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.
Los Zetas Holds U.S. Drug Business at Gunpoint
© Nil Nikandrov
Source: Strategic Culture Foundation
February 5, 2011
Los Zetas, a Mexican drug cartel run by former special forces officers, turned independent several years ago. The officers sent the Z letter as the codename during their army service, hence the name of the group. For a long time, Los Zetas members used to be hired as bodyguards and hitmen by the influential El Golfo cartel supplying cocaine and heroin from Colombia to the U.S. Eventually Los Zetas outgrew the role and started fighting for control over drug markets and supply routes, regarding El Golfo as the main rival. Fairly soon other Mexican drug cartels found themselves dragged into the strife.
Mexican president Felipe Calderon’s war on drugs contributed to the complexity of the situation. In a clear attempt to boost his popularity following a rather unconvincing victory in the presidential race, Calderon launched a campaign targeting drug cartels which so far met with virtually no resistance in Mexico. Facing an increasingly aggressive drug supply from Mexico which the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the FBI were unable to counter, Washington readily blessed Calderon’s aspirations. The global financial crisis forced many of the U.S. banks to welcome cocaine-related financial flows, thus helping breed drug groups which evaded the control exercised by DEA and other U.S. special services. Washington, in its turn, simply sought to regain control as the drug revenues slipped away.
Such were the settings in which the Zetas started building their own bases in the U.S., Central and South America, and the Caribbean in a hope to establish new routes of drug supply from Peru and Colombia to the U.S. via the Pacific and Atlantic “corridors”. The advent of a strong unfamiliar player to the drug market did not go unnoticed. The ferocity of Zetas seemed shocking even for the drug business: they serially killed witnesses, tortured and beheaded their victims to intimidate competitors and law-enforcement agents, and never hesitated to kill people in numbers.
It is an open secret that today’s world owes the spread of torture as an almost routine practice to the CIA, DEA, and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. The Zetas surely learned the craft at the time when their careers were interwoven with those of professionals from the above services. The Zetas record can be traced back to the 1970s-1990s, the epoch of counter-insurgency in Mexico and Central America. U.S. instructors trained a total of 15,000 Mexican special forces officers at Fort Bragg (North Carolina) and the School of the Americas (SOA) sited in the proximity of the Panama Canal, and later – when SOA closed – at Fort Benning (Georgia). Quite a few of the trainees acquired combat experience later during the offensives against the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) in Chiapas in 1994-1995. Miserable pay and lack of social status lead thousands of Mexican soldiers and officers to flee from the army and some escapees were recruited by various criminal groups. Switching from army service to organized crime is a phenomenon occurring frequently not only in Mexico, but also in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Those who received counter-insurgency training under the U.S. oversight – for example, the Kaibiles, a Guatemalan analog of the Zetas – tend to be particularly ruthless.
U.S. agencies, aware of what Pentagon’s pets are like, seem alarmed by the increasingly tight alliance of Mexican and Guatemalan organized crime groups. At the moment Washington is trying to eradicate the monsters of its own upbringing, but the U.S. is clearly behind the curve as the carefully tuned and perfectly controllable U.S. domestic drug business is already exposed to the Zetas onslaught. The threat that the war over the drug market is going to spread from Mexico to the U.S. is growing day by day. As of today, the Zetas are fairly entrenched in the part of the U.S. bordering Mexico where the group is known to be buying administration officials, ethnic Latin Americans being the prime target group. Until recently a network of informants managed to help Zetas avoid serious defeats. The drug cartel is heavily armed with various types of weaponry from guns to grenade launchers which the group obtains from gun stores sited all along the 3,170 km U.S.-Mexican border. In some cases, Zetas resort to the assistance from their Mexican army contacts who have access to Pentagon’s arsenals and get the best of the U.S.-made supplies like latest versions of bullet-proof waists, advanced means of communication, helmets equipped with night-vision systems, etc.
Presidents of Central American Countries, Mexico, and Colombia will convene in Guatemala in June, 2011. The stated integration agenda will likely be overshadowed by urgent issues related to the fight against drug cartels. Guatemalan president Alvaro Colom warned that – unless drastic measures were taken to suppress drug trafficking – the death toll in 2011 would reach unprecedented proportions, and Salvador’s Mauricio Funes expressed concern that Zetas are making inroads into his country’s army and police top brass.
One might get an impression that the campaign against drug cartels is the Latin American leaders’ brainchild, but in fact the blueprint including the plan for coordination between the region’s armies, police, and intelligence agencies was fed to the local representatives during consultations at the respective U.S. embassies. Washington’s motivation behind the agenda is clear: it hopes to build a barrier against the drug threat before the narcotic flow spills across the U.S. border. Mexico as the country which lost over 30,000 lives in the drug war presents a stark example of human, socioeconomic, and political costs of a protracted drug-related conflict. Washington is not going to wage a serious war against the drug business within the U.S. as it would put in jeopardy the country’s financial system propped up by billions of dollars in “drug investments” from across the world. While large-scale offensives against drug groups are launched almost anywhere – in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, or Peru – nothing of the kind happens in the U.S., where the “home” drug mafia remains untouchable. Arrests on the lowest order may be carried out on a regular basis to showcase some activity, but the financial indicators of the U.S. drug mafia are never severely affected. Some 10 million Americans are cocaine addicts plus 30-40 million are occasional drug users, and the people’s comfort should not be infringed upon if it’s a market economy. The U.S. public discourse reflects the society’s progressing tolerance to drug use. The “weakness” explainable under the conditions of modern life’s permanent stress is portrayed with understanding in movies and books, and even politicians oftentimes admit lightheartedly to flirting with drugs back when they were college kids.
Latin American countries are confronted with a lot more stringent criteria, though. These liberal novelties are not meant for their populations and therefore hard times await drug cartels defying DEA control. El Golfo boss Antonio Ezequiel Cárdenas Guillén and a bunch of his bodyguards were shot dead in Matamoros (Tamaulipas) in November, 2010 during a raid launched by Mexican marines after the group was tracked down by DEA and CIA operatives. Frightening pictures of the dead drug lord and his guards – with broken sculls and amidst pools of blood – were posted in the Internet. The raid left a total of at least 50 dead. Of course, these were Mexican, not American dead – the U.S. is fighting on other countries’ territories and at the cost of other nations’ blood.
… Brownsville is a nice place on the Rio Grande, at the Mexican border. It is home to a university, several museums, and a host of golf fields. Tourists flock to Brownsville mainly to watch hordes of birds in their original environment. At nights Brownsville’s cozy restaurants are packed as visitors savor Margaritas and other staples of the Mexican cuisine. Brownsville is a nice place, and, importantly, a peaceful one, in contrast to the country just across the river.