Saturday, November 19, 2005

El Salvador: CIA Agent, Military commander, War Criminal

NY Times
November 19, 2005

A federal court in Memphis yesterday found a former military colonel from El Salvador - and 20-year CIA veteran - responsible for crimes against humanity during that country's civil war in the 1980's and ordered him to pay $6 million in damages.

The nine-member jury found that the colonel, Nicolás Carranza, had "command responsibility" for the torture of a Salvadoran who was forced to confess falsely to killing an American military adviser, Lt. Cmdr. Albert Schaufelberger, in 1983.

Colonel Carranza was the vice minister of defense, El Salvador's second-highest military commander, from 1979 to 1981, and in 1983 he was head of the Treasury Police, the most notoriously violent of the country's security forces.

Mr. Carranza, who moved to Memphis in 1985 and is now an American citizen, testified that he was a paid informant for the Central Intelligence Agency for two decades, including the years that were the focus of the trial. His tie to the agency was corroborated at the trial by the American ambassador to El Salvador at the time, Robert White.

The verdict was a victory for human rights groups that have been seeking to prosecute foreign military commanders linked to rights violations, especially from the wars in Central America, who have settled in the United States.

"It makes it very clear that in a U.S. court a military commander can be held responsible for the abuses of subordinates," said Carolyn Patty Blum, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

Ms. Blum, the senior legal adviser to the Center for Justice and Accountability, which brought the suit against Mr. Carranza, said the verdict was also the first legal finding of crimes against humanity by the Salvadoran security forces during the civil war between the conservative government and leftist rebels. Those security forces were strongly supported by the Reagan administration, which also aided rebels fighting the Marxist government of nearby Nicaragua....

Mr. Carranza, who retired in 2001 after working as a security guard in a Memphis museum, said he believed that the only "stain" on his military career was his collaboration with the C.I.A.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Guatemala: Right-Wing Narco State

This is truly a story that explains everything you need to know about the US's Latin American foreign policy.

Two months after George Bush rewarded his new conservative hermano (who signed on his Free-Trade deal CAFTA earlier this year) by taking his off a list of countries "failing demonstrably" to fight drugs, the country's top drug fighter was arrested for drug trafficking.

It appears the only influence (carrot/stick) we have in Latin America are these stupid lists of good and bad countries in the war on drugs, on "human rights," on terrorism, on sufficient free market worship...

These lists have always been political first. Why else would Cuba be listed alongside Iran in supporting terrorism and a country breaking records in drug seizures gets their stamp of approval taken away? Then this.


Guatemala's top anti-drug investigator, Adan Castillo, has been charged in the US with drug-trafficking. His deputy and another investigator were also arrested and indicted...

The arrests were "a strong blow to the infiltration of organized crime in the structures of the Guatemalan government," Mr Vielman said at a news conference in Guatemala City...

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Mr Castillo said he was frustrated in his job because corruption in the Guatemalan government made fighting drug smugglers impossible, and that he was ready to quit after just six months in his post.

US officials believe 75% of the cocaine that arrives in the US travels through Guatemala.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

US Used Chemical "incendiary" Weapon in Iraq

This image from Italian RAI state television, as part of a documentary aired in Italy Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2005, allegedly shows white phosphorous being used by U.S. forces in Iraq in November 2004. The documentary alleges the United States used white phosphorous shells 'in a massive and indiscriminate way' against civilians during the November 2004 offensive in Fallujah.

This BBC report quotes witnesses who saw Iraqi's with their clothes untouches, but their skin totally gone. The report said the shells were not used to illuminate enemy fighters at night, as the U.S. government has said, but against civilians.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Venezuela: For Assassins, The Shoe Drops

Venezuela watchers have been on pins and needles for charges to drop in the murder of #1 Federal Prosecutor Danilo Anderson by car bomb last year as he was at work investigating those involved in the 2002 coup attempt. Well over the weekend, with Chavez away, seven prominent Venezuelans including everything from a Miami-Cuban "dissident," Venezuelan businessmen, a retired General, 2 opposition journalists and a National Guard commander of the border area) were charged in the death.

The LA Times, one of the few papers to cover the story, spent most of their article listing the supposed ways the arrests are a plot against press freedom. The opposition remains firmly entrenched in their "extortion" plot and views this as total fabrication.

Nobody seems to mind a few very important, but inconvenient facts:

1) The Venezuelan Government would surely be undertaking a very serious and stupid move if they were not sure here. That is why I believe they have the evidence they claim they do about 3 meetings between the conspirators.

2) That extralegal opposition forces were at work in the death of a skilled, courageous, young prosecutor uncovering corruption of their own making. Any attempt to tie the death to Chavez lacks anything resembling a motive. Anderson was doing important work for the MVR. He had exclusive access to all evidence collected against the coup plotters.

3) The "extortion" idea (that Anderson had been taking payment in exchange for not prosecuting famous figures) was perhaps most fiercely pushed by the suspect media heiress herself, Patricia Polea. Her father owns one of the largest, most virulent rags - El Nuevo Pais.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Venezuela Attack Plans: No Longer Deniable

Earlier in the year when Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that his intelligence had found evidence of US plans to attack Venezuela, the State Department called them "wild charges," "ridiculous" and "untrue."

Well the Washington Post reports today that Venezuela is indeed included on a Pentagon list of 5 countries in 3 top groupings that pose "strategic threats" to the US and thereby require "full spectrum planning" (ie. full scale attack plans).

The top priority group includes North Korea and Iran. China is listed as a "growing peer competitor" and threat of tomorrow. Syria and Venezuela are listed as "rogue nations."

Venezuela is listed with Syria as a "rogue nation" - the same as Iraq was? Excuse me, but this is an unbelievable major escalation from the US side. Even beyond the rank lies this categorization exposes, to call a democratically elected leader who poses no threat to the US is absurd... except there's that thing called oil, oh now it makes sense.

Growing F-16 Row
Meanwhile, a very interesting buried news item from last week has resurfaced. Apparently the US said NO to a request for US parts and help in rehabilitating the 2 dozen or so F-16s that we sold them in the 80s (despite our contractual obligation to do so). Additionally, the Bush Administration heavily pressured Israel not to offer (lucrative) assistance either (plus they wanted to buy a few). So Chavez has announced that since the contract has been unilaterally abandoned, Venezuela is no longer bound to the limits on 3rd party military technology transfers and threreby threatened to "maybe" send the F-16s to Cuba or China for study.

This seems to me to be a bit of bluster to draw attention to a quite unjust decision on the US part. If you sell someone planes for greed and because you like a leader at one time, that is awfully short-sighted. Obviously if it is in the contract to provide spare parts, that is a clear obligation that should have been thought about at the time. One should not expect to get out of it without consequences. This could be big... lets hope the US swallows its pride for once and respects its word. At this point the US has not commented about the spare parts issue, which means its probably true.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Lula party fights Cuba cash claim

BBC News
1 November 2005, 03:08 GMT

Brazil's governing Workers' Party says it will sue a magazine for reporting that Cuba helped to finance the 2002 electoral campaign of the president. The leading weekly Veja said President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's campaign received up to $3m through a diplomat.

Opposition figures said they would call for an investigation. The Cuban and Brazilian governments deny the report.

The PT (Workers Party) called the report part of a plot by Brazil's elites.

"The magazine is a pamphlet for the PSDB (Social Democrats) and the PFL," PT President Ricardo Berzoini was quoted as saying by Reuters.

The magazine did not provide evidence and issued the report based on interviews with former aides of the finance minister, the Associated Press reports.

whole BBC article