GLOBAL OIL SQUEEZE: DECONSTRUCTING THE PROPAGANDA

Both George Bush and John Kerry made "energy independence" a key issue on the campaign trail. Kerry promised to "make this nation independent of Middle East oil in ten years." Bush said in his State of the Union address last year, "Our third goal is to promote energy independence for our country." (NYT, Oct. 25)

Meanwhile, analysts place the blame for grossly inflated prices squarely on Bush’s own policies. And with US military planners charting a new global command structure aimed at securing oil resources in sub-Saharan Africa, the talk of "energy independence" seems largely intended for domestic consumption.

BUSH INFLATES PRICES

Oil prices continue to hover at around $50-per-barrel, an unprecedented high–a trend apparently exacerbated by White House purchases for the US Strategic Reserves. Reported Bloomberg News Nov. 4: "Deliveries of about 100,000 barrels a day to the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve and the US-led occupation of Iraq sapped supply at a time of rising global demand, contributing to a 76% surge in prices in the past year. Bush plans to add at least 57 million barrels more of oil to guard against disruption in supplies."

Prices, which had dropped slightly below $50 for the first time in months just before the election, immediately surged back up as Bush emerged victorious. (Reuters, Nov. 3)

The ongoing horror-show in Iraq is clearly a key factor in escalating prices. On Nov. 2, as US voters went to the polls, insurgents again blew up Iraq’s northern pipeline, shutting down the 400,000-barrels-a-day flow to the Turkish port of Ceyhan–where storage is currently down to 4 million barrels, half the port’s capacity, largely due to incessant sabotage of the Iraq pipeline. (NYT, Nov. 3)

AFRICA BECOMES STRATEGIC

Strife in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta has simultaneously caused Royal Dutch Shell to sharply reduce output. Deep poverty in the midst of oil wealth, as well as the contamination of peasant lands and waters by Shell operations, have led to local armed movements, especially among the Ijaw ethnicity. Two rival armed groups are fighting both the Nigerian government and each other. Ateke "The Godfather" Tom of the Niger Delta Vigilantes is opposed by Alhaji Mujahid Asari Dokubo of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, a self-proclaimed admirer of Osama bin Laden who boasts of terror training in Libya and Afghanistan. Dokubo went on TV in late September to promise a wave of bombings and killings of foreign oil facilities and workers—to be dubbed "Operation Locust Feast"—unless the government agreed to grant the Delta region self-determination by Oct. 1. President Olusegun Obasanjo actually sent one of his official planes to bring the two militia leaders to the capital for talks, forestalling the promised terror campaign and leading to a temporary ceasefire. (Newsday, Nov. 1)

Labor unrest is also shaking Nigeria, where consumers are suffering from fuel price hikes despite the fact that the country is a top global oil producer. Unions declared Shell "an enemy of the people" in an Oct. 31 statement and called for a Nov. 16 national strike that could send further shock waves through global markets. The country’s umbrella union, the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC), staged a four-day national walk-out in protest of high fuel prices in mid-October, shutting down Lagos, the largest city and commercial center. The government’s jailing of NLC leader Adams Oshiomhole only served to harden the union’s position and widen the protests. (Afrol News, Oct. 11)

On Oct. 14, just as the general strike was paralyzing Lagos, Richard Wilcox, a member of the US National Security Council under President Clinton, had a New York Times op-ed piece calling for the Pentagon to establish an African Command. Noting that Africa is currently divided between the European, Central and Pacific commands, he argues that military planners have underestimated the continent’s strategic importance. While posing the possibility of "a humanitarian mission to help the people of Darfur", Wilcox does not fail to mention oil: "The Navy has conducted major exercises off West Africa, an area that, according to a recent study by the National Intelligence Council, may surpass the Persian Gulf as a source of oil for the United States in a decade."

Africa already accounts for a larger share of US oil imports than most Americans realize. According to Energy Department figures, the top five US oil suppliers are Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Canada, Venezuela and Nigeria. The sixth is Iraq, where the industry remains under ostensible state control despite US pressure for privatization. Filling out the top 15 are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Kuwait, the UK, Norway, Colombia, Russia and Gabon.

ECOLOGISTS SCAPEGOATED

In a typically sneering paid advertorial on the Times’ Oct. 25 op-ed page, entitled "National Security and Energy," Daniel J. Popeo of the ultra-conservative Washington Legal Foundation scapegoated domestic environmentalists for the current oil shock (teaser: "Paying at the pump for activism"). Dismissing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as "a barren patch of Alaskan wasteland", Popeo writes: "These activists should call themselves ‘Environmentalists for Foreign Energy Dependence’–as we have them to thank for the decades of regulations and lawsuits that make it nearly impossible to discover and refine oil here. And then, when we must rely on oil from unstable regions of the world, like the Middle East, these very same activists hypocritically scream ‘no blood for oil.’ Such dependence empowers erratic foreign regimes and power-hungry terrorists to hold our economy and national security hostage."

Defenders of clean air as well as Alaskan wilderness are also portrayed as traitors and terrorist dupes. "Once oil is drilled, even more government mandates make it costly to turn crude into gasoline. Demand for gas in the US is simply outstripping the capacity of domestic refineries, adding to what we pay at the pump and furthering our reliance on overseas production. Thanks to activist-driven federal rules, a new refinery hasn’t been built here for almost thirty years."

While he pays brief lip-service to "responsible, authentic environmentalism" that "contemplates the balanced use and enjoyment of our resources," Popeo dramatically fails to contemplate the self-evident reality that our refineries wouldn’t be stretched past capacity if so many of us weren’t riding around in gas-guzzling SUVs. He also fails to note that at current rates of consumption, all the oil in the ANWR–a maximum 5.2 billion barrels–wouldn’t get the US through six months. Despite such intellectual dishonesty, Popeo has the chutzpah to call his paid column "In All Fairness."

RESOURCES:

Washington Legal Foundation

Solcomhouse, solar energy advocacy website, fact-page on ANWR

Pentagon Unified Command

See also WW4 REPORT #103

(Bill Weinberg)
—————————

Special to WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, Nov. 5, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution

WW3Report.com

Continue ReadingGLOBAL OIL SQUEEZE: DECONSTRUCTING THE PROPAGANDA 

BOLIVIA: THOUSANDS MARCH FOR GAS LAW

by Weekly News Update on the Americas

On Oct. 18, thousands of Bolivian campesinos, miners and indigenous people
from Cochabamba, Potosi, Oruro and La Paz departments converged in the
capital to press for a new Hydrocarbons Law which will return oil and gas
resources to state hands. Abolition of the existing Hydrocarbons Law was
mandated by a July 18 referendum. The marchers were also marking the
anniversary of the ouster of President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada on Oct.
17, 2004, and paying homage to the dozens of protesters killed by police
and army troops during the uprising against gas exports which forced his
resignation.

When the mobilization was called, a key demand was for a trial of Sanchez
and his ousted cabinet ministers. (Los Tiempos de Cochabamba, Oct. 19) But
early on Oct. 14, after hours of debate, Bolivia’s Congress voted 126-13 to
try Sanchez and his 15 cabinet ministers on charges including genocide,
murder, actions against the Constitution and human rights violations. (AP,
Oct. 14)

Some 5,000 campesinos from Los Yungas region of La Paz department, headed
by campesino leader Felipe Quispe Huanca, were among the first to arrive on
Oct. 18 in La Paz city, pushing a 72-point campesino platform and demanding
that the trial of ex-president Sanchez and his cabinet ministers be held
without delay. Another 5,000 campesinos, led by Movement to Socialism (MAS)
deputy and cocalero leader Evo Morales Ayma, arrived after a week-long
march from Caracollo, in Oruro department, to demand the full
nationalization of hydrocarbons, As many as 30,000 miners led by Moises
Torres marched into the center of La Paz from Senkata, near El Alto, where
government forces shot to death a number of protesters in last year’s
uprising. (Los Tiempos, Oct. 19)

The protesters remained in La Paz on Oct. 19, blocking main roads and
interrupting traffic between La Paz and El Alto. On Oct. 20, after police
prevented thousands of people from massing in Plaza Murillo, in front of
Congress, the protesters began vigils along the adjoining streets,
demanding passage of the Hydrocarbons Law proposed by the legislature’s
economic development commission. (Los Tiempos; El Diario, La Paz, Oct. 21)

Later on Oct. 20, the government signed an agreement with Florencio Coca,
leader of the cooperative mine workers, settling a key demand: reactivation
of the country’s mining sector. The miners agreed to end their blockades
after the government transferred $3 million to the Mining Investment Fund
(FOMIN) and pledged another $4 million in machinery and equipment,
supported by financing from Spain. The two sides are to continue
negotiations over pending issues. (Los Tiempos, Oct. 21)

Just after 10 PM on Oct. 20, the Chamber of Deputies provisionally approved
the Hydrocarbons Law by unanimous vote, after deputies from Quispe’s
Pachakuti Indigenous Movement (MIP) and several from the parliamentary bloc
of the oil-rich southern department of Tarija walked out of the session. In
its current form, the bill would require oil and gas companies to
renegotiate existing contracts under new terms more favorable to Bolivia.
After approving the bill, the deputies exited the Congress building and
sang the national anthem with campesino vigilers.

Congress will begin debating each of the bill’s 142 articles during the
week of Oct. 25; the process is expected to take as long as three weeks,
and the bill could be substantially modified. The administration of
President Carlos Mesa Gisbert, which failed to win approval of an earlier,
more investor-friendly version of the bill, refrained from publicly
criticizing the new version, saying only that "now the responsibility is in
the hands of the Parliament." (Los Tiempos, Oct. 22)

MESA DOES MIAMI

On Sept. 30, Bolivian president Carlos Mesa addressed some 1,000 top US and
Latin American government officials, business figures and academics at the
Biltmore Hotel in Miami on the first day of the two-day Americas
Conference, sponsored by the Miami Herald. Mesa apparently spent most of
his 45-minute speech reassuring the elite audience about the meaning of a
July 18 referendum on the ownership and export of Bolivia’s gas resources.
The vote "showed the world Bolivia can do it without violence," said Mesa.
"We [now] have a degree of peace in a society that is permanently
undergoing a convulsion."

The most important thing about the referendum, Mesa told the Miami crowd,
was that it cleared the way for exporting Bolivian gas: "Question number
five [of the referendum] categorically responded yes to the export of
Bolivian gas," he said.

In fact, only 47.4% of voters who participated in the referendum responded
"yes" to question five, compared to 25.2% who voted "no"–even though the
question was carefully phrased to imply that gas exports would bring
increased revenue for social programs. By contrast, 72% of voters approved
question two, which proposed nationalization of the gas, compared to 6.2%
who voted "no." Mesa bragged in Miami that the referendum had one of the
highest voter participation rates in Bolivia’s history. Voting was
mandatory, and overall abstention on the referendum was 40%.

Mesa admitted in Miami that World Bank and International Monetary Fund
(IMF) experts helped him write a proposal for a new hydrocarbons law.
Congress rejected that proposal in August and is now considering a very
different version. (Miami Herald, Sept. 30; Econoticiasbolivia.com, Oct. 1)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 24

See also WW3 REPORT #102

——————-

Forwarded by WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, Nov. 6, 2004
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PERU: POLICE KILL 3 COCALEROS

by Weekly News Update on the Americas

On Oct. 18, some 2,500 campesino coca producers (cocaleros) from San Gaban
in Carabaya province, Puno department, began blocking several points of a
highway leading to the neighboring department of Madre de Dios. The
cocaleros also blocked the main entrance to the San Rafael mine and
threatened to seize the San Gaban hydroelectric plant in nearby Shuane.
They were demanding that the government immediately suspend a coca
eradication operation being carried out by agents of the Anti-Drug
Department (Dirandro) in San Gaban.

According to Carabaya mayor Michel Francois Portier Balland, some 350
police agents had been carrying out the eradication operation for several
weeks, backed by seven helicopters, a small plane and several troop
transport vehicles. The agents destroyed not only coca plants but dozens of
hectares of fruits and other crops. The cocaleros say they grow only small
subsistence plots of coca leaf for domestic use, which they trade with
neighboring communities for food. Portier called on Interior Minister
Javier Reategui Rosello to suspend the eradication operation and begin a
dialogue with cocalero leaders and local authorities in order to avoid a
confrontation between cocaleros and police.

According to Adolfo Huamantica, mayor of San Gaban district, the cocaleros
had called for the open-ended strike on Oct. 13 after waiting all day for a
commission which the government’s National Commission for Development and
Life Without Drugs (DEVIDA) had promised to send, but which never showed
up. DEVIDA president Nils Ericsson said he had sent representative Jose
Figueroa to the zone but that Figueroa had determined it wasn’t necessary
to meet with the cocaleros. Portier said the cocaleros also sent a
delegation to Lima during the week of Oct. 11 to seek a solution, but they
received only promises of future dialogue.

On Oct. 19, more than 1,000 cocaleros approached the San Gaban
hydroelectric plant and prepared to occupy it. While they gathered there,
police burned the camp where the cocaleros were staying, destroying their
tents and possessions. As the cocaleros neared the hydroelectric plant’s
main building, police agents first used tear gas then fired their weapons
at the crowd, killing cocaleros Florencia Quispe Coaquira, Jose Sonco
Palomino and Wilber Campos, and wounding five others, at least one of them
seriously. Four police agents were also hurt, one seriously. The agents
finally withdrew after running out of bullets. (La Republica, Lima, Oct.
19-21)

In the afternoon of Oct. 19, following the incidents at San Gaban, Peru’s
Council of Ministers held an extraordinary session and instituted a 30-day
state of emergency in the districts of San Gaban and nearby Antauta.
Reategui, the interior minister, accused the protesters of being drunk and
incited by "narco-terrorists"; he claimed police fired their weapons in
self-defense after being attacked. Defense Minister Roberto Chiabra Leon
alleged that the protesters were not cocaleros at all, but
"narco-terrorists" who were angry because government anti-drug forces had
recently destroyed 10 local maceration pits, where coca leaves are pounded
into base cocaine. (La Republica, AP, Oct. 20)

On Oct. 20, after the cocaleros withdrew from the hydroelectric plant, the
government set up a dialogue commission headed by Agriculture Minister
Alvaro Quijandria to meet with protest leaders and local and regional
authorities. (La Republica, Oct. 21)

Some 1,000 cocaleros marched in San Gaban on Oct. 21, after lifting their
strike to allow a 10-day truce and await the results of the negotiations.
Protest leaders laid out a platform of 17 demands, including a census of
cocaleros, an end to eradication operations, the titling of cultivated
lands, the promotion of profitable alternative crops to replace coca, and
simplified requirements for agricultural loans. (La Republica, Oct. 22)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 24

See also WW3 REPORT #103

—————————

Forwarded by WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, Oct. 4, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution

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Continue ReadingPERU: POLICE KILL 3 COCALEROS 

ELECTORAL VIOLENCE IN CHIAPAS, OAXACA

State elections in Mexico Oct. 3 saw more violence in the conflicted
southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, with several reported dead. Both
states–the poorest and most heavily indigenous in Mexico–have seen the
emergence of guerilla movements and anti-guerilla paramilitary groups over
the past decade, leaving many rural communities bitterly divided. In a sign
of returning normality, the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas announced that they
would allow polling in territories under their control. (La Jornada, Sept.
30) Ironically, the electoral violence in Chiapas took place outside the
Zapatista-controlled zones.

The elections for 40 Chiapas state legislature seats and 118 municipal
leaders were closely watched by some 1,500 observers, with nearly twice as
many state police deployed to patrol conflicted villages. (Proceso, Oct. 1)

The overarching issue in Chiapas was the ongoing challenge to the
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), a corrupt and entrenched machine
which held a power monopoly until recent years and still has a network of
rural political bosses who rule villages through violence and intimidation,
and are often linked to paramilitary groups.

Opposition to the PRI made for some strange bedfellows. Gov. Pablo Salazar
(the state’s first non-PRI governor in generations) represents the Alliance
for Chiapas, which brings the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution
(PRD) and Workers Party (PT) together with the right-wing National Action
Party (PAN). The PRI, meanwhile, picked up an unlikely coalition partner in
the Mexican Green Ecologist Party (PVEM).

In the prelude to the vote, violence between PRI and Alliance for Chiapas
supporters broke out at several locations around the state. At Ixcamut in
Yajalon municipality, four members of a Chol Maya family were slain with
machetes Sept. 29. Ixcamut lies just outside the Zapatista zone, in a
region long terrorized by a PRI-linked paramilitary, the Chinchulines. (El
Universal, Sept. 30)

That same day, 12 were hurt as a meeting of the Alliance for Chiapas was
attacked by a PRI mob with rocks and sticks in the Tzotzil Maya village of
Chamula. (La Jornada, Sept. 30) Chamula is among the most divided of
Chiapas’ villages, and was the scene of an uprising in August, when PRI
Mayor Juan Gomez was seized from his office and jailed by hundreds of local
residents, who charged him with pocketing the money for "phantom"
construction projects in the village. He was released after two days,
following the mediation of state authorities. (AP, Aug. 10)

Oct. 2, one man was shot in the back and killed in Tapilula village, as PRI
and Alliance for Chiapas supporters again faced off. More violent
confrontations were also reported that day in the state capital, Tuxtla
Gutierrez, apparently without casualties. (AP, Oct. 2)

Conflicts continued on election day. At Saclum, a village in Chenalho
municipality, electoral officials were forcibly held for several hours by a
group of local Tzotzil men. They were released after negotiators from the
state office of indigenous issues arrived at the scene. (Cuarto Poder, Oct.
4) Election-day clashes were also reported in poor neighborhoods in the
highland city of San Cristobal de Las Casas (El Universal, Oct. 4)

When the results came in, they were decidedly mixed. The PRI regained
control of the major cities. PRI-PVEM candidate Juan Sabines Guerrero won
the mayoral race in Tuxtla, previously in hands of the PAN. The PRI’s
Sergio Lobato Garcia won in San Cristobal, which had been in hands of a new
populist Social Alliance Party, with a base of support in the poor barrios.
(La Jornada, Oct. 4)

But the PRI suffered loses in rural areas. It lost its absolute majority in
the state legislature, and the number of municipalities it controlled
statewide dropped from 72 to 52. (La Jornada, Oct. 5)

Citing the Zapatistas’ display of good faith in allowing elections in its
zones of control, the federal congressional body charged with resolving the
Chiapas conflict, the Concord and Pacification Commission (COCOPA), called
for the army to pull back from rebel-loyal communities where it still
maintains a presence. (Proceso, Oct. 7)

OAXACA

Oaxaca saw mayoral races in 152 of its 570 municipalities–the rest reject
party politics in favor of the system of traditional indigenous councils
known as "usos y costumbres" (uses and customs), as permitted under Oaxaca
law.

On the eve of the election, Guadalupe Avila, PRD mayoral candidate in the
village of San Jose Estancia Grande, was assassinated. Her candidacy was
assumed by her husband, Israel Reyes. Local PRD followers blamed the
village’s sitting PRI Mayor Candido Palacios for ordering the murder.

In the remote Zapotec village of San Agustin Loxicha, local human rights
activist Lino Antonio Almaraz was shot dead on the eve of the elections,
causing polling to be indefinitely postponed. He was brother of Donaciana
Antonio Almaraz, president of the local People’s Union Against Repression
and Militarization. Loxicha has been violently divided since 1997, when
several members of the municipal government were arrested on charges of
supporting a local guerilla group, the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR).

Estela Martinez, PRD candidate in Zimtlan municipality, was also shot on
the eve of the election, but survived. (EFE, Oct. 2)

The coastal Zapotec town of Juchitan also saw an electoral dispute, with
citizens staging an occupation of the city hall and holding members of the
town council under citizen’s arrest. (El Universal, Oct. 4)

As in Chiapas, the PRI won the state capital, Oaxaca City, but suffered
reversals in rural areas. (EFE, Oct. 4)

(Bill Weinberg)
——————-

Compiled by WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, Nov. 6, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution

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Continue ReadingELECTORAL VIOLENCE IN CHIAPAS, OAXACA 

AFGHAN ELECTIONS MARRED BY WAR, FRAUD AND TERROR

The Oct. 10 presidential elections in Afghanistan provided George Bush with potent campaign trail propaganda. He repeatedly invoked the 10 million newly registered voters there, and the icing on the cake was the apparent victory by the US favorite, incumbent interim president Hamid Karzai. But the elections actually revealed how precariously Afghanistan is poised on the brink of ethnic war.

The vote came just days after a modicum of peace had been restored in the western city of Herat, where Karzai removed the local governor, Ismail Khan, a veteran Tajik warlord whose forces had been fighting with those of rival Pashtun warlord Amanullah Khan in recent weeks. Over 4,000 Pashtun families are said to have fled Herat since Ismail Khan took power there after the fall of the Taliban.

The presidential candidates largely came from ethnic-based parties which double as warlord militias with their roots in the Mujahedeen war of the 1980s. Karzai’s major rival was Yunus Qanooni, a former member of Karzai’s interim cabinet and a civilian leader of Jamiat-i-Islami, the main Tajik party/militia of the Mujahedeen and later the Northern Alliance. Other major candidates in the field of 16 included Abdul Rashid Dostum, former interim deputy defense minister and military/political boss of Junbish-i-Milli, the major Uzbek party/militia (who is accused of grave rights abuses in his northern fiefdom); and Muhammad Mohaqeq, interim planning minister and a mainstay of the Hazara party/militia, Hezb-i-Wahdat.

The more pluralist and secular candidates not linked to Mujahedeen parties received considerably fewer votes and less attention in the western media. These included the only woman candidate, Masooda Jalal, described by the New York Times as an "urban Tajik" and a "technocratic candidate like Karzai." Women’s rights were actually far more emphasized by Latif Pedram, a leftist writer and philosopher who returned from exile in France to run as an independent–and received even less international attention.

The US was open in its support for Karzai, a member of the traditional Pashtun elite whose father had served in the Afghan Parliament under King Mohammad Zahir Shah. US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad met with many of the candidates privately, and was accused of pressuring Karzai’s rivals to drop from the race (a charge he denied).

Guerilla harassment by the Taliban and allied ultra-Islamist groups attempted to disrupt the elections. So-called "night letters" warning women not to vote appeared, especially in the Pashtun-dominated south. "Your blood is on your own hands if you leave your houses," read one typical message. Women made up 41% of the registered voters nation-wide, but under 10% in much of the Pashtun region, which had been the Taliban’s heartland.

On Oct. 6, Karzai’s running mate Ahmed Zia Massoud (brother of the legendary late Northern Alliance leader and Tajik warlord Ahmad Shah Massoud) narrowly escaped death in a remote-controlled bomb attack on his convoy in Badakshan province. On election eve, Afghanistan’s major roads were shut down by the army and police, and tight security measures imposed where-ever the government has a modicum of control. Nonetheless, overnight rocket attacks were reported in several cities–one even hit close to the US military base in Kabul.

In the wake of the vote, Karzai’s 15 rival candidates threatened not to recognize the election, citing numerous accounts of irregularities–such as indelible ink used to mark voter’s thumbs after polling proving not to be indelible, allowing multiple votes. On Oct. 13, UN officials agreed to review 43 complaints of irregularities, prompting the candidates to back down from their threats and allowing counting to proceed.

Receiving far less international media play were widespread reports of warlord factions intimidating voters. On the eve of the election, Human Rights Watch issues a 52-page report, "The Rule of the Gun: Human Rights Abuses and Political Repression in the Run-Up to Afghanistan’s Presidential Election," documenting the atmosphere of repression and fear in many areas of the country. The report contends voters had little faith in ballot secrecy, and faced threats and bribes from militia factions.

Although it failed to make headlines, the New York Times reported Oct. 1 that the 10 million-voters-figure repeatedly boasted by Bush actually exceeds the estimated eligible population–indicating that the supposed of evidence of democracy on the march is actually evidence of large-scale electoral fraud.

Violence again escalated in the election’s aftermath. On Oct 19, an election commission jeep was blown up in a roadside blast in Paktika province, killing five. On Oct. 29, three foreign election workers were kidnapped right in heavily-policed Kabul. They are still being held, apparently by an extremist Taliban faction called the Jaish-i-Muslimin.

On Nov. 1, presumed Taliban guerillas attacked US troops patrolling in Paktika near the Pakistan border, killing one and injuring two more with gunfire and rockets. That same day, in another sign of the central government’s fragility, Afghan National Army troops clashed with police in a gun-battle in Zabul province, leaving several casualties and prompting US forces to step in to restore order. The incident was apparently sparked when the soldiers stopped the police at a checkpoint in the provincial capital of Qalat and ordered them to disarm. US troops and helicopters are still patrolling the city. Also that day, Afghan army soldiers opened fire on provincial militiamen in the southern city of Kandahar, killing two and injuring one.

On Oct. 30, when Karzai’s victory seemed clear, US Gen. James Jones, NATO’s top commander for Europe, arrived in Afghanistan to meet with the president-elect. On the table were plans to merge the US-led security force in Afghanistan with the UN-mandated peacekeeping force into a single NATO-led force–and expanding the mandate for the peacekeepers beyond Kabul to the rest of the country.

Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden, who shocked the world with a new video communique days before the US presidential elections, is believed to be hiding just across the border in the mountains of Pakistan, where Taliban-inspired groups have regional control.

Religious-political violence is rapidly spreading throughout Pakistan. A grim dialectic of Sunni-Shi’ite bloodshed has claimed several lives there in recent weeks. On Oct. 3, a suicide bombing at a Shi’ite mosque in Sialkot killed 31. On Oct. 8, a car bomb attack on a Sunni gathering in Multan killed 40 and wounded over 100. On Oct. 10, pro-Taliban Sunni cleric Mufti Muhammad Jamil Ahmed and his aide were killed by a gunman in Karachi. On Oct. 11, a suicide bombing at a Shi’ite mosque in Lahore killed three (not counting the bomber). The destabilization of this key regional US ally could make the apparent US victory in Afghanistan an horrifically Phyrric one. (Bill Weinberg)

RESOURCES: Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan on the Human Rights Watch report

——————-

Compiled by WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, Nov. 6, 2004

Reprinting permissible with attribution WW3Report.com

Continue ReadingAFGHAN ELECTIONS MARRED BY WAR, FRAUD AND TERROR 

BUSH AND OSAMA: FEARFUL SYMMETRY

Progressives all over the United States are licking their wounds in the wake of the Nov. 2 electoral debacle. Not only was George Bush returned to office, but four more Republicans were elected to the Senate, and three to the House, and constitutional amendments banning gay marriage passed in 11 states. There were certainly some voting irregularities. Greg Palast predictably (and perhaps accurately) maintains in an article for TomPaine.com now circulating on the ‘net that "Kerry Won"–citing "spoilage" of 110,000 "overwhelmingly Democratic" votes in Ohio.

But the underlying dynamic spells a long-term sharp decline for what little remains of progressive content in national politics. The Faustian bargain between rural religious conservatism and corporate economic conservatism (ironically called "neo-liberalism" in the rest of the world) represented by the Reagan revolution has now become hegemonic. Until the electoral college is overturned, the Christian heartland and South will be able to hold sway. In a Nov. 4 post-mortem on the Kerry campaign on the New York Times op-ed page, "The Day the Enlightenment Went Out," Garry Wills summed up the successful Republican strategy–and its ominous implications: "Mr. Rove understands what surveys have shown, that many more Americans believe in the Virgin Birth than in Darwin’s theory of evolution… Which raises the question: Can a people that believes more fervently in the Virgin Birth than in evolution still be called an Enlightened nation?"

This presidential race was a de facto referendum on pluralist values, and a look at the Red-Blue map finds these values surviving significantly only in clusters around the Northeast seaboard, the Great Lakes and the West Coast.

This map will look familiar to history buffs as nearly identical to the Grey-Blue map of the Civil War, and that of free versus slave states in its immediate prelude. A basic divide in the American body politic seems to have persisted for a century and a half, and in retrospect the victory at Appomattox appears in many ways a Phyrric one. The only irony is that the postures of the two parties have completely switched. In 1860, the Republicans were the party of the Northeast, urban liberals and free labor. The Democrats were the party of the South and the frontier (today the heartland), rural bumpkins, racism and slavery.

Some facetious maps now circulating in cyber-space show the blue states seceding and uniting with Canada, leaving the South and heartland as "Jesusland" or "The United State of Texas."

The flight from modernity represented by the Bush base is ironically reflected in America’s ostensible new enemy of Islamic extremism. Even the alliance with the most sinister sectors of corporate power is there, as elements of the Saudi petro-elites continue to fund the jihadis (in a deal initially brokered by the Reagan White House to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan).

Commentators made much of Osama bin Laden’s surprise video communique released days before the election. Conservatives, of course, made an analogy to the devastating March 11 terror attacks in Madrid which apparently prompted Spanish voters to repudiate Bush’s terror war ally Jose Maria Aznar just four days later. The most widely-quoted lines from the communique seemed to offer cessation of terror attacks if the White House assumed a less bellicose stance: "I tell you in truth, that your security is not in the hands of Kerry, nor Bush, nor al-Qaeda. No. Your security is in your own hands. And every state that doesn’t play with our security has automatically guaranteed its own security."

A reading of the communique’s complete transcript reveals a different picture. One largely overlooked passage explicitly identifies Bush as at least an objective collaborator with al-Qaeda’s agenda:

"[T]hose who say that al-Qaeda has won against the administration in the White House or that the administration has lost in this war have not been precise, because when one scrutinizes the results, one cannot say that al-Qaeda is the sole factor in achieving those spectacular gains. Rather, the policy of the White House that demands the opening of war fronts to keep busy their various corporations–whether they be working in the field of arms or oil or reconstruction–has helped al-Qaeda to achieve these enormous results. And so it has appeared to some analysts and diplomats that the White House and us are playing as one team towards the economic goals of the United States, even if the intentions differ."

Another overlooked passage takes on Bush’s accusation that al-Qaeda are "freedom-haters"–and makes clear that Osama, like his nemesis in Washington, believes he is acting on behalf of freedom:

"Before I begin, I say to you that security is an indispensable pillar of human life and that free men do not forfeit their security, contrary to Bush’s claim that we hate freedom. If so, then let him explain to us why we don’t strike for example–Sweden? And we know that freedom-haters don’t possess defiant spirits like those of the 19–may Allah have mercy on them. No, we fight because we are free men who don’t sleep under oppression. We want to restore freedom to our nation, just as you lay waste to our nation. So shall we lay waste to yours."

An interesting question is whether Bush recognizes his connivance with Osama–just how cynical the game really is. It is also intriguing to contemplate whether either man recognizes the degree to which he is mirrored by the other. But more important than these intellectual exercises is the critical question of how the mantle of freedom can be de-coupled from the agendas of social reaction, both in the Islamic world and the US of A. (Bill Weinberg)

RESOURCES:

Pledge of Action to Stop a Stolen Election

See also WW3 REPORT #99

——————-

Special to WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, Nov. 6, 2004

Reprinting permissible with attribution WW3Report.com

Continue ReadingBUSH AND OSAMA: FEARFUL SYMMETRY 

U.S. TO DOUBLE TROOP PRESENCE IN COLOMBIA; GENERAL STRIKE SAYS NO TO MORE WAR

by Bill Weinberg

Colombia makes few headlines in the United States these days. But
Washington’s involvement in the western hemisphere’s longest, bloodiest war
is rapidly escalating, as the world’s attention is elsewhere. And the
latest signal of increased US embroilment comes just as a vocal civil
movement is emerging in Colombia to demand an end to the military option.

Congressional approval last weekend of a doubling of the Pentagon’s troop
presence in Colombia was closely followed by a national wave of protest
throughout the war-torn South American nation, as some 1.4 million
public-sector workers walked off their jobs and took to the streets for a
one-day strike. Organized by major trade unions as well as civil
organizations, the Oct. 12 strike demanded an end both to President Alvaro
Uribe’s push to join Bush’s Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), and to
the rights abuses and atrocities associated with the government’s
counter-guerilla war–which the US has funded to the tune of $3.3 billion
since Plan Colombia was passed in 2000.

The vote in Washington two days earlier doubled the cap on US military
advisors in Colombia to 800, and raised the cap on the number of US
civilian contract agents–pilots, intelligence analysts, security
personnel–from 400 to 600. The measure came as a little-noticed part of
the 2005 Defense Department authorization act, and was a defeat for human
rights groups which had been pushing for a lower cap. The new 800/600 cap
is exactly what the White House asked for. An earlier House version would
have established a 500 cap for military personnel and kept the cap for
civilian contractors at 400, but this was rejected in joint committee. A
proposal establishing these caps in the Senate–known as the Byrd amendment
for Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV)–was defeated in June by a vote of 58 to 40.
Among the two senators who abstained was John Kerry.

The authorization bill says the measure is aimed at helping the Colombian
government fight "against narcotics trafficking and against activities by
organizations designated as terrorists," naming the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and the
United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). But rights groups point to a
long record of close collaboration between Colombia’s armed forces at the
AUC, a rightist paramilitary group. And while US troops are officially
barred from actual combat missions in Colombia, many fear that Washington
is on a slippery slope.

"This amounts to authorization of increased involvement by US troops in an
internal armed conflict in Colombia," says Kimberly Stanton, deputy
director of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). "And it was
passed without significant public debate. We are sliding into a protracted
civil war in Colombia."

In the general strike that followed the vote, hundreds of thousands of
workers, joined by peasants and students, shut down cities throughout the
country. Bogota’s central square, Bolivar Plaza, was filled with some
300,000–Colombia’s largest protest in recent memory. Business was also
paralyzed in Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga and Cartagena, and
traffic was blocked on the Panamerican Highway. In addition to protesting
the war and FTAA plans, the strikers also opposed Uribe’s scheme to alter
the constitution to allow himself to seek another term in office. The
hardline Uribe, Bush’s closest ally in South America, has refused to
negotiate with the FARC, Colombia’s biggest guerilla army. A negotiated
settlement to the conflict was among the strikers’ demands.

The New York Times story on the raising of the troop cap (at the bottom of
page nine) claimed that "Under Mr. Uribe’s administration, violence has
ebbed in Colombia." But human rights groups in Colombia say that atrocities
have more than doubled since Uribe took office in 2002.

The Congressional vote also coincided with the release of a new Amnesty
International report on sexual violence in Colombia’s war. The report,
"Colombia: Violence Against Women," finds that rape and other sexual
crimes–including genital mutilation–are frequently used by both the
paramilitaries and the official security forces against communities accused
of collaborating with the guerrillas.

"Women and girls are raped, sexually abused and even killed because they
behave in ways deemed as unacceptable to the combatants, or because women
may have challenged the authority of armed groups, or simply because women
are viewed as a useful target on which to inflict humiliation on the
enemy", said Susan Lee, director of Amnesty’s Americas program.

The vote also came days after yet another peasant leader was assassinated.
On Oct. 6, the body of Pedro Jaime Mosquera Cosme, an Afro-Colombian leader
of the Campesino Association of Arauca, was found near the Venezuelan
border, with what the group called "clear signs of torture." Arauca is one
of the most conflicted of Colombia’s departments, and numerous campesino
leaders have been killed by paramilitaries and the army there in recent
years.

Rights advocates fear that in next year’s DoD authorization act, DC
hardliners will again push to get the cap on US troop levels raised–or
done away with altogether, as is proposed by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA).
WOLA’s Stanton sees the lack of media coverage of the vote–and Colombia
generally–as a bad sign. "The American people are not aware that we are
increasingly involved," she says, "with all attention focussed on Iraq."

RESOURCES:

Amnesty International press release on "Colombia: Violence Against Women"

Prensa Rural on killing of Pedro Jaime Mosquera
——————-

Compiled by WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, Nov. 6, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution

WW3Report.com

Continue ReadingU.S. TO DOUBLE TROOP PRESENCE IN COLOMBIA; GENERAL STRIKE SAYS NO TO MORE WAR 

IRAQ: EDEN AGAIN?


Restoring the Marshes of Mesopotamia

by Azzam Alwash with Suzanne Alwash

I discovered the Mesopotamian marshes as a boy when my father, an
irrigation engineer for Iraq, took me on a motorboat that puttered between
reeds towering tall overhead. The air was perfectly still, thick with a
dank algal smell and the buzz of flies. It was blazingly hot. Suddenly, we
emerged onto an open lake, blown by a crisp breeze, where the whole world
was dazzling blue and green and brown. In the clearing was a village where
each house was its own island, built from centuries-old accumulations of
reeds and mud. We brought the boat to the largest island, disembarked and
were greeted warmly and loudly by the villagers. They grandly showed us to
the guesthouse (know as a mudhif) constructed of bundles of reeds bound
together, where men sat on richly embroidered carpets, arguing and laughing
and tending endless pots of strong black tea. The air inside the mudhif was
blessedly cooler. The villagers insisted we stay for dinner, and I slept in
my father’s lap on the way home, rocking through reed beds under the
moonlight.

Such was my introduction to Iraq’s Marsh Dwellers, a people whose culture
is shaped by their coexistence with the marshlands, and whose cultural
roots extend to the time of the ancient Sumerians. The Mesopotamian marshes
lie within Southern Iraq, along the confluence of the Tigris and the
Euphrates. The Marsh Dwellers live deep within these wetlands, their
villages accessible only by canoes called mashhoofs. Each home is its own
island, and families travel to their villages via the water. They harvest
and feed the sprouting reeds to their water buffalos and use buffalo dung
for fuel. They depend on fishing and hunting, and planting rice, fruits,
vegetables and date palms along the margins of the marshes.

Cuneiform tablets reveal that the Marsh Dwellers have essentially followed
this way of life for the past 5,000 years. Their home is the birthplace of
western civilization, ancient Sumer. The world’s first epic poem,
Gilgamesh, was written here. Tradition holds that this was the site of the
biblical Garden of Eden, sacred to Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.

In 1988 a half million Marsh Dwellers lived in the marshlands. At the end
of 1991 Sadam Hassein drained, dried and burned the marshes and their
villages. At least 300,000 Marsh Dwellers died, fled or were resettled. By
2000, less than a tenth of the original population remained close to the
Euphrates and the Tigris. A 2001 United Nations Environmental Program
report called "the disappearance of the Mesopotamian marshlands" a major
"environmental catastrophe that will be remembered as one of humanity’s
worst engineered disasters."

I shared the report with my wife, an environmental geologist who had fallen
in love with the marshes, and we committed ourselves to seeing the
marshlands restored. We established the Eden Again Project to promote the
restoration of the Mesopotamian marshes. The project seeks not only to
restore the marshes for their own sake, but also for the Marsh Dwellers,
whose culture and lifestyle depend on them. The Iraq Foundation, a
non-governmental organization led by Iraqi expatriates who work to promote
democracy and human rights in Iraq, agreed to sponsor the project. The
project leaders were optimistic and eager to find innovative ways to revive
the marshlands.

The initial evaluations were challenging: a US government scientist told
project leaders that there was too little water left in the rivers to
restore the marshes. A humanitarian group contended that the Marsh Dwellers
would really prefer to live in towns, making the need for restoration less
pressing. Despite the nay-saying, the Eden Project convened a panel of
international experts to serve as technical advisors. The panel decided
that restoration was warranted because the marshes provided environmental
services, ecological functions, economic goods and socio-cultural values:
restoration effects were technically judged feasible and worthwhile.

In the summer of 2003, I returned with a team to the country of my birth.
The marshes were in bad shape. The Central and Hammar Marshes were mile
upon mile of dried, desiccated land. Parched earth was split by foot-deep
cracks. We occasionally found an area that had been recently inundated,
where facility operators and local populations were removing embankments,
disabling pump stations, or opening sluice gates. Already, people had begun
moving back to the re-flooded areas, a powerful sign that Iraqis wanted
their marshes restored.

Eden Again staff advocated on behalf of the marshlands to Iraq’s
government, and the project members celebrated when in October 2003 the new
Minister of Water Resources declared restoration his highest priority.
Italy’s Ministry of the Environment supported a comprehensive survey of
water resource needs in March 2003. The ministry also provided the Iraq
Foundation funding to monitor environmental changes in the re-flooded Abu
Zarag Marsh. The Eden Again Project hired professors and graduate students
from Iraq’s major universities to work with the experts, monitoring
environmental conditions in re-flooded areas. The country has committed two
million euros and has pledged an additional five million euros to our
project. Italian experts and Iraqi scientists are working collaboratively
on restoration: the Italians providing the science of restoration and the
Iraqi providing local knowledge about the marshes. The United Nations
Environmental Program has other roundtable discussions for donor nations.
And they have engaged Iran in discussions of management of its Hawr al-Azim
Marsh. The U.S. provided $4 million in funding and sent of team of experts
to consult on the restoration, agriculture, fish, and water buffalo.
Slowly, this committed effort is beginning to achieve results.

The Iraqi people began efforts to break down embankments as soon as they
could without fear of reprisals. Consequently, the restoration partners are
treating these re-flooded areas as ready-made demonstration projects. One
of these sites is Karmashia, about 15 miles east of Nasiriyah.

I first visited Karmashia in September 2003. Already houses made of mud and
brick lined the riverbanks; the water turned from deep brown to green as
sewage flowed into the river. At the end of the distributary was a security
embankment built by the former regime to provide fast access to the
marshes; satellite images from 2001 suggested that beyond it, we would find
an entirely dried marsh bed. Instead there were thick forests of green
reeds. In a nearby field, people were singing as they harvested rice and
waved to visitors. It was difficult to believe that all this had grown in
only six months, after the local population opened the sluice gates and
allowed the water to flow naturally. Newly constructed reed huts lined the
edge of the embankment, and their inhabitants were herding livestock. These
settlers were not originally from Karmashia, they said, but were from the
Central Marsh; when their marshes were dried they had left to find work as
servants. Now they were returning home, waiting in Karmashia until their
own marshes were restored. Women were collecting dung to burn for fuel, and
men were fishing in canoes. Everywhere there were signs that life in the
marshes was progressing as it had for hundreds of years–except that when
we drove further and looked beyond the edge of the embankment, all we could
see was desert.

Through the direct actions of the Marsh Dwellers and Iraq’s Ministry of
Water Resources, the size of the marshlands has dramatically increased in
recent months. In 2003, only five to 10 percent of the original marshlands
remained. By February 2004, about 20 to 30 percent of the marshlands were
covered with water. Six separate areas have been re-flooded.

Within the re-flooded marshes, some have been re-vegetated and are visually
indistinguishable from the marshlands of the 1980s. However, the extent to
which wildlife has recovered has not yet been assessed. Some areas resemble
flooded deserts, with sprouting reeds and dying desert vegetation. Other
areas are flooded and barren – the water may be too deep or too salty for
germination, the seed bank may be too old, or the soil conditions may be
toxic to reed growth. Studies to resolve these questions are ongoing; the
answers are far from clear.

Fish have returned to many of the re-flooded marshes, migrating with the
floodwaters from the rivers. However, few of the re-flooded areas are as
interconnected as they once were. Fish still have few pathways for upstream
migration through the marshes, and Gulf species, such as the Penaid shrimp,
still cannot reach their marsh nurseries. The uncharacteristically small
size of the fish in some of the re-established marshes may be a result of
over-fishing by hungry settlers with few other options to feed their
families. It may be difficult to convince the Marsh Dwellers to use
sustainable harvest practices while accommodating their immediate economic
needs.

On a positive note, the Marsh Dwellers are returning. The UN High
Commission on Refugees estimated that there were 80,000 Marsh Dwellers
remaining in the marshes at the end of last year’s conflict. Since that
time, observers have witnessed a significant influx of Marsh Dwellers
returning from peripheral agricultural areas. More than 50,000 people have
left the Iranian refugee camps that provided shelter to many Marsh Dwellers
throughout the 1990s. The Marsh Dwellers are returning, and with them they
bring old traditions and new dreams.

The newly-established Center for Restoration of the Iraqi Marshes has a
dedicated staff that works from Ministry of Water Resources offices. The
Eden Again Project currently is helping the center develop a roadmap for
achieving its first goal, the development of a sustainable restoration plan
for the marshlands. Using the recommendations of Eden Again’s technical
panel, we are identifying the type and extent of data necessary to build a
scientific basis for decision-making. It is the priority of Eden Again that
decisions about marsh management and restoration be made in a
stakeholder-based, participatory process–a process that accounts for the
wisdom and preferences of the people who have lived in the marshes for
thousands of years. As Eden Again’s project director, I now live and work
in Iraq, dividing my time between Baghdad and the marshes. It pains me to
be separated from my children and my wife, who continue to promote the
restoration project from the opposite side of the globe. However, it is a
blessing to be able to assist in healing my homeland.

I remember the years of frustration as I helplessly watched the destruction
of the marshlands from afar. Now I find joy in paddling through the
marshlands and witnessing their miraculous rebirth.

Photographs:

Marsh Cows

Marsh Boats 

Marsh Arabs 

——————–
Azzam Alwash and Suzanne Alwash are the founders and directors of the Eden Again Project. This version of their article appeared in the Fall, 2004 issue of PULSE, the newsletter of Planet Drum Foundation, a voice for bioregional sustainability and culture based in San Francisco. Membership is $25 a year. A longer version of this article appeared in the Environmental Law Institute newsletter, 2004

RESOURCES:

Eden Again

Iraq Foundation’s website

See also WW3 REPORT #96
——————-

Reprinted by WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, Nov. 6, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution

WW3Report.com

Continue ReadingIRAQ: EDEN AGAIN? 

DARFUR: POWER POLITICS TRUMP GENOCIDE CONVENTION

by Wynde Priddy

It appears that the emotional “Never Again” of the United Nations on the ongoing specter of genocide in Sudan’s western Darfur region has been trumped by the oil interests and military contracts represented among the Security Council members. Despite threats of action if Sudan failed to meet an Aug. 30 deadline to disarm the mounted militias terrorizing Darfur, China especially threatened to use its veto power to block sanctions. The China National Petroleum Company is the biggest foreign investor in Sudan’s oil industry, and China is also Sudan’s top trading partner and major weapons supplier. On Sept. 18, the Security Council passed a watered-down resolution imposing no sanctions against the Sudan regime. The resolution “Demands all armed groups, including rebel forces, cease all violence.”

The problem, say human rights organizations and columnist Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, is that the cease-and-desist demand has been made before, and nothing has changed. The UN estimated in mid-October that the death toll had reached 70,000–up from 50,000 before the Aug. 30 deadline. The government in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, has allowed 3,500 African Union troops into Darfur, up from 300, to provide what security is possible to displaced people in the refugee camps. But as recently as Nov. 2, Sudanese troops began forcibly relocating two refugee camps in Southern Darfur, and used tear gas against those who resisted. Rights groups raised fears that the refugees would be forcibly repatriated by the government, in violation of international law. The refugees say they would have no security at their home villages from the so-called “Janjaweed” militias, which launched their campaign of terror in the region last year in response to the emergence of guerilla movements seeking independence or autonomy for Darfur.

The African Union is brokering talks in Nigeria between the Khartoum regime and the Darfur guerillas. But the two main rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice & Equality Movement (JEM), threatened to pull out of the talks Oct. 31, accusing the government of ongoing air raids against civilian villages. Further complicating matters is the emergence of a new rebel group, the National Movement for Reform and Development (NMRD), which attacked a government convoy on Oct. 6. Ongoing violence has made much of Darfur a no-go zone for aid groups, augmenting suffering from hunger and disease.

Discussions about Darfur and the genocide question have gained volume, and predictably, the violence is being exploited by everyone from George W Bush to the Sudanese government. President Bush has now joined the US Congress in calling the Darfur violence “genocide”–while not pledging to actually do anything about it, as the international community would be mandated to by the Genocide Convention once a determination is made that genocide is actually under way.

The Sudan regime, meanwhile, portrayed the genocide accusation as a part of the Bush design to both re-shape the Islamic world and hold on to the White House. Najib el-Kheir Abdelwahab, Sudan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, told the New York Times Sept. 28: “They would like to use the suffering of the people of Darfur as a smoke screen to conduct certain partisan operations. One of them is the overthrow of the government in Khartoum.” He added that Bush’s brief remarks on the Darfur crisis in his Sept. 21 address to the UN General Assembly were crafted to garner the African-American and Jewish votes, saying these constituencies are “duty bound to support black Africans in Sudan against Arab hegemony.”

Most say that Sudan’s Islamist regime is not willing to disarm the Janjaweed militias. But some say Khartoum is not even able to. At a recent UN-hosted discussion on the issue at New York’s Columbia University, speaker Mahmood Mamdani, a professor of anthropology at Columbia, said: “The militias are not monolithic and they are not centrally controlled… The Sudan government can and should be held accountable for providing resources to the Janjaweed militias, but the Sudan government cannot be expected to demobilize the militias with the ease with which it has resourced them.”

He also asserted that the conflict could not yet be defined as genocide and that the western resistance movements of Darfur were born out of the rebel movements of Sudan’s south.

John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group, a rights advocacy organization, had a different opinion. At the same panel discussion, he asserted that this supposed disconnect between the regime and the militias has been an historical hall pass for government-sponsored ethnic cleansing–and, as in the case of Rwanda, genocide. He portrayed the harsh words at the UN as empty and propagandistic: “The most recent United Nations Secretary General report does not clearly assign culpability for the actions of these killer Janjaweed militias to their government sponsors, providing a degree of comforting separation between the militias and the Khartoum regime. It reinforces impunity.”

RESOURCES:

Sudan Tribune (France-based opposition publication) on the “Politics of
Slaughter”
in Darfur, from Middle East Report

Mahmood Mamdani on the Darfur Crisis and the “genocide” question, from the
Black Commentator 

See also WW3 REPORT #101

——————-

Compiled by WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, Nov. 5, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution

WW3Report.com

Continue ReadingDARFUR: POWER POLITICS TRUMP GENOCIDE CONVENTION 

ETHNIC CLEANSING IN ETHIOPIA: TIP OF THE “GOLDEN SPEAR”?


State Terror Against Anuak People Invisible to Outside World–as US
Military Involvement, Oil Operations Escalate

by keith harmon snow

GAMBELLA, ETHIOPIA –
Talk privately to any Anuak people in the Ethiopian state of Gambella and
it won’t be long before they speak about "the problem." Others are
terrified into silence. To Anuak and other indigenous minorities of
southwestern Ethiopia, the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is a
ruthless military dictatorship. And almost everyone links "the problem" to
Gambella’s oil.

"Since the problem, we are not able to farm or to fish," said one Anuak
survivor who was shot three times. He is shy, but he will show you where
one bullet entered and exited his wrist. He was shot December 13, 2003–the
day the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Defense Forces (EPRDF) and local
"highlander" militias launched their genocidal war on the Anuaks.
"Highlanders" are Ethiopians who are neither Anuak nor Nuer–the indigenous
peoples of the region–but predominantly Tigray and Amhara people resettled
into Anuak territory from their lands in the central highlands since 1974.

Ten months after the massacres of December, 2003, the EPRDF government of
Ethiopia continues to downplay the violence in southwestern Ethiopia. At
the same time, the government has been rewarded with new loans, debt
restructuring and debt forgiveness by the international development
community. The EPRDF continues to benefit from its tight military
relationship with the United States.

The region is home to guerillas of the Gambella People’s Liberation Front
(GPLF) and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and other forces hostile to the
Meles Zenawi regime. However, the EPRDF government has used the pretext of
"terrorism" and "national security" to punish rural populations, and it
continues to wage low-intensity warfare against innocent civilians.

Today, Gambella state is under total military occupation. Estimates place
between 30,000 and 80,000 EPRDF troops deployed here, carrying out
scorched-earth campaigns under the cover of "counter-terrorism." One recent
attack occurred in early September, when EPRDF soldiers reportedly pillaged
the rural village of Powatalam. Some 43 people were killed, and the village
was burned.

At least 1,500 and perhaps as many as 2,500 Anuak civilians have died in
the fighting–most of these being intellectuals, leaders, and members of
the educated and student classes, who have been intentionally targeted.
Hundreds of people remain unaccounted for and many are believed to have
been "disappeared."

Numerous rural villages where Anuaks and other ethnic minorities generally
hover in the margins of existence at the best of times have been similarly
attacked, looted, and torched. Thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of
Anuak homes have reportedly been burned.

Anuak women and girls are routinely raped, gang-raped and kept as sexual
slaves by EPRDF forces. Girls have been shot for resisting rape, and
summary executions of girls held captive for prolonged periods as sexual
slaves have been reported. In the absence of Anuak men–killed, jailed or
driven into exile–Anuak women and girls have been left vulnerable to such
sexual atrocities. Due to the isolation of women and girls in rural areas,
rapes remain substantially under-reported.

Some 6,000 to 8,000 Anuak remain at refugee camps in Pochalla, Sudan; and
there are an estimated 1,000 Anuak refugees in Kenya. The Disaster
Preparedness and Prevention Bureau (DPPB), a regional body that works
closely with international aid groups, estimated in August 2004 that
approximately 25% (roughly 50,000 people) of Gambella’s population had been
displaced.

"Many, many men have been killed since the problem began," says one
witness. "Many men ran away into the bush and have been hunted by the
soldiers. Women and girls are left undefended in their homes. They are
raping many girls. They keep some women by force."

The violence has almost completely disrupted this year’s planting season,
and people see famine in the coming winter months
(October-March)–exacerbated by the destruction of milling machines and
food stores.

According to Anuak sources relying on sympathetic oppositionists within the
regime, the EPRDF plans to access the petroleum of Gambella were laid out
at a top-level cabinet meeting in Addis Ababa in September 2003. Prime
Minister Meles Zenawi chaired the meeting, at which the military cleansing
of the Anuaks was reportedly openly discussed. Also present were Gen.
Abdullah Gamada, head of the EPRDF military, Vice-Prime Minister Adisu
Lagesse, and Omot Obang Olom, security chief for the Gambella region, an
ethnic Anuak. Petroleum operations–heavily guarded by EPRDF troops–are
rapidly moving forward.

THE "RWANDA MODEL" IN GAMBELLA

While there is a history of communal violence between indigenous minorities
in the Gambella region, evidence attests to patterns of EPRDF government
provocation, pitting tribe against tribe and neighbor against neighbor.
There is no evidence to support claims of communal violence between Anuaks
and the local Nuer ethic group, as has been reported by the New York Times
and other media, and by the EPRDF government.

Ethnic cleansing appears to be sanctioned at the highest levels of the
EPRDF government, and there is evidence that the violence initiated by last
December’s massacres in Gambella may have been deliberately instrumented to
justify a campaign against the Anuaks.

December 13, 2003 marked the start of a coordinated military operation to
systematically eliminate Anuaks. Sources from inside the military
government’s police and intelligence network say that the code name of the
military operation was: "OPERATION SUNNY MOUNTAIN."

In a pattern reminiscent of the Interahamwe civilian militia involved in
the 1994 Rwanda genocide, operations by government troops were apparently
coordinated with local Highlanders, who set upon Anuak civilians with
rocks, sticks, hoes, machetes, knives, axes and pangas (clubs). Witnesses
described Highlanders chanting slogans as they hunted down and killed
Anuaks.

Some 425 Anuak people were reported killed in the initial outburst of
violence, with over 200 more wounded and some 85 people unaccounted for.
Since December 2003, sporadic murders and widespread rapes have continued
in Gambella town, but the rural countryside is awash in blood.

In February 2004, Genocide Watch and Survivors’ Rights International called
for an independent inquiry into the Gambella situation. That call was
ignored.

Ten months after the pivotal massacres, there is no indication that the
United Nations or any other formal body has undertaken an official
investigation of the killings of eight UN personnel on the morning of
December 13, 2003. The attack was blamed on Anuak guerillas, and
precipitated the wave of violence.

The killings reportedly occurred on the road from Gambella to Itang town.
Sources report that Anuak policeman Ojo Akway was amongst the first group
of responders to the site of the ambush on the morning. Akway reportedly
found tracks that he wanted to immediately pursue to attempt to discover
those responsible for the UN killings – it was winter and the ground was
amenable to tracking. The Police Commander in Gambella, Tadese Haile
Selassie, is said to have ordered Akway’s execution in order to remove the
problem of identifying the actual killers. Sources report that Akway was
detained later that day, driven out of Gambella town, tied to a tree along
the road to Abueal village, and shot in the head seven times. An informant
sympathetic to Anuaks provided the information to relatives, noting that
Akway’s body was disappeared, his gun was brought back to town, and no
report was filed.

A federal police investigator from Addis Ababa dispatched to Gambella in
July was also reportedly shot and killed. Charged with determining the
extent and nature of involvement of Gambella police in the December
massacres, the investigator was said to have identified many Highlander
police who were "fully involved" in the killing.

International and Ethiopian human rights organizations say that the
killings in Gambella constituted acts of genocide, as defined by the
Genocide Convention. Arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions and torture are
occurring throughout Ethiopia. Arbitrary arrests and detentions of Anuak
people have occurred for years prior to the recent massacres. Reports
coming out of the Gambella region indicate that hundreds of people have
been arbitrary arrested and illegally detained, and that these people
remain under detention, subject to torture.

"GOLDEN SPEAR"

Ethiopia remains a pivotal ally in the US "war against terror" in the Horn
of Africa, maintaining both covert and overt military operations and
programs.

Beginning July 2003, forces from Pentagon’s Combined Joint Task Force-Horn
of Africa (CJTF-HOA) held a three-month bilateral training exercise with
Ethiopian forces at the Hurso Training Camp, northwest of Dire Dawa. The US
Army’s 10th Mountain Division recently completed a three-month program to
train an Ethiopian army division in counter-terrorism tactics. Operations
are coordinated through the CJTF-HOA regional base in Djibouti, where the
Halliburton subsidiary KBR is the prime contractor.

The CJTF-HOA region includes the total airspace and land areas of Ethiopia,
Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and Kenya, and the coastal waters of the
Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. In May 2004, US Brigadier General
Samuel T. Helland assumed command of the CJTF-HOA region.

On January 21, 2004 special operations soldiers from the 3rd US Infantry
Regiment–"The Old Guard," Bravo Company–replaced the 10th Mountain
Division forces at a new base established at Hurso, Ethiopia, to be used
for launching local joint missions with the Ethiopian military. A new
forward base named "Camp United" has also been established in the area–a
"temporary training facility in rural Ethiopia" used "as a launching ground
for local missions, predominately training with the Ethiopian military."

From 1995-2000, the US provided some $1,835,000 in International Military
and Education Training (IMET) deliveries to Ethiopia. Some 115 Ethiopian
officers were trained under the IMET program from 1991-2001. Approximately
4,000 Ethiopian soldiers have participated in IMET since 1950.

For 2002 and 2003, Ethiopia received some $2,817,000 through the IMET and
Foreign Military Sales and Deliveries programs. The US also equipped,
trained and supported Ethiopian troops under the Africa Regional
Peacekeeping Program. Ethiopia has remained a participant of the IMET
program in 2000-2004.

In August 2003, the U.S. committed $28 million for international trade
enhancements with Ethiopia.

In 2003, US AID, working with Africare and Catholic Relief Services, was
providing disaster relief to "combat famine in the drought-stricken
Gambella region of Ethiopia." The US State Department was informed about
unfolding violence in the Gambella region as early as December 16, 2003,
through communications to Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Overseas
Citizens Division, and the US Embassy in Ethiopia.

Immediately following the February 16, 2004, release of a report by
Genocide Watch and Survivor’s Rights International ("Today is the Day of
Killing Anuaks") the United States issued a formal call for "an independent
investigation" into the events in Gambella. The State Department and the UN
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) condemned the ongoing
violence in Gambella. Each agency called for "[f]ully transparent and
independent investigations by the government" that would "encourage
restoration of peace in the troubled region," and called on the Ethiopian
government to investigate allegations of EPRDF involvement in atrocities.

In the spring, the EPRDF government launched an "independent inquiry" into
the Gambella violence. The Independent Inquiry Commission, established by
the Ethiopian House of Peoples’ Representatives, reported that few members
of the Ethiopian armed forces were involved in the Gambella killings.

In April 1, 2004, testimony before a House of Representatives
appropriations panel, US AID representatives asked Congress to approve
some $80 million in funding for Ethiopia programs in FY 2005. Ethiopia was
described as a "top priority" of the Bush administration. US AID boasted of
programs "that lay the groundwork to establish a market-based economy
hospitable to investment…"

In a letter of August 6, twelve members of the US Congress called on Prime
Minister Meles Zenawi to protect citizens from harm and ensure humanitarian
access to the Gambella region. Asking the Meles government to hold
officials accountable for any involvement in the violence, the letter also
asked for an English version of the Independent Inquiry Commission findings
on situation in Gambella.

On September 16, US Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced a bill to the
House Committee on Appropriations calling for substantive attention to the
Anuak problem.

The US Department of Defense Central Command (CENTCOM) and European Command
(EUCOM) are the pivotal forces behind the "Golden Spear" anti-terrorism
program initiated in 2000 to "address issues of terrorism, humanitarian
crises, natural disasters, drugs trafficking and refugees in the greater
horn of Africa."

"Golden Spear" members include Ethiopia, Kenya, Eritrea, Djibouti,
Seychelles and Egypt. Ethiopia sponsored the July 28-30, 2003 "Golden
Spear" symposium (held at Addis Ababa), designed by the DoD "to provide a
forum for strategic-level dialogue on current security issues" in the
region.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said "the consensus reached at the
meeting was a major achievement towards the enhancement of national
capacities as well as collaborative efforts to deal with disasters, thus
protecting development gains the region has attained over the years."

Meetings of the Golden Spear military group occurred in June in the
Seychelles, and July in Tampa, FLA. Participants in July included Ethiopia,
Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of
Congo, Tanzania and Seychelles.

GAMBELLA OIL RUSH

Sources report ten military camps in the immediate vicinity of Gambella
town, with an estimated 60 to 100 troops at each. The three major camps are
Terfshalaka, about seven kilometers from Gambella town on the Addis Ababa
road; Mekod, at the Gambella airport; and a base in the middle of Gambella
town. An estimated 60 to 75 troops can be seen at the Gambella airport.
Troops are everywhere in the town.

Witnesses report trucks of soldiers perpetually coming and going from
Gambella along the roads into rural areas. Soldiers were seen to openly
extort money and goods from civilians. Vehicles traveling along the roads
are expected to stop and pick up any soldiers waiting for rides. Rights
workers reportedly witnessed a church building that had been expropriated
by soldiers and turned into a semi-permanent barracks. A nearby school was
also expropriated and occupied.

On June 13, 2003, Malaysia’s state-owned petroleum corporation, PETRONAS,
announced the signing of an exclusive 25-year oil exploration and
production sharing agreement with the EPRDF government to exploit the
Ogaden Basin and the "Gambella Block" or "Block G" concession. On February
17, 2004, the Ethiopian Minister of Mines announced that Malaysia’s
PETRONAS will launch a natural gas exploration project in the Gambella
region. Block G covers an area of 15,356 square kilometers within the
Gambella Basin.

According to Anuak sources, the Ethiopian government held a public meeting
in Gambella in February, even as violence against Anuak in rural areas was
continuing to rise. One witness testified:

"They told people about the oil and how it would benefit everyone. But the
Anuak said: ‘How can you talk to us about oil when people are still being
killed? We don’t want to talk about the oil.’ But the government said, ‘No,
we want to talk about the oil now.’"

The Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau (ZPEB), a powerful subsidiary of
China’s second largest national petroleum consortium, the China
Petrochemical Corporation (SINOPEC), appears to be the principal oil firm
operating in Gambella at present, under subcontract to Malaysia’s national
oil company PETRONAS.

The base camp for ZPEB equipment and petroleum explorations is located
approximately 1.5 kilometers from the center of Gambella town on the
Abobo-Gambella road. The Ethiopian site manager, Mr. Degefe, is a
highlander who tersely describes himself as "responsible for making all
operations and security." The base camp is under tight security and heavily
guarded by EPRDF troops.

PETRONAS and the China National Petroleum Corporation currently operate in
Sudan. A recent report by Human Rights Watch raises charges that the Asian
oil giants have provided cover for their respective governments to ship
arms and military equipment to Sudan in exchange for oil concessions
granted by Khartoum.

While not cited in the above Human Rights Watch report, ZPEB operates a
concession for oil and gas exploration in Block 6 in the Republic of Sudan.
ZPEB also operates in petroleum extraction in the Yli Basin of China’s
Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, an area noted for egregious human rights
violations and systematic state terror against the indigenous Uighur
people. According to Human Rights Watch: "Much like Tibetans, the Uighurs
in Xinjiang (western China) have struggled for cultural survival in the
face of a government- supported influx by Chinese migrants, as well as
harsh repression of political dissent and any expression, however lawful or
peaceful, of their distinct identity."

On September 18, 2004, a notice was posted around Gambella town indicating
that the Southwest Development Company (a new Highlander-owned venture)
would be accepting applications for new hires to fill some 117 positions in
support of "construction and petroleum related operations in Gambella
region." On September 19, 2004 another notice seeking an additional 70
workers was posted around Gambella town. The posters were stamped with the
official seal of the office of the Gambella People’s National Regional
State.

Anuak sources in Gambella state: "The Anuak people have not been involved
in the discussions about the oil, our leaders have not agreed to these
projects, and they will not hire any Anuaks for these jobs. If any Anuak
says anything about the oil he will be arrested."

CROCODILES AND RATS

The few reports about the situation that have appeared in the international
press have misrepresented and distorted the nature of the violence.
Reporters traveling to the region have relied upon the EPRDF for security
and information, and attempts by Anuaks to make the truth known have
largely been ignored. National Public Radio last spring described Anuaks as
primitives "once went naked and ate rats."

Marc Lacey reported from Gambella for the New York Times (June 15, 2004)
simultaneous to the Ethiopian military’s ongoing scorched earth campaign
against rural villages. Lacey, who arrived with a government
escort–including an Ethiopian intelligence and security team comprised of
perpetrators of "the problem"–related no first-hand accounts from Anuaks
of the summary executions, massacres and mass rape by EPRDF soldiers.
Instead, the Times opted for a picturesque story of pastoral harmony,
mentioning the violence almost in passing and even noting the threat to
local bathers from crocodiles.

"Bath time here is a communal affair," read Lacey’s lead. "Everyone grabs a
bar of soap and heads down to the river. As they stand naked in the water a
few feet from one another, lathering and rinsing in unison, people from
Gambella’s various ethnic groups appear at ease. The Anuak, the Nuer and
the highlanders all use the Baro River as their tub."

Just across the Baro River are Anuak villages with scars attesting to the
huts that were torched–some with people inside. But these went unmentioned
by the New York Times. The EPRDF military has been said to routinely dump
the bodies of the disappeared in Gambella’s rivers.

PHOTOGRAPHS:

1. Soldiers in truck:

Truckloads of heavily armed EPRDF soldiers leave Gambella town. Trucks believed to be carrying weapons and open trucks full of EPRDF soldiers are routinely seen coming and going from the town and along Gambella’s rural roads.

2. Petrol company

The base for ZPEB /Petronas petroleum operations, just one kilometer from Gambella town, is heavily guarded by EPRDF soldiers around the clock. Some twenty large drilling, construction and transport vehicles sit in perfect order, all of them brand new — in stark comparision to the economic decay and absence of basic infrastructural development that can be seen in Gambella town.

3. Huts

Remains of Anuak homes destroyed by the EPRDF military and highlanders militias can be seen through the Anuak sub-sectors and villages of Gambella state and town. Thousands of homes have been burned to the ground in state orchestrated violence that has occurred since December 2003, when some homes were also bombed with hand grenades.

RESOURCES:

International Resources Group page on development and military aid projects
in Africa

See also WW3REPORT #97

——————-

Special to WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, Nov. 4, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution

WW3Report.com

Continue ReadingETHNIC CLEANSING IN ETHIOPIA: TIP OF THE “GOLDEN SPEAR”? 

URIBE: “FUMIGATIONS WILL CONTINUE”


 

Despite Court Ruling and Peasant Protest

by Andrew Epstein, WW3 REPORT Special Correspondent in Colombia

According to the United Nations report, Global Illicit Drug Trends 2003,
coca production in Colombia has been reduced by an impres sive 37%.
However, the US fumigation program, supposedly responsible for this
dramatic decrease, has also ironically been destroying US-funded
alternative development projects. Meanwhile, the Colombian drug economy has
diversified, with the expansion fro m coca leaf to opium poppy gaining pace.

The Putumayo region of Colombia is where the fumigation program has
claimed its greatest success, eliminating 33,000 hectares between 2000 and
2002. Don Ismael Cuaran of Putumayo is a former coca grower who was one of
the first farmers to pull up his own crop and try the alternatives. He has
tried corn, pepper, heart-of-palm and even raising a few
cattle–alternative development projects funded through Plan Colombia and
administered by local non-governmenta l organizations. Despite the fact
that Don Ismael has no coca growing on his land, he says has been
fumigated five separate times by a program the US Embassy in Bogota calls
"extremely accurate."

The Embassy has set up a program for farmers, such as Don Ismael, to lodge
complaints about licit crops that are sprayed by fumigation planes. Over
the past three years 8,000 such complaints have been filed. To this day
only two people have been compensated for a total of $5,000, an Embassy
official said on condition of anonymity. According to an Embassy official
in charge of compensation, Dyncorp, the US company that carries out the
fumigation, is supposed to report to the Embassy when they fumigate licit
crops. The motivation for reporting such mistake s is small since the error
is then deducted from Dyncorp’s contract-the company fined and the pilots
docked pay. The Embassy says that acceptable drift from the spray lane is
approximately 7 meters. However, they admit that the crop-dusters used in
the fu migation will only fly as low as the highest "obstacle"Ëœreferring
to native trees which can measure up to 80 feet. The Embassy maintains
that the program is accurate, and even claims that farmers are altering
the appearance of their land after their c oca has been sprayed to make it
seem like they were growing licit crops.

While the fumigation has appeared to decrease coca production within
Colombia, it has also diversified it. In 2000, there were 12 coca-growing
regions within Colombia; that n umb er has grown to 21 by the end of 2002.
Colombia is also becoming one of the leading poppy-producing countries in
the world (Latin American Poppy Fields Undermine U.S. Drug Battle, NYT,
June 8). Unlike coca, which needs plenty of light to grow, poppy is al most
impossible to fumigate. It can be grown in small patches, under the cover
of trees, and on steep mountainsides.

Despite a recent court order to suspend the fumigations, Colombian
President Alvaro Uribe had only a few words to say on the subject during a
recent trip to the Putumayo region: "I am very sorry, but while I am
President, the fumigations will not be suspended." (El Tiempo, Bogota.
June 29)

For recent photos of fumigated land where licit crops were being grown, see:

http://www.usfumigation.org/S.Tree-images/index.htm.

 

Continue ReadingURIBE: “FUMIGATIONS WILL CONTINUE” 

NONVIOLENCE IN COLOMBIA



A Growing Anti-Militarist Movement Demands Right to "Active Neutrality" in
Armed Conflict

by Bill Weinberg

 

Maria Brigida Gonzalez, with her long gray-streaked braids and nurturing
smile, comes across as the kindly grandmother that she is, even if she is
deft with a machete, and wears knee-high rubber boots to negotiate muddy
jungle trails. Her village, San Jose de Apartado, resembles many such
campesino communities carved out of the jungle throughout Latin America,
with pigs, chickens and turkeys rummaging freely in the lanes. And, like
all too many, it has recently been the scene of much hideous violence. But
Maria Brigida and her village are on the frontlines of a grassroots
citizen initiative to find a peaceful settlement — or at least advance the
right to neutrality — in the escalating and chaotic civil war that is
tearing apart Colombia.

 "Our neutrality means we will not participate with any armed actors," says
Maria Brigida, in her understated manner. "But we will denounce human
rights abuses by any side." A hand-painted sign on road outside the
entrance to the village reads: "I am a member of the Peace Community of
San Jose de Apartado. I am freely committed to the search for a peaceful
and negotiated settlement to the conflicts that exist in the country, and
to work for peace within the community."
 

Maria Brigida is one of eight members of San Jose’s community council
(including three women), who have been elected every year since 1997, when
the community declared its neutrality in the war which had claimed many
local lives. Every community resident over 12 can vote in the council
elections. By consensus, the community’s young men do not serve in the
army, despite official conscription. By not serving, they lose the right
to work and education, but in a remote and largely self-sufficient
campesino community, this makes little difference. "If we had a legitimate
army, perhaps they would serve," says Maria Brigida. "But not with this
army that attacks the civil population and assassinates children."

Over 100 have been killed in San Jose since the first massacre there in
1996. The various community projects are named for its local martyrs. The
community center is named for Anibal Jimenez, who was among six killed in
a February 1999 massacre by by right-wing paramilitary troops. The maize
granary is named for Francisco Tabarquino, killed by "paras" in 1997 on
road to Apartado, the municipal seat. The carpentry workshop is named for
Ramiro Correa, killed by leftist guerillas in 1997 while working in the
fields. The pre-school, built with European foreign aid, is named for
Bartoleme Castano, a local resident who served on Apartado’s municipal
council with the leftist Patriotic Union (UP), killed by par as in Apartado
town in 1996. He was 77 years old. A fountain outside the community center
is inscribed with the names of the martyrs, with the words, "To remember
the past is a commitment to the future."

 

Survival, Terror and Resistance in San Jose de Apartado

San Jose de Apartado lies in the low, tropical and deeply conflicted
region of Uraba, near the Caribbean gulf of the same name. The flatlands
along the coast host sprawling banana plantations, but San Jose lies along
the inland moun tains, where peasant settlers have be en eating into the
jungle for two generations — many of them first displaced by political
violence in the highland regions to the south. The community was first
established in 1962 by settlers from Santa Fe, Antioquia department.
Apartado is also in Anti oquia, but Uraba — which straddles Antioquia, Choco
and Cordoba departments — has its own identity, in large part as a violently
contested frontier.
 

San Jose is a corregimiento, or unincorporated township, made up of 32
veredas, or settlements, of whic h three — San Jose, the principal one, and
outlying La Union and Arenas — are integrated in the Peace Community. Lands
are titled to the corregimiento, and worked communally. As a relatively
recently-settled district, the San Jose corregimiento covers o ver sixty
percent of Apartado municipality’s territory–by far biggest of Apartado’s
four corregimientos. The residents grow maize, beans, rice and sugar cane
for their own consumption, as well as cacao and "primitivos," their own
local miniature banana v ariety, for sale to export companies. By community
agreement, they only use traditional seed varieties, and are trying to
phase out agro-chemicals. They make fertilizer from fermented soy and
yogurt with ai d from a church-linked development group. Their e cological
ethic is a mandate of survival in the fragile rainforest environment. Says
Maria Brigida: "The mountains are the source of our water. If we leave
them alone, we will have abundant water. If we cu t the trees there, the
rivers will go dry. If we cut one tree, we plant two. We don’t want this
good land to become a desert."

It was also the mandates of survival on the jungle frontier that drew San
Jose into the war. The village receives littl e support from the municipal
government. It is on the power grid, but the unpaved and gully-ridden road
to the municipal center is maintained by the community residents
themselves in regular mingas, or work parties. It was the demand for basic
services that led to San Jose becoming a stronghold of the left-wing UP
party — which held the Apartado municipal government from the mid-1980s to
1996. Things began to improve in San Jose in those years, and the annual
March avocado festival actually brought some Colombian tourists to the
primitive village.
 

But the UP w as founded by former members of the Colombian Revolutionary
Armed Forces (FARC), the country’s largest guerilla group — and is accused,
especially by the Colombian right, of still being li nked to the leftist
rebels. The emergence of UP loyalties in Apartado brought a harsh backlash
from the burgeoning right-wing paramilitary network, which established a
firm grip over Uraba in the 1990s. UP candidates were assassinated. And
UP-loyalist zones such as San Jose were targeted for terror.

The first massacre was in September 1996, when paras entered the village
and killed four — including a pregnant woman. "For the previous four
months," relates Wilson David, coordinator of the Peace Co mmunity council,
"some 200 army troops had been based in village. They demanded that local
families house them. Now it is clear they were gathering information."
 

The second massacre, in February 1997, fit the paras` established pattern.
Riflemen with military-style uniforms and the distinctive black-and-white
armbands of the United Colombian Self-Defense Forces (AUC) arrived at dawn
and ordered the inhabitants to gather. They had a list, and demanded 11
residents, including two women. The 11 were marched out of village with
their hands tied behind backs. They were later found dead on the road with
signs of torture.

Next month, on March 23, 1997, the Peace Community was declared by
community leaders in the veredas of San Jose, La Union and Arenas. They
acted with the support of Apartado`s Bishop Isaias Duarte (who would be
ki lled in Cali in 2002, allegedly by a FARC gunman). Five days later,
March 28, paras arrived in the outlying vereda of La Union. They killed
three, and told the residen ts they had five days to abandon the vereda.
Three thousand left La Union and Arenas, mostly to San Jose. Abandoned La
Union became a battle zone between FARC guerillas and AUC paras.
 

"We became targets for refusing to cooperate with any armed forces," says
Wilson. "There are 115 orphans in our community now. We have a grave
responsibility to them and our own future."

The paras — in civilian clothes and armed with pistols, but sometimes
wearing the AUC armband — established a roadblock on the road to Apartado
for nine months. Up to 50 were killed at the roadblock. Produce and money
were stolen. Wilson says collusion between the army and ostensibly
outlawed paras was blatant. "It is clear. The army protects the paras.
They pass the para roa dblocks and they don’t interfere."
 

FARC retaliation, rather than defending the besieged communities, only

escalated the atmosphere of terror. In the 1996 Barrio Las Chinitas
massacre in Apartado town, 35 were killed — apparently by the FARC–in a n
attack on a party being held by para loyalist-families. Nelson Campos
Nunez, Apartado’s UP mayor, was accus ed of complicity in the attack.

Ironically, Uraba’s fundamental power shift from the UP and FARC to the
AUC was related to the FARC’s violent rivalry with another leftist
guerilla faction, the Popular Liberation Army (EPL). Wilson charges that
the EPL be gan to cooperate with the AUC in their campaign against the
FARC. In 1991, the EPL in Uraba officially laid down arms and became a
legal political party, Hope, Peace and Liberty — still known by the Spanish
acronym EPL. Apartado’s current EPL mayor Mario Agudelo is said to be
linked to the paras. Teodoro Diaz Lobo, the former EPL mayor, is now in
prison in Medellin on charges of links to armed para activity. Wilson
charges that the formerly leftist EPL "is now the political arm of the
paras."
 

The tentative progress of the 1980s was reversed in the ’90s. Says San
Jose community leader Jesus Emilio Tuberquia: "The violent struggle
b etween left and right has paralyzed everything. The idea of both sides is
that if you aren’t with one you are with the other. But we aren’t with
either."

Like the paras, the FARC retaliated against the Peace Community’s
assertion of neutrality. In October 1997, community council member Ramiro
Correa and two others were killed by FARC guerillas at the outlying vereda
of Crista lina after telling them they would not cooperate with the rebels.
"But the greatest threat is from the state, acting with the paras," says
Wilson.
 

Three were killed in para incursions in San Jose in April 1999, and five
in February 2000. In July 2000, at La Union, where residents had recently
returned to their homes, six were killed by paras, including a community
co uncil member. In March 2001, paras entered San Jose, burned houses, and
threatened to leave a "ghost town."

A certain degree of security was won for the Peace Community when outside
observers arrived to monitor the situation and provide a disincentive to
attacks. Justicia y Paz, a church-linked Colombian organization, sent in
observers in 1997. They were followed by foreign observers from Pe ace
Brigades International and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, who now
respectively maintain a presence at the veredas of San Jose and La Union.
A community radio micro-transmitter was also established, aiding vigilance
and coordination, especially with outlying veredas.
 

But violence in the corregimiento does continue. In June 2003, an army
battle w ith FARC guerrillas in a San Jose banana field just outside the
central vereda killed ten trees, and left a fence damaged. The UN High
Commissioner for Refu gees has a program in San Jose for residents
displaced from the outlying vereda of Mulatos by FARC-army fighting
earlier this year.

After a few days in the vereda of San Jose with a small delegation of
activists from the United States and Spain, the resi dents mounted us on
horses and mules for a two-hour trek up the trail to La Union. Plots o f
cacao and sugar cane were interspersed with cattle pasture and patches of
jungle as the trail climbed up towards the mountains, with rushing rivers
plunging through the green canyons that fell away on either side. Far from
the road, La Union gets few visitors, and the residents were happy to see
us. The vereda was considerably more primitive than San Jose, with no
electricity or running water. When we were brought up to a small
mule-driven communal sugar mill on a ridge overlooking the vereda, we
could see the Gulf of Uraba in the distance.
 

La Union’s exiled residents started to return in 1998. La Union resident
Javier Sanchez remembers the grim year they spent ex iled in San Jose after
being forced to flee. "We couldn’t go three minutes outside San Jose.
Otherwise–" he draws a finger across his neck. Since returning, the
residents have organized work groups to protect each other in the fields,
and Sanchez says the threat of para terror has actually brought them more
closely together. "Now the community has control here — neither the
guerillas nor the paras."

While the school in San Jose vereda is run by the municipality, the little
school in La Union is run by a group of Franciscan sisters. One old
schoolhouse in the small compound of three stands empty and sacked.
Religious murals depicting images of Jesus and slogans about peace
contrast one wall pock-marked by bullet holes from a para attack in ’95.
The residents say the paras shot up and ransacked the school, but didn’t
kill anyone that time. La Union’s central square also has a makeshift
memorial inscribed with the names of the vereda’s martyrs.
 

Despite recent progress, the threat of violence is never far away. Late
that night, as we slept in the little cabins provided to us, an army
helicopter hovered directly over La Union — low enough to wake residents,
and violating the community’s edict against entry to armed actors.

Indigenous Inspiration
 

Wilson David says that much of the inspiration for the Peace Community
came from the nearby community of Embera-Katio Indians, who asserted their
right to local control of their lands against all armed factions even
before indigenous autonomy was officially reco gnized by Colombia’s 1991
constitutional reform, whi ch established a system of "resguardos," or
indigenous reserves.

The Embera-Katio resguardo of Playas begins just across a rickety bridge
over the Apartado River from San Jose, and the Peace Community has
fraternal relations with the indigenous co mmunity. Maria Bigida leads us
over the bridge and along a jungle trail for a kilometer or so before we
arrive at a clearing with a cluster of traditional Embera thatch-roof
homes, called chozas. The resguardo extends into mountains of the Serrania
del Abibe, which forms the border with Cordoba department. The residents
lived in separate communities spread out over their lands until they came
together in the central village in response to fighting in the area in
1997. They were initially dependent on Red Cross aid during the
transition, when they had to abandon cultivated lands, but they have now
regained their self-sufficiency. The village of Playas is not on the
electrical grid, but solar panels provide some light and power. The women
still wear traditi onal garb.
 

When we arrive, the village leaders are away in Apartado town for a
regional indigenous meeting, but Maria Brigida’s friend Rosa Angela Borja
greets us and cooks up some fried plantains and eggs. She explains
something of the Embera-Katio system of self-government, which officially
has local force of law under the 1991 constitution. Each of the three
Embera-Katio resguardos in Apartado–Playas, Palma and Coquera–has an
elected leader called the "ca bildo local," and a "cabildo mayor" is
charged with responsibility for all three. Rosa says that children can
vote from age two or three, "if they behave well." Men who serve in the
military lose their membership in the community, Rosa says. She cites the
"peligro" (danger) to the village if the guerillas perceive it as loyal to
the army.

But despite the constitutional right to local autonomy, the army does not
always respect the resguardo’s declared intention to keep their land free
of all armed faction s. As we ate our lunch, a detachment of army troops
marched right through the heart of the village. Rosa says they were taking
advantage of the fact that the menfolk were away that day. "They know it
isn’t correct," she says.
 

Medellin: Youth Network Resists Para Culture

The activists I visited San Jose with had come to Colombia for an
International Conference on Active Nonviolence and Resistance to War, held
August 11-16 in Medellin, capital of Antioquia department, hosted and
organized by a local yout h group. So after five days in the jungle
corregimiento, a trip in a chiva (collective mini-bus) along the dirt road
to Apartado, followed by an hour plane flight, brought us to the
provincial capital 5,000 feet high in the Andes. There we found ourselves
ensconced in the slightly faded swank of Medellin’s 1940s-vintage Hotel
Nutibara — a somewhat incongruous setting for an event overwhelmingly
attended by slightly unkempt activists wearing message t-shirts. The
conference brought together anti-militaris t and human rights activists
from all over Colombia — most of whom were in their twenties, and some even
younger. Also in attendance were young draft resisters and their
supporters from Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, Guatemala and Spain, as well
three represe ntatives of the War Resisters International, the venerable
pacifist organization dating to the aftermath of World War I, from Europe
and the US.
 

The group that hosted the conference, the Red Juvenil, or Youth Network,
was founded in 1990 in Medellin’s popular barrios "to promote youth
participation in political life," says the Red’s Milena Meneses, a
political science student at the National University who also teaches
inmates about their human rights in Medellin’s prisons. "We promote an
alternative you th culture to that of gangs and sicarios," or hired
assassins, she says. "We use theater and art to reach out to the city’s
youth, and we are tied to the larger popular movement of the left in the
barrios." Many young members of the Red are former gang me mbers who found
new direction after experiencing a Red presentation in Medellin’s schools.

Medellin’s poor barrios are as much a part of Colombia’s war as the
campesino communities of Uraba. Medellin’s Zona Centro Oriental, where the
Red was foun ded, was site of the 1992 Villatina massacre of nine youths by
un-uniformed police in an act of what is locally known as "social
cleansing" against gangs and lumpen culture — although it was never
determined that the unarmed victims were even gang members. The families
were eventually indemnified after the city government was forced to
concede complicity in the massacre.
 

October 2002 saw an army sweep code-named Operation Orion in Medellin’s
Comuna 13 district, which had become a stronghold of a n urban guerilla
militia known as the Armed People`s Commandos, or CAP. Days of street
fighting left some 35 dead, and the district is still patrolled by army
troops, who scoot around the streets on motorcycles, M-16s slung across
their backs. In this and other outlying poor districts that climb the
steep hills overlooking the city center, the AUC’s notorious Metro Bloc is
waging a quiet war of extermination against street gangs and urban
guerillas. The Red Juvenil is part of a network of community center s in
these viole nce-ravaged districts attempting to promote education,
self-help and human rights.

As if to exemplify the harsh realities the Red confronts every day, one
night during the conference, a police officer was shot dead right outside

the hotel, and one confer ence attendee was briefly detained on suspicion.
 

The Red also organizes support for Colombia’s conscientious objectors to
the military draft. One year and eight months of military service is
obligatory from age of 18, and those who don’t show up lose the ir right to
work or attend university. It is mostly campesinos and kids from poor
urban barrios who are sent to the war zones, as students who have been
accepted by a university are allowed to remain in their home regions for
their studies. Indians are ex cepted from the draft under the 1991
constitutional reform, and Jehova’s Witnesses are also exempt. The Red was
among the groups that supported Colombia’s first conscientious objector in
1996, Luis Gabriel Caldas, who des erted from the army and served sev en
months in a military prison in 1996.

Since the Peace Communities began emerging in 1997, the Red has promoted
"active neutrality in the war as a posture for the popular movements," as
Milena puts it. The Red h as hosted several national meetings in
Med ellin — such as the December 1999 Youth at the Milennium conference and
concert, which ushered in the new century with mural-painting and other
community projects in the barrios. Every July 20, the Red protests
Medellin’s Independence Day military parade, standing along the parade
route with signs bearing anti-militarist slogans, such as "Ningun ejercito
defenda la paz" (No army defends the peace).
 

The August conference was also attended by representati ves from several of
Colombia’s Peace Communities. In addition to San Jose de Apartado, there
were representatives from La Balsita, also in Antioquia’s Uraba region;
San Francisco de Asis and Caicedo municipalities in the Antioquia
highlands; Sur de Boliva r in Bolivar department; and the Afro-Colombian
co mmunities of Villarica, in Cauca department, and Jijuamiando and
Cacrica, in Choco. Representatives from Caicedo related how, after the
FARC had repeatedly robbed trucks bringing their coffee crop to mark et,
the community organized a citizen foot processi on to accompany the trucks,
carrying white banners — signifying neutrality, not surrender. The tactic
worked, and the guerillas backed off. There were also representatives from
indigenous Paez communities in Cauca, and the independent peasant
organizations of Cimitarra Valley in the conflicted Medio Magdalena
region, which have likewise declared their neutrality.

One challenge for the Red has been the official embrace of the term
"non-violence" by Antioquia’s government. With aid from the Martin Luther
King Center in Atlanta, GA, Antioquia’s Governor Guillermo Gaviria Correa
encouraged local community assemblies in the department’s 124
municipalities to discuss national problems, and promote a "road to
non-violence." He publicly embraced Caicedo’s neut rality effort,
officially dubbing it "Antioquia’s First Peace Municipality." In April
2002, FARC guerillas forcibly detained Gaviria and his peace advisor
Gilberto Echeverri Mejia, a former defen se minister, as the two were
accompanying church leaders and some 1,000 supporters on a cross-country
march from Medellin to Caicedo to promote the "non-violence" campaign.
Gaviria and Echeverri were abducted just three kilometers short of
Caicedo, some 70 kilometers northwest of Medellin. In May 2003, they were
a mong ten hostages killed by the FARC in reaction to an army rescue
attempt. Gaviria has become extremely popular in martyrdom, and
Antioquia’s interim governor is carrying on the "non-violence" campaign.
 

But Gaviria was from the same Liberal Party as Col ombia’s ultra-hardline
President Alvaro Uribe, and the Red Juvenil finds that the official
"non-violence" campaign has in some ways made their work more difficult.
Says the Red’s Adriana Castano Roman, who recently completed law school:
"It puts us in a p aradoxical position. The communications media are in
their hands, and they are changing the popular perception of non-violence.
They certainly do not support the right of conscientious objection. And
it’s especially easy to dismiss us because we are young."

The conference closed with an all-day concert in a Medellin park,
featuring local punk, metal, reggae, ska and rap outfits, many with
bitingly political lyrics and irreverent names like Bellavista Social
Club — Bellavista being the name of Medellin’s notoriously harsh prison. One
person was injured at the concert in the punk-skinhead violence that
frequently occasions Medellin youth culture events, reflecting the general
lef t-right political chasm. But the broken-rifle symbol of the War
Resisters Int ernational hung on the banner over the stage. As the event
ended well after midnight and Red volunteers started to clean up the
littered paper cups from the beer stand that cove red the park grounds,
Adriana breathes a sigh of relief. "The violence has been worse before."
 

Red Juvenil`s efforts are beginning to have an impact in terms of popular
consciousness in Medellin and Antioquia, according to Adriana, and
mainstream legitimization of the term "non-violence" has also allowed the
Red to assert a dissident alternative to the official campaign. "Now we
are acknowledged as having at least a minority position," she says. "Even
if they call us anarchists and utopians."

 

www.redjuvenil.org

 

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