Category Archives: Colombia

Stop Killer Coke!

Carlos Castaño and members of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a right-wing Colombian paramilitary group.

Death squads have assassinated eight trade union leaders in Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia. The Stop Killer Coke campaign holds the beverage giant responsible.

MADELEINE BARAN

This article is from the November/December 2003 issue of Dollars & Sense magazine.

On the morning of December 5, 1996, two members of a paramilitary gang drove a motorcycle to the Carepa Coca-Cola bottling plant in northern Colombia. They fired 10 shots at worker and union activist Isidro Segundo Gil, killing him. Luis Adolso Cardona, a fellow worker, witnessed the assassination. “I was working and I heard the gun shots and then I saw Isidro Gil falling,” he said in a recent interview. “I ran, but when I got there Isidro was already dead.”

A few hours later, paramilitary officials detained Cardona, but he escaped, fleeing to the police office, where he received protection. Around midnight that night, the paramilitaries looted the local union office and set it on fire. “There was nothing left. Only the walls,” said Cardona. The paramilitary group returned to the plant the next week, lined up the 60 unionized workers, and ordered them to sign a prepared letter of resignation from the union. Everyone did. Two months later, all the workers—including those who had never belonged to the union—were fired.

Gil, 27, had worked at the plant for eight years. His wife, Alcira Gil, protested her husband’s killing and demanded reparations from Coca-Cola. She was killed by paramilitaries in 2000, leaving their two daughters orphaned. A Colombian judge later dropped the charges against Gil’s alleged killers.

Paramilitaries, violent right-wing forces composed of professional soldiers and common thugs, maintain bases at several Coca-Cola bottling facilities in Colombia, allegedly to protect the bottlers from left-wing militants who might target the plants as symbols of globalization.

Activists say at least eight union activists have been killed by paramilitaries at Colombian Coca-Cola facilities since 1989. And plaintiffs in a recent series of lawsuits hold Coca-Cola and two of its bottlers responsible for the violence, alleging “systematic intimidation, kidnapping, detention, and murder of trade unionists in Colombia, South America at the hands of paramilitaries working as agents of corporations doing business in that country.”

The murders of Coke bottling workers are part of a larger pattern of antiunion violence in Colombia. Since 1986, over 3,800 trade unionists have been murdered in the country, making it the most dangerous place to organize in the world. Three out of every five people killed worldwide for trade union activities are from Colombia.

Suing Coke and its Bottlers

The Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) and the United Steel Workers of America filed four lawsuits in Federal District Court in July 2001 on behalf of Sinaltrainal (a union representing food and beverage workers in Colombia), five individuals who have been tortured or unlawfully detained for union activities, and the estate of murdered union activist Isidro Gil. The plaintiffs contend Coca-Cola bottlers “contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilized extreme violence and murdered, tortured, unlawfully detained, or otherwise silenced trade union leaders.”

In addition to demanding that Coca-Cola take responsibility for the murder of Colombian union activists, the plaintiffs are asking for compensatory and punitive damages, which by some estimates could range from $50 million to $6 billion.

Coca-Cola’s legal defense “is not that the murder and terrorism of trade unionists did not occur,” according to an ILRF press release. The company argues that it cannot be held liable in a U.S. federal court for events outside the United States. “Coca-Cola also argues that it does not ‘own,’ and therefore does not control, the bottling plants in Colombia.”

In late March, a judge dismissed Coca-Cola from the lawsuits—on grounds that the firm does not have control over the labor practices of its bottlers—but allowed the case against the bottlers to go forward. A request for an appeal is pending.

According to Daniel Kovalik, assistant general counsel for the United Steelworkers of America and co-counsel for the plaintiffs: “In the short run, [the court decision] means that we can’t proceed against Coke, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that in the long run. I am absolutely confident that we’ll win the appeal.”

Kovalik maintains that Coca-Cola is liable for its bottlers’ actions. For one thing, the 20 Colombia bottlers are deeply entwined in Coke’s core economic activities. Coca-Cola provides syrup to the bottlers, who mix, bottle, package, and ship the drinks to wholesalers and retailers throughout Colombia. The bottlers are integral to the beverage giant’s operations in the country.

Moreover, Coca-Cola and its bottlers have deep financial links. In May, Coca-Cola FEMSA, a bottling company, acquired Pan American Beverages, Latin America’s largest bottler and a defendant in the case. In the year before it was acquired, sales of Coca-Cola represented 89% of Pan American’s $2.35 billion net sales. The acquisition made Mexico-based Coca-Cola FEMSA the largest Coca-Cola bottler in Latin America. The Coca-Cola Company owns a 30% equity stake in Coca-Cola FEMSA, according to the bottling company, and several of its executives also work for Coke.

The plaintiffs are now considering whether to add Coca-Cola FEMSA as a defendant in the lawsuits. If they do, Coca-Cola will be put in the uncomfortable position of trying to prove that Coca-Cola FEMSA and the Coca-Cola Company—despite their shared name, shared executives, and Coke’s part-ownership of FEMSA—are completely independent from one another.

Coca-Cola did not return calls for comment, but has stated in the past that Pan American Beverages was an independent company. More recently, Coca-Cola has denied allegations that its bottlers tolerate or assist in acts of violence against union activists. In a statement released in July, Coca-Cola said the allegations are “nothing more than a shameless effort to generate publicity using the name of our Company, its trademark and brands.”

Kovalik argues that the corporation’s communications with shareholders contradict these public statements and suggest that the firm in fact can, and should, investigate and put a stop to the killings. He plans to submit Coca-Cola documents as legal evidence, including a letter to a shareholder that reads: “We require that everyone within the Coca-Cola system abide by the laws and regulations of the countries in which they do business. We demand integrity and honesty in business at the Coca-Cola Company.…”

“They can’t be able to profit from these bottlers and say that they don’t have control over these situations,” says Kovalik.

Taking Down a Corporate Giant

The Stop Killer Coke campaign may prove to be the biggest test yet of the corporate campaign model pioneered by labor consultant Ray Rogers (see “Ray Rogers’ Corporate Campaign Strategy”). As the public face of the ILRF lawsuits, the Stop Killer Coke campaign aims to put public pressure on Coca-Cola to acknowledge its role in the killings and to persuade the company to stop collaborating with violent paramilitary organizations.

It’s one part of a massive coalition gearing up for a multi-front attack on Coca-Cola. The anti-Coke effort, launched by the lawsuits against Coca-Cola and its bottlers, has grown to include the Stop Killer Coke campaign, consumer and student groups, and labor organizations like the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO. These various groups share the same primary goal: to damage the soft-drink giant’s reputation in order to force the company to acknowledge its role in the Colombian killings. With the launch of the Stop Killer Coke campaign this summer, the movement is picking up momentum.

Rogers plans to expand the campaign far beyond the plaintiffs’ allegations to encompass “at least a dozen issues” including the lack of health care for Coca-Cola workers in Africa; the corporation’s water use in India, which causes groundwater destruction; and more. He has spent the last several months researching Coke’s corporate structure and intricate financial dealings.

Rogers often refers to his strategic style as “divide and conquer” because it aims to isolate companies from investors, creditors, politicians, and consumers. In the most successful corporate campaigns, the target corporation’s relationship with the business world breaks down, as other companies, banks, and executives decide that the benefits of the business relationship are not worth the risk of being the target of a high-profile campaign. Eventually, the company, isolated and weak, caves in to the campaign’s demands in order to end the media blitz and restore its position in the business world.

“A corporation is really nothing more than a coalition of individual and institutional economic and political interests, some more vital and vulnerable than others, that can be challenged and attacked, divided and conquered,” Rogers said. “I know enough now to know exactly where the Achilles heel of Coca-Cola is. I’m so confident about where we’re going with this thing.”

That Achilles heel appears to be Coke’s relationship with SunTrust Bank, its main creditor. Many of Coca-Cola’s top shareholders own significant amounts of SunTrust stock, and their boards overlap—three current or former Coke CEOs sit on SunTrust’s board of directors and two current or former SunTrust CEOs sit on Coke’s board. “In almost 30 years of studying corporate structures, I have never seen a more intimate or incestuous relationship,” said Rogers.

Rogers plans to expose the relations between SunTrust and Coca-Cola, then use information on Coke’s human rights and environmental practices to drive SunTrust into a financial and public relations disaster. If the plan works, investors will lose confidence in SunTrust; key executives will resign rather than face negative media attention; and unions, progressive groups, and consumers will close their accounts. Given the deep ties between the two companies, whatever hurts SunTrust will hurt Coke. Backed into such a position, Coca-Cola would be forced to acknowledge and end its ties to paramilitaries in order to stabilize its main creditor and regain investor and consumer confidence.

The campaign faces an uphill battle. Coca-Cola has virtually unlimited resources to fight lawsuits and conduct its own media blitz. Also, Coca-Cola, like most major companies, now has years of experience fighting high-profile consumer campaigns. The beverage giant has a truly global reach, producing over 300 brands in more than 200 countries, with more than 70% of its income coming from outside the United States. If the campaign hopes to damage Coca-Cola financially, it will have to attract international support.

Despite these serious obstacles, Rogers is optimistic. “We’re going to move very quickly on this thing,” he said. “I think they’re going to find themselves involved in something that they’re going to find a total nightmare.” Terry Collingsworth, executive director of the ILRF, is also confident. “Ray’s like the classic pit bull,” he said. “Once he bites into you, he won’t let go. Ray’s not going to walk away from this until he’s won.”

The battle is already heating up, with activists in Latin America, Turkey, Ireland, and Australia leading anti-Coke campaigns with Stop Killer Coke materials. Student organizations like United Students Against Sweatshops are starting campaigns to ban Coke from campuses. University College Dublin, Ireland’s largest university, voted recently to remove all Coca-Cola products from the campus. Meanwhile, Bard College in New York has decided against renewing Coke’s contract with the school when it expires in May. At Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, students staged a “Coke dump,” spilling soda into the streets to call attention to the plight of Colombian union activists. Union involvement is also growing. United Auto Workers Local 22 in Detroit, recently ordered 4,000 “Coke Float” flyers, which explain the campaign. The union will hand them out to workers as they leave their plant.

In the meantime, violence against union activists in Colombia continues. On September 10, 2003, David Jose Carranza Calle, the 15-year-old son of Sinaltrainal’s national director, was kidnapped by paramilitaries. According to Sinaltrainal, four masked men forced the younger Carranza into a truck and tortured him, asking for the whereabouts of his father. At the same time, his father, Limberto Carranza, received a phone call from an unidentified individual who said, “Unionist son of a bitch, we are going to break you. And if you won’t break, we will attack your home.” The kidnappers freed Carranza Calle over three hours later. But unionists in Colombian bottling plants, including Coca-Cola facilities, are far from safe.

Source

America’s ‘crack’ plague has roots in Nicaragua war

The following are a series of revealing articles on the connection between the CIA-backed Nicaraguan Contras and the smuggling of illegal drugs, particularly cocaine. They are among the first exposés about Contra drug smuggling published in the United States. They were written by journalist Gary Webb for the San Jose Mercury News in 1996 under the series title “The Dark Alliance.” The articles, which alleged a connection between the Contras, the CIA and drug trafficking, quickly roused a strong reaction throughout the U.S. and triggered a smear campaign. Webb’s career was destroyed shortly after these articles were published by right-wing Reaganite journalists in support of the Contras.

The following copies were obtained from the website of the Seattle Times, since the San Jose Mercury News where they first appeared has removed the entire Gary Webb series from their web site.

— Espresso Stalinist 

America’s ‘crack’ plague has roots in Nicaragua war

Colombia-San Francisco Bay Area drug pipeline helped finance CIA-backed Contras

Aug. 18, 1996

BY GARY WEBB
Mercury News Staff Writer

FOR THE BETTER PART of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, a Mercury News investigation has found.

This drug network opened the first pipeline between Colombia’s cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, a city now known as the “crack” capital of the world. The cocaine that flooded in helped spark a crack explosion in urban America and provided the cash and connections needed for L.A.’s gangs to buy automatic weapons.

It is one of the most bizarre alliances in modern history: the union of a U.S.-backed army attempting to overthrow a revolutionary socialist government and the Uzi-toting “gangstas” of Compton and South-Central Los Angeles.

The army’s financiers — who met with CIA agents both before and during the time they were selling the drugs in L.A. — delivered cut-rate cocaine to the gangs through a young South-Central crack dealer named Ricky Donnell Ross.

Unaware of his suppliers’ military and political connections, “Freeway Rick” — a dope dealer of mythic proportions in the L.A. drug world — turned the cocaine powder into crack and wholesaled it to gangs across the country.

The cash Ross paid for the cocaine, court records show, was then used to buy weapons and equipment for a guerrilla army named the Fuerza Democratica Nicaraguense (Nicaraguan Democratic Force) or FDN, the largest of several anti-communist commonly called the Contras.

While the FDN’s war is barely a memory today, black America is still dealing with its poisonous side effects. Urban neighborhoods are grappling with legions of homeless crack addicts. Thousands of young black men are serving long prison sentences for selling cocaine — a drug that was virtually unobtainable in black neighborhoods before members of the CIA’s army started bringing it into South-Central in the 1980s at bargain-basement prices.

And the L.A. gangs, which used their enormous cocaine profits to arm themselves and spread crack across the country, are still thriving, turning entire blocks of major cities into occasional war zones.

There is a saying that the ends justify the means,” former FDN leader and drug dealer Oscar Danilo Blandon Reyes testified during a recent cocaine trafficking trial in San Diego. “And that’s what Mr. Bermudez (the CIA agent who commanded the FDN) told us in Honduras, OK? So we started raising money for the Contra revolution.”

Recently declassified reports, federal court testimony, undercover tapes, court records here and abroad and hundreds of hours of interviews over the past 12 months leave no doubt that Blandon was no ordinary drug dealer.

Shortly before Blandon — who had been the drug ring’s Southern California distributor — took the stand in San Diego as a witness for the U.S. Department of Justice, federal prosecutors obtained a court order preventing defense lawyers from delving into his ties to the CIA.

Blandon, one of the FDN’s founders in California, “will admit that he was a large-scale dealer in cocaine, and there is no additional benefit to any defendant to inquire as to the Central Intelligence Agency,” Assistant U.S. Attorney L.J. O’Neale argued in his motion shortly before Ross’ trial on cocaine trafficking charges in March.

The most Blandon would say in court about who called the shots when he sold cocaine for the FDN was that “we received orders from the — from other people.”

The 5,000-man FDN, records show, was created in mid-1981 when the CIA combined several existing groups of anti-communist exiles into a unified force it hoped would topple the new socialist government of Nicaragua.

From 1982 to 1988, the FDN — run by both American and Nicaraguan CIA agents — waged a losing war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government, the Cuban-supported socialists who’d overthrown U.S.-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979.

Blandon, who began working for the FDN’s drug operation in late 1981, testified that the drug ring sold almost a ton of cocaine in the United States that year — $54 million worth at prevailing wholesale prices. It was not clear how much of the money found its way back to the CIA’s army, but Blandon testified that “whatever we were running in L.A., the profit was going to the Contra revolution.”

At the time of that testimony, Blandon was a full-time informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration, a job the U.S. Department of Justice got him after releasing him from prison in 1994.

Though Blandon admitted to crimes that have sent others away for life, the Justice Department turned him loose on unsupervised probation after only 28 months behind bars and has paid him more than $166,000 since, court records show.

“He has been extraordinarily helpful,” federal prosecutor O’Neale told Blandon’s judge in a plea for the trafficker’s release in 1994. Though O’Neale once described Blandon to a grand jury as “the biggest Nicaraguan cocaine dealer in the United States,” the prosecutor would not discuss him with the Mercury News.

A known dealer since ’74 has stayed out of U.S. jails

Blandon’s boss in the FDN’s cocaine operation, Juan Norwin Meneses Cantarero, has never spent a day in a U.S. prison, even though the federal government has been aware of his cocaine dealings since at least 1974, records show.

Meneses — who ran the drug ring from his homes in the San Francisco Bay Area — is listed in the DEA’s computers as a major international drug smuggler and was implicated in 45 separate federal investigations. Yet he and his cocaine-dealing relatives lived quite openly in the Bay Area for years, buying homes in Pacifica and Burlingame, along with bars, restaurants, car lots and factories in San Francisco, Hayward and Oakland.

“I even drove my own cars, registered in my name,” Meneses said during a recent interview in Nicaragua.

Meneses’ organization was “the target of unsuccessful investigative attempts for many years,” prosecutor O’Neale acknowledged in a 1994 affidavit. But records and interviews revealed that a number of those probes were stymied not by the elusive Meneses but by agencies of the U.S. government.

Agents from four organizations — the DEA, U.S. Customs, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement — have complained that investigations were hampered by the CIA or unnamed “national security” interests.

1988 investigation hit a wall of secrecy

One 1988 investigation by a U.S. Senate subcommittee ran into a wall of official secrecy at the Justice Department.

In that case, congressional records show, Senate investigators were trying to determine why the U.S. attorney in San Francisco, Joseph Russoniello, had given $36,000 back to a Nicaraguan cocaine dealer arrested by the FBI.

The money was returned, court records show, after two Contra leaders sent letters to the court swearing that the drug dealer had been given the cash to buy weapons for guerrillas. Russoniello said it was cheaper to give the money back than to disprove that claim.

“The Justice Department flipped out to prevent us from getting access to people, records — finding anything out about it,” recalled Jack Blum, former chief counsel to the Senate subcommittee that investigated allegations of Contra cocaine trafficking. “It was one of the most frustrating exercises that I can ever recall.”

It wasn’t until 1989, a few months after the Contra-Sandinista war ended and five years after Meneses moved from the Peninsula to a ranch in Costa Rica, that the U.S. government took action against him — sort of.

Federal prosecutors in San Francisco charged Meneses with conspiracy to distribute one kilo of cocaine in 1984, a year in which he was working publicly with the FDN.

In San Francisco photo, Meneses seen with CIA operative

Meneses’ work was so public, in fact, that he posed for a picture in June 1984 in a kitchen of a San Francisco home with the FDN’s political boss, Adolfo Calero, a longtime CIA operative who became the public face of the Contras in the United States.

According to the indictment, Meneses was in the midst of his alleged cocaine conspiracy at the time the picture was taken.

But the indictment was quickly locked away in the vaults of the San Francisco federal courthouse, where it remains today inexplicably secret for more than seven years. Meneses was never arrested.

Reporters found a copy of the secret indictment in Nicaragua, along with a federal arrest warrant issued Feb. 8, 1989. Records show the no-bail warrant was never entered into the national law enforcement database called NCIC, which police use to track down fugitives. The former federal prosecutor who indicted him, Eric Swenson, declined to be interviewed.

After Nicaraguan police arrested Meneses on cocaine charges in Managua in 1991, his judge expressed astonishment that the infamous smuggler went unmolested by American drug agents during his years in the United States.

“How do you explain the fact that Norwin Meneses, implicated since 1974 in the trafficking of drugs … has not been detained in the United States, a country in which he has lived, entered and departed many times since 1974?” Judge Martha Quezada asked during a pretrial hearing.

“Well, that question needs to be asked to the authorities of the United States,” replied Roger Mayorga, then chief of Nicaragua’s anti-drug agency.

U.S. officials amazed Meneses remained free

His seeming invulnerability amazed American authorities as well.

A Customs agent who investigated Meneses in 1980 before transferring elsewhere said he was reassigned to San Francisco seven years later “and I was sitting in some meetings and here’s Meneses’ name again. And I can remember thinking, “Holy cow, is this guy still around?’.”

Blandon led an equally charmed life. For at least five years he brokered massive amounts of cocaine to the black gangs of Los Angeles without being arrested. But his luck changed overnight.

On Oct. 27, 1986, agents from the FBI, the IRS, local police and the Los Angeles County sheriff fanned out across Southern California and raided more than a dozen locations connected to Blandon’s cocaine operation. Blandon and his wife, along with numerous Nicaraguan associates, were arrested on drug and weapons charges.

The search warrant affidavit reveals that local drug agents knew plenty about Blandon’s involvement with cocaine and the CIA’s army nearly 10 years ago.

“Danilo Blandon is in charge of a sophisticated cocaine smuggling and distribution organization operating in Southern California,” L.A. County sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Gordon said in the 1986 affidavit. “The monies gained from the sales of cocaine are transported to Florida and laundered through Orlando Murillo, who is a high-ranking officer of a chain of banks in Florida named Government Securities Corporation. From this bank the monies are filtered to the Contra rebels to buy arms in the war in Nicaragua.”

Corporate records show that Murillo — a Nicaraguan banker and relative of Blandon’s wife — was a vice-president of Government Securities Corporation in Coral Gables, a large brokerage firm that collapsed in 1987 amid allegations of fraud. Murillo did not respond to an interview request.

Despite their intimate knowledge of Blandon’s operations, the police raids were a spectacular failure. Every location had been cleaned of anything remotely incriminating. No one was ever prosecuted.

Ron Spear, a spokesman for Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block, said Blandon somehow knew that he was under police surveillance. Others thought so, too.

“The cops always believed that investigation had been compromised by the CIA,” Los Angeles federal public defender Barbara O’Connor said in a recent interview. O’Connor knew of the raids because she later defended the raids’ leader, Sgt. Gordon, against federal charges of police corruption. Gordon, convicted of tax evasion, declined to be interviewed.

Lawyer suggests aid was at root of problem

FBI records show that soon after the raids, Blandon’s defense attorney, Bradley Brunon, called the sheriff’s department to suggest that his client’s troubles stemmed from a most unlikely source: a recent congressional vote authorizing $100 million in military aid to the CIA’s Contra army.

According to a December 1986 FBI Teletype, Brunon told the officers that the “CIA winked at this sort of thing. … (Brunon) indicated that now that U.S. Congress had voted funds for the Nicaraguan Contra movement, U.S. government now appears to be turning against organizations like this.”

That FBI report, part of the files of former Iran-Contra Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, was made public only last year, when it was released by the National Archives at the Mercury News’ request.

Blandon has also implied that his cocaine sales were, for a time, CIA-approved. He told a San Francisco federal grand jury in 1994 that once the FDN began receiving American taxpayer dollars, the CIA no longer needed his kind of help.

“When Mr. Reagan get in the power, we start receiving a lot of money,” Blandon testified. “And the people that was in charge, it was the CIA, so they didn’t want to raise any (drug) money because they have, they had the money that they wanted.”

“From the government?” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney David Hall.

“Yes,” for the Contra revolution,” Blandon said. “So we started — you know, the ambitious person — we started doing business by ourselves.”

Asked about that, prosecutor Hall said, “I don’t know what to tell you. The CIA won’t tell me anything.”

None of the government agencies known to have been involved with Meneses and Blandon over the years would provide the Mercury News with any information about them.

A Freedom of Information Act request filed with the CIA was denied on national security grounds. FOIA requests filed with the DEA were denied on privacy grounds. Requests filed months ago with the FBI, the State Department and the Immigration and Naturalization Service have produced nothing so far.

None of the DEA officials known to have worked with the two men would talk to a reporter. Questions submitted to the DEA’s public affairs office in Washington were never answered, despite repeated requests.

Blandon’s lawyer, Brunon, said in an interview that his client never told him directly that he was selling cocaine for the CIA, but the prominent Los Angeles defense attorney drew his own conclusions from the “atmosphere of CIA and clandestine activities” that surrounded Blandon and his Nicaraguan friends.

“Was he involved with the CIA? Probably. Was he involved with drugs? Most definitely,” Brunon said. “Were those two things involved with each other? They’ve never said that, obviously. They’ve never admitted that. But I don’t know where these guys get these big aircraft …”

That very topic arose during the sensational 1992 cocaine trafficking trial of Meneses after Meneses was arrested in Nicaragua in connection with a staggering 750-kilo shipment of cocaine. His chief accuser was his friend Enrique Miranda, a relative and former Nicaraguan military intelligence officer who had been Meneses’ emissary to the cocaine cartel of Bogota, Colombia. Miranda pleaded guilty to drug charges and agreed to cooperate in exchange for a seven-year sentence.

In a long, handwritten statement he read to Meneses’ jury, Miranda revealed the deepest secrets of the Meneses drug ring, earning his old boss a 30-year prison sentence in the process.

“He (Norwin) and his brother Luis Enrique had financed the Contra revolution with the benefits of the cocaine they sold,” Miranda wrote. “This operation, as Norwin told me, was executed with the collaboration of high-ranking Salvadoran military personnel. They met with officials of the Salvadoran air force, who flew (planes) to Colombia and then left for the U.S., bound for an Air Force base in Texas, as he told me.”

Meneses — who has close personal and business ties to a Salvadoran air force commander and former CIA agent named Marcos Aguado — declined to discuss Miranda’s statements during an interview at a prison outside Managua in January. He is scheduled to be paroled this summer, after nearly five years in custody.

U.S. General Accounting Office records confirm that El Salvador’s air force was supplying the CIA’s Nicaraguan guerrillas with aircraft and flight support services throughout the mid-1980s.

Miranda did not name the Air Force base in Texas where the FDN’s cocaine was purportedly flown. The same day the Mercury News requested official permission to interview Miranda, he disappeared.

While out on a routine weekend furlough, Miranda failed to return to the Nicaraguan jail where he’d been living since 1992. Though his jailers, who described him as a model prisoner, claimed Miranda had escaped, they didn’t call the police until a Mercury News correspondent showed up and discovered he was gone.

He has not been seen in nearly a year.

MONDAY: How the drug ring worked, and how crack was “born” in the San Francisco Bay Area. Plus, the story of how the U.S. government gave back $36,000 seized from a drug dealer after he claimed the money belonged to the Contras.

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In Terrorism-Law Case, Chiquita Points to U.S.

By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 2, 2007

On April 24, 2003, a board member of Chiquita International Brands disclosed to a top official at the Justice Department that the king of the banana trade was evidently breaking the nation’s anti-terrorism laws.

Roderick M. Hills, who had sought the meeting with former law firm colleague Michael Chertoff, explained that Chiquita was paying “protection money” to a Colombian paramilitary group on the U.S. government’s list of terrorist organizations. Hills said he knew that such payments were illegal, according to sources and court records, but said that he needed Chertoff’s advice.

Chiquita, Hills said, would have to pull out of the country if it could not continue to pay the violent right-wing group to secure its Colombian banana plantations. Chertoff, then assistant attorney general and now secretary of homeland security, affirmed that the payments were illegal but said to wait for more feedback, according to five sources familiar with the meeting.

Right-wing AUC Paramilitaries

Justice officials have acknowledged in court papers that an official at the meeting said they understood Chiquita’s situation was “complicated,” and three of the sources identified that official as Chertoff. They said he promised to get back to the company after conferring with national security advisers and the State Department about the larger ramifications for U.S. interests if the corporate giant pulled out overnight.

Sources close to Chiquita say that Chertoff never did get back to the company or its lawyers. Neither did Larry D. Thompson, the deputy attorney general, whom Chiquita officials sought out after Chertoff left his job for a federal judgeship in June 2003. And Chiquita kept making payments for nearly another year.

What transpired at the Justice Department meeting is now a central issue in a criminal probe. According to these sources’ account, the Bush administration was pulled in competing directions, perhaps because its desire to avoid undermining a newly elected, friendly Colombian government conflicted with its frequent public assertions that supporting a terrorist group anywhere constitutes a criminal offense and a foreign policy mistake.

Chiquita’s executives left the meeting convinced that the government had not clearly demanded that the payments stop. Federal prosecutors, however, are now weighing whether to charge Hills; Robert Olson, who was then Chiquita’s general counsel; former Chiquita CEO Cyrus Friedheim; and other former company officials for approving the illegal payments, according to records and sources close to the probe.

An AUC paramilitary fighter armed with a Kalashnikov assault weapon in a village near La Dorada, Putmayo.

The company has already pleaded guilty to making $1.7 million in payments to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), and it agreed to pay a $25 million fine. But last week, lawyers for the former Chiquita executives sent letters to the Justice Department, asserting that their clients did not intentionally break the law but believed they were waiting for an answer from the highest levels of the Bush administration.

Federal prosecutors have said in court papers that Chertoff and his deputies at Justice made clear in the April 2003 meeting that Chiquita was violating the law and that “the payments . . . could not continue.” Government sources say that lawyers at Justice headquarters and the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington were incensed by what they considered the flagrant continuation of these payoffs, despite the warnings.

Chiquita International’s lawyer in this case, Eric H. Holder Jr., said he is concerned that company leaders who chose the difficult path of disclosing the corporation’s illegal activity to prosecutors are now facing the possibility of prosecution.

“If what you want to encourage is voluntary self-disclosure, what message does this send to other companies?” asked Holder, deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration. “Here’s a company that voluntarily self-discloses in a national security context, where the company gets treated pretty harshly, [and] then on top of that, you go after individuals who made a really painful decision.”

Chertoff, through spokesman Russ Knocke, refused to discuss the case. “I’m declining all comment, because there is an investigation ongoing,” Knocke said.

Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd also declined to comment on the details, citing the pending criminal probe. But he stressed that any company has a responsibility to comply with the law.

“If the only way for a company to conduct business in a particular location is to do so illegally, then the company probably shouldn’t be doing business there,” Boyd said.

But legal sources on both sides say there was a genuine debate within the Justice Department about the seriousness of the crime of paying AUC. For some high-level administration officials, Chiquita’s payments were not aiding an obvious terrorism threat such as al-Qaeda; instead, the cash was going to a violent South American group helping a major U.S. company maintain a stabilizing presence in Colombia.

The prosecution first centered solely on Cincinnati-based Chiquita, the world’s largest banana producer and one of its largest food-distribution companies. It has operations in 70 countries and 25,000 employees, and has been in Colombia for more than a century, dating to the days when the company was called United Fruit.

Starting in 1997, according to court filings, Chiquita’s subsidiary in Colombia, Banadex, began making cash payments to AUC. The payments were suggested by AUC leader Carlos Castano, who said he planned to drive the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas — a group also on the U.S. terrorist list — out of the northwest region of Uraba, according to the filings.

In September 2000, Chiquita executives learned about the payments in an internal audit but allowed them to continue, according to a prosecution filing not disputed by the company. In the plea agreement, Chiquita officials said they knew that AUC was blamed for numerous killings and kidnappings in the region, but that they had no alternative to keep their workers alive and to secure their operations at a time when FARC guerrillas were blowing up railroads used by U.S. companies and kidnapping foreigners for ransom.

On Sept. 10, 2001, the State Department declared AUC an international terrorist group, making it illegal for a U.S. company to deal with the organization. Prosecutors say senior company executives were aware of the designation in 2002, and internal Chiquita records state that the company’s outside legal counsel warned them in February 2003 that they “must stop payments.”

Chiquita Plantation

“Bottom line: CANNOT MAKE THE PAYMENT,” the Kirkland & Ellis law firm advised Chiquita, according to court records and sources.

On April 3, 2003, Chiquita’s board decided to disclose the payments to Justice. Around that time, Chiquita counsel Olson told others that he and Hills thought the company had a strong defense and should let the Justice Department “sue us, come after us” if it disagreed, according to court records and sources.

Then, on April 24, the company executives met with Justice officials, including Chertoff. They disclosed the payments and Justice officials said they were against the law. Hills said he agreed, but stressed that Chiquita would have to withdraw from the country if it did not pay AUC, and noted this could affect U.S. security interests in that region.

That’s when, according to the five sources, Chertoff acknowledged that the matter was complicated, and said that he would get back to them after conferring with other administration officials.

A week later, Hills and Olson told the company board’s audit committee that Justice had advised them that there would be “no liability for past conduct” and that there was no “conclusion on continuing the payments,” according to a summary of the case filed by the prosecution. The company authorized new payments to AUC starting on May 5.

After Chiquita officials got no answer from Chertoff, they met with Thompson, who praised them for “doing the right thing” in disclosing the payments, and said he, too, would try to get back to them on how to proceed, defense sources said. Thompson, now general counsel for PepsiCo, did not respond yesterday to a request to comment.

Hills’s lawyer, Reid H. Weingarten, said his client alerted the government to a problem, then waited as the government asked to see what the administration wanted to do. Hills resigned from the board in June.

“As soon as Rod Hills learned that there were payments to a terrorist organization, he brought the matter immediately to the attention of the Justice Department,” Weingarten said. “He had a reasonable basis to believe that the Justice Department wanted to maintain the status quo while they sorted out the difficult issues.”

Robert S. Litt, an attorney for Olson, declined to elaborate on the case but said: “Bob Olson acted properly in helping Chiquita deal with a very difficult situation, and I’m confident that the Department of Justice will agree.”

The attorney general of Colombia, Mario Iguaran, and other Colombian officials have dismissed Chiquita’s assertions that it was a victim of extortion and paid AUC to protect its workers. An Organization of American States report in 2003 said that Chiquita participated in smuggling thousands of arms for paramilitaries into the Northern Uraba region, using docks operated by the company to unload thousands of Central American assault rifles and ammunition.

Iguaran, whose office has been investigating Chiquita’s operations, said the company knew AUC was using payoffs and arms to fund operations against peasants, union workers and rivals. At the time of the payments, AUC was growing into a powerful army and was expanding across much of Colombia and, according to the Colombian government, its soldiers killed thousands before it began demobilizing.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, who must decide whether to accept the Chiquita corporation’s plea agreement, privately warned both sides last month that he wants to know more about the role played by Chiquita executives in approving the payments, according to sources familiar with his remarks, made in a closed meeting in his chambers.

Lamberth specifically said he wanted to know which company officials made the key decisions and whether they would face prosecution. A hearing on the plea agreement is scheduled for Monday.

Staff writer Spencer S. Hsu and correspondent Juan Forero contributed to this report.

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‘How can you take money from a corporation. . .doing that kind of thing to perfectly good and totally innocent people?’ Catholic leader rips Chiquita; Cincinnati banana giant responds to Enquirer probe

Chiquita SECRETS Revealed

MIKE GALLAGHER & CAMERON McWHIRTER
Cincinnati Enquirer 3-May-1998

In response to revelations about Chiquita Brands International’s overseas business practices in Sunday’s Enquirer, a prominent Catholic bishop has called on Catholic institutions not to accept donations from Carl H. Lindner Jr. or Chiquita.

Chiquita, meanwhile, issued a statement Sunday defending itself “as a good corporate citizen notwithstanding the unfair and inaccurate assertions of the Enquirer.”

But Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, an auxiliary bishop of Detroit, said the Enquirer’s findings reflect what he saw firsthand on Chiquita farms he visited in Honduras last year. A member of the U.S. Catholic Conference’s Social Justice Committee, Bishop Gumbleton is an internationally known spokesman and investigator for the Catholic Church on human rights and social justice issues. The Catholic Conference is the social policy arm of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

On Sunday, Bishop Gumbleton called for Catholic leaders to reject donations from Chiquita and Mr. Lindner, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer. He said such gifts involved “blood money earned off the backs of the poor peasants of Central America.”

The bishop made his comments after reading the Sunday Chiquita stories on the Enquirer Web site.

In the 18-page special section Sunday, the Enquirer described the findings of a yearlong investigation into the Cincinnati-based banana giant. Among those findings:

Chiquita secretly controls dozens of supposedly independent banana companies in Latin America. It uses elaborate business structures to hide its control, avoiding restrictions on land ownership and national security laws. The structures also are aimed at limiting unions on the farms.

Chiquita’s subsidiaries engage in pesticide practices that endanger the health of banana workers and nearby residents, despite an agreement with an environmental group to adhere to certain safety standards. Those practices include aerial pesticide spraying while workers are still in the fields.

Security guards of Chiquita subsidiaries and their joint-venture partners have used brute force to enforce their authority on plantations. The violence by these guards has resulted in the death and wounding of unarmed peasants, including children.

Chiquita is “an evil institution for exploiting the poor,” Bishop Gumbleton said. “I saw (people) living in a dismal situation. What I would ask the Catholic leaders of Cincinnati and elsewhere is ‘How can you take money from a corporation or . . . (a chairman) of a corporation who is doing that kind of thing to perfectly good and totally innocent people and depriving them of a chance to get a decent livelihood?’ ”

In October, Mr. Lindner and his family donated $1.5 million to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to provide computers for inner-city Catholic schools.

Efforts to reach Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk and archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco were unsuccessful Sunday.

Telephone calls to Mr. Lindner and Steven Warshaw, president and chief operating officer of Chiquita Brands International Inc., were not returned. Robert Olson, Chiquita’s general counsel, spoke with an Enquirer reporter but would not say whether the company would issue a statement in response to Bishop Gumbleton’s comments.

Bishop Gumbleton said the 2,000-mile distance that separates Chiquita’s banana farms and its Cincinnati headquarters is no excuse for allowing the problems in Latin America to continue. “It doesn’t take a big effort for Carl Lindner to go down there and just find out what’s going on at his plantations.

“I don’t believe that a person like Carl Lindner is the only corporate leader in this country doing this kind of thing,” he said. “But the evidence uncovered by (the Enquirer), and what I have personally observed, makes it clear that he and his company must make changes to protect the very lives of the people who made them so wealthy.”

Chiquita Brands statement

On Sunday, May 3, the Cincinnati Enquirer published a sensational and highly inaccurate story impugning the reputation and business practices of Chiquita Brands International. Chiquita is known globally as a leading international producer of wholesome and healthy foods and as a good corporate citizen – investing in local communities, building schools and improving the quality of life for tens of thousands. We are proud of the success we have had in providing benefits and wages in Latin America that far exceed those available from other jobs and protecting the environment in a manner that has earned praise from the most prominent independent environmental organizations.

Chiquita is proud of its work and denies the false implications of the Enquirer’s article.

The information contained in the Enquirer’s story was selectively edited, incomplete and presented out of context and portrays a false and highly inaccurate image of Chiquita. Chiquita and other independent sources made extraordinary efforts to provide facts and documents which demonstrate the true record. Unfortunately, the Enquirer ignored the hundreds of pages of documents detailing the facts regarding Chiquita’s sound business practices. Instead, the Enquirer has affiliated itself and worked in concert with persons having financial, political and economic motives to damage Chiquita.

Chiquita adheres to the highest standards of product quality and social responsibility, applying world-class standards regarding associate relations, product quality and environmental controls. Chiquita will continue to meet its obligations as a good corporate citizen notwithstanding the unfair and inaccurate assertions of the Enquirer.

On the Web The complete text of the Enquirer’s investigation into Chiquita Brands International Inc. can be accessed at the Enquirer’s Web site: enquirer.com – chiquita (Not available as of 10jul98)

(Copyright 1998)

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Life on a banana plantation; Growing Chiquita bananas: pesticides and hard work

Chiquita SECRETS Revealed

MIKE GALLAGHER & CAMERON McWHIRTER
Cincinnati Enquirer 3-May-1998

On farms from Mexico to Ecuador, Chiquita and its affiliates grow millions of bananas every year for consumers in North America and Europe. The fruit is grown and harvested in a labor-intensive process that involves an army of workers, lots of equipment, crop-dusting airplanes, foam cushions, string, bags, special cartons, refrigerated trucks and trains, and tons of pesticides.

While production methods vary slightly from plantation to plantation, the basic operations illustrated below remain the same. This illustration is a composite plantation, drawn from Enquirer reporters’ visits to Chiquita subsidiary plantations and Chiquita-affiliated farms in Honduras and Costa Rica, as well as interviews with plantation workers and environmental scientists.

1. Commercial banana plants grow from 15 to 30 feet in height and are grown in long rows on large irrigated plantations. Most bananas consumed in the United States are grown in the lowlands of Central and South America. The average banana plant produces fruit about every nine months. The stem usually grows to contain about 150 bananas. When the manager decides, the fruit is cut green from the plant and dropped carefully on the back of a worker carrying a cushion to stop any bruising of the fruit.

2. Herbicides: To kill off other plants growing around the bananas, workers apply herbicides. The chemicals are toxic and wash into the ground and ground water during rains.

3. Nematicides: To kill off nematodes, small worms that attack banana plants from the roots, workers cover the ground around the plants with nematicides. These chemicals are highly toxic and make an area extremely dangerous for 24 to 48 hours after application.

4. Banana plants do not have strong trunks, they can easily be knocked over in a tropical windstorm. To prevent ‘blowdowns,’ workers tie the plants down with string.

5. Aerial spraying is an integral part of pesticide application in commercial banana farming. The main purpose is to combat Black Sigatoka, an airborne fungus that can destroy a plantation’s crop. In areas that are infected with the fungus, including much of Central America, airplanes may spray fields more than 40 times a year.

The spray lands on the plants’ upper leaves, the ground, irrigation canals, streams and rivers and nearby homes, workers and residents, scientists told the Enquirer.

Workers on Chiquita subsidiary plantations and other farms producing Chiquita bananas told the Enquirer that they receive no warning when the planes come over and they often hide under banana leaves to escape the pesticide dust. Nearby villagers complain the aerial spraying often drifts into their yards, sending children running into the houses to escape rashes. Many worker villages are located close to banana plantations.

6. The water used in the in the packing plants to wash pesticides off the bananas comes from the irrigation canals and then is routed back out into the water supply. Chiquita has built berms in recent years on some plantations to limit pesticides from flowing directly into rivers. But many irrigation canals, laced throughout every plantation, remain directly exposed to pesticides.

7. Plastic bags imbedded with the powerful chemical chlorpyrifos protect the the growing fruit from insects throughout its entire gestation. In previous years,the bags were simply discarded after use, though the major banana companies have now started recycling programs.

8. At harvesting, the stem is placed on a large overhead cable system that runs throughout the plantation. Workers place foam cushions among the fruit to stop bruising. The fruit is then pushed along the cable toward the “Empacadora,” the packing plant.

9. In the packing plant, workers remove the cushions. Other workers then cut the stems into smaller bunches.

10. The bunchesare then put in a “pila de seleccion,” a selecting trough, where selectoras, usually women, choose the bananas and cut them further down to shipping size with small hooked knives.

11. Larger troughs called ‘pilas des leches,” milk troughs, wash off the pesticides applied in the fields as well as natural fluids from the banana plant.

12. New pesticides are applied to the bunches after they are placed on a conveyer belt. The new pesticides, either thiabendazole or imazalil, are applied to prevent “crown rot,” a fungus that attacks the extremities of the banana bunch. On some plantations, Chiquita has installed small plastic containment systems that save money on pesticide costs and reduce worker exposure to the pesticides. But most plantations do not have this system, according to Chiquita statements issued through its attorneys to the Enquirer.

13. Boxes of banana bunches, freshly applied with pesticides, are put on large skids for shipment. On all the plantations visited by the Enquirer, most workers viewed by reporters did not wear gloves when handling the pesticide-covered bananas.

14. Trucks or trains are brought to the plant and loaded with the skids. The bananas are taken to port, where the large refrigerated containers are lifted onto ships. The ships then sail to various destinations, usually in North America or Europe. About ten days to two weeks after being harvested, the bananas are on display and for sale at local groceries.

Pesticides in the banana ecosystem

The ecosytem of a banana plantation is extremely wet and hot. The soil is very loose, helping the banana plants grow but also making it easy for pesticides to spread throughout the system.

It often rains in these areas, flushing pesticides into the ground and water table. The banana industry’s answer to this dissipation has been to apply pesticides frequently.

Ways pesticides get into the environment:

Air: Airplanes drop toxic chemicals regularly from the air. Pesticides fall on the plants, but also on workers, the ground and irrigation canals and streams.

Ground: Workers apply pesticides to the ground around the plants. These chemicals seep into the ground with every rainfall.

Water: Pesticides also get into water that is used to wash bananas in the packing plants. That water then flows back into the irrigation canals.

Bags: Plastic bags with the insecicide chlorpyrifos cover all the banana bunches from their inception. The chemical leaks off the bags in rain storms and flows into the ground and water.

Black Sigatoka is a banana plant disease that plagues most areas where Chiquita bananas are produced. The airborne fungus eats away at the plant leaves, turning them black. The disease shrinks the size of the frui and makes it ripen too quickly to be shipped to market. Eventually, the disease kills the plant. Some researchers are now trying to find a Sigatoka resistant banana that will still appeal to consumers, but nothing has been discovered thus far. To date, the industry’s reaction to the problem has been to increase aerial spraying of powerful pesticides.

The roots of the banana

Humans have been cultivating bananas since almost the beginning of civilization. Varieties of the plant are referred to in ancient Chinese and Arabic manuscripts.

Believed by scientists to have developed in southeast Asia more than 4,000 years ago, the plant eventually spread to other parts of Asia and into Africa. The species’ scientific classification, Musaceae, comes from the Arabic word for the fruit, mu’uz. Spanish and Portuguese explorers are believed to have come into contact with the plant in their travels to West Africa, where they adopted a variation of a local term, banana. Spanish explorers brought bananas to the Americas in the 1500s.

Today hundreds of banana varieties thrive in almost every tropical region of the world. But more than 90 percent of the bananas found at grocery stores in the United States and Europe are one variety, the yellow Gran Cavendish. The banana is one of the most productive plants in the world. In the right climate and weather it produces year round, and for decades at a time.

The plant itself is actually an herb. What looks like a trunk of a banana “tree” is in fact densely packed leaves growing up from a base clump of roots. The plants that produce commercial Gran Cavendish bananas do not produce seeds for reproduction, and are ‘sexless’ perennials. Planted in rows on giant farms, they regenerate after each harvest. The plant grows a stalk, called in Latin America “la Madre” or the mother, which produces a purple stem with white flowers from its center. The stem transforms into a large ‘hand’ of as many as 150 bananas each. The “hand,” which eventually bends over from the weight of the fruit, can weigh up to 140 pounds.

The fruit is harvested before it is ripe, and cut into the bunches that are transported to grocery stands. Once the fruit is harvested, the stalk is cut and a little stalk , called “el hijo” or “offspring” in Spanish, sprouts from the same root to begin the process again. Bananas are comprised mostly of sugary carbohydrates, but it is also a source of vitamins A and C as well as potassium.

(Copyright 1998)

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‘Para-politics’ Goes Bananas

Right-wing AUC paramilitaries in Colombia

In a scandal with wide-ranging implications for US-Colombia ties, Chiquita Brands International, the mega-fruit company, agreed earlier this month to pay $25 million in fines to the US government for making payments of more than $1.7 million to a Colombian terrorist paramilitary group.

At the center of the scandal is the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia–AUC), a right-wing paramilitary umbrella organization responsible for countless massacres and forced displacements over the last decade. The AUC’s operations have often enjoyed the tolerance or collaboration of Colombian security forces, who view the paramilitaries as de facto allies in their decades-old struggle against leftist guerrillas.

Colombia’s attorney general has now opened a similar case, and has requested information from the Justice Department. Colombia might also seek the extradition of eight Chiquita officials on charges that the company used one of its own ships to smuggle weapons to the same paramilitary group.

The news about links between bananas and terror comes amid continuing revelations about the depth and breadth of paramilitary influence at all levels of government. “Para-politics” has already taken down the country’s foreign minister, a provincial governor and the head of the secret police, among others.

Now the mounting scandal is closing in on one of President Álvaro Uribe’s closest allies. Just last weekend, the Los Angeles Times revealed a secret intelligence report that has been circulating recently at the CIA charging that the head of Colombia’s Army, Gen. Mario Montoya, planned and executed a 2002 military operation with Medellín-based paramilitaries. Army forces killed at least fourteen people during “Operation Orion,” with dozens more reportedly disappeared during the sweep.

Many wonder whether the crisis will be the undoing of President Uribe himself, who is considered Washington’s top ally in Latin America.

These recent disclosures and a growing collection of declassified documents are beginning to provide a clearer picture not only of how business is done in Colombia but also of the nexus of paramilitary-corporate-state terror that fuels Colombia’s conflict.

Good Faith?

The indictment handed down by US Attorneys in the Chiquita case describes in the most lucid terms the deliberate, methodical nature of the company’s relationship with the paramilitaries.

Chiquita’s payments to paras began in 1997, the year the AUC was formed, and continued until February 2004. Importantly, the company gave the group at least $825,000 after it was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) in 2001. US law bars support to any organization on the State Department’s FTO list.

Chiquita had been making similar payments to the leftist FARC and ELN guerrillas since returning to Urabá in 1989. Seven years earlier, the company had sold off its holdings in the war-torn region, but was lured back by the promise of expanding international fruit markets.

It is not immediately clear what weighed into Chiquita’s decision to switch from the guerrillas to the paras in 1997. One factor may have actually been the law. That year, both the FARC and ELN were added to the FTO list. The AUC was not added until 2001. But it was also clear that the paras had gained the upper hand in Urabá, the country’s top banana-growing region, and the center of Chiquita’s Colombia operations.

The payments were arranged by Carlos Castaño, the AUC’s fugitive (now deceased) leader, in a 1997 meeting with officials from Banadex, a wholly-owned Colombian subsidiary of Chiquita. Castaño and other paramilitary chiefs formed the AUC that same year, coordinating the military and political strategies of previously disparate paramilitary groups.

The indictment suggests that the paramilitary chief used a combination of coercion and enticement. “Castaño sent an unspoken but clear message that failure to make the payments could result in physical harm” to the company and its personnel. On the other hand, he also assured Banadex “that the AUC was about to drive the FARC out of Urabá.”

Castaño delivered on his promise. The first payment came just in time to help underwrite a major southward expansion of paramilitary influence in the country. Over the next seven years, Chiquita would make more than 100 separate payments to the AUC, and the AUC would carry out some of its most shocking massacres.

The paramilitary offensive began with the July 1997 killings of at least thirty civilians in Mapiripán, a traditionally guerrilla-controlled hamlet in a remote coca-growing region in southeastern Colombia. Some 200 AUC paramilitaries were flown in from Urabá to carry out the slaughter, their entrance and exit facilitated by local army troops.

Paramilitary killings rose dramatically while the payments continued. The AUC quickly gained a reputation for the shocking brutality of its crimes, and Castaño openly boasted about many of them. The slaughter left a trail of mangled corpses across the country, from the banana farms of Urabá to the coca fields of Putumayo. An overwhelming majority of the victims were civilians.

The indictment states that the payments “were reviewed and approved by senior executives of the corporation,” who knew by no later than September 2000 “that the AUC was a violent, paramilitary organization led by Carlos Castaño.

Chiquita insists that it was simply trying to do the right thing. “The payments made by the company were always motivated by our good faith concern for the safety of our employees,” Chiquita CEO Fernando Aguirre said in a statement published March 22 in the Chicago Tribune.

The “good faith” payments continued for more than a year even after the company disclosed the relationship to the Justice Department in 2003. At that time, Chiquita’s lawyers insisted that the company terminate the arrangement. “Must stop payments,” said one note obtained by prosecutors. “You voluntarily put yourself in this position,” read another. “Duress defense can wear out through repetition. Buz [business] decision to stay in harm’s way. Chiquita should leave Colombia.”

Astoundingly, Chiquita made at least nineteen more payments even after the Justice Department told the company that “payments to the AUC were illegal and could not continue.”

Mario Iguarán, Colombia’s attorney general, says he will seek the extradition of eight Chiquita officials connected to the case. His office is also seeking information about charges that in 2001 a ship unloaded some 3,400 AK-47 rifles and 4 million rounds of ammunition in a Banadex-controlled dock in Colombia destined for the AUC. These charges were first detailed in a 2003 report from the Organization of the American States.

“This was a criminal relationship,” said Iguarán, in a recent report published in theWashington Post. “Money and arms and, in exchange, the bloody pacification of Urabá.”

The Convivir Connection

The Chiquita indictment also implicates the Colombian state through a program known as Convivir, a network of hundreds of private security cooperatives licensed by the government to patrol rural areas and gather intelligence under the direction of local military commanders.

The Convivir connection is particularly resonant now. President Álvaro Uribe was one of the program’s key sponsors while governor of that region in the mid-1990s. As president, he has established similar intelligence and security networks around the country.

The indictment lists dozens of AUC payments that were channeled through “intermediaries” from “various” Convivir groups in Urabá. The AUC used these groups “as fronts to collect money from businesses for use to support its illegal activities.”

The fact that the company was obliged to channel its illegal payments through the ledgers of the state-backed security network is especially telling. Clearly the AUC did not expect any interference, and in the end, the Convivir appear to have functioned much as US intelligence predicted they would.

From the start, US military officials had said that the program would “degenerate into uncontrolled paramilitary groups.” Ambassador Myles Frechette wrote in 1994 that there had “never been an example in Colombia of a para-statal security group that has not ultimately operated with wanton disregard for human rights or been corrupted by local economic interests.”

One Colombian Army colonel told the Embassy in 1997 that there were “serious problems with the legal ‘Convivir’ movement,” and acknowledged the “potential for the convivir’s to devolve into full-fledged paramilitaries.”

Indeed, the Convivir were linked to the most brutal massacres of the AUC offensive. The president of one Urabá-based Convivir was found at the scene of a 1998 massacre of fourteen peasants near the Colombian capital. One Colombian expert told the US Embassy that, like Mapiripán, these killings “sent a message to the FARC that the paramilitaries can go anywhere and do anything. Not long thereafter, the president of one Urabá-based Convivir was found dead at the scene.

Above all, it was clear that the military was neither prepared nor inclined to challenge Castaño. In 1998 the CIA reported that senior Colombian military officers were “frustrated with the military’s dismal performance on the battlefield” and might “increasingly view turning a blind eye–and perhaps even offering tacit support to–the paramilitaries as their best option for striking back at the guerrillas.”

Then-Armed Forces Commander Manuel Bonett, like his predecessor, Harold Bedoya, had demonstrated “little inclination to combat paramilitary groups,” according to another CIA report.

The information obtained by the Times last week suggests that the CIA also has serious doubts about whether Colombia’s current army commander has the resolve to sever paramilitary ties. The allegations link General Montoya to Diego Murillo, the former leader of a vicious paramilitary group based in Medellín. Murillo currently sits in a Colombian jail, while the government mulls his extradition to the United States on drug charges.

The Cost of Doing Business

“Funding a terrorist organization can never be treated as a cost of doing business,” said US Attorney Jeffrey Taylor in a press release about the Chiquita case. But while the Justice Department deserves some credit for pursuing the company’s ties to the paras, the result is unlikely to have much impact on the way business is done in Colombia.

With last week’s plea, Chiquita has received an even better deal than the AUC is getting under President Uribe’s “Justice and Peace” program.

Critics deride “Justice and Peace” as an “amnesty” scheme designed specifically for Colombia’s paramilitary armies. The plan calls on the AUC to disarm and demobilize its forces in return for dramatically reduced criminal penalties. Paramilitary leaders who agree to make full confessions and nominal reparations payments to the thousands of victims of the group’s ghastly reign of terror are guaranteed light sentences under the program.

But despite the new evidence, the process is unlikely to uncover much about Montoya’s paramilitary sympathies, or the military’s Convivir networks. The government commission established to adjudicate the truth and reparations process is not specifically authorized to investigate the Colombian state, only “illegal armed groups.”

It does seem likely that the CIA disclosure will strain relations with the Colombian military. As head of the Colombian army, General Montoya wields tremendous influence, and the United States needs his support for its counternarcotics programs and other priorities. Montoya’s fate may be more closely tied to decisions made by a Democrat-controlled US Congress than by the Colombian justice system.

The Chiquita case provides one additional twist. Lauded in recent years for the unprecedented number of narco-trafficking suspects it has handed over to the United States, the Colombian government has now turned the extradition issue on its head, putting the US government in the delicate position of responding to Colombia’s request for the extradition of Chiquita executives. This case will surely be one to watch, as the Colombian government relishes its chance to divert attention away from its own paramilitary problem.

But if history is any guide, the Chiquita execs have little to fear. Impunity is far more frequently the rule than the exception in Colombia. And for the time being at least, coming to some sort of modus vivendi with paramilitaries is likely to remain the “cost of doing business” in Colombia.

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The Crimes of Chiquita

1. In 1984 the United Fruit Company (UFCO) was renamed Chiquita Brands International. While I will not delve too deeply into the transgressions of the UFCO, I will say that the country I was born and spent 18 years of my life in, Guatemala, owes much of the political turmoil in it’s modern history to the United Fruit Company. In 1954, democratically elected Jacobo Arbenz was ousted by a CIA-orchestrated coup that was put into motion by the political influence of the United Fruit Company. All of this is documented very well in the book Bitter Fruit.

2. In 1998, Chiquita’s systemic abuses were documented by an expose in the Cincinatti Enquirer, entitled “Chiquita Secrets Revealed”. The Cincinatti Enquirer was forced to run a dramatic retraction because Michael Gallagher obtained a lot of the information illegally by hacking into the company’s voice mail system, but none of the factual claims in the 18 page series have been disputed or proven wrong. The expose covers a variety of abuses including mistreating Central American workers, polluting the environment, allowing cocaine to be brought into the United States on it’s ships, bribing foreign officials, evading the laws of foriegn countries, and forcibly preventing it’s workers from unionizing.

3. In 2001, Chiquita was forced to pay a $100,000 penalty after the Securities and Exchange Commission found it guilty of bribing a foreign official in Colombia.

4. In 2007, Chiquita plead guilty to paying $1.7 million to the Auto-Defensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) which I have written about many times.

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  • Chiquita secretly controls dozens of supposedly independent banana companies. It does so through elaborate business structures designed to avoid restrictions on land ownership and national security laws in Central American countries. The structures also are aimed at limiting unions on its farms.
  • Chiquita and its subsidiaries are engaged in pesticide practices that threaten the health of workers and nearby residents, despite an agreement with an environmental group to adhere to certain safety standards.
  • Despite that environmental agreement, Chiquita subsidiaries use pesticides in Central America that are not allowed for use in either the United States or Canada, or in one or more of the 15 countries in the European Union.
  • A worker on a Chiquita subsidiary farm died late last year after exposure to toxic chemicals in a banana field, according to a local coroner’s report.
  • Hundreds of people in a Costa Rican barrio have been exposed to a toxic chemical emitting from the factory of a Chiquita subsidiary.
    Employees of Chiquita and a subsidiary were involved in a bribery scheme in Colombia that has come to the attention of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Two employees have been forced to resign.
  • Chiquita fruit-transport ships have been used to smuggle cocaine into Europe. Authorities seized more than a ton of cocaine (worth up to $33 million in its pure form) from seven Chiquita ships in 1997. Although the company was unaware and did not approve of the illegal shipments, problems were traced to lax security on its Colombian docks.
  • Security guards have used brute force to enforce their authority on plantations operated or controlled by Chiquita. In an internationally controversial case, Chiquita called in the Honduran military to enforce a court order to evict residents of a farm village; the village was bulldozed and villagers run out at gunpoint. On a palm plantation controlled by a Chiquita subsidiary in Honduras, a man was shot to death and another man injured by guards using an illegal automatic weapon. An agent of a competitor has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that armed men led by Chiquita officials tried to kidnap him in Honduras.
  • Chiquita Chairman and CEO Carl H. Lindner Jr., his family and associates made legal but controversial contributions to political figures at a time the company desperately sought U.S. backing in a trade dispute over banana tariffs in Europe.
  • In a statement issued through its attorneys, Chiquita said the company “has been an active and enthusiastic engine for a better way of life throughout the region (and) is a leader in preserving, enhancing and cleaning the environment through Central America.”

Source

Village destroyed: Armed soldiers evict residents in Chiquita plan to eliminate union

Chiquita SECRETS Revealed

MIKE GALLAGHER & CAMERON McWHIRTER

Cincinnati Enquirer 3-May-1998

Nothing remains of Tacamiche but a few concrete foundations. No one lives here any more but lizards and crows.

The churches are gone. The homes of the banana workers are gone. Even the streets are overgrown with tall grass.

After six decades as a community among Chiquita’s banana fields in northeastern Honduras, the village was plowed under in February 1996 by about 500 Honduran soldiers. Former residents have not forgotten their village, nor have they forgiven Chiquita and its subsidiary for the fact that soldiers with bayonets and bulldozers forcibly evicted more than 600 people before wiping Tacamiche off the map.

Villagers had been told to leave. When they refused, Chiquita’s subsidiary Tela Railroad Co. obtained a court-order to evict them. When they still refused to leave, Tela brought in the army.

Tela announced in 1992 it planned to close the Tacamiche plantation because it was no longer suitable for banana production. A company-wide strike forestalled the closure.

In 1994 Tela once again announced it was closing the Tacamiche farm, claiming the plantation’s land was bad. The company stated it had to close the farm, plus three others – all located in Honduras’ Sula Valley – and sell off the land. The company said it would evict the villagers from those farms.

Tela officials’ claims that the Tacamiche land “was no longer conducive to the cultivation of bananas in the quantity and quality required by Tela and Chiquita for the world market” were based on internal Tela soil tests, according to Chiquita officials in a written response to the Enquirer.

But the Enquirer has obtained a 1989 Chiquita legal document outlining a plan to close company-owned farms in Honduras to eliminate costly unions.

While the document does not name the farms to be closed, it does refer to “a specific group of farms in the (Honduran) division.” At the time, almost all of Chiquita’s banana plantations in Honduras, including Tacamiche, were located in the Sula Valley.

The Enquirer also has learned that Chiquita has leased the Tacamiche land with an intent to sell it to a trusted former employee, who continues to grow bananas on the land. When asked about the leasing, Chiquita, in a statement issued through its attorneys, stated that the former employee, Henry Murray, is using a farming method called “crop-timing”: planting bananas so they can be picked and sold when the market is at a premium. Mr. Murray sells his bananas exclusively to Chiquita. Chiquita stated that crop-timing “can be profitable on a small scale, but it has not been demonstrated to be successful over the long term and is not suitable for a large scale producer like Tela.”

To clear the way for the leasing and future purchase of the land, Chiquita and Tela insisted on the removal of Tacamiche village despite the impact on its inhabitants, whom the company referred to as “squatters.” Tacamiche village was de-stroyed but three other villages were not. All the four Tela farms were closed.

“Chiquita left us without any past,” said John Sevilla Connoley, 43, a lifelong resident of Tacamiche and the former village’s schoolteacher. “They erased all evidence of our childhood.”

In August 1997, Mr. Sevilla Connoley visited his former village for the first time since the eviction. “This is the street where I lived. These roads, I walked them as a child looking for firewood. I know them like I know my heart.”

Speaking through a translator, Mr. Sevilla Connoley said the eviction ripped him away from his roots.

The village had been created by Chiquita, then called the United Fruit Co., in the 1930s to house workers for its farms. The company acquired the land in 1936 for $1 from the Honduran government as part of a larger land deal. Until Tacamiche was destroyed, the majority of the villagers continued to work for Chiquita in the fields, and many had lived in the village most of their lives.

Several other villages also were set for demolition, but Tacamiche was the first to go. After getting a final court order for eviction, Chiquita asked Honduran military police to remove the 123 families in 1996. The decimation of the village on Chiquita’s orders was a hot political issue in Honduras and was condemned by human rights groups around the world.

Carlos Castaño with AUC paramilitaries

Chiquita has responded that the Tacamiche closing was a regrettable but unavoidable decision based on hard economic reality: the land was no good.

But an April 12, 1989, legal memorandum by Manuel Rodriguez, a Chiquita lawyer, detailed a plan to close Honduran farms in order to reduce labor costs. The memo deals with farm closures in the company’s Honduran division but does not mention any farm by name.

Under a section titled “Labor Issues,” Mr. Rodriguez states: “Only feasible grounds for termination of employees is ‘liquidation, or permanent closing of company or establishment.”‘

Mr. Rodriguez also stated, “(Chiquita subsidiary) Tela should seek (Honduran government) approval for sale, and immediately thereafter sever the workers. Should be simultaneously as possible; though for legal reasons, closing of farms must be completed first.

“Tela has never implemented closing of farms and termination of workers in the size and nature of this proposed project,” the memo continued.

“Review with local (Honduran) counsel the procedure to effectuate terminations; our recommendation is to terminate all the workers at affected farms, rather than follow procedures of labor contract and – or (Honduran) Labor Code.”

The Enquirer made repeated attempts to contact Mr. Murray for comment on the Tacamiche closing and his proposed purchase of the land. He did not respond to the interview requests. Mr. Rodriguez also did not return Enquirer calls for comment.

In a March 16 internal voice-mail message from Robert Olson, Chiquita’s general counsel, to Mr. Rodriguez, Mr. Olson said he did not want Mr. Murray talking to the Enquirer. Mr. Olson also said that if the Enquirer did reach Mr. Murray, he should not tell the reporters that Chiquita officials had told him not to speak with them.

A Chiquita statement, issued through its lawyers, described Mr. Murray as the prospective buyer of the Tacamiche land and “an associate producer” of Tela. Chiquita defines an associate producer as an independent grower with a contract to supply Chiquita with bananas.

Chiquita records obtained by the Enquirer show that Mr. Murray was a long-time employee of Tela. Company records reveal Mr. Murray was the administrator in the early 1990s of a Honduran company, gropecuaria Petare S.A., that was secretly controlled by Chiquita.

Tacamiche gone

The Tacamiche villagers did not dispute the company’s right to the almost 3,000 acres of plantation surrounding the village. What they did dispute was Chiquita’s claims that the company owned the 925 acres of the village proper. Honduran courts, however, upheld Chiquita’s claim to the entire property.

In 1994, the 6,000-strong Honduran union for Chiquita banana workers, SITRATERCO, struck over the proposed closings but settled several months later. Chiquita offered workers jobs on other farms or buyouts but did not make offers to the hundreds of villagers who were relatives or descendants of Chiquita workers who lived in Tacamiche.

In statements issued through its attorneys to the Enquirer, Chiquita said the company requested Honduran military police to evict the villagers as “appropriate legal action to protect its property and business interests.”

Chiquita tried to enforce its court eviction of the village several times, but villagers refused to leave. The military came into the village in February 1996 with tear gas, bulldozers and rifles. In a statement issued through its attorneys, Chiquita stated that the February eviction “took place peacefully and no one was hurt.”

Tacamiche villagers dispute that claim, arguing that shots were fired and tear gas used. Photographs of the event show soldiers with assault rifles forcibly removing women and children as bulldozers destroy the village. Several villagers claimed to the Honduran and international media at the time that they were beaten.

Chiquita in its written statement said that it eventually issued more than $360,000 in relocation costs and buyouts to set up a “new” Tacamiche on the land of a sugar company several miles away. Each family was paid about $500 by Chiquita as a “relocation subsidy.” The company also paid money to build houses or move those that had been knocked down.

Chiquita emphatically denied through its attorneys that it paid the military police who raided Tacamiche. However, in an Oct. 11, voice-mail message by Tela employee Jorge Mendoza to Chiquita attorney David Hills in Cincinnati, Mr. Mendoza detailed in-kind payments to the military for their services.

“We did have feeding expenses for the personnel and soldiers who were in all that process. There they were paid, uh, the food was bought by us from a restaurant….Car rents were paid for some of the movements that were to be done when all the necessary equipment was not available and some cars were rented by us. Fuel was administered to the army trucks that were mobilizing the soldiers and this was done before, during and after this thing was calming down.”

In its official statement, the company claimed that many of the “squatters” were in fact new people who had come into the village to cause trouble. Villagers disputed this allegation.

Regardless of such arguments, Tacamiche was a public relations disaster for Chiquita. The situation was covered widely in the Honduran press.

After the Tacamiche incident, Chiquita stopped plans to remove other nearby villages.

For the Tacamiche villagers, now ensconced in their “new” village miles away from their home, Chiquita’s decision to destroy their homes is unforgivable.

“Once you are no longer useful, they discard you,” said Juan Pablo Barahona Romero, 66, who said he had worked for Tela since 1946 before being evicted and fired. “If the president of Chiquita were ever to come down here, all I would tell him is that we want our land, to recover the place that we have always known, where we have lived our whole lives.”

Mr. Romero was let go from Chiquita after the eviction. His severance package for a lifetime of service was about $3,200 plus a house in the new Tacamiche.

(Copyright 1998)

Source

Communist Party of Colombia (Marxist-Leninist): Alfonso Cano Falls in Combat, but the Struggle Continues


The Secretariat of the Central Staff of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – Popular Army (FARC-EP), in a statement on the last day on November 5, recognizes the death of its Commanding General, comrade Alfonso Cano.

The statement highlights the history of the FARC as a source of integrity resulting Fighter Commander Cano, story begets fortitude to take the fall in combat of his head. The staff, highlights the purpose to persist in the guerrilla struggle and popular, convinced of their victory. The statement is an unequivocal rejection of the voices that give wind up the fight of his organization and all the guerrilla movement, confronting those who want to get more graves sowing peace in our land, guided by its own militarism and warmongering of state terrorism.

In fact, we call guerrilla demobilization start failed because of certain commitments and realities of structural transformation that requires the vast majority popular in Colombia. Any political solution must take this view or is it doomed to failure.

We bow our flags before the tomb fellow commander Alfonso Cano recognition of his persistent struggle against imperialism and the oligarchy and in token of sympathy with the militants of the FARC.

In these moments of grief, a tribute to Captain Pipe, the Commander Manuel Marulanda, Raúl Reyes and Iván Ríos Mono Jojoy, as well as all the workers and popular fighters fallen in combat, you keep fighting for unity of action and popular insurgency move forcefully to the national and social liberation.

Our combative and red flags on the grave of Comrade Cano!

Death to imperialism and the oligarchy!

Fighting together, we win!

People’s Liberation Army

National Command

The Colombian Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)

Central Committee

Source

PCC-ML: The Exchange of Prisoners of War

A few days after the reelection of Uribe has put on more evidence of the fragility of an illegal and illegitimate government (rejected by 73% of Colombians), fitted based on repression, lies, car bombings, paramilitary killings, extraditions, violation of fundamental economic, social and political rights, privatization, unemployment, erratic restructuring, hunger and misery.

In addition, crossed by the sharpening of the contradictions of any kind among the bourgeoisie itself, between sectors of this and imperialism and all these with the proletariat and the people, creating a situation that requires maneuvers to overcome their difficulties.

For its part, the popular sectors, forces and political organizations, democratic, progressive and revolutionary have not lowered the flag to oppose the regime, as demonstrated by the successful day of action on 26 September, which mobilized more than 350,000 people nationally and the new days as they prepare for October and November.

In this framework that the struggle for the exchange of prisoners of war, proposed by the partners of the FARC-EP and supported by broad segments of the population movements and human rights advocates nationally and internationally, although each sector owners with different interests, the fact is that the firmness in the tactics developed by the members of the FARC-EP is compounded by weaknesses in the government, which once made known the statements of the parties, we approach a chance to see achieve this objective, for the good of all prisoners, their families and the popular struggle against the warmongering, militarism and state terrorism of the “democratic security” that supports the draft Community State.

But do not confuse it with real potential, the possibility will become reality only through practical action of the people, we call upon all Democrats, liberals, patriots, revolutionaries to force the exchange through the mobilization, struggle and denunciation, to prevent the fascist Uribe and other reactionary forces continue mocking the popular desire for peace with social justice.

Viva the movement to oppose the regime!
Top Popular Unity in Latin America and the Caribbean!
Down with imperialism!
Fighting Unidos Venceremos!

Central Executive Committee
Communist Party of Colombia (Marxist-Leninist)

PCC-ML: The Crisis and Obama

The following is a translated article from the Communist Party of Colombia (Marxist-Leninist)/EPL; a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist Party that has been fighting an armed struggle in Colombia against the forces of reaction since the 1960s. The article “The Crisis and Obama” reflects the Marxist-Leninist sentiment of the Obama victory. Revolutionaries across the world and especially in America must realize that this victory is one in which we should hold no illusions.

THE CRISIS & OBAMA

November 18, 2008

The election of Barack Obama as president of the only superpower imperialist hits the world, primarily because it expresses the electoral defeat of a policy hated by the people and loving forces of progress and democracy that have seen state terrorism razing villages with their bombings and stifling the economies with rampant speculation, worker exploitation and plundering of the environment to squandered natural resources. They are all symbols of the Bush decade, which the defeated Republican candidate McCain sought to prolong.

The idea of “change” was strengthened with some approaches of the president-elect on issues like the Iraq war, human rights in the prison in Guantanamo and in Colombia associated with the discussion of the Free Trade Agreement, as well as the social needs of broad masses of Americans forgotten and beaten by two governments of the Republican Bush.

In similar measure, the victory of the Democrat Obama is associated with the struggles against racial discrimination which applies to global capitalism, while Barack has not been a bearer of actions of the kind that brought fame to Luther King, much less ideas of Malcolm X, both immolated, and use his victory to try to rejuvenate the people between the unworkable “American dream”. From there arise some expectations in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Obama has said he does have an option to dismantle imperialism, the changes will be announced in the way of saying and doing things. The changes in attitude will have no major impact on the worldwide panorama and in Latin America he will seek a change of ways to halt the progressive, democratic and leftist tendencies which inspire our people.

Obama also has achieved a Democratic majority in Congress, the majority which approved of the imperialist aggression against Cuba and Vietnam in the government of John Kennedy, who fought socialism to death, developed the nuclear arms race and permanently navigated the seven seas of the planet with a fleet of military aggression, among other actions against the sovereignty of peoples and nations such as the “Plan Colombia” by Clinton that leaves us death and misery.

This is another political reality to affirm strongly that the election of Obama does not change the essence of Yankee imperialism in politics, much less in the economy which is already committed to the “bailout” of the Bush administration to encourage the bankers to expense the savings of the American people and keep silent about the findings of the G-20 which in essence are more of the same.

The people and their real leaders will know their advantage in aspects of the government of Obama that benefit their tactics in the struggle for social liberation and national independence, a quite different illusion with the president of an imperialist power based on reason or aspects of his speech or ethnic origin, which in the cases of the hawks Condoleezza Rice and Gen. Colin Powell led to disappointment.

We cannot forget for a moment that the various monopolies have enough experience to not make the mistake of sponsoring and promoting the president who will fight them, unless he is prepared to defend them above all else.

The determined are those class interests which move the party that chose Barack Obama relying on a special time of economic and political crisis that demanded from its people and the world the idea of “if you can change” the surface, hiding the substance remains the same.

Communist Party of Colombia (Marxist-Leninist)

Political Resolution of the XIth of the CC of the PCMLV

After evaluating several plenary sessions during the global situation, we reaffirm our view that we move in successive cyclical crises which are expressed as economic reality, which is deepened especially in the imperialist countries, such as determining component of the general crisis of capitalism, which also of economic base of political and social, creating conditions for moving to a new stage, mixed by wars and revolutions, with high conflict and total decomposition of capitalist society. It is clear that the situation remains tense in the world, continues to deepen the crisis of global capitalism. Riots, demonstrations, war characterize the current moment of world reality.

Expression of this situation is the deepening of the imperialist war against Libya are, we see daily attacks against this country are increasing, and increasingly critical support of the international bourgeois institutions becomes more evident. The bombings are constant and assumptions are civilians who after all end up paying with their lives intemperate attacks of the imperialist forces NATO , Orphans, mothers weeping for their children, this is the scenario that world imperialism has built in this North African country. Unabashedly, the imperialists stole the Libyan people’s money was deposited in European banks, in order to put to the disposal of its interest warmongers. Use the money to strengthen a government coalition made up of reactionary pro-Yankees. About 200 billion dollars of Libya’s international reserves were blocked and placed at the service of imperialism, in addition to this stolen oil, the major facilities and fresh water reserves in this country.

This initially appeared as a political agreement between the imperialist powers to attack Libya, example of this was the position of China and Russia who did not realize their power of veto to prevent the invasion, then the situation worsened, the resistance the Libyan people are maintained over time, setting a problem to be solved by the imperialist powers who doubt the military intervention by land to stop these terrible negative balances and a high political and economic costs.

We understand that this aggression, as well as others made covertly, are part of the imperialist struggle for a new division of the world and are the basis on which to structure the new relationship between world powers, which leads to more wars. The deepening U.S. economic downturn will lead to more conflicts and even wars among the imperialist powers to resolve its economic contradictions.

Another country that is suffering the ravages of imperialist interference, it is Syria, where the imperialists operate in a different format, a little more discreet, are acting from intelligence agencies, on behalf of groups opposed to President Bashar Al Assad. The characteristics of the Syrian government suggests a family relationship in the areas of power, as in the case of the brother of the president who controls one of the divisions of the army and his brother who controls the intelligence services. Some try to locate the essence of this situation on tribal or ethnic differences, trying to hide the fact that regardless of their ethnic peoples seek structural changes that allow them a chance to get a better life. But improving the brevity of life is impossible in a system where the interests of capitalism are the ones that take precedence over the interests of the people and workers in general, it is clear that the intelligence services of imperialism have been mixed in with the riots try to work the ground for possible future interventions.

The acts of sabotage that the governments of Israel and the U.S. made in this country to seek also weaken Iran, Syria partner in oil and industry, hence the conflict to pursue the control of oil reserves and energy, not only this country, if not the entire region.

Importantly, the position taken by China and Russia to Libya with a complicit silence was modified with respect to the situation in Syria, as the worsening social conflict in this country, both exercised their weight as members of the Security Council to make it clearly did not support any intervention in Syria. This is due to a very momentous, Syria offered its territory to transport fuel to other countries, including Russia, making clear that Russia is involved when the conflict is economic interests are at stake with an intervention . Just to mention some good data to say that at the beginning of 2000 the trade exchange between Syria and Russia exceeded 100 million dollars, and for 2005 exceeded $ 300 million, and has continued to increase. Although it is noteworthy that these figures, in general trade of these countries, expressing only a small part of Syria’s debt to Russia, bringing the cumulative three billion dollars. This is complemented by a major military exchange. Syria even has a Russian military base on its territory, which of course must also defend the Russian government when assessing their positions and interests. A similar situation occurs with China in turn is carving the way to deepen political relations with Syria, which promises not only an intensification of efforts to control these countries, and another part of the imperialists, if not also possible contradictions between them.

In Europe, continues to advance the tension, we see the conflict in Greece again takes place in the international news, as workers have returned to the streets to develop their protests against economic measures imposed by international agencies. In Italy, the third largest economy in the euro area is expected to increase the impact of the crisis. France, imperialist country that currently is playing important role in the aggression worn in North Africa as some of the so-called Maghreb countries were colonies of France, so this, now try to regain influence and control as before, on these countries to try to secure their resources.

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PCMLV: The government of Venezuela

Will the other counter-insurgency military base?

The world left, revolutionary and social organizations of Latin America had overcome the disappointment, when he again suffered a blow, which forces us as combatants and Marxist Leninist Communist Party back on the subject.

While President Chavez has reaffirmed his supposed “honest” to proceed and said that the murderer will continue working with the Colombian people, the “lord” Manuel Santos, we will continue to fight the revolutionaries fascism treason and bourgeois and imperialist system. As we are sure, the thousands of Colombians continue demonstrating, organizing and fighting in their homeland, with arms in hand to rotten and retrograde structures of a criminal oligarchy that has always had ability to get new and better friends, now in Bolivarian ground.

The delivery of Comrade Joaquín Pérez, and more recently still, the capture of the guerrilla fighter and revolutionary singer Julián Conrado is serious, very serious, we’re all looking, disappointment not to abandon the march, but rather move through over the Social Democrats, that this confirms the thesis of our party on the bourgeois character of this government. We say this for the obvious joy that without the slightest remorse expressed by national authorities, boasting of their efficiency in capturing revolutionaries, guerrilla fighters, communists. Mr. President, let all see that it was a hot potato as Joaquín Pérez, a Venezuelan state policy, and as you can understand why we should worry and sharpens our caution about his reconciliation with fascism. “We’re not under or subject to blackmail from anyone, or the extreme left or the extreme right.” This said, his ministers and yourself, speaking to groups who questioned his performance in the case Becerra however, the government of Santos Is not one of the far-right governments in the world, one of the criminals and murderers in Latin America?

From the Rio Grande to Patagonia, from the innermost village or indigenous community, even the most distant of our continents, rising voices of protest, that you intend to silence, perhaps because this particular “new form” revolutionary action, not is nothing revolutionary nor new.

This approach favors imperialism, which have no qualms at the time of attack in any way to our country. See the example of Libya, despite the reformist and conciliatory attitude of the world imperialism Gaddafi, Libya is undergoing the most ruthless bombing by the imperialist forces of NATO.

The crisis of capitalism in the world is becoming more complex, constantly growing aggressiveness of imperialism, and reform succumb to their threats, I expressed the seventh resolution of our Party in 2010, “the grassroots and criticism the direction of those games, despite the triumphant speech, know this only demonstrates the vacillating character of its leadership and weak to make big decisions in favor of the revolution … bipartisanship, business, parliamentary theater, buying votes and the agreement under the table will be the norm to impose .. ”

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PCMLV: Editorial Revolutionary Steel No. 10, July 2011

Internal organ of the Central Committee PCMLV

All the facts confirm our thesis that we approach a general deepening crisis of capitalism. Stage, which like its predecessors, will be mediated by wars and revolutions, by intense class struggle that disrupts everything set and opens the way for a new historical moment.

The great popular movements are becoming part of everyday life, the mass media can no longer keep the workers and peoples are mobilizing to reject the measures they intend to place on their shoulders the weight of the crisis, large concentrations of young workers in general are subjugated peoples actually from North Africa, the Middle East to Europe, America, and in general all the world is a wave that moves, but still led by bourgeois conceptions, but where every day is harder working class and proletarian organizations.

On the other hand wars are spreading, the imperialist offensive shamelessly appropriating oil and other natural resources is becoming more evident. Libya is the current victim, but any country that has raw materials that are useful to the imperialists is exempt from attack. Given that only the organic organization of the proletariat in Marxist-Leninist party for further action within the masses, building the strength in military civic action can actually be deployed in a moment, as a way to stop the invader, and move towards socialist revolution, is the real option with the exploited and oppressed.

In that sense, the threat hangs over Venezuela, imperialism carries out tests and threats of aggression in different ways. The imperialist offensive is serious, to the crisis afflicting the imperialist world choose to follow the guidelines more radical, so-called hawks in the international right (ultra-right sectors) take the reins of the offensive against the peoples of the world with the boot order to force wealth across countries and possession of new lands, oil, water, land of good quality, so that’s the booty they seek, with this aim to raise resources to continue subsidizing their economies. But the capitalist economy yet still battered, only reviving the productive will succeed and it will not happen in the short term, as the medicine being applied by lowering wages, firing workers and closing businesses only leads to depression economy.

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Declaration of the Regional Latin American and Caribbean CIPOML (2011)


International Conference of Parties and Marxist-Leninist Organizations Regional Latin America

POLICY STATEMENT

U.S. imperialism and its European allies: France, England, Spain, Italy, are trying to manipulate the just struggle of the Arab peoples, to channel the indignation of the working masses and the youth towards a change of names, maintaining the economic and social structures and the weight of dependency.

After reviewing the latest events in our countries, in Latin America and the world we declare:

1. The stories told by imperialism claiming that there is a recovery from the crisis are falling apart every day, with the increasing numbers of unemployed, the decrease in production, the worsening of the fiscal deficits and the increase in the foreign debt in most of the countries of Europe, in Japan and the U.S.A., which seriously affect the supposed stability of the capitalist system and sharpening its inherent contradictions. This prolonged crisis that is affecting all the countries of the world shows not only the failure of the recovery policies implemented by imperialism, but also the decay of the system, which is mortally wounded and incapable of guaranteeing the well-being and freedom for which humanity is struggling.

2. The struggle of the working class, the working people, the youth and the peoples is spreading all over the world. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Syria, Yemen and other countries of North Africa and Asia Minor are an example of the struggle against the reactionary dictatorships and governments, who with the applause of the bourgeoisies and the imperialist powers have sunk these peoples into the deepest crisis, hunger and the cruelest misery, despite the immense wealth generated by the exploitation of oil, gas and other natural resources. In addition, with the complicity of the UN they resort to military intervention, to the bombing of the civilian population in Libya, using the pretext of the fight against tyranny, all with the aim of guaranteeing the established order and the continuity of all its profits that are the product of colonization and exploitation of these peoples. We completely reject the foreign intervention in Libya. It is up to the Libyan people themselves to resolve the problems of their country. No more military aggression and intervention in Afghanistan and Palestine! We Communists raise the banner of self-determination, sovereignty, well-being and freedom!

3. Active and valiant opposition to imperialism and the reactionary governments is also alive in Europe. In Greece, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Ireland, France, England and other countries of Europe there has been a general rejection of the reduction in wages, the pension reforms, the increase in taxes, privatizations and the reduction of the budgets for health care, education, housing and in general of all the legislative programs by which the crisis is being placed on the shoulders of the working masses. Numerous strikes and mobilizations are showing an important revival of the working class and youth that is again speaking out for unity and the political initiative to confront the recovery policies and to reject the reactionary governments. The great mobilizations of youths that are taking place in Spain and other European countries deserve particular mention, which show the exhaustion of bourgeois democracy and the search for roads to social liberation.

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