Monday, October 3, 2016

Did the U.S. Sabotage Colombian Vote?

Because it has been there so often and for so many years, the black hand of U.S.corporations and government agencies is always suspected in Latin American political events.

So it is with the stunning defeat by voters in Colombia of the agreement to end more than half a century of conflict between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) —the longest-lived armed insurgency in the Western Hemisphere. The vote was extremely close — a margin of barely 60,000 votes out of 13 million cast — and the opposition was led by a pal of Washington’s neoliberal crowd, former President Alvaro Uribe. 

Uribe’s successor, President Juan Manuel Santos, succeeded where several predecessors had failed, negotiating a peace agreement that had been secretly brokered by the  Communist government of Cuba. The negotiations came after Santos had irritated Washington by normalizing his country’s relations with the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez, another target of Washington’s regime-change hawks.  Santos and Uribe had been political allies, but when Santos ran for re-election in 2014, Uribe supported his opponent. Santos pledged to intensify the quest for peace with Farc and won a close run-off for re-election.

Now the worm has turned, as it has elsewhere in Latin America, generally with a nudge, or more, from the vast U.S. bag of dirty tricks.  Would that we in the U.S. had a reliable source of good journalism about our Southern Hemisphere neighbors.

Instead, we must rely on non-aligned journalists like Chris Hedges, a former award-winning correspondent in Central America.

“A decade ago,” Hedges writes, “left-wing governments, defying Washington and global corporations, took power in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Venezuela, Uruguay, Bolivia and Ecuador.  .  .charismatic leaders such as Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Luiz Ina'cio Lula da Silva in Brazil, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador, won huge electoral victories. They instituted socialist reforms that benefited the poor and the working class. They refused to be puppets of the United States. They took control of their nations' own resources and destinies. They mounted the first successful revolt against neoliberalism and orporate domination. It was a revolt many in the United States hoped to emulate here.

“But the movements and governments in Latin America have fallen prey to the dark forces of U.S. imperialism and the wrath of corporate power. The tricks long practiced by Washington and its corporate allies have returned -- the black propaganda; the manipulation of the media; the bribery and corruption of politicians, generals, police, labor leaders and journalists; the legislative coups d'e'tat; the economic strangulation; the discrediting of democratically elected leaders; the criminalization of the left; and the use of death squads to silence and disappear those fighting on behalf of the poor. It is an old, dirty game.

“President Correa, who earned enmity from Washington for granting political asylum to Julian Assange four years ago and for closing the United States' Manta military air base in 2009, warned recently that a new version of Operation Condor is underway in Latin America. Operation Condor, which operated in the 1970s and '80s, saw thousands of labor union organizers, community leaders, students, activists, politicians, diplomats, religious leaders, journalists and artists tortured, assassinated and disappeared.

“The intelligence chiefs from right-wing regimes in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and, later, Brazil had overseen the campaigns of terror. They received funds from the United States and logistical support and training from the Central Intelligence Agency. Press freedom, union organizing, all forms of artistic dissent and political opposition were abolished. In a coordinated effort these regimes brutally dismembered radical and leftist movements across Latin America. In Argentina alone 30,000 people disappeared.

“Latin America looks set to be plunged once again into a period of dictatorial control and naked corporate exploitation. The governments of Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela, which is on the brink of collapse, have had to fight off right-wing coup attempts and are enduring economic sabotage. The Brazilian Senate impeached the democratically elected President Dilma Rousseff. Argentina's new right-wing president, Mauricio Macri, bankrolled by U.S. hedge funds, promptly repaid his benefactors by handing $4.65 billion to four hedge funds, including Elliott Management, run by billionaire Paul Singer. The payout to hedge funds that had bought Argentine debt for pennies on the dollar meant that Singer's firm made $2.4 billion, an amount that was 10 to 15 times the original investment.”

Latin America has long been fertile ground for populist movements of the left, largely because it has for so long been cursed with inequality. The outrages of big land owners against small, struggling farmers gave birth to the Farc movement in Colombia in 1964. Santos’s peace deal with the revolutionaries would have given them seats in the national parliament, and other incentives to lay down their arms and commit to what Santos has called a “long-lasting peace.”

Once again, the dream of peace has been shattered. Given the shameful record of United States interference in Latin american affairs, why wouldn’t there be suspicions that Yankee black ops somehow sabotaged the Colombian vote?

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