Listen to this radio report: Latest Threat to Venezuela: Colombia Menaces the Region
And this interview with Colombia Journal Editor Gary Leech: Colombia’s Raid into Ecuador
Triggers Regional Tension
Caracas, Venezuela – On Saturday March 1st Colombia’s Air Force carried out a military operation in Ecuador, violating the sovereignty of its western neighbor nation. The bombing resulted in at least 17 deaths. One of the people reported to be among the victims is Raúl Reyes, commander and spokesperson for the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC). This attack is the continuation and escalation of an on-going war in Colombia that has persisted for 40 years due to US military funding and training of Armed Forces in Colombia.
The United States has a long history of intervention in Latin America, ranging from military occupations, to financial support for the overthrow of democratically elected presidents to economic sabotage to military trainings of state and private death squads. In Colombia, the United States has taken particular interest in the oil, land, water, and agricultural resources as well as the ports and profitable cocaine trade, and more recently Colombia’s strategic location in relation to Venezuela and Ecuador.
The United States supported and funded a coup attempt in April 2002 in Venezuela, temporarily taking democratically elected President Hugo Chávez out of power. While Venezuela has continued to sell oil to the United States, Chávez has taken a pro-sovereignty stance, demanding that the United States not intervene in their national politics. The Bush Administration has made a series of aggressive statements towards Venezuela, working to support the political opposition that launched the coup attempt and is now engaged in tactics of economic sabotage with the aims of destabilizing the Venezuelan economy. In addition to rich natural resources, Venezuela is offering an alternative to the US-led neoliberal development model by proposing a "Socialism of the 21st Century." The Unites States government uses its military power, technology, and wealth to threaten and to impose its culture, politics, and economies on other nations. When those nations resist, they are branded as terrorists, enemies or communists. Since September 11, 2001 the US government has used "the war on terrorism" to advance their aims of acquiring more oil, land and resources.
With the death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan rising every day, and a complicit media, which is forbidden by law to show the coffins of US soldiers who were killed in Iraq, the US people have become desensitized to the death of those labeled as terrorists. The US is employing its classic logic; that in the hunt for "terrorists" there are no rules. They have imposed this onto Colombians for many years, fueling an internal civil war, and providing the military funding and training necessary to target the FARC, the ELN, and to terrorize the Colombian people. Colombia’s civil war plays a destabilizing force within the entire region and with the recent attack of Ecuador, that process has been escalated rapidly. It is important to emphasize that Colombia has violated Ecuador’s national sovereignty and has for all intents and purposes brought its war to Ecuador. In response Ecuador has withdrawn its ambassador from Colombia and Venezuela has sent tanks to the border. While bombing another sovereign nation is standard behavior for the US government, this military operation is unprecedented and marks a calculated escalation of tensions within the region.
Each discontent expressed by the US government towards the Chávez Administration is armed with the threat of invasion. While many people that I know in the US simply roll their eyes at another nauseating comment from Bush; here, they prepare for invasion. Even within the anti-war movement, many people could not fathom the US being involved in further military operations, as the Armed Forces are currently over-stretched in their wars and occupations in the Middle East. For some time now, many analysts have suggested that US interventionism in Venezuela would come by means of Colombia; a state that has been led by pro-US regimes to protect US interests for resources. This seemed like a practical way for the US to play a destabilizing role without having to send US Forces, but instead send US trained Colombian Forces; both state and private paramilitary.
Chávez has also faced the bind of a huge, mostly unguarded western border with Colombia, in which the FARC, the Armed Forces, and paramilitaries have crossed into Venezuela, bringing their internal conflict to Venezuela’s door. Chávez has condemned the violence in Colombia, and its pouring onto Venezuelan soil. Based on Colombia’s attack of Ecuador, Chávez has sent tanks to protect its border with Colombia. Let us not forget that in the United States there are troops at the US-Mexico border, and not because the United States is responding to a military attack, but because the US government and media has attempted to equate immigration with terrorism.
While the US projects its "war on terror" towards the immigration community within its borders, it extends the war throughout the world, in an attempt to justify its military actions for more land, resources, and power. With the recent tensions that Exxon-Mobile has created in Venezuela, by claiming rights to an inflated amount of funds from Venezuela’s state oil company and furthermore, initiating various international lawsuits, resulting in the freezing of $300 million of PDVSA’s assets, US-Venezuelan relations have become even more tense. This action taken by US company Exxon-Mobile is a further escalation against Venezuela; representing not only the militaristic but the economic tactics used in an effort to discredit and destabilize Venezuela.
Now, while Colombia has attacked Ecuador, provoking a collapse in diplomatic relations and placing the region at risk of a war, the headlines in the United States read: "Chávez sends forces to Colombia’s border." This is a calculated attempt to create the image of Venezuela as the aggressor in the conflict, when the clear aggressor is the United States, who trains and funds the Colombian Army, not only in counter-insurgency and terror but now as an imperialist army, who has violated the sovereignty of its neighbor nation and created grave tensions within the region. The US government cannot pretend to be an objective observer in this conflict.