Charging The Cavalry
Down Prison Road
Games of Shame
Our Kind of Guy
Zaps - 10/10
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The already bad relations between Venezuela and Colombia took a turn for the worse after accusations were made by a representative of the outgoing administration of Colombian President Uribe on July 22. Luis Hoyos, Colombia's ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), charged the Venezuelan government with harboring Colombian guerrillas and allowing guerrilla camps inside its territory. The "evidence"—which has been discredited—for this batch of accusations (as with previous ones) came from eight "magical laptops" seized by Colombian military forces in an illegal military raid into Ecuador last year.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez reacted to the accusations by breaking off relations with Colombia on July 22, leading to worsening relations between the two nations. Nevertheless, Chavez announced he would send his foreign minister to attend the August 7 inauguration of Uribe's successor, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. Uribe's response was to announce that his government was lodging a formal accusation against Venezuela in the Inter-American Committee of Human Rights and another formal charge against President Chavez personally to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Furthermore, Uribe reportedly announced he would be prepared to testify against Chavez.
However, intense diplomatic activity undertaken by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Venezuela's Foreign Relations Minister Nicolas Maduro, UNASUR's President Nestor Kirchner, and Brazil's President Lula managed to turn what looked like a disaster into one of the most extraordinary political turnarounds in recent Latin American history.
At his inauguration, President Santos stunned the world by announcing that his Administration would prioritize normalizing Colombia's relations with Venezuela and Ecuador. In stark contrast to the prevailing attitude under Uribe, Santos declared, "The word war is not in my dictionary when I think about Colombia's relations with its neighbors." Santos also ordered the handing over of Raul Reyes's laptops to the government of Ecuador.
The U.S. and British media had accepted the evidence publicized by the Colombian authorities at the time. As is well known, but not widely publicized, Ronald Coy, head of Colombia's technology police, admitted in an official investigation that the data in the laptops had been manipulated before being subjected to judicial review and that no emails had been found in them. We shall soon see how much of Hoyos's "evidence" to the OAS is left standing after Ecuador's laptop analysis takes place. The Venezuelan government has consistently denied the charges and, to this day, no serious evidence has been produced to substantiate allegations that Venezuela harbors guerrilla camps in its territory or that it gives them resources and weapons.
Venezuela and Colombia share a very porous 1,375-mile border. Colombia's internal conflict has the unfortunate dynamic of spilling over into other countries in the form of guerrillas, paramilitaries, drug traffickers, refugees, and immigrants escaping from the conflict. (About five million Colombians reside permanently in Venezuela.) It is estimated that, overall, Colombia's military has more than 300,000 soldiers—proportionately one of the largest in the region and 7 times larger than the armed forces of Venezuela. It benefits from $7 billion in U.S. military aid (the second largest in the world), but is nevertheless incapable of controlling its domestic terrain, in which there are about 8,000 armed guerrilla fighters, thousands of active illegal paramilitary forces, and a great deal of drug trafficking. Most of the cocaine in the world is produced in Colombia and about 50 percent of the production takes place there as well, according to UNODOC. Venezuela is geographically sandwiched between the largest producer and the largest consumer of cocaine in the world, Colombia and the United States.
After Santos's inauguration, assisted by Kirchner, the foreign ministers of Colombia and Venezuela met and announced that Presidents Santos and Chavez would be meeting at a special summit on August 10 in Colombia. Chavez immediately called on the guerrillas to seek a political solution: "The Colombian guerrillas do not have a future by way of arms...moreover, they have become an excuse for the [U.S.] empire to intervene in Colombia and threaten Venezuela from there," he said. He also called on them to show their commitment to a peace accord through "decisive demonstrations, for example, that they will liberate all those they have kidnapped."
It is clear that Santos wanted to repair relations with Venezuela and Ecuador partly because he wanted to end Colombia's regional isolation, but also because the cessation of trade with Venezuela had affected Colombia's economy (their mutual trade had declined by 73.7 percent).
Uribe's efforts to sabotage the summit mirror the actions of those in Washington who have been lobbying to declare Venezuela a "state that sponsors terrorism" and "a narcostate." The latter view is especially strong in the U.S. military's SOUTHCOM and in the U.S. Congress. SOUTHCOM has been busily installing U.S. military bases in the region and has resuscitated the Fourth Fleet (decommissioned in 1950). The U.S. deployed 20,000 soldiers to Haiti after the earthquake and has stationed massive military forces in Costa Rica (7,000 soldiers, 200 helicopters, and 46 warships until the end of December 2010). Thus, labeling Venezuela a "sponsor of terrorism" may have serious military consequences. Regional leaders are alarmed about these developments and have expressed serious concern.
A normally omitted dimension of Colombian-Venezuelan relations is the attitude of Venezuela's right wing. Under Uribe's two presidential mandates, they have sided with him. They did so again this time, but were unprepared for Santos's announcement. Also worth noting is the fact that the U.S. administration was reduced to the role of de facto spectator. The U.S. had been supportive of the accusations against Chavez at the OAS: "it is expressly because of our concerns about the links between Venezuela and the FARC that we have not certified Venezuela in recent years as fully cooperating with the United States and others in terms of these antiterrorism efforts," stated the U.S. ambassador to OAS. But the U.S. was clearly sidelined by UNASUR's brinkmanship. It is Santos, Chavez, and UNASUR (especially Brazil) who have been running the show.
According to Laura Carlsen, Americas Program director at the Center for International Policy, "Brazil's government has made it clear that it would like the matter to be taken up within UNASUR, without the influence of the United States. It proclaimed South America a 'region of peace' and affirmed that problems between countries should be first dealt with bilaterally." This shows the growing assertiveness and independence from U.S. influence and that there is also growing regional independence from traditional economic centers. Most Latin American leaders feel they averted an almost certain Uribe/U.S. driven war.
It remains to be seen how far this summit will take the two countries. They have decided to fully restore their relations in every field and the two presidents have established five commissions within the framework of a statement of principles signed by them. They include a commission for debt; another for the economic collaboration between the two countries; one for the development of a plan of investment in their common border; another for the joint undertaking of infrastructural works; and a security commission. Both heads of state undertook a commitment to collaborate in the struggle against drug trafficking and paramilitary and illegal armed activity. Colombia has sent the president of their Congress, Armando Benedetti, to assist the process of full restoration of relations between the two countries and there has been popular rejoicing in both countries. Not all the issues pending between the two nations were addressed, however, such as the U.S. military bases in Colombia, the urgent need for a peace process in Colombia, and the charges leveled against Venezuela to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights and against President Chavez to the International Criminal Court.
The dogs of war have been kept at bay, at least temporarily. Peace has broken out. The full restoration of relations between Venezuela and Colombia is indeed very positive. However, the array of forces set against the implementation of such a broad agenda are formidable. For starters, it is led by the U.S. and involves powerful economic groups located in most countries in the region, such as the separatists in eastern Bolivia who nearly overthrew Morales's government in 2009; the Venezuelan right, which managed to actually oust Chavez in 2002 (with U.S. complicity), but who the people returned to power; much of the Colombian oligarchy; the extremely wealthy and powerful Chilean Pinochetista bourgeoisie; the right wing in Argentina; the wealthy Guayaquil entrepreneurs; and so forth. All of these groups, in one way or another, favor continued U.S. militarization in the face of radical social movements and progressive governments.
Uribe's efforts to bring about a war with Venezuela underscores the U.S. "predicament": faced with the rebellion of its Southern neighbors, unable to win politically, and incapable of offering anything such as development, progress, investment, or even the American Way of life, it tried again to resort to war to keep its "backyard" under control. Much of Latin America has opted for democracy, social progress, national sovereignty, and peace. On this occasion even elements within the staunchest pro-U.S. Colombian oligarchy have sided with the South, not the North. We shall see who beats the other in the historic arm-wrestling underway.
Francisco Dominguez is secretary of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
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MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
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LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
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MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
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ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
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WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
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SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.