Join the Narco News mailing list

Welcome Reader 400,000 More News on our Front Page

The Narco News Bulletin

"The Name of Our Country is América"

-- Simón Bolívar

Today's Press Briefing

September 18, 2000

NY Times CIA Apologist Rohter Invades Venezuela Territory

Narco News Commentary: What happened to Larry Rohter? Like so many "official" US journalists, he went over to the dark side years ago. His latest report, today, so steeped in fiction and fabrication, a report that answers only to Langley, Virginia and Washington, DC.

A report, written by Larry Rohter of the NY Times, that defends United States corporate construction of a satellite-launching site on territory long disputed between two nations -- Venezuela and Guyana -- a provocation to expand the "Plan Colombia" phony drug war to other lands. The site, as planned, requires US military presence.

Instead of raising the questions that any serious journalist would raise about US plans to build a military base in territory disputed between two sovereign nations, Larry Rohter claims that the dispute over territory is "rekindled" (in fact it is generations old) and ignores the obvious: This is a US provocation aimed at spreading "Plan Colombia" to other countries, with the help of Langley's corrupt house organ, the New York Times.

From the NY Times

September 18, 2000

Venezuelan Is Rekindling Land Dispute With Guyana


CARACAS, Venezuela - Irritated by the decision of neighboring Guyana to allow an American company to build a satellite-launching center in territory that Venezuela claims as its own, President Hugo Chávez has revived a long-dormant border dispute.

Mr. Chávez maintains that the planned space site is a Trojan horse that threatens Venezuela's security by enabling the United States to establish a military presence along his country's vulnerable eastern flank.

But he also describes the project as an affront to Venezuela's sovereignty, arguing that the real border between the two countries is the Essequibo River and that Guyana should be forced to relinquish some two-thirds of its 83,000 square miles.

"That territory is ours," he said last month.

Though he pledged "a policy of peace and calm" and promised there would be no war, he also accused the Guyanese government of having made a deal under the table and warned that Venezuela "will not allow this base" to be built.

Since taking office 19 months ago, Mr. Chávez, a former army colonel who in 1992 led an unsuccessful coup, has made the Essequibo issue a personal crusade. In what is clearly a reference to the dispute, a new constitution drawn up at his insistence states that the only borders Venezuela recognizes as valid are those established by "treaties and arbitrators' rulings not flawed by nullity."

Venezuela has claimed the region, believed rich in minerals and oil, since gaining independence from Spain early in the 19th century. In 1899 an international tribunal awarded most of the territory to Britain, then the colonial power in Guyana, but Venezuela has periodically protested the outcome, and in 1983 the matter was referred to the United Nations. The latest United Nations envoy appointed to try to resolve the dispute, Oliver Jackman, called on both sides last month to "tone down the rhetoric." The recent increase in tension has created "grounds for alarm," he said on a visit here.

Although Mr. Chávez has repeatedly described the site as an American military base, both Guyana and the American company involved in the deal, Beal Aerospace Technologies, say that is not correct. In May, the Guyanese government signed an agreement with the private concern that would allow it to launch satellites from the site if the United States government approves the export of sensitive technology.

"We will need to get export licenses in order to build on the site and bring rockets out of the United States for launching from the site," chosen because of its proximity to the Equator, said David Spoede, a spokesman for the company. "Typically, the State Department requires that a U.S. government observer be present to prevent proliferation of missile technology," but Mr. Chávez's accusation of a military base "couldn't be further from the truth."

President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana met with Mr. Chávez at a conference of South American leaders in Brasília this month. "I gave him a copy of the contract so that he could see for himself that there is no intention, or anything written into it, that would allow the establishment of an American base," Mr. Jagdeo said after the meeting.

Some Venezuelan critics of Mr. Chávez, like former President Carlos Andrés Pérez, have dismissed the campaign as part of a "policy of permanent confrontation" intended to distract the country's 24 million people from mounting economic and social problems. "It's absurd," Mr. Pérez said of the border claim in a television interview. "It is impossible to regain that territory."

Mr. Chávez's insistence on pursuing the claim has generated concern throughout Latin America, where several other border disputes remain unresolved, and in the English- speaking Caribbean.

Despite the Venezuelan warnings, Guyana has made it clear that it intends to move ahead with the space project. With only 850,000 people, the country is trying to attract foreign investment and diversify its economy, which depends heavily on mining and agriculture.

September 16, 2000

Clinton Proposes $4.5 Billion "Plan Bolivia"... Clean Up Damage Caused by $1.3 Billion Plan Colombia

Today's Reports From: La Paz, Bolivia; Bogotá, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Quito, Ecuador; London, England; Tokyo, Japan; Washington, DC; and from somewhere in "Farclandia" from the frustrated libido of TIME correspondent Tim McGirk

Today's Summary: The Clinton administration and key members of the US Congress continue to break the promises they made when they convinced the wider Congress to support the $1.3 billion "Plan Colombia" military intervention.

Clinton himself has proposed spending $4.5 billion dollars more to prevent the coca crops from returning to Bolivia and now uses this bribe money to buy off and consolidate the most repressive and undemocratic regime in Latin America, headed by the violent and authoritarian Hugo Banzer, because every other Américan nation has already rejected Plan Colombia.

Meanwhile, the new US Ambassador to Colombia admitted to that nation's press that Plan Colombia's projection of eliminating the coca crops by the year 2005 is an impossible goal (the administration had assured Congress that the Plan would accomplish that goal in five years when wooing its support.)

And now a SECOND US General has been installed in Colombia to join General Keith Huber: his name and other information appears in today's briefing.

Across the globe, rejection of Plan Colombia is now being voiced in traditionally hawkish and US-allied nations from Great Britain to Japan.

And this week's Yellow Journalism award goes to Tim McGirk of TIME magazine.

From the daily Los Tiempos, La Paz, Bolivia

September 15, 2000

Clinton Proposes "Plan Bolivia"


The US officials said they had informed (Bolivia's Vice President) Jorge Quiroga about the desire of President Bill Clinton to develop a "Plan Bolivia" that involves the peasant population in the production and sale of food and in civic and community activities.

The sources, who spoke on the condition that they not be identified, said that the process could be delayed due to the necessity to wait for the next government that can solicit funds from the next Congress.

Quiroga advanced in this theme with illuminated visits with Senator Christopher Dodd, the ranking Democrat of the foreign affairs committee and Republican US Rep. Benjamin Gilman, chairman of the subcommittee on hemispheric affairs in the House of Representatives.

"Plan Bolivia" Will Cost $4.5 Billion

from the daily Clarin, Buenos Aires, Argentina

September 15, 2000:

Clinton seeks to forgive the external debt of Bolivia

By Ana Baron, Washington correspondent

With the regional turbulence provoked by the Colombian crisis at its root, President Bill Clinton yesterday urged the Congress of the United States to designate the necessary funds to pay off the external debt of Bolivia.

During the traditional breakfast held with religious leaders every year, Clinton said: "This is about a surprising history. It is the poorest country but it does the maximum to end drug production. And for this Bolivia deserves that we relieve its debt, that we relieve it totally."

The external debt of Bolivia amounts to $4.5 billion dollars, equivalent to half the total gross national product.

After the Latin American Presidential Summit convened by Brazil, where there was much reluctance to support "Plan Colombia" against drug trafficking, Clinton's gesture yesterday regarding the Bolivian debt did not go unnoticed. The message is clear: "The countries that help us in the drug war will be rewarded."

If Clinton's reference to forgiving the Bolivian debt was in the context of the year-old iniciative to forgive the debt of 33 impoverished nations that are highly in debt, it leaves no doubt that the mention of the Bolivian case in particular was not by chance.

During the breakfast, Clinton explained that the relief of the debt of countries like Bolivia is essential because it helps young democracies to consolidate.

"There are many countries that for internaal problems or because they had bad governments that accumulated a lot debt that today they cannot pay," said Clinton. "Today those countries must spend a lot of money from their national treasuries only to be able to pay the interest on the debt. And all this money cannot be spent on education or on the health of their kids."

Clinton explain that the United States, together with other developed countries, established the iniciative to relieve the debt of poor countries when and only when they promise to apply the economic recipes of the International Monetary Fund in invest the money they save into education and health.

Bolivia complies with all these requirements but, according to Clinton, the Bolivians deserve the pardon fundamentally for the good example they have been in the drug war.

...As US Congressional "Leaders" Also Lobby for More Military Spending

Saturday, 9 September 2000

House Considers More Aid for Colombia

By Eric Pianin and Karen DeYoung

Just a week after President Clinton delivered $ 1.3 billion in aid to
Colombian officials for military equipment, counter-drug training and
economic assistance, House leaders are considering whether to
approve millions of dollars more for anti-drug assistance to the
Colombian national police.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), a strong advocate of anti-
drug aid to Latin American countries, said this week he is
reviewing a request for an additional $ 99.5 million to purchase
more aircraft, ammunition and other equipment for the Colombian

"We're just looking at the feasibility," Hastert said. "I don't know if
we can do it or not and what the need is...."

...And Military Aid to Ecuador Dwarfs Talk of Humanitarian Aid

from the daily Hoy, Quito Ecuador

September 11, 2000

The governments of Ecuador and the United states defined three priority areas to invest the donations of US economic resources: reduction of poverty, protection of the environment and the consolidation of democracy... but the donations for the year 2000 register a hike of 1,200 percent in the military area.

In 1997, US military aid to Ecuador was $3 million dollars per year. This year it will be $40 million...

The donations are channeled through the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

"Nothing Concrete about Albright's Offer"

The offer of the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to deliver $15 million dollars to Ecuador to confront the issue of citizens displaced by Plan Colombia has not been made concrete in any respect.

According to the representative of USAID in Ecuador, Hilda Arellano, at this moment nothing is definite but the will to support Ecuador in case this problem surges does exist.

From the Colombian news weekly Semana

Revista Semana
Septiembre 11 - 17, 2000

Here come the 'Rambos'

Two US generals of the hardliners faction are in charge of the military operation of Plan Colombia

The majority of Colombians believe that with Plan Colombia will come US advisors with the responsibility to train the Colombian Armed Forces to initiate a frontal assault against drug trafficking and indirectly against the guerrilla.

What few know is that this is already happening. For the past year, they have discreetly spent time in Colombia, not only advisors, but two US generals that, with their Colombian partners, have elaborated the military strategy of Plan Colombia.

The two generals are important. Both are "Rambos." The two are experiences and the two are going to cause a lot to talk about. The sending of officials of this rank to Latin American countries is uncommon and is considered a recognition of the gravity to which the conflict has come.

The generals are James N. Soligan and Keith M. Huber. These two personalities will work together with general Peter Pace who has just been designated as the new commander of the US Southern Command, replacing general Charles E. Wilhelm.

This official has been a specialist in Colombia and it is known that his chosen successor is his protegé to guarantee continuity in the military strategy of Plan Colombia.

Top US Commander Arrives in Colombia Sunday

from the daily El Universal, Mexico City

September 16, 2000:

The chief of the US Southern Command, Lieutenant General Peter Pace, will visit Colombia next week to place himself at the center of activity in anti-drug cooperation, the US Ambassador informed today. The diplomat indicated in a press release that General Pace will arrive on Sunday and sustain meetings on Monday and Tuesday...

...As Congress Squabbles and Lobbyists War over Which Corporation's Weapons to Buy

From Associated Press

September 14, 2000:

By KEN GUGGENHEIM, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Four powerful, expensive machine guns bought to defend U.S.-made drug-fighting helicopters in Colombia have been "a big disappointment," repeatedly malfunctioning and throwing the aircraft off-balance, according to a U.S. Embassy cable.

The State Department reluctantly bought the Gau-19 Gatling guns at the urging of key Republicans and Colombian police. But just months after being purchased for $2.1 million from General Dynamics, the guns had all broken down and could not be used.

The embassy cable, sent to the State Department last month, described the .50-caliber weapons as "temperamental" and so heavy, they "can tip the aircraft dangerously forward." It said they are so expensive to operate they threaten to "eat up our budget ... faster than it could possibly chew up narco-terrorists." A copy of the cable was obtained The Associated Press.

The guns were bought to protect the U.S. Black Hawk helicopters provided to Colombian anti-narcotics police. The helicopters often face fire from heavily armed leftist guerrillas protecting cocaine laboratories and coca fields.

The guns' manufacturer, General Dynamics, sent a team to Colombia this week to examine the problems and company spokesman Kendell Pease said the guns would be operable very soon. He said the weapon has a good track record and the Colombian air force has used it without major problems.

The staffs of two key House Republican chairmen suggested the difficulties with the Gau-19 likely stem from faulty installation and misuse.

The chairmen, Reps. Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., and Dan Burton, R-Ind., have been the leading advocates of the weapons and are urging that more be bought in the next fiscal year.

Their aides say the Gau-19's rapid fire and large rounds are needed to penetrate Colombia's dense jungle.

"The other weapons tend to be just noisemakers that scare the crows away," said John Mackey, an aide to Gilman, chairman of the House International Relations Committee.

Gilman and Burton, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, have repeatedly criticized Clinton administration efforts in Colombia, accusing the State Department of trying to foist unsafe, outdated equipment on the Colombian National Police.
The questions about the Gau 19s come as the Clinton administration is considering what weapons to buy for 60 helicopters - Black Hawks and Hueys - included in a new $1.3 billion U.S. aid package to Colombia.

State Department officials said the Gau-19 problems haven't been a major setback to counternarcotics efforts because the helicopters have been using other weapons.
The U.S. Embassy's Narcotics Affairs Section in Bogota originally opposed the purchase of the Gau-19s because it didn't want "to be the guinea pig" for what the cable described as an "unproven item."

The State Department, however, acquiesced to the wishes of the Colombian police and congressional staffers, said a senior department official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Black Hawks were altered to accommodate the Gau-19 at an added cost of $541,000. Those alterations were approved by the helicopters' manufacturer, Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.
The embassy cable said the weight of the guns and ammunition leave the helicopters off balance and the guns' electric control boxes frequently burned out.

In addition, their 2,000-round-per-minute fire rate made them "incredibly expensive" given that the .50-caliber ammunition can cost up to $4 a round, the cable said.

Mackey said the expense is justified given the value of the helicopters they protect.
He said the electrical problems may stem from the pairing of two different machine guns on helicopters: the Gau-19, using AC current, on one side and the smaller-caliber MK-44, using DC, on the other. He said that may also explain the balance problems.

A Sikorsky spokesman, William Tuttle, said the Black Hawks should be able to accommodate the Gau-19s.

Pease of General Dynamics said the Colombian air force has bought 34 Gau-19s in recent years and hasn't had major problems.

The air force guns were installed by General Dynamics; the police guns were installed by contractors not supervised by the company, he said.

From the Times of London

September 15, 2000:

Now Even Britain Opposes Plan Colombia!

Mowlam criticises Colombia cash aid


MO MOWLAM has left a dent in US-backed plans for an intensified military campaign against the Colombian cocaine industry. She gave a warning after a four-day visit that Colombia needs to make human rights improvements before Europe can be confident enough to contribute.

"For us to feel easy about putting more money in social and economic programmes, we need to see more progress," said Dr Mowlam, the Cabinet Office Minister, who led a British fact-finding mission. Dr Mowlam's remarks were a bitter disappointment to Colombia's cash-strapped Government, which is counting on heavy European funding for a proposed $7.5 billion (£5.3 billion) counter-drug offensive.

While America has already committed $1.3 billion in mostly military aid, Colombia is counting on Europe to help to fund alternative development projects to wean peasant farmers away from growing coca plants. A senior adviser to President Pastrana said that it would be hard to make progress in the war on drugs without a commitment from Europe.

Colombian officials note that although most of the cocaine and heroin produced in their country ends up in the US, increaing quantities are being smuggled to Europe. Dr Mowlam was also critical of a recent decision by President Clinton to approve huge funding for Colombia's military, despite that country's failure to meet human rights conditions required by Congress.

From the Japan Times, September 5, 2000:

The Japan Times Editorializes Against Plan Colombia

Says US Should Clean its Own House First

...Washington says its assistance will be used against drug traffickers, not the rebels. The aid package contains $238 million to be used for crop substitution, judicial reform and protection of human rights. But 80 percent of the U.S. assistance is military, in the form of 60 attack helicopters and 500 army and intelligence instructors. If the rebels and drug traffickers are working together, no reasonable distinction can be made between the two and it will be impossible to avoid getting sucked into the civil war.

That fear prompted Mr. Clinton's assurance last week that a condition of the aid is that the U.S. would not get drawn "into a shooting war, that it is not Vietnam." It was also a source of concern for the dozen Latin American leaders who gathered in Brasilia last weekend for a regional summit. They worry that a civil war in Colombia will spill over into their countries: Either the guerrillas or the narcotics traffickers will flee to safer areas. Ecuador's foreign minister, Mr. Heinz Moeller, voiced a common fear when he said that "the cancerous tumor being removed from Colombia [is] metastasizing in Ecuador. Ecuador does not have drug plantations, and we do not want them."

No one does. Unfortunately, no one has the strength to eradicate them -- yet. U.S. aid can help, but the lesson of Vietnam is that assistance is no substitute for political will in the nation concerned. Colombians must want to end the civil war. The politicians must end their squabbling and concentrate on the real threat to their country.

And if Americans want to end the drug trade, they should do something about the demand side of the equation. It is America's hunger for illegal narcotics that sustains Colombia's drug trade. Eliminating that will do more damage to the traffickers than any number of raids on Colombia's coca plantations.

from the daily El Tiempo, Bogotá, Colombia

September 15, 2000

New US Ambassador to Colombia Inadvertently Admits:

Plan Colombia Sold to Congress Under False Pretenses

The US government hopes that the first payments for Plan Colombia can be sent in early October, a date in which close to $300 million dollars can be spent.

The US Ambassador to Colombia, Anne Patterson, said so after a meeting she held with the Senate President, Mario Uribe.

About the approved aid for Colombia, Mrs. Patterson said: "God willing we will be able to begin sending the resources in early October, but it is a long process and I don't want to create false expectations. We want to begin to spend the money in early October. We are going to spend close to $300 million dollars in that month."

The chief of the diplomatic mission said that in the coming days she will travel to Washington with Gonzalo de Francisco, presidential security advisor, to promote Plan Colombia and commented that some members of the US Congress "are very interested in the implementation of Plan Colombia and also in human rights."

She also referred to the process of erradication of illicit crops. About this, she said: "the goals of the law that authorized Plan Colombia are too optimistic. We don't believe it will be possible to erradicate coca by the year 2005...."

...Ambassador Patterson did not want to mention the peace process directly. "The negotiation process belongs only to the government of Colombia. We support it, but we are not playing any role in the process...."

And This Week's
Yellow Journalism Award Goes to...

TIME magazine's Tim McGirk

(In an attempt to discredit the Colombian Guerrilla, TIME magazine published a title that, to us at Narco News, makes us want to join! Here, some of our favorite excerpts from this cartoon-like story posing as journalism. Our analysis: Tim McGuirk basically admits it: He's jealous, and like the jealous man in his story, McGirk "went a little crazy.")

Ice Cream, E-mail and Casual Sex: Life Among Colombia's Guerrillas

"So who is the enemy of President Clinton's friends in Colombia? TIME's Latin America bureau chief, Tim McGirk, went into their lair to find out..."

Watch out for the worm in "Farclandia."

The unofficial name of this Tennessee-sized swath of jungle officially controlled by the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) evokes a sinister amusement park, and that impression was certainly underscored on my first night there: In the town of San Vicente de Caguan, alongside the FARC's House of Culture - a mostly empty building in which camouflage-clad teenage guerrilla boys and girls flirted - there was an actual carnival...

Says FARC ideologue Alfonso Cano, a bearded former anthropology professor, that's not much different from the way things had always been. "The only thing that's changed," he notes, "is that we can now go into the town of San Vicente and get us some ice cream."

Aside from their ice cream expeditions, the FARC guerrillas maintain a discreet profile in San Vicente. Everyone is so scared of them, anyway, that they don't need to bully the townsfolk. Locals whisper that when the guerrillas ask for anything - a cow, free gasoline, a ranch - it's not advisable to refuse. "Up until yesterday, these commanders had spent their lives in the jungle, walking around in mud," says one shopkeeper. "Now they have the best houses, the prettiest girls."

The sinister funhouse ambience extends to FARC headquarters, some eight miles up a dirt road in Los Pozos, where I found jungle-hardened guerrillas hunched over computers, rifles hanging off the backs of chairs as they answered their e-mail. (FARC's commanders maintain their own Hotmail accounts.)

I was introduced to several FARC commanders, but none was as colorful as Julian Conrado, a balladeer with a goofy mustache who manages to rhyme "Americano" with "imperio romano." He's lost three guitars in battle, he says proudly. "One of my guitars was held up by a Colombian general as a war trophy on TV."

Having been at war for 36 years and flush with cash from taxing the narcos, the FARC maintains a sophisticated fighting force of more than 15,000 guerrillas. They control some 40 percent of the country, and are engaged in turf wars with a smaller rival leftist group, the ELN, as well as with right-wing paramilitaries accused by human rights organizations of committing some of the worst massacres of the long-running civil war. Ideology aside, they all are battling for control over the coca fields and the power to tax the drug trade and everything else in their domains.

So how do these millionaire Marxists view Plan Colombia - President Clinton's $1.3 billion aid package that includes 60 military helicopters, ostensibly to help the government fight narco traffickers?

"It's inevitable that one of our boys will shoot down one of these helicopters," says Cano. "And when that happens, the U.S. will become more involved."
I didn't get to meet FARC's leader, the canny 72-year-old peasant Manuel "Sureshot" Marulanda. While his minions entertain the media, government negotiators, leftist groupies from the U.S. and Europe and such occasional visitors as the president of the New York Stock Exchange, Marulanda prefers to lay low in the jungle, guarded by female guerrillas.

The "FARC-ettes," as the women fighters are nicknamed, fascinated me.

Before covering Latin America, I'd reported on the Tamil Tiger guerrillas in Sri Lanka. The Tiger women were spooky: They wore cyanide pills around their necks to be consumed in the event of capture, and dozens of them trained as suicide bombers. The FARC-ettes were, well, more Latina. Even when in their fatigues, they wore earrings and pink scrunchees to keep their hair in place, and listened to music on tiny radios. While sex had been forbidden among the Tigers, the FARC's more relaxed view is evidenced by the fact that many of their women fighters wear Nor-plant contraceptives to avoid pregnancy. There's no prohibition on casual sex in the hammocks and wooden plank beds where coed units bivouac, but any permanent coupling requires prior approval from the unit commander. "When you're so close to death," said one guerrilla named Sandra, "your relationship is very intense, very intimate. None of us have any money, so if you want to show somebody you love them, you share your food with them, eat off the same dish."

What about jealousy? One comely Farc-ette wanted to switch partners, and waited until the evening culture hour (after a Marxist study session), when she broke the news to her old boyfriend in a song. "He went a little crazy," one witness recounted.

And after a few hours at the FARC headquarters, I was beginning to feel the same way myself, so I went back to San Vincente and its funfair. As night descended on Farclandia, I passed the evening watching the looks of disbelief on the faces of the cowboy drunks as they lurched out of the brothels to be nearly flattened by a giant grinning worm careening through the muddy streets.

Archive of Press Briefings from August 24-30

Archive of Press Briefings for Early September

This is your war. This is your war on drugs. Any questions?

More Plan Colombia News Beginning on our Front Page

"Ice Cream, E-mail and Casual Sex?" It Sure Beats the Drug War