EU/USA Files: Warsaw, Washington sign MOU for a permanent US Air Force detachment on Polish soil beginning 2013; Poland already hosting unarmed (?) Patriot missile batteries near Russia’s Kaliningrad

This Monday, Polish Defence Minister Bogdan Klich and US Ambassador Lee Feinstein signed a memorandum of understanding that will lead to the permanent deployment of a US Air Force detachment on Polish soil in 2013. The deal, which was endorsed by President Barack Hussein Obama during his trip to Poland in late May, means Warsaw has achieved a key goal of stationing US troops on its territory as it continues to cast a wary eye towards its former communist overlord, Russia. Soviet/Russian troops withdrew from Poland in 1993, after a 54-year occupation.

Pictured above: President Obama at joint press conference with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Warsaw, on May 28, 2011.

Among other duties outlined in the MOU, US airmen will train Polish air crews in the operation of F-16 fighter jets and C-130 Hercules transport planes, which are already in the Polish air force inventory. “This memorandum of understanding means that by the end of 2012 we will have in Poland a detachment allowing for the permanent rotation of American military aircraft, both combat and transport aircraft,” Klich was quoted by Reuters as saying. “From 2013 we plan the regular and periodic presence of aircraft and the training of pilots four times a year.”

The details of the bilateral agreement are to be negotiated in 2012, with joint US-Polish military exercises expected to commence from 2013 on established military training grounds, with a provision for contingents from other NATO countries to take part. The three air bases where the US Air Force will be stationed are Krzesiny and Lask, currently home to 48 Polish F-16s, as well as Powidz, where eight C-130s are based. According to unofficial information from Poland’s Defence Ministry, the number of aircraft and maintenance personnel may also increase under the terms of the MOU.

Until now, Polish military pilots received training in the USA, as well as irregular training missions in Belgium, France, or more recently, in Spain. Since last year, Poland has hosted unarmed (?) US Patriot anti-missile batteries near the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, which Wikileaks revealed an angry Polish official as derisively calling “potted plants.”

Poland also borders the former Soviet republic of Belarus, where the “ex”-communist dictator, President Alexander Lukashenko, has systematically rooted out all political opposition, especially since his fraudulent re-election last December, and persecuted the country’s Polish minority. Subject to European Union sanctions, Belarus nevertheless enjoys Russia’s military protection through both the Union State and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and Russia’s economic favouritism through a new customs union that also includes Kazakhstan.

The extent to which the small US missile and troop presence in Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria will deter neo-Soviet aggression is questionable. If anything, the US-Polish military alliance provides the Moscow Leninists with a pretext for both portraying Washington as the aggressor and also justifying a first-strike military response against the West. But then, perhaps this is what crypto-Muslim socialist and alleged Soviet mole Obama, with a little help from mentor Mikhail Gorbachev, is seeking to accomplish. Indeed, this charade could all very well be a case of “poking the Soviet bear.”

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Middle East File: Saleh regime near extinction as “thousands” of Al Qaeda insurgents seize Yemeni province; warplanes, artillery pound rebel positions in Zinjibar; gravely wounded dictator still in Saudi Arabia as US ambassador meets opposition leaders

– Syria in Chaos as 2,000 Officers and Soldiers Reportedly Defect from Army, Fight Alongside Civilians in Besieged Northern Town

Yesterday, Yemeni warplanes and artillery pounded rebel positions in Zinjibar, capital of the southern Abyan province, where Islamic fundamentalists suspected of links to Al Qaeda have seized control of several cities and towns. On Thursday, regular troops advancing toward Zinjibar killed 12 militants outside the city. Earlier that day, warplanes hit militant positions north of Jaar, producing an unknown number of casualties.

In the national capital, Sanaa, 100,000 anti-regime protesters, protected by armed tribesmen, rallied to demand President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s ouster. A number of mutinous soldiers (pictured above) joined the protests.

On Saturday, fighting in the province continued as five Yemeni soldiers and three gunmen believed to be members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) perished in clashes that erupted in the city of Lawdar. In Zinjibar, the fighting continued today as heavy gunfire and explosions were heard through the city. Warplanes were seen flying overhead and conducting more air strikes.

On May 27, thousands of militants seized control of Zinjibar, taking advantage of a weeks-old breakdown of authority resulting from high-level defections from the Yemeni military and Saleh’s government, as well as the regime’s battle with armed tribesmen in the north. The southern militants were especially emboldened by a decapitation strike against the president and key government officials on June 3.

At that time, northern tribesman bombarded the presidential compound with rockets, gravely wounding Saleh, who is still in Saudi Arabia receiving medical treatment. US officials say the 69-year-old dictator suffered burns over 40 percent of his body and has bleeding inside his skull. Saleh’s vice president, Major General Abd al-Rahman Mansur al-Hadi, is currently running the country, while the government’s most elite forces have been concentrated around Sanaa.

Meanwhile, as the central government loses control over the hinterlands, at various locations in Abyan Al Qaeda militants are openly training in camps and using live ammunition for target practice. Residents of another southern province, Shabwa, say suspected militants and sympathizers have set up checkpoints on the road to a third province, Hadramawt. They also control the towns of Rawdah and Houtah, where they freely roamed the streets

“They have a great deal of influence and they use modern vehicles for transport as well as satellite telephones,” said Abdullah al-Amari, an Abyan-based rights activist.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, then visiting Abu Dhabi, called on all political forces in Yemen to honor a cease-fire, saying President Barack Hussein Obama advocated an “immediate, orderly and peaceful transition.” This is not likely. Yemeni troops are in fact struggling to retake several areas in the south, which is also the base for armed Marxist separatists who wish to restore the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, which merged in 1990 with the Yemen Arab Republic to form the current Republic of Yemen.

Yemen’s months-old crisis is one manifestation of the wider “Arab Spring” uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. The Arabian country is home to thousands of Islamic fundamentalists, many of them veterans of jihads in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. Aden, Yemen was the site of the suicide bombing of the USS Cole guided missile destroyer in 2000. It is also the ancestral home of arch-terrorist Osama bin Laden, whom US Navy Seals killed in a covert raid in Pakistan on May 2.

On the same day as the decapitation strike against Saleh’s government, US fighter pilots took out Abu Ali al-Harithi, a mid-level Al Qaeda operative, and several other suspected militants in southern Yemen. According to witnesses, four civilians were also killed in the air strike. In 2003, Harithi travelled to Iraq, where he fought alongside Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian operative who led the Al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq until he, too, was killed in a US air strike in 2006.

The Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command, in close cooperation with the Central Intelligence Agency, coordinates the White House’s anti-terrorist operation in Yemen. A team of US special forces and intelligence operatives have a command post in Sanaa to seek and destroy militants. The mission that killed Harithi was the first such successful anti-terrorist mission in Yemen in nearly a year. These were suspended earlier amid concerns that bad intelligence had led to “bungled” missions and civilian deaths, undermining an otherwise secret campaign designed to minimize any negative impact on Saleh’s government, which approved the US presence in 2009.

On June 8, the New York Times reported that the US ambassador to Yemen, Gerald M. Feierstein, recently met with leaders of the opposition, partly to make the case for continuing the anti-terrorist operation should Saleh’s tottering regime fold completely. “The extent of America’s war in Yemen,” the newspaper continues, “has been among the Obama administration’s most closely guarded secrets.” Publicly, Saleh has asserted that all anti-terrorist missions have been conducted by his own troops.

“We’ve seen the regime move its assets away from counterterrorism and toward its own survival,” comments Christopher Boucek, a Yemen expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “But as things get more and more chaotic in Yemen, the space for the Americans to operate in gets bigger.”

Incidentally, the Yemeni Socialist Party, which once ruled Communist South Yemen, is a prime mover behind the political campaign to remove Saleh whose days, literally, may be numbered.

Elsewhere in the Arab world, Syria’s socialist regime continues its heavy-handed crackdown on dissent, prompting more than 4,300 refugees to flee over the country’s northern border into Turkey. According to an eyewitness in the town of Jisr al-Shughour, around 2,000 officers and conscripts have defected from the Syrian army and are fighting alongside civilians to repel President Bashar al-Assad’s troops and tanks. “They mutinied because of their orders” to shoot at local civilians, the anonymous witness alleged. Syrian government spokeswoman Reem Haddad denied that there had been “significant” defections.

In another sign of possible regime collapse, Assad’s security forces withdrew from the town of Hama on Thursday night, allowing “tens of thousands” of protesters to overwhelm the city’s central square. Last Friday, troops killed 67 protesters in Hama in one of the worst incidents of the uprising.

Event Convergence Alert: Dutch air force intercepts Bear bombers over North Sea as NATO, Russia begin joint “counter-terrorism” drills over Poland, Black Sea; Russian Air Force carried out “exercises” over Arctic, Atlantic on September 11, 2001

On Tuesday morning, two F-16 fighter jets of the Royal Netherlands Air Force intercepted two Russian strategic bombers. The Dutch defence ministry acknowledged that the F16s, which are assigned to the Quick Reaction Alert squadron stationed at Volkel air base, took off at 11:15 am (local time) to intercept the Tupolev Tu-95 “Bears.” The propeller-driven Bear bomber is a venerable five-decade-old aircraft that still serves as a dangerous cruise missile platform.

The Dutch jets were assisted by German military air controllers. Earlier, the Danish air force also scrambled fighters to escort the Russians planes. The two Bears followed their typical route from northwest Russia, flying south along the Norwegian coast and then west across the North Sea, in the direction of British airspace.

Tuesday’s intercept was the third such incident near Dutch airspace this year. Since 2007, when the Russian Air Force resuscitated its Cold War-era long-range patrols, there have been monthly incidents involving Russian military planes near both NATO and NORAD airspace. Under the regime of President/Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, in fact, the Kremlin has re-adopted a barely concealed hostile stance toward the West, temporarily buried during the heady “post”-communist years of President Boris Yeltsin.

In this light, a NATO-Russian counter-terrorism drill involving fighter jets from Poland, Turkey, and Russia and taking place over Poland and the Black Sea on June 7 and 8 is deceptive, serving to obscure the neo-Soviet leadership’s untrustworthiness.

According to the scenario enacted by Vigilant Skies 2011, “terrorists” will seize control of a Polish aircraft taking off from Krakow. Polish fighter pilots will be the first to intercept the hijacked plane, before handing over the mission to Russian counterparts. After a further struggle in the cockpit of the hijacked plane, in which the terrorists are overpowered but the plane’s navigation system damaged, the aircraft will be escorted back to Poland by the Russian fighters. A second scenario will see a flight plan deviation and loss of communications with a hijacked Turkish aircraft over the Black Sea, followed by coordinated interceptions by Turkish and then Russian fighters.

A NATO statement claimed that the aim of Vigilant Skies 2011 is to demonstrate the operational aspects of the NATO-Russia Cooperative Airspace Initiative (CAI), which is designed to prevent attacks by hijacked civilian aircraft, such as those used to destroy the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

“This is the first such counter-terrorism exercise held between NATO and the Russian Federation and will be a major milestone for reaching operational capability of the CAI system,” the NATO statement trilled, adding: “The CAI will improve air safety for the thousands of passengers using international flights between NATO airspace and Russian airspace each day, and the millions of inhabitants on the ground.”

The CAI system will be coordinated from centers in Warsaw and Moscow, with additional local coordination sites in Russia, Norway, and Turkey. It is intended to provide a “shared radar picture” of air traffic to enable early warning of suspicious air activity through agreed protocols.

This is all very fine and well for peaceful East-West convergence, but there is good reason to believe that atrocities like the 911 attacks were actually coordinated back in the Kremlin, using proxies and assets in Al Qaeda, CubaIraq, and the Czech Republic. After all, the Russian Air Force was conducting exercises over the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans when Mohamed Atta and his Islamist skyjackers dive-bombed the WTC and the Pentagon, killing themselves and nearly 3,000 office workers and captive airline passengers.

So, even as Moscow befuddles the West with “good intentions” in the War against Terror, she still prepares for the Fourth World War.

Latin America File: Peru to be absorbed into region’s Red Axis as communist-backed left-nationalist wins presidential election; Humala downplays admiration for Chavez; Peruvian economist: Humala’s “comrades” want “radical change”

– Humala Signals Interest in Maintaining Peru’s “Strategic Partnership” with USA, but Accepts Congratulations from Castro Bros. via Cuban Ambassador

– Shining Path Guerrillas Kill Five Soldiers on Eve of Peru’s Presidential Election, Ambushed Army Patrol Supervising Local Voting Stations

On Monday, Venezuela’s communist dictator, President Hugo Chavez, announced that he was “very satisfied” with the victory of his leftist ally, 48-year-old former army officer Ollanta Humala, in Sunday’s run-off election for the Peruvian presidency. In 2006, with open support from Chavez, Humala made a previous bid for his country’s top post, running against social democrat Alan Garcia.

“I’m very satisfied with the victory of democracy in Peru — the victory of Ollanta Humala,” Chavez enthused in a brief talk with journalists in Brasilia. “We wished him much success and we’re ready to work together on cooperation, South American integration, Unasur [Union of South American Nations], and all possible bilateral matters.” Chavez, who this time maintained a low profile during the Peruvian election campaign, finally broke his silence while visiting Brazilian counterpart Dilma Rousseff.

The leader of the Venezuelan delegation in the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino), Rodrigo Cabezas, also welcomed Humala’s victory, calling the election results “a reaffirmation of the change of era in Latin America. The reaction of the peoples against the impoverishing neoliberalism [capitalism] and the emerging of governments committed to the fight against social injustices [unequal wealth distribution].” Tellingly, Cabezas did not hesitate to brand Humala’s political enemies “fascists” and “anti-communists.” Referring to the free enterprise legacy of Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), he ranted:

Peru became the best example to prove that a free market economy cannot solve on its own equity and wealth distribution problems.

We welcome that legitimate victory of the Peruvian people and the progressive left-wing of that country, who achieved to successfully overcome a terrible fascist and anti-communist campaign spread by some media, oligarchy sectors and the elite of the Catholic Church. We expect the new Government to strengthen democracy by caring about justice and equity demands from Peruvians.

Fujimori, who vigorously suppressed Peru’s Shining Path rebellion in 1992, is presently serving a jail sentence for corruption.

According to the latest official polling data with 94 percent of the votes counted, Humala defeated his main rival, Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori, Alberto’s daughter, with 51.37 percent compared to Fujimori’s 48.63 percent. The Alliance for Peru coalition that backed Humala’s presidential bid includes his own Peruvian Nationalist Party, as well as the Peruvian Communist Party, Socialist Party, Revolutionary Socialist Party, and Political Movement Socialist Voice.

Humala is the son of Isaac Humala, a lawyer and cadre of the Communist Party of Peru-Red Fatherland. He is the brother of Antauro Humala, presently serving a 25-year prison sentence for kidnapping 17 police officers and killing four of them in the town of Andahuaylas in 2005. Ollanta himself is the ideological leader of Peru’s indigenous Ethnocacerista movement.

As an aside, there are some interesting similarities between the careers of Humala and mentor Chavez: both are ex-military men who led abortive coups. Humala began his army career in 1982 when he entered Chorrillos Military School. In 1992, Humala served in Tingo María, fighting remnants of the Shining Path, and, three years later, he served in the Cenepa War on the border with Ecuador.

Incidentally, Peru’s Maoist rebels still lurk in the jungles, killing five soldiers on the eve of Humala’s election win. The victims were part of an army patrol driving to supervise voting in the Apurimac and Ene River Valleys, a traditional rebel haunt.

In 2000, then Lieutenant Colonel Humala led 50 soldiers in the seizure and week-long occupation of a Southern Copper Corp. mine in the city of Tacna. He claimed to be protesting against the repatriation of President Fujimori’s intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos, who had been accused of bribery. In an abrupt career shift, two years later Humala received a master’s degree in political science from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.

Ahead of the run-off vote, Humala tried to allay the fears of Peruvian businesses by issuing a “Letter to the Peruvian People,” in which he vowed to maintain President Garcia’s “budget-tightening” policies and support for an independent central bank. He also professed to shelve a 198-page platform that included proposals to ban gas exports, in order to lower domestic fuel costs, and nationalize airports.

On Monday, after news of Humala’s victory spread, Lima’s stock market plunged 12.5 percent, the largest one-day drop in that institution’s history. Across the globe, natural resources investors are worried that Humala’s government could reverse policies outgoing President Garcia expects will attract US$50 billion of mining investment. Garcia’s government predicts that such investment will sustain average annual economic growth of 6 percent between now and 2014.

“Humala has to come out and send a signal or this selloff won’t end,” urged Mauricio Cardenas, director of the Latin America program at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC. “The market is asking for a response. It wants to hear who the finance minister will be.”

Peruvian investors, however, are more worried than their foreign counterparts that Humala’s pre-election makeover is indeed “cosmetic.” This is the assessment of Pablo Secada, chief economist at the Peruvian Institute of Economy, a Lima-based think tank. “Humala may be a moderate but the people surrounding him aren’t,” he warned. Secada is also an adviser to outgoing Finance Minister Ismael Benavides. “They aren’t just aiming for a redistribution of income, they want radical change.”

Humala’s election strategy took a page from the playbook of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was elected president of Brazil in 2002 and again in 2006 by persuading voters that his career as a union boss would not lead him to implement anti-business policies. In fact, as we previously blogged, Humala’s “nimble” campaign prospered from the advice of two former consultants from Lula’s ruling Workers’ Party, which began a “dialogue” with Humala after his last run for office. Like Humala, Lula’s pre-election climb in the polls triggered a selloff of Brazilian bonds and stocks.

Don’t expect Humala to publicly reintroduce the radical-left elements of his agenda right away. After the election he even signalled an interest in maintaining ties with the USA, Peru’s “strategic partner.” This is probably window dressing because communist dictator Raul Castro joined Chavez in congratulating Humala on his triumph via the Cuban ambassador in Lima.

Historically, in democratic states, such as in Czechoslovakia after the Second World War, communists sometimes work incrementally and by stealth to take over a country. In neighboring Hungary, communist party boss Mátyás Rákosi referred to this concept of a slow-motion coup as “salami tactics.” The fact is, in Venezuela Chavez is pursuing pretty much the same “piece by piece” program of communization. Similarly, in Brazil far-left factions within the Workers’ Party, not to mention their coalition partners in the Communist Party of Brazil, hid behind the “moderate” face of Lula for two presidential terms, only to replace him with ex-urban guerrilla Rousseff in January 2011.

At this time, there are only four center-right governments south of the Rio Grande: Mexico, Panama, Colombia, and Chile. Next year, there could be only three. In the fallout from Mexico’s horrific drug war, the party of embattled President Felipe Calderon faces defeat in 2012, ceding ground back to the monolithic Institutional Revolutionary Party. In view of the fact that Honduras’ putatively center-right president, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, is an “ex”-Stalinist who welcomed Chavez pawn Manuel Zelaya back to Tegucigalpa last month, we are inclined to slot “anti-communist bastion” Honduras into the Red Axis.

Middle East File: “Arab Spring” in Yemen erupts into civil war as tribesmen bombard presidential palace with rockets; Saleh and key officials injured in decapitation strike, evacuated to Riyadh for medical treatment

Pictured here: Yemeni soldiers monitor an anti-government protest in the capital Sanaa on June 3, 2011.

The wave of popular uprisings in the Arab World–which toppled the socialist dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year, sparked a heavy-handed government crackdown in Ba’athist Syria, and provoked NATO intervention in Libya–has erupted into full-scale war in Yemen.

For several years now, Shia tribesmen and Marxist separatists yearning for the defunct People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) have waged guerrilla warfare against the 33-year-old regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Voice of America reports today:

Fighting broke out again in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a Saturday, with the forces of President Ali Abdullah Saleh shelling the homes of anti-government leaders. Sporadic rocket fire and firefights erupted in the al-Hasaba district of northern Sana’a, the home base of dissident tribesman Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar.  He is a leader of what Saleh said was a “gang of outlaws” that carried out a rocket attack on the presidential compound Friday. Thousands fled the city on Saturday and roads were clogged at daybreak. Seven people were killed in the rocket attack Friday, including key government officials, while Saleh was “lightly wounded” as the group attended prayers at a mosque inside the presidential compound.

According to CNN, it seems that President Saleh’s injuries as a result of the rebel rocket attack are worse than first reported. He is apparently receiving medical treatment in Riyadh, while official control of Yemen has passed to Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. In what was essentially a decapitation strike against the Yemeni government, the rebels succeeded in injuring other government officials, including Prime Minister Ali Mujawar; Deputy Prime Ministers Rashad al-Alimi and Sadeq Amin Abu Rasand; Shura Council Chairman Abdul Aziz Abdul Ghani; and Parliament Speaker Yahya Al-Raee. These have also been evacuated to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment.

Saleh has three times promised to end his corrupt reign in a deal brokered by neighboring Arab countries, but so far has refused to honor the agreement. Nearly 400 people have been killed since Yemen’s popular uprising began in January.

In early May, after Saleh’s security forces killed three protesters and injured 80 in the city of Taiz, Yasin Said Numan, secretary-general of the Yemeni Socialist Party and prime minister of the PDRY from 1986 until the unification of North and South Yemen in 1990, remarked: “The country is collapsing everywhere.” He added: “This regime has created a lot of problems in this country. There is no cooking gas, no petrol, things are vanishing and if things continue this way, we will learn what a real crisis is.”

Taking a cue from the “Prague Spring” of 1968–when the ruling Communist Party of Czechoslovakia attempted to create “socialism with a human face,” that is, before Soviet and Warsaw Pact tanks rolled into the country to crush the “rebellion”–observers of international politics haved dubbed the current unrest in the Muslim world the “Arab Spring.”

Africa File: Qaddafi regime near extinction as high-level defections, punishing NATO air strikes on command bunkers continue; Russia about-faces, offers to mediate dictator’s “exit”; Italy pledges money, fuel for Libyan rebels

– Britsh and French Combat Helicopters Attack Libyan Army Positions, Qaddafi Loyalists for First Time in NATO Campaign

On Monday, eight senior Libyan military officers appeared at a press conference in Rome, following their defection from the 42-year-old socialist regime of Colonel Moammar Qaddafi (pictured above on right, with trademark sunglasses). Italian intelligence agencies reportedly facilitated their defection. The Libyan brass, who appeared at the press conference in civilian cloths, included five generals, two colonels, and a major. According to the defectors, they are among a group of more than 100 military officers and soldiers who have renounced their loyalty to Qaddafi in recent days.

A general who identified himself as Oun Ali Oun accused the Qaddafi regime of waging “genocide” against its own people and unleashing “violence against women in various Libyan cities.” He urged fellow Libyan soldiers to join the revolt “in the name of the martyrs who have fallen in the defense of freedom.”

Melud Massoud Halasa, another defecting general, told reporters that Qaddafi’s forces are now “only 20% as effective” as they were before the revolt broke out in mid-February. He added that “not more than 10” generals remain loyal to the besieged Libyan leader, who faces a United Nations war crimes investigation.

Earlier on Monday, South Africa’s “ex”-communist president, Jacob Zuma (pictured above on left), arrived in Tripoli to mediate a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict between Qaddafi loyalists and insurgents. After his meeting with the veteran strongman–who has been scurrying from one hiding hole to another (literally) as NATO warplanes pound government sites in Tripoli–Zuma indicated that Qaddafi is willing to accept an African Union initiative for a ceasefire. However, both the rebels and NATO have already rejected the AU “roadmap to peace” since it does not require Qaddafi’s resignation.

The UN, which sanctioned NATO’s imposition of a no-fly zone over the North African country, estimates that thousands have been killed in the fighting, in addition to creating an exodus of 750,000 foreign workers who have fled the oil-rich country. In addition to enforcing the bare UN mandate, NATO states have targeted government compounds and regular military assets in an effort to dislodge the Libyan dictator.

On Tuesday, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, then visiting the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in eastern Libya, promised that Rome will provide “for the needs of the Libyan people with a huge quantity of fuel and huge amount of money.” He did not provide an exact figure but said the assistance would amount to “hundreds of millions of euros that are necessary for the daily life of the population.” According to Frattini, billions of euros of Libyan assets are frozen in Italian bank accounts because of international sanctions against Qaddafi’s regime, thereby offering a source for the promised funds.

Italy, along France and other countries, but not the USA, have formally recognized the National Transitional Council of the Libyan Republic (NTC) as Libya’s legitimate government. “Gadhafi’s regime is over. He has to leave power, he has to leave the country,” Fratinni declared. Libya is a former Italian colony. Italy relies heavily on Libyan crude exports, which have all but dried up since riots erupted in the North African country in mid-February, leading quickly to a full-scale civil war.

NATO, whose current campaign expires on June 27, has intensified its air raids in recent weeks with daily strikes on command and control bunkers in Tripoli. NATO General Secretary Rasmussen told reporters in Brussels that Qaddafi’s resignation is only a question of time. “The question is not if Gadhafi will go but when,” he vowed. On Friday night, two British Apache helicopters took out a radar installation and a military checkpoint near the eastern coastal city of Brega, while French Gazelle and Tigre helicopters attacked 15 Libyan military vehicles and five military command buildings. This is the first time that NATO forces have deployed combat rotary wing aircraft against Qaddafi loyalists.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday a car bomb rocked a Benghazi hotel frequented by foreign diplomats, but caused no casualties. Rebel spokesman Jalal al-Gallal indicated that his comrades-in-arms generally suspect the attack was carried out by government saboteurs.

On Thursday, Libya’s rebel leadership on Thursday welcomed yet another defection from the Qaddafi regime, that of former oil minister Shukri Ghanem. “The National Transitional Council (NTC) salutes the latest defection from the Kadhafi regime, that of Oil Minister Shukri Ghanem,” Abdul Hafiz Ghoga, vice president of the NTC, said in a statement. “In recent days and weeks we have witnessed an acceleration in defections from the Kadhafi regime, which has no legitimacy, credibility or future,” he added.

The day before, Ghanem announced in Rome that he had fled Libya via Tunisia to join the rebellion and “fight for a democratic state.” He added, though, that he does not intend on joining the NTC. Ghanem, chief of the Libyan National Oil Corporation and Libya’s representative at OPEC summits for years, admitted that “Only very little [oil] is being produced for security reasons, because it’s not possible to export it, because of the UN embargo and the fact that the foreigners have all left.”

In a related story, Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani told Bloomberg Television in a May 25 interview that “most likely nobody” will represent Libya at the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries meeting on June 8. On Tuesday, amid questions over which officials will represent Libya at upcoming energy events, organizers of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum in Cairo removed a welcome banner that included the flag used by the NTC. The Libyan rebel flag has red, black, and green horizontal panels with a white crescent and star in the center, while the Qaddafi regime flag has a plain green field.

Meanwhile, the neo-Soviet leadership in Russia, recognizing that its long-time ally and client is facing extinction, has offered to mediate the conflict between Qaddafi and rebel forces. On June 2, Mikhail Margelov, the Kremlin’s envoy to the NTC, revealed: “Russia wants to mediate between the two sides in Libya’s civil war as it tries to negotiate the exit from power of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi.” In a telephone interview with Bloomberg News, Margelov said he will travel to Libya “in the nearest time” to meet with rebel leaders. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is apparently in contact with Qaddafi regime spokesmen.

Qaddafi’s future is “the most delicate topic,” acknowledged Margelov, who heads the International Affairs Committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council. “The question of guarantees or immunity, even if it’s being discussed at the highest levels, isn’t public information and doesn’t need to be advertised,” Margelov said. In view of Libya’s status as an important supplier of oil to NATO countries like Italy, the Leninist strategists in Moscow are probably anxious to make sure the new regime in Tripoli adopts a pro-Kremlin line.

Latin America File: Honduras under probable communist control: Chavez brokers deal between Lobo and Zelaya, negotiates latter’s return to homeland; President Lobo and Zelaya’s right-hand man “ex”-communists, Barahona visited Cuban leaders in early May

On May 1, 2011, Juan Barahona Mejías, deputy director of Honduras’ National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), was received by Ramón Balaguer Cabrera, member of the Central Committee Secretariat of the Communist Party of Cuba (CPC). Responding to an invitation from Cuba’s communist overlords, Barahona presented himself in Havana, leading a delegation of FNRP comrades, including Gilberto Ríos, Francisco Ríos, and Sonia Benegas.

For his part, Balaguer reaffirmed “the solidarity of the Cuban people with the Honduran people’s fight and wished them success in the current ongoing process, in order to accomplish the Front’s objectives and the stability of this sister country.” In addition to Balaguer, Jorge Arias Díaz, CPC deputy director of foreign affairs, and other officials from the Central Committee were present. In return, Barahona thanked “the Cuban people for their expressions of solidarity with Honduras.”

Afterward, the Honduran delegation attended a commemorative May Day march and the International Trade Union Conference in Solidarity with Cuba, then meeting in Havana. May 1, of course, is typically observed by communists, leftists, and labor unions worldwide as International Workers’ Day.

While this tete-a-tete between the Cuban dictatorship and the “Honduran resistance” is somewhat predictable, even in the post-Cold War era, we must ask the question: Who is Juan Barahona Mejías? Barahona is a past cadre of the Communist Party of Honduras, which dissolved in 1990, leaving some ex-members to migrate into the Democratic Unification Party (PUD) two years later. Barahona is also president of the Federation of Honduran Workers, which in 2000 created a political party called the Popular Bloc.

In an October 2009 interview, Barahona explained the purpose of the FNRP: “The National Resistance Front is a coalition between the Bloque Popular, PUD, union confederations and the popular sector of the Liberal Party that defends Mel [Zelaya]. Here, we unite the majority of the people.” In addition to the Popular Bloc, PUD was vocal in its support for President Manuel Zelaya after his ouster in June 2009. In summary, therefore, career communist Barahona is the deposed leader’s “left-hand man” and the FNRP, Zelaya’s political party, is stacked with communists and fellow travellers.

The anti-Zelaya coup was supported by the Supreme Court, National Assembly, and the leadership of his own Liberal Party. In an early-morning raid on his residence, the army arrested a pajamas-clad Zelaya and then placed the president on an airplane bound for San Jose, Costa Rica. The interim government, led by former legislative speaker Roberto Micheletti, accused Zelaya of subverting the constitutional order, to wit by holding an illegal (non-binding) referendum to abolish presidential term limits and by importing (rigged?) ballots from Venezuela. The Organization of American States expelled Honduras, while communists throughout the Western Hemisphere got their noses out of joint, branding Micheletti a “fascist.”

Zelaya’s domestic critics, however, were troubled by his leftward shift after taking office in January 2006 and his growing chummy relationship with Venezuela’s communist dictator Hugo Chavez. After his removal, Zelaya denied that his policies were subservient to Caracas or that there was any inconsistency between his pre- and post-election platform. In October 2009, he scoffed: “To begin with, President Chavez has been used as a scapegoat to justify this coup. Invoking his name is not a valid justification for a coup, it’s an irrational one.” In the same interview, he asserted his innocence

When in office, I didn’t do anything I had not announced when on the campaign trail. I campaigned on direct, participatory democracy, a fair economy, dignified employment, anti-poverty programs, and global engagement. Everything I said I would do in my campaign I followed up during my presidency.

The elite business interests became angry with me when I increased the minimum wage (in March 2009), and lowered interest rates. But I achieved more economic growth than Honduras had seen in a long time. Even in the middle of the financial crisis our economy was growing by 4.5 percent annually.

In 2008, though, Zelaya dragged Honduras into the Havana/Caracas-led Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, much to the consternation of anti-communists in the Liberal Party. Incidentally, his ouster had the distinction of being the first successful coup in this hemisphere since the Cold War.

After his removal from office, Zelaya attempted several times to re-enter Honduras. On July 5, 2009, Zelaya boarded a plane headed for Tegucigalpa, but the army parked vehicles on the runway, preventing him from landing. Later that month, accompanied by Chavez’s foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, he made a brief but symbolic land crossing into Honduras from Nicaragua, where he was then living in exile. Two months later, on September 21, he again returned to Honduras, dramatically appearing in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. Brazil’s then President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva gladly offered sanctuary to the deposed leader, even as police and Zelaya supporters clashed outside the embassy.

In January 2010, after a democratic election, Porfirio Lobo Sosa assumed the presidency on behalf of the center-right National Party. A number of leftist regimes throughout South and Central America, such as Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Brazil, refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of Lobo’s government. Only days after Lobo’s inauguration, Zelaya slipped away from the Brazilian embassy and the country altogether, re-emerging in the Dominican Republic and flaunting a new job, director of the Political Council of Venezuela’s Petrocaribe.

On May 23, 2011, Lobo and Zelaya, bowing to international pressure, met in Cartagena, Colombia, where they signed an agreement to end the political crisis in Honduras, drop all corruption charges against Zelaya, permit his safe return to his homeland and legal re-entrance into Honduran politics, and ease the country’s readmission into the OAS. The agreement was heralded and witnessed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Maduro, who attended the meeting on behalf of his boss, President Chavez.

Finally, on May 28, a triumphant Zelaya, flying on a private aircraft provided by Chavez and sporting his trademark cowboy hat, landed at Toncontin International Airport in
Tegucigalpa, where he was greeted by thousands of adoring supporters (pictured above, note obligatory Che pic). Zelaya exited the aircraft flanked on both sides by some of Latin America’s most prominent left-wing politicians, including Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, the ubiquitous Maduro, Panama’s ex-president Martín Torrijos, and an ex-senator from Colombia, Piedad Córdoba, who is accused of sympathizing with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Accompanying Zelaya, too, was Barahona since the FNRP, according to the Latin America News Dispatch, serves as the deposed president’s chief political vehicle.

Chavez, who is recovering from a knee injury, did not travel to Honduras to witness the return of his lackey, but fired off a congratulatory Tweet: “Mel Zelaya returned to his Honduran Fatherland! It’s a great victory for the Honduran people!”

In a speech that shows he has every intention of re-taking power in spite of an official exoneration, Zelaya addressed his followers: “We’re pushing for a Constituent Assembly to retake power. I came to participate in what the people want—revolutionary processes that will make this country move forward.” In a sharp about-face from his position during exile, Zelaya called upon the OAS to recognize Lobo’s National Party administration.

Zelaya’s new position did not appear to sit well with left-hand man Barahona, who reminded reporters that Lobo supported the coup and Zelaya only changed his position for “diplomatic reasons.” However, reports the Latin America News Dispatch, “With Zelaya back in the country, his party—the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP, in Spanish)—says it will now begin collecting the signatures it needs to present to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal in order to participate in the next round of elections.”

Some Honduran politicians lashed out at Lobo for working with Chavez to broker Zelaya’s return. “Lobo is following in Zelaya’s footsteps by becoming friends with Chavez,” complained Fernando Anduray, whose Democratic Civic Union party supported the 2009 coup. Indeed, Lobo and Zelaya have much in common, both being scions of Honduras’ land-owning oligarchy but willing students of communist indoctrination at the hands of Soviet and Honduran reds.

Although billed as a conservative, Lobo, according to the World Socialist Web Site, is a former cadre of the Communist Party of Honduras, just like Barahona. In past posts, we noted with some suspicion that Lobo studied at the Soviet Union’s Third World terrorist training center, Patrice Lumumba University, where he received a doctorate in terrorism studies. WSWS writer Jeremy Wells refers to Lobo as a past “supporter of Stalinism” and that PUD leader César David Adolfo Ham Peña, who was “counted as Zelaya’s closest political supporter,” agreed to join Lobo’s government of “national unity and reconciliation.”

All of these disconcerting facts, of course, should prompt one to wonder if Lobo is a real center-rightist. Time will tell, of course, but the OAS plans to vote on Honduras’ reinstatement in an extraordinary meeting of the General Assembly in Washington on Wednesday.

“Zelaya’s return will probably ratchet up tensions in the country, which has been beset by workers’ protests and rising crime and violence in recent months,” commented
Heather Berkman
, a political risk analyst at the Eurasia Group in New York. “Still,” she added, “Zelaya’s political ambitions will probably not hamper the efforts of the Lobo administration to get the country’s economy back on track.”

I wouldn’t be so sure. Several weeks ago, Zelaya put in an appearance at the under-reported Sao Paulo Forum meet-and-greet in Managua. His re-instatement and the communization of Honduras were undoubtedly hot topics at this leftist shindig. Indeed, the communist takeover of Central America, which was aborted after the disingenuous “collapse” of the Soviet Union, is under way again with the re-election of the Sandinista National Liberation Front in 2006, the first-time election of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front in 2009, and the election in 2008 of center-left governments in Guatemala and Belize.

Blast from the Past File: Accused war criminal, communist Ratko Mladic seized, Bosnian Serb army chief led siege of Sarajevo (1992-1994), allegedly ordered Srebrenica massacre (1995); Mladic’s arrest condition of Serbian admission to EU

Independent Serbian Media Cites Villagers: Police “Sneaked” Mladic into Lazarevo and Arrested Him There

At a May 26, 2011, news conference Serbian President Boris Tadic confirmed the arrest of former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic. Early on Thursday, three special units of the Serbian security service pounced on General Mladic’s hideout in Lazarevo, a village 80 kilometers southwest of Belgrade, near the Romanian border. The house was owned by a relative of Mladic and had been under surveillance for the past two weeks. Mladic was reportedly living under the assumed name Milorad Komodic.

After Tadic’s news conference, it emerged that the 69-year-old fugitive had already been placed on an airplane and flown to The Hague, in the Netherlands, to stand trial before the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Mladic, a key player in the Bosnian War, is accused of coordinating the siege of Sarajevo between 1992 and 1994 and ordering the killing of at least 7,500 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995. In the latter year, the ICTY indicted Mladic for war crimes and issued an international arrest warrant in 1996. Specifically, Mladic faces charges of genocide and complicity in genocide, persecution, extermination and murder, deportation and inhumane acts, unlawfully inflicting terror upon and attacking civilians, cruel treatment, and the taking of hostages.

Wanted man Mladic lived freely in the Serbian capital Belgrade until 2001, when he disappeared after the arrest of former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, another accused war criminal who stood trial at The Hague, but died in prison in 2006 before a conviction was secured. Speculation swirled that Mladic would soon be arrested when former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was captured in Belgrade in July 2008. Incidentally, to this day, Milosevic’s family is living in exile in Russia, Serbia’s closest ally among the “post”-communist countries of the Slavic world.

Tadic rejected criticism that Serbia had only taken action following international pressure. “It is crystal clear that we did not calculate when we had to arrest Ratko Mladic,” the Serbian president insisted, adding: “We have been co-operating with the Hague Tribunal fully from the beginning of the mandate of this government.” It is widely believed that apprehending Mladic has been the main condition for Serbia’s accession to the European Union. In October 2010, the Serbian government offered 10 million euros for information leading to Mladic’s capture and arrest.

Incidentally, Tadic’s first deputy prime minister and internal affairs minister is Ivica Dacic, who heads up Milosevic’s “ex”-communist Socialist Party. As internal affairs minister, Dacic serves as Serbia’s top cop.

Born in Kalnovik, Bosnia and Herzegovina, during the Second World War, Mladic was a career soldier who served in the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) before Communist Yugoslavia dissolved in early 1992. Mladic then commanded Bosnian Serb forces during the brutal inter-ethnic conflict in Bosnia, the bloodiest in Europe since the Allied Powers subdued Nazi Germany nearly five decades before.

Mladic’s hatred for Bosnian Muslims and especially Croatians was shaped as early as two years old, when his father was killed by Croatian fascists called Ustashe. After Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy invaded and dismembered the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Ustashe “Fuehrer” Ante Pavelic established the Independent State of Croatia. This short-lived political entity then proceeded to slaughter hundreds of thousands of ethnic Serbs, Orthodox Christians, and Jews in a Balkan Holocaust largely forgotten in the West.

In 1965, Mladic graduated from a military academy and joined the Communist League of Yugoslavia, which ruled Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia in a federation of socialist republics. Promoted up the ranks, Mladic was general of JNA forces in Sarajevo when Bosnia seceded from Yugoslavia. In May 1992, the counter-separatist Bosnian Serb Parliament created the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS), which Mladic commanded until December 1996.

In early February 2006, excerpts of a Serbian military intelligence report were leaked to the Serbian newspaper Politika, revealing that Mladic had hidden in VRS and Military of Yugoslavia (VJ) facilities until June 1, 2002, when the National Assembly of Serbia passed a law mandating cooperation with the ICTY. Nebojša Pavković, then Chief General of the VJ, requested that Mladic vacate the facility where he was staying on the mountain Povlen, near Valjevo. After his alleged departure from Povlen, the Yugoslav government, consisting at this point of only Serbia and Montenegro, claimed to have lost all trace of the fugitive.

The Serbian government’s possible complicity in harboring Mladic was revealed by the independent Serbian media outlet, B92, which quoted residents of Lazarevo as claiming that police “secretly sneaked Mladić into the village from somewhere, and then ‘arrested’ him there.” The villagers all deny ever having seen Mladic among them.

Russia’s response to Mladic’s apprehension was predictable. “There are doubts that the trial of Mladic in the U.N. war crimes tribunal will be 100 per cent objective and just,” complained Konstantin Kosachyov, who heads the State Duma’s international affairs committee. At the same time, Kosachyov noted that Mladic had been accused of “horrible crimes that led to mass deaths.”

Borislav Milosevic, Slobodan’s brother, was also appalled by Mladic’s arrest. “This is really bad and degrading,” he protested, “To hand him over to The Hague is a disgrace.” Borislav added: “First of all, it is in the interests of the Serbian people to find out the truth about Srebrenica. They’re now saying 8,000 Muslims were killed there. But how many Serbian villages were destroyed in that area? This was a civil war. Everyone’s guilty and innocent at the same time in a civil war.”

In Serbia itself, small protests sponsored by hard-core Mladic groupies erupted in Belgrade and Novi Sad. In the Serbian capital, 35 protesters twice tried to gather in the main square, but police checked the attempts. In Novi Sad, 20 demonstrators tried to storm the state-run Radio Television Serbia building and the headquarters of the local branch of Tadic’s ruling Democratic Party. Smaller protests occurred in Aranjelovzc, Cacaka, Kraljevo, and Zrenjanin.

Over the last 15 years, Russia has not been forthcoming in the prosecution of Serbs or Bosnian Serbs wanted for war crimes violations.

In a September 2009 conversation with US chargée d’affaires Jennifer Brush, published by WikiLeaks, Miki Rakic, chief of staff to President Tadic, indicated that Mladic was likely hiding somewhere in Serbia. “The current government clearly wants to find Mladić, a prerequisite for moving ahead with EU accession,” a US diplomatic cable dated May 2009 declares.

However, in his government’s quest to nab Mladic, Rakić revealed that he had addressed inquiries to Alexander Bortnikov, director of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB/ KGB), Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, and Vladislav Surkov, President Dmitry Medvedev’s chief of staff, but had received no replies. “Previous unconfirmed reports,” concluded The Guardian last December, “have suggested that Mladic may have found sanctuary in Russia as pressure grew on Serbia to arrest him.”

In 2006, US diplomatic cables disclosed the fact that Washington sent US marshals to Serbia and proposed an 11-point plan to Belgrade, which was turned down by former Serbian prime minister, Vojislav Koštunica. “The US government provided the government of Serbia with 11 recommendations designed to advance the hunt for Ratko Mladić,” wrote then US ambassador Michael Polt in October 2006. “Due primarily to the resistance of Prime Minister Koštunica himself, the government has not carried out in full a single one of our recommendations.”

Mladic is not the only suspected war criminal who has apparently sought refuge in Russia. Goran Hadžić, a leader of Croatian Serbs, reportedly found protection there.

The presence in Russia of Mirjana Markovic, widow of the late Slobodan, and her son, Marko Milosevic, is well known. Mother and son have enjoyed Moscow’s protection for years despite being sought by Belgrade on charges of fraud, embezzlement and ordering the murder of Serbian journalist Slavko Ćuruvija. Russian authorities refuse to serve an Interpol arrest warrant for son Marko. Markovic, a hard-line communist endearingly called the “Red Witch,” runs the Yugoslav Left party from exile.

In March 2006, Russia’s Communist Party boss Gennady Zyuganov travelled to Belgrade to attend Slobodan’s funeral, noting that Markovic would not attend the burial because she fears she could be arrested while in Serbia. “It’s enough that Marko lost his father,” Zyuganov told reporters. “He doesn’t need to lose his mother as well.”

As a matter of historical record, the name “Yugoslavia” past out of existence in 2003, when Serbia and Montenegro renamed themselves the Union State. The latter, in turn, dissolved in 2006, finally ending the legacy of a federation of southern Slavs in the Balkan Peninsula. Serbia was always the dominant state in Yugoslavia, before, during, and after the alleged demise of communism.

Blogger’s Note

Before we posted the full story above, we published a brief “teaser,” mentioning in passing that Mladic had been arrested. Unfortunately, we referred to him as a “communist war criminal.” This faux pas did not sit well with certain cadres of the “21stCentury Communist International,” who condemned our copiously documented blog as “cr_p” and hastened to describe Mladic, an open communist for at least 25 years, as a “right-wing nationalist.” See Comments.

Accused war criminal Slobodan Milosevic was another Serbian communist who apparently saw the light, conveniently embracing nationalism before prosecuting war in the Balkans. Perhaps Gennady Zyuganov is also a “nationalist” because the Russian Communist Party boss attended Slobo’s funeral, having only kind words for the dictator’s family, living in exile in Russia. The good folks at Workers’ World Party have not hesitated to throw in their lot with Mladic. In 1997, this Stalinist outfit grumped: “The U.S. media have already convicted Serb leaders like Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. They are being told they must prove they are not guilty. So much for innocent until proven guilty.”

Middle East File: Popular unrest continues across region as Syria’s socialist dictatorship uses tanks, mass arrests to crush uprising; accounts of armed civilian resistance trickle past state-imposed media blackout; SANA fingers “Zionist” conspiracy behind insurrection

Since January popular uprisings, with hints of Islamic fundamentalist involvement, have more or less peacefully toppled the socialist dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has formed a new Freedom and Justice party to contest this September’s presidential election. In Libya, rebels are close to toppling Muammar al-Qaddafi’s party-less socialist regime, which has endured weeks of United Nations-sanctioned NATO air strikes, most lately including the sinking of eight Libyan warships. Violent anti-regime protests have also taken place in Yemen and Bahrain.

Pictured above: Presumably in an effort to stem the flow of refugees, Syrian soldiers deploy in the village of Arida, as seen from the northern Lebanese village of Wadi Khaled, on May 20, 2011.

Like Qaddafi, Syria’s socialist dictator Bashar al-Assad has responded violently to two months of popular unrest, earning tardy rebukes from the Obama White House and other Western leaders, who are concerned about political stability in the Middle East should the 48-year-old Ba’athist regime in Damascus fold. The Arab News reports today that:

Syrian forces kept up a relentless campaign against the country’s two-month uprising, using tanks to shell a besieged border town as President Barack Obama called on Syria’s president to lead his country to democracy or “get out of the way.” President Bashar Assad has taken pains to portray confidence and a steely determination in recent days amid signs that his brutal crackdown is terrifying the population into submission.” More than 850 people have died ahead of another round of protests planned for after Friday prayers.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the Syrian army shelled Talkalakh, a border city of 70,000 near Lebanon, provoking gunbattles with armed resisters that killed at least eight people. “We heard shelling throughout the night and can still hear gunfire every now and then,” related a Talkalakh resident, who fled to Lebanon as Syrian troops summoned reinforcements. “I could see troops patrolling the border and smoke from fires in the town.” Other Syrians fleeing to Lebanon in recent days have described scenes of execution-style killings and bodies in the streets of Talkalakh. The Syrian government has banned and even detained (kidnapped) foreign journalists, preventing impartial coverage of the conflict.

Last week, mass arrests and heavy security kept crowds below levels seen during previous weeks, suggesting Assad’s campaign of intimidation has been effective. Armed resistance to the Ba’athist regime is also evident. One activist testified there were “heavy exchanges of fire” between security forces and civilians, adding that 19 soldiers died in Talkalakh. A second activist, Mustafa Osso, however, could not confirm accounts of armed resistance from civilians.

On Thursday, US President Barack Hussein Obama noted that the Syrian government “has chosen the path of murder and the mass arrests of its citizens.” Obama praised the Syrian people for their courage in standing up to repression. In addition, Washington imposed new economic sanctions against Syria, holding Assad “personally accountable” for the actions of his security forces. Meanwhile, the European Union is pushing for a second round of European sanctions that would target Syria’s ruling dynasty. Not surprisingly, Russia opposes any form of sanction or intervention against Syria.

Earlier this month, Syrian tanks and troops fired on protesters in the city of Deraa.

The Assad regime accuses the USA, Israel, and Lebanon’s March 14 alliance of fomenting the insurrection. Several days ago, the Syrian Arab News Agency, citing Austrian nationalists, alleged a Zionist conspiracy against Damascus: “A spokesperson for the Freedom Party of Austria (FPO) on Tuesday revealed that some ‘Syrian opposition’ members will meet an Israeli vice minister later this evening at the Austrian capital Vienna, in evidence of those members’ dealing with Israel in conspiring against Syria.”

Latin America File: Sandinistas host leftist luminaries at Sao Paulo Forum’s Managua meet-and-greet; participants include FSP co-founder Lula, Cuba’s communist overlords, “Honduran resistance”

This week, Nicaragua’s past/present Marxist dictator, Daniel Ortega, will host the Sao Paulo Forum (FSP) in Managua. The FSP is not exactly a household word in the shopping mall regime (USA and Canada), but its member parties rule most of the countries in the Western Hemisphere. This glaring omission is probably by design since the Obama White House, the neo-Leninist cabal that controls the Democratic Party, the well-heeled globalists at the Council on Foreign Relations, the cyber-leftists at Wikipedia, CNN, and Hollyweird’s self-anointed activists evidently do not want to disturb the populace’s collective snooze. We’ll hit the alarm button now, though.

In attendance at the latest FSP meet-and-greet will be an assortment of communists, leftists, and other utopian megalomaniacs from South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean Basin. Specific personalities include Jacinto Suarez, representing Nicaragua’s ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front; Valter Pomar, for Brazil’s ruling Workers’ Party and serving as the FSP’s general secretary; Nidia Diaz, for El Salvador’s ruling Farabundo Marti National Front; Marta Perez, for the Dominican Republic’s United Left Movement; Hugo Chavez’s foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, for the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela; and Ricardo Alarcon (pictued above, right), president of the Cuban Parliament and member of the Communist Party of Cuba’s Politburo.

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a “moderate” leftist who founded the FSP in 1990 with a little help from retired dictator Fidel Castro, will put in an appearance on Thursday. Reps for the Honduran “resistance,” which supports the reinstatement of Manuel Zelaya, ousted in June 2009, as president, will also materialize. Last but not least, Rigoberta Menchu, Nobel Prize winner and Guatemalan indigenous leader, will show her true color (red) by participating in this “anti-imperialist” bash.

In total, about 140 delegates fronting for over 50 parties from the hemisphere’s “mini Communist International” will converge in “Revolutionary Managua.” There they will break out into subcommittees to discuss various issues, such as “climate change,” art and culture, “democratization,” female “liberation,” social movements and, most importantly, the overthrow of capitalism (“neoliberalism”) and the end of the “North American bourgeoise.” The FSP last converged in the Nicaraguan capital in 2000.

It is likely the FSP will also discuss the upcoming June 5 run-off vote for the presidency of Peru since Ollanta Humala, whose Peruvian Nationalist Party belongs to the FSP, is contesting the election. Incidentally, if Humala wins the election, then the lingering remnants of the Communist Party of Peru-Shining Path can lay down their arms since a Chavez-friendly leftist will be in power in Lima. No doubt, too, the FSP will close ranks with President Ortega, who is making an unconstitutional bid for re-election this November, backed by a new martial law package that will enable “Comandante” to resuscitate his 1980s dictatorship in toto.

FSP parties are devoted to Latin American political-economic integration and, therefore, governments led by FSP parties usually support one or more of the following regional organizations: Union of South American Nations (Unasur), Southern Common Market (Mercosur), Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), Andean Community of Nations, Central American Integration System (SICA), Latin American Parliament (Parlatino), Central American Parliament (Parlacen), Caribbean Community (Caricom), and Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

With few or no exceptions, every single one of these parties enjoys cozy relations with Washington’s “new partners” in Moscow. In 2006, Gennady Zyuganov, chairman of the (secretly ruling) Communist Party of the Russian Federation, gloated: “Latin America is turning red” (Eurasia Daily Monitor, January 27, 2006). You got that right, comrade. For your records, the FSP is active in the following countries:

Ruling:

Bolivia – Evo Morales, VP ex-guerrilla (Movement toward Socialism)

Brazil – Dilma Rousseff, ex-guerrilla (Workers’ Party)

Cuba – Raul Castro, ex-guerrilla (Communist Party of Cuba)

Dominica – Roosevelt Skerrit (Dominica Labor Party)

Dominican Republic – Leonel Antonio Fernandez Reyna (Dominican Liberation Party)

Ecuador – Rafael Correa (Proud and Sovereign Fatherland Alliance)

El Salvador – Mauricio Funes, VP ex-guerrilla (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front)

Nicaragua – Daniel Ortega, ex-guerrilla (Sandinista National Liberation Front)

Paraguay – Fernando Lugo, ex-liberationist Catholic bishop (Patriotic Alliance for Change)

Uruguay – Jose Mujica, ex-guerrilla (Broad Front)

Venezuela – Hugo Chavez, ex-coupist (United Socialist Party of Venezuela)

Formerly ruling:

Chile – Michelle Bachelet (Socialist Party of Chile)

Non-ruling:

Costa Rica – Ottón Solís (Citizens’ Action Party)

Mexico – Jesus Ortega (Party of the Democratic Revolution)

Peru – Ollanta Humala (Peruvian Nationalist Party)

Aligned governments:

Argentina – Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (Front for Victory, faction of Justicialist Party)

Guatemala – Alvaro Colom (National Unity of Hope)

Haiti – Rene Preval (Hope Front)

Latin America File: El Salvador’s Chile-style economy tanks under FMLN president, Peru’s demise likely under Chavez “mini me”; Brazilian “hotshot” political fixer masterminds Funes, Humala campaigns

The media has made much of the “schism” between El Salvador’s “moderate” center-left president, Mauricio Funes, and his puppet-masters in the Marxist “Politburo” that controls the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), the guerrilla army-turned-political party that won the 2009 election. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “El Salvador Quits the Market Model,” in the first two years of his presidency, Funes has done a fine job of tanking Salvadoran capitalism.

Funes, insists WSJ reporter Mary Anastasia O’Grady, “has been a disaster for the once-thriving Salvadoran economy” and then offers an example: “The United Nations’ Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean reported earlier this month that while ‘the region’s FDI inflows were 40% higher than in 2009,’ El Salvador didn’t benefit. ‘In Central America, foreign investment flows to all countries grew, except in the case of El Salvador.’ It experienced a 79% decline.” The FMLN’s legacy as a communist insurgent group has no doubt contributed to this flight of foreign investment.

Between the 1992 peace accords, which ended the Salvadoran Civil War, and the formation of the first FMLN government, 17 years later, “the country began a modernization that lasted more than a decade.”  O’Grady compares the Salvadoran “economic miracle” with that of Chile’s: “The free market reforms were unique in Central America and nearly unequaled in the wider region. Only Chile’s economic liberalization of the 1970s and 1980s [under General Augusto Pinochet] was comparable.” She elaborates:

The results were impressive, particularly for a country with a largely uneducated work force. From 1989 to 2008 El Salvador had the highest export growth in the region (an increase of some 800%), and per capita growth in gross domestic product was among the fastest in the region. This was led for the first time by strong performance in the industrial sector instead of in more traditional agriculture. By 2006, the poverty rate had fallen to 31% of the population from 60% in 1991.

During this period, the center-right Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) governed El Salvador. Seeking to be balanced, WSJ notes that the Salvadoran economy began slowing down under ARENA’s last president, Tony Saca, who was elected in 2004. Saca’s refusal to grant operating permits to Pacific Rim Mining Corporation for its El Dorado gold mine in one of the poorest parts of the country led to the forfeiting of thousands of jobs.

Since Funes came into office in April 2009, however, El Salvador’s debt position fell apart rapidly. In December 2008, the debt-to-GDP ratio was just under 36%, but two years later it was more than 51%. According to San Salvador’s first quarter 2011 fiscal report, there has been a 17.5% year-over-year increase in current expenses. This includes a 15.5% jump in the public-sector wage bill, 21% growth in government expenditures on goods and services, and a 48% increase in transfer payments. San Salvador’s fiscal deficit has expanded 28.6%.

More seriously, Moody’s has twice downgraded El Salvador’s debt, while Standard & Poor’s has issued one downgrade. Last fall, when Fitch Ratings urged El Salvador to improve its investment climate or risk a downgrade, Funes told Diario de Hoy that if the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Inter-American Development Bank had no confidence in his country, they could keep their credit. WSJ quips of Funes: “He obviously never has heard of Greece.”

Incidentally, the Greek Communist Party (KKE), which enjoys the support of 10% of the electorate, is spearheading large anti-austerity demonstrations throughout the ancient birthplace of democracy. Perhaps the FMLN, like the KKE, hopes to radicalize El Salvador’s voters prior to a full-blown red coup.

The Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom recently plucked another feather from Funes’ cap. In 2000, the Heritage Foundation ranked El Salvador’s economy as the ninth freest in the world, but now places it at 39. Like Saca, Funes refuses to allow the Pacific Rim mine to operate so the country now has no active mining concessions. “But that loss of investment and jobs has not satisfied the party base of the FMLN,” observes O’Grady sardonically, “They complain loudly that Mr. Funes has yet to completely quash Salvadoran capitalism.”

In an effort to shine the USA’s perpetually tarnished image in Latin America and possibly to woo Salvadoran immigrants into the Democratic Party camp, the Obama White House has snuggled up to the Funes government. This past March, US President Barack Hussein Obama (pictured above) winged his way to Central America, where he pressed the flesh with Funes and pledged US$200 million to fight drug trafficking and gang violence. “The US wants to be a partner in this process,” Obama gushed. “We want El Salvador to be successful.” This has hardly been the case, though.

Obama later toured the National Cathedral and visited the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated in 1980 after criticizing the Carter Administration for funding the Revolutionary Government Junta that came to power the previous year. In 1993 by an official United Nations report identified the man who ordered Romero’s killing as former Major and School of the Americas graduate Roberto (“Blowtorch Bob”) D’Aubuisson, founder of ARENA.

According to O’Grady, Peru’s economy faces a similarly bleak future under left-nationalist Ollanta Humala, a presidential contender whose rival in the June 5 run-off vote is the daughter of jailed president Alberto Fujimori. Both Funes and Humala have employed the services of the same Brazilian advertising “hotshot,” João Santana, to orchestrate their election campaigns. “If João Santana’s expertise translates into a Humala victory, Peruvians had better hope that the similarities end there,” O’Grady warns darkly. In the latest public opinion polls, Keiko Fujimori had a narrow but growing lead over ex-soldier Humala, whose past association with Hugo Chavez has proven to be a liability.

Diplomatic cables quoted by the newspaper El Comercio and published by WikiLeaks reveal that Humala received funding from Venezuela’s communist dictator in 2006, at which time he lost the presidency to Alan Garcia. The cables cited sociologist and drug trafficking expert Jaime Antezana as telling US diplomats in Peru that Humula was “financed by the government of Venezuela.” Antezana, however, later denied telling US officials anything of the sort. During his current run for Peru’s top post, Humala has downplayed both his own leftism and admiration of Chavez.

In a previous post, we reported that in 2006 Venezuela’s chief elections officer showed up in Lima to encourage Humala’s last bid for the presidency.

Mexican Narco-State File: Gunmen kill 9 election workers in politically motivated attack in Oaxaca; shocking mass grave in Durango eclipses Tamaulipas atrocity; drug war spills into Guatemala, state of emergency declared in 2 provinces

Over the weekend, the body count in Mexico’s grim four-and-a-half-year drug war mounted, approaching 40,000, as well as assuming political overtones. The most powerful drug trafficking outfits are the Sinaloa, Tijuana, Gulf, Juarez, Los Zetas, Beltran Leyva, and La Familia Michoacana cartels. Most of the violence has taken place in the northern states that border the USA, but bloody incidents have spilled over into the southern states as well. Mexico’s narcistas buy up to 20 percent of their firearms from the US black market, but also from the Poldolskaya and Solntsevskaya branches of the Russian mafia which, according to Interpol, is actively trafficking drugs and arms in Mexico.

On Monday, gunmen attacked a town in the poor, southwest state of Guerrero, killing four police officers and two civilians. The narcistas opened fire on the police around 10:24 a.m. in a square in the town of Coyuca de Catalan, according to the Guerrero Public Safety Secretariat. A police major, three officers, a taxi driver and a woman died, while two other bystanders were wounded in the attack. Guerrero’s Tierra Caliente region, where the attack occurred, has been the scene of a turf war between rival cartels.

This past Saturday, in the same state, four police officers and nine narcistas died in a shootout on the Acapulco-Zihuatanejo highway. The 90-minute gun battle erupted after a special operations police unit intercepted a five-vehicle convoy of gunmen near Los Achotes, a community outside the city of Zihuatanejo. After the shootout, police seized the narcistas’ vehicles, 16 assault rifles, three grenades, 2,000 rounds of ammunition, bullet-proof vests, and military-style uniforms.

The impoverished state of Guerrero, whose mountains are a prime growing area for marijuana, witnessed the murder of 370 people in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco in 2010. The sporadically active guerrilla group known as the Popular Revolutionary Army also originated in Guerrero in the mid-1990s.

In neighboring Oaxaca, gunmen ambushed nine people on a dirt road as the victims travelled from the community of La Tani toward Santiago Choapan to work on final preparations for a special election in that city. The municipal elections in Santiago Choapan were annulled in 2010 due to irregularities. Oaxaca’s police chief Cesar Alfaro and Deputy Government Secretary Oscar Cruz arrived by helicopter to appraise the situation firsthand and begin an investigation. This incident also occurred on Saturday.

Two groups, one led by the family of former state legislator Damaso Nicolas, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and the other led by Cesar Mateos, a member of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, have been fighting for control of Santiago Choapan. “Nicolas is a chieftain because his family has always had power, and now that other actors want to participate they are against it, and we blame them for the violence,” accused leftist rival Mateos.

In 2006, leftist activists, rejecting the PRI’s decades-old stranglehold over the government of Oaxaca, established a counter-government in the state capital.

This past Friday, seven gunmen kidnapped the police chief of Ascencion, a city in the northern state of Chihuahua, as the official and two bodyguards returned from the city of Casas Grandes. According to the state Attorney General’s Office, Manuel Martinez Arvizo and his security detail were ambushed on a highway, forced at gunpoint into another vehicle, and driven to the vicinity of the nearby city of Janos. State police confirm that Martinez Arvizo and his bodyguards were killed, but not before their captors tortured them.

A few months ago, the residents of Ascencion protested police corruption by sacking the police department’s 12 officers and assuming control of public safety operations themselves. The drug war in Chihuahua alone has claimed the lives of one quarter of Mexico’s total war dead. The Juarez and Sinaloa cartels are the two main criminal entities competing for domination of the smuggling corridors that pass through this border state into the USA. Mayors and local police chiefs are frequent targets of Mexico’s drug gangs.

In a related story (pictured above), the indigenous inhabitants of Cherán, Michoacán, also took the law into their own hands by erecting road barricades to protect their land from illegal loggers, whom they believe are backed by drug traffickers. “The rebellion in Cherán caught the attention of the federal government,” reports Fox News, “which  deployed troops and federal police last week to patrol the outskirts of the  town.”

President Felipe Calderon has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers and federal police across the country, especially in the north, to crush the drug lords and their private armies. The Mexican government, however, has been unable to prevent the narcistas from carrying out appalling massacres.

For example, in Durango, security forces have announced the discovery of another 17 bodies in mass graves first uncovered last month. This revelation brings the number of bodies unearthed in this northern state to 218, eclipsing the 183 bodies found in pits last month in Tamaulipas, a state that borders both Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. In a separate incident, this past Sunday Durango security officials acknowledged that nine dead bodies were found on a street in the state capital. The Sinaloa, Los Zetas, and Beltran Leyva cartels have been fighting for control of Durango’s drug routes.

In another important victory against the cartels’ command structures, the Mexican government has announced that soldiers captured a top member of the Sinaloa crime group. Suspected drug boss Martin Beltran Coronel serves as one of Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman’s lieutenants. Beltran Coronel, a cousin of slain kingpin Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, was arrested last Thursday in the wealthy Guadalajara suburb of Zapopan.

“Beltran Coronel had the blessing of Joaquin Guzman … which made him part of the leadership of the cartel,” Mexican Army Colonel Edgar Luis Villegas told reporters as the drug boss was paraded on television. Fugitive Guzman is believed to be hiding in and around his home state of Sinaloa.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s drug war has spilled cross the southern border into Guatemala. There center-left president Alvaro Colom has declared a state of emergency in at least two provinces, Alta Verapaz and more recently Peten, the country’s largest. Over the weekend, 30 to 40 members of the Los Zetas drug cartel, which has reportedly set up training camps in Guatemala’s northern jungles, massacred 27  farmworkers, beheading all but one victim. “We are willing to deal with these people,” vowed Colom to Mexico’s MVS radio on Tuesday, calling the slaughter “barbaric.”

Last December, the Guatemalan president imposed a state of emergency in Alta Verapaz, extending the emergency rule in January. At the time, Guatemalan soldiers seized more than 80 machine guns and assault rifles and 48 vehicles, while more than 20 people linked to drug trafficking were arrested.

Red Dawn Alert: Iranian engineers visited Venezuela’s Paraguaná Peninsula in February, plan to build 20-meter-deep missile silos, bunker, barracks; rocket base designed to deter enemies of both states

Today the Jerusalem Post carried a follow-up to a story first exposed by Die Welt last December. Last year, according to the German media source, Communist Venezuela and Islamo-Nazi Iran inked a secret pact to build a medium-range missile base in the South American country. The presidents of the two countries, Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Adhmadinejad, are vehemently anti-USA and anti-Israel.

Pictured above: Ahmadinejad welcomes Chavez to Tehran on April  2, 2009.

This week, Die Welt reports that Iranian engineers from the Khatam al-Anbia construction firm, which is owned by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, actually visited Venezuela’s Paraguaná Peninsula in February. Citing information from “Western security insiders,” the German newspaper reveals that Amir al-Hadschisadeh, chief of the Revolutionary Guard’s Air Force, led the delegation.

In addition to 20-meter-deep missile silos, the Iranian military plans to build a command and control bunker, barracks for missile troops, and a watch tower. The Iranians paid cash for the “preliminary phase of the project,” while the total cost is expected to amount to “dozens of millions” of dollars. The missile base will feature measures that deter air attacks against Venezuela, allowing the Chavez regime to launch missiles against enemies of both countries. The Paraguaná Peninsula is on Venezuela’s Caribbean coast and about 120 kilometers from the USA’s main South American partner, Colombia.

The similarities between this development and the Cuban Missile Crisis, which took place almost 50 years ago, are striking. Not so coincidentally, both Chavez and Adhmadinejad are reliable strategic partners of Russia, which should provoke one to wonder who’s really behind the Caracas-Tehran missile pact. The neo-Soviet leadership has not hesitated to express its “concerns” over the placement of US anti-missile batteries in “ex”-communist Poland and Romania. So far, the Obama White House has not responded to this story.

Doom File: Japan’s Tepco finally admits Fukushima reactor no. 1 underwent full meltdown, fallout contaminating US water, milk supplies; source: new radioactive cloud heading toward North America

On May 12, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Mark Colvin reported on the real effects of the March 11 mega-quake that crippled Japan: “The company that owns the Fukushima nuclear plant, Tepco, has finally admitted what many have long suspected, that one of their reactors underwent a full meltdown after the tsunami that hit Japan’s east Coast. They say the fuel rods in the number one reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant are exposed.”

The Japanese media also reports that “Another leak at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant has been pouring radioactive water filled with high amounts of cesium into the Pacific Ocean for an unknown period of time, but Tokyo Electric Power Co. was able to plug the leak.” Tepco swung into damage control mode after discovering that “The water in the pit contained cesium-134 at 620,000 times the legal level and cesium-137 at 430,000 times the limit . . . The radiation on the water’s surface was giving off scorching readings of 1.5 millisieverts per hour. The leak was stopped Wednesday night after filling the pit with concrete and other materials.”

Radioactive cesium, transported by prevailing westerlies across the Pacific Ocean and North America, was detected in Vermont’s milk supply more than a month ago. Radiation from Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant has also been detected in the water supply of at least 13 US cities.

Although Western leaders are distracted by NATO intervention in the Libyan civil war, the Japanese nuclear crisis continues to bubble below the surface of public awareness. According to the Market Oracle’s Chris Kitze, who stumbled across a global radiation forecast inadvertantly posted at the website of Austria’s Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG), another “massive radiation cloud” is heading toward the USA and Canada from Japan.

The presence of radioactive fallout in North America from Japan’s nuclear crisis is certainly troubling, but fortunately has yet to reach levels that pose immediate health hazards.

Red Cocaine File: Bolivarian Intelligence Service recruited FARC to kill Chavez’s opponents; Ecuador becomes international narco-hub; Zapatistas denounce anti-drug effort, 20,000 EZLN rebels/sympathizers march in Chiapas

On March 1, 2008 Colombian troops raided a jungle camp of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the world’s largest insurgent army, which is still seeking to establish a Marxist dictatorship in Bogota, nearly two decades after the much-ballyhooed “demise” of the Soviet Union. Since the jungle camp was located in Ecuador, an international fracas dubbed the Andean Crisis erupted, provoking the allied communist regimes in Venezuela and Ecuador to deploy tanks and troops along their respective border with Colombia.

During the assault, Colombian security forces cornered and killed a FARC commander, Raúl Reyes, seizing a laptop with a treasure trove of incriminating emails and other documents that Interpol later validated as “genuine.” Not so coincidentally, one week later Thai authorities arrested suspected Russian arms smuggler Viktor (“Lord of War”) Bout in Bangkok. US counterparts accused the former Soviet Armed Forces lieutenant of attempting to sell surface-to-air missiles to FARC and in November 2010 extradited the self-avowed “businessman” to the USA, where he faces charges of terrorism.

Lately, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London re-scrutinized the “FARC Files” and published a 240-page analysis of the rebel army. On the basis of these documents, think tank president Nigel Inkster contends that the regime of President Hugo Chavez has on certain occasions recruited FARC insurgents to provide urban guerrilla training to pro-government cells in Venezuela, to assassinate Chavez’s political opponents, and to serve as a shadow militia for Venezuela’s intelligence apparatus.

Inkster cautions there is no evidence that Chávez was directly aware of the assassination requests or that “hit jobs” were ever carried out. “We haven’t begun the dossier with the words ‘J’accuse,’ ” said Inkster, who is also one of the book’s editors. “Instead we tried to produce a sober analysis of the FARC since the late 1990s, when Venezuela became a central element of their survival strategy.”

The rocky relationship between ex-paratrooper Chavez and Reyes began during a covert meeting in Venezuela in September 2000, at which time the Venezuelan president agreed to lend FARC US$300 million in hard currency for weapons purchases. Venezuela’s red dictator apparently viewed the communist rebels as “an ally that would keep U.S. and Colombian military strength in the region tied down in counterinsurgency, helping to reduce perceived threats against Venezuela.”

A spokesman for Miraflores Palace, the presidential residence in Caracas, refused to comment on the assertions in the IISS publication. However, over the last three years, the Venezuelan government has denounced revelations from Reyes’ computer as “fabrications.” However, this data in fact led to the recovery of caches of depleted uranium in Colombia and stashes of US cash in Costa Rica, both of which were believe by authorities to represent part of FARC’s terrorism support network.

The IISS book explains how Venezuela’s main intelligence agency, known as the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) since December 2009 but previously as DISIP, enlisted FARC in training state security forces and conducting terrorist attacks, including bombings, in Caracas in 2002 and 2003. A meeting described by the authors shows that Chavez was almost certainly unaware of DISIP’s decision to involve the Colombian guerrillas in state terrorism, but that DISIP officials still “carried out such contacts with a large amount of autonomy.”

Drawing from FARC’s computer archives, the book describes how the guerrillas trained various pro-Chavez organizations in Venezuela, including the Bolivarian Liberation Forces, a “shadowy” paramilitary group operating along the border with Colombia. FARC communications also discussed providing training in urban terrorism methods for cadres of the pro-Chavez Communist Party of Venezuela and several radical cells from 23 de Enero, a Caracas slum that has long been a nest of “pro-Chavez activity.”

The IISS book cites requests by Chavez’s regime for the guerrillas to assassinate at least two of his opponents. FARC discussed one such request in 2006 from Julio Chirino, a security adviser for Alí Rodríguez Araque, a top Venezuelan official. According to the archive, Chirino asked the FARC to bump off Henry López Sisco, who headed DISIP at the time of a 1986 massacre of unarmed members of a subversive group. “They ask that if possible we give it to this guy in the head,” said Reyes. The book acknowledges there
was no evidence that FARC acted on the request before López Sisco left Venezuela in November 2006.

The IISS makes it clear that the Colombian rebels sometimes found their Venezuelan allies “unscrupulous and deceitful.” In one example, Mono Jojoy, who was killed in a bombing raid in 2010, had harsh words for Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, a former Venezuelan naval officer who served as a top liaison between Chavez and the FARC, branding him “the worst kind of bandit.” Jojoy also called Chavez himself a “deceitful and divisive president who lacked the resolve to organize himself politically and militarily.” A member of FARC’s secretariat, Jojoy was the nom de guerre of Víctor Suárez Rojas.

The “FARC Files” also show that the guerrillas contributed US$400,000 to Rafael Correa’s 2006 presidential bid in Ecuador. Socialist Correa is a close ally or, perhaps more accurately, “mini me” of Chavez. “Correa almost certainly approved the use of these funds in his campaign, but this did not translate into a policy of state support for the insurgents during the brief period between Correa’s inauguration and Reyes’ death,” Inkster said during the book launch. Like Chavez, Correa has been reluctant to characterize FARC as a terrorist organization, demanding that the Union of South American Nations do this first.

This past Sunday, Chavez telephoned Correa to congratulate the latter on his victory during the previous day’s referendum, in which a majority of Ecuadoreans affirmed a raft of reforms advocated by Correa. The Venezuelan president “interpreted the results of this victory as an undisputable sign that the will of the Ecuadorian people is to continue building the Citizens’ Revolution of Rafael Correa.” Chavez gushed: “Among the extremely important decisions that were adopted by the Ecuadorian people within
the framework of a new democracy that they are building in this brother country, was the regulation of media content in favour of the citizenship, the limiting of bank participation in the property of that media, and the transformation of the judicial system.”

Chavez’s rosy reference to the regulation of media content in Ecuador and the appointment of Correa lackeys in the judiciary is ironic since the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is concerned that Correa will use the proposed government panel to censor free speech. “We believe the referendum questions are aimed at stifling voices that oppose your administration,” Joel Simon, the group’s executive director, said in an April 18 open letter to Correa published on the CPJ website.

A government crackdown on political opponents and critics, including lawsuits against at least three reporters and the country’s biggest newspaper, El Universo, for
allegedly insulting Correa, may be a sign the government plans to use any new powers to silence dissenters, asserted former President Osvaldo Hurtado in a May 3 email for public consumption.

During their May 8 phone conversation, Chavez and Correa also discussed bilateral relations, including the success of the sucre, a new “virtual currency” used for trade among member states of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, which include Venezuela and Ecuador.

Last Saturday’s popular referendum is only one factor hastening the demise of Ecuadorean democracy, advanced under the guise of a “Citizens’ Revolution.” Again, like Chavez, Correa has provided safe haven for the narco-communist FARC, transforming his small jungle country into a “United Nations of organized crime.” This quote reflects the assessment of Jay Bergman, director of the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s operations for the Andean region of South America.

Ecuador is “sandwiched” between the continent’s two top cocaine producers, Colombia and Peru. On the one hand, FARC controls large swathes of Colombian territory, while on the other hand, a pro-Chavez left-nationalist, Ollanta Humala, is poised to win next month’s run-off election in Lima. A much-diminished Shining Path still lurks in the Peruvian jungles.

“We have cases of Albanian, Ukrainian, Italian, Chinese organized crime all in Ecuador, all getting their product for distribution to their respective countries,” observes Bergman, adding: “If I’m an Italian organized drug trafficker and I want to meet with my Colombian counterpart … I would probably prefer  to meet in Ecuador than to meet in Colombia. [It’s easier to] have my passport stamped as Ecuador and say, ‘Yea, I went to the Galapagos islands for vacation.’”

High-profile drug busts suggest that Quito’s attempts to interdict shipments are motivated by a respect of law and order. “They [Ecuadorean officials] are doing a pretty bang up job in terms of basic interdictions with a fraction of the capabilities and the resources of the Colombians,” Bergman admitted. However, in 2008, in a move to boost tourism, Correa dropped a visa requirement so that visitors from any country can stay in Ecuador for up to three months.

In a previous post, we also reported how the Russian mafia, which is a front for the Russian Federation’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR/KGB), has turned Ecuador into a base for shipping arms to FARC.

In the mid-1990s, Colombian and US special forces decimated the Cali and Medellin cartels, only to watch FARC assume control over the production of cocaine but shift responsibility for international shipment and distribution to foreign organized crime groups, including the Mexican cartels. The last, of course, have turned the USA’s southern neighbour into a gruesome battlefield since late 2006. At the last link, Reuters reports: “Powerful Mexican cartels are the largest buyers of [communist-produced] Colombian cocaine to supply the massive U.S. market.”

For the most part, Mexico’s communist insurgents, especially the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), have been strangely silent as the drug lords challenge the legitimacy of the country’s “bourgeois” National Action Party government. “Until this year,” comments Jose Gil Olmos of the Center for Latin American and Border Studies at New Mexico State University, “the Zapatistas had been largely silent on the so-called drug war that has ravaged Mexico during the past few years.”

In a communiqué dated April 28, the leadership of the Chiapas-based, indigenous-Marxist EZLN, named after a hero of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917), declared it “wholeheartedly” supported a call by poet Javier Sicilia to hold multiple anti-drug war protest marches. In a pronouncement signed by the EZLN’s be-masked guerrilla leader, “Subcomandante Marcos,” the rebel force said it would end its sympathy march with readings of statements in Spanish and Indian languages.

The Zapatistas further condemned the Mexican government’s anti-organized crime strategy as a “psychotic military campaign by Felipe Calderon Hinojosa” that has turned into a “totalitarian argument” for spreading fear across the country. The EZLN urged its sympathizers in Mexico and throughout the world (like MIT professor Noam
Chomsky
) to support the movement launched by Sicilia, which arose after the poet’s son and friends were murdered in Cuernavaca, Morelos, apparently by narcistas.

Beginning on Thursday, May 5, Mexicans heeded Sicilia’s summons to protest against Calderon’s anti-cartel crackdown. The largest march, reports the leftist Upside Down World, lasted four days and covered nearly 100 kilometers from Cuernavaca, Morelos, to Mexico City. On May 5, about 500 protesters began marching in Cuernavaca. Along the way, more contingents joined the march, while other marches set out from different states to join the primary protest in the federal capital. By the time the marches converged in Mexico City’s main square on Sunday, May 8, an estimated 100,000 people were gathered to protest the war.

On Saturday, May 7, some 20,000 silent masked Indians, waving Mexican and EZLN flags, took to the streets of San Cristobal de Las Casas (pictured above) in a show of support for both the guerrilla army and Sicilia’s national march for peace. The demonstration, the largest organized by the Zapatistas in a decade, was not attended by Subcomandante Marcos. “The governments say that the only good strategy is one that leaves the streets and fields of Mexico bloody, and destroys families, communities and the entire country,” EZLN commander “David” railed in an address to the marchers.

In 1994, following the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the EZLN engaged in several armed conflicts with the Mexican military in Chiapas, but has since then relegated its official opposition to the federal government to formal pronouncements, protest marches, and other publicity stunts replete with warmed-over Cold War-era proletarian rantings.

WW4 File: USA to install anti-missile batteries in Romania, Kremlin vows “counter-measures”; Pravda paints Washington as “aggressor,” urges placement of Iskander missiles in Transnistria to threaten Bucharest

The Kremlin is going “ballistic” over a new US-Romanian military agreement that will place three air defense batteries with a total of 24 SM-3 interceptor missiles in the Romanian town of Deveselu. The last, as the Russians are quick to point out, is 500 kilometers from Sevastopol, Ukraine, where the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet is based. At first 200 US troops will man the anti-missile unit, which is equipped with the Aegis radar system, then this figure will be boosted to 500. Ironically, the US missile troops will be stationed at the site of a former Soviet air base.

Pictured above: On May 3, 2011, Romanian army personnel attend the inaugural ceremony of the location for installing US anti-missile batteries at Deveselu air base, 240 kilometers southwest of Bucharest.

Until 1991, Romania was a member of the Warsaw Pact, but now belongs to NATO. Its president is “ex”-communist Traian Basescu. From the vantage of the long-range Soviet deception plan, this troubling fact suggests that Bucharest and the “ex”-communists who rule Russia are purposely luring the USA into the territory of the old Soviet Bloc in order to portray Washington as aggressor.

“Military specialists in the United States, NATO and Romania should be absolutely aware that any measure entails counter-measures,” rumbled Konstantin Kosachev, who heads the foreign policy committee of the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament. He added: “The counter measures would be used with the sole purpose of protecting Russia and would not be aimed at any particular state. My personal point of view is that the ideal scenario would be for the United States to issue legal guarantees, but the Americans are unlikely to do that.”

The head of the State Duma’s defense committee, Viktor Zavarzin, complained: “The Romanian deal will have a negative impact on inter-European relations and undermine the existing balance of forces and interests. And this, in turn, will provoke an unnecessary escalation of tensions.”

On Tuesday, Moscow issued an urgent request for legal guarantees from Washington that its missile shield will not target Russia’s strategic nuclear forces.

With characteristic nastiness, communist organ Pravda professes to reveal the US government’s true intentions in the Balkan Peninsula. “The U.S. policy is clear,” Pravda smirks, then quotes Konstantin Sivkov, a military expert and Senior Vice President of the Academy of Geopolitical Issues, as saying:

The missile defense system that Americans are placing in Romania is designed to destroy ballistic and tactical goals. If you look at the map of the region, the Romanian base can be used for only one goal: to keep southern regions of Russia at gunpoint and enable hitting our cruise missiles.

Missile defense elements in Romania are a part of the U.S. plan to encircle Russia with military bases. There are no other potential threats to
the U.S. in this region.
Turkey is a NATO member, Ukraine is actively cooperating with NATO. There are potential “hot spots” – the Crimea, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. The Americans are arming Georgia and pulling together the forces to the region – quite probably in anticipation of worsening of the conditions in this part of the world.

Contrary to the statements of the President of Romania, the missile defense deployment is directed precisely against Russia. We could take retaliatory measures such as deploying Iskander and transferring fighter bombers in the area. However, this requires political will. The pro-Western lobby in the Russian elite is too strong, and they prefer to buy NATO weapons we do not need like [French-built] “Mistral” [helicopter assault] ships. It is unlikely that we will respond to the missile defenses in full.

Pravda accuses former red Basesecu of being Washington’s “chain dog” and urges the deployment of Iskander missiles in the unrecognized, but pro-Moscow republic of Transnistria, which is wedged between Moldova and Ukraine: “Russia will have to respond not only to the Americans but also to the Romanians. There is no guarantee that it
will be one and the same response. For example, the deployment of Iskander in Transnistria is unlikely to impress Washington, but would be a different story for Bucharest.”

The communist editors of Pravda darkly observe that US missile “defense” elements in Romania are part of a wider Pentagon plan to place missiles in close proximity to Russian borders, including last year in Poland and possibly Bulgaria. In May 2010, the US military delivered a Patriot surface-to-air missile battery to Morag, Poland, which is only 60 kilometers from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, itself suspected of hosting part of the Kremlin’s nuclear arsenal. At the time, a Russian foreign ministry statement warned: “Military activities like these do not contribute to strengthening our common security, developing relations of trust and predictability in the region.” Polish Defence Minister Bogdan Klich retorted: “You don’t need to be a specialist to know that this kind of defence weapon cannot be turned into an offensive weapon.”

No doubt the neo-Soviet leadership will use this September’s Russian-Belarusian-Ukrainian military maneuver, Union Shield 2011, to dramatically register its disapproval of the US military presence in the Not-So-Former Soviet Bloc.

Communism with Canadian Characteristics: Conservatives secure third mandate, form majority government; socialists crush long-ruling Liberals and Quebec separatists, first time in official opposition

Since 2004 Canadians have held four federal parliamentary elections. However, the country’s era of political instability, which saw the gradual demise of the formerly dominant Liberal Party, appears to have come to an end.

In 2006 and 2008, voters elected two minority Conservative Party governments. In today’s election, the socialist New Democratic Party surged ahead, sweeping aside two other opposition parties, the center-left Liberals and separatist Bloc Quebecois. At the same time, the NDP handed Prime Minister Stephen Harper his first Conservative majority in the House of Commons. While Harper will no doubt rejoice in his commanding lead in the poll, a leader of the NDP, ex-political science professor Jack Layton (pictured above), will for the first time head the country’s official opposition.

For four decades, the Socialist International-affiliated NDP has been committed to withdrawing Canada, the USA’s most reliable ally, from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The Socialist Caucus within the NDP reveals on its website:

Whereas NATO is a relic of the Cold War and a tool of US aggression in pursuit of corporate interests and militarism;

And whereas Canadian forces in Afghanistan are engaged in combat against national resistance forces, to prop up a US-puppet government of human rights abusers, drug traffickers and warlords, to occupy and control a region of the country for the purpose of constructing through it a lucrative oil/gas pipeline, and to justify aggressive militarism increasingly allied to Washington s global corporate agenda;

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP actively campaign to get Canada out of NATO, to get NATO out of Afghanistan, and to disengage Canadian forces from any support role for the U.S. and its client regime in Iraq, from the training of Iraqi soldiers in Jordan, and policing the shipping lanes of the Persian Gulf.

By contrast, Layton has seemingly distanced himself from his party’s historical position and the Socialist Caucus’ current position by talking about “transforming” NATO, rather than leading Canada out of the military alliance. However, in 2009, NDP defence critic Jack Harris downplayed the neo-Soviet threat:

Real action to build Canada’s North, not rhetoric, empty promises and photo ops will protect Canada’s Arctic sovereignty. For weeks we have heard the Conservative Defence Minister posturing about the Russian military threat to Canada’s Arctic. Russia as a military threat to the Canadian people is a myth being orchestrated by the Conservative government to divert attention from their lack of real action. We have fewer sovereignty disputes with Russia than we do other with nations.

According to the Socialist Caucus, in order to be true to its origins, the NDP must nationalize (communize) Canada’s telecommunication providers, oil and natural gas companies, automobile manufacturers, banks, and insurance companies. With his solid majority, Harper can hold off the socialists for another four years, but the leftward shift among Quebec voters, where the separatists received a body blow, reveals a province that has yet to find its place in the “Great Pink North.” All things considered, the results of today’s election in Canada leave your resident blogger with an uneasy feeling for the future of his homeland.

Grey Terror File: White House confirms death of Osama bin Laden: US Navy Seals raid hideout in Abbotabad, Pakistan, corner and kill terrorist mastermind

After nearly 10 years of rumors concerning the demise of the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the USA, the White House has confirmed the death of Saudi-born arch-terrorist Osama bin Laden.

EU/USSR2 Files: Dutch Special Services arrest fighter pilot on charges of passing secrets to Belarus; Russian strategic bombers regularly probe airspace around Netherlands, other NATO states

On April 29, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, citing Minsk’s Telegraaf, reported that Dutch Special Services have detained an F-16 fighter pilot from the country’s air force on suspicion of spying for Belarus. The 37-year-old airman from the 313 squadron, known only as “Captain Chris V,” is accused of passing state secrets to the “former” Soviet republic via a national of that country, most likely, we suspect, a covert agent of the Belarusian State Security Committee (KGB).

The Dutch prosecutor’s office declined to comment on the incident, citing “interests in the investigation in regard to the delicacy of the issue from a diplomatic point of view.” The pilot was actually detained more than six weeks ago, on March 17. He will face a military tribunal on June 9.

Since 2007, when Moscow formally resumed strategic aviation patrols after a 15-year hiatus, Tu-95 Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack bombers have regularly probed the perimeter of Dutch airspace, as well as that of other NATO states, such as the USA, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Did the “state secrets” that the Dutch pilot pass to the Belarusians include composition, deployment, and command and control details of the Netherlands Royal Air Force or other NATO air forces? Unless further information is released to the news media, of course, we can only speculate.

However, “ex”-communist dictator Alexander Lukashenko is a compliant “little brother” in the Union State of Russia and Belarus. The Belarusian KGB works hand in glove with the Russian Federation Federal Security Service (FSB). Thus, purloined information that arrives in Minsk no doubt makes its way to Moscow, possibly for a price.

Spies from the Not-So-Former Soviet Union are busy throughout NATO countries, even though we are told the Cold War has “ended.”

In 2009, Polish authorities detained a Russian national on charges of spying for Russian military intelligence (GRU). “It’s the first case since 1989 when a Russian spy was detected,” remarked an employee of the Chancellery of the Polish President last year. Polish authorities claim that for over six years “Tadeusz J” gathered sensitive information on the Polish Land Forces (army) and relayed that information to his Russian handlers via the latest cryptographic communications technology. In December 2010, the GRU agent was sentenced to three years in prison.

Last year, US authorities exposed and busted a deep-cover Russian spy ring, the members of which were deported back to their homeland via a Cold War-style “spy swap” in Vienna. Around the same period, British authorities arrested Katia Zatuliveter, assistant to Michael Hancock, a pro-Moscow Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament who sat on the Commons Defense Committee.

North Africa File: Qaddafi calls for ceasfire as Libyan civil war spills into Tunisia; rebels, regime forces battle for border crossing; Qaddafi loyalists shell Tunisian border town, Tunisian troops seize Libyan army convoy

On Saturday, Libya’s socialist dictator, Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi, once again called for ceasefire between his troops and NATO-backed rebels. Even as he delivered his televised remarks (pictured here), warplanes from the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, France, and Italy pounded government targets in Tripoli, disrupting the broadcast several times. Defiant, Qaddafi refused to resign or leave the country as the rebels and the leaders of the USA, UK, and France have demanded. “I’m not leaving my country,” he ranted, blaming Al Qaeda for the popular uprising against his 41-year-old regime. “No one can force me to leave my country and no one can tell me not to fight for my country.”

Two days ago, rebels and forces loyal to Qaddafi battled for a key border crossing near Dehiba, Tunisia, leading to the shelling of the Tunisian town and the subsequent seizure by Tunisian troops of a Libyan army convoy.

According to state-run Tunis Afrique Presse (TAP), Qaddafi forces took control of the crossing in clashes that “caused deaths and injuries of many people.” Al Jazeera television later reported that rebels had retaken control of the crossing and that the Tunisian army captured 16 Libyan vehicles transporting Qaddafi forces. Late yesterday, the Tunisian government asserted that shells had hit Dehiba.

“The Tunisian authorities informed the Libyans of their extreme indignation and asked them to take immediate measures to stop these violations,” the Tunisian Foreign Ministry huffed in a faxed statement. TAP added that the Tunisian military was deployed to “monitor the developments.”

The clashes near Dehiba provoked panic among local residents and Libyan refugees in Tunisia. The crossing is part of a rebel supply route between Tunisia, which ousted its own dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January, and the Nafusah Mountains in western Libya. In that region, Qaddafi forces have surrounded and begun advancing on the rebel-held cities of Yafran, Galaa, and Kiklah, while rebels fortify their positions in the cities of Nalut, Jadu, and Zintan.

The skirmish near Dehiba, reports Bloomberg, “highlighted intensified fighting” in the mountainous region southwest of Tripoli. There, say US officials, Qaddafi’s troops have been attacking minority Berbers who support the rebellion, the most serious challenge to the strongman’s 41-year-old dictatorship. On April 27 Gene Cretz, US ambassador to Libya, told reporters at the State Department that the dictator’s troops “have been especially brutal” in the western mountains “where there has always been a suspicion on the part of Qaddafi toward the Berber groups.”

Elsewhere in the North African country, fighting has centered on the rebel-held western port city of Misurata, where this week opposition forces once again pushed Qaddafi forces out of the downtown core. Qaddafi’s troops, consisting of army loyalists and thousands of mercenaries from Africa and others from Eastern Europe–Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Serbia–continued to shell civilian areas in the city even as rebels staged an advance.

The eruption of violence in western Libya contrasts with the rebel frontline in the east, where clashes with regime forces on the coastal road between Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte and rebel headquarters in Benghazi have ground to a halt. Undaunted, Qaddafi forces seized the town of Al-Kufrah in the country’s southeast desert region, in a province that hosts some of Libya’s most productive oil fields. Yesterday, about 250 regular Libyan soldiers in trucks descended on the town and drove out rebels.

Meanwhile, NATO warplanes taking part in a United Nations-mandated air campaign to impose a no-fly zone over Libya continued their attack against regime-held positions around Misurata. More than two months of clashes in the Libyan civil war has killed as many as 30,000, according to some estimates, and thrust world oil prices up more than 30 percent. Libya boasts Africa’s biggest proven oil reserves, but output is down 75 percent as the popular uprising forced foreign producers to evacuate workers.

Latin America File: Qaddafi nephew top advisor on Ortega staff, holds rank of ambassador; Chavez praises Assad’s slaughter of Syrian protesters; Caracas-backed left-nationalist poised to win Peruvian presidency

As civil war and street-level agitation for regime change continues to engulf North Africa and the Middle East–most lately in Syria, where socialist dictator Bashar al-Assad has hurled his tanks against protesters–Latin America’s narco-communist despots offer moral justification for the slaughter.

In Nicaragua, past/present President Daniel Ortega has flaunted his friendship with embattled Libyan strongman and arch-terrorist Muammar al-Qaddafi since the early 1980s. Following his re-election in November 2006, after 16 years in the political wilderness, Ortega has made at least one pit stop in Tripoli en route to Tehran, where he has also cultivated an alliance with Hitler wanna-be President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This week, Inside Costa Rica revealed that at the beginning of his second administration, “Comandante” Ortega appointed Mohamed Lashtar as his personal secretary and advisor for international affairs. Lashtar is a nephew of Qaddafi.

The revitalized symbiotic relationship between Nicaragua and Libya was revealed by Paul Trivelli, US ambassador to Nicaragua between 2005 and 2008, in four confidential cables signed in 2007. These cables were originally published by WikiLeaks in cooperation with Costa Rica’s La Nacion and then concurrently published in Nicaragua by Confidencial, La Semana, and El Nuevo Diario. Trivelli contends that Lashtar, who also goes by the name Mohamed El-Ashtar Ferrara, worked for his uncle’s intelligence network in the last decade of the Cold War.

Pictured above: While visiting Iran (probably in June 2007), Ortega walks with host and counterpart Ahmadinejad. Lashtar is indicated by the yellow circle.

According to La Nation, a youthful Lashtar, now 51 years old, arrived in Nicaragua in the mid-1980s, during the first Sandinista dictatorship, at which time he worked in the Libyan Arab Cultural Center, which is attached to Libya’s embassy in Managua. In the 1990s, while a series of US-backed governments ruled in Managua, Lashtar apparently became a citizen of Nicaragua, even as he represented Libya’s agricultural investments in that country. For more than a decade, he was also one of Ortega’s key financial and political operators until the latter’s surprise return to the presidency in January 2007.

Today, Lashtar manages the Nicaraguan Agropecuaria Arab Jamahiriya (Anilib), which was founded as a joint Nicaraguan-Libyan business venture nearly 30 years ago, that is, in 1983. Together, the Ortega clan which, as in the 1980s is still up to its armpits in red cocaine, and Qaddafi’s nephew are connected to several private businesses in Nicaragua. This includes Celeste SA which, according to the newspaper La Prensa, recently assumed control over Nicaragua’s Channel 47 television station.

Since January 29, 2007, Lashtar has held the position of “Private Secretary to the President for International Affairs,” an appointment that awards him the rank of ambassador and an office in the Nicaraguan Chancellery, as confirmed by Foreign Minister Samuel Lopez Santos. Lashtar is assistant to Jacinto Suarez Espinoza, who is both the Sandinista National Liberation Front’s international relations director and Nicaragua’s deputy in the Central American Parliament (Parlacen).

La Nation tried unsuccessfully to interview Lashtar, who did not return messages left on his cell phone or email. In view of Qaddafi’s personal link to the first and second Sandinista regimes, is it any wonder that Ortega rushed to offer moral support for the strongman when the Libyan civil war erupted this past February, or that former Nicaraguan foreign minister Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann offered to represent Libya at the United Nations?

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s dictator, Hugo Chavez, who buddies around with Ortega, Qaddafi, Assad, and Ahmadinejad, has thrown his “good name” within the communist stratosphere behind Syria’s embattled 47-year-old Ba’athist regime. “From here [Caracas] we greet president Bashar al-Assad,” Chavez gushed, after witnesses on Monday reported that Syrian troops and tanks rolled into the town of Daraa, epicenter of recent anti-regime protests, killing at least 25 people. Chavez railed:

Terrorists are being infiltrated into Syria and producing violence and death — and once again, the guilty one is the [Syrian] president, without anyone investigating anything. They’re starting to say: ‘Let’s see if we sanction the government, we’re going to freeze their assets, we’ll blockade them, throw bombs on them, in order to defend the people.’ Wow, what cynicism. But that’s the Empire. It’s imperial madness.

Incidentally, when Chavez rambles on about “the Empire,” he is referring to the USA. Some 390 people, according to human rights activists, have been killed in security crackdowns since the protests erupted in Syria. Chavez, not to mention mentor Fidel Castro, has also applauded Qaddafi’s defiance of NATO airstrikes and a potential ground war, slamming the military intervention on the side of the Libyan rebels as an “oil grab” by Western capitalists.

Sitting on top of a pile of narco/petro-dollars, Chavez has not only propped up the paleo-communist regime in Cuba, but also exported his “Bolivarian Revolution” to other countries in the region. Using a variety of channels–such as laundering drug money through state-run oil giant PDVSA and front companies of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA)–Chavez has secured the allegiance of left-communist regimes in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Uruguay. He has also tried to financially manipulate a past center-right government in English-speaking Belize and past center-left candidates in Mexico and Panama. His support for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s narco-communist insurgency is too well documented to credibly refute.

Lately, Chavez has cultivated his political and personal relationships with Peru’s left-nationalist presidential candidate, ex-soldier and “red diaper baby” Ollanta Humala, who faces a run-off vote on June 5. Humala’s center-right opponent is Keiko Fujimori, daughter of Alberto Fujimori, the disgraced past president of Peru, who in 1992 launched a vigorous counter-offensive against the Maoist guerrillas of the Communist Party of Peru-Shining Path. In addition to his own Peruvian Nationalist Party (PNP), a coalition of hard-left groupings has lined up behind Humala, including the Socialist Party, Peruvian Communist Party, Revolutionary Socialist Party, and Political Movement Socialist Voice.

In late March, during a TV interview, Humala, who is the son of a communist lawyer, failed to adequately distance himself from Chavez. A Peruvian news anchor posed the following question to the head of the PNP: “Is President Hugo Chávez a dictator, yes or no?” Humala refused to answer the question, leaving the audience to make up their own minds about the candidate’s position. “If a president, whether elected by the people or not, disregards the Parliament, he rules as a dictator,” he said evasively, “And if Chávez’s government is disregarding the National Assembly, he is ruling as a dictator. I am not saying he is a dictator. I am not like Chávez.” Meanwhile, the other Peruvian presidential candidates continued to hack away at Humala’s alleged sympathy for the Venezuelan president, who has been ruling by decree since January.

During Peru’s 2006 election, when Humala made a previous run for the presidency, Jorge Rodriguez, Chief of Venezuela’s Electoral Council and Chavez’s special envoy to Peru, was on-site to encourage the PNP leader.

Should Humala scoop up the presidency, Lima will likely fall within the orbit of the Havana-Caracas Axis, possibly leading to Peru’s incorporation into ALBA. A Humala victory might also embolden the country’s resurgent Shining Path narco-rebellion. One outcome is certain: the USA’s friendly relationship with Peru under President Alan Garcia’s American Popular Revolutionary Alliance will terminate.

Libya and, for that matter, Hezbollah-occupied Lebanon are not the only terrorist-sponsoring states to set up shop in the Americas. Iran has pursued political and economic relations with Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. Last November, according to Germany’s Die Welt, Tehran and Caracas concluded a secret military pact that will permit Iran to deploy medium-range Shahab 3 missiles and missile troops in the South American country, rendering the southern USA vulnerable to nuclear-biological-chemical attack.

Mexican Narco-State File: Los Zetas storm into border town, shoot up, torch businesses, hold off army for more than 2 hours; police find grisly discovery in Acapulco

Mexico’s vicious drug war continues unabated. Indeed, by attacking businesses and scaring away tourists, the powerful druglords are doing a better job than the country’s small communist insurgent outfits in bringing down capitalism.

This past Thursday morning, a convoy of gunmen most likely in the employ of Los Zetas drug cartel, stormed into the Mexican city of Miguel Aleman, shooting up, vandalizing, and torching the headquarters of the Tamaulipas State Police, the local transit police headquarters, and nearly a dozen businesses along the city’s main avenue, including the Ford and Nissan dealerships (pictured above), an Auto Zone store, a Stripes convenience store, a large furniture store, and a used car lot.

More than two hours later, after killing one gunman and arresting 11 more, the Mexican military finally ran the narcistas out of town. One soldier was killed in the engagements. As a result of the firefight, the Mexican army reported seizing 20 assault rifles, eight grenades, more than 300 magazines, and more than 7,600 ammunition rounds.

According to the 8th Military Zone in Reynosa, Los Zetas also attacked a military patrol along the Riberena highway before invading Miguel Aleman, which prompted the mobilization of troops toward the town.

Across the border in Roma, Texas, a National Guardsman took a video of the early-morning gunbattle. In another video, plumes of smoke can be seen rising over the city of about 27,000.

The same day, the body count at mass graves in rural San Fernando, Tamaulipas, rose to 177. The Mexican special forces-turned-narco-mercenaries are accused of killing their victims and stacking the bodies at several sites, the most recent of which was discovered this past Tuesday.

Lately, Miguel Aleman has been a refuge for refugees from smaller rural communities like Mier, which late last year was overrun by Zeta gunmen. Other towns like Camargo, across from Rio Grande City, and Guerrero Viejo, on the Mexican side of Falcon Lake where a US citizen was shot and killed in 2010, are mostly ghost towns.

Meanwhile, on Saturday morning, in the resort city of Acapulco, police made the grisly discovery of five decapitated, semi-naked bodies. All of the victims, four women and a teenage girl, appear to have been connected to a local beauty parlor. No motive for the killings was offered, but the Pacific coast resort has become a battle ground for Mexico’s rival cartels as they struggle to control the drug routes between South America and the USA.

Communist Bloc Military Updates: Russia, Ukraine and Belarus to stage first “post”-Soviet trilateral military drills; Russia sends more S-300 anti-missile units to Belarusian-Polish front

In September, the three most important European components of the “former” Soviet Union—Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine—will for the first time since the “collapse of communism” hold two combined military exercises. Union Shield 2011 will take place at Gorokhovetsky, in Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod region, and at Ushuluk, in the same country’s Astrakhan region.

On April 20, Ukrainian Defence Minister Mikhail Yezhel arrived in Minsk to participate in a joint meeting with his Russian and Belarusian counterparts, Anatoly Serdyukov and Yuri Zhadobin. Strangely, even though Ukraine was involved in the founding of and currently participates in the Commonwealth of “Independent” States, it is not officially a member of that successor organization to the USSR. Similarly, Ukraine is not a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which binds Russia, Belarus, Armenia, and all of the Central Asian republics, except Turkmenistan, in a military alliance.

“We discussed participation in the upcoming military exercise Union Shield 2011 to be held in September,” related Yezhel, adding: “We will certainly study the plan of the exercise in detail and join in. We are also interested in the experience of army reform in Belarus. We should take all the best the Union State of Russia and Belarus has to offer and use it at home.” After the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine transferred the nuclear arsenal based on its soil to Russia, the first time any country has voluntarily given up its atomic warhead stockpile.

The Union Shield 2011 maneuvers will involve about 12,000 troops, more than 50 warplanes and helicopters, and 200 pieces of military hardware.

In spite of occasional diplomatic spats, Belarus’ “ex”-communist dictator, President Alexander Lukashenko, is firmly committed to theUnion State, while Ukraine’s burgeoning “neo-Soviet” dictator, President Viktor Yanukovich, frequently enrages nationalists by snuggling up to the Kremlin. By participating in the Union State’s military component, one should be excused for asking whether Yanukovich intends to lead Ukraine into this building block of the to-be-restored Soviet Union. One should also be
excused for asking whether Union Shield 2011 is an attempt by Moscow and Minsk, with a little help this time from Kiev, to incrementally assemble a “lite” version of the Soviet Armed Forces.

During the defense ministers’ pow-wow, Serdyukov promised that Russia will deliver more S-300 anti-missile batteries to Belarus, which is on the front line with Warsaw
Pact-turned-NATO member Poland. As part of the Union State’s integrated air defense network, Belarus has deployed and placed several Russian-built S-300 air defense battalions on combat duty. Modernized versions of the S-300 (pictured above) have a maximum engagement range of up to 150 kilometers (93 miles).

“We have completed the first stage of modernization of the Belarusian S-300 air defense systems and agreed to intensify work on further deliveries of these systems to Belarus,” explained Serdyukov. “We are strengthening this network.”

In September 2009, Russia and Belarus provoked outrage among Poles by carrying out the Zapad (“West”) exercise on Belarusian territory, at which time 13,000 troops simulated a combined air and sea attack against Poland, complete with atomic weapons. According to documents obtained by Wprost, one of Poland’s leading news magazines, the Russian Air Force practiced using weapons from its nuclear arsenal, while in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, which also borders Poland, Russian Ground Forces stormed a “Polish” beach and attacked a natural gas pipeline.

Zapad 2009 also involved the simulated suppression of an uprising by a national minority in Belarus. Not so coincidentally, Lukashenko’s KGB lackeys often harass the country’s Polish minority, creating strained relations with Warsaw.

After the Russian-Belarusian drill, one Pole, identified only as Ted, told Polskie Radio: “Russia has laid bare its real intentions with respect to Poland. Every Pole most now get off the fence and be counted as a patriot or a traitor.”

In a related story, on Wednesday the Russian Air Force completed a two-day large-scale strategic aviation drill that featured air-to-air missile launches and aerial refuelling operations. The exercises, which involved Soviet-era Tu-160, Tu-95, and Tu-22M3 nuclear-capable bombers, were conducted over the Baltic, North, and Black seas, doubtlessly under the watchful eye of NATO radar. Providing escort for the Russian bomber crews were MiG-29, MiG-31, and Su-27 fighter jets and Il-78 flying fuel tankers.

Red Terror File: Belarusian dictator refutes allegations his regime behind Minsk subway bombing; Russian Communist Party boss defends Belarus’ “controlled market,” blames EU for “terrorism”

Last Saturday, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko angrily refuted allegations that his government orchestrated the subway bombing in Minsk that killed 13 commuters and wounded more than 200 others on April 11. He lashed out at detractors and sceptics alike. “What they are saying,” he ranted, “—that this was done to distract the attention from the economic situation—only idiots and scoundrels would make such judgments. Is the situation in the country so critical that I have to resort to desperate measures? It is not critical.”

The previous day, Lukashenko attributed the bombing to an international campaign to destabilize Belarus. “First came the currency market, then food market and then the subway blast occurred,” Lukashenko lamented. “It was the entire chain.”

The Minsk bombing has bewildered terrorism experts, who havespeculated about likely motives in the tightly controlled “former” Soviet republic, which has little history of large-scale terrorist attacks, unlike the Russian Federation. Some bloggers have asserted that the Lukashenko regime resorted to terrorism to distract Belarusians from the country’s poor economic state.

Belarus’ hard currency reserves are critically low and the economy faces a possible currency devaluation. Last year, Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan formed a customs union that oppositionists in all three countries claim is a building block toward restoring the Soviet Union.

Belarusian authorities have arrested five suspects in connection with the incident, including a man in his mid-20s accused of placing the bomb on the platform of Minsk’s busiest subway station, Oktyabrskaya. They have not suggested who ordered the bombing.

Last week, the United Nations Security Council condemned “the apparent terrorist attack.” An anonymous UN diplomat confided that “the word ‘apparent’ was included in this statement for a reason,” namely that the Security Council itself suspects Belarus’ “ex”-communist dictator is endeavouring to “stamp out the last vestiges of political pluralism and dissent.”

Lukashenko has ordered the State Security Committee (KGB), still known by its dreaded Soviet-era name, to interrogate the country’s harried dissidents over the blast. Meanwhile, the prosecutor general warned that “irresponsible web reports” will lead to the need to “bring order” to the Internet, the last “outpost” of free speech in Belarus. Last Friday, the Information Ministry reprimanded two leading independent dailies, Nasha Niva and Narodnaya Volya, for their coverage of the bombing. Under Belarusian law, two such reprimands are sufficient for authorities to secure a media outlet’s lawful closure.

The day after the Minsk bombing, Gennady Zyuganov, chairman of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), rushed to Comrade Lukashenko’s defense. He parroted the dictator’s rant, alleging that “aggressive forces” based in the European Union, meaning capitalists, are determined to bring down Belarus. Chairman Zyuganov railed:

It seems to me that this terrorist attack was primarily aimed at destabilizing the situation in Belarus, undermining the country’s healthy climate and creating an atmosphere of fear. Those standing behind the blast are deep-dyed villains. It was an absolutely outrageous, well-planned terrorist attack staged in a busy rush hour.

In principle, there are very influential forces that are interested in destabilizing the situation in this country and, subsequently, in condoning such terror acts.

Belarus remains among the few former Soviet republics that continue developing confidently today. It has quite worthy standards of living, and all of the main enterprises continue operating. There is no organized crime, oligarchy and immorality that exist in many other regions and territories. Belarus has been following its own path, on the one hand, taking care of its citizens, and, on the other hand, working to create a controlled market for the benefit of its people.

 The fact that the Belarusians continue living their own life and have not yielded to foreign pressure is an eyesore to many people. It causes heartburn among aggressive
forces because they cannot control everyone. Europe seeks to crush Belarus.

Dirty and mean forces needed this explosion in the Minsk subway system. Europe is certainly annoyed by the Belarusian authorities’ independent decision making.

Incidentally, this week Zyuganov announced that he will once again represent the CPRF in Russia’s March 2012 presidential election. He secured a close second behind President Boris Yeltsin in 1996, but achieved a distant second in the 2000 and 2008 elections. Zyuganov did not bother running in the 2004 presidential election. The CPRF
regularly accuses the United Russia party, itself founded by “ex”-communists, of rigging the country’s elections. President Dmitry Medvedev has declared his candidacy, but Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has issued no official statement yet.

Although there may be no connection with Belarus’ internal problems, on Tuesday the Russian Air Force began a two-day large-scale drill, deploying 45 warplanes, including Tu-22M (Backfire), Tu-95 (Bear), and Tu-160 (Blackjack) strategic bombers, fighter escorts, and aerial tankers. The Kremlin expects to begin serial production of its first-ever stealth bomber in 2025 and, in the meanwhile, will rely on modernized versions of the other, Soviet-era aircraft to uphold its “nuclear triad.” Russia flew its prototype of the Sukhoi PAK-FA stealth fighter in January 2010. At the time, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin boasted that its performance will excel that of the US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor.

Red Terror File: Belarusian KGB hunts for suspects in wake of Minsk subway bombing, 12 killed; dictator Lukashenko vows harsh security measures

Belarus’ “ex”-communist dictator Alexander Lukashenko ordered a harsh security crackdown yesterday after at least 12 people died in a subway bombing in Minsk, the first such terrorist attack in Belarus since President Lukashenko came to power. Another 149 people were wounded after the explosive device blew up during the evening rush hour in the capital’s busiest metro station, which is near the presidential residence.

Lukashenko ordered the State Secuity Committee (KGB), which still flaunts its Soviet-era name, to tighten security “to the uttermost” in a country that is already classified by the European Union as the continent’s “last dictatorship.” The KGB alleges that the blast may have been “orchestrated from abroad,” according to a transcript
of an emergency government meeting published on the president’s website. Several arrests were made in connection with the explosion, state-run Belta news reported.

The 56-year-old leader, whose government is under EU sanctions, extended his 16-year rule in December elections that international observers condemned as “undemocratic.” The former Soviet republic has been the subject of speculation about a possible default amid diminishing foreign reserves. Lukashenko is closely allied with Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez. The Communist Party of Belarus openly endorses Lukashenko’s policies.

Renaissance Capital analyst Anastasiya Golovach suggested that yesterday’s deadly blast in Minsk could have been a government-sponsored provocation: “The explosion could divert the public’s attention away from economic issues: the present currency crisis and certain, apparently unpopular measures being implemented by the state.” Belarus is seeking a loan of US$3 billion from Russia and other former Soviet republics.

“The event is shocking, not just as a terrorist attack but also because it happened in Minsk, Belarus, a place which has for a long time been considered highly stable in terms of security,” commented VTB Capital analyst Alexei Moiseev in Moscow. “One of the key positive factors in Belarus, stability, has come under attack.”

“Belarus does not face any obvious terrorist threats,” observed Timothy Ash, head of emerging-market research at the Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in London. This fact alone cast a suspicious shadow over the bombing.

The Prosecutor General’s Office, however, declared the blast “an act of terrorism” and announced that it had opened a criminal investigation. Belarusian law enforcement authorities today presented composite sketches of two suspects, reported Russian state television channel. Rossiya 24 cited anonymous experts who stated that the bomb was radio-controlled. Officers of the Russian Federation Federal Security Service have arrived in Minsk to assist the Belarusian investigation.

The device went off as two trains were arriving at the Oktyabrskaya station, where the capital’s two metro lines intersect. The bomb, which was equivalent to 5 kilograms (11 pounds) to 7 kilograms of TNT, left a crater 80 centimeters (31 inches) deep.

On January 24, suicide bombers struck Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport, killing at least 35 travellers.

Doom File: 7.1 quake hits NE Japan, damages second nuke plant, contaminated water leaks reported; currents carry Fukushima’s radioactive seawater northward

Northeast Japan, already devastated by a 9-magnitude earthquake that generated a massive tsunami on March 11, killing nearly 18,000, endured another large shaker last night. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that a second nuclear plant, Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture (pictured here), has sustained significant damage, resulting in radioactive leaks:

Tohoku Electric Power Company, which runs the Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant in Miyagi Prefecture, said water had spilled onto the floor at all three of the plant’s reactors. The company also said it found water leaks at five locations in the plant, including inside buildings housing the reactors. The operator said the blowout panels, devices designed to control pressure inside the buildings, were damaged at reactor No. 3. The plant’s operations have been suspended since a 9-magnitude earthquake on March 11.  At least two people have died and more than 100 were injured by the April 7 aftershock.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which was severely damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, suffered no serious damage but workers struggling with repair work were briefly evacuated.

Prevailing westerly winds have carried small amounts of radioactive fallout from the crippled Fukushima plant to the west coast of North America, contaminating dairy cattle in Washington, California, and Arizona, although US health officials deny Americans face any serious health threat from Japan’s nuclear disaster. Canadian officials have also detected a radiation spike in that country’s Pacific coast province of British Columbia.

Last night’s quake left more than 500,000 homes without power. More than 15,000 people are still missing as a result of the March 11 quake. Radioactive levels in seawater near Fukushima City are 2,800 times the legal limit, endangering Japan’s US$5.4 billion per year fishing industry. The  radioactive material was likely to be carried northward by ocean currents, public broadcaster NHK reported, citing the governments’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

Neo-Sandinista File: Fearing North African-style uprising, Ortega deploys 11,000 police to thwart opposition protest ahead of illegal re-election bid

Over the weekend, tens of thousands of Sandinista cadres and supporters occupied the streets of Nicaragua’s capital city to prevent an opposition march against President Daniel Ortega’s illegal re-election bid in November. Long-time Soviet ally and KGB asset Ortega first seized power in 1979, peacefully left office in 1990 after a democratic election, and returned to office in January 2007 with Moscow’s evident approval. Since that time, he has received visits from high-ranking Russian officials, accepted more than US$1 billion in covert support from Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez, suppressed the political opposition and independent media, introduced draconian laws that will likely resurrect his 1980s police state, and renovated the Soviet-built strategic bomber-capable runway at Punta Huete, the longest in Central America.

The Sandinistas’ ill-named “March and Festival for Love, Peace and Life” was ostensibly organized by the Sandinista Youth movement, although first lady Rosario Murillo’s “strong and quirky influence” over the event was manifest. The latest pro-regime drama starred thousands of state workers, who were required to camp out overnight in the streets, and public high school students, who were forced to attend Saturday’s rally at risk of receiving grade-point reductions.

The pro-regime rally was designed to dwarf an anti-Ortega protest that ended up drawing fewer than 2,000 people after 11,000 heavily armed riot police thwarted their ability to march. “Far from having a professional police force, we have a police force that is at the service of Orteguismo,” complained Gonzalo Carrión, spokesman for the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, shortly before being detained and hauled off by police. “Today Nicaragua loses, the police lose and Ortega loses, because history will not absolve him.”

According to Ortega’s opposition and former allies, the Nicaraguan president fears a North African-style uprising against his re-constituted dictatorship. “What we have seen in Northern Africa and the Middle East is that citizen mobilizations can overthrow despotic and authoritarian regimes. And what we saw during [Saturday’s] march was a reflection of the fear and psychosis that has awakened in Ortega’s head as a result of what he’s seeing in that part of the world,” opined opposition lawmaker and Sandinista dissident Mónica Baltodano, who was dragged away from the protest and tossed on the ground by police.

In a related story, last Friday the neo-Sandinista regime announced that diplomat Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann would not be representing Libya at the United Nations after all. Former Catholic priest D’Escoto was Nicaragua’s foreign minister during the 1980s and president of the UN General Assembly between September 2008 and September 2009. Vociferously anti-USA, D’Escoto will instead represent Nicaragua at the international body.

Managua had announced two days before that D’Escoto, who once called US President Ronald Reagan “the butcher of my people,” had been appointed to represent Libya after Tripoli’s delegate was denied a visa. Ortega is a long-time ally of Libyan strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi, who is facing an armed uprising and UN-sanctioned NATO airstrikes. After protests erupted against the Qaddafi regime in mid-February, Nicaragua’s past/present communist dictator rushed to Colonel Qaddafi’s defense.

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Asia File: Black smoke pours from Japan’s quake-stricken nuke plant, Tokyo tap water unsafe for infants, radiation contaminates regional food supply

Asia File: Japan quake death toll exceeds 18,000; workers evacuated (again) as (more) smoke rises from crippled nuke plant

Africa File: US Air Force, NATO warplanes bombard Qaddafi loyalists, strongman’s compound in Tripoli, Western states deny civilian casualties

On Saturday, with a United Nations mandate in its hand and NATO allies at its side, the US Air Force launched Tomahawk cruise missiles against elements of the Libyan military, including strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi’s compound in Tripoli. Libyan soldiers, inspecting damage at the Bab al-Azizia barracks, are pictured above on March 21, 2011.

The principle intent behind Operation Odyssey Dawn is to neutralize Colonel Qaddafi’s air power and prevent the suppression of the country’s rebel forces. Madman Qaddafi apparently didn’t learn his lesson from Operation El Dorado Canyon in 1986.

Russia and Red China abstained from the UN Security Council vote that authorized the action against Libyan regime forces. The world’s communists, in fact, have rallied to Colonel Qaddafi’s defense. Russia’s KGB-communist dictator, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, lashed out at the UNSC resolution, calling military intervention in Libya a “crusade,” while the Greek Communist Party staged large anti-European Union rallies in Athens and Crete.

Meanwhile, in Yemen the revolutionary wave that has crashed through much of the Arab world since January is preparing to sweep President Ali Abdullah Saleh from power. Appalled by the killing of 52 anti-government protesters by snipers this past Friday, three generals and two ambassadors have defected to the opposition. Saleh has been in power for 32 years, first as president of the Yemen Arab Republic, then the Republic of Yemen. Politically, Yemen is a highly unstable country, facing both tribal unrest and a Marxist separatist movement in the once-independent south.

Asia File: EU energy chief: Japan’s Fukushima nuke plant "out of control"; radioactive fallout arrives in S. California, no health threat (yet)

– Nuclear chain reaction feared at Japan’s Fukushima power plant; European Union energy chief Oettinger: Fukushima “out of control” (source 1, source 2, source 3)

– Prevailing westerlies carry radioactive fallout from crippled nuclear plant to Southern California, no health threat (yet) (source)

– Passengers and luggage from Tokyo trigger radiation detectors at Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago O’Hare airports; low levels of radiation in aircraft’s cabin filtration system (source)

Asia File: Japan quake death toll tops 7,000; PM Kan: radiation leakage at Fukushima nuke plant "very grave"

>Africa File: UN imposes no-fly zone over Libya, NATO deploys forces for immediate air strikes; Qaddafi declares ceasefire with rebels, closes airspace

>– Britain, France, Spain, and USA Readying Military Assets for Air Campaign against Qaddafi Regime, Canada to Contribute Token Force of Jet Fighters

– Key NATO State Germany Abstains from UNSC Vote, Malta to Maintain “Neutrality” in NATO-Libya Conflict

Pictured above: NATO AWACS and US military aircraft at Trapani Birgi air base in Sicily on March 18, 2011. Italy’s government held emergency talks today after the UN Security Council approved air strikes for the purpose of implementing a no-fly zone over Libya.

War is looming in North Africa. On Friday, the regime of Libyan strongman Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi declared an immediate ceasefire with rebels based in Benghazi. In recent days, however, the rebels have been steadily losing ground to Qaddafi loyalists. This follows a resolution by the United Nations one day earlier to impose a no-fly zone over the country and to authorize the use of military force to stop Qaddafi’s “outrageous” attacks on civilian targets. The decision to implement a no-fly zone came after a 10-0 vote by UN Security Council members, with Germany, Russia, India, Brazil, and Red China abstaining. Moscow is a long-time ally of Qaddafi.

With breath-taking impertinence, Libya’s Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa explained the ceasefire was being enacted in order to “protect civilians,” even though Qaddafi’s mercenary army and air force have not hesitated to bomb and gun down unarmed protesters. According to Koussa, the ceasefire will “take the country back to safety,” though he was critical of the UN’s decision to approve military action, calling it a violation of Libya’s sovereignty. “There are signs this indeed might take place,” Koussa said, referring to the use of military power.

On Friday, in response to the UNSC resolution, arch-terrorist Qaddafi announced the closure of Libya’s airspace. Tripoli’s airport was altogether shut down to traffic. Europe’s air traffic control agency, Eurocontrol, stated: “The latest information from Malta indicates that Tripoli [air control center] does not accept traffic.”

Journalist Ben O’Hara-Byrne told CTV’s Canada AM program that rebel forces hoped the UN resolution would help “level the playing field”: “Over the past seven days, given his dominance of the skies and his far superior fire power, Gadhafi’s forces have really brought the fight to the rebels. We’ve seen the rebels melt away from the positions they had gained only 10 or 15 days ago. The rebels hope now that the international community is involved, momentum will now shift that advantage back to them.”

The formal proclamations from Tripoli indicate that Qaddafi fears NATO air strikes–much as his regime suffered in 1986 following a Libyan-orchestrated terror attack in West Berlin–so he is diverting his military assets away from the uprising toward regime defense.

Speaking in an interview with RTL radio, French government spokesman Francois Baroin said Paris plans to participate in what he described as “swift efforts” against Libya. Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain has started preparations to deploy aircraft, and “in the coming hours” the Royal Air Force will move assets to air bases where they will be positioned for any “necessary action.”

In Madrid, Defense Minister Carme Chacon said Spain will offer NATO the use of two military bases and also provide air and naval forces for use in operations involving Libya. The two bases to be offered in southern Spain are the Rota air naval station, where a contingent of US troops is presently stationed, and the air base at Moron de la Frontera. Spain’s offer to commit air and naval assets is subject to parliamentary approval.

US Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday that establishing a zone would take “upwards of a week.” However, the Pentagon does not view a no-fly zone alone as sufficient to stop Qaddafi’s heavy artillery. Much to the relief of the Obama White House, which is anxious not to upset its Muslim allies overseas, the Arab League supports the imposition of a no-fly zone.

On Thursday, Qaddafi’s son Saadi adopted a moderate tone, telling CNN that government troops will “change their tactics” and take up positions around Benghazi on Saturday or Sunday for the purpose of assisting refugees from the city. The younger Qaddafi, one of seven sons, promised there will be “no large-scale assault.” Instead, police and anti-terrorism units will enter the rebel stronghold to disarm the opposition. In a radio address aired on Libyan state TV, the Libyan dictator criticized residents of Benghazi, branding them “traitors” for seeking help from “outsiders.”

According to sources in Canada’s Ministry of National Defense, reports the Toronto Star, Ottawa will also contribute six CF-18 fighter-bombers to help NATO air forces take out Qaddafi’s air defenses, including radar and missile batteries. The Canadian government has been using Malta as a base to evacuate its citizens from Libya. The Toronto Star also reports that Maltese Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi wants to remain “neutral” in any potential military clash between NATO and Libya.

>Asia File: IAEA: Three reactors at Japanese nuclear plant in partial melt-down, military uses bucket drops, water cannon to douse site

>Asia File: New blaze at quake-crippled Japanese nuclear power plant, radiation levels increase again, technicians evacuated

>Asia File: Nuclear catastrophe in Japan: Third explosion at Fukushima reactor, radiation "spews" from facility, small amounts detected in Tokyo

>In a nationally televised statement, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan admitted radiation has spread from the four stricken reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Honshu’s northeastern coast, which was devastated by an 8.9 earthquake and 10-meter tsunami on Friday. A third explosion shook the site on Tuesday. Japanese officials have told the International Atomic Energy Agency that as a result of a reactor fire in a storage pond, “radioactivity is being released directly into the atmosphere.”

Although the fire was apparently extinguished, a Japanese official stated that the pool where used nuclear fuel is cooled might be boiling, raising fears that the seawater could evaporate altogether, leading to a total meltdown. Many residents from nearby Fukushima City are fleeing south, toward Tokyo, which lost power on Friday, leaving millions of Japanese in the dark and cold as the country pulls out of winter. Nearly 3,000 bodies have been recovered, but 20,000 people are missing in the region swamped by the tsunami.

Officials south of Fukushima have reported up to 100 times the normal levels of radiation, while Tokyo, a city of 13 million inhabitants, reports “slightly elevated” levels. “Please do not go outside. Please stay indoors. Please close windows and make your homes airtight,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told residents in the danger zone. “These are figures that potentially affect health. There is no mistake about that,” he said.

Trading on the Nikkei dropped 11% today amid fears that a nuclear catastrophe could delay Japan’s post-quake economic recovery. “What the world is watching right now is whether Tepco’s Fukushima nuclear power plant is going to turn into Chernobyl,” commented Norihiro Fujito, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities. At this time, too, many countries with civilian nuclear power programs are reviewing or suspending their use of this form of energy.

>WW4 File: Russian Bear bomber flies within 12 miles of Scotland; RAF source: Libya deployment would create vulnerabilities for Britain

>As the United Kingdom weighs the possibility of supporting a NATO-imposed, UN-sanctioned no-fly zone over Libya, with the intent of thwarting Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi’s air strikes against rebel forces, Russian bombers are once again testing the Royal Air Force’s reaction time to airspace intrusions.

On March 13, The Sunday Times reported that one night last week “A Russian bomber has infiltrated deeper into Britain’s air defences than at any time since the cold war and come within sight of the Scottish coast at St Andrews.” Two Tornado F3 fighter aircraft from RAF Leuchars, five miles north of the university town, were scrambled to intercept the lumbering Tupolev Tu-95, which was only 12 miles out to sea. However, the Russian pilot ignored international protocols for such encounters and pulled back only when his nuclear cruise missile platform was within seconds of entering British airspace.

The RAF crews could clearly see the lights of St. Andrews as they flew alongside the Bear bomber, which was believed to have been accompanied by at least one other further out to sea. “It was all a bit tense,” said a senior RAF source, which warned that Russia was testing the impact of Prime Minister David Cameron’s defence cuts on the RAF’s ability to guard British airspace.

The Tornado fighters that intercepted the Bear are slated to be scrapped at the end of March and replaced by Typhoons, but the future of RAF Leuchars is uncertain. The Ministry of Defence is considering scrapping the northern “quick reaction alert” base altogether and focusing Britain’s air defences on RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire. The slashing of Nimrod spy planes from RAF Kinloss in Moray led last October to Britain losing track of a Russian submarine passing by northern Scotland.

“The Russians are sticking two fingers up at us and showing up how thinly stretched we are,” the RAF source said. “If we have to send aircraft to patrol a no-fly zone over Libya, we will be unable to protect our own back door. Then the MoD will have to bite the bullet and keep the Tornado F3s in service.”

Jim Murphy, the shadow defence secretary, warned that the latest Russian bomber probe highlighted the deficiencies caused by the Conservative government’s cuts: “This will be extremely worrying for people and they will want clarity about Britain’s ability to defend itself. Serious people are asking serious questions about the capability gap left by the government’s defence review. Morale in our armed forces is low as is this government’s credibility on defence.”

In 2010, RAF fighter aircraft were scrambled 15 times to intercept Russian strategic bombers entering the UK Air Defence Identification Zone, which extends 150 miles into the North Sea. These incidents were common during the Cold War, but reappeared in late 2006. Since then, RAF aircraft have scrambled about 65 times to escort Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack bombers away from the British Isles (one such incident pictured above).

Is it possible that madman Qaddafi–a long-time ally of Moscow, which this week attempted to distance itself from the Libyan regime by banning the North African leader from entering Russia–is luring NATO into another political-military quagmire in the Muslim world? On Tuesday, witnesses stated that Qaddafi loyalists had captured Zwara, the last rebel-held city west of Tripoli. This victory solidifies Qaddafi’s hold on the western stretch of coastline from the capital to the Tunisian border, even as the Libyan leader’s mercenary army marches against rebels in their eastern strongholds

>Africa File: Qaddafi loyalists regain ground in western Libya, target Misurata; Arab League joins call for no-fly zone, seeks UN approval

>Over the weekend, Muammar Qaddafi’s forces, using armor and mercenary-flown warplanes, pushed insurgents out of the oil port of Brega, the fourth rebel-held town to fall as NATO debates measures that would halt the Libyan strongman’s eastward advance. Momentum in the four-week conflict has shifted toward Qaddafi, who has recaptured the oil port of Ras Lanuf, the nearby town of Bin Jawad, and the western city of Zawiyah.

In a signal that regime forces are preparing to push further east, a military camp in Ajdabiya, about 50 miles east of Brega, was targeted by an air strike today, though no one was killed. Misurata, the only city in western Libya still held by the rebels, is “almost surrounded from all directions and we’re expecting an attack at any moment,” fretted Reda Almountasser, a rebel supporter in that city told Bloomberg by phone on Monday.

To thwart Qaddafi’s attempts to reassert control over the entire country, France, the United Kingdom, and the Arab League have backed a no-fly zone over Libya, but now United Nations approval is sought. On March 14, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Paris (pictured above with US security officials) to discuss options on ending the Libyan conflict with the USA’s G8 allies.

In an effort to distance itself from its long-time client and ally, the Kremlin has banned Qaddafi and his family from seeking refuge in Russia or conducting financial transactions there. Although Russia opposes NATO military intervention in the North African country, Moscow has softened its stance on the imposition of a no-fly zone.

>Asia File: Massive 8.9 quake, 6.6 aftershock hit Japan, up to 1,600 killed, tsunami wipes out cities, towns; nuclear plant disaster

>– Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Damaged, Up to 160 People Exposed to Radiation (source)

Pictured above: Homes burn and ships are tossed about like toys in tsunami-ravaged Kessenuma, Japan.

The Ring of Fire is very active these days. Today’s earthquake off the east coast of Japan’s main island Honshu is the country’s largest-ever recorded shaker, responsible for killing up to 1,600 people and generating a 10-meter tsunami that inundated towns and cities. BBC News reports: “A massive earthquake has hit the north-east of Japan, triggering a tsunami that has caused extensive damage. Japanese television showed cars, ships and even buildings being swept away by a vast wall of water after the 8.9-magnitude earthquake. The quake has sparked fires in several areas including Tokyo. At least 32 people were killed, officials said.”

The previous source notes: “Coastal areas in the Philippines, Hawaii and other Pacific islands were evacuated ahead of the tsunami’s expected arrival.” According to the MSM, “Tsunami waves swamped Hawaii beaches and brushed the U.S. western coast Friday but didn’t immediately cause major damage after devastating Japan and sparking evacuations throughout the Pacific.”

The massive quake also damaged a nuclear power plant, releasing radiation into the surrounding area: “Radiation has leaked from a damaged Japanese nuclear reactor north of Tokyo after an explosion blew the roof off the facility in the wake of a massive earthquake, the government says. The developments raised fears of a meltdown at the plant as officials scrambled to contain what could be the worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl explosion in 1986 that shocked the world.”

A second, 6.6-magnitude quake struck northwest Japan on Saturday. Since last September, two large earthquakes have also struck New Zealand’s South Island. The second, which occurred on February 22, devastated Christchurch.

>Africa File: France recognizes Libya’s rebel government, pro-Qaddafi troops concentrate firepower on Zawiyah and Ras Lanuf, NATO begins surveillance

>– French President and British Prime Minister Urge NATO Air Strikes against Libyan Military Targets

– First Libyan Official to Demand Qaddafi’s Resignation Denounces Polisario Front for Joining Strongman’s Mercenary Army

On Thursday, France became the first country anywhere to recognize the Libyan National Council, the rebel organization fighting to oust long-time dictator Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, as the legitimate representative of Libya. “France recognises the National Council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. There will be an exchange of ambassadors between Paris and Benghazi,” declared an official at the Elysee Palace, referring to the eastern Libyan city that has become the rebel stronghold.

A French diplomatic source said: “It’s a political signal of encouragement and we hope that the European Union will follow suit.” One European Union (EU) diplomat has in fact admitted that the 27-member federation was exploring the possibility of opening a representative office in east Libya, a stance that definitely expresses the EU’s confidence in Qaddafi’s eventual departure.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy probably has a personal interest in bidding adieu to Qaddafi. In 2008 the Libyan strongman, Africa’s self-anointed “King of Kings,” refused to join Sarkozy’s new Union for the Mediterranean (UPM). The UPM includes the European Union and those African and Asian countries with shores on the Mediterranean Sea, including Israel. On the basis of Qaddafi’s strong objections, Tripoli elected not to join the regional economic bloc, preferring instead to exert influence via the African Union.

Incidentally, in past posts on Bible prophecy, we have noted that the UPM, even more so than simply the EU, bears all of the hallmarks of the revived Roman Empire. Twenty centuries ago, Judea was a province of Imperial Rome. Now, 60 years after the Jews were officially and miraculously restored to their ancient homeland, the political entity that once embraced the entire Mediterranean region is also on the world stage. This is a heads up for anyone who takes Bible prophecy seriously.

The civil war in Libya, now recognized as such by the International Red Cross, continued to rage on Thursday as pro-Qaddafi forces renewed “ferocious attacks” on rebel positions around strategic refinery town Ras Lanuf. Explosions rocked a hospital and a mosque. Sirens howled and anti-aircraft gunners blazed away at clear skies, while two ambulances speeding from the hospital crashed into each other.

The previous day, rebel army units west of Ras Lanuf countered government shelling with missile fusillades and rocket-propelled grenades. Backed by heavy weaponry, the insurgents managed to advance on foot for a few miles to the west, until the fighters were deterred by regime mortars and heavy machine guns. The rebels lost five men to gunfire and were forced to retreat in trucks.

There were also new reports of regime air strikes much further east, at a checkpoint in the town of Brega, about one hundreds miles west of Benghazi. If confirmed, the attack would suggest that loyalist forces are ranging further towards Benghazi, possibly attacking rebel supply lines.

“It’s tough these days,” said Mohammed al-Houni, a 25-year-old fighter at the front, referring to Qaddafi loyalists. “There is no comparison between our weapons and theirs. They’re trained, they’re organized. They got their training in Russia and I don’t know where. We’re not an army, we’re the people and even if we had weapons, we wouldn’t even know how to use them.”

In the western part of the country, elite government troops continued to pound the besieged rebel-held city of Zawiyah, only 30 miles from Tripoli. While the Qaddafi regime claims to have subdued opposition in Zawiyah, there has been no independent confirmation since reporters are barred from entering the town.

So, while the conflict in Libya degenerates into full-scale civil war, disrupting oil exports and jacking up pump prices worldwide, NATO officials in Brussels debate the benefits of imposing a no-flight zone over Libyan airspace. British defence secretary Liam Fox hinted that a no-fly zone could be enforced without first neutralizing the North African country’s air defences. Showing a modicum of resolve, the North Atlantic Alliance has at least decided to establish 24-hour surveillance of the country’s airspace. On March 10, NATO officialdom announced that three Boeing E-3 Sentry aircraft are airborne off the Libyan coast, keeping track of all Libyan air force flights.

In a joint letter issued on the eve of an emergency EU summit, to be held on Friday, Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron (pictured above) warned that Qaddafi might be guilty of crimes against humanity, offering NATO the necessary legal cover under the Geneva conventions for a no-fly zone or targeted air strikes. “The strikes would be solely of a defensive nature if Mr Gaddafi makes use of chemical weapons or air strikes against non-violent protesters,” Sarkozy urged, adding: “I have many reservations about military intervention in Libya because Arab revolutions belong to Arabs.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Ali Errishi, the first Libyan official to demand Qaddafi’s resignation, has condemned the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro (Polisario Front) for its “hypocrisy” in claiming to fight for “freedom and progressive ideals,” but at the same time joining Qaddafi’s mercenary army to crush opposition forces. Errishi pleaded:

I appeal to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to be a good neighbour and stop these people from crossing Algeria into Libya to join Qadhafi’s mercenary army. The hypocrisy of members of the Polisario who speak of their ideals and progressive values, yet participate in such a viscous enterprise is disheartening.

Libya’s Minister of State for Immigration and Expatriates since 2006, Errishi resigned from a regime he no longer considers legitimate. He is well known among Libyans as a human rights activist.

The Polisario Front is seeking independence for Western Sahara from Morocco and has rejected Rabat’s internationally backed compromise solution for regional autonomy within Morocco. Western Sahara was a Spanish colony until 1975, when General Francisco Franco’s fascist regime ended with his death. Moroccan troops promptly invaded and occupied the sparsely populated region.

News reports allege that Qaddafi has recruited up to 25,000 mercenaries, including Tuareg separatist fighters from his own country, as well as hired guns from Mali, Algeria, and Burkina Faso. Errishi confirmed that well-armed members of the Polisario Front, which is based in refugee camps near Tindouf in southwest Algeria, are among the strongman’s paid killers. Robert Holley, executive director of the Moroccan American Center for Policy also denounced Qaddafi’s mercenary army:

It is outrageous that members of the Polisario are likely part of the mercenaries Qadhafi has organized to suppress and kill his own people. The international community should heed Dr. Errishi’s call for blockading transit for these hired guns through Algeria and elsewhere. As Dr. Errishi notes, the hypocrisy is disheartening—and a challenge to regional stability.

Although Errishi appealed to Bouteflika to halt the transit of Western Sahara separatists, the Algerian leader has his own problems at home. In Algiers, the 50-year-old National Liberation Front regime faces widespread, Tunisia-inspired dissent from a marginalized political opposition and a disgruntled, under-paid police force.

>Africa File: Libyan rebels allege Syrian pilots flying in Qaddafi’s mercenary air force, Serbs deny personnel involvement

>Libyan rebels claim to have shot down two warplanes over the oil town of Ras Lanuf and that the pilots’ identity cards and accents indicate Syrian citizenship. The National Front for the Salvation of Libya claims that the Syrian authorities are complicit in the participation of their pilots.

Pictured above: A pre-Qaddafi flag flies outside the Libyan consulate in The Hague, Netherlands, on March 9, 2011

According to Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, which interviewed the rebels, the embattled regime of Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi is employing mercenary pilots from Syria, Algeria, Ukraine, Serbia, and Romania to fly air force warplanes because Libyan pilots are no longer considered reliable. Indeed, some Libyan pilots have defected altogether. We have already posted on the presence of Eastern Europeans of high rank in the Libyan air force.

Qaddafi’s mercenary air force staged new raids against rebel positions on Tuesday, even as rebels announced that they recently rejected attempts by Qaddafi intermediaries to talk with the interim government, headed up by Libya’s former justice minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil. A rebel spokesman huffed to Voice of America: “We’re not going to negotiate with him. He knows where the airport is in Tripoli and all he needs to do is leave and stop the bloodshed.” Incidentally, Abdel-Jalil alleges that Qaddafi personally ordered the bombing of PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.

Libya’s close ties with “post”-communist Serbia, in particular, were revealed during Qaddafi’s exclusive interview with Serbia’s Pink TV on February 27, only hours after the United Nations imposed economic sanctions against the Qaddafi clan. “We have very good relations with Libya, including a large trade exchange, especially in the military sector, primarily weapons and equipment. We export a lot to Libya. We have signed many trade agreements with Libya,” Zoran Dragisic, a security analyst from Belgrade, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Belgrade denies reports that Serbian pilots are flying Libyan warplanes.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Turkish TV, the Libyan strongman has threatened reprisals if NATO imposes a no-fly zone over his country: “If they take such a decision, it will be useful for Libya, because the Libyan people will see the truth, that what they want is to take control of Libya and to steal their oil. Then the Libyan people will take up arms against them.”

>Africa File: Pro-Qadaffi forces launch "heavy" counter-strikes against rebels, British embarrassed by botched SAS mission in Benghazi

>Pictured here: On Monday, anti-Qaddafi rebels run for cover after a Libyan air force fighter jet drops a bomb near a checkpoint on the outskirts of the oil town Ras Lanuf.

“With tanks, helicopters and fighter planes,” reports The New York Times on Sunday, ” troops loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi attacked rebel troops in the coastal town of Bin Jawwad on Sunday and pushed them east, stalling, for the moment, hopes by the antigovernment fighters of a steady march toward Tripoli.”

Meanwhile, on Friday Libyan rebels captured six SAS soldiers and an MI6 officer who were escorting British diplmats into the Benghazi area to establish contact with the country’s opposition. Stupidly, the British government neglected to inform the Libyan rebels of the mission, who refused to talk with the diplomats. The Australian media points out: “The team is said to have entered without prior arrangement in the dead of night, carrying guns, explosives, and passports of multiple nationalities.” Foreign Secretary William Hague, London confirms, approved the mission.

In Latin America, Qaddafi’s allies in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) converged in Caracas, where they offered to mediate between the Libyan regime and the rebels. On Friday, Venezuela’s communist dictator Hugo Chavez read a statement in which ALBA condemned NATO’s alleged plans to intervene in the Libyan conflict and seize the country’s oil reserves. Chavez warned that if there is a larger conflict in North Africa, “those flames could reach Europe.” According to Chavez, Qaddafi has endorsed ALBA’s role as mediator.

The ALBA bloc of socialist states includes Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Observer states include Grenada, Haiti, Paraguay, Uruguay and, intriguingly, Syria. “Post”-communist Russia has also expressed an interest in joining ALBA.

From the historical viewpoint, Grenada’s observer status in ALBA is sadly ironic. In 1983, US-led forces from the Eastern Caribbean invaded Grenada to oust a pro-Soviet communist regime. Grenada’s current prime minister, however, has once again aligned the island country with Havana, even renaming Grenada’s Cuban-built international airport after deceased Marxist dictator Maurice Bishop.

>Africa File: Russia rejects military strike against long-time ally Qaddafi; Belarus shipped up to 40 tons of arms to Libya on eve of first protests

>– Qaddafi’s Ukrainian “Nurse” (KGB Controller?) Flies Home on Military Transport, Ukrainian Security Service (SBU/KGB) Confiscates Kolotnitskaya’s Passport after In-Flight Rant (source)

– US Navy Warships Heading for Libyan Coast as Rebels Mull Benefits of Foreign Intervention

– Western Sahara Guerrillas Steal across Algerian-Libyan Border to Military Camps near Tripoli, Lead Ground Operations for Strongman’s Mercenary Army

– Qaddafi’s Children Urge Dictator to Accept Offer of Political Asylum from Nicaragua’s President Ortega

– Al Qaeda Affiliates Express Solidarity with Popular Uprising, Islamic Militants Raid Army Depot with Complicity of Commanding Officer

In the wake of a popular uprising that is less than three weeks old, the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, founded by Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi in 1969, is in its death throes. Rebel forces consisting of anti-government troops and militias pretty much control the entire North African country, with the exception of the capital Tripoli, Qaddafi’s hometown Surt, and a few other population centers.

Undaunted, Qaddafi loyalists have staged counterattacks since last weekend. On Wednesday, they overran the lightly defended town of Brega, an oil-exporting terminal on the coast around 500 miles east of Tripoli. However, rebels managed to repel the pro-Qaddafi forces (pictured above). Local sources described an aerial attack against the town of Ajdabiyah, around 50 miles from Brega, where rebels have seized control of a large ammunition dump. Ajdabiyah lies on the western approaches to Benghazi, the site of a rival government headed by Libya’s former justice minister.

Libya’s anti-Qaddafi rebels are divided over the issue of summoning foreign military intervention. “We are probably going to call for foreign help, probably air strikes at strategic locations that will put the nail in his [Qaddafi’s] coffin,” Mustafa Gheriani, a spokesman for the hastily organized February 17th Coalition, told Reuters. “They [loyalists] tried to take Brega this morning, but they failed. It is back in the hands of the revolutionaries. He [Qaddafi] is trying to create all kinds of psychological warfare to keep these cities on edge.”

In Tripoli, cornered mad dog Qaddafi, some or all of his seven sons, including heir apparent Saif al-Islam, are holed up in a huge military complex with thousands of mercenaries from Ukraine and Serbia, as well as Zimbabwe, Mali, Chad, and Sudan. The Bab al-Azizia barracks contain tunnels for easy escape and, according to Ramdan Jarbou, a writer who advises the rebel council, “It is designed to resist an atomic attack.”

Qaddafi’s white mercenaries from Eastern Europe have been tasked with keeping the Libyan air force airborne, while the black hired guns from sub-Saharan Africa roam the streets of Tripoli, looking for victims. Tellingly, the governments of Ukraine, Belarus, and Serbia were quick to deny the involvement of any retired or active-duty soldiers in the Libyan civil war.

Reportedly leading the pro-regime ground operations are guerrilla fighters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro (Polisario Front). In past years, Qaddafi cultivated a useful alliance with Polisario Front leader Mohamed Abdelaziz, who is also chummy with Cuba’s communist leaders. A Moroccan news site relates that the “Good Colonel” has dispatched emissaries to Western Sahara with a request for “additional fighters” in exchange for money and weapons to prosecute the Polisario Front’s war against Morocco:

Some sources in Algeria speak of hundreds of fighters from the Western Sahara. Separatist Polisario group have already crossed the border between Algeria and Libya towards military camps near Tripoli, Libya. The goal is to use Gaddafi’s Serbs and Ukrainians to fly helicopters and military aircraft, while the Polisario fighters lead the ground fighting.

Moreover, and according to the official Libyan news agency JANA, the Western Sahara Polisario leader, Mohamed Abdelaziz, has been one of the few people who managed to talk to Qaddafi. During the call, the “guide of the revolution” [Qaddafi] had promised to Mohamed Abdelaziz considerable sums of money and weapons to resume the war against Morocco. In his speech Tuesday, Gaddafi had indeed made it clear that nations that would help him are all from the Sahara. A clear allusion to the Polisario.

For his part, Muammar’s son Khamis leads the Libyan army’s 32nd Brigade, a relatively well equipped special forces outfit consisting of 10,000 men who have pledged their loyalty to the Qaddafi clan.

Since his coup against the Libyan monarch, Qaddafi has enjoyed Moscow’s ideological and technological support, both before and after the “fall” of communism. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited Libya in early 2008, while Qaddafi returned the favor by stopping by at the Kremlin later that year. An arms deal was high on the agenda in both instances.

Despite the current violence in Libya, the Russian Foreign Ministry has rejected international calls for sanctions against Qaddafi’s tottering regime. “While [they] might work in some situations, you can hardly say that they are an effective method of international action,” ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told Interfax. During bilateral talks in Brussels, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov released a joint statement with European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, which stated:

We condemn and consider unacceptable the use of military force to break up peaceful demonstrations. Supporting the peoples of Arab countries in their aspirations for a more just and prosperous life, the European Union and Russia stand ready to provide economic and other assistance to interested countries at their request.

The Kremlin has also rejected calls for military strikes and the establishment of a “no-fly” zone over Libya. Lavrov commented dismissively: “Planning any military intervention would be superfluous. Russia will veto any such plans at the United Nations.” Along the same theme, Russia’s NATO ambassador Dmitry Rogozin rumbled: “It would be a serious mistake if someone in Washington is seeking a blitzkrieg in Libya. A ban on the national air force or civil aviation to fly over their own territory is still a serious interference into the domestic affairs of another country.” Saif al-Islam warned against military action. “If they attack us, we are ready,” he told Sky News.

Since the uprising started on February 16, the former Soviet republic of Belarus’ support for Qaddafi has been more tangible than the expressions of solidarity emanating from Russia. On the previous day, reports the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a Libyan-owned Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft left an air base near the Belarusian city of Baranovichi and landed at the Libyan desert airport of Sebha. “The Ilyushin came from a dedicated military base that only handles stockpiled weaponry and military equipment,” revealed SIPRI’s arms trafficking expert Hugh Griffiths on Radio Sweden. SIPRI is an independent organization that tracks arms trafficking on behalf of the European Union.

The arms monitor also contends that one of Qaddafi’s private aircraft, a Falcon 900 executive jet, flew from Libya to Belarus last week, at least twice, possibly ferrying gold and diamonds. In particular, Griffiths elaborated on Sebha’s importance to the Libyan regime’s military operations:

Sebha is deep in the desert and was created by Gaddafi as his main military logistics base for his invasions of Chad in the 1980s. The tribe that controls the area around Sebha is still loyal to Gaddafi, he spent some of his formative years there, going to school.

Sebha could still be used as a jumping-off point for the movement of people or high-value commodities – such as diamonds, gold – out of Libya, either by executive jet, such as the aircraft which made the flights to Belarus late last week, or heavier items by cargo aircraft.

The Libyan regime has a “substantial number” of Soviet-built Ilyushin Il-76s. The air base at Baranovichi holds a major supply of arms and light weapons left over from the Cold War. Khamis al-Qaddafi attended a large military exercise in Belarus two years ago.

Griffiths also suggests that personal links between Qaddafi and four-term Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko could be helpful for the Libyan leader and his clan in the event that rebels successfully seize Tripoli. “[Lukashenko] hasn’t distanced himself from Gaddafi and he would certainly welcome members of his entourage,” he was quoted by Radio Sweden as saying. “Belarusian authorities could also manage to convert [Qaddafi’s alleged] large quantities of gold and diamonds into cash.” Although we previously quoted a Libyan oppositionist as predicting that Qaddafi intended to escape to Zimbabwe, Lukashenko would no doubt welcome the Lunatic of Libya with open arms.

As with reports of Belarusian and other Eastern European soldiers in the employ of Qaddafi, Belarus authorities derided the SIPRI report. Information about the flights between Libya and Belarus were drawn from “a wide range of sources” within the United Nations, EU and NATO, Griffiths told Swedish radio news.

On Tuesday the United Nations General Assembly unanimously suspended Libya’s farcical membership in the UN Human Rights Council. The resolution was adopted by consensus in the 192-nation General Assembly on the basis of a recommendation from the 47-member Geneva-based council, the principal UN rights forum. That body accused Libyan authorities last Friday of “gross and systematic violations of human rights.”

In spite of its pro-Muslim stance, the Obama White House is at least toying with a military response to the Qaddafi regime’s brutal crackdown on the rebellion. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the House of Representatives’ foreign affairs committee that Libya’s future is “murky.” Clinton opined: “In the years ahead, Libya could become a peaceful democracy or it could face protracted civil war. The stakes are high. The entire region is changing, and a strong and strategic American response will be essential.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates cautioned: “We have to think about the use of the U.S. military in another country in the Middle East.” Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen mused: “It would be an extraordinarily complex operation to set up.”

If US President Barack Hussein Obama gives a green light to oust Qaddafi, then the White House may play the “weapons of mass destruction” card to justify US-NATO air strikes. An Israeli news source quotes The Wall Street Journal as saying that “Washington fears Gaddafi may use mustard gas and other chemical-weapons agents against anti-government protestors. The newspaper quoted US officials as saying Tripoli also maintains control of aging Scud B missiles, as well as 1,000 metric tons of uranium yellowcake and vast amounts of conventional weapons.” According to an unconfirmed report in the Iranian state media, the Qaddafi regime has already used poison gas against rebels in the city of Misurata.

On March 2, Reuters, citing Egyptian authorities, reported that two US Navy amphibious assault ships, Kearsarge and Ponce, entered the Suez Canal from the Red Sea, sailing north on their way to the Mediterranean Sea. On Monday, destroyer USS Barry passed through the canal and is now sailing in the southwest Mediterranean. Pentagon officials will not confirm whether the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, which is still in the Red Sea, will be deployed to Libya.

Meanwhile, according to the Jerusalem Post, Qaddafi’s children have urged their father to abdicate and head for Nicaragua, where President Daniel Ortega, with the White House’s blessing, has reportedly offered political asylum to his old Cold War comrade. Ortega has been very vocal about his support for Qaddafi and disapproval for the Libyan rebels, earning him a rap on the wrist from Costa Rican counterpart Laura Chinchilla, with whom he is duelling over a disputed river border.

Incidentally, President Hugo Chavez, Qaddafi’s ally in Venezuela, has made no public statements concerning the Libyan uprising. This conspicuous silence is strange in view of Comrade Hugo’s reputation as a “big mouth.” However, PetroleumWorld reports that Chavez may have let the cat out of the bag in a post at his official Twitter account: “Gaddafi is facing a civil war. Long live Libya. Long live the independence of Libya.”

Like Communist Cuba, the red regime in Caracas alleges that the USA plans to invade oil-rich Libya under the guise of intervention. Venezuela’s UN ambassador Jorge Valero stated: “We urge peace-loving nations in all regions of the world to put a stop to the invasion plans against Libya, which have been unashamedly announced by the Department of State of the United States and the Pentagon.”

Throughout the rebellion, Qaddafi–who hides his own hashish addiction behind trademark sunglasses–has accused Al Qaeda of fomenting the unrest that imperils his regime with drug-crazed teenagers as pawns. Although Islamists have yet to hijack the ongoing democratic revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, they are definitely making their presence felt in the last country, where the regime’s response to public protests has been the most violent.

In a statement released on February 24 by the North African affiliate of Al Qaeda, the group known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) declared its solidarity with the Libyan rebels: “We declare our support for the legitimate demands of the Libyan revolution. We assert to our people in Libya that we are with you and will not let you down, God willing. We will give everything we have to support you, with God’s grace.” The statement was posted on the al Qaeda-affiliated al-Fajr website.

Frances Townsend, formerly homeland security adviser to US President George W. Bush, worries that AQIM could establish a presence in the eastern provinces of Libya: “I do worry because AQIM has training, recruiting and operational capability, and they could lend that capability to what remains of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.” Formed by Libyan fighters who joined Osama bin Laden in the 1980s to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) was until recently the jihadist opposition to Qaddafi.

“Gadhafi crushed them,” relates Townsend. “My concern has always been that AQIM could conceivably lend support to the remnants of the LIFG as an attempt to take advantage of the chaos. It’s a legitimate concern, but as far as I know, it’s for now a theoretical concern.” Many of the LIFG leaders were sent to prison and then reintegrated into society through de-radicalization programs.

Another Muslim grouping called the Libyan Islamic Movement for Change has issued a statement calling on Arab states and the international community to intervene and aid the Libyan protestors:

This regime has lost control of most Libyan cities with the exception of the main part of the capital Tripoli…which has forced this gang to carry out airstrikes – using foreign pilots – against locations where protestors are gathering. This is in order to guarantee freedom of movement to military brigades and foreign mercenaries that have been brought in from abroad to carry out a campaign of genocide against the Libyan people, away from the eyes of the outside world.

Gaddafi is committed to destroying Libya and its people, and he wants to ensure that if his end is inevitable, he will not fall alone, but take all of Libya with him.

The Libyan Islamic Movement for Change urged the Libyan Air Force to bomb Qaddafi’s headquarters at the Bab al-Azizia barracks in Tripoli, “thereby spare Libyan people the bloodbath being arranged by the Libyan leaders, enabling the people of Libya to regain their independence and freedom.”

On February 20, a third Islamist group, called the Islamic Emirate of Barqa (IEB), actually carried out a military operation in Derna, storming a government arms depot and a nearby port. In the coordinated assault, IEB militants killed four soldiers, took hostages, and seized 250 weapons and 70 army vehicles. Significantly, the depot’s commanding officer facilitated the theft by willingly turning over a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, three anti-aircraft artillery units, and 70 Kalashnikov assault rifles. The same group was responsible for the hanging of two policemen in Al-Baida on February 19.

Over the past five years, Libya has freed around 850 prisoners from different Islamist groups, 360 of them since March 2010. Among those released were jihadists with ties to Al Qaeda’s Iraqi and North African sections, including senior members of the LIFG, such as its chief Abdelhakim Belhaj. In March 2006 Libya released 84 jailed members of the country’s banned Muslim Brotherhood, held since the late 1990s.

>Africa File: Pro-Qaddafi forces continue assault against oil town, Pentagon repositions forces, Italy suspends friendship treaty with Libya

>Overnight pro-regime forces in Libya once again attempted to re-take the rebel-held oil town of Zawiyah. CNN reports today that: “Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi tried to retake a town near the capital that is in opposition control but were repelled . . . Pro-Gadhafi troops with tanks and anti-aircraft guns attacked Zawiyah from both east and west as night fell Monday, but did not capture the town, a short drive from the capital Tripoli . . .” The same source adds: “Zawiyah is calm Tuesday, but Gadhafi’s troops remain outside it . . .”

Meanwhile, Washington is repositioning military assets in the region for a possible stike against the Libyan armed forces. DefenseNews.com reports:

The U.S. military is moving naval and air forces into position around Libya, the Pentagon said Feb. 28, as Western countries weigh possible intervention against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime. “We have planners working various contingency plans, and I think it’s safe to say as part of that we’re repositioning forces to provide for that flexibility once decisions are made,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan told reporters.

The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise is presently sailing in the Red Sea, while US and NATO bases in Italy could serve as potential staging areas for any action against Libya. For instance, the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet is stationed near Naples. The USA last bombed Libya in 1986, in reprisal for a terrorist attack in West Berlin.

To that end, Rome has suspended adherence to a non-aggression treaty that Italy signed with Libya three years ago, opening the way for US/NATO intervention in Libya’s civil war, which has crippled oil exports.

>Africa File: Libyan rebels down military aircraft as 2,000 pro-Qaddafi troops attempt to re-take Misurata, Zawiyah, French send aid to rebels

>Over the weekend, rebels in Misurata, Libya’s third largest city, and the strategic refinery town of Zawiyah fought back attempts by pro-Qaddafi forces to re-assume control over the region around the national capital Tripoli. A witness in Misurata told Reuters by telephone: “An aircraft was shot down this morning while it was firing on the local radio station. Protesters captured its crew. Fighting to control the military air base started last night and is still going on. Gaddafi’s forces control only a small part of the base. Protesters control a large part of this base where there is ammunition.”

Pictured above: Rebel militiamen in Nalut, 90 kilometers from Tunisian border, on February 27.

At the same time, rebel forces consisting of mutinous army units and militiamen have seized towns throughout western Libya. On February 28, The Telegraph quoted a lawyer in the town of Nalut, Shaban Abu Sitta, as saying: “The city has been liberated since February 19. It has been run by a revolutionary committee named by the town’s communities. The towns of Rhibat, Kabaw, Jado, Rogban, Zentan, Yefren, Kekla, Gherien and Hawamed have also been free for days. In all these towns, Gaddafi’s forces have gone and a revolutionary committee put in place.”

This weekend, the USA, the United Kingdom and the United Nations Security Council slapped economic sanctions on Libya. The European Union plans to apply sanctions against the embattled Qaddafi regime on Monday.

In Washington, US Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, representing both main parties, have urged President Barack Hussein Obama to recognize the transitional government in Libya and provide anti-regime forces with weapons and humanitarian assistance to oust Gaddafi.

In Paris, Prime Minister François Fillon acknowledged that France is sending two planes with humanitarian aid to Benghazi, the opposition stronghold in eastern Libya. The planes will be ferrying doctors, nurses, medicines and medical equipment. “It will be the beginning of a massive operation of humanitarian support for the populations of liberated territories,” Fillon said on RTL radio. He explained that the French government was studying “all solutions” to the Libyan crisis, including military options, so that “Gadhafi understands that he should go, that he should leave power.”

>Africa File: Qaddafi reportedly uses poison gas against opponents in rebel-held Misurata, enlists support of Western Sahara guerrillas

>– Libya’s former justice minister leads formation of interim government in Benghazi (source)

– According to the Iranian media there are unconfirmed reports that Qaddafi’s embattled regime has used poison gas against demonstrators in rebel-held Misurata, Libya’s third-largest city (source)

– Qaddafi secures support of Western Sahara’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro; hundreds of Polisario guerrillas steal across Algeria-Libya border to military camps near Tripoli (source)

– On Friday, rooftop gunmen in Tripoli fired on civilians with automatic weapons (source)

– According to Colonel Tarek Saad Hussein, a rebel officer who is coordinating an attack on the national capital, an armed volunteer force of about 2,000 men, including army defectors, is due to arrive in Tripoli shortly

– USA imposes unilateral sanctions on Qaddafi regime, freezes all assets held by Qaddafi clan, closes embassy in Tripoli (source)

– White House and NATO considering military option (source)

– United Nations World Food Program warns Libya’s food supply “close to collapse” (source)

– Venezuela’s communist dictator, Hugo Chavez, avoids public statements regarding fate of ally Qaddafi, posts thoughts on official Twitter account: “Gaddafi is facing a civil war. Long live Libya. Long live the independence of Libya.” (source)

>Africa File: Russia opposes sanctions against murderous Qaddafi regime, White House and NATO mull response, Islamists back Libyan rebels

>Pictured here: On February 24, anti-Qaddafi militiamen raid a military base near Benghazi and stockpile weapons for final assault against regime forces, which are concentrated in the capital Tripoli.

>Africa File: Qaddafi holed up in Bab Al-Azizia barracks with mercenaries, plane loaded with gold, cash, ready for escape to Zimbabwe

>– Mugabe’s Defense Minister Refuses to Comment on Reports of Zimbabwean Soldiers in the Employ of Qaddafi

– London-Based Libyan Oppositionist: Qaddafi Will Probably Flee Country before United Nations Imposes “No-Fly Zone”

– Qaddafi Sees “Writing on the Wall” as Tunisians and Egyptians Oust Dictators, Begins Shipping in 4,000 Mercenaries Two Days before Riots Erupt in Benghazi

Pictured above: Members of Libya’s Internal Security Forces wave the old national flag as they parade through the eastern, rebel-held city of Tobruk on February 24, 2011.

The Zimbabwe Daily reports that soldiers of that country are among Muammar al-Qaddafi’s mercenary units, which are ruthlessly gunning down civilians in Tripoli. On Wednesday, Innocent Gonese, chief whip of the Zimbabwean parliament and member of Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai, asked Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa to respond to reports, broadcast by Al-Jazeera television, that Zimbabwean troops are in Libya to help prop up Qaddafi’s tottering regime. In his reply, Mnangagwa only went so far as to acknowledge that: “There are mercenaries who are African and [who] are in Libya . . . [but] I have no mandate in my duty as Minister of Defense to investigate activities happening in another African country.”

The Zimbabwe news source then points out that this is not the first time the army has been deployed abroad. In 1999 President Robert Mugabe sent 11,000 troops to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to support fellow Marxist Laurent Kabila against rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda.

We previously blogged that the Libyan strongman, who has never enjoyed widespread support within the military, has shipped in ex-special forces from the “former” Soviet Union, especially Ukraine, as well as hired killers from Chad and Sudan. Ukrainian nationals not only hold high ranks in the Libyan armed forces, but also pilot the fighter jets that have bombed civilian targets since last week. Patriotic Libyan soldiers refused to carry out this beastly task and, instead, mutinied, rallying around Qaddafi’s opposition.

On February 24, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation conducted a lengthy interview with London-based Libyan oppositionist Guma El-Gamaty, who commented on the extent to which rebel forces now control the North African country:

I think practically Gaddafi’s regime is finished, it’s over, he’s down. It’s just a matter of time. This time could be hours, could be days

The whole of the eastern region is now totally free of Gaddafi’s control. In the western region, big towns and cities have also fallen. We have confirmation this morning that the third biggest city in Libya, which is Misurata, some 200 kilometers east of Tripoli, is totally free of Gaddafi and they have managed to tackle the last security battalion in the city and taken it over.
In fact, the local radio station in Misurata is now broadcasting free material against Gaddafi and celebrating with the population.

Also other towns like Zaria, 40 kilometers west of Tripoli is—we had reports today directly from there—that it is free. Zwara, near the Tunisian border, Gharyan, south of Tripoli about 80 kilometers.

Gaddafi is now more or less isolated within Tripoli and within Tripoli itself is just isolated inside his headquarter barrack, which is called Bab al-Azizia barrack, surrounded by his [seven] sons and a few of his security battalions.

With respect to the role of the hired foreign gunmen in Qaddafi’s employ, El-Gamaty explains:

[Qaddafi] . . . has thousands of African mercenaries. Some of them have been caught in the eastern region and interrogated. They are Africans who speak French or English. They are totally alien to the Libyan society and they said they have been promised large amounts of dollars to fight for Gaddafi, basically. And these thousands of Africans are within the Bab al-Azizia barrack.

It’s a huge complex and they unleash them out of the barracks in to the streets of Tripoli to terrorize the population and to prevent them from coming out and demonstrating. These mercenaries have orders to shoot any people who they see on the streets. So, that is what’s holding the huge population of Tripoli, which is about two million people, not to come out en masse. Basically, they are held hostages in their houses.

However, the grip is loosening very fast and even within Bab al-Azizia barrack we hear of the factions, we hear of the Libyan elements within Bab al-Azizia, some of them are refusing to go out and shoot their own citizens and as a result they have been executed and we hear of in-fighting.

According to El-Gamaty, the Libyan leader plans to flee to Zimbabwe, where he enjoys a comradely relationship with communist dictator Robert Mugabe:

The most serious thing we’ve heard this morning from quite reliable sources from Tripoli is that somebody, a Libyan called from within Bab al-Azizia, called his cousin and said: “Look, Gaddafi is preparing his private plane to flee and fly out to Zimbabwe.”

The report says that Gaddafi’s own private plane is loaded with gold bullion and lots of hard currency, mainly dollars, and is preparing to flee to Zimbabwe with his friend Robert to stay there in the safety of his friend Robert Mugabe.

We think this could happen very shortly because the Security Council is threatening to impose a no-fly zone and we think that Gaddafi will try to escape before this no-fly zone is imposed, possibly by tomorrow [February 25].

Waiting for the “Lunatic of Libya” in Zimbabwe–should this scenario unfold–will be another deposed dictator, red tyrant Mengistu Haile Mariam, who has enjoyed a sedate retirement in a Harare suburb since fleeing Ethiopia 20 years ago.

There is no question that Qaddafi has been closely monitoring events in Tunisia and Egypt, where popular revolutions have ousted two presidents since mid-January. Through his son and heir apparent Saif, Qaddafi began shipping 4,000 mercenaries into the country two days before anti-regime protests erupted in the eastern city Benghazi. This is the testimony of Libyan Air Force Major Rajib Faytouni, who said he personally witnessed up to 4,000 mercenaries arrive on Libyan transport planes over a period of three days starting from Monday, February 14. Faytouni explained: “That’s why we turned against the government. That and the fact there was an order to use planes to attack the people.”

We suspect communist dictator Hugo Chavez, who has made no public comment about the uprising that dethroned his bud in Libya, has also been monitoring the revolutions in North Africa with obvious concern over his own fortunes in Venezuela. In any event, Qaddafi’s “duck” is finally cooked. It remains to be seen which Arab dictatorship will go down next.

>Africa File: Ukrainian mercenaries piloting Libyan air force fighter jets, cargo planes, responsible for bombing civilians in anti-Qaddafi protests

>– Qaddafi Orders Loyalists to Blow Up Libya’s Oil Pipelines as Rebel Forces Advance on Capital and Crude Shoots Up to US$117 Per Barrel

– Medvedev Identifies “Outside Forces” (CIA) for Fomenting Chechen and Arab Unrest, Deputy PM Sechin Blames Egyptian Revolution on Google (?!)

Pictured above: On Wednesday, Russians evacuated from Libya exit an Emergency Situations Ministry jet at Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport.

On Thursday, Kiev-based newspaper Segodnya confirmed that “Mercenary pilots from Ukraine are flying Libyan air force planes supporting the regime of embattled Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi.” Additional quotes from this source:

The Ukrainian pilots, some of whom hold senior rank in the Libyan air force, operate MiG-21 and MiG-23 fighter jets, as well as An-12 and An-26 cargo planes. Stratfor, a private firm that does political analysis, reported on Tuesday that Ukrainian mercenaries piloted planes that had bombed hundreds of protesters near the Libyan capital Tripoli. A spokesman at Ukraine’s embassy in Tripoli denied that report.

The pilots receive between 2,000 and 8,000 dollars a month, Segodnya reported, citing Ukrainian combat flyers. A Ukrainian aircraft repair and overhaul facility reportedly has provided maintenance support for Libyan air force aircraft since 2008.

Ukrainian military professionals fighting on other nations’ behalf have landed the former Soviet republic in hot water repeatedly. The most controversial recent incidents involved Ukrainian helicopter gunship pilots attacking Albanian rebels for the Macedonian government in 2001, and Ukrainian missile gunners shooting down Russian aircraft for Georgia during the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia.

Russia has evacuated more than 300 citizens from Libya, as well as Ukrainians, Armenians, and Kazakhs. About 1,000 Russians, reports The Moscow Times, remain in the North African country, awaiting evacuation via ferries, presumably to the European Union.

Meanwhile, in Tripoli, Russia’s long-time ally, strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi and some 5,000 loyalists in the military are digging in, preparing to resist anti-government troops who have advanced within 50 kilometers of the national capital. “People’s committees” armed with automatic weapons patrol towns that have fallen to 40,000 anti-regime military units.

The uprising in Libya, which began with anti-government protests in Benghazi on February 15, has crippled the economy. “The uprising has virtually wiped out Libyan oil exports, said the head of Italy’s ENI, Libya’s biggest foreign oil operator,” the Irish media reports, noting: “The unrest has driven world oil prices up to around $117 a barrel, stoking concern about the economic recovery.” Crazy man Qaddafi has threatened to blow up oil pipelines that supply the EU with 10 percent of its energy requirements.

This week, Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev blamed “outside forces” for fomenting unrest that toppled the socialist dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt, that presently emperils Libya’s, and that intends to dismember Russia. With a dark nod toward an alleged conspiracy between Chechen terrorists and the US Central Intelligence Agency, Soviet Komsomol grad Medvedev rumbled: “Let’s face the truth. They [USA] have been preparing such a scenario for us, and now they will try even harder to implement it. In any case, this scenario will not work.”

Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin went so far as to name Google as a force behind the “regime change” in Egypt. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Sechin stated: “One should examine closer the events in Egypt, to look into what high-profile Google managers had been doing in Egypt, what kind of manipulations with the people’s energy had taken place there.”