Category: Colombia
US opts for military solutions in Latin America

“The hegemonic ambitions of the United States are ultimately based more on the outsized importance of its military power than on the ‘advantages’ of its economic system.”                             — Samir Amin, Monthly Review, July 2017

By W. T. Whitney Jr.

The media circus surrounding Donald Trump’s words and actions may be distracting enough to let a revived insertion of U. S. military influence in Latin America pass unnoticed. For example, a squadron of South Carolina’s Air National Guard will be undertaking joint training exercises with pilots of Colombia’s Air Force at the Palanquero air base on July 15 – 17. The Colombians, flying aerial-refueling planes and Kfir C-10 fighter-bombers obtained from Israel, will be “fine tuning their piloting skills.”

Anticipating possible encounters with Venezuela’s Air Force, Colombian Air Force generals realized that their pilots lacked equipment and skills required for air-to-air encounters.   The Venezuelans are capable and fly well – used U. S. F-16 combat planes and Sukhoi Su-30 fighter-bombers, purchased from Russia in 2015.

Colombia’s government has been negotiating to purchase 12 old F-16 A/B Netz combat planes from Israel, and preparation of pilots is a step along the way. Pilots from the South Carolinian Air National Guard are assisting them.

U.S. military cooperation with Colombia has been ongoing for decades. By contrast, U.S. military involvement in Brazil breaks barriers.

U.S. and Brazilian military officials recently announced that troops of the two countries would be joining those of Peru and Colombia in training exercises in “the heart of the Amazon.” “Operation America United” will take place over two weeks beginning on November 6. Its advertised purpose is to prepare both responses to humanitarian disasters and measures against illegal migration, drug trafficking, and “environmental crimes.”

Brazil will be setting up a temporary international military base in the city of Tabatinga located on the “triple frontier” that separates Peru, Colombia, and Brazil. One report likens the upcoming training exercise to one in Hungary in 2015 where “the gringos arrived and are still there.”

The governments of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Panama, Canada, Bolivia, and Ecuador received invitations to send troops, presumably as observers. Even the Council of South American Defense may take part on behalf of the Union of South American Nations, formed in 2008 to foster regional integration and independence..

Brazil’s military has long been “quite jealous in its custody of Amazonia,” claims analyst Raul Zibechi. The nation’s military leaders also had opted out of Cold War initiatives for which the United States was recruiting Latin American and Caribbean nations. Zibechi attributes Brazil’s shift to accepting a U. S. military presence in the Amazon region to the influence of two new presidents, Donald Trump and Michel Temer.

Brazil’s Defense Ministry signed an arrangement with the Pentagon in March for coordination in “research and development.” A month later, the giant Brazilian airplane manufacturer Embraer and U. S. aviation electronics manufacturer Rockwell Collins agreed “to work on integrating their [products] for joint defense sales.” And the U.S. Army Armament Research and Development Center recently opened an office in Sao Paulo allowing for cooperation in pursuing “research and innovations in defense technologies.”

Perhaps the most dramatic instance of the new militarization of U. S. influence in the region was the “Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America” that took place in Miami on June 14 -16; Mexico and the United States were co-conveners. Attending were the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, countries whose violence and corruption have pushed migrants toward the United States.

The US Chamber of Commerce and the Inter-American Development Bank held a welcoming event for Central American businessmen in attendance. Later they joined a session at Florida International University where speakers included Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Homeland Security chief John F. Kelly.

General Kelly formerly headed the U. S. Army’s Southern Command which is responsible for U.S. military operations in Latin America and the Caribbean. The conference eventually moved to the Southern Command headquarters where officials presumably touched upon military plans for Central America.

Official U. S. press releases on the conference avoided military specifics, concentrating instead on the “business climate,” “citizen security,” narco-trafficking, and irregular migration. Writing in advance, observer Jake Johnson predicted that, “the military will be leading US policy in Central America.” He cited Tillerson who earlier had insisted, “We must protect our people … And we can only do that with economic prosperity. So it’s foreign policy projected with a strong ability to enforce the protection of our freedoms with a strong military.”

Central American and Mexican organizations defending the rights of migrants, small farmers, and women had already reacted to the prospect of such a conference. Hundreds of them endorsed a fact- filled petition sponsored by “Meso-American Voices.” Their plea condemned “a new military pact [involving] the United States, Mexico, and Central America to increase the presence of the US Southern Command on the border of Guatemala and Mexico.” That “there would be official operations of the United States Army in Mexican territory” was unprecedented.

KKE Europarliament Delegation: Solidarity with the FARC-EP political prisoners in Colombia

Friday, June 30, 2017

KKE Europarliament Delegation: Solidarity with the FARC-EP political prisoners in Colombia

https://communismgr.blogspot.com/2017/06/kke-europarliament-delegation.html
The Delegation of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) in the European Parliament issued the following statement:
 
“We express our solidarity with the dozens of FARC-EP fighters and other political prisoners who have launched a hunger strike in Colombia’s prisons for their release.

We denounce the Colombian government which while relying on its Agreements to maintain the status of persecution, repression and terrorism, continues to hold thousands of political prisoners imprisoned despite its commitments.

We call for the immediate release of all political prisoners, we declare that we stand firmly on the side of the Colombian workers and people movement against every attempt to exploit the developments and to intensify the attack on the people’s movement, on the democratic and social rights.”

30.06.2017.
Colombian prisoner David Ravelo must go free, now!

In an open letter we ask Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to order his government to release political prisoner David Ravelo. We invite individuals and organizations to endorse the letter. To do so, please send a name, city, state or province, and country to W.T. Whitney at: atwhit@roadrunner.com. The letter and names will be delivered to Colombian officials in mid-January.

  1. T. Whitney Jr. prepares this letter which is a project of The North American Committee for the Defense of David Ravelo. In 2012 the Committee sent a solidarity delegation to Colombia on Ravelo’s behalf.

 

The Honorable Juan Manuel Santos

President, Republic of Colombia

 

Dear Mr. President,

 

Sir, those who sign this letter hold that the case against prisoner David Ravelo (cédula de ciudadanía 13.887.558) collapsed long ago under the weight of lies and a quite illegitimate prosecution.   With respect, we ask that you instruct your government to release Mr. Ravelo from prison. We point to a long, unvarying record of injustice against Ravelo.

 

David Ravelo was arrested September 14, 2010 in Barrancabermeja, Colombia. Charged with plotting to murder municipal official David Núñez Cala in 1991, he is serving an 18 – year term. Appeals have failed. His case is now before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

 

Ravelo, we think, is emblematic of thousands of political prisoners in limbo now as Colombia implements its peace accord. Imprisoned combatants and civilian political prisoners may soon be eligible for amnesty. Ravelo needs to be one of them.

 

Barrancabermeja, Ravelo’s native city, produces 60 percent of Colombia’s oil products. In the late 1980s the Patriotic Union (UP) electoral coalition entered local politics. Soon David Ravelo was a UP member of Barrancabermeja’s city council and a UP delegate to the Santander Assembly. At the time, however, killers were targeting UP activists in Barrancabermeja, and nationally.

 

Charged with rebellion in 1993, Ravelo went to prison for 27 months.   By the late 1990s, paramilitaries controlled the city and its surroundings. They massacred 36 Barrancabermeja inhabitants on May 16, 1998 and 17 more on February 28, 1999.

 

In Barrancabermeja, Ravelo was a labor organizer, community educator, and journalist. He is a longtime member of the Colombian Communist Party’s Central Committee. Barrancabermeja’s Catholic Diocese honored Ravelo in 2008 for his 30 years dedicated to defending human rights. In response to paramilitary violence, he founded and directed the CREDHOS human rights organization. Many CREDHOS leaders subsequently were killed or threatened.

 

Ravelo in 2007 circulated a video, viewable here, showing President Alvaro Uribe socializing with Barrancabermeja paramilitary leaders in 2001.   The U.S. government, Colombia’s military ally, had complained about Uribe’s ties to paramilitaries. We suspect that the video, embarrassing to President Uribe, provoked his taking action against Ravelo.

 

Persecution, lies, and vengeance

 

Colombia’s government in 1999 convicted paramilitary leaders Mario Jaimes Mejía (alias “Panadero’) and Fremio Sánchez Carreño for organizing the two Barrancabermeja massacres. Each received a 20 year sentence. Having accused them, David Ravelo played a role in their downfall.

From Itagüí prison, paramilitary leader Roberto Pérez Álzate “gave the order,” says Ravelo, for Jaimes Mejía “to take revenge and accuse David Ravelo Crespo and José Arístides Andrade” of murdering David Núñez Cala in 1991.

Jaimes confessed to organizing the massacres of 1998 and 1999 in order to qualify for the Justice and Peace Law of 2005. According to that law, paramilitary leaders telling the truth and demobilizing troops would serve eight years in prison. In 2008 Jaimes confessed to the Núñez Cala murder and named Ravelo and ex- congressperson Arístides Andrade as accomplices. He claimed they attended a meeting in Barrancabermeja where the murder was planned. Again, accusations against Ravelo would ease his entry into the Justice and Peace program.

 

Jaime’s paramilitary associate Fremio Sánchez also confessed to the massacres and to his role in the Núñez Cala murder. He too implicated Ravelo and Arístides Andrade in order to qualify for Justice and Peace.

 

Jaimes Mejía was a FARC member when he killed Núñez Cala; only later would he join the paramilitaries. Accusing Ravelo of ties to the FARC, he showed investigators a 1985 photo of Ravelo attending a peace meeting with FARC leaders at a forest encampment. Authorities had used the old photo to put Ravelo in prison in 1993. Ravelo went free when the “Ravelo” in the photo was shown to be someone else, a journalist.

 

In the clutches of the law

 

The prosecution and trial of Ravelo revealed terrible procedural failings. The court, for example, accepted Jaimes Mejía’s accusation – a lie – that Ravelo and Andrade participated in a murder. Colombia’s Attorney General on August 20, 2014 charged him with lying, and a judicial unit specializing in false witnesses is investigating. Between May 26, 2015 and October 27, 2016, however, six scheduled court sessions were canceled.

 

Further, the prosecutor in Ravelo’s case, William Pacheco Granados, is a criminal. As a police lieutenant in 1991 he arranged for the “forced disappearance” of a young man. A military court convicted him; he spent a year in prison. Law 270 of 1996 prohibits anyone dismissed from “any public office” or convicted of a crime from joining “the judicial branch.” Now Pacheco Granados faces civil prosecution for murder.

 

And, the criminality of Ravelo’s accuser, Mario Jaimes Mejía, seems limitless. Jaimes arranged for journalist Yineth Bedoya to be kidnapped before she was to interview him in prison in 2000. She was beaten and raped. Jaimes received a 28 – year sentence.

 

There’s more: Jaimes Mejía bribed fellow prisoners to testify that Ravelo and Arístides Andrade attended the meeting where the murder was planned. Jaimes used prisoner Fremio Sánchez to recruit them, according to witnesses at Ravelo’s trial. Prison officials facilitated meetings to enable Jaimes and Sánchez to conspire against Ravelo.

 

And, none of Ravelo’s 30 defense witnesses were allowed to testify during the trial proceedings. Prosecutor Pacheco closed his pre-trial investigation without hearing testimony as to Ravelo’s innocence.

 

And, four weeks elapsed between Ravelo being convicted and the actual announcement of his conviction on December 11, 2012. This “flagrant violation of due process” delayed preparations for Ravelo’s appeal.

 

Lastly, the atmosphere surrounding Ravelo’s trial was grim; “family members and members of Ravelo’s CREDHOS organization continually suffered paramilitary death threats and harassment while the trial was in progress.”

 

Ravalo summarizes: “[T]he paramilitaries had ‘reasons’ for wanting to eliminate me. That’s why … they tried to assassinate me physically, but didn’t succeed. They decided to eliminate me judicially, and for that they implemented ‘the judicial façade,’ using the lie as their favorite weapon. It’s clear, therefore, that the truth is the first victim of war.”

PLEASE ENDORSE THIS OPEN LETTER TO COLOMBIAN PRESIDENT JUAN MANUEL SANTOS

Hello all,

 

Four years ago I helped organize a delegation of people to Colombia on behalf of political prisoner David Ravelo. Now we are sending an open letter to President Santos asking that Ravelo be freed as part of the expected amnesty for some prisoners that is part of the peace process there.  The open letter (see attachment and also below) is a summary of his case.  When we have names of individuals (we want over 300) and of organizations we will be delivering the letter and names to the Colombian consulate in Boston in mid- January.

 

Instructions for how to sign on to the letter are at the head of the letter; it’s easy – just email me: atwhit@roadrunner.com.

 

This is important. There are over 9000 political prisoners in Colombia. For half a century US has been allied to Colombia in its anti-insurgent war. Over 200, died. Ravelo is emblematic.

 

Thank you for considering, and, hopefully, signing on. And, Have your friends sign on!!!!

 

Tom Whitney

 

PLEASE ENDORSE THIS OPEN LETTER TO COLOMBIAN PRESIDENT JUAN MANUEL SANTOS

President Santos: Colombian prisoner David Ravelo must go free, now!

As follow-up of its solidarity delegation to Colombia in 2012 on behalf of Ravelo, the North American Committee for the Defense of David Ravelo circulates this letter as part of the international campaign to free him. To endorse it, pleased email your name, city, state or province, and country to WT Whitney at: atwhit@roadrunner.com. We will deliver the letter and names to Colombian officials in mid-January.   Thank you.

Prepared by W. T. Whitney Jr.

The case against prisoner David Ravelo collapsed long ago under the weight of lies and a misbegotten prosecution. Only an imaginative writer of fiction could pass off as plausible the vengeance and bizarre legal proceedings he’s been subjected to.

Ravelo was arrested September 14, 2010 in Barrancabermeja, Colombia. Charged with plotting to murder municipal official David Núñez Cala in 1991, he is serving an 18 – year term. Appeals have failed. His case is now before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Ravelo is emblematic of thousands of political prisoners in limbo now as Colombia implements a peace accord. Imprisoned combatants and civilian political prisoners may soon be eligible for amnesty. Ravelo must be one of them.

Barrancabermeja

Barrancabermeja, on the Magdalena River, grew together with development of oil-processing facilities there that now produce 60 percent of Colombia’s oil products. The local oil – workers’ union is a famously militant one, and leftist ferment has been constant. In the late 1980s, for example, the Patriotic Union (UP) electoral coalition entered local politics. Soon killers were targeting UP activists in Barrancabermeja, and nationally.

In the early 1990s, David Ravelo was a UP member of Barrancabermeja’s city council and a delegate to the Santander Assembly. Charged with rebellion in 1993, he went to prison for 27 months. By the late 1990s, paramilitaries controlled the city and its surroundings. They massacred 36 Barrancabermeja inhabitants on May 16, 1998 and 17 more on February 28, 1999.

For 35 years, Ravelo was a labor organizer, community educator, journalist, and defender of human rights. He joined the Colombian Communist Party’s Central Committee. Barrancabermeja’s Catholic Diocese honored Ravelo in 2008. Responding to paramilitary violence, he founded and directed the CREDHOS human rights organization. Soon that group’s leaders were being killed or threatened, and many survivors departed. Ravelo stayed.

Ravelo in 2007 circulated a video, viewable here, showing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe socializing with Barrancabermeja paramilitary leaders in 2001. Uribe’s ties to paramilitaries alarmed the U.S. government, Colombia’s military ally. But his Justice and Peace Law (2005) eased such concerns by promoting paramilitary demobilization. The video, recalling Uribe’s grim history, invited revenge.

Persecution, lies, and vengeance

Colombia’s government in 1999 convicted paramilitary leaders Mario Jaimes Mejía (alias “Panedero’) and Fremio Sánchez Carreño for organizing the two Barrancabermeja massacres. Each received a 20 year sentence. Ravelo’s public denunciations played a role in their downfall.

From Itagüí prison, paramilitary leader Roberto Pérez Álzate “gave the order,” says Ravelo, for Jaimes Mejía “to take revenge and accuse David Ravelo Crespo and José Arístides Andrade” of murdering David Núñez Cala in 1991.

Jaimes confessed to organizing the massacres of 1998 and 1999 in order to qualify for the Justice and Peace Law. According to that law, paramilitary leaders telling the truth and demobilizing troops would serve eight years in prison. In 2008 Jaimes confessed to the Núñez Cala murder and named Ravelo and ex- congressperson Arístides Andrade as accomplices, adding that, at a meeting in Barrancabermeja, they participated in planning the murder. The accusations were aimed at building his case for entering the Justice and Peace program

His paramilitary associate Fremio Sánchez also confessed to the massacres and to his own role in the Núñez Cala murder. He too implicated Ravelo and Arístides Andrade in order to qualify for the program. He was not accepted.

When Jaimes Mejía killed Núñez Cala, he was a FARC member; he joined the paramilitaries later. Claiming that Ravelo had ties to the FARC, he showed investigators a 1985 photo of Ravelo attending a peace meeting with FARC leaders at a forest encampment. Authorities had used the old photo to put Ravelo in prison in 1993. Ravelo went free once the “Ravelo” in the photo was shown to be someone else, a journalist.

Ever so strange

Ravelo’s case rests on multiple assaults on the truth. Here’s one: a local prosecutor dismissed allegations against him in 2008. Later, the national Attorney General transferred his case to an “anti-terrorism prosecutor” in Bogota. That prosecutor, William Pacheco Granados, was a criminal.

As a police lieutenant in 1991 Pacheco arranged for the “forced disappearance” of a young man. A military court convicted him; he spent a year in prison. Law 270 of 1996 prohibits anyone dismissed from “any public office” or convicted of a crime from joining “the judicial branch.” Now Pacheco Granados faces civil prosecution for murder.

Another assault: Colombia’s Attorney General on August 20, 2014 accused Jaimes of lying when he accused Ravelo and Andrade of complicity in the murder. A judicial unit specializing in false witnesses is investigating. However, between May 26, 2015 and October 27, 2016, six scheduled court sessions were canceled.

A third: Jaimes’ criminality seems limitless. He arranged for journalist Yineth Bedoya to be kidnapped before she was to interview him in prison in 2000. She was beaten and raped. Jaimes received a 28 – year sentence and was removed from protection under the Law of Peace and Justice.

Body parts discovered in the sewers of La Modelo prison have been connected to Jaimes’ order to “disappear” fellow prisoners. He’s accused of ordering the killing in 2003 of a school head in Barrancabermeja and committing aggravated assault from prison against a Barrancabermeja businessman.

Four, Jaimes Mejía bribed fellow prisoners to testify that Ravelo and Arístides Andrade attended the murder – planning meeting. Witnesses at trial sessions in 2011 and 2012 testified that Jaimes used prisoner Fremio Sánchez to recruit them. Their contradictory testimony indicated to Ravelo that they “didn’t know who he was.” Officials facilitated meetings at which Jaimes and Sánchez conspired against Ravelo. A jailed lawyer, advising prisoners, testified to the collaboration

 

Five, none of Ravelo’s 30 defense witnesses were allowed to testify during the trial proceedings. Prosecutor Pacheco closed his pre-trial investigation without hearing testimony as to Ravelo’s innocence.

 

Six, four weeks elapsed between Ravelo being convicted and the announcement of his conviction on December 11, 2012. The delay impeded preparations for Ravelo’s appeal and was a “flagrant violation of due process.”

 

Lastly, the atmosphere surrounding Ravelo’s trial was hardly favorable for securing justice; “family members and members of Ravelo’s CREDHOS organization continually suffered paramilitary death threats and harassment while the trial was in progress.”

 

Ravelo summarizes: “[T]he paramilitaries had ‘reasons’ for wanting to eliminate me. That’s why … they tried to assassinate me physically, but didn’t succeed. They decided to eliminate me judicially, and for that they implemented the ‘judicial façade,’ using the lie as their favorite weapon. It’s clear, therefore, that the truth is the first victim of war.”