[…] A rightward shift is afoot in Latin American politics. Triumphant socialist governments had once swept the region for much of the 21st century – from Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to land reform populist Manuel Zelaya in Honduras – championing new programs for the poor, nationalizing businesses, and challenging U.S. dominance in hemispheric affairs.
In recent years, however, leftist leaders have fallen one after another, sometimes in spectacular fashion. Zelaya was led from the presidential palace in his pajamas in a military coup; in Argentina, a real-estate baron swept to the presidency and Kirchner was indicted for corruption; and in Brazil, the ruling Workers’ Party, facing a growing corruption scandal and a mass protest movement, was swept out of office via impeachment over charges of budget chicanery.
This shift might appear as part of a larger regional rebalancing, merely economic circumstances taking hold. And yet the Atlas Network seems ever-present, a common thread nudging political developments along.
The story of the Atlas Network and its profound impact on ideology and political power has never been fully told. But business filings and records from three continents, along with interviews with libertarian leaders across the hemisphere, reveal the scope of its influential history. The libertarian network, which has reshaped political power in country after country, has also operated as a quiet extension of U.S. foreign policy, with Atlas-associated think tanks receiving quiet funding from the State Department and the National Endowment for Democracy, a critical arm of American soft power.
Though recent investigations have shed light on the role of powerful conservative billionaires, such as the Koch brothers, in developing a business-friendly version of libertarian thought, the Atlas Network, which receives funding from Koch foundations, has recreated methods honed in the Western world for developing countries.
The network is expansive, currently boasting loose partnerships with 450 think tanks around the world. Atlas says it dispensed over $5 million to its partners in 2016 alone.
Over the years, Atlas and its affiliated charitable foundations have provided hundreds of grants to conservative and free-market think tanks in Latin America, including the libertarian network that supported the Free Brazil Movement and organizations behind a libertarian push in Argentina, including Fundación Pensar, the Atlas think tank that merged with the political party formed by Mauricio Macri, a businessman who now leads the country. The leaders of the Free Brazil Movement and the founder of Fundación Eléutera in Honduras, an influential post-coup neoliberal think tank, have received financial support from Atlas, and are among the next generation of political operatives that have gone through Atlas’s training seminars.
The Atlas Network spans dozens of other think tanks across the region, including prominent groups supporting right-wing forces behind the unfolding anti-government movement in Venezuela and the campaign of Sebastián Piñera, the right-of-center candidate leading the polls for this year’s presidential election in Chile.
Amy Goodman speaks with Lee Fang of The Intercept about the above piece on the Atlas Network’s involvement in Latin American politics (Democracy Now!)
Colombia, one of the most mined countries in the world, aims to remove all landmines and other explosives by 2021 after the government and FARC rebels signed a peace deal last year, a top government official has said.
Colombia’s left-wing guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), planted thousands of landmines across swathes of the country during its five-decade war against the government.
“Forty percent of the areas that were covered in landmines for the past 25 years are now being cleared to reach the goal of having a Colombia free of anti-personnel mines by 2021,” Rafael Pardo, the government’s post-conflict commissioner, told local media on Monday.
After Afghanistan, Colombia has the second highest number of landmine casualties, with more than 11,500 people killed or injured by landmines since 1990, government figures show.
‘A Colombian former intelligence chief was jailed for 14 years on Thursday for spying on judges, journalists and opposition figures in a high-profile case that stained the legacy of popular ex-president Alvaro Uribe.
The Supreme Court convicted Maria del Pilar Hurtado in February of ordering illegal wiretaps on a former senator, two opposition politicians, the mayor of Bogota and its own judges during Uribe’s presidency from 2002 to 2010.
The sentence was less than the 20 years requested by prosecutors.’
‘Drug Enforcement Administration agents allegedly had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by local drug cartels overseas over a period of several years, according to a report released Thursday by the Justice Department’s watchdog.
The report did not specify the country where the parties occurred, but a law enforcement official familiar with the matter identified it as Colombia.
Seven of the 10 DEA agents alleged to have participated in the gatherings — most of which took place at an agent’s “quarters” leased by the U.S. government — admitted to having attended the parties, the report found. The agents, some of whom had top-secret security clearances, received suspensions of two to 10 days.’
‘An 800-page independent report commissioned by the US-friendly Colombian government and the radical left rebel group FARC found that US military soldiers and contractors had sexually abused at least 54 children in Colombia between 2003 and 2007 and, in all cases, the rapists were never punished–either in Colombia or stateside–due to American military personnel being immune from prosecution under diplomatic immunity agreements between the two countries.
The report was part of a broader historical analysis meant to establish the “causes and violence aggravators” of the 50-year-long conflict between the government and rebels that’s presently being negotiated to an end.
[…] Thus far, however, these explosive claims seem to have received zero coverage in the general US press, despite having been reported on Venezuela’s Telesur (3/23/15), the British tabloid Daily Mail (3/24/15) and Russian RT (3/25/15).’
- At least 54 Colombian girls sexually abused by immune US military: Report
- US Military Sexually Abused at Least 54 Colombian Children
- US soldiers and contractors raped 54 Colombian girls and will never face charges
- US troops, contractors sexually abused Colombian girls with impunity – report
- U.S. soldier’s immunity clouds 2007 Colombian rape case (2009)
- It’s Déjà Vu for DynCorp All Over Again (2010)
- Dyncorp and Halliburton Sex Slave Scandal Won’t Go Away (2006)
- Sex-slave whistle-blowers vindicated (2002)
- UN Child Sex Slave Scandals Continue (2007)
- Peacekeepers’ Sex Scandals Linger, On Screen and Off (2011)
- Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse
‘[…] In recent years, Colombia has emerged as the world’s second largest flower exporter, with plane-loads of freshly-cut flowers leaving for the US, UK, Japan and other markets every day. Exports increased by 4.4% between 2013-2014, according to the Cactus Corporation, a Bogotá-based campaign group, which claims the industry’s US$1.3bn (2012) annual sale revenues are being bought at the cost of workers’ rights.
“We’re very preoccupied about the conditions of those who are making these increases in productivity possible”, says Ricardo Zamudio, president of Cactus. “These workers receive the absolute minimum wage of 644,000 pesos a month (£175), which only covers about 40% of their typical monthly outgoings.”
Zamudio highlights health concerns among workers too, many of whom are compelled to work double shifts in the run-up to busy periods such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. According to testimonies collected by Cactus, carpel tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and other repetitive strain injuries are commonplace among flower workers, around two-thirds (65%) of whom are women. The Colombian non-profit has also registered cases of exposure to toxic chemicals during fumigation.’
‘Afghanistan has the world’s highest number of children killed or wounded by landmines and other explosive remnants of war, followed by Colombia, according to a leading anti-landmine group.
In its annual Landmine Monitor report, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munition Coalition (ICBL-CMC) said the number of recorded casualties of mines and other explosive remnants of war has decreased to the lowest level since 1999, but child victims have risen.’
‘Colombia must invest at least 90 trillion pesos ($44.4 billion) to implement a peace deal with Marxist rebels to end a 50-year conflict, says a senator who backs the current peace talks, adding the amount is much less than the cost of waging war.
The figure is the first estimate of the cost of a peace accord to end the conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC… He said the money would be used to finance reintegration programs for former rebels, victim compensation, the return of displaced populations and land reform.’
- US support vital for Colombia peace: Former ambassador
- UN: Victims participating in Colombia peace talks receive deaths threats
- Colombian port city where body parts wash up following screams in the dark
- Bodyguard Scandal a Threat to Peace in Colombia
- Venezuela leader implicates Uribe in killing
- Colombia Paramilitary Massacre of the Poor
- Colombia says rebel chief has been to Cuba for peace talks
- ‘Don’t make children fight your war’: ex-child soldier to Colombia rebels
- ICRC: Silence surrounds Colombia’s 92,000 disappeared
- Colombia arrests 32 politicians over paramilitary ties
- FARC chief says Colombia peace deal unlikely this year
- Colombia wants to expand the wealth tax in the country
- Colombia drought wipes out crops and cattle
‘[…] This is the reality of Colombia today. But it’s not, of course, the story sold by the Colombian government and its US and British backers. As far as they’re concerned, the peace talks with the Farc are heading for success after Juan Manuel Santos was re-elected president last month on a peace ticket.
Colombian officials talk peace and human rights with an evangelical zeal and a dizzying array of flipcharts. But, as one independent report after another confirms, there is a chasm between the spin and life on the ground. Laws are not implemented or abusers prosecuted. Thousands of political prisoners languish in Colombia’s jails. Political, trade union and social movement activists are still routinely jailed or assassinated.
A quarter of a million have died in Colombia’s war, the large majority of them at the hands of the army, police and government-linked paramilitaries. Five million have been forced from their homes. Although the violence is down from its peak, the killing of human rights and union activists has actually increased in the past year.’
- Colombian peace talks will fail without government concessions, Farc warns
- Colombia president says ‘demented’ FARC attacks could end peace talks
- Testimony: Colombian soldiers paid $500 for victims to boost kill counts
- Who controls Medellín? Fragile peace in Colombia’s ‘model’ city
- US removes terror designation for Colombia group
- Santos Wins ‘Dirty Election’ in Colombia
- Support From the Left Helps Keep a Right-Wing President in Power in Colombia
- Colombia’s FARC rebels hope World Cup fosters ‘reconciliation’
- Colombia government and Farc rebels to set up truth commission
- Colombian peace negotiator demands FARC hand in weapons
- Factbox: Colombia’s left-wing guerrillas the ELN
- High-stakes Colombian presidential race marred by scandals, personal feuds
- After 50 years of war, Colombian rebels look to politics
- Colombia presidential candidate says spying scandal a plot against him
- Colombia rebels say ‘stable and lasting peace’ is possible
- Gangs target Colombian children
- Human Rights Watch Colombia Report 2014
- 2013: Record year for attacks against human rights defenders
- Colombia: Disappearances Plague Major Port
‘A divided U.S. appeals court on Thursday threw out claims against produce giant Chiquita Brands International made by relatives of thousands of Colombians killed during years of bloody civil war.
A panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that federal courts have no jurisdiction over the Colombian claims. The lawsuits accused Chiquita of assisting in the killings by paying $1.7 million to a violent right-wing paramilitary group known as the AUC, the Spanish acronym for United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.
Chiquita, based in the U.S., formerly operated large banana plantations in Colombia through its Banadex subsidiary. Chiquita insists it was the victim of extortion and was forced to pay the AUC or face violence directed at its employees and assets in Colombia.’
- Chiquita Is Blocking a 9/11 Victims’ Bill
- Fyffes to merge with Chiquita and create world’s biggest banana company
- Chiquita Sues to Block Release of Files on Colombia Terrorist Payments
- Chiquita Banana To Face Colombia Torture Claim
- Families Sue Chiquita for More Than 4,000 Murders in Colombia
- Fronting for Paramilitaries: Holder, Chiquita and Colombia
- Terrorism and Bananas in Colombia
- Chiquita admits to paying terrorists
- United Fruit Company
‘A record 33.3 million people around the world were internally displaced by conflict in their countries at the end of last year, 16 percent or 4.5 million up on 2012, an international report said on Wednesday. The report by the Norwegian Refugee Council said nearly two thirds of the global total were in just five countries – Syria, Colombia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan.
Syria, with at least 6,5 million driven from their homes in three years of fighting between government forces and insurgents and foreign fighters backing them, took over first place ahead of Colombia, suffering from decades of guerrilla wars. The Middle Eastern country accounted for 43 per cent – 3.5 million – of all the new internally displaced people (IDPs) around the globe in 2013, a total of 8.2 million, according to the report presented at a Geneva news briefing.’
…The U.S. has denied that it has anything to do with the death squads, claiming it has trained Kenyan security to operate in line with human rights. But those claims are dubious. America’s involvement with Kenya’s anti-terror forces is deep. Since 2003, the U.S. has given Kenya $50 million to fight terrorism; the country is one of the five recipients of U.S. anti-terror financing. And the U.S. and the U.K. provide training for Kenya’s fight against al-Shabaab.
The claims of no U.S. involvement are all the more dubious since the U.S. has partnered with Somali militias to hunt down al-Shabaab members, and because of the extensive record of U.S. support for death squads in other countries. Whether in the context of the Cold War or the war on terror, America’s support for death squads has allowed the U.S. to stand back while proxy forces achieve its goals by engaging in the most unsavory of activities: extrajudicial assassinations.
Here are five other countries where the U.S. has supported death squads…
A truth commission to probe abuses in Colombia’s half-century-old conflict should be held after, not before, peace is reached with leftist rebels, Bogota’s top negotiator said Sunday.
Humberto de la Calle’s remark was the first government reaction to a proposal raised eight months ago by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in talks between the two sides to resolve their differences.
“There can be no end to the conflict without truth,” said de la Calle, a former Colombian vice president.
The government of President Juan Manuel Santos sees such a commission as “a real instrument for peace and not as a tactical tool for negotiations,” he added.
The FARC, a leftist guerrilla group, has been at war with the state since 1964. Considered Latin America’s longest-running insurgency, the fighting has left hundreds of thousands dead and displaced 4.5 million.
On December 21, 2013, The Washington Post published a story entitled, “Covert action Colombia,” about the intimate and critical role of the CIA and the NSA in helping to assassinate “at least two dozen” leaders of the Colombian FARC guerillas from “the early 2000s” to and through the present time. The author of the story, Dana Priest, claims that the story is based on “interviews with more than 30 former and current U.S. and Colombian officials.” While The Washington Post story reads like an advertisement for the CIA and NSA, there are some truths buried in the piece which are worthy of consideration. The most illuminating statement is that while the CIA and NSA, allegedly in the interest of fighting drug trafficking and terrorism, have assisted the Colombian government in hunting down and murdering Marxist FARC guerillas with U.S.-made smart bombs, “for the most part, they left the violent paramilitary groups alone.”
This is an important point, for as the piece itself acknowledges, the paramilitaries are indeed “violent,” and, with the help of the U.S.-backed Colombian military, have been engaged in a decades-long campaign of terror against the civilian population. And consequently, the U.S. officially designated the predecessor of the current paramilitaries – that is, the AUC — as a terrorist organization. Meanwhile, it is well-accepted that both the Colombian paramilitaries and their military allies are major drug traffickers in their own right. In short, the U.S. is aligning with known terrorists and drug dealers in Colombia in the name of fighting terrorism and drugs. While this may seem preposterous, there is indeed a logic to it.
Most voters have known nothing but conflict for their entire lives: when the Farc rose up against the state in 1964, Lyndon Johnson was in the White House, Nikita Khrushchev was in the Kremlin and the cold war was at its height. Over the following 50 years, Colombia’s low-intensity war has caused more than 250,000 deaths and the displacement of more than 5 million people as rebels from the Farc, ELN and other leftwing groups clashed with government troops and rightwing paramilitaries.
Many of the armed factions finance themselves through kidnappings and drug trafficking. If a deal can be reached, Santos says the biggest peace dividend for the outside world is likely to be a cut in the supply of cocaine. “If we can agree to fight drug trafficking and substitute coca crops for legal crops it will have a big impact on the world because, unfortunately, for 40 years we have been the principal supplier of that drug.”
The U.S. doesn’t have the ships and surveillance capabilities to go after the illegal drugs flowing into the U.S. from Latin America, the top military commander for the region told senators Thursday, adding that the lack of resources means he has to “sit and watch it go by.” Gen. John Kelly told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he is able to get about 20 percent of the drugs leaving Colombia for the U.S., but the rest gets through.
Aided by surveillance planes, radar, human intelligence capabilities and other assets, Kelly said he has “very good clarity” on the drug traffickers who are moving the drugs out of Colombia and through the Caribbean Sea. But much of the time, he said, “I simply sit and watch it go by. And because of service cuts, I don’t expect to get any immediate relief in terms of assets to work with in this region of the world.”
- Drug boss Pablo Escobar still divides Colombia
- Colombia Farc rebels to play Valderrama peace match
- As Colombia’s presidential race heats up, peace talks take center stage
- Colombia: peace talks stymied over coca
- FARC peace may cut Colombia cocaine, but synthetic drugs new scourge
- Famed ex-hostage runs for Colombia president
- Colombia uncovers Farc plot to kill ex-president Uribe
For the first time in their 50-year struggle, Colombia‘s leftist Farc rebels have agreed to give up the use of violence to reach their political ends in exchange for full participation in democratic politics – a major breakthrough in peace talks between one of the oldest guerrilla movements in the world and the government of Juan Manuel Santos.
Farc and government negotiators, who have been meeting in Havana for a year, announced the partial agreement on Wednesday on the political participation of the guerrillas, which would take effect only once a broader agreement to end the country’s conflict was reached.
Chiquita Brands International, giver of bananas and well-known supporter of Colombian death squads, is trying to get a federal appeals court to block a lawsuit brought against it by the families victimized by their paid mercenaries. And they might just get away with it.
Chiquita has long had large banana plantations in Colombia, and admitted in 2007 that it funded a para-military organization to the tune of $1.7 million over a seven-year period in the 1990’s. The group, AUC, was supposed to defend Chiquita against the extortion of the guerrilla group FARC, but instead began massacring civilians and engaging in the same type of terrorism practiced by those they were supposed to be fighting against. Essentially, a Charlotte-based company paid for the deaths of at least 4,000 civilians.
Chiquita paid a $25 million fine to the U.S. government in 2007 for their involvement in supporting a terrorist group. Now, the families of the Colombians killed want the fruit conglomerate to pay for the deaths of their loved ones, and Chiquita is fighting against it tooth and nail.
- A Banana Republic Once Again? (PR Watch)
- Bananas: How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World (NY Times)
- Chiquita Brands International, Inc. (Sourcewatch)
- United Fruit Company (Sourcewatch)
- Ethical shopping guide to Bananas (Ethical Consumer)
- Colombia’s Nationwide Strike Against ‘Free Trade,’ Privatization, Poverty (Common Dreams)
- Colombia orders militarization of Bogota, highways (Press TV)
- Another round of Columbia-FARC peace talks ends (Press TV)
- Colombian soldiers have been killing mentally ill civilians and selling their bodies to the government (Vice)
- Paramilitarism in Colombia (Wikipedia)
The chief peace negotiator for Colombia’s Farc rebel group has said the armed conflict that has lasted more than five decades is nearing an end.
Ivan Marquez, who is taking part in talks with the Colombian government in Cuba, has called on left-wing parties and unions to join the effort to achieve peace.
The government wants a peace accord to be agreed by November.
But Mr Marquez warned against rushing into a settlement.
US allies Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Chile have joined other Latin American nations in demanding answers from Washington over spying allegations.
Brazilian media reported earlier this week that the US had seized web traffic and phone calls across the region.
Spying targets included oil and energy firms, Venezuela’s military purchases and information on Mexico’s drug wars.
Colombia has expressed concern and called for an explanation after revelations the US spied on the Andean nation, its closest military ally in Latin America.
In a brief statement on Wednesday, Colombia’s foreign ministry said it “registered its concern” that there had been an “unauthorised data collection programme” and asked the US government to give an account of its actions through its embassy in Bogota.
The Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported on Tuesday that the US National Security Agency targeted most Latin American countries with spying programmes that monitored internet traffic, especially in Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil and Mexico.
The U.S. National Security Agency has targeted most Latin American countries in its spying programs, with Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil and Mexico ranking among those of highest priority for the U.S. intelligence agency, a leading Brazilian newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Citing documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the fugitive former American intelligence contractor, O Globo newspaper said the NSA programs went beyond military affairs to what it termed “commercial secrets.”
These included petroleum in Venezuela and energy in Mexico, according to a graphic O Globo identified as being from the NSA and dated February of this year.
Also swept up in what O Globo termed as U.S. spying were Argentina, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Paraguay, Chile, Peru and El Salvador.