Radical Separatism: Contours of the Conspiracy
© Nil Nikandrov
Source: Strategic Culture Foundation
February 20, 2011
Overthrowing the regimes in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela is on Washington’s list of strategic objectives. Separatist leanings spread and radical groups proliferate in the countries with a clear backing from the outside world. No means of undermining the regimes remain unused, separatism – a traditional and proven instrument from the U.S. intelligence community’s arsenal being one of them.
An International Confederation for Regional Freedom and Autonomy (CONFILAR) was created on September 16, 2006 in Guayaquil, Ecuador by the pro-autonomy groups from Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Peru. The blueprint for the conference which established the confederation is attributed to Alberto Mansueti, vice president of the Rumbo Propio (Our Own Destiny) group based in Maracaibo, the capital of Zulia state. Mansueti is known to have authored CONFILAR’s underlying philosophy, a brand of radical separatism disguised as the demand for civilized autonomy. The extent of autonomy as requested by Mansueti and his brethren is practically tantamount to the abolition of centralized control over the corresponding territories. The radical position largely stems from its proponents’ aversion to the socialist policies pursued by the populist leaders such as H. Chavez, R. Correa, and E. Morales. Mansueti’s version of the autonomy envisages complete absence of economic or political regulation to be exercised by the central authority. The promised benefits of the arrangement are considerably better life quality, exceptional education and health care standards, jobs, higher pensions, and hefty social aid packages for the poor including food stamps, free tuition and medical care, while corruption, for example, is supposed to evaporate. In the past, similar pledges were generously dispensed by Correa’s ferocious critic Jaime Nebot and other leaders from the affluent Manabi province sited on the Pacific shore, which for a decade hosted a U.S. military base. Created with the stated goal of fighting drug trafficking, the base actually gave the U.S. control over the region’s countries. Correa pledged not to renew the base lease as he ran for president – and immediately faced a separatist surge in response upon coming to office. The CIA instigated separatism in Manabi in the hope that reaching an agreement on the base with the separatists should not be a problem, but Washington’s plans for the province failed to materialize. President Correa’s views on the U.S. military presence in Ecuador remain unchanged. In September, 2008 some 70% of the country’s population expressed at a national referendum support for a new constitution upholding the principles of solidarity, justice, and wealth for all. Ecuador acts independently in international politic, opposes the U.S. imperialist aspirations, and backs Latin American integration. In Guayaquil, however, the referendum was won by a relatively narrow margin.
CIA-coordinated separatist movements also rose in Bolivia and Venezuela. A May, 2007 referendum in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz province was won by deep autonomy enthusiasts who promised the population a greater share of the oil and gas revenues. Similar referendums were held in the Beni and Pando provinces in June the same year. Morales did not recognize the outcome citing low turnouts and likely rigging, and his supporters described them as a liberals’ mutiny, an offensive against the country’s new constitution launched by the opponents of socialism, and a step towards the Balkanization of Latin America.
The second CONFILAR forum convened in Santa Cruz in September, 2007 to broadcast solidarity with the Bolivian pro-autonomy groups. Separatist tendencies dominated Bolivia’s political agenda in 2008 and the early 2009, but the elimination by the Bolivian special forces of a group of terrorists sent to the country by the CIA from Croatia, Hungary, Romania, and Ireland had a sobering effect on the populations of the defiant Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni, and Pando provinces. It became widely known that the Santa Cruz leadership maintained close ties with the U.S. embassy and that weapons were secretly supplied to separatists from abroad. The computers seized by the Bolivian authorities contained files with a detailed plan of destabilization in Bolivia and the assassination of president Morales. A number of terrorists were arrested and others fled to the U.S.
In Bolivia, as in Ecuador, the constitution serves as the main barrier in the way of separatism. Bolivia’s constitution which entered into force in February, 2009 was the country’s first one to be propped up by a popular vote and to grant the native population a special status. The constitution handed to the state extensive powers in the sphere of economic regulation, and established the autonomy of provinces, municipalities, and Indian communities. It also shuts foreign military bases out of the country and bans the privatization of its energy resources. The opposition predictably reacted to the constitution with a grudge, and recurrences of confrontation with the rightists in Bolivia’s eastern part remain likely.
The CIA, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, and DEA managed to build a separatist stronghold in Venezuela’s Zulia state. For a long time, Zulia used to be run by Chavez’s staunch opponent Manuel Rosales who routinely discussed with U.S. ambassadors Brownfield and Shapiro bilateral deals between Zulia and the U.S., the theme to which Caracas explainably has a thin skin. Normally, the state is not entitled to independent foreign policies, though Brownfield admitted publicly that for him Zulia was “an independent republic” and openly urged the local elites to wrestle with Caracas over unrestricted autonomy.
Rosales’s Un Nuevo Tiempo party refrains from statements that might be regarded as downright calls for divorce with Venezuela, but its separatist agenda is not deeply hidden. As for Rosales, he used to combine separatism as a creed with corruption as a hobby, and eventually had to flee amidst the official probe into his machinations. He took shelter in Peru as a result, but the separatist forces in Zulia are still at work. Currently the Rumbo Propio, a party blessed by Rosales and maintaining divisions in several Venezuelan border states spearheads the activity. One of its leaders Nestor Suares calls the party’s supporters to push for Zulia’s full autonomy and to defy Chavez’s socialist legislation. Another Rumbo Propio key figure – former Venezuelan ambassador to the Dominican Republic Julio Portillo – declared severing all ties with “Chavez’s dictatorship” during the 2002 coup but his reckoning proved wrong as Chavez regained his presidency and Portillo had to turn to “regional patriotism” as a legitimizing concept. This must be the explanation behind his radical separatism and calls for an independence referendum in Zulia. Portillo was among the founders of the Zulia’s People for Constitution Democratic Front which sprang up when vacant lands south of the Maracaibo Lake were allocated to rural cooperatives. Money is poured into Zulia’s separatist groups both by the CIA and the local banks like Banco Occidental de Descuento.
The presence of a Columbian population numbering hundreds of thousands factors into the state’s turbulent situation. Many people sought refuge in Venezuela from Columbia’s internal conflict but are members of rightists paramilitary groups. They tend to be hostile to Chavez, meaning that the CIA and the separatists can count on them as a potential strike force which can help bring about Zulia’s sovereignty.
The Guayaquil – Santa Cruz – Zulia separatist axis will continue to be used to undermine the populist regimes and the regional integration initiatives in Lain America. Separatist groups will be given the key role if Washington opts for the Balkanization of Latin America, as the onset of chaos would make it easier to justify the U.S. intervention in the region. Any moment the U.S. Southern Command is ready to implement Plan Balboa which was put together five years ago.
[Blogmaster note: Readers of Eva’s article may also find this one of interest: Ecuador Coup Attempt Engineered by the CIA, by Nil Nikandrov, Oct. 3, 2010.]
The following article is reprinted with permission from Eva Golinger. She is the author of “The Chávez Code: Cracking U.S. Intervention in Venezuela” (2006 Olive Branch Press) and “Bush vs. Chávez: Washington’s War on Venezuela” (2007, Monthly Review Press).
Ecuador: What Really Happened
© Eva Golinger
October 7, 2010
On the morning of Thursday, September 30, 2010, the city of Quito, capital of Ecuador, awoke in chaos. Groups of rebellious, armed police had taken over several areas of the city, disrupting transit, burning tires and violently protesting what they alleged was an unfair law set to cut their wages.
In an attempt to quell the situation, President Rafael Correa, immediately decided in-person dialogue would be the best way to explain to the insubordinate and rioting police officers that the law they opposed was actually going to improve their wages, benefits and overall job security.
Around 9:30am, Correa informed his entourage he would be going to the police Regiment Quito Number One to talk to the officers. Upon his arrival, police were yelling and shouting at him, many wearing hoods and gasmasks covering their faces. The Ecuadoran President opted to grab a microphone and address the angry crowd, trying to explain the benefits of the new law to them while also pointing out that clearly, they were being deceived and manipulated by interested forces seeking to destabilize the country and his government.
The police wouldn’t listen to reason. They continued to demand Correa retract the law, while, weapons drawn, they fired tear gas at him and threw rocks and other hard items towards him and his entourage. Realizing no dialogue was possible under the circumstances, Correa defiantly exclaimed that he would not bow down to such pressure through violence and force. His government would stand by the law. “Kill me if you want, but I will not be forced to act through violence”, he declared before the crowd of armed, enraged police.
Some took his challenge seriously. As his security team tried to escort him from the scene, President Correa was hit and attacked by several police officers and items hurled from the angry crowd. A tear gas bomb almost grazed his head, while the mob around him tried to kick him in his recently-operated knee, because of which he was still walking with a cane. Official recordings later revealed that during those tense and dangerous moments, police officers called out to “kill him” on their radios. “Kill the President”, “Kill Correa”, “He won’t get out alive today”, ordered the higher-ranking officers on the internal police patrol radios.
“Kill them all, open fire, shoot them, ambush them, but don’t let that bastard leave”, said police over the radios, referring to the President and the team of ministers and secret service that accompanied him. “Kill that ‘s.o.b.’ Correa”, they shouted, with clear intention to assassinate the head of state.
The President’s people barreled through the crowd, carrying him out while pushing back the violent police with force. Because of the toxic inhalation of gases during the incident, President Correa was taken to the nearby military hospital. Once inside, military and police forces involved in the rebellion wouldn’t let him leave.
“You’re not leaving here until you sign”, they ordered their Commander in Chief, indicating he sign a paper retracting the law they disliked. But Ecuador’s head of state held his position. “Through force, nothing. Through dialogue, everything”, he declared.
Days after, President Correa reflected on that moment. “I sincerely believed I wasn’t going to get out alive. I felt sorry for my family. More than fear, I felt serenity and sadness that we had arrived to this point”, he confessed before international media during a press conference after the whole ordeal ended.
As the President was held hostage in the hospital, military forces shut down Quito’s air force base and halted all flights from the international airport. The coup was beginning to take shape.
As thousands of Correa’s supporters filled the streets to protest the coup, they were met by police violence and repression. Security forces also impeded pro-Correa parliament members from accessing the National Assembly. Hours later, political groups supporting the coup violently forced their way into Ecuador’s state television station, Ecuador TV, to air their intentions and accuse President Correa of provoking the national crisis.
In Guayaquil, looting and rioting was rampant, and insubordinate police also joined the rebellion. Several anti-Correa organizations began to emit declarations calling for President Correa’s resignation and to dissolve his government and parliament. Some of these organizations, such as the indigenous coalition Pachakutik, have members and sectors that receive funding from U.S. agencies, including USAID, National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).
During an interview on CNN from Brazil, former president and coup-leader Lucio Gutierrez called for President Correa’s resignation and blamed him for the situation in the country. Hours before, Correa had implicated Gutierrez in the coup attempt underway. “I reject the accusations made by President Correa and deny that a coup attempt is taking place. It’s just a police protest and a demonstration of the terrible economic policies of Correa in Ecuador”, said Gutierrez, adding, “This could be a self-imposed coup, like Hugo Chavez did, many international media are doubting he was kidnapped”. (Note: A coup was executed against Venezuelan President Chavez in April 2002 by an opposition coalition of dissident military officers, business leaders, political groups and private media, supported by the Bush administration. It failed after 48 hours, though Chavez was held hostage by coup forces until he was rescued by loyal military officers).
Gutierrez himself was ousted by popular rebellion and imprisoned for corruption just two years after taking office in 2003. Since then, he has run against Correa in the presidential elections. Last year he lost to Correa’s 55% landslide victory, taking only 28% of the vote.
After the coup on Thursday, President Correa reiterated his claim that Gutierrez was one of the forces behind the destabilization attempt. “Clearly Patriotic Society (Gutierrez’s party) and the Gutierrez brothers are behind this”. The Ecuadoran head of state also blamed right-wing U.S. groups for supporting the coup. “Just like in Honduras, opposition groups in Ecuador receive funding from ‘right-wing’ organizations in the United States”, he declared.
USAID, NED, NDI and other U.S. agencies operate multimillion-dollar programs in Ecuador to fund and train political parties, organizations and programs that promote U.S. agenda throughout the country. During both the 2002 coup in Venezuela against President Hugo Chavez and the 2009 coup against Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, groups perpetuating the destabilization received U.S. funding and support.
After nearly eight hours held hostage by violent police forces, President Correa was rescued in a late night operation by Special Forces. The heavily armed camaflouged military forces raided the hospital, engaging in dangerous cross-fire with police involved in the coup. The President was secured and taken out in a wheelchair, while the bullet fire continued. His car was hit several times with bullets, in a clear attempt to assassinate him.
At least ten people were killed and over 200 injured during the coup attempt.
Afterward, President Correa was received at the Presidential Palace by hundreds of supporters who cheered him on, expressing their indignation at the events of the day, vowing to “radicalize” their “citizen’s revolution”, as Correa’s policies are termed in Ecuador.
Throughout the day, regional leaders expressed their condemnation of the coup attempt and reiterated absolute support for President Correa. Near midnight, South American heads of state from Bolivia, Colombia, Uruguay, Peru and Venezuela gathered in Argentina for an emergency UNASUR meeting to back Correa and seek solutions to the crisis. They embraced with relief as the images of Correa’s rescue were broadcast across the continent on Telesur, Latin America’s television station.
The coup had been stopped, but the forces behind it still remain active. Ecuador imposed a state of emergency last Thursday, which was extended this week through Friday. As the dust settles on the attempted coup, the parties and actors involved become more visible.
U.S.-funded organizations, big business interests, police and military trained at the U.S. School of the Americas, Cold War relics from U.S. agencies, including Norman A. Bailey, veteran intelligence specialist working closely with opposition groups, and politicians such as Lucio Gutierrez, a strong Bush-ally, were all involved in trying to overthrow Rafael Correa’s government. They failed this time around, but the threat remains. Ecuador hasn’t seen its last coup d’etat.
Eva Golinger is a Venezuelan-American attorney from New York. Her website is http://www.chavezcode.com.
The following analysis is reprinted with permission from RIA Novosti, Moscow.
Ecuador turmoil delights oil speculators
© RIA Novosti
By Vlad Grinkevich
October 1, 2010
Even the slightest political moves made by OPEC countries don’t usually go unnoticed on the world’s fuel markets. It’s no wonder, then, that the recent police revolt in Ecuador sent global oil prices soaring. Light Sweet Crude Oil futures for November on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEO) jumped to $79.97 per barrel in response, while on London’s ICE, the price of Brent Crude Oil hit $82.31.
Analysts cannot rule out the possibility of a protracted political crisis in this oil-rich Latin American country. Should we expect more price spikes in the months ahead?
The latest developments in Ecuador can hardly be called extraordinary. The entire Latin American continent suffered from chronic political instability throughout the 20th century, and revolutionary outbursts there alternated with periods of calm or at least relative calm, when rebel movements braced themselves for future fighting.
Observers in the Soviet Union often described the Latin America of the 1970-1980s as a “continent ablaze.” Indeed, revolutions and counterrevolutions followed one after the other there in those years, and governments had to wage an incessant war against multiple rebel groups. In recent years, passions have subsided somewhat. But, obviously, this latest period of calm could not last forever, as even the most heavy-handed of Latin American dictatorships have so far been unable to completely paralyze the rebel movement in their respective countries.
Speaking of OPEC as a whole, most of the member countries, except perhaps Arab oil monarchies, are in the risk group. Some, like Ecuador or Venezuela, suffer from political instability; others, such as Iran, are in conflict with half the international community; still others are plagued by never-ending civil wars. Nigerian rebel groups, for example, continuously attack oil pipelines run by transnational corporations, reducing the oil the country supplies to foreign commodity markets.
Surprisingly, all those revolutions, coups and civil wars appear unable to derail oil traders. The global fuel market has learned to live with all kinds of political upheavals. It merely factors them into the prices.
So it would be naive to suppose that the recent uprising of military and police units in Ecuador over the pay cuts imposed by the leftist government could spark any serious fluctuations in supply and demand on hydrocarbon markets. However, it would be equally naive to expect market players, who have long been using oil futures as a speculative instrument, not to take advantage of the Ecuadorean unrest and drive oil prices up. Such speculative spikes accompany all the strong statements by the outspoken Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, particularly brazen attacks by Iraqi insurgents, and the latest twists and turns in Iran’s relations with the international community.
This time, however, it was not just Ecuador’s political crisis that made the oil markets go bullish. The crude price spikes were also a response to recent positive trends on the U.S. labor market. The United States is the world’s No. 1 consumer of fossil fuels, and any signs of economic recovery there are carefully monitored by oil traders around the globe. This monitoring has become all the more important now, amid increasingly gloomy forecasts from economics gurus. For example, Nouriel Roubini, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, said the other day that the U.S. and the world economies face terrible prospects, and they are powerless to ward off a new recession.
Vlad Grinkevich is RIA Novosti’s economic commentator. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.