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Paramilitary Strategy in Venezuela Backfires...

Rangel to the Rescue

José Vicente Rangel Takes the Cell Phone and the Military Command

Narco News 2001

Venezuela President Hugo Chávez Names:

Civilian Defense Secretary

Journalist José Vicente Rangel's First Task:

Stop the Paramilitaries Before they Start

Narco News Commentary: Even as the new administration of US President George W. Bush repeated in public that it had no plans to destabilize Venezuela's democratically elected government, behind the scenes a more nefarious strategy was already underway.

The wealthy land owners and cattle ranchers of Venezuelan regions near the Colombian border were allying themselves with Colombia paramilitary chief and narco-trafficker Carlos Castaño to destabilize the Chávez government from within.

The paramilitary strategy, straight from Pentagon manuals, has been used by Washington in Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico and other countries as a potent subversive force to do the dirty work for official military forces that are constrained by law. In neighboring Colombia, Castaño's paramilitaries have committed near-daily massacres of unarmed civilians in a terror campaign protected by the Colombian military command with support of the $1.3 billion dollar, US-imposed, Plan Colombia.

Venezuela's popular and democratically elected President Hugo Chávez, because of his sparkplug role in reawakening Bolívar's dream of a Latin América united against foreign impositions, his opposition to Plan Colombia, and the vast oil resources that make Venezuela an economic power, has presented problems for the interventionists in Washington who speak of democracy but work to prohibit it throughout the hemisphere.

"Para-journalists" -- the mercenaries of the Fourth Estate -- like Larry Rohter of the New York Times have consistently attempted to discredit Chávez, often citing his military roots, as if to imply that his democratic government flirts with military rule.

The events of recent days reveal how foolish and inaccurate Rohter and some others have been throughout their reporting of the events in Venezuela. (Interestingly, the US journalist who has offered the most profound analysis of the Chávez phenomenon was not any liberal or lefist, but the libertarian Justin Raimundo, who thoroughly researched Chávez's history and writings and concludes that his critics are the ones blowing hot air.)

First, came the revelation, last Wednesday, that the wealthy cattle ranchers of the Venezuelan border region with Colombia are forming armed paramilitary units to "combat the Colombian guerrilla."

Chávez, as a career military officer and statesman, knows well that paramilitary groups can only conduct their terrorism with covert support and protection from official military forces: that has been the history of paramilitary squads from Colombia to Chiapas.

And so the very next day, on the Second Anniversary of his first election as president, during a military parade, Chávez, in one fell swoop, gave his country a fighting chance to stop the paramilitaries before they start, and revealed his critics to be wrong.

Chávez appointed a civilian statesman -- a journalist -- as Defense Secretary. And José Vicente Rangel announced that his first task will be to address the ranch owners along the Colombian border and solve the paramilitary problem before it turns into, in his words, "a Frankenstein." Rangel will oversee operations of the Armed Forces to protect that region and keep a strong eye on the lookout for paramilitary or corrupt military activity. Nobody questions Rangel's intelligence nor commitment to prevent the Colombianization of his nation.

Now, as if to add icing to the cake in the face of the anti-Chávez lobby, comes the corrupt, disgraced and impeached ex-president of Venezuela, Carlos Andrés Pérez (embezzler of $250 million dollars precisely from the country's Defense Department, and long term Bush family operative), screeching that Chávez's appointment of a civilian to the Defense Ministry will provoke a military coup. Even this, so far, has been a bit too much for the corrupted Rohters and others like him of the press world to report in English: it sounds too much like their own rhetoric, but more revealing of their true agenda.

And so, once again, Chávez has confounded and foiled his critics, and launched the first project in South América to stop the paramilitary menace in its tracks.

Here are some translations of this past week's stories from Latin América about the news from Simón Bolívar's Venezuela.

From somewhere in a country called América,

Al Giordano


The Narco News Bulletin

From the daily El Tiempo
Bogotá, Colombia, Thursday, February 1, 2001



Correspondent of EL TIEMPO

CARACAS, Venezuela: The Venezuelan ranchers have begun to create their own armed self-defense mechanisms to confront the Colombian guerrilla, due to what they say is the abandonment by the Venezuelan state in the border zone with Colombia.

"We are arming because we can not allow that the guerrilla destroys us, while the Venezuelan state does nothing," said the agribusiness leader and producer Otto Ramírez, who yesterday participated in an emergency assembly organized by the Rancher's Federation of Venezuela (Fedenagas, in its Spanish acronym) in the Andean city of Mérida, one of the regions affected by the activities of supposed guerrilla representatives, who recently made themselves "peace judges" to defend the Venezuelan plantations from invasion in exchange for payment in cows.

The so-called "protection groups" of the Venezuelan ranchers are prepared and ready to confront and combat the subversive organizations of the neighboring country.

"It's no lie that they exist and are already in process. I believe that we are going to obtain good results soon and we would like President Chávez to join our movement. We cannot permit that our country becomes a second Colombia due to a vacuum of power. I advise you that in the entire country there is an agreement and a coordination in the fight," said the agricultural producer, who has been one of the victims of attack by supposed Colombian guerrillas against Venezuelan agricultural producers.

According to Ramírez, the Venezuelan self-defense groups, "will impose a new way of living" in the border zone, where there are an average of 40 kidnappings each year of plantation owners, and other pay to avoid being kidnapped.

The Venezuelan foreign minister José Vicente Rangel warned that these kinds of groups, far from solving the problem of insecurity at the border, could become a "Frankenstein" like what happened in Colombia.

The Venezuelan Ranchers Federation threatened yesterday to launch an national strike if the government doesn't resolve the situation of insecurity that the landowners of the border live, victims of the incursions of Colombian subversive groups….

February 2, 2001
Caracas, Venezuela
From the EFE Press Agency

Civilian Defense Minister

The Surprise Nomination of Venezuelan Foreign Minister José Rangel as new Defense Minister

The President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, today designated, for the first time in the history of his country, a civilian, the prime minister José Vicente Rangel, as minister of defense.

Upon reaching two years in power, Chávez announced two changes in his cabinet, among them the nomination of his principal political supporter, foreign minister Rangel, as the new secretary of defense….

For President Chávez, this first designation of a civilian to a post traditionally occupied by military officers signifies the beginning of "the union between the National Armed Forces and the people," which he repeatedly referred to as "the true strength of the Nation."

Chávez made his announcement during the military parade, on a central avenue of Caracas, announcing the changes, although the most attention went to that of Rangel, a journalist, ex-guerrilla and veteran member of the Left.

In his first statements as the new Defense Minister, Rangel told journalists that his status as civilian "will not be received badly" by career military officers, because the ranking officer of the National Armed Forces had already been consulted on his nomination.

He added that just as "military officers occupy civil posts" he doesn't see why "civilians can't occupy military posts."

And from the AFP (French Press Agency) report of February 2:

…The president assured that with Rangel in charge of the Defense Department the civilian-military alliance will move forward, "it is the principal strength of the peaceful and democratic revolution" in the country.
The colorful Defense Secretary had underscored just minutes before his nomination that the naming of a civilian to this post "is normal in a process of change"…

In his first statements as Defense Minister, Rangel said that his first priorities will be to define the situation of the Venezuelan ranchers in the border region and the modernization of the Armed Forces of the country.

"I'm going to meet right away with the ranchers in the country to discuss what is happening at the border. This is a priority with the modernization of the Armed Forces," said Rangel to journalists after his new designation.
Rangel, a journalist and passionate defender of human rights, is one of the civilians with the most weight in the government of Chávez.

The internationalist Eira Ramos told AFP that one of the interpretations that could be made is that this designation "could be a decision by the Chávez government to definitively support the Colombian guerrilla, because the statements have been very oriented in this direction. Rangel is a man of the Left. He has not ruled out direct contact with the Colombian guerrilla.

Rangel is also close to Cuba, to the Cuban revolution, and I believe that the change in foreign minister doesn't imply any drastic reorientation of foreign policy. To the contrary, there will be more efforts to get closer to Cuba."

Still, in Colombia the news was received by official and opposition congressmen as "positive" and they said that a new era "of good will and not so militarist" in bilateral relations will be opened.

… from the point of view of the new Republican administration of US President George W. Bush, Rangel himself revealed on Thursday that "there is a series of indications and signals for an excellent relation with the Bush administration," and denied comments that the White House could harden its stance toward Caracas.

Biography of José Vicente Rangel
From Venezuelan State Department

RANGEL, JOSÉ VICENTE. Lawyer, journalist and politician. Regarded as one of the best opinion journalists in the country.

Born in Caracas on July 10th, 1929 to José Vicente Rangel Cárdenas and Leonor Vale. Attended primary and secondary school at La Salle School (Lara State). In 1946 moved to the city of Mérida, to study Law at the University of the Andes. The same year returned to Caracas, to continue his law studies at the Central University of Venezuela. From then on, he became an active member of the Democratic Republican Union party (URD), where he reached the office of Youth Leader.

On the wake of President´s Rómulo Gallegos downfall, in november 1948, he joined the underground resistance to the dictatorship. In 1950 traveled to Chile, where he met Ana Ávalos, a sculpturer, whom he was later to marry. She is the mother of his only two children. In Chile, Rangel resumed law studies, which he then finished in Spain, at the University of Santiago de Compostela.

Back in Venezuela, in 1956, he rejoined the struggle against the dictatorship of General Marcos Pérez Jiménez. This led to his arrest and subsecuent expulsion from the country. Once the dictatorial regime was deposed, he returned to Venezuela and retook political life. The same year, he was designated as member of the Federal District´s Municipal Council, and simultaneously became one of the top national leaders of his URD party. At the general elections of december 1958, he was elected to Congress as a Deputy for his party, a post which he retained in the next four elections.

Since the 1960´s, he has been steadily active in political journalism, working as host on television programs, as well as producer for short radio broadcasts (micros), and columnist in newspapers like El Universal, Panorama and El Nacional, among others, and magazines like Bohemia and Elite. Between 1960 and 1967, he was editor-in-chief of the weekly Qué Pasa en Venezuela and the daylies La Razón and El Clarín. In the general elections of 1973, 1978 and 1983, he was presidential candidate, backed by the country´s main three parties of the Left, including Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), which was then larger than the Communist Party and today is part of the coalition that supports President Hugo Chávez.

His journalistic efforts have been twice rewarded with the National Journalism Award. He is the author of several books and numerous essays. On february 2nd, 1999, President Hugo Chávez appointed him Minister of Foreign Affaires.

The Gallop of Bolívar's Horse