Free trade in genocide
Over the past few decades, the US government has maintained their South American drug war with help from Nazi war criminals, whose genocidal rampages, under the guise of a “war on drugs”, have made room for multinational corporate development.
Multinational corporations benefit from free trade, which forces open a country’s doors to their products, regardless of legitimate concerns for health or the environment. Free trade also steals a country’s resources from its citizens, and puts them firmly into the hands of multinational corporations.
The drug war ensures that free trade will become a reality by destroying the competing nature-based economies of peasants and indigenous peoples, whether they be based on coca and marijuana or farm produce. Multinational ? or “free” ? trade, then steps in to replace the failing economies.
Countless US agencies and offices are implicated in the complex “drug war” lie, including the CIA, the US Department of Defence, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the White House itself. In the war on drugs, there is no limit to the acts of depravity the US government has been willing to commit. Today, the US drug war finds its greatest focus in Columbia.
Nazis in South America
Klaus Barbie, the infamous “Butcher of Lyons”, drowned some of his victims by shoving their heads in toilets full of piss and shit while his trained German Shepherd, “Wolf”, tore off their genitals with its teeth. Barbie was not tried as a war criminal after WWII. The CIA had a use for him. Rescued from a post-war “death row” by the CIA and imported to Bolivia with help from the Catholic Church, Barbie was to become a central figure in establishing corporate control of South America.
Barbie’s specialty was suppressing internal strife; he had been a high-ranking member of the Einsatzgruppen, death squads which purged Jews from lands newly conquered by the Nazis. Newly installed in Bolivia, Klaus Barbie began training paramilitaries in the same death-squad style tactics he had pioneered in Nazi Germany. He went straight from the service of Hitler to the service of corporate greed.
The first victims of Barbie’s renewed rampages in South America were striking labour unions representing tin miners in Bolivia in the 1960’s. His death squads went on to squash other revolutionary movements in Bolivia throughout the 60’s and 70’s, ensuring that US-friendly rulers dominated the seats of power.1
Suppressing labour interests in South America was the first step in securing corporate power, but it also had the effect of creating paramilitary death squads that would later be used to suppress the peasants and indigenous peoples who would oppose full-scale free trade. Barbie’s training methods effectively became the template for both military and paramilitary training all across South and Central America. Barbie’s methods also became the template for US death squads in Vietnam, known as the “Phoenix” program.
School of Assassins
The counter-insurgency methods used in South America and Vietnam became the basis for US Department of Defence training manuals and courses teaching torture, blackmail and murder to South American soldiers. The courses were taught at the US-run School of the Americas (SOA), ironically known by Panamanians as the “School of Assassins.” Founded in Panama in 1946, and relocated to Fort Benning, Georgia in 1984, the institution graduated untold numbers of human rights abusers who would terrorize, mass-murder and dehumanize South Americans from just after WWII until today.
Each year the SOA graduates 2,000 South American soldiers from its programs which, according to US Congress House Representative Joseph Kennedy, costs US taxpayers $2.9 million yearly.
SOA officials originally claimed that the school trained soldiers for the purpose of opposing communists and other leftist groups in South America. Since what has been hailed as the end of the cold war, however, the excuse has changed. Carol Richardson is part of a group called School of the Americas Watch, and has been thrown in jail for organizing and attending anti-SOA rallies. She explains her insights into the true motives behind SOA training.
“Supporters of the school say the SOA now has a new mission, and that it is counter-narcotics,” Richardson asserts. “We’ve heard this before. It’s another excuse to arm and train the military for civilian-targeted conflict. The [SOA] students that came up here from Mexico ? only 10% took anti-narcotics. The rest took military intelligence, psych ops, commando tactics, sniper fire ? the traditional hard-core military training courses that students of the SOA have always taken, with disastrous results.”2
The “disastrous results” Richardson speaks of are heinous civil rights abuses, infamous in the countries they were committed in, almost unheard of by North-Americans awash in mass-media monopolized culture. They occurred in regions torn with poverty-provoked conflict ? poverty which, as we shall see, was brought about by free-trade style economic reforms.
A 1993 UN Truth Commission report listed 60 South American military officers as flagrant and repeated human rights abusers. 49 of the 60 were SOA graduates.3 SOA graduates were responsible for the killing of El Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romaro in 1980, for the rape, torture and killing of 4 nuns in the same year, and for the slaughter of whole villages in the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua ? among countless other atrocities.
In 1981, in El Mozote, El Salvador, Rufina Amaya hid in the bushes while death squads of SOA graduates machine-gunned to death 900 of her fellow villagers, including 131 children under the age of 12 and 3 babies under the age of 3 months.3
“I could hear my children screaming,” recalls Amaya, “‘Mommy, they’re killing us!'”
The “civilian targets” of SOA’s graduates are often peasants and indigenous peoples who oppose the devastation wrought by free trade and corporate control in their countries. Among the victims, however, are those same social minorities targeted by Nazis in WWII ? homeless people, gays and lesbians, prostitutes, and drug users.
What began in Central America in the early 80’s with the Reagan era, continues today at the northernmost tip of South America, in Columbia.
Third-world debt crisis
In the early 80’s, world level institutions cooperated to create an environment of free-trade style exploitation in South America. First, in 1982, Latin American countries were thrown into harsh economic depression. The events which precipitated this depression were not simply naive “mismanagement”. Robert McNamara, president of the World Bank (located in New York) since 1968, instructed bank lenders to meet yearly quotas of billions in “development” loans to Latin America.
To speed things up, he also ordered the bank to make loans without asking where the money was going, or for what it would be used. Most of the funding was siphoned off into private accounts through a variety of crooked schemes.4
Publically, the loans were for development. Yet the lending process ensured that the loans would only bring Latin America further indebtedness.
When the loans be-came pay-able, and no development had materialized to generate the revenue needed to pay them back, the economies of Latin American countries crashed, in what has since been hailed as the 1982 “third world debt crisis.”
The next move was to introduce “structural adjustment loans” (SAL’s), which Latin American countries could use to pay back interest on their development loans. They were first issued in 1980, perhaps in preparation for the debt crisis of 1982. The loans came with a hook, however, borrowing countries had agree to free-trade style economic reforms, known as “structural adjustment programs”, and open their doors to multinational corporations from the US. During the 80’s, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina were among those countries that signed into SAL’s.
With cheaper products flooding those countries’ economies, national agriculture, resource development and industry failed utterly. Peasants were forced off of the land and into heavily-polluting sweat shops or into the coca and marijuana trades. By 1992, a Mexican government report from the “poverty-alleviation program”, PRONASOL, found that “Malnutrition [had]become the normal condition of society.” Widespread pollution and disease swept across Mexico.
Revolutionary sentiment was rekindled in Latin America, and spread through the straw hut of free trade like torch fire. In Mexico, the little-publicized Zapatista rebellion swept across the country, protesting the plight of indigenous peoples losing their land and wealth to “development” projects and a failing economy. Many revolutionaries, left with no other source of wealth, funded themselves with sales of marijuana and coca.
Ronald Reagan had prepared for this eventuality as early as 1981, when he first took office as President of the United States and redeclared a “war on drugs.” By 1982, Reagan had reopened the School of the Americas, after only a brief closure.
Under the guise of the war on drugs, the US trained Latin American militaries and paramilitaries at the School of the Americas, and sent millions in arms southward. The CIA coordinated state-sponsored terrorism by organizing death squads comprised of and headed by SOA graduates all across Central and South America.
In the 70’s the Columbian economy was one of the strongest in South America, with divergent crops including various foods, coffee beans, marijuana and coca.
With the disintegration of South American economies in 1982, countries with marijuana or coca-producing regions, like Columbia, Bolivia and Peru, found themselves dependent upon the production of euphoric substances to feed and house the majority of the masses, and to make payments on World Bank debts.
According to Dr Rensselaer Lee, an associate scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, “Columbia is the linchpin of the Latin American drug trade. The country is not only a source of coca leaf but is also the region’s largest supplier of marijuana to the US market.” With a strong economy, the Columbian government has remained more resilient than many others. Consequently, Columbia has avoided the need for structural adjustment loans and their accompanying free-trade style economic reforms.
The World Bank still lauds Columbia for maintaining its loans while hypocritically turning a blind eye to the fact that Columbia makes its payments only through marijuana and coca money, laundered for decades through what is clandestinely know as the “left window”, through which Columbia accepts tax dollars from producers of such euphorics, “no questions asked”.
Among other things, US President Ronald Reagan’s redeclaration of the drug war in the 80’s was a carefully planned attack on those very countries who managed to stabilize their economies by dealing in euphoric substances. Columbia has become the focus of the United State’s South American drug war today.
Our partner, Mexico
Mexico, an active partner in the North American Free Trade Agreement which came into force in 1994, and a major recipient of structural adjustment loans, has become protected territory, free to import drugs with impunity.
A 1998 US State Department study titled “International Narcotics Control Strategy,” found that Mexico is the largest transshipment point for cocaine and marijuana heading to the US from South America. Other recent US government investigations have found extensive “drug corruption” in Mexican banks, government and military. In 1997 and 1998, the US Congress seriously opposed Mexico’s recertification. Nevertheless, in 1998, US Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey announced that Mexico was making “formidable progress” in the drug war. Despite further opposition from congress in 1999, President Bill Clinton continues to certify Mexico as an ally in the war on drugs.
Hypocrisies abound in what has become an unacknowledged scandal of mammoth proportions. When Clinton met with Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo for an anti-drug summit in February of this year, he visited Zedillo at the home of Mexican banker Roberto Hernandez Ramirez, whose property is well known by locals as the “coca triangle.” Hernandez’s property was a major stopping point for drugs headed from Columbia, through Mexico, and on to the US.
Any decent intelligence gathering operation, like the CIA or DEA, should have known (and probably did know) about Hernandez’s coca involvement. Yet it took a local daily newspaper, Por Esto! to investigate and reveal the truth. On the same day as Clinton’s arrival, Por Esto! released the results of their 26 month investigation, fingering Hernandez.5 Yet this news never reached any news outlet in the US, Canada or Europe for almost four months. When it was finally published in the Boston Phoenix, the story barely made a ripple in the public’s awareness.
The media’s wilful avoidance of this topic shows that it threatens more than just the presidency. It also threatens the US military/industrial complex, which is perhaps better described as the drug war/free trade complex, which protects US political and financial interests.
There is a tacit understanding that the decertification of Mexico could be disastrous for both NAFTA and for US military security. Decertification would “cut off” Mexico from the US handouts that have so far kept a pro-free trade, US-backed regime in power. A decertified Mexico would be automatically refused US foreign aid, amounting to millions every year, and would receive no further World Bank loans, as the US has a controlling share of World Bank votes.
Although military hardware and training at the School of the Americas and other US military bases is only supposed to be used for anti-drug action in Mexico, much of the military aid that Mexico receives from the US goes to fighting revolutionaries like the Zapatistas. While President Bush was in power (89-93), the US sent Mexico $212 million in military equipment.6
Even the General Accounting Office (GAO) is savvy to some of these violations. A 1996 GAO report found that “During the 1994 [Zapatista] uprising in the Mexican State of Chiapas, several US-provided helicopters were used to transport Mexican military personnel to the conflict?” Countless similar incidents characterize the American government’s actions in bolstering a pro-free trade regime against popular, democratic and even revolutionary forces. Although US foreign aid is instrumental in keeping the Mexican government in power, there is much speculation that drug money is also big in funding the Mexican government’s resistance to nationalistic uprisings.
While the 80’s was a big decade for the US in strong-arming countries like Mexico into free trade, the 90’s has been a big decade for the US in wrestling hold-outs like Columbia to the mat. Columbia was decertified as a US drug war ally in 1996, to bring pressure against President Ernesto Samper Pisano, who had fallen out of favour with the US presidency.7 When US backed dictator Andres Pastrana took power, Columbia was recertified.
Pastrana’s first act as president was to allow the US to open a massive $20-million “radar” base on Columbian soil, supposedly for use only in drug-war operations. Such manipulations put Columbia firmly on the path to signing into a proposed Free-Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), a planned free-trade unit including Canada, the US and all of Central and South America.
US war in Columbia
The US is at war in Columbia, and almost no one knows it? at least in North America. While the third-world debt crisis and decertification both have played major rolls in creating a pro-free trade, US-friendly regime in Columbia, the US has also intervened militarily, under the guise of the drug war. The drug war has become the public justification for destroying nature-based coca and marijuana sectors that have been supporting the Columbian economy since the third-world debt crisis in 1982.
In the 90’s, through the CIA, and under the guise of a “drug war”, the US has exploited a complex set of relationships between various political groups in Columbia, which include the government, the cocaine cartels, the military, and Marxists revolutionaries (like the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia Ejercito del Pueblo (FARC)). At various times, all of these groups have come under attack by the CIA, which regularly plays one group against the other, and then changes sides.
One of the CIA’s greatest tools in promoting conflict in Columbia has been the use of right wing death squads trained at US military bases. The Group “Human Rights Watch/Americas” reports that in 1991, the American CIA and Department of defence oversaw a reorganization of Columbian military intelligence that continues to make use of paramilitary death squads,8 who massacre whole villages by slitting the throats and cutting off the heads of men, women and children.9
School of the Americas trained soldiers feature prominently in Columbian death-squad campaigns. Human rights investigators have found that Columbia has been one of the biggest client countries of the School of the Americas, having sent over 8,679 soldiers to the school between 1946 and 1995. A 1992 international human rights tribunal found that of 246 officers cited for human rights abuses in Columbia, 100 were graduates of the School of the Americas.10
Additionally, the US has sent “10,000 M14 rifles, 700 M16 rifles, 623 M79 grenade launchers, 325 M60 machine guns, 26,000 60mm rifle grenades, 20,000 40mm rifle grenades, 37,000 hand grenades, 3,000 Claymore mines, and about fifteen million rounds of rifle ammunition.”8 Exactly the kind of light weaponry carried by paramilitary death squads.
The atrocities committed by these soldiers, even before known CIA involvement, has led to massive unrest and the resurgence of revolutionary forces that had been on the decline during the prosperous 70’s. The overall effect has been to reduce Columbia’s economic independence. The taxes from profits on marijuana and coca production have been partially alienated from government coffers, as FARC revolutionaries seize large tracts of prime land. US military assistance is needed to maintain the current governmental structure, which must paradoxically both oppress and benefit from coca and marijuana production.
Weakened economically, socially, and politically, Columbia has signed into free-trade agreements with Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Mexico, Chile, Panama, and all of the Caribbean countries, through five separate agreements made since 1991, the same year the CIA stepped up its Columbian operations. Such agreements, while they may arguably strengthen the Columbian economy against US corporate infiltration, also prepare Columbia for free trade with the US via the Free Trade Area of the Americas.
While the first effect of paramilitary death squads was to destroy what was left of the Columbian economy, the squads have also served another purpose. They have begun to clear land of peasants and indigenous peoples to make way for the multinational development sure to come with a growing atmosphere of free trade.
In Columbia, it is well known in human-rights aware circles that the drug war is largely for the benefit of multinational corporations. Michael Lopez, a US human rights lawyer working in Bogota, Columbia, speaks bluntly about corporate interests in the region.
“The bottom line for US policy makers is not drugs, it is definitely not human rights, it is profits,” says Lopez. “As long as there are poor peasants who persist to resist the ‘right’ of US multinationals to rape for profit, such policies will continue.”
In practice, multinational corporations have become “above the law”, answerable to nothing but the bottom line? profits. Yet each person on the earth has a vote. It happens every time you buy a product. If you choose locally produced, natural or organic alternatives, you are voting for freedom. If you choose genetically engineered, patented and shipped goods, you are selling the fate of humankind to those who would enslave you.
? School of the Americas Watch: PO Box 4566, Washington DC 20017-0566; tel (202) 234-3440; email [email protected]; web www.soaw.org
? Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom: 1213 Race Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107; tel (215) 563-7110; email [email protected]; web www.wilpf.org
? Latin America Working Group: 110 Maryland Avenue, NE – Box 15, Suite 203, Washington, DC 20002; tel (202) 546-7010; email [email protected]; web www.igc.org/lawg
1 Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St Clair, 1998. pp 167-185
2 Carol Richardson. School of Assassins. Videotape. Lecture taped by Regis University, 10/22/98.
3 The Courageous Women of Columbia. Videotape. Produced by the Women’s League for Peace and Freedom, 1996.
4 These “Crooked schemes” are briefly discussed in Susan George’s book Debt Boomerang, and in Harold Brandreth’s “Money as a Colonizing Tool,” The Slant, Vol2, #16.
5 “Friends like these two presidents talk up the drug war in the house of a drug trafficker,” by Al Giordano. The Boulder Weekly,. June 3, 1999. (originally in the Boston Phoenix.)
6 From Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St Clair, 1998. p 377.
8 “Columbia’s Killer Networks,” 1997 report produced by Human Rights Watch/Americas.
9 “Columbian Death Squads Endanger Peace Talks, Analysts Say,” by John Otis. Houston Chronicle. Jan 12, 1999.
10 From an article in “Burn”, an unofficial University of California e-journal. By Ellisen Hays