A Recipe for a Crisis
South America is not in crisis. Since the so-called “war on terror” is already being used to justify the United States’ policy of repression and military presence in the region, Alvaro Uribe’s government is attempting to provoke armed conflict in his own country by invading Ecuadorian territory. Uribe also has the objective of avoiding the possibility of a negotiated, humanitarian accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) over freeing hostages, including former members of parliament who oppose his policy of war.
If South America were truly in crisis, other countries in this region would not have unanimously condemned the Colombian army’s actions. We know, however, that historically many “crises” have been fabricated in order to justify the continuity of US political, economic, and military power not only in Latin America, but on other continents as well. The war in Colombia is an essential tool for the maintenance of the American war machine in this region. Plan Colombia was created to serve as a regional military platform, and, in many ways, the American government sought to bring other Southern Cone countries into the conflict.
In early 2001, when then-president Andrés Pastrana and FARC leader Manuel Marulanda attempted to negotiate a peace agreement, George Bush assumed power in the White House and began his international campaign for the enlargement of Plan Colombia. Then-US secretary of state Colin Powell, had the task of obtaining the support of Latin American countries for his military strategy in Colombia.
At the same time, the so called Plan Colombia, or “assistance package” of $1.3 billion, was approved by the US congress under the auspices of defending democracy and halting the drug trade. Congress even added specific conditions to the bill stating that Plan Colombia funds were not to be used for counter-insurgency purposes. Of course, no one believes that Plan Colombia was designed to combat drugs; however, it was also unacceptable to openly admit the US military’s role in fighting Colombian guerillas.
Only after the 9-11 attacks on New York and Washington DC did the Bush regime begin to use the “war on terror” to justify his policies of war. Labeling the FARC as a terrorist group has only become possible in the post-September 11th international political climate. Since then, the jargon has come to be accepted by many governments, along with the media.
Towards the end of 2002, Colin Powel guaranteed an additional subsidy of $731 million to finance Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru’s participation in Plan Colombia. The role of Ecuador was particularly crucial, as the US was using the Manta Base to control airspace in the Amazonian region, the Panama Canal, and Central America.
The election of president Rafael Correa interrupted Ecuador’s support for Plan Colombia. One of his first actions was to announce that he would not renew the treaty granting the US control over the Manta Base. The election of president Evo Morales in Bolivia and the country’s resulting foreign policy changes signaled additional problems for the US government in the region. Despite the intentions of the Bush government to involve South American countries in the Colombian conflict through the Southern Command (a branch of the US Army that acts in Latin American), other governments have refused to classify the FARC as terrorists or to send troops to combat Colombian guerillas.
More recently, Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, launched an international campaign for peace accords and for the release of hostages taken by the FARC. This move won him both governmental support and social admiration in many countries, especially in Europe and Latin America. Clearly, Bush and Uribe needed a counter attack and took aim at Ecuador, targeting president Rafael Correa and betting on a “crisis” wave spreading through the hemisphere.
Currently, the conservative mass media in many countries is repeating statements made by the Colombian police about supposed collaborations between Ecuador, Venezuela, and the FARC. These allegations only serve to frustrate attempts to pursue peace accords in Colombia. Other statements reinforce a climate of war. During the UN Conference on Disarmament, Francisco Santos Calderón, the Colombian vice president, claimed that the FARC sought to obtain radioactive materials, while Alvaro Uribe threatened to accuse Hugo Chavez of “sponsoring and financing genocide” at the International Criminal Court.
As professor Noam Chomsky has said, the first victim of war is the truth. In this case, the scene is set. It remains to be seen whether Uribe (who is attempting to hide allegations of working with the paramilitaries) and Bush (who is now demoralized and preparing to leave the White House) will have enough credibility to nourish this farce. (Translation: ALAI)
Maria Luisa Mendonca is a journalist and a member of the Social Network for Justice and Human Rights.