Category Archives: El Salvador

ICMLPO: Resolution of Solidarity with the People of Haiti

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By decision of the Security Council of the United Nations, Haiti has been militarily occupied by MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti] since June 1, 2004.

This occupation is taking place under the excuse that it is a humanitarian mission that aims to “stabilize the country,” but it is actually trying to prevent the Haitian people from exercising their sovereignty and their right to self-determination.

After 10 years of occupation Haiti is in a serious political and institutional situation, with a sharp decline in democratic rights and a permanent state of violent repression of popular demonstrations for social, economic and political demands.

MINUSTAH also guarantees the entry of capital from multinational enterprises that are taking over strategic areas of the economy, such as mega-mining, luxury tourism, agro-exports and maquiladoras.

The United States, France and Canada are leading the strategic intelligence and planning of the occupation, and what is most unfortunate is that Latin American governments that claim to be democratic, such as Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and El Salvador maintain occupation troops over this fraternal country and people.

Most of the Haitian people, 89% according to a survey, reject the occupation and demand that it be immediately ended, and they are systematically carrying out demonstrations.

The International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations supports the people of Haiti in this demand and calls on its members and the peoples of Latin America to express militant solidarity with this people, which began the struggle for independence from European colonialism, especially of France, in the Americas.

The ICMLPO will develop a campaign of solidarity with Haiti in coordination with the revolutionary organizations in that country, on the occasion of the 211 anniversary of the independence of that fraternal people.

20th Plenary of the ICMLPO

Communist Party of Benin
Revolutionary Communist Party – Brazil
Revolutionary Communist Party of Volta (Burkina Faso)
Communist Party of Colombia (Marxist Leninist)
Workers’ Communist Party of Denmark
Communist Party of Labor of the Dominican Republic
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador
Communist Party of the Workers of France
Organization for the Construction of the Communist Workers’ Party of Germany
Movement for the Reorganization of the KKE (1918-1955) Greece
Revolutionary Democracy Organization of India
Party of Labor of Iran (Toufan)
Communist Platform of Italy
Communist Party of Mexico (Marxist-Leninist)
Democratic Way of Morocco
Workers Front of Pakistan
Peruvian Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)
Communist Party of Spain (Marxist-Leninist)
Workers’ Party of Tunisia
Party of Labor of Turkey
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Venezuela

Turkey, November 2014

Source

Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador (PCMLE): The Progressive Governments of Latin America

 

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From Unity & Struggle No. 25, Spring/Summer 2013

Ecuador

Progress is the evolution from the lower to the higher, from the simple to the complex, it is the upward march of the material and spiritual. It is the modernization of the country. Marxism-Leninism, the revolution and the left are genuine expressions of progressivism. Not everything progressive is leftist and revolutionary and much less Marxist Leninist.

“The existence in Latin America of several progressive governments is the result of the development and growth of the struggle of workers, the peoples and youth who overcame the ebb caused by the collapse of ‘actually existing socialism.’ It is a consequence of the recovery by the left-wing and revolutionary political organizations and parties, of the incorporation into these mobilizations of a part of the middle classes and strata, of the intelligentsia. That is, it is an expression of the strength of the working class, of the other laboring classes of the city and the countryside, of the left and the communists, but it also expresses the shortcomings and weaknesses of the mass movement, of the revolutionary left and, in Ecuador in particular, of the limitations of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party. This party made the decision to become directly involved in the process, to contend inch by inch for a prominent place in the struggles, but it has lacked sufficient strength to influence more significantly the imagination, organization and action of the popular sectors that have fought and continue to fight. These limitations have allowed the result of these expressions to be channeled towards elections, to the formation of governments headed by personalities of the petty-bourgeoisie who proclaimed the change.”1

1 Pablo Miranda, “The Struggle of the Workers and the Peoples against Imperialism,” Unity and Struggle No. 23, October, 2011.

Since 1998, when Hugo Chavez won the presidency of Venezuela, Latin America has seen the election of several progressive governments, among them: Lula in Brazil, Evo Morales in Bolivia, the Broad Front in Uruguay, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Correa in Ecuador, Funes in El Salvador, Lugo in Paraguay, Cristina Fernandez in Argentina.

To explain these new circumstances we must consider some historical and political events from the immediate past:

The revolutionary wave that shook the world and Latin America in the 1960s and ‘70s was followed by a furious onslaught of imperialism and reaction that used all their resources to put out the flames of the popular and national insurgency.

Neoliberalism – the policy of finance capital to overcome the economic crisis – devised the return to the classical principles of liberalism, “laissez faire,” full freedom of trade for the monopolies and the imperialist countries, with that aim it demanded the dismantling of the state sectors of the economy, the privatization of health care, education and social security, labor flexibility and further measures that would allow for the increase of the accumulation and concentration of wealth while disarming the movement and struggle of the workers and peoples.

The imposition of neoliberalism beyond the economies of the imperialist countries themselves took place violently in the great majority of the dependent countries; in Latin America, with the establishment of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, with sponsorship and support by the reactionary governments who docilely accepted its programs, with the subordination of the social-democratic governments that succumbed to these policies, some of them even modified their programs to put them in line with the imperialist proposals.

Since the 1980s, faced with the deepening economic crisis in most countries of Latin America and the world, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) imposed a series of measures that tried to ward off the crisis, but actually they sharpened it. These were the famous “structural adjustment programs” that ordered the elimination of subsidies for fuel prices and fares, the privatization of education, health care and social security, labor flexibility, the freedom to hire and fire workers, the limitation of union rights and restriction of the right to organize, etc.. They put into play the infamous “letters of intent,” under which the governments sought financial assistance and subordinated themselves to the IMF conditions.

The workers and popular movement, the left-wing and revolutionary political organizations, the Marxist-Leninist forces are facing this onslaught of capital with important social movements, general strikes, national work stoppages and struggles in the street. Each “adjustment program” was rejected head-on by the workers and people. In the cities and the countryside heroic battles took place, which were beaten by the “forces of order,” the police and armed forces. In the popular camp blows were received, the dead were buried, the wounded were healed, the persecuted were defended and there were fights for the freedom of the captured social activists.

New social actors who were actively involved in the struggle for general motives, for their rights and aspirations, reappeared and developed: ecologists and environmentalists, activists who defend nature from the depredations of capital, which was seen in almost all countries in a militant manner; to a large degree, these actions were added to the objectives and struggles of the workers. Various forms of the organization and fight of the women in defense of their rights gained strength and displayed initiatives, in opposition to gender discrimination. In various places their persistence in their protests and fights placed the most advanced sectors of the women as part of the forces of social emancipation.

The movement of the indigenous peoples, the struggle for their national rights and their participation in the political struggle broke out in various countries and assumed an important role in the struggle for social and national liberation. In Latin America the movement of the indigenous peoples and nationalities broke out across the board with the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America by the Spanish. This is particularly important in Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Guatemala; it exists and is expressed in almost all countries; it continues to be an active part of the process of social and national liberation.

Towards the end of the 1980s the class struggle developed intermittently in every country in Latin America: the workers of the city and the countryside, the youth and the indigenous peoples were protagonists in the great battles against neoliberalism and the reactionary governments. In Venezuela the Caracazo took place that shook the government. In the Dominican Republic there were harsh battles against the bloodthirsty Balaguer government. In Argentina powerful workers’ strikes took place. In Colombia the armed struggle won important victories. In Ecuador combative strikes and nationwide work stoppages took place in opposition to the attempts to impose neoliberalism.

Signs of an ebb

The imposition of labor flexibility, the closures of enterprises due to the crisis, the anti-communist offensive of reaction and imperialism, the promotion of the economic and political theses of neoliberalism, the conciliatory and sell-out activities of revisionism and opportunism weakened and dispersed the workers and popular movement in all countries (obviously in an uneven manner).

The anti-communist offensive, the whole barrage of reactionary ideas that proclaimed the end of socialism and the defeat of the revolution, the end of history and ideologies, the invincibility of capitalism; the betrayal by the revisionists and the fall of the Berlin Wall had a negative effect on the movement of the workers and peoples; it impacted on the left-wing and revolutionary organizations; some of them dissolved and in general all were weakened, some guerrilla formations were defeated and others laid down their arms and renounced the revolutionary struggle.

This seemed to pave the road for triumphant imperialism.

But despite the adverse conditions, the blows received and the defeats suffered, the workers and popular movements never gave up, they continued to fight: at first they went over to resistance and gradually recovered.

The 1990s were characterized as an ebb in the social and revolutionary struggle; indeed there were major setbacks for the movement of the workers and peoples, for the revolutionary parties and organizations: the defeat of socialism in Albania, the peace accords signed by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front in El Salvador, the collapse of the USSR, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the dirty war in Colombia; in general the movement of workers and peoples suffered a serious reversal.

The harshest impact was the result of the intense anti-communist ideological offensive: the preaching that socialism had shown itself to be a failure, that capitalism had shown itself to be a superior system, the futility of the revolution since the sacrifices that it cost only served to return to the same, the incompetence of the political parties and particularly of the communist party to fulfill the role of organizer and leader of the revolution, etc., etc.

Neoliberalism was imposed in almost the whole world, and Latin America was no exception. However, the attempt to use neoliberal policies to overcome the crisis in the international financial system were not fulfilled; rather, they suffered important blows as a result of the irresolvable contradictions of the capitalist system: the increasing socialization of production and the appropriation and concentration of the wealth created; free competition; the development of new monopolies and other imperialist countries, and of course, as a consequence of the resistance of the workers and peoples.

The victory songs of reaction and imperialism regarding the end of communism and of the revolutionary struggle clashed with reality, with the resistance of the workers and with the popular fights. In some countries the 1990s were the scene of the emergence of great social and political movements: the indigenous uprising in Ecuador in 1990, the removal of Collor de Melo as President of Brazil in 1992, major general strikes in France, Germany and Italy, the emergence of the Zapatista National Liberation Army in Mexico in 1994, the overthrow of Abdala Bucaram in Ecuador in 1996, the resistance to the despotism of Sanchez de Lozada in Bolivia, the electoral victory of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

The coming of the 21st century dawned with the popular uprising that overthrew President Mahuad in January 2000, which gave impetus to a new stage in the struggles of the masses in Ecuador.

The social and political situation in Latin America at the beginning of the new millennium

In all Latin American countries one can find two very important variables:

On the one side the exhaustion of neoliberalism, the failure of neoliberal monetarist measures to ward off the crisis. The adjustments demanded by the IMF were linked to more and more new measures and the economies of the countries deteriorated rapidly, public finances had greater deficits, the foreign debt grew and social spending was cut drastically.

At the same time, the ruling classes, institutions, governments, parliaments, the armed forces, the judiciary, the political parties, the personalities of politics and power rapidly used up their resources, they were quickly discredited before the working masses, the youth and democratic public opinion; they were trapped in the web of corruption and drug trafficking; they lost credibility; in some countries subjective conditions were created to replace them. The slogans of “get out,” “let them all go,” “put an end to the cliques,” “enough of the rings,” “away with the old parties,” “refound the country,” “new people,” “change already,” etc. were chanted everywhere.

On the other hand, the discontent and dissatisfaction of the working masses, the peoples and the youth were expressed in the increase in popular struggles, in a sustained increase in the struggle of the masses, which were shown unevenly in different countries of Latin America. To a large degree the consciousness of the masses about their own role in solving their problems is growing, the distrust of a significant sector of them in the institutions, in the bourgeois political parties, in the spokespersons and leaders of those on top. The search for alternatives to the situation went beyond the channel and content of the union struggle; the idea of fighting to take over the government advanced.

The political crisis is deepening to various degrees in all Latin American countries. The ruling classes and the reactionary and social-democratic political parties have shown themselves impotent to propose and pursue solutions that will enable them to resolve their problems and fully preserve their interests.

The working masses and the youth are seeking alternatives

Decades of confrontation in defense of their interests have failed to stem the onslaught of neoliberalism; strikes, marches, struggles in the street and work stoppages are expressions of courage and valor, but they have limits, they cannot stop the implementation of the “adjustment programs.” On the other hand, in several countries, the guerrilla struggle has been defeated, some of the revolutionary military formations have renounced the armed struggle, some have rejected that road; in any case, the revolutionary armed struggle is not seen as an immediate alternative by the peoples.

The great demonstrations of the social struggle that have taken place in almost all countries of Latin America are, to some extent, in advance of the decisions and abilities of the organizations and political parties of the revolutionary left. Every day the masses show a great potential for the creation and implementation of various forms of struggle, they are creative in the defensive and offensive in the various forms of strike struggle and street struggle.

The revisionist parties and other opportunist groups are active in the ideological disarming of the working class, the peoples and youth; they eagerly chant that the union organization has been overtaken by history, that “the unions do not work, the social movements are the new actors,” that the masses, their mobilization and action do not need political parties and organizations, that they are enough in themselves for the struggle for their liberation, they rail against “authoritarianism” and “lack of democracy,” against the great experiences of the proletariat in power, of socialism, of the communist party.

The Marxist-Leninist parties and other revolutionary organizations that have shown themselves to be consistent in their struggle against imperialism and capitalism suffer from weaknesses and limitations: they are small, weak, without sufficient links with the working masses and youth and, sometimes and in some places they lose the ability to show appropriate alternatives. Although they are involved in the new scenarios, they do not have the strength and skill to enable them to lead the discontent of the workers and peoples.

The working masses have struggled tirelessly for their immediate demands, for wages, stability, land, housing, etc. They have won partial victories and are continuing the social struggle. In the field of political confrontation, in the electoral disputes most working people were the object of ideological manipulation of the various forms of the ruling classes, their political parties, their political bosses and leaders. The great resources of the media are used (and continue to be) to propose change, the solution of their problems. The masses are seeking change and they “found” it in the bourgeois personality or party that could claim to satisfy those expectations more directly. Many of the workers and peoples were active in the union struggle and in the elections they voted for the bosses.

Under these conditions there has been a qualitative leap in the social and political behavior of the working masses of the city and the countryside, of the youth and the indigenous peoples.

The search for change takes different paths:

1. Popular uprisings have taken place seeking to overthrow corrupt governments: in Venezuela against Carlos Andres Perez, who was forced to resign; in Ecuador against Bucaram, Mahuad and Gutierrez, who were overthrown by the masses in the street; in Argentina against De la Rua and the various governments that tried to succeed him; in Bolivia against Sanchez de Lozada. The popular uprising against Mahuad in Ecuador aimed to bring down the President, Congress and the Court of Justice and managed to nominate a Board of Government of short duration. These actions show the strength of the workers, people and youth, their ability to overthrow the tyrants; but they also show their weaknesses that could be summed up in what is said in the streets of Quito. “We were able to overthrow the government but we could not put one of our own in the Presidency; they same ones as always returned.”

2. The discrediting of the traditional bourgeois parties, their leaders and programs put limits on the ability of ideological manipulation by the rulers, they open the roads to other alternatives. In some countries such as Venezuela, the pendulum that swung between social democracy and the social Christians, the corruption and repression practically eliminated COPEI [Political Electoral Independent Organization Committee, a social-Christian party] and AD [Democratic Action, a social-democratic party – translator’s note]. In Ecuador, the traditional bourgeois parties are called the “partidocracy,” they have lost prestige and were defeated.

3. Popular political parties and organizations that have been fighting in the social and electoral arena for decades are beginning to gain ground in the elections at the presidential level; previously they had significant achievements and experience in local governments; they are winning the vote of the workers, peasants and youth for their positions.

4. New political parties and organizations are being formed that claim to be “left-wing and revolutionary, democratic and open, anti-dogmatic and creative”; by their rebellious, and alternative discourse they lash out at the oligarchy and dependence, but also at the communist and socialist parties that have been fighting since the early decades of the 20th century.

5. The ideological offensive of reaction and imperialism that had targeted socialism and communism is complemented by criticism and questioning of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the revolution and socialism, with the proposals of “20th century socialism” and under the various names of the Bolivarian, Andean and citizen’s revolution.

6. The desire for change by the working masses and the youth is being channeled by political forces that are rebellious, progressive, “left social-democrats”, by political bosses and leaders of the trade union and peasant struggles, by personalities from academia that appear as “new.”

7. We, the Marxist-Leninist parties in Latin America have always been involved in the struggle of the masses, we have done our share in the organization and the strike struggle, in the popular uprisings, but we did not have the strength to channel the desire for change and the search for alternatives of the workers and peoples. We are involved in the processes seeking to deepen them and provide them a revolutionary direction

The rise of the progressive governments

As we noted above, various political forces and personalities came to power through elections and changed the political map of Latin America. The forms and expressions by which the various alternative governments came to the leadership of the State differ from one another, but obviously there are some commonalities, some constant elements that show that the phenomenon is not an isolated incident, but corresponds to an ideological and political current running throughout Latin America.

i. important and massive mobilization of the working masses, the peoples and the youth who questioned neoliberal policies and in some cases made them collapse.

ii. all the electoral platforms presented programs that are democratic, anti-neoliberal, anti-U.S., left-wing and for social and economic achievements to benefit the poor.

iii. an important social and political rhetoric that called itself left-wing and revolutionary, that criticized the partidocracy, the oligarchy and imperialism.

iv. the support and militant participation of leftist political parties and organizations who provided their ability and experience in the process of their coming into office and, in the first stage of these governments, strongly supported them.

v. these processes had the participation of the parties and organizations of the revolutionary left, of our Marxist-Leninist formations that fought in Latin America that supported them, but we could not lead them along the revolutionary path due to the relationship of forces and our weaknesses and limitations.

We have outlined some general issues, but we must emphasize that each process has its own nature, its own ideological and political characteristics which, while they are each different they form parts of a whole and for a certain time.

The space available and the limitations of our information only allow us to draw very broad brush strokes of each of these processes.

Brazil

In Brazil, after decades of political struggle against the military dictatorship, of large mobilizations of the working class for their rights, of the youth for alternatives for their progress and development, after several elections in which various sectors of the ruling classes imposed themselves in office, Lula’s election victory as President took place in 2003. To achieve this purpose for which he had struggled for years, Lula and the Workers Party (PT) made an alliance with a party of the right wing that took the Vice Presidency. The same thing happened in the second election.

An alternative of the “left,” a president from the working class, a union leader, fighter against the military dictatorship won the elections. That victory aroused great expectations among tens of millions of Brazilians and Latin Americans.

Lula governed for two presidential terms (2003-2010) and was able to push the victory of his successor, Dilma Russef, the current president. Both of them won great acclaim among Brazilians and apparently have the ability to win again in the next presidential elections.

Brazil’s economic structure has not changed; it is still a capitalist country. During this period the country has rapidly modernized, its industry has grown significantly, its agricultural sector has expanded greatly, to the detriment of the Amazon rainforest; the exploitation of minerals, especially iron, has increased; it has become self-sufficient in the production and utilization of petroleum. As a great country by the size of its territory and population, by the magnitude of its natural resources and its geostrategic position, Brazil has become the seventh largest world economy, one of the engines of capitalism, one of the emerging powers.

The old dream of the Brazilian big bourgeoisie to become a great power, in alliance with international big capital, Great Brazil is taking shape under a progressive government under the leadership of a union leader. The military could not take this step during their long dictatorship and the application of the IMF measures, none of the previous governments, of the right or of traditional social democracy were able to do this. It was achieved by a government that calls itself left-wing.

At the base of Brazilian society, nearly two hundred million people who form the toiling masses remain under capitalist exploitation and oppression, creating the wealth for the international monopolies and the big Brazilian businesses. At the same time, the country is facing a process of growing deindustrialization and denationalization of its economy. With the policy of high interests Brazil has received big investments from foreign capital, which ultimately contributed to the concentration and monopolization of wealth. Trade union rights are restricted, retirement pensions have been cut and the retirement age increased, millions of peasants are landless. Brazil remains one of the most unequal countries.

The proposals for change, for the liberation of the workers, of social equality, of socialism remain just words; the PT government is one more government that represents the interests of the big Brazilian bourgeoisie, the international monopolies and the imperialist countries.

In Brazil, as in all countries, the revolution and socialism are a historical necessity, they are an objective of the workers, people and youth.

Uruguay

In Uruguay, an alliance of the left with Christian democracy and political formations that broke away from the traditional parties, the Broad Front, formed in 1971 with a long history of trade union and electoral struggle, won the presidential elections in 2004. It broke the age-old rule of the bourgeois parties and raised expectations within and outside the country. The Front had the strength and ability to hold onto the government in 2009, with Jose Mujica, a former Tupamaro guerrilla.

In reality the progressive government of Uruguay has created an administration that essentially abides by neoliberal guidelines. The country remains subordinate to the IMF and the World Bank; it has opened the doors to foreign investment. Now there is a popular left-wing opposition that denounces the capitalist character of the Broad Front government and the violation of civil liberties and trade union rights.

In Uruguay the evils of capitalism continue to exist, the revolution and socialism are on the agenda.

Nicaragua

In Nicaragua in 1979 the popular revolution led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front overthrew the Somoza dictatorship. This event was identified as a new successful revolution in Latin America, twenty years after the Cuban Revolution.

The Sandinistas began to dismantle the dictatorial institutions and pushed through certain rather timid reforms. In reality the capitalist structure of the country remained. In presidential elections called under the pressure of U.S. imperialism and European social democracy, the Sandinistas were defeated. The expectations created by the victory of the armed uprising quickly went up in smoke.

The Sandinista Front decided to resort to the electoral path to regain the presidency of the republic and succeeded with a platform that proclaimed national reconciliation and peace, under Daniel Ortega in 2006. After one presidential term Ortega won reelection in 2011.

The progressive government of Nicaragua has carried out a major welfare policy that, compared with the administration of the openly right-wing governments of the immediate past has improved the living conditions of the Nicaraguans.

It is abundantly clear that capitalism, its structures and rules are still in force in Nicaragua.

El Salvador

The people of El Salvador have been waging a heroic struggle for social and material progress, freedom and democracy, and in their advanced sectors for the revolution and socialism.

In 1928 there was a large strike of banana workers against the United Fruit Company that was fiercely repressed, leaving more than a thousand dead among the strikers and the people who supported them. In 1932 a popular armed insurrection broke out led by the Communist Party and Comrade Farabundo Marti, who fought heroically but was defeated by the oligarchy and imperialism with a massacre of 30,000 martyrs.

In the 1970-80s the revolutionary armed struggle was begun again, leading to a major process of unity of the various fronts and alternatives, which proclaimed as its goal the establishment of socialism. The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front developed high levels of people’s war, confronting a ferocious dirty war unleashed by the bourgeoisie and imperialism, and it won major political and geographical openings that portended a popular victory.

These important actions of the Salvadoran people were negotiated by the Leadership of the FMLN, which agreed to a “peace” and the surrender of arms in January of 1992.

Since then the FMLN has become a political party and participated in several elections for the Presidency of the Republic, which it finally achieved with Mauricio Funes, a personality from outside its ranks, presented as an outsider in politics in 2009.

The Funes government, another one of the progressive governments in Latin America, soon distanced itself from the politics of the left, limiting itself to a welfare policy, leaving itself out of ALBA.

Clearly, the long and bloody struggle of the revolutionaries and the people of El Salvador for freedom and socialism has not achieved victory, which is still on the agenda.

Paraguay

Since Paraguay is landlocked, the war of the Triple Alliance of Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia allied against Paraguay, have led the country to a kind of isolation from the other countries of South America.

For a long period Paraguay was led by a nationalist and patriotic policy, headed by Dr. Francia. For more than 30 years it suffered the brutal, reactionary and anti-communist dictatorship of Stroessner. After the fall of the dictator, the Colorado Party continued to rule.

Paraguay has up to now been a country ruled by the landowners and agricultural exporters, with little industrial development. Under these conditions, the peasant movement, together with the teachers and youth, have been the main actors in the political struggle for social change.

In the presidential elections of 2008 an alternative candidate won who did not belong to any of the traditional parties. He came from long community work, from his position as a Catholic priest. In order to win the elections former Bishop Fernando Lugo formalized an alliance with the Authentic Radical Liberal Party, an opposition to the Colorado Party from other positions of the ruling classes.

In the present Latin American context of the existence of several progressive governments, Lugo’s victory was hailed as another one that joined the current. Lugo himself was incorporated into that sector. In fact the demands of the peasants and other popular sectors were pushed aside. The promise of land reform was shelved. The trade union and political freedoms remained restricted.

In June of 2112 Lugo was removed from office in a summary trial whose decision was accepted to the benefit of democracy and he was replaced by the Vice President. The experience of another of the progressive governments was ended in this manner, without much resistance.

In Paraguay a good part of the peasant movement and of the revolutionary left did not support Lugo; during his government he pursued a policy of demands and now the fight for social and national liberation continues.

Argentina

In 2002 the Argentinazo took place, an explosion of the workers, people and youth who threw out the Radical Party government of De la Rua, proclaiming the slogan “they should all go,” experimenting with the formation of Popular Assemblies and throwing out four governments that were created institutionally to defend the established order.

This great uprising of the working masses and youth had the strength and ability to throw out successive representatives of the bourgeoisie but it was unable to gain power.

Bourgeois democracy, immersed in a deep economic and political crisis caused by the abandonment of the “convertibility” of the peso, corruption and the discrediting of the political parties, the exhaustion of the neoliberal policies, still had the power to redirect the desire for change and popular struggle into elections.

In 2003, the progressive wing of Peronism led by Kirchner won the plurality with 22% of the votes. The withdrawal of Menen from the runoff led to his winning.

Progressive Peronism returned to office after more than 20 years and applied a government program that restored the subsidies and bought back the companies privatized by the same Peronism led by Menen. However he continued the policy of deindustrialization and the return to primary goods of the economy. This was favored by the high price of soy and to a great degree he could fix the fiscal crisis and put forward an intense welfare policy based on patronage. On the international level Argentina was aligned with the other progressive governments and sealed an alliance with the big Brazilian bourgeoisie in the framework of Mercosur.

Kirchner’s program was able to secure its social base, achieving continuity with the election of his wife Cristina Fernandez in 2007. After Kirchner’s death, Cristina became his heir and successor as president, winning reelection in 2011

Cristina has stated outright that she is seeking to carry out a “rational capitalism” and has used repression against the peasants and workers.

The progressive government of Fernandez is, by its own admission, a capitalist government; thus in Argentina the need for the revolution and socialism continues to be on the agenda.

Bolivia

Bolivia is a multinational state. The Spanish conquest could not crush or eliminate the indigenous nationalities and peoples. The Quechua and Aymara defended and preserved the essence of their culture, they have always been the majority of the population, there is a similar situation with the more than two dozen smaller nationalities that still exist; the Bolivian mestizos are a growing and developing people. The ruling classes, the landlords, the mine owners, bankers and businessmen have always come from the mestizos and through their economic and political power, they became the dominant nation.

The Bolivian workers in the mines and the fledgling industries, the peasants mostly from the indigenous peoples and nationalities, and also, of course, from the mestizos were and are the creators of the wealth. They were always at the bottom of the social pyramid, they were oppressed and exploited.

For centuries they have been the protagonists of great exploits in pursuit of freedom and democracy, their blood watered the struggle for independence from Spain, they carried out great struggles for the possession of the land, for the nationalization of the mines, in opposition to national discrimination, for freedom and democracy. In 1952 they lead a great democratic revolution that was taken over by the bourgeoisie. In the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s they fought heroically against a series of fascistic military dictatorships.

At the beginning of the 21st century they led the so-called water war and later overthrew the Sanchez de Lozada government.

Demanding the rights of the indigenous peoples, a trade union fighter who led the coca-cultivating peasants, Evo Morales led the indigenous and popular struggle into elections and on the second attempt he won the Presidency of the Republic in 2005.

There emerged a progressive alternative, meaning access to the government by the indigenous peoples; proposing the refounding of the country, the establishment of a multinational State, the nationalization of the mines and petroleum, health care and education and opposed to neoliberalism. The government of Evo Morales quickly aligned itself with the other progressive governments, it awakened great expectations among the working masses and the peoples of Bolivia and even abroad, among the workers and peoples and among the left and the revolutionaries.

After enacting a new constitution and a period of economic and social achievements aimed at the indigenous peoples who had been impoverished for centuries, he was re-elected in 2009.

The government of Evo Morales has been subjected to pressure from imperialism and the bourgeoisie, from the right; and to the demands of the workers and indigenous peoples, who have been forced to recreate the old forms of struggle, marches, street demonstrations, general strikes and hunger strikes opposing the neoliberal measures such as the gasolinazo in 2011, the devastation of the environment by the construction of roads, the shortage and high price of food.

In Bolivia the class struggle continues with the workers, peoples and youth taking the lead. The peoples of Bolivia are still poor in a country extremely rich in natural resources.

The Constitution has changed, important efforts have been made to build multiculturalism, but the economic and social structures remain private capitalist property. The social revolution and socialism are, as yesterday, a need and task of the workers.

Venezuela

In opposition to the social democratic and Christian socialist governments who took turns in power since the overthrow of the Perez Jimenez dictatorship in 1958, Venezuela was the scene of many battles by the workers and people, the student youth in opposition to widespread corruption, the alienation by the international monopolies of wealth generated by oil operations, waste and fanfare of the ruling cliques.

These struggles shook the streets and plazas of the Venezuelan cities; they increased the determination of the masses to overthrow the institutional structures. Political analysts spoke of thousands of protests that took place every year.

In 1989, there was the so-called Caracazo, a genuine popular uprising that aroused Caracas demanding the departure of the government and great social and economic demands. This great action led to the resignation of Carlos Andres Perez from the Presidency but it could not avoid the constitutional succession that let everything stay the same.

Earlier, in the 1960s in Venezuela there was a valiant guerrilla movement involving thousands of fighters, which was defeated because of insufficient ties to the life and struggle of the working masses and the student youth, to small armed group deviations and of course of the military superiority of the armed forces aided by imperialism. Those struggles resulted in the formation of important revolutionary political cadres.

In February of 1992 there was a military uprising led by Colonel Hugo Chavez, which was defeated by the military high command, but which showed that the discontent and dissatisfaction had penetrated the barracks. The rebels were sentenced to prison and later pardoned.

In 1998 Hugo Chavez led an electoral alternative of the left, very powerful and militant against the domination of the traditional parties, the social democrats and social Christians; he brought together the sense of dissatisfaction of the majority of Venezuelans, which led him to victory in the first round.

Since then Chavez has been heading a democratic government that has used the vast oil resources for the benefit of the poorest sectors of society; with the people of the slums, he has in fact created a parallel State with so-called “missions” that are carrying through an aggressive welfare policy, that is providing education, health care and welfare for the masses. He is pushing forward major social reforms to benefit those on pensions, the workers and peasants. He pushed the State to take over the whole oil industry, although recently he has made concessions to the Chinese. He has nationalized a large number of industrial and trading companies, and major mass media.

Chavez has been promoting a forceful ideological offensive that is letting him form and preserve a significant social base that has given him successive electoral victories. He has been reelected three times and has a popular mandate until 2019, almost 20 years. This offensive promotes Chavez’s personal leadership; it proclaims 21st century socialism, the “Bolivarian revolution” and the role of the masses. It is the only progressive government that relies on the mobilization of the masses.

However basically, the banks and big capitalist enterprises remain intact, as do the U.S. foreign investments and those of other imperialist countries. The social revolution has not yet taken place in Venezuela.

Ecuador

The long struggle of the workers and peoples, the expectations and mobilization of the youth in opposition to neoliberalism and the oligarchic governments goes back a long way, since the last century; it goes hand in hand with workers strikes, peasant struggles for land, fights of the youth for education and freedom, the fight against the dictatorship and against the neoliberal governments, the uprisings of the indigenous peoples that have shown that they have strength at the national level since the indigenous uprising of 1990 (before then the indigenous mobilizations were partial and isolated). They continue with the popular uprisings that overthrew the governments of Bucaram in 1997, Mahuad in 2000 and Gutierrez in 2005; they are advancing by way of the electoral participation together with the left and the indigenous movement.

In 2006 they supported the candidacy of Correa and led it to victory. Before, they had supported Gutierrez and when he betrayed them they learned how to fight and overthrow him.

Correa’s victory was made possible by the growth of the masses’ desire for change, by the discrediting of the bourgeois parties, by the search for alternatives in the electoral arena, by the stance of a new candidate who promoted change, who developed a patriotic and left-wing discourse.

Since then the government developed a welfare policy in favor of the poorest sectors of the city and countryside, the Human Development Bonus was raised to $35 from the $12 set by the previous governments, he proclaimed free education and has carried this out to a large degree, similarly with health care. He aligned himself with the progressive governments in Latin America, joined ALBA and preaches a nationalist discourse with leadership qualities.

Under the government of Correa, who was re-elected after the adoption of the new Constitution in 2009 and who is now running for a third term in February of 2013, the big bankers and businessmen, though they have not directly run the government, have obtained the biggest profits in history; the rich have become richer and the poor remain poor (Correa began his government by distributing the poverty bonus to one million people, now he distributes it to nearly two million, since the poor have increased in number). Private ownership of the means of production continues unchanged and by the admission of the President himself this will continue to be respected.

The ideological offensive of the Correa government is massive and persistent, he monopolizes the whole media, based on the President’s media image, he spouts demagogic verbiage, diatribes and insults against his opponents. He proclaims the “citizens’ revolution,” “socialism of the 21st century” and that “the country now belongs to everyone.” In words he condemns the oligarchy and imperialism and he persecutes and condemns the social activists. The criminalization of the social struggle is developing to a greater degree than under all the previous governments, hundreds of rank-and-file leaders are prosecuted, accused of sabotage and terrorism, and more than two dozen militants of the left are in prison, convicted of terrorism.

Correa quickly changed course, his initial progressive and leftist proposals went “straight to the right.” He now rules for the bankers and businessmen, for the major exporters and importers.

Obviously the old partidocracy wants to return to office and is leading the bourgeois opposition, to replace him through elections.

In this scenario, the social organizations and movements, the left-wing political organizations and parties denounced in a timely manner the move to the right and they formed the popular opposition, defending the interests of the workers, indigenous peoples and youth. They are following the electoral path; they have come together in the Multinational Coordinator of the Left and are prepared for a tough battle in the next election.

Against all predictions that Correa is the favorite, the popular and left-wing alterative is advancing and following a path to victory.

The evolution of the progressive governments in Latin America

Earlier we pointed out that each of the progressive governments of Latin America has its own essence and characteristics, it follows its own course. We also said that there are common elements that distinguish them from the other bourgeois governments in Latin America and that have allowed them to play a role in the international arena.

They have agreed on proposals and approaches at the OAS (Organization of American States), the UN and other international forums.

Venezuela, because of the significant surpluses produced by high oil prices, has developed a trade and aid policy favorable to the other countries.

Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines have formed ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) that is seeking trade integration, but fundamentally a political orientation on the continent. ALBA has not been able to integrate all the progressive governments precisely because of political differences.

All the progressive governments emerged as alternative and left-wing proposals, they base themselves on the desire for change by the masses and in their early period they fulfilled some of their campaign promises and therefore they received successive support.

They emerged under favorable international conditions, when U.S. imperialism was bogged down in the Middle East. The economic crisis that shook the capitalist imperialist world did not affect them substantially; they have been favored by rising prices of petroleum, iron and other raw materials, by the high prices for agricultural products that have allowed them to have significant cash resources to promote public works and an aggressive welfare policy. However, the direction of the economy of the respective countries continues on the paths of neoliberalism. They all base their economy on extractive industries and agriculture, in all the countries the policies of deindustrialization continue.

On the one hand they were subjected to pressure from imperialism, mainly U.S. imperialism, from the native oligarchies and the political right-wing and, on the other hand to the demands of the working masses, the peoples, youth and left-wing political organizations and parties to fulfill their promises, to advances on the patriotic and democratic path.

At one point, they were all governments in dispute, they were in the center of the storm. That situation was circumstantial, in most of the countries these governments succumbed to the pressure of imperialism and the bourgeoisie, they renounced their patriotic and democratic projects, they adapted to the interests of the businessmen and bankers and the international monopolies and carried out their policies. They moved to the right. The exception is Hugo Chavez’s government that, in essence, continues on the path of social reforms.

This metamorphosis of the various alternative governments is expressed in different ways: some changed quickly, others later, some adopted repressive policies against social and left-wing activists. However, they all continue with a left-wing verbiage, preaching a double standard. They are essentially demagogic, populist governments, embodied in a charismatic political boss.

The question is whether the existence of these governments is a step forward or backward in the process of accumulation of forces in the task of organizing and making the revolution. The answer, which we will elaborate, is both yes and no.

In the context of the ebb at the end of the 20th century, the emergence of these governments is objectively an advance; viewed in their development they put forward new problems for the revolutionaries, they attract a social base among the working classes and youth, they are a diversionary factor.

Pablo Miranda

Bibliography:

1. Thirteenth Seminar “Problems of the Revolution in Latin America,” 2011 to 2012.

2. Revolutionary Communist Party (PCR) – Brazil.

3. Averdade newspaper, Organ of the PCR – Brazil.

4. Political Line of the PCMLV, Marxist-Leninist Party Communist Party of Venezuela.

5. Politics and Theory, Journal of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Argentina.

6. The Capitalist System and the Struggle of the Workers and Peoples, Unity and Struggle No. 23, October 2011.

7. Latin America and the Social Revolution of the Proletariat, Pablo Miranda, March 2007.

Source

With the Workers and the Peoples in the Independent Struggle for the Revolution and Socialism

16th Seminar on the International Problems of the Revolution in Latin America

Final Statement

In Latin America the new millennium arrived with the struggle of the workers, youth, peasants, women and peoples against the structural adjustment policies implemented by governments at the service of powerful local oligarchic groups and imperialist finance capital. The increasing social discontent, manifested in street mobilisations, partial and general strikes and even popular uprisings that put an end to reactionary and pro-imperialist governments, split the bourgeois institutions and accelerated the wearing out of the current model of capitalist accumulation, monitored by the centres of imperialist domination.

The fear grew among the socio-economic elites that the yearning for change and the desire to be protagonists of deep transformations was taking shape among the people. The progressive and left-wing political programmes, once seen as being obsolete and inapplicable, were embraced by the working and popular classes.

While in various countries of Latin America there are still openly right-wing governments explicitly sold out to imperialism, in others countries so-called alternative and progressive governments have emerged; in some of these, on certain occasions there have been actions of resistance towards policies of imperialism, which deserve the support of the peoples.

Recurring to their own political experience, bourgeois factions of various countries have manoeuvred to take advantage of the discontent of the masses for their own interests. They appear to make their own the programmes and proposals raised for years by the popular movement and the left-wing organisations against neo-liberalism and to achieve a sovereign development, under conditions of social fairness.

Nevertheless, the expectations and enthusiasm of the masses with those governments that promised to leave behind the past of disgrace and backwardness clash with reality when these governments carry out their real political programme and give away the natural wealth, at present mainly mines, to the foreign companies; when the foreign debt persists, although the capital comes from other imperialist centres; when popular protest is criminalised; when free trade negotiations and agreements are going ahead under different names; or, when governmental propaganda says more of what in reality is being carried out in the social sphere.

Even though discontent is arising among the workers, youth, peasants, women and peoples, it is a fact that, so far, these governments have had, to a certain degree, the capacity to neutralise and contain the social mobilisation. Without a doubt, that is a fruit of the ability of ideological-political manipulation by the bourgeois factions that, with the support of imperialism, are in the government; it is due to the carrying out of social welfare and patronage policies, to the presence of authoritarian leaders as heads of government who make wide use of demagogy and populist policies; but it is also due to the existing limits in the consciousness of the masses and the weaknesses from which the revolutionary and left-wing organisations still suffer.

Under these new conditions, the struggle that the workers and revolutionary organisations are unfolding is becoming more complex, since it is relatively clearer for the masses that they must confront and fight a government that is openly right-wing and linked to foreign capital, than one that demagogically claims to promote change and to affect the interests of the rich, even though in reality it is doing nothing more than propping up the whole system of domination by capital and defending the interests of the local ruling classes and of imperialist finance capital.

For the advance of the revolutionary struggle of the peoples, it is essential to unmask and defeat these sell-out, demagogic and populist governments that are causing serious damage to the development of the popular organisation and struggle. It is necessary to combat these governments functioning on behalf of the ruling system, but by no means should we play into the interests of the other bourgeois factions of the ‘right’ The struggle of the workers and peoples, with a class independence, to win social and national liberation forces them to fight and defeat one and the other bourgeois faction.

In order to fulfill the strategic intentions that drive us, we the political organisations, movements and parties committed to leading the revolution and socialism to victory must redouble our efforts to develop the political consciousness of the masses. That is possible mainly by unleashing the struggle for their particular demands and political banners in order to unmask the true nature of those governments. It is vital to promote an intense and systematic ideological-political offensive of the revolutionary ideals among the workers, youth, peasants, women and peoples; it is urgent to take advantage of all the opportunities that the bourgeois institutions allow for the political task and even to surpass these; it is necessary to persevere in the unity of the popular movement and of the political organisations of the left in order to isolate from the social movement those who, at the present time, are manipulating the yearnings for change of the peoples from positions of power.

Although, circumstantially, the populist governments have managed to partially restrain the struggle of the masses, it is certain that their material conditions of life and the historical limitations of these governments are forcing the masses to protest. Still more, the world scenario is inevitably affecting them from all sides and the sharpening of the general crisis of the capitalist system is causing the fighting response of the peoples, as can be observed in our region and in particular in Europe, with whose working class and youth we express our solidarity.

We, the organizations taking part in this 16th Seminar on the International Problems of the Revolution in Latin America, united in Quito from July 16 to 20, reiterate our internationalist duty and commitment to continue fighting for unity and solidarity among the peoples, to form – by means of concrete actions – a great anti-imperialist front. We uphold the right of the peoples to self-determination; we condemn all forms of foreign intervention and all actions of the ruling classes to thwart the will of the peoples.

The views summarised in this Statement are the result of open and democratic debate in this seminar. We present them to the world so that the workers, youth and peoples may know them.

From Quito, Ecuador, we express our commitment to continue this event and, for that reason we are convening the 17th International Seminar for next year.

Quito, July 20, 2012
Revolutionary Communist Party of Argentina
Revolutionary Communist Party – Brazil
Movement for the Popular Constituent Assembly – Colombia
Communist Party of Colombia (Marxist-Leninist)
Communist Party of Labour of the Dominican Republic
Communist Party of Mexico (Marxist-Leninist)
Revolutionary Popular Front – Mexico
Communist Party of Palestine
Communist Party of Peru – Red Fatherland
Peruvian Communist Party Marxist-Leninist
National Democratic Front – Philippines
Caribbean and Latin American Coordinator of Puerto Rico
All Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) – Russia
Communist Party of Spain Marxist-Leninist
Gayones Movement – Venezuela
Emancipator Pedagogic Movement of Venezuela MOPEZ
Movement of Education for the Emancipation of Venezuela MEPE
Marxist-Leninist Trade Union Current – Venezuela
Ana Soto Women’s Movement of Venezuela
Preparatory Committee of Venezuela for the 23rd International Camp of Anti-Fascist and Anti-Imperialist Youth
Socialist Revolutionary University Front – Venezuela
Socialist Movement for the Quality of Life and Health – Venezuela
Democratic Popular Movement – Ecuador
Revolutionary Youth of Ecuador
Revolutionary Front of the University Left
Teachers Vanguard Front
Revolutionary Trade Union Current
Confederation of Ecuadorian Women for Change
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador

Source

Shadowy origins of ‘crack’ epidemic

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

Shadowy origins of ‘crack’ epidemic

Role of CIA-linked agents a well-protected secret until now

Published: Aug. 19, 1996

BY GARY WEBB
Mercury News Staff Writer

IF THEY’D BEEN IN a more respectable line of work, Norwin Meneses, Danilo Blandon and ”Freeway Rick” Ross would have been hailed as geniuses of marketing.

This odd trio — a smuggler, a bureaucrat and a driven ghetto teen-ager — made fortunes creating the first mass market in America for a product so hellishly desirable that consumers will literally kill to get it: ”crack” cocaine.

Federal lawmen will tell you plenty about Rick Ross, mostly about the evils he visited upon black neighborhoods by spreading the crack plague in Los Angeles and cities as far east as Cincinnati. On Aug. 23, they hope, Freeway Rick will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

But those same officials won’t say a word about the two men who turned Rick Ross into L.A’s first king of crack, the men who, for at least five years, supplied him with enough Colombian cocaine to help spawn crack markets in major cities nationwide. Their critical role in the country’s crack explosion, a Mercury News investigation found, has been a strictly guarded secret — until now.

To understand how crack came to curse black America, you have to go into the volcanic hills overlooking Managua, the capital of the Republic of Nicaragua.

During June 1979, those hills teemed with triumphant guerrillas called Sandinistas — Cuban- assisted revolutionaries who had just pulled off one of the biggest military upsets in Central American history. In a bloody civil war, they’d destroyed the U.S.-trained army of Nicaragua’s dictator, Anastasio Somoza. The final assault on Somoza’s downtown bunker was expected any day.

In the dictator’s doomed capital, a minor member of Somoza’s government decided to skip the war’s obvious ending. On June 19, Oscar Danilo Blandon Reyes gathered his wife and young daughter, slipped through the encircling rebels and flew into exile in California.

Blandon, the then 29-year-old son of a wealthy slumlord, left a life of privilege and luxury behind. Educated at the finest private schools in Latin America, he had earned a master’s degree in marketing and had become the head of a $27 million program financed by the U.S. government. As Nicaragua’s director of wholesale markets, it had been his job to create an American-style agricultural system.

Today, Danilo Blandon is a well-paid and highly trusted operative for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Federal officials say he is one of the DEA’s top informants in Latin America, collecting intelligence on Colombian and Mexican drug lords and setting up stings.

In March, he was the DEA’s star witness at a drug trial in San Diego, where, for the first time, he testified publicly about his strange interlude between government jobs — the years he sold cocaine to the street gangs of black Los Angeles.

Dealer says patriotism for Nicaragua was motive

A stocky man with salt-and-pepper hair, a trim mustache and a distinguished bearing, Blandon swore that he didn’t plan on becoming a dope dealer when he landed in the United States with $100 in his pocket, seeking political asylum. He did it, he insisted, out of patriotism.

When duty called in late 1981, he was working as a car salesman in East Los Angeles. In his spare time, he said, he and a few fellow exiles were working to rebuild Somoza’s defeated army, the Nicaraguan national guard, in hopes of one day returning to Managua in triumph.

Like his friends, Blandon nursed a keen hatred of the Sandinistas, who had confiscated the Blandon family’s cattle ranches and sprawling urban slums. His wife’s politically prominent family — the Murillos, whose patriarch was Managua’s mayor in the 1960s — lost its immense fortune as well.

”Because of the horror stories and persecution suffered by his family and countrymen, Blandon said he decided to assist his countrymen in fighting the tyranny of the (Sandinista) regime,” stated a 1992 report from the U.S. Probation and Parole Department. ”He decided that because he was an adept businessman, he could assist his countrymen through monetary means.”

But the rallies and cocktail parties the exiles hosted raised little money. ”At this point, he became committed to raising money for humanitarian and political reasons via illegal activity (cocaine trafficking for profit),” said the heavily censored report, which surfaced during the March trial.

That venture began, Blandon testified, with a phone call from a wealthy friend in Miami named Donald Barrios, an old college classmate. Corporate records show Barrios was a business partner of one of the ex-dictator’s top military aides: Maj. Gen. Gustavo ”The Tiger” Medina, a steely eyed counterinsurgency expert and the former supply boss of Somoza’s army.

Blandon said his college chum, who also was working in the resistance movement, dispatched him to Los Angeles International Airport to pick up another exile, Juan Norwin Meneses Cantarero. Though their families were related, Blandon said, he’d never met Meneses — a wiry, excitable man with a bad toupee — until that day.

”I picked him up, and he started telling me that we had to (raise) some money and to send to Honduras,” Blandon testified. He said he flew with Meneses to a camp there and met one of his new companion’s old friends, Col. Enrique Bermudez.

Bermudez — who’d been Somoza’s Washington liaison to the American military — was hired by the Central Intelligence Agency in mid-1980 to pull together the remnants of Somoza’s vanquished national guard, records show. In August 1981, Bermudez’s efforts were unveiled at a news conference as the Fuerza Democratica Nicaraguense (FDN) — in English, the Nicaraguan Democratic Force. It was the largest and best-organized of the handful of guerrilla groups Americans would know as the Contras.

Bermudez was the FDN’s military chief and, according to congressional records and newspaper reports, received regular CIA paychecks for a decade, payments that stopped shortly before his still-unsolved slaying in Managua in 1991

Reagan’s secret order not enough to fund Contras

White House records show that shortly before Blandon’s meeting with Bermudez, President Reagan had given the CIA the green light to begin covert paramilitary operations against the Sandinista government. But Reagan’s secret Dec. 1, 1981, order permitted the spy agency to spend only $19.9 million on the project, an amount CIA officials acknowledged was not nearly enough to field a credible fighting force.

After meeting with Bermudez, Blandon testified, he and Meneses ”started raising money for the Contra revolution.” ”There is a saying that the ends justify the means,” Blandon testified. ”And that’s what Mr. Bermudez told us in Honduras, OK?”

While Blandon says Bermudez didn’t know cocaine would be the fund-raising device they used, the presence of the mysterious Mr. Meneses strongly suggests otherwise.

Norwin Meneses, known in Nicaraguan newspapers as ”Rey de la Droga” (King of Drugs), was then under active investigation by the DEA and the FBI for smuggling cocaine into the United States, records show.

And Bermudez was very familiar with the influential Meneses family. He had served under two Meneses brothers, Fermin and Edmundo, who were generals in Somoza’s army. Somoza himself spoke at the 1978 funeral of Edmundo Meneses, who was slain by leftists shortly after his appointment as Nicaragua’s ambassador to Guatemala, hailing him as an anti-communist martyr.

A violent death — someone else’s — had also made brother Norwin famous in his homeland. In 1977 he was accused of ordering the assassination of Nicaragua’s chief of Customs, who was gunned down in the midst of an investigation into an international stolen car ring allegedly run by Norwin Meneses.

Though the customs boss accused Meneses on his deathbed of hiring his killer, Nicaraguan newspapers reported that the Managua police, then commanded by Edmundo Meneses, cleared Norwin of any involvement.

Despite that incident and a stack of law enforcement reports describing him as a major drug trafficker, Norwin Meneses was welcomed into the United States in July 1979 as a political refugee and given a visa and a work permit. He settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, and for the next six years supervised the importation of thousands of kilos of cocaine into California.

It arrived in all kinds of containers: false-bottomed shoes, Colombian freighters, cars with hidden compartments, luggage from Miami. Once here, it disappeared into a series of houses and nondescript storefront businesses scattered from Hayward to San Jose, Pacifica to Burlingame, Daly City to Oakland.

And, like Blandon, Meneses went to work for the CIA’s army.

At the meeting with Bermudez, Meneses said in a recent interview, the Contra commander put him in charge of ”intelligence and security” for the FDN in California.

”Nobody (from California) would join the Contra forces down there without my knowledge and approval,” he said proudly. Blandon, he said, was assigned to raise money in Los Angeles.

Blandon testified that Meneses took him back to San Francisco and, over two days, schooled him in the cocaine trade.

Meneses declined to discuss any cocaine dealings he may have had, other than to deny that he ever ”transferred benefits from my business to the FDN. Business is business.”

Lessons over, Blandon said, Meneses gave him two kilograms of cocaine (roughly 4 pounds), the names of two customers and a one-way ticket to Los Angeles.

”Meneses was pushing me every week,” he testified. ”It took me about three months, four months to sell those two keys because I didn’t know what to do. … In those days, two keys was too heavy.”

At the time, cocaine was so costly that few besides rock stars and studio executives could afford it. One study of actual cocaine prices paid by DEA agents put it at $5,200 an ounce.

But Blandon wasn’t peddling the FDN’s cocaine in Beverly Hills or Malibu. To find customers, he and several other Nicaraguan exiles working with him headed for the vast, untapped markets of L.A.’s black ghettos.

Uncanny timing made marketing strategy work

Blandon’s marketing strategy, selling the world’s most expensive street drug in some of California’s poorest neighborhoods, might seem baffling, but in retrospect, his timing was uncanny. He and his compatriots arrived in South-Central L.A. right when street-level drug users were figuring out how to make cocaine affordable: by changing the pricey white powder into powerful little nuggets that could be smoked — crack.

Crack turned the cocaine world on its head. Cocaine smokers got an explosive high unmatched by 10 times as much snorted powder. And since only a tiny amount was needed for that rush, cocaine no longer had to be sold in large, expensive quantities. Anyone with $20 could get wasted.

It was a ”substance that is tailor-made to addict people,” Dr. Robert Byck, a Yale University cocaine expert, said during congressional testimony in 1986. ”It is as though (McDonald’s founder) Ray Kroc had invented the opium den.”

Crack’s Kroc was a disillusioned 19-year-old named Ricky Donnell Ross, who, at the dawn of the 1980s, found himself adrift on the streets of South-Central Los Angeles.

A talented tennis player for Dorsey High School, Ross had recently seen his dream of a college scholarship evaporate when his coach discovered he could neither read nor write.

At the end of tennis season, Ross quit high school and wound up at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, a vocational community college where, ironically, he learned to bind books. But a bookbinding career was the last thing Ross had in mind. L.A. Trade-Tech had a tennis team, and Ross was still hoping his skills with the racquet would get his dreams back on track.

”He was a very good player,” recalled Pete Brown, his former coach at L.A. Trade-Tech. ”I’d say he was probably my No. 3 guy on the team at the time.”

To pay his bills, however, Ross picked up a different racket: stolen car parts. In late 1979, he was arrested for stealing a car and had to quit the trade while the charges were pending.

‘Freeway Rick’ hears about popularity of jet-set drug

During this forced hiatus, Ross said, a friend home on Christmas break from San Jose State University told him about the soaring popularity of a jet-set drug called cocaine, which Ross had only vaguely heard about. In the impoverished neighborhoods of South-Central, it was virtually non-existent. Most street cops, in fact, had never seen any because cocaine was then a parlor drug of the wealthy and the trendy.

Ross’ friend — a college football player — told him ”cocaine was going to be the new thing, that everybody was doing it.” Intrigued, Ross set off to find out more.

Through a cocaine-using auto upholstery teacher Ross knew, he met a Nicaraguan named Henry Corrales, who began selling Ross and his best friend, Ollie ”Big Loc” Newell, small amounts of remarkably inexpensive cocaine.

Thanks to a network of friends in South-Central and Compton, including many members of various Crips gangs, Ross and Newell steadily built up clientele. With each sale, Ross reinvested his hefty profits in more cocaine.

Eventually, Corrales introduced Ross and Newell to his supplier, Danilo Blandon. And then business really picked up.

”At first, we was just going to do it until we made $5,000,” Ross said. ”We made that so fast we said, no, we’ll quit when we make $20,000. Then we was going to quit when we saved enough to buy a house …”

Ross would eventually own millions of dollars’ worth of real estate across Southern California, including houses, motels, a theater and several other businesses. (His nickname, ”Freeway Rick,” came from the fact that he owned properties near the Harbor Freeway in Los Angeles.)

Within a year, Ross’ drug operation grew to dominate inner-city Los Angeles, and many of the biggest dealers in town were his customers. When crack hit L.A.’s streets hard in late 1983, Ross already had the infrastructure in place to corner a huge chunk of the burgeoning market.

$2 million worth of crack moved in a single day

It was not uncommon, he said, to move $2 million or $3 million worth of crack in one day.

”Our biggest problem had got to be counting the money,” Ross said. ”We got to the point where it was like, man, we don’t want to count no more money.”

Nicaraguan cocaine dealer Jacinto Torres, another former supplier of Ross and a sometime- partner of Blandon, told drug agents in a 1992 interview that after a slow start, ”Blandon’s cocaine business dramatically increased. … Norwin Meneses, Blandon’s supplier as of 1983 and 1984, routinely flew quantities of 200 to 400 kilograms from Miami to the West Coast.”

Leroy ”Chico” Brown, an ex-crack dealer from Compton who dealt with Ross, told the Mercury News of visiting one of Ross’ five cookhouses, where Blandon’s powder was turned into crack, and finding huge steel vats of cocaine bubbling atop restaurant-size gas ranges.

”They were stirring these big pots with those things you use in canoes,” Brown said with amazement. ”You know — oars.”

Blandon told the DEA last year that he was selling Ross up to 100 kilos of cocaine a week, which was then ”rocked up” and distributed ”to the major gangs in the area, specifically the “Crips’ and the “Bloods,”’ the DEA report said.

At wholesale prices, that’s roughly $65 million to $130 million worth of cocaine every year, depending on the going price of a kilo.

“He was one of the main distributors down here,” said former Los Angeles Police Department narcotics detective Steve Polak, who was part of the Freeway Rick Task Force, which was set up in 1987 to put Ross out of business. “And his poison, there’s no telling how many tens of thousands of people he touched. He’s responsible for a major cancer that still hasn’t stopped spreading.”

But Ross is the first to admit that being in the right place at the right time had almost nothing to do with his amazing success. Other L.A. dealers, he noted, were selling crack long before he started.

What he had, and they didn’t, was Danilo Blandon, a friend with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of high-grade cocaine and an expert’s knowledge of how to market it.

”I’m not saying I wouldn’t have been a dope dealer without Danilo,” Ross stressed. ”But I wouldn’t have been Freeway Rick.”

The secret to his success, Ross said, was Blandon’s cocaine prices. ”It was unreal. We were just wiping out everybody.”

That alone, Ross said, allowed him to sew up the Los Angeles market and move on. In city after city, local dealers either bought from Ross or got left behind.

”It didn’t make no difference to Rick what anyone else was selling it for. Rick would just go in and undercut him $10,000 a key,” Chico Brown said. ”Say some dude was selling for 30. Boom — Rick would go in and sell it for 20. If he was selling for 20, Rick would sell for 10. Sometimes, he be giving (it) away.”

Before long, Blandon was giving Ross hundreds of kilos of cocaine on consignment — sell now, pay later — a strategy that dramatically accelerated the expansion of Ross’ crack empire, even beyond California’s borders.

Ross said he never discovered how Blandon was able to get cocaine so cheaply. ”I just figured he knew the people, you know what I’m saying? He was plugged.”

But Freeway Rick had no idea just how ”plugged” his erudite cocaine broker was. He didn’t know about Norwin Meneses, or the CIA, or the Salvadoran air force planes that allegedly were flying the cocaine into an air base in Texas.

And he wouldn’t find out about it for another 10 years.

TUESDAY: The impact of the crack epidemic on the black community, and why justice hasn’t been for all.

Source

Testimony links U.S. to drugs-guns trade

 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

Testimony links U.S. to drugs-guns trade

Dealers got their ‘own little arsenal’

Published: Aug. 18, 1996

BY GARY WEBB
Mercury News Staff Writer

DANILO BLANDON WAS a full- service drug dealer. In addition to the tons of inexpensive cocaine he provided his clients, he also sold them assault weapons and sophisticated communications gear, including hidden microphone detectors to sniff out undercover cops.

“We had our own little arsenal,” recalled Rick Ross, who was Los Angeles’ biggest “crack” cocaine dealer in the mid-1980s. “Once he tried to sell (my partner) a grenade launcher. I said, “Man, what … do we need with a grenade launcher?’.”

Blandon testified in March that his source for such accouterments — which included Uzi submachine guns and Colt AR-15 assault rifles was an ex-Laguna Beach burglary detective named Ronald J. Lister. Lister and his partners sometimes showed up at meetings of Contra supporters in Los Angeles to demonstrate machine guns, Blandon said.

Lister, 50, claimed he worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to federal officials and FBI documents. He later worked as an informant for the DEA and the FBI, records and interviews revealed.

In late 1986, as part of Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh’s Iran-Contra investigation, FBI agents investigating the Iran-Contra scandal interviewed Lister’s former real estate agent, who told of Lister’s paying cash for a $340,000 house in Mission Viejo. When the Realtor asked Lister where the money came from, Lister replied that he was raising funds for the Contras, an activity he described as “CIA-approved.”

Christopher Moore, an L.A. attorney who once worked as an office assistant for Lister’s company, Mundy Security Group, said Lister sent him to El Salvador in June 1982 to “baby-sit” a U.S. government contract the company had to install a security system for a Salvadoran air force base.

Spoke of CIA protection

Lister often spoke of “being protected by the CIA,” Moore said in an interview. “I didn’t know whether to believe him or not.”

One thing is certain: There is considerable evidence that El Salvador’s air force was deeply involved with cocaine flights, the Contras and Blandon’s cocaine supplier, Norwin Meneses.

Pilot admits role

Meneses said one of his oldest friends is a former Contra pilot named Marcos Aguado, a Nicaraguan who works for the Salvadoran air force high command.

Aguado was identified in 1987 congressional testimony as a CIA agent who helped the Contras get weapons, airplanes and money from a major Colombian drug trafficker named George Morales. Aguado admitted his role in that deal in a videotaped deposition taken by a U.S. Senate subcommittee that year.

His name also turned up in a deposition taken by the congressional Iran-Contra committees that same year. Robert W. Owen, a courier for Lt. Col. Oliver North, testified he knew Aguado as a Contra pilot and said there was “concern” about his being involved with drug trafficking.

While flying for the Contras, Aguado was stationed at Ilopango Air Base near El Salvador’s capital of San Salvador.

Agent’s reports ignored

In 1985, the DEA agent assigned to El Salvador — Celerino Castillo III — began picking up reports that cocaine was being flown to the United States out of hangars 4 and 5 at Ilopango as part of a Contra-related covert operation. Castillo said he soon confirmed what his informants were telling him.

Starting in January 1986, Castillo began documenting the cocaine flights — listing pilot names, tail numbers, dates and flight plans — and sent them to DEA headquarters.

The only response he got, Castillo wrote in his 1994 memoirs, was an internal DEA investigation of him. He took a disability retirement from the agency in 1991.

“Basically, the bottom line is it was a covert operation and they (DEA officials) were covering it up,” Castillo said in an interview. “You can’t get any simpler than that. It was a coverup.” DEA officials would not respond to those statements. A Freedom of Information Act request for Castillo’s reports is still pending. Lister, who pleaded guilty to federal cocaine charges in 1991 and is serving a prison sentence in Phoenix, did not respond to several requests for an interview. Aguado could not be reached for comment.

MONDAY: How the drug ring worked, and how crack was “born” in the 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.

Source

Salvador air force linked to cocaine flights, Nicaraguan contras, drug dealer’s supplier

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

Aug 22, 1996

Salvador air force linked to cocaine flights, Nicaraguan contras, drug dealer’s supplier

by Gary Webb
San Jose Mercury News

One thing is certain: There is considerable evidence that El Salvador’s air force was deeply involved with cocaine flights, the contras and drug dealer Oscar Danilo Blandon Reyes’ cocaine supplier, Norwin Meneses.

Meneses said one of his oldest friends is a former contra pilot named Marcos Aguado, a Nicaraguan who works for the Salvadoran air-force high command.

Aguado was identified in 1987 congressional testimony as a CIA agent who helped the contras get weapons, airplanes and money from a major Colombian drug trafficker named George Morales. Aguado admitted his role in that deal in a videotaped deposition taken by a U.S. Senate subcommittee that year.

His name also turned up in a deposition taken by the congressional Iran-contra committees that same year. Robert Owen, a courier for Lt. Col. Oliver North, testified he knew Aguado as a contra pilot and said there was “concern” about his being involved with drug trafficking.

While flying for the contras, Aguado was stationed at Ilopango Air Base near El Salvador’s capital.

In 1985, the DEA agent assigned to El Salvador – Celerino Castillo III – began picking up reports that cocaine was being flown to the United States out of hangars 4 and 5 at Ilopango as part of a contra-related covert operation. Castillo said he soon confirmed what his informants were telling him.

Starting in January 1986, Castillo began documenting the cocaine flights – listing pilot names, tail numbers, dates and flight plans – and sent them to DEA headquarters.

The only response he got, Castillo wrote in his 1994 memoirs, was an internal DEA investigation of him. He took a disability retirement from the agency in 1991.

“Basically, the bottom line is it was a covert operation and they (DEA officials) were covering it up,” Castillo said in an interview. “You can’t get any simpler than that. It was a cover-up.”

Source

International Relations from a Different Country: AU Professors Share Their Story

By Erin Lockwood

According to AU professor Dr. Elizabeth Cohn, Ronald Reagan’s presidential legacy has been whitewashed. This is not a reactionary political slogan; it is a conviction born of her work as founder and director of the Central American Historical Institute from 1982 to 1988 — the height of the Reagan Administration’s covert support for anti-government “contras” in Nicaragua.

During that same time, AU professor and Distinguished Diplomat-in-Residence Anthony Quainton was serving as the US Ambassador to Nicaragua — a position that eventually forced him to confront his own misalignment with the Reagan Administration’s priorities and strategy in Central America.

Students of the social sciences are likely familiar with the maxim, “where you stand depends on where you sit,” a reminder that context matters in understandings of political and historical phenomena. I spoke to Cohn and Quainton to hear their stories, which illustrate this principle in the case of US involvement in Nicaragua.

Cohn was 25 years old in 1982, when the Jesuits of Central America asked her to found and direct the Central American Historical Institute, a progressive think tank headquartered at Georgetown University. The Jesuits — active in liberation theology movements such as the Sandinista National Liberation Front’s 1979 revolutionary overthrow of the Somoza dynasty — wanted Cohn to take the lead in providing accurate, non-governmental information about Nicaragua to US policymakers, activists, journalists and academics. Soon, researchers in Nicaragua were sending telex messages to Cohn in DC, which she then compiled into reports and mailed out to a list of subscribers.

Cohn notes that even though Central America was the foreign policy issue of the 1980s, it was difficult to get accurate, in-depth information about conditions on the ground, especially if it contradicted the official position of the Reagan Administration.

The Central American Historical Institute quickly became a leading source of reporting and analysis on Nicaragua, surpassing Cohn’s own expectations of her organization’s influence. She recalls being surprised to learn that one of her reports had appeared as “Exhibit J” when Nicaragua sued the US in the World Court in 1984 for illegally putting naval mines in Nicaraguan harbors.

For Quainton, too, the media played a memorable role in his tenure as US Ambassador to Nicaragua. He remembers his initial arrival in Nicaragua after his appointment under Reagan, stepping off the plane at Sandino International Airport in Managua on March 15, 1982 and being met with a barrage of media cameras and microphones. One reporter asked him to comment on the state of emergency that had been declared in Nicaragua while he was in transit.

Unbeknownst to Quainton, CIA-backed Nicaraguan rebels had blown up two major bridges during his flight there. “I was completely blindsided,” he recalls. “Our relationship with the Sandinistas pretty much went downhill every day from there.”

As evidence, Quainton points to the framed political cartoons from Nicaraguan newspapers on the wall of his office in the School of International Service, caricatures of him with Sandinista leaders. Quainton remembers Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega as “aloof” and “hard to know.”

“Ortega is not,” Quainton says with diplomatic understatement, “a very nice man.”

Cartoons of a different kind illustrate one reason for the tense diplomatic relations, according to Cohn. In 1984, a member of the advocacy group Witness for Peace approached her with a comic book-style “Freedom Fighter’s Manual,” which encouraged Nicaraguans to sabotage the Sandinista government by cutting power lines, throwing Molotov cocktails at police stations, damaging automobiles and stealing government food supplies. An Associated Press reporter confirmed that it had been published by the CIA for the rebel group. Over 85 newspapers picked up the story and severely undermined the credibility of the Reagan Administration’s official position that the US did not seek to overthrow Ortega. Investigations into the first manual revealed another CIA manual, this one advocating assassination.

After the publication of the comic book story and Reagan’s landslide re-election, the political climate changed. “It became a lot more difficult to challenge the administration,” Cohn says. And challenging the administration became the goal of her organization. “I wouldn’t say the information we provided was neutral. Things were so politicized,” she recalls, “it was important to provide information that was more accurate, less one-sided. I saw myself as an honest broker, a patriot.”

Meanwhile, Quainton too was beginning to understand the stubbornness of the White House’s position on Nicaragua. Strongly influenced by CIA Director William Casey’s preference for regime change, Reagan’s position, according to Quainton, amounted to: “As soon as Ortega goes, we’ll talk.”

Quainton said, “They figured — correctly — that I was somewhat more sympathetic than Washington.” This was partly due to the State Department’s general preference for negotiation, and partly due to what Cohn jokingly refers to as the “Sandal-istas” — American groups, often religious, that traveled to Nicaragua to demonstrate in opposition to the poorly concealed US support for the contras. Quainton recalls these groups as being “very outspoken, very emotional.”

Despite perceptions by such visitors that Quainton was too much of a hard-liner, by 1983 it was clear that he and Reagan were not “on the same wavelength.” Quainton had been contacted by a senior White House official, who told him to report more bad news about the Sandinistas. “I can’t do that. We report all the news,” he replied. In October, a bipartisan commission on Central America, led by Henry Kissinger, visited Nicaragua on a fact-finding mission, culminating in what Quainton calls “a disastrous day for diplomacy.” After asking Quainton if he had to “shake hands with that son-of-a-bitch,” Kissinger went into a meeting with Ortega in a foul mood, and, after listening to Ortega deliver a long diatribe against the US, walked out of the room without saying a word.

Having been pressed repeatedly by the commission on whether Reagan agreed with the State Department’s attempts to negotiate with Ortega, Quainton was not entirely surprised to receive a call from the Deputy Secretary of State a few months later announcing that the president was going to make some changes in Nicaragua. Six months after learning he had lost the president’s confidence, Quainton left Nicaragua and became the ambassador to Kuwait. Being given another appointment after being fired is unusual in the State Department. “More typically, when you leave, you’re done,” Quainton said. But Secretary of State George Shultz argued that Quainton had done nothing wrong and did not deserve to be punished. In Quainton’s words, it was a matter of Reagan “looking for a different style of ambassador, someone who was going to be much more hard-line.”

Despite traveling to Nicaragua a dozen times between 1982 and 1988, Cohn does not recall ever meeting Quainton there, though they are now friendly colleagues, both teaching in SIS. The Central American Historical Institute was not very interested in the official US position that they would have gotten from the embassy, she recalls dryly, noting that their research interests lay more in the direction of the border regions with Honduras where the contras were based. She is still angry about Reagan’s covert and, she argues, impeachable support for the Nicaraguan contras.

Quainton is more sanguine. He says his experience in Nicaragua didn’t change his perception of representing US interests abroad. In his subsequent ambassadorships to Kuwait and Peru, there was much less of a gap between public opinion and White House policy. No cheerleader for either Ortega’s government or the US backing of the contras, throughout his time in Nicaragua Quainton remained dedicated to making sure both the good and bad aspects of the Sandinista governance made it back to the States.

A commitment to communicating the nuanced truth guided both Quainton’s and Cohn’s experiences in Nicaragua. Far from being content to toe the Reagan Administration’s line — and despite considerable pressure to do so — each sought to present the complexity of the situation to the US government and the public. The experiences of these AU professors remind us to be critical of official policies and the way they are remembered and to be sensitive to the context and source of information.

Photo by Colin Crane.

Source 

1970-1987: The contra war in Nicaragua

Noam Chomsky’s account of the US-backed “contra” counter-insurgency in Nicaragua against the left-wing government.

It wasn’t just the events in El Salvador that were ignored by the mainstream US media during the 1970s. In the ten years prior to the overthrow of the Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, US television – all networks – devoted exactly one hour to Nicaragua, and that was entirely on the Managua earthquake of 1972.

From 1960 through 1978, the New York Times had three editorials on Nicaragua. It’s not that nothing was happening there – it’s just that whatever was happening was unremarkable. Nicaragua was of no concern at all, as long as Somoza’s tyrannical rule wasn’t challenged.

When his rule was challenged, by the [popular, left-wing] Sandinistas in the late 1970s, the US first tried to institute what was called “Somocismo [Somoza-ism] without Somoza” – that is, the whole corrupt system intact, but with somebody else at the top. That didn’t work, so President Carter tried to maintain Somoza’s National Guard as a base for US power.

The National Guard had always been remarkably brutal and sadistic. By June 1979, it was carrying out massive atrocities in the war against the Sandinistas, bombing residential neighbourhoods in Managua, killing tens of thousands of people. At that point, the US ambassador sent a cable to the White House saying it would be “ill-advised” to tell the Guard to call off the bombing, because that might interfere with the policy of keeping them in power and the Sandinistas out.

Our ambassador to the Organisation of American States also spoke in favour of “Somocismo without Somoza,” but the OAS rejected the suggestion flat out. A few days later, Somoza flew off to Miami with what was left of the Nicaraguan national treasury, and the Guard collapsed.

The Carter administration flew Guard commanders out of the country in planes with Red Cross markings (a war crime), and began to reconstitute the Guard on Nicaragua’s borders. They also used Argentina as a proxy. (At that time, Argentina was under the rule of neo-Nazi generals, but they took a little time off from torturing and murdering their own population to help re-establish the Guard – soon to be renamed the contras, or “freedom fighters.”)

Ronald Reagan used them to launch a large-scale terrorist war against Nicaragua, combined with economic warfare that was even more lethal. We also intimidated other countries so they wouldn’t send aid either.

And yet, despite astronomical levels of military support, the United States failed to create a viable military force in Nicaragua. That’s quite remarkable, if you think about it. No real guerrillas anywhere in the world have ever had resources even remotely like what the United States gave the contras. You could probably start a guerrilla insurgency in mountain regions of the US with comparable funding.

Why did the US go to such lengths in Nicaragua? The international development organisation Oxfam explained the real reasons, stating that, from its experience of working in 76 developing countries, “Nicaragua was…exceptional in the strength of that government’s commitment…to improving the condition of the people and encouraging their active participation in the development process.”

Of the four Central American countries where Oxfam had a significant presence (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua), only in Nicaragua was there a substantial effort to address inequities in land ownership and to extend health, educational and agricultural services to poor peasant families.

Other agencies told a similar story. In the early 1980s, the World Bank called its projects “extraordinarily successful in Nicaragua in some sectors, better than anywhere else in the world.” In 1983, The Inter-American Development Bank concluded that “Nicaragua has made noteworthy progress in the social sector, which is laying the basis for long-term socio-economic development.”

The success of the Sandinista reforms terrified US planners. They were aware that – as José Figueres, the father of Costa Rican democracy, put it – “for the first time, Nicaragua has a government that cares for its people.” (Although Figueres was the leading democratic figure in Central America for forty years, his unacceptable insights into the real world were completely censored from the US media.)

The hatred that was elicited by the Sandinistas for trying to direct resources to the poor (and even succeeding at it) was truly wondrous to behold. Just about all US policymakers shared it, and it reached virtual frenzy.

Back in 1981, a State Department insider boasted that we would “turn Nicaragua into the Albania of Central America” – that is, poor, isolated and politically radical – so that the Sandinista dream of creating a new, more exemplary political model for Latin America would be in ruins.

George Shultz called the Sandinistas a “cancer, right here on our land mass,” that has to be destroyed. At the other end of the political spectrum, leading Senate liberal Alan Cranston said that if it turned out not to be possible to destroy the Sandinistas, then we’d just have to let them “fester in [their] own juices.”

So the US launched a three-fold attack against Nicaragua. First, we exerted extreme pressure to compel the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank to terminate all projects and assistance.

Second, we launched the contra war along with an illegal economic war to terminate what Oxfam rightly called “the threat of a good example.” The contras’ vicious terrorist attacks against “soft targets” under US orders did help, along with the boycott, to end any hope of economic development and social reform. US terror ensured that Nicaragua couldn’t demobilise its army and divert its pitifully poor and limited resources to reconstructing the ruins that were left by the US-backed dictators and Reaganite crimes. The contras were even funded by the US selling arms to Iran, in what became known as the Iran-Contra Affair.

One of the most respected Central America correspondents, Julia Preston (who was then working for the Boston Globe), reported that “Administration officials said they are content to see the contras debilitate the Sandinistas by forcing them to divert scarce resources toward the war and away from social programs.” That’s crucial, since the social programs were at the heart of the good example that might have infected other countries in the region and eroded the American system of [much higher-grade] exploitation and robbery.

We even refused to send disaster relief. After the 1972 earthquake, the US sent an enormous amount of aid to Nicaragua, most of which was stolen by our buddy Somoza. In October 1988, an even worse natural disaster struck Nicaragua – Hurricane Joan. We didn’t send a penny for that, because if we had, it would probably have gotten to the people, not just into the pockets of some rich thug. We also pressured our allies to send very little aid.

This devastating hurricane, with its welcome prospects of mass starvation and long-term ecological damage, reinforced our efforts. We wanted Nicaraguans to starve so we could accuse the Sandinistas of economic mismanagement. Because they weren’t under our control, Nicaraguans had to suffer and die.

Third, we used diplomatic fakery to crush Nicaragua. As Tony Avirgan wrote in the Costa Rican journal Mesoamerica, “the Sandinistas fell for a scam perpetrated by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias and the other Central American Presidents, which cost them the February [1990] elections.”

For Nicaragua, the peace plan of August 1987 was a good deal, Avrigan wrote: they would move the scheduled national elections forward by a few months and allow international observation, as they had in 1984, “in exchange for having the contras demobilised and the war brought to an end….” The Nicaraguan government did what it was required to do under the peace plan, but no one else paid the slightest attention to it.

Arias, the White House and Congress never had the slightest intention of implementing any aspect of the plan. The US virtually tripled CIA supply flights to the contras. Within a couple of months the peace plan was totally dead.

As the election campaign opened, the US made it clear that the embargo that was strangling the country and the contra terror would continue if the Sandinistas won the election. You have to be some kind of Nazi or unreconstructed Stalinist to regard an election conducted under such conditions as free and fair – and south of the border, few succumbed to such delusions.

If anything like that were ever done by our enemies… I leave the media reaction to your imagination. The amazing part of it was that the Sandinistas still got 40% of the vote, while New York Times headlines proclaimed that Americans were “United in Joy” over this “Victory for US Fair Play.”

US achievements in Central America in the past fifteen years are a major tragedy, not just because of the appalling human cost, but because a decade ago there were prospects for real progress towards meaningful democracy and meeting human needs, with early successes in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

These efforts might have worked and might have taught useful lessons to others plagued with similar problems – which, of course, was exactly what US planners feared. The threat has been successfully aborted, perhaps forever.

From What Uncle Sam Really Wants, by Noam Chomsky.

Source

CIA admits it overlooked Contras’ links to drugs

CNN
November 3, 1998

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The CIA overlooked or ignored reports that the Nicaragua Contra rebels financed their fight to oust the communist Sandinistas through the sale of drugs in the United States, according to an internal CIA report.

Fredrick Hitz, the now-retired CIA inspector-general who supervised the report, admitted that monitoring of the Contras was lax.

“We fell down on accountability…. There was a great deal of sloppiness and poor guidance in those days out of Washington,” Hitz said.

Field offices described criminal activities

The 450-page report, issued by the CIA last month, for the first time reveals information sent to the CIA by its field operatives about the activities of the Contra groups during the 1980s.

One cable sent to the CIA from a field office described a “trial run” of a drug route from Honduras to Miami in July 1981 to benefit the Nicaraguan Revolutionary Democratic Alliance (ADREN).

An earlier cable cited in the report said the rebel group felt it was being “forced to stoop to criminal activities in order to feed and clothe their cadre.”

The report also cited the use of a Honduran businessman, Alan Hyde, for logistical support to the Contras, despite Hyde’s identification in a 1984 U.S. Defense Department report as “a businessman making much money dealing in ‘white gold,’ i.e., cocaine.”

DEA discouraged from investigating

The report details cases where the CIA dissuaded other federal agencies, notably the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), from probing the activities of Contra groups and their contractors. In one instance, the CIA discouraged the DEA from examining Oliver North’s efforts to evade legal restrictions on Contra aid through a secret supply operation in El Salvador, according to the report.

The report is the second released by the agency in response to a series of articles that appeared in the San Jose Mercury News in the summer of 1996. Those articles accused the CIA of forming an alliance with drug dealers and Contra groups to introduce crack cocaine into south-central Los Angeles during the 1980s.

While the inspector-general’s report contradicts the CIA’s previous claims that it had little information on the Contras and drug-running activities, it offers no evidence supporting the newspaper’s allegations.

Reporter Jonathan Aiken contributed to this report.

Source 

Bolstering Contras Was A Top Priority

January 18, 1987

By GEORGE de LAMA, Chicago Tribune Correspondent
Michael Tackett of the Chicago Tribune contributed to this story.

WASHINGTON — Months before Congress cut off support for the Nicaraguan rebels in October 1984, President Reagan approved an ambitious campaign to encourage private American donors and foreign governments to finance the war against Managua`s Sandinista regime.

The goal: Keep the Contras, as the anti-Sandinista rebels are known, alive and viable as a fighting force until the president could persuade Congress to change its mind and restore U.S. military aid.

Reagan lent the full weight of his office to the private supply effort, casting aside a thin veil of secrecy over the administration`s two-year effort to assist the Contras. When Americans wrote to the White House asking how they could contribute to the Contra cause, the president sent out letters over his signature urging them to donate money to private relief groups aiding the rebels.

Reagan attended a fund-raising dinner for the Contras here in April 1985, gave speeches likening the Central American warriors to the U.S. founding fathers and volunteered at one point that “I`m a Contra, too.“

Support for the estimated 15,000 fighters became a top priority within the administration. The campaign, headed by an obscure Marine lieutenant colonel on the National Security Council staff, Oliver North, rose to the top drawer of White House concerns after Congress forbade the government from giving direct or indirect military assistance to the rebels.

Now the extraordinary White House effort to keep the Contras fighting has become the focal point of the worst crisis of Reagan`s presidency. North has been accused of secretly diverting to the rebels at least $10 million from the sale of arms to Iran. While calling North “a national hero,“ Reagan has said he neither knew about nor authorized the diversion of funds, and North was fired from the NSC.

Even before the alleged diversion, the supply effort North oversaw from the White House basement brought millions of dollars in donations from American conservatives, right-wing Latin American military officers, and such far-off potentates as the Sultan of Brunei and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, according to administration officials and rebel leaders.

Classified U.S. intelligence reports disclose that at least $22 million was raised for the Contras from “private and foreign sources“ over the last year alone, according to well-placed administration officials. This includes the diversion of the proceeds from the arms sales, the sources said.

But this “privatization“ of the Contra war had its hidden costs, administration officials now acknowledge. It meant that officials at the highest levels of the U.S. government were doing business in the shadowy world of international arms dealers, mysterious fund raisers and assorted soldiers of fortune seeking a piece of the action in the name of Reagan`s cause.

Congressional investigators and federal agents working on the three inquiries about the White House role believe that if serious wrongdoing is found it will grow out of the deals in this private gun-running and fund- raising effort.

Much of the attention centers on the money pipeline overseen by North on behalf of the Contras. The handling of the money is shrouded in secrecy and bereft of clear accounting procedures. Nevertheless, it appears that millions of dollars in donations raised for the Contras apparently never reached the rebels. This includes the money diverted from the U.S. arms sales to Iran.

After weeks of closed hearings, Sen. David Durenberger, R-Minn., at the time the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, late last month had to acknowledge, “We still can`t tell whether one nickel of the money ever reached the Contras.“

Congressional and federal investigators are trying to determine whether the funds were diverted to other anti-communist guerrilla movements in Angola or Afghanistan, lost in misplaced airdrops to the Contras, handed out in kickbacks to military officers in Central America or simply skimmed off the top illegally by middlemen.

The Watergate-style investigative committees in both houses of Congress, an independent federal prosecutor and the Justice Department also will be closely examining allegations of criminal acts involving the Contras and their American backers.

Despite initial denials by the White House, it is clear the clandestine supply network set up for the Contras over the last two years was no secret to key administration officials. Even if North chose not to brief White House colleagues on his operations, well placed sources said, the supply effort was monitored, to varying degrees, by the CIA, select members of the NSC staff in Washington and U.S. diplomats and military personnel in Central America.

Aides to Vice President George Bush even acknowledged that his office was told as early as last August that some Contra backers may have been engaging in illegal activities. Although they admit that many administration officials were aware of the secret arms-supply network, Reagan aides insist that North was solely responsible for the diversion of Iran arms funds to the Nicaraguan rebels.

Whether North acted alone is a key question for the investigators.

It was in late 1982, when most Americans still had not heard of the Nicaraguan rebels, that North began to make regular trips to Honduras. There he met with U.S. Embassy and CIA officials and Contra leaders as they began to map out a strategy for overthrowing the Sandinista regime.

Over the next four years, North made at least half a dozen trips a year to the region. By 1984, when official U.S. support was cut, North had become the dominant outside figure in the Contra movement.

Former Contra spokesman Edgar Chamorro said that after the cutoff, North went to Honduras to reassure rebel leaders that the U.S. government would never abandon them. To meet this pledge, he said, North created a secret network of suppliers, arms dealers, middlemen, ex-CIA employees, and anti- Castro Cuban exiles that came to be known as “Ollie`s army.“

Displaying a penchant for secrecy and braggadocio, North repeatedly told associates that he regularly briefed Reagan on the Contra effort and was doing his bidding. In the Defense Department, CIA and the State Department, the notion that North carried the president`s blessing gave the 43-year-old Marine lieutenant colonel power well beyond his military rank.

White House officials vehemently dispute that Reagan had a private relationship with the colonel. They claim that Oval Office logs show North met with Reagan 19 times over the last two years, and never with fewer than five other people present. Moreover, these officials said Reagan explicitly instructed his staff to stay within the bounds of the law in their activities on behalf of the Contras.

But some of his former colleagues said North may nonetheless have believed he was doing what Reagan wanted.

For help in implementing the clandestine supply network, North turned to experienced hands in covert operations. Foremost among these experts was retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard Secord, a onetime assistant secretary of defense and ex-chief of the U.S. military mission in Iran who had extensive contacts in the Middle East.

Secord stepped down from his Pentagon post after he was implicated in the federal criminal investigation of ex-CIA agent Edwin Wilson, who was convicted of illegally supplying arms and explosives to Libya. Secord was never charged in the case. Immediately after resigning, he went into the lucrative international-arms and security-consultant business with an Iranian businessman.

According to administration officials and congressional investigators, North and Secord first met in 1981, when they worked together to lobby Congress and arrange the details on a U.S. sale of AWAC surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia. Secord and his Iranian-born associate, Albert Hakim, controlled a security assistance company called Stanford Technologies Inc., with offices in Vienna, Va.; San Jose, Calif., and Geneva, Switzerland. Sources familiar with the investigation said the company played a key role in arranging arms shipments to Iran and in setting up a secret air-supply operation for the Contras.

Published reports said that Secord, through a corporation known as Lake Resources, had access to one of two secret Swiss bank accounts that received deposits from the sale of U.S. arms to Iran. North reportedly had access to the second account. It was from these accounts that money was to flow to the Contras, the sources said.

Although there is no evidence thus far that the cash or its equivalent in supplies ever reached the rebels, sources said Secord was apparently active in supplying the Contras through yet another financial corporation, General Services Fiduciare, with offices in Switzerland and the Bahamas.

Records also show that Secord ordered the purchase of four light planes from Maule Aircraft Co. of Moultrie, Ga., that later were sent to Central America. The planes were ordered by Secord for a Panamanian company and then shipped to Honduras, Maule company officials said. At least one of the planes wound up with the Contras. Federal investigators have seized records of the transaction.

While Secord was moving small, short-range planes to the rebels, he and North reportedly persuaded the Contras to use the services of Southern Air Transport Inc., a Miami-based cargo carrier owned by the CIA between 1960 and 1973. Congressional investigators see Southern Air as a key link between the shipments of arms to Iran, the NSC and the Contra supply effort. Well placed sources confirm it made deliveries of arms to Israel destined for Iran, and its other connections emerged through interviews with company officials.

William Langton, president of the airline, has confirmed that Southern Air advanced a loan to a Daytona Beach broker to purchase the C-123 cargo plane that was shot down in Nicaragua last Oct. 5. Eugene Hasenfus, a cargo handler on this ill-fated flight, has said he and two other Americans were dropping arms to the Contras on a supply mission that originated at the Ilopango air base in El Salvador. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison by a Nicaraguan court and then released last month.

Langton said the purchaser of the plane did not have sufficient money to pay for it at the time, and that the airline agreed to put up the funds. He would not disclose the identity of the purchaser. Southern Air also had a contract to service the plane and airline officials admit the carrier paid for Hasenfus`s commercial airline ticket to Central America.

An airline with a reputation for secrecy and efficiency in flying to the world`s trouble spots, Southern Air has increased its revenues dramatically in 1986, with much of its business coming from U.S. government contracts.

Southern Air flew five State Department-financed supply missions to the Contras in 1986, delivering “humanitarian“ assistance to the rebels. It also flew several other cargo loads into Honduras and El Salvador, and four secret missions on behalf of the White House NSC, according to airline spokesman William Kress.

But knowledgeable administration sources said the airline was used in a U.S. ruse to save the Contras the cost of moving some military supplies. Southern Air was engaged to fly nonlethal supplies to Central America for the State Department, a public contract let by State Department officials. Once in Central America at State Department expense, the planes were then sometimes used to ferry weapons from El Salvador to the Contras in Nicaragua before the aircraft returned to the United States.

“That way we picked up all the transit costs“ for flying from the United States to Central America, one administration official said. This left the Contras` backers responsible for the less expensive costs of flights within the region.

Coordinating the flights from his suburban Virginia office was Richard Gadd, an associate of Secord and friend of North, according to administration officials. Gadd was contracted by the State Department to deliver more than a dozen “humanitarian“ aid shipments to the Contras, the officials said.

Last summer, Gadd`s clandestine role as coordinator of Contra arms- resupply flights was taken over by retired Air Force Col. Robert Dutton, a business associate of Secord who played a role in arranging U.S. arms shipments to Iran. Gadd and Dutton have refused to comment on the air-supply scheme.

But Kress conceded it was possible that Southern Air pilots might fly a mission to an authorized location, filed on its official Department of Transportation logs, and pick up another revenue flight while at a remote location. “If they fly down there with a load of X, they may try to get some revenue flights,“ Kress said.

Because he could not be everywhere at once, North used a former Senate Republican aide and ex-State Department consultant, Robert Owen, to serve as his chief liaison with the Contras. Owen, a young Stanford University graduate, was North`s “eyes and ears“ in Central America, monitoring “whether the equipment was getting down there and distributed the way it should be“ and reporting Contra leaders` gripes back to the NSC, according to one knowledgeable source.

Owen reportedly had close ties to John Hull, an American rancher living in northern Costa Rica, who is under investigation for his alleged role in gun- smuggling to the Contras. Hull, who has bragged of working for the CIA, has acknowleged providing use of the private airstrip on his ranch to the Contras and their backers.

Another key figure linking the Contra aid network to the White House is a Cuban exile named Felix Rodgriguez, a veteran of the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and former CIA employee. Rodgriguez was recommended for his job as adviser to the Salvadoran air force by Bush`s national security adviser, Donald Gregg, who knew the Cuban exile from their days together during the Vietnam war.

Known as Max Gomez — a symbolic nom de guerre immediately recognizable to Latin Americans; it is a play on Maximo Gomez, the famed Dominican-born general who led Cuba`s first war of independence against Spain — Rodriguez served as the Contras` liaison with the Salvadoran air force. From his post at San Salvador`s Ilopango air base, Rodriguez oversaw rebel air-supply missions, including Hasenfus`s final mission.

An associate of Rodriguez believed to have played a vital role in the supply effort was another Cuban exile who went by the cover name of Ramon Medina. Administration officials identified Medina as Luis Carriles Posada, a former CIA contract employee who was implicated in the 1976 bombing of a Cubana Airlines jetliner that exploded while on a flight from Barbados to Havana.

Posada mysteriously escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1984, and is officially an international fugitive. But he was often seen in El Salvador over the last year, and his real identity was common knowledge to other members of the Contra supply operation, informed sources said.

Gregg has publicly admitted introducing Rodriguez to Bush, and the vice president has met with him on three separate occasions. Bush said their conversations focused on the Salvadoran civil war and denied that they ever discussed aid to the Contras. Both Gregg and Bush have denied ever meeting Medina.

But Bush`s office confirmed that Gregg and Rodgriguez discussed the Cuban`s “concerns about“ the Contra supply effort in a meeting in Washington last August. According to one Bush aide, Rodriguez told Gregg of his suspicions that some of the money collected abroad for Contra aid “was being ripped off.“

Gregg considered the charges alarming enough to convene a meeting in his office of key administration officials, including two NSC staff members, the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, Edwin Corr, and a CIA official. It is unclear what was decided at this meeting, if anything. The vice president`s office insists that Bush and Gregg had no role in “directing, coordinating or approving“ arms supplies to the Contras.

But two months later, Rodriguez hurriedly placed two calls to Col. Sam Watson, Gregg`s deputy, to report concerns that an old airplane that had taken off from El Salvador was late in returning and may have encountered trouble.

That was how aides to the vice president became the first U.S. officials to know that the cargo plane carrying Hasenfus and arms to the Contras had been shot down over Nicaragua. More than any other single event, the downing of the Hasenfus flight focused attention on the Contra supply effort and raised questions about the Reagan administration`s role in coordinating the secret network.

The plane`s wreckage, thoroughly searched by Sandinista troops, contained intriguing bits of evidence. An identification card issued by Southern Air Transport was found on the body of the dead pilot, William Cooper. Also unearthed was a Swiss banker`s business card with a handwritten number that appeared to represent a secret bank account.

Within hours of the crash, White House officials were asking the CIA whether Hasenfus or any other crew member of the ill-fated flight was working for U.S. intelligence. Agency officials responded that they were not. North, however, did not wait for an answer. Administration officials said he immediately flew to El Salvador, where he went to work ensuring that embarassing details of the operation did not leak. And he began to make arrangements for benefits to be sent to the families of the dead pilots.

Intelligence reports flowing from the CIA to the White House raise serious questions about whether Reagan or others actually knew about the diversion of money to buy arms for the Contras. These detailed reports showed a substantial increase in deliveries of arms last summer, particularly along the so-called “southern front“ near Nicaragua`s border with Costa Rica, despite the unaccounted millions of dollars, the officials said. Hasenfus`s plane was shot down in this region.

In addition, El Salvador`s national telephone company released records that showed numerous calls were placed earlier this year to North`s NSC office in Washington from the safehouse in San Salvador used by Hasenfus, Cooper and their colleagues. Calls also were placed to a CIA agent in Costa Rica and to Secord`s offices in Virginia, the records showed. The Salvadoran telephone company, ANTEL, is controlled by military intelligence officers in that nation, informed sources said.

“If the Salvadorans knew all about it, with their intelligence services, then you can bet the CIA and the NSA had to know about it, too,“ one administration official said. “If they didn`t know, then they were just incompetent.“

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