle. Her family frequently receives telephoned threats.” The dentist aspires to open her own office, instead of working for the state, where she cares for clients who cannot afford private health insurance. However, she does not want to pay piso–extortion money–to the narco-traffickers. “The saddest part is that our authorities have washed their hands of this,” the dentist relates, “If you have a problem, you have nowhere to go. We are abandoned and alone. You even have to be careful of your friends and workmates. You don’t know who they might be related to.”

A Reynosa journalist tells Wilkinson: “I spend all day tweeting.” Like most journalists in Tamaulipas, explains Wilkinson, this Mexican journalist is on the payroll of both his TV station and the mafia-controlled city government. She continues: “Social media networks such as Twitter have taken the place of newspapers and radio reports, with everyone from city officials to regular people tweeting alerts about a gun battle here, a blockade there.” Wilkinson rightly notes: “It is a kind of ad hoc warning system, but it is not journalism.”

Four local journalists, one of whom apparently ran a news website on behalf of the Gulf cartel, disappeared from Reynosa in March. Only one was heard from again. Mexico’s major television network Televisa has given security training to all of its employees in Tamaulipas. On-air broadcasters are told to carry several changes of clothing to elude detection and to drive “nondescript” cars.

A Reynosa mother interviewed by Wilkinson carefully guards her 13-year-old son since “recruiters for the drug traffickers cruise the neighborhoods in their SUVs, armed to the teeth, ‘fishing’ for youngsters. A 12-year-old in her son’s class was recently kidnapped. He eventually reappeared, a few cities over, but is so traumatized that he remains under psychiatric care. Outdoor recesses have frequently been canceled; school itself is often called off or interrupted when battles break out. And in their free time, kids collect spent shells as souvenirs.”

Following in the footsteps of their suppliers in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which recruits child soldiers, Mexico’s mafias recruit boys as young as 12 years old to carry out assassinations. On November 14, the New York Post reported: “Don’t be fooled by his 12-year-old’s fresh face: He’s a professional hit man working for a Mexican drug ring — and the blindfolded man propped up next to him like a rag doll in Web photos and videos is one of his victims. The tween assassin, nicknamed “El Ponchis” (“The Cloak”), gets $3,000 for each hit. He’s now the focus of a Mexican army manhunt.”

A Reynosa businessman, who is “a senior executive in his company” with “a good job with good pay and status” recently fled with his wife and children to Hidalgo, Texas. A shootout at a baseball game he was attending was enough to solidify his decision to bid farewell to his homeland. Leaving his family in the relative safety of their new, spartanly furnished US residence, the Mexican businessman commutes back to Reynosa to put in a day’s work.

“Reynosa is a minefield,” he tells Wilkinson, “You can be threatened by a soldier or by a criminal, or just stumble upon a gunfight. Anyone who can, escapes.” In Texas, other Mexican refugees, many well-educated professionals, are trying to make a new life for themselves. “One block over,” the businessman continues, “there’s another family from Reynosa. And a couple blocks farther, there are four more. You run into people you know at stoplights.”

Ominously, he predicts that after the Mexican presidential election in 2012, the next government will cut a deal with the “narcos” and “this war we did not ask for” will be over. In other words, according to Wilkinson, “It will be back to the norm: the narcos, peacefully, in charge.”

BTW, “Mexican Narco-State File” is a new blogging category at our site.

>Red Terror File: Kremlin official threatens to send “Mercader” (assassin) after Russian defector, “Colonel Shcherbakov” betrayed spy ring in USA

>– Minsk Telegraf Reveals Russian Defector’s Real Name and Career

– President Medvedev Confirms Defection as Espionage Historian Cautions “Colonel Shcherbakov” Could Be False Defector

– Trotsky’s Assassin Commemorated in the KGB Museum of Security Service at the Federal Security Service HQ in Moscow

Pictured above: On November 13, while visiting Sofia, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin cuddles a puppy given as a gift from Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borissov. Would puppy-loving Bad Vlad send a hit squad to terminate the Russian double agent who exposed an SVR ring in the USA? Da, comrade. Go ask former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko. Oh, I almost forgot. He’s dead.

According to Reuters, citing Russian daily Kommersant, “Colonel Shcherbakov,” head of Russia’s deep-cover spy ring in the USA was responsible for betraying his own network to FBI counter-intelligence and subsequently defecting. “The betrayal,” observes Reuters, “would make Shcherbakov one of the most senior turncoats since the fall of the Soviet Union and could have consequences for Russia’s proud Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and its chief, former Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov.”

Gennady Gudkov, deputy chairman of the Russian State Duma’s security committee, confirms the accuracy of the original Kommersant story. “It is a major blow to the image of the Russian intelligence services,” he confided to Reuters. By contrast, SVR spokesman Sergei Ivanov refused to comment on the story. Former US intelligence officer Mark Stout opined: “Recruiting a Russian officer who was actually in charge of so-called ‘illegal operations’ in the U.S. is about as big a counter-espionage success as U.S. intelligence can hope to get.”

Kommersant reveals that Shcherbakov fled Russia days before US authorities announced the spy ring arrests on June 28, 2010. Ominously, the paper also quoted a Kremlin official as saying a Russian hit squad was probably already planning to kill him. “We know who he is and where he is,” the anonymous official was quoted as saying. “Do not doubt that a Mercader has been sent after him already.”

Ramon Mercader was a Spanish communist and Soviet agent who tracked down and murdered dissident Bolshevik Leon Trotsky with an ice axe in Mexico in 1940. He was awarded the Order of Lenin for faithfully carrying out this assassination, which was ordered by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. The 2008 DVD documentary The Soviet Story, directed by Latvian Edvin Snore, relates this and other horrific crimes of the Soviet regime, crimes that the Russian government refuses to unreservedly condemn. Incidentally, Mercader is buried under the name of Ramon Ivanovich Lopez in Moscow’s Kuntsevo Cemetery and has a place of honour in the KGB Museum of Security Service at the headquarters of the Federal Security Service.

Last June, US authorities said the Russian spy ring had been operating for at least 10 years, its members adopting false identities for the purpose of infiltrating Washington’s policy-making circles. Nine of the 10 spies are Russian born while several, intriguingly, are outspoken pro-Castro/pro-Shining Path communists. All of them pleaded guilty in US federal court and were deported to Russia in a swap that transpired in Vienna less than two weeks later.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB spy stationed in Dresden, East Germany, greeted the repatriated spies as heroes, even singing “patriotic Soviet songs” with them. Acknowledging the presence of an informer behind the exposure of the spy ring, Putin hinted that the traitor would “come to a bad end”: “The special services (SVR/FSB/KGB) live by their own laws and everyone knows what these laws are.”

Kommersant quoted an unidentified source as saying Fradkov could be sacked and the SVR folded into the powerful Federal Security Service (FSB), the main domestic successor agency of the Soviet KGB. “The damage inflicted by Shcherbakov is so enormous that a special commission should be created to analyze the reasons which allowed this complete failure to happen,” grumbled Gudkov, although he suggested that it was too early to decide whether the SVR should be merged into the FSB.

Last Friday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also confirmed that the dissolution of the Russian spy ring was the result of the defection of a senior intelligence official. During an NBC TV interview this past Saturday, US intelligence analyst David Wise surmised that Shcherbakov is most likely under FBI protection. However, US intelligence agencies have neither confirmed nor denied Russian news reports about Shcherbakov.

According to the Minsk Telegraf, Shcherbakov is really Alexander Poteev, who was born in the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic and previously served in the Soviet State Security Committee (KGB). Alexander is the son of Nikolai Poteev, Hero of the Soviet Union. This was revealed by former Soviet KGB agent Fedor Yakovlev:

I’ve known him since January 1979. We studied together in the same group at ATO (advanced training of officers), better known as the “school of saboteurs,” preparing the staff for the special forces of the KGB. Also we were sent to Afghanistan in 1979 as members of “Zenit” KGB Spetsnaz group. In 1981 I again came across with him in Afghanistan in Kabul within “Cascade-2” group of KGB Special Forces. He was awarded for his participation in the hostilities within “Cascade-1” group.

After Afghanistan, he worked for KGB, then in the Foreign Intelligence Service.

A spokesman for the Belarusian KGB responded to Yakovlev’s allegations by denying that Poteev ever worked for Minsk’s security apparatus, still known by its Soviet-era name.

With a nod toward false Soviet defectors of a bygone era, espionage historian Phillip Knightley cautioned that the Kommersant story “should be viewed in the context of the smoke and mirror world of Moscow’s spy agencies.” He told Reuters: “How do we know it is not a plant to draw Western attention away from the real betrayer? Or just to sow confusion in Western spy services?” Indeed. If only more Western analysts were as perceptive as Knightley. Following the 1961 defection of KGB major Anatoliy Golitsyn, whose predictions concerning the Soviet deception strategy have proved remarkably accurate, the issue of false Soviet defectors tore apart the CIA.

>Latin America File: Mexico’s drug war rages as huge blast kills 7 at Cancun hotel; Venezuela backs Nicaragua as Ortega threatens to leave OAS

>– Sandinista Leader Lambastes OAS Resolution Demanding Troop Withdrawal, Accuses Other Latin American Leaders of Complicity with Narco-Trafficking

– Red China’s Top General Arrives in Caracas, Pushes Bilateral Military Cooperation with Communist Venezuela

– Chavez Promotes General on US Blacklist for FARC Links, Rangel Silva Vows Venezuelan Military Will not Accept Opposition Victory in 2012

– Imprisoned Drug Lord Valencia-Arbelaez Hired Russian Crew to Fly Drug Plane from Moldova to Guinea, Putin Accused USA of “Overstepping Bounds” in Putting Russians on Trial

There is a conspiracy to spread vast quantities of cocaine throughout the world by way of cargo airplanes.
– US federal prosecutors in New York, statement from 2009 case

Over the weekend, Mexico’s drug war claimed 16 new victims in the northern states, once again exposing the ineffective response of President Felipe Calderon’s government to the destabilizing narco-insurgency that has gripped his country for four years.

On Friday, cartel gunmen killed eleven people in an apparent mass execution in the state of Tamaulipas. One of those killed was the chief of public works in San Fernando, Marco Samuel Herrera Rangel. In a separate incident, in Jimenez, a small town that is about 100 kilometers from the state capital of Ciudad Victoria, five men were found dead near a gas station at what appears to be the scene of a shootout. Three bullet-riddled bodies were discovered in a car, while another two bodies were located about 200 meters from the vehicle.

This past Sunday, gunmen stormed into the Desperados bar in war-wracked Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, and shot up 13 patrons, killing five. All of these slayings came a week after Mexican marines cornered and executed Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen, boss of the Gulf cartel. According to various press reports, as of October 31, 7,500 people have died this year in Mexico’s drug war.

On the same day, a massive explosion rocked the Grand Riviera Princess Hotel in Playa del Carmen, near Cancun, killing five Canadian tourists and two Mexican employees (pictured above). In an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Carson Arthur described the effects of the powerful explosion: “All of the air was sucked out of every open door, every room and then pushed back at a huge rate. The velocity of the air coming back was incredible, so people were thrown around all over the place in the rooms and hallways. There were several people in the debris. There was [sic] a lot of people wounded from flying glass.”

In another interview, with the Canadian Press, tourist James Gaade estimated that approximately one half of the hotel’s guests were fellow Canadians. “I looked and you could see that the roof [of the restaurant] had collapsed,” Gaade said, adding: “There was a large crater in the area, debris. Everyone said their hotel room shook. The glass at neighbouring restaurants all cracked and blew out. The tiki hut that was in the area, that was on fire.”

Mexican authorities speculate that natural gas accumulation in the building was responsible for the explosion. Thus, there is no reason at this time to implicate Mexico’s drug lords or dormant communist guerrillas. However, if this blast was deliberate, then it would represent a major escalation of violence against Calderon’s “bourgeois regime.”

Further south, the makings of a new Cold War are festering in Central America as Nicaragua’s past/present communist dictator Daniel Ortega threatens to withdraw his country from the Organization of American States. On Friday night, the OAS endorsed a resolution that requires Managua to remove 50 soldiers from a small island claimed by Costa Rica at the mouth of the San Juan River. The vote was nearly unanimous. Only Nicaragua and Venezuela dissented. The president of Venezuela, fellow communist Hugo Chavez, is a close ally of Ortega.

Even though the first Sandinista regime provided safe haven for Pablo Escobar, boss of the Medellin cartel, in the 1980s, Ortega accused other OAS states of defending the interests of the region’s drug lords. In a nationally televised address on Saturday night, Ortega railed against the OAS for conducting a “rigged” vote to approve the resolution. He insists Nicaragua will maintain troops in the area because Isla Calero “belongs” to Nicaragua and the soldiers are there to interdict drug traffickers.

The Nicaraguan president went on to specifically accuse Costa Rica, Guatemala, Colombia, Mexico, and Panama of endangering the region’s political stability: “This proposal that the OAS approved last night says that we should leave this land free for drug trafficking. And we don’t accept that. Drug traffickers are directing Costa Rica’s foreign policy.” Notably, in his “indictment” Ortega failed to include his red buddies Chavez, Evo Morales, and Rafael Correa—three South American presidents who have evicted the US Drug Enforcement Administration from their countries.

Last year, the International Court of Justice granted ownership rights over the San Juan to Nicaragua, but gave Costa Rica limited navigation rights along a 140-kilometer stretch of the river. This weekend, a belligerent Ortega demanded navigation rights on Costa Rica’s Colorado River, which receives about 90 percent of its water flow from the San Juan. “Comandante” wrapped up his tantrum by announcing that his government may withdraw from the OAS. “I ask myself, does it make any sense to still be in the OAS?” whined Ortega. In any event, he said Nicaragua will not send delegates to a special meeting of foreign ministers convoked this week by Costa Rica.

During his rant-fest, Ortega described Mexico as “a country infested with drug trafficking.” In response, the Mexican Foreign Ministry fired off a diplomatic note to Managua, protesting that the Nicaraguan president’s remarks “do not have base.” The Mexican government supported the OAS resolution demanding the withdrawal of Nicaraguan troops from Isla Calero.

In comments to Costa Rica’s Nica Times last week, Nicaragua’s honorary foreign minister, Miguel D’Escoto Brockman—who is also past president of the United Nations General Assembly—spat: “The OAS has no reason to exist anymore.” A long-time Sandinista, liberationist Catholic priest, and recipient of the Soviet Union’s Lenin Peace Prize, D’Escoto branded the OAS “an instrument controlled by you know who” (meaning the USA).

In a related story, on Friday unknown assailants in a vehicle tossed a gasoline bomb at the Nicaraguan embassy in San Jose, but the device did not catch fire and no injuries or damage were reported. Since the border dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica appears to be part of a wider plot by Russia, Venezuela, and Iran to advance the construction of a “Nicaragua Canal,” this incident could just as easily have been perpetrated by Managua’s agents provocateur.

If Nicaragua does leave the OAS, this would be ironic because the Sandinistas refuse to support the re-admission of Honduras into this international organization. Most of Latin America’s leftist governments reject the legitimacy of Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, demanding, instead, the reinstatement of slavish Chavez lackey Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted last year in a military-backed coup instigated by his own Liberal Party.

Meanwhile, the People’s Republic of China is closing ranks in the field of officer exchanges and other aspects of military cooperation with both leftist and rightist regimes in Latin America and the Caribbean Basin. Earlier this year, Red China’s defense minister visited Mexico City with the intention of promoting bilateral military cooperation. This September, Chinese and Russian honor guards participated in celebrations marking Mexico’s bicentennial of independence. For many years, of course, Red China has also shipped weapons to its comrades in arms in Cuba.

This Sunday, Chen Bingde, chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), led a delegation of senior brass on a three-day goodwill visit to Communist Venezuela. “The Chinese military is keen on having good exchange with its Venezuelan counterpart,” a member of the PLA delegation commented as they were welcomed by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro and Defense Minister Carlos Mata Figueroa. In a brief talk with Chen, Maduro gushed: “Venezuela has always admired China’s splendid history and culture. The PLA of China is a great army with both strong spirits and state-of-the-art science and technology.”

During his stay, Chen is scheduled to meet with President Chavez and military leaders who have been responsible for communizing Venezuela’s armed forces. He will also visit the country’s ministry of defense headquarters and a military academy. Before arriving in Venezuela, Chen paid a three-day visit to Ecuador, where President Correa is closely aligned with Chavez. Chen will later travel to Peru, which has a center-left government, but one which is pro-Washington. It may be that Beijing will try to woo Peruvian President Alan Garcia away from his alliance with the USA.

Among the Venezuelan generals who support Chavez’s “Bolivarian Revolution” are top aide Henry Rangel Silva. Comrade Hugo has praised General Rangel as a “revolutionary soldier” and singled him out for promotion to the post of chief of the defense staff. On the November 14 airing of Alo Presidente, Chavez crowed: “I will have the honor and pleasure of promoting … Gen. Rangel Silva while the anti-patriotic opposition lashes out at patriotic generals like him. What they attempt to do is create divisions within the armed forces.”

General Rangel endorses the Venezuelan armed forces’ new salute—“Socialist homeland or death! We will be victorious!”—and vowed in a recent interview that the army will not respect an opposition victory in the 2012 presidential election. Rangel’s threatened intervention in the Venezuelan political system prompted OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza, who lately has been trying to mediate the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border dispute, to rebuke the general. Insulza, a Chilean socialist, called Rangel’s remarks “unacceptable.” Chavez shot back at Insulza: “His unfortunate statements are nothing more than disrespect for our sovereignty.”

Rangel has been blacklisted by the US Office of Foreign Asset Control. In September 2008, the US Treasury Department alleged that the general provided material support to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Teodoro Petkoff, editor of the opposition newspaper Tal Cual, alleges Chavez plans to instruct the military to ignore a potential opposition victory. Petkoff predicts that Chavez will in fact lose the next election and warned that “violent upheaval” could occur if the military rejects voters’ wishes. “It’s a brainwashing venture, making officials get accustomed to think their job is not to recognize the election results,” Petkoff asserted during a Sunday program broadcast on the pro-opposition Globovision TV channel. “When the president of the republic is defeated, the armed forces will have to decide if it’s convenient to prop up the head of state amid an ocean of blood.”

Venezuela’s opposition coalition has agreed to field a single candidate in 2012, but has not yet decided when or how to choose Chavez’s replacement. The ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela won the parliamentary election in September, but returned to the National Assembly with a reduced majority. The Communist Party of Venezuela, which had a presence in that body until the 2010 election, openly backs Chavez’s slavishly pro-Cuban regime.

Chavez’s Venezuela: Base for Transatlantic Red Cocaine Flights

Cases currently working their way through the US federal court system have inadvertently shed light on the sordid nexus between Latin America’s Red Axis regimes and its drug cartels. As we previously blogged, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime first sounded the alarm about transatlantic drug planes in November 2009, when a burned-out Boeing 727 was found in the deserts of Mali. According to US federal investigators, drug smugglers flew the jet from Venezuela, unloaded it, and then torched the aircraft. In some cases, executive jets have been used, including a Gulfstream II that landed in Guinea-Bissau in 2008 and another Gulfstream seized in 2007 as it tried to depart Venezuela for Sierra Leone.

Last year, a flurry of arrests exposed the drug lords’ air routes. “The quantity of cocaine distributed and the means employed to distribute it were extraordinary,” US prosecutors wrote in one case. They warned of a conspiracy to “spread vast quantities of cocaine throughout the world by way of cargo airplanes.” The global economic recession has contributed to the cocaine epidemic by idling hundreds of cargo jets, which can be bought cheaply. Internet ads such as Planemart.com offer DC-8s for as low as US$275,000.

Under the Chavezista regime, Venezuela has become the most important distribution hub for South America’s red cocaine, that is, cocaine originating from countries controlled by leftist regimes. According to US indictments, at least three cartels have struck deals to fly drugs to West Africa, in particular, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, and Sierra Leone. One trafficker claimed he already had six aircraft flying. Another said he was managing five airplanes.

Since there is no radar coverage over the ocean, big planes can cross the Atlantic virtually undetectable. From Mali’s corner of the Sahara Desert, operatives of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb allegedly pack the cocaine overland to the Mediterranean Sea and then to its ultimate destination, the European Union. Incidentally, cocaine consumption in the USA has stabilized in recent years, but soared in the EU.

“In some ways the plot is a throwback to the 1970s and ’80s, when drug pilots flew freely between Colombia and staging areas near the US border, in northern Mexico,” comments Scott Decker, a criminology professor at Arizona State University. He adds: “Back then, drug lords such as Amado Carrillo, nicknamed ‘The Lord of the Skies,’ sent jets with almost 15 tonnes of cocaine from Colombia to northern Mexico.” Today’s drug lords, Decker continues, are once again using South America’s Caribbean coast as a launch pad: “Going that way, especially from South America, really gets you outside the majority of the security envelope for air traffic.”

Vanda Felbab-Brown, a fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, concurs:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s decision to sever ties with most U.S. law enforcement agencies in 2005 has made it easier to bring cocaine to staging sites on the Venezuelan coast, The DEA is not present there, the Venezuelan military is making money off it, and much of the territory is just not controlled by the government.

Drug lords who have operated out of Venezuela include former Chavez campaign financier Walid Makled-Garcia, profiled in a recent post, and Jesus Eduardo Valencia-Arbalaez, who pleaded guilty to cocaine trafficking in a US federal court this past July and was sentenced to 17-1/2 years in prison.

The Valencia-Arbelaez Organization used detailed spreadsheets to calculate flight costs and distributed codebooks to conceal their plans. Strategy sessions took place in Denmark, Spain, (formerly communist) Romania, and a Best Western hotel in Manhattan. Fuel and pilots were paid for through wire transfers, cash-filled suitcases and, in one case, a bag stuffed with US$356,000 in euros left at a hotel bar. On at least one occasion, Valencia-Arbelaez hired a Russian crew to transport a newly acquired plane from (formerly communist) Moldova to Romania, and then to Guinea.

Most of Valencia-Arbelaez’s cocaine was destined for Europe, but a fraction of each shipment was diverted to New York. “I sold airplanes to these people so I knew what was going on,” testified Manuel Silva-Jaramillo, a US aeronautical engineer, to a federal judge. “I knew that they were bringing the drugs to the United States.” The cartel had access to a private airfield in Guinea, was considering buying its own airport, and had dispatched a team to explore the feasibility of direct flights from (communist-controlled) Bolivia to West Africa.

In Liberia, the Valencia-Arbelaez Organization tried to bribe Fumbah Sirleaf, chief of the Liberian security agency and son of the country’s president, into overlooking drug flights originating from Venezuela and Panama. However, Sirleaf was secretly coordinating with the DEA and presumably knew that the ring had already sent aircraft into Liberia, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau.

The Valencia-Arbelaez case aroused the ire of the Russian government because one of the defendants, Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, maintains he was tortured by Liberian police before being handed over to the DEA. He and the other five defendants denied the charges against them. The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the US government of “kidnapping” Yaroshenko and failing to inform Moscow. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called his arrest an example of the USA “overstepping its bounds.” The DEA denies Yaroshenko was abused.

>Latin America File: Ortega rejects Chinchilla’s ultimatum to remove troops from Isla Calero, San Jose intercepts military trucks bound for Sandinistas

>– Strategic Implications of Fabricated Nicaragua-Costa Rica Border Spat:

1) Tests Costa Rica’s Resolve ahead of Russian-Venezuelan-Iranian Plan to Build “Nicaragua Canal,” Steal Business from Panama Canal

2) Provides Possible Cover for Russians and Venezuelans to Insert Military Assets into Central America, Outflank New US Bases in Panama

3) Creates False National Unity among Nicaraguans ahead of Ortega’s Illegal Bid for Presidency in 2011

– Google Glitch Bolsters Sandinistas’ Territorial Claims, Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Demands Retention of Error

Pictured above: Nicaraguan soldiers near Costa Rican border on November 4, 2010. Map of contested area below.

This is not a border problem, it is the invasion of one nation to another.
– Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla, statement made on November 10, 2010

As Nicaragua and Costa Rica once again wrestle over legal ownership of the San Juan River, a status that was technically settled in Managua’s favor last year, the Communist Bloc players behind the neo-Sandinista regime are hoving into view. The San Juan empties into the Caribbean Sea and forms the eastern part of the countries’ common border.

The dispute erupted late last month when Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega ordered former Sandinista revolutionary hero Eden Pastora, who now sports polo shirts instead of battle dress, to supervise the dredging of the San Juan, ostensibly to improve navigation. Shortly after the operation began, Nicaraguan troops accosted a Costa Rican rancher on his own property, scooped a chunk of the man’s real estate into the river, scared off some farmhands, and killed several cows. A Nicaraguan flag was raised on the seized land. Around the same time, on October 21, Nicaraguan troops appeared on Isla Calero, a 151-square-kilometer coastal island near the San Juan’s mouth, and erected a makeshift base.

Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla rushed 70 heavily armed national police to the northeast sector of the country to help the coast guard patrol the river region. Nicaragua insists Costa Rica has no legal claim to the island, because it is clearly designated as Nicaraguan territory by both 19th-century border treaties and Google Maps (which is a story in itself, as we relate below).

The Organization of American States, responding to an appeal from San Jose, intervened last weekend by dispatching OAS secretary general, José Miguel Insulza, to hold separate meetings with Ortega and Chinchilla. During a three-day visit to Central America, Insulza made two flyovers of the San Juan and Isla Calero. Although Insulza claimed not to have seen Nicaraguan troops during a flyover of the area on Monday, their widely reported presence on the island is the basis of the current spat between Managua and San Jose. After his fact-finding mission, Insulza made this and other recommendations: “To create a favorable climate for dialogue between the two nations, the presence of armed forces in an area where they could generate tension should be avoided.”

In response to Insulza’s recommendations, Enrique Castillo, Costa Rica’s ambassador to the OAS, issued an ultimatum to Nicaragua on Tuesday afternoon, demanding that all Nicaraguan troops retreat from the area within 48 hours. “Beginning right now, we are demanding that Nicaragua remove all military personnel from Isla Calero within 48 hours,” declared Castillo, adding: “We consider their presence on Isla Calero to be a direct violation of national sovereignty and Costa Rican territory.”

Two days before, Chinchilla had warned that her country will go all the way to the United Nations, if necessary, to seek redress: “We have been very clear: If the inter-American system fails us, if it proves weak, we will consult higher authorities. We are willing to take it, if the case calls for it, to the Security Council of the United Nations. Whatever solution that comes from this process will be a peaceful one. Costa Rica is asking only for a fair exit to the conflict.”

Unimpressed by the threats emanating from the otherwise peaceful Costa Ricans, Nicaragua’s vice president, Jaime Morales Carazo, a former Contra rebel, rejected San Jose’s demands that Managua remove around 50 soldiers from Isla Calero. “We cannot invade our own territory,” he chided.

On Wednesday, 84 lawmakers from Nicaragua’s otherwise deadlocked National Assembly held a special session in the river port town of San Carlos. The legislators—representing the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front, the Constitutionalist Liberal Party, and assorted Sandinista dissidents—produced a unanimous six-point resolution to defend Nicaragua’s sovereign right to the San Juan, to support President Ortega’s actions to defend and dredge the river, and to allocate more funds to the Nicaraguan Army to patrol the border.

On Thursday, a 15-member delegation from the National Assembly and top army brass boarded three military helicopters to fly to the disputed river territory (pictured here). Instead of overseeing the withdrawal of troops, the lawmakers and military command arrived at Isla Calero in a show of support for both the troops and national unity. Pastora was quick to join Sandinista and opposition legislators in supporting Ortega: “This congressional session on the river delivers a serious and profound message that all men and women in Nicaragua are united behind the president in defending our sovereignty and dignity. I think Costa Rica is going to have to think twice. Costa Rica is defeated.”

General Julio Aviles, a former Sandinista guerrilla, vowed that the military would defend the San Juan against Costa Rica’s “expansionist pretensions.” He accused army-less Costa Rica of “generating conflict and hostilities” and trying to intimidate Nicaragua as part of a “systematic campaign.” The general huffed: “But these threats don’t intimidate us.” In a somewhat confusing turn of events, Aviles insisted there are no troops occupying Isla Calero. Rather, Nicaraguan soldiers are occupying the smaller, neighboring Isla Portillo (Harbor Head).

“Nicaragua is making a mockery of everyone here today,” Castillo protested after the ultimatum expired on Thursday. San Jose then offered a 24-hour extension but, by Friday morning, it was apparent that more Nicaraguan soldiers had arrived on Isla Calero.

The neo-Sandinista regime is not placated by the OAS intervention. Denis Moncada, Managua’s OAS representative, alleged in the Nicaraguan media that “Costa Rica is conniving with Colombia and Honduras” to link the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border dispute with another tiff between Nicaragua and Colombia over maritime rights in the western Caribbean Sea. “With its activities at The Hague, and its requests at the OAS, Costa Rica is trying to create documents to add to the [International Court of Justice’s] file,” Moncada told Nicaragua’s Channel 4 television.

Both capitals are accusing the other of “provocations,” but it is evident that the neo-Sandinista regime is moving more military and construction equipment into the disputed river region.

This week, San Jose’s Minister of Public Security, Jose Maria Tijerino, announced that the Costa Rican National Police seized six military trucks that were shipped from Germany and bound for Nicaragua. The vehicles landed at the port of Limón as Nicaragua does not have suitable ports on its Caribbean coast. Later, after meeting with President Chinchilla’s Security Council, Tijerino revealed that the trucks would be permitted to proceed to their destination. “This serves as an example we are [a] state of rights and are not at war with Nicaragua,” explained Tijerino.

Although the military trucks seized by the Costa Ricans apparently originated in Germany, geopolitical analysts should prepare for the possibility that Russia will at some point begin shipping military hardware to its old Central American client state. Since KGB asset Ortega returned to power four years ago, Moscow has pledged to upgrade Nicaragua’s Soviet-vintage armed forces. Indeed, earlier this month, Nicaragua’s ambassador to the Russian Federation, Luis Alberto Molina Quadra, attended a session of the Russian-Nicaraguan Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, and Technical Cooperation. The commission held its first “post”-Cold War meeting in Managua last June.

This past Monday, Pastora announced on national radio that Managua will dispatch two more dredges to the San Juan. He did not offer a date for resumption of the dredging, but noted that the project will span two years and, when the work is complete, large ships will be able to navigate the San Juan. The National Port Company will provide one of the new dredges, while a third is being built in the town of El Viejo. Interestingly, as we have pointed out before, the first dredge to appear on site and to provoke the current commotion between Nicaragua and Costa Rica was designed by a Russian engineer.

In an ironic turn of events, Costa Rica’s government is blaming Google Maps for inadvertently bolstering Nicaragua’s claim to Isla Calero, as well as to territory fully south of the river. Pastora justified his actions by informing Costa Rica’s La Nacion newspaper that the Nicaraguan army is relying on Google Maps to remain on its side of the border. “See the satellite photo on Google, and here you see the frontier,” Pastora claimed, adding: “In the last 3,000 meters, both sides are Nicaraguan. From there to El Castillo the border itself is the right bank, clearly.”

Google has confessed its transgression. Charlie Hale wrote on the Google Maps blog: “The map is wrong, and wrong by roughly 2.7 kilometers. It is our goal to provide the most accurate, up-to-date maps possible. Maps are created using a variety of data sources, and there are inevitably going to be errors in that data. We work hard to correct any errors as soon as we discover them.” Undaunted, Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Samuel Santos urged Google representative Jeffrey Hardy to retain the error: “I officially request that the border marking not be modified.”

On November 11, Haaretz was the first major news source to draw a connection between the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border incident and a Nicaraguan-Venezuelan-Iranian plan to build a new canal across Central America. This possibility was lurking in the back of our mind over the last few weeks since we have previously reported on Ortega’s attempt to also solicit Russia’s support in the project, which would rival the Panama Canal in strategic importance. In this light, the Nicaraguan government’s dredging of the San Juan River makes perfect sense. The San Juan links the Caribbean to Lake Nicaragua, from which only a relatively short canal is needed to reach the Pacific Ocean through Rivas Department.

“Sources in Latin America have told Haaretz,” relates Israeli journalist Shlomo Papirblat, “that the border incident and the military pressure on Costa Rica, a country without an army, are the first step in a plan formulated by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, with funding and assistance from Iran, to create a substitute for the strategically and economically important Panama Canal.”

Papirblat rightly observes that “Panama is a country with a distinctly pro-American orientation,” especially since the election in 2009 of US-educated businessman Ricardo Martinelli. Late last year, President Martinelli concluded an agreement with Washington to return the US military to Panama. The canal’s economic importance to Panama City cannot be understated either, Papirblatt continues:

The transit fees paid by the ships and other canal-related activities account for 75 percent of the annual revenues of Panama’s economy. The Panamanian economy and Panamanian stability would be in real danger of collapse if another canal took away its monopoly on shipping between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

In 2009 the International Court of Justice at The Hague granted ownership of the San Juan to Nicaragua, but gave navigation rights to Costa Rica. “However,” notes Papirblat, “the results of this ruling are not enough to allow for the implementation of the plan formulated by Venezuela and Nicaragua. In order to build a new canal linking the two oceans, they would also need to control the southern bank of the river and the point where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean.”

This past July, the Nicaraguan foreign ministry informed Costa Rica of Nicaragua’s plans to deepen the San Juan in order to improve shipping on the waterway. Nothing was mentioned about building a trans-isthmian canal. Initially, therefore, Costa Rica did not oppose the plans but San Jose should have been tipped off to Managua’s real intentions when Ortega placed the project under the supervision of Pastora, whose nom de guerre was once “Comandante Zero.” On November 8, Pastora inadvertantly (it would seem) exposed more of Managua’s designs when he mentioned that, after dredging, the San Juan would be able to accommodate large ships.

“Sources in Latin America,” reveals Papirblat, “consider these events, and the power demonstrated by Nicaragua, as a trial balloon by the creators of the ‘New Canal Plan’ – Venezuela, Iran and Nicaragua.” He then appends some disturbing data, “Western intelligence agencies are closely following the path of heavy machinery equipment to Nicaragua as well as the activities of Iranians in the Nicaraguan capital Managua.” The six Nicaragua-bound military trucks that Costa Rican police seized this week may have been part of that “path of heavy machinery equipment.”

According to Novosti, “The proposed canal, whose construction is estimated by experts at $18 billion, would be able to accommodate ships larger than those that can pass through the Panama Canal, even after its enlargement.” Russia’s involvement in the project extends back to at least December 2008, when Ortega broached the subject during his first “post”-Cold War trek to Moscow.

Iran’s involvement extends back to March 2007, when Iranians, some in suits, others in combat dress, were spotted near Nicaragua’s Monkey Point, the potential site for a deep-water port (that could receive Russian warships). Earlier that year, only days after Ortega’s re-inauguration, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad paid a friendly visit to Ortega as part of wider Latin American tour that included a house call to Chavez.

“The imperialists don’t like us to help you progress and develop. They don’t like us to get rid of poverty and unite people,” chimed Ahmadinejad, standing amid Managua’s shantytowns, “But the whole world knows that Nicaragua and Iran are together.” Ortega and Ahmadinejad also announced that they were restoring full diplomatic relations and re-opening embassies in their capitals.

Venezuela’s involvement also extends back to 2007, when Chavez announced a plan to build a US$350 million highway across Nicaragua. As these news reports surfaced, the USA did not express any concern about potential Russian, Venezuelan, or Iranian activities in Central America. According to Papirblat, a US State Department official told Haaretz’s Washington correspondent that the US government is “not aware of any plans to build a new canal in Latin America.”

On a side note, there are indications that Russia and Venezuela may move military assets into Nicaragua under the cover of joint exercises with the Sandinistas. While visiting Managua in February, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced combined maneuvers with the Nicaraguans, but set no date. More than a year ago, joint military exercises that entailed the deployment of Venezuelan warplanes and warships in Nicaragua were also announced for May and June of 2010. Nothing came of this little-reported news item, even though Ortega signed an emergency decree to ratify the arrival of Venezuelan troops in his country. The Venezuelan air force, of course, boasts the latest in Russian fighter jet technology.

As a final point, the border spat between Nicaragua and Costa Rica diverts public attention away from Ortega’s illegal bid for the presidency next year and solidifies support for “Comandante” across party lines. Communist Bloc countries like Russia and Venezuela, as well as their allies, like Iran, have every vested reason to make sure Ortega stays in power.

>USA File: Obama instructs NORTHCOM to quietly cooperate with Calderon, defeat drug cartels; US sends military advisors, intel specialists to Mexico

>Our partnership with Mexico is my number one priority.
— Admiral James A. Winnefeld Jr., Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command/US Northern Command

Pictured here: Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon and his wife Margarita Zavala arrive in Seoul, to attend the G20 summit, on November 10, 2010. Calderon faces a major narco-insurgency in his homeland, one that has already spilled over the US border.

On Monday, gunmen kidnapped and killed Gregorio Barradas Miravete, mayor-elect of Juan Rodriguez Clara, in Mexico’s Gulf coast state of Veracruz. Barradas was a member of President Felipe Calderon’s center-right National Action Party. Barradas and two companions were forced into a Hummer truck in the south of Veracruz and then driven to the neighboring state of Oaxaca. “The truck was found with the three bodies inside,” authorities said. Barradas is the 13th Mexican mayor to be murdered in 2010, thus far.

It is not clear if Barradas’ killers were narcistas, that is, the heavily armed thugs in the employ of Mexico’s powerful drug cartels. Narcistas regularly pack automatic weapons and RPGs, acquired on the black market from the USA and even from the Russian Mafia, which is a front for the Kremlin’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR/KGB). Incidentally, we are not sure if anyone else is using the term “narcista” in connection with the Mexican drug war but, if not, then we’ll take credit for coining the word.

Meanwhile, the White House has quietly directed the military’s Northern Command (NORTHCOM) to “up” its cooperation with the Mexican Army, which for more than a century has trained to defend the country against the USA. This past March, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led a high-powered delegation, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, to Mexico City, where the Americans promised little in the way of adding muscle to Calderon’s declaration of war against the drug lords. Last September, however, Clinton changed her tune and rightly described Mexico’s drug war as an “insurgency” similar to that of Colombia’s in the 1990s. Particularly horrific massacres of civilians, including teens and children, have taken place in recent weeks.

“U.S. military officials,” explains Washington Post journalist Mary Beth Sheridan, “have been hesitant to discuss publicly their growing ties with Mexico, for fear of triggering a backlash among a Mexican public wary of interference.” Current and former US officials admit that the Pentagon has in fact instructed hundreds of Mexican military officers since 2008 in subjects such as operations planning, intelligence collection, and human rights issues. This assistance may very well have led to the demise of the Gulf cartel’s boss last Friday. Mexican marines killed Antonio (“Tony Tormenta”) Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen in a shootout that followed a six-month intelligence gathering operation.

“We’ve been directed by the president [Barack Hussein Obama], at a very high level, to really think hard about how we can up our game, do more to support the partnership with the Mexican government,” said one senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity. The source added: “President Calderon wants us in. We have to be respectful, obviously, and make clear we take responsibility for part of the problem and are supporting, not telling Mexico what to do.”

“We have tried to share many of the lessons we’ve learned in chasing terrorist organizations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” acknowledged General Victor Renuart, who recently retired as chief of NORTHCOM. “The changes in the relationship between the Mexican military and the U.S. military are, I believe, historic,” Renuart enthused. Admiral James A. Winnefeld Jr., Renuart’s successor, has called the partnership with Mexico his “number one priority.”

Bitterly recalling past US invasions, such as during the Mexican-American War and General John J. Pershing’s intervention against Pancho Villa, Mexico City will not permit US military trainers or advisors to deploy on its soil full time. Still, US officers regularly travel to Mexico to deliver short courses to Mexican counterparts, who then train their own personnel. Among those Americans traveling to Mexico to give seminars are staff members from the Joint Special Operations University, which trains US Special Operations forces. US law enforcement agencies have also increased their cooperation with Mexican counterparts, even “embedding” intelligence specialists in a Mexican command center.

Reciprocally, more Mexican officers are being trained at US military bases, including the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC) at Fort Benning, Georgia. For the first time, too, a Mexican officer is serving as assistant commandant at the WHISC. Formerly known as the School of the Americas, the institute is a bête noire of leftists and peaceniks. Mexico has also stationed a permanent liaison officer at NORTHCOM, which is based in Colorado.

“There clearly is a role for the U.S. military, but it is as a supporting player,” said Roberta Jacobson, who coordinates the US State Department’s Merida Initiative assistance. The Pentagon’s counternarcotics funding for Mexico has nearly tripled in as many years, from US$12.2 million in 2008 to more than US$34 million in 2010. This sum is a small fraction of the total anti-drug money directed to Mexico under Merida. The Pentagon will also cover part of the bill for the 1,200 National Guard troops that President Obama recently deployed to the border with Mexico. Those forces, however, remain under the operational control of state governors.

Is it not intriguing that since the Cold War communism is no longer perceived as the world’s preeminent threat but, rather, Islamic terrorism and the international narcotics trade? The Soviets thought of that too. Will the new Republican majority in the US House of Representatives thwart the Communist Party of the Soviet Union’s long-range plan for global domination and Obama’s capitulationism? Do you want the truthful answer?

>Event Convergence Alert: Mystery Monday missile launch off coast of Los Angeles puzzles viewers ahead of G20 summit in South Korea

>– Pentagon Denies Involvement with Sea-Borne Launch of “Massive” Missile near Los Angeles

– Kremlin Media Concocts Story of “Unauthorized Trident-2 Launch”

This past Monday night, someone launched an intercontinental ballistic missile off the coast of California. The “massive” missile’s smokey trail was visible to residents of Los Angeles, including a CBS helicopter news team. Doug Richardson, editor of Jane’s Missiles and Rockets, examined the CBS video for the Times of London. “It’s a solid propellant missile,” he told the Times. “You can tell from the efflux [smoke].”

Robert Ellsworth, former US ambassador to NATO and a former deputy secretary of defense, viewed video of the apparent missile and commented: “It’s spectacular… It takes people’s breath away. It is a big missile.”

Frustratingly, for those who want to find the culprit, the US Navy and Air Force not only deny responsibility but also deny that the projectile was a missile. CNN reports: “Officials at the Pentagon also did not know any details about the launch and said that it could not have been planned military action. Vandenberg Air Force says it sent a rocket skyward Friday night, but there have been no launches since then.”

A regular visitor to our blog, who has a past career in the US military, concurs: the Pentagon always announces missile tests, primarily to avoid potential disasters with commercial sea and air traffic.

US President Barack Hussein Obama is attending the G20 summit in South Korea. Thus, there has been speculation that Washington was sending a not-so-subtle message to the People’s Republic of China about its ballistic “throw weight.” Along the same theme, the White House could also have been warning North Korea to avoid doing anything “stupid” during the G20 meet-and-greet.

Additional speculation centers on a hoax consisting of Photoshopped contrails from an aircraft or possibly an amateur missile. (Whoa, dude, that’s quite an amateur missile!)

For its part, the Kremlin media concocted the story of an “unauthorized ICBM launch” to explain this “UFO”: “An unauthorized ICBM Trident-2 launch is likely to have occurred off California’s coast in the United States. The opinion has been ventured by the vice-president of the Russian Council of Military Experts Alexander Vladimirov.” Comrade Vladimirov: Are you sure? An unauthorized ICBM launch from a US submarine? Heads will surely roll in the Pentagon.

On the other hand, if the missile did not originate from the US military, then there are only a few likely alternatives. Russia, of course, has significant SLBM capability, while Red China has a limited SLBM capability. North Korea or Iran could potentially launch a Shahab or Taepodong-2 missile from a ship disguised as a civilian vessel. One thing is clear: This missile delivered a big message from someone to someone.