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Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez Frias is smarter than to fall for Colombia old dog ’s trick in Granda brouhaha!

VHeadline commentarist Carlos Herrera writes: Much has been written about the Rodrigo Granda kidnapping by seven Venezuelan anti-kidnapping squad National Guard (GN) officers and three National Crime Squad (CICPC) policemen in Caracas … specifically in Bellas Artes, near the Clinica Razetti on December 13.

The GN and the three CICPCs are now in custody and will be charged.

All these Venezuelan officials were bribed by Colombian officials to carry out the “apprehension” of Granda … to the tune of US$1-1.5 million depending on the reports you read … and the intellectual authors of this crime appear to be at the highest levels of the Colombian government – at least at the level of Defense Minister Jorge Uribe and perhaps even all the way up to President Alvaro Uribe Velez himself.

Only high-ranking government officials could possibly have access to this sort of money under Colombia’s bounty hunter policy to apprehend terrorists or dangerous criminals.

The bounty hunter or reward policy is legal in Colombia … but even if there had been a warrant issued for Granda’s arrest, would it have been legal (?) to bribe Venezuelan officials to kidnap him in broad daylight in Caracas .. when the legal route would be to request that Venezuelan authorities detain him, with a view to extradition to Colombia?

The result has been the internationalization of Colombia’s internal “reward” policy and effectively this infringes international law, as well as violating Venezuela’s national sovereignty.

The fact is, that there was no arrest warrant in existence for Granda on December 13 … so how could he be detained in this way? … by any stretch of the imagination it was illegal and calculated to cause at least a diplomatic rift between Colombia and Venezuela.

More on this point later.

The background

Granda possessed at least two legal nationalties … Colombian and Venezuelan … and perhaps he was also Ecuatorian …Granda moved freely through Ecuador:

According to The Miami Herald (January 14): “Documents obtained by The Herald from migratory authorities in Ecuador show that Granda entered that country more than 30 times from 1999 to 2004, using both his legitimate Colombian passport and an Ecuadorian government ID card, both in his own name. ŒWe had no notification that anyone was looking for him, not Colombian authorities or Interpol’, said the Chief of Immigration of Ecuador, Colonel Jaime Hurtado.”

He first came to Venezuela in 1997, under the 2nd government of President Rafael Caldera and was a legal resident … he became a naturalized Venezuelan citizen in Maracay on July 14 (2004) in accordance with all legal procedures.

If there had been any doubt about his legal status or if a “wanted as a terrorist” … or a “member of the FARC” window had come up on the I.D. Ministry’s computer screen, he would have been detained on the spot.

In all naturalization cases, the applicant’s documentation file is sent to Caracas for checking, as a further safeguard.

Since no arrest warrant had been issued, Granda was legally naturalized under Venezuelan law … he had been resident for five years, which is a legal requirement for naturalization of all Latin Americans … as well as Spaniards, Italians and Portuguese.

His naturalization allowed him to vote in the October 31 regional elections but, as a result of the scandal, the authenticity of his documentation is being verified, with a view to revocation of his new Venezuelan nationality.

However, the local and international press has repeated ad nauseam that Granda was the “FARC’s Foreign Minister” … with no real hard evidence. The FARC website does not specify who is their “Foreign Minister,” but based on the number of overseas trips undertaken by Raul Reyes in the last eight years, he [Reyes] would appear to be the real international negotiator … not Rodrigo Granda.

The Goebbelian tactics of repeating, over and over again, the same half-truth about Granda and his circumstances in Venezuela, has meant that the media ballyhoo was centered on the question of: “How could Venezuela naturalize a terrorist, high-ranking member of the FARC?” … implying that Venezuela (and Chavez in particular), was somehow supporting or in cahoots with this group of Colombian terrorists … or freedom fighters, depending on one’s political hue.

The well oiled news-feeds led to the international press and suddenly there you have it .. more so-called “evidence” that Chavez Frias is cooperating with the FARC … with the aim of turning Chavez into an international pariah and a “threat to stability in the region.”

We have to go back to 1997, when Andres Pastrana won the Colombian presidential elections to understand more about the status of the FARC.

Several months before the elections, Pastrana had talks with the FARC’s veteran leader, Manuel Marulanda, with the objective of initiating “peace talks” if he won the presidency … and it was this initiative which effectively propelled Pastrana into the Narino Palace in Bogota.

The conditions for starting peace talks between the Pastrana government and the FARC were among others that the Colombian military should stop pursuing them during the talks … that a “zona de distensión” (a non-militarized safe zone) about the size of Switzerland should be handed over to the FARC in the south east of Colombia, including the town of San Vicente de Caguan … and more importantly, that the FARC be classified as a “political movement,” rather than a terrorist or guerilla group.

This was also vital for Pastrana for he would not be seen by his paymasters in the north to be negotiating with terrorists.

Thus, in 1997, Granda was able to enter Venezuela and reside here since he was a member of a political party — not a terrorist/guerilla group — much as the M19 guerillas turned themselves into a political party.

In 2001, Pastrana finally broke-off the peace negotiations with the FARC since no progress had been made … he alleged that they had had four years in which to increase their criminal activities, including drug-running, kidnappings and vehicle theft. This set the scene for Uribe to take on the FARC with the backing of the ‘Plan Colombia’ — which was now well in place after initially being mooted by the Clinton administration.

Back to the present

At this point certain questions have to be asked about the motivation for this kidnapping when there was no arrest warrant issued on Granda either by the Colombian authorities or by Interpol … or by the United States.

The arrest warrant issued by Interpol Bogota was published on January 9 … some 27 days after Granda had been snatched and spirited away to the Colombian border town of Cucuta to be held by Colombian authorities.

The backlash of this action has been a diplomatic crisis between Venezuela and Colombia, with President Chavez suspending all economic projects between the two nations until there is a diplomatic apology from the Colombian government for infringing Venezuela’s sovereignty.

Readers should be made aware that draconian laws have been passed in Colombia in the last two years allowing suspects to be detained without judicial warrant, homes raided without a search warrant and police powers increased to the point that Colombia is now a police state.

This is partially understandable, especially when there has been a civil war underway since the assassination of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan in 1948 by the Colombian oligarchy, which led to blood thirsty riots in Bogota (the “Bogatazo”) for almost a week … and 100,000 thousand people were killed in the violence.

Thus in the Granda case, under Colombian law this sort of “snatch” may be legal as well as in the context of the US “crusade” against all forms of terrorism on a global scale. However, it looks as if the Colombian authorities have overstepped the mark, since Chavez is unlikely to back down and since Colombia appears to have violated international law and Venezuelan sovereignty at the same time.

In recent months, relations between Colombia and Venezuela had been excellent despite some incidents in the past … for example, when a Colombian senator called for the OAS Democratic Letter to be applied to the Chavez government on the basis that Venezuela was courting the FARC.

Over the last four years, both the Colombian and Venezuelan mass media … almost all of which is owned by companies with US-related transnational interests … have unsuccessfully tried to link Chavez with the FARC saying that he was financing them or allowing them to use Venezuelan territory to set up encampments. There has been absolutely no hard evidence produced to substantiate these allegations, but the stories always receive a top billing in the press since they form a strategic line in attempting to discredit Chavez and his Bolivarian government, by tarring the latter and the FARC with the same “terrorist brush.”

Bearing in mind that the US State Department fully supported the kidnapping of Granda and the methods used, it can be detected from this sort of official declaration that the US has also become a delinquent state by upholding the violation of international law.

In retrospect it is not really surprising, since the US does not recognize the International Criminal Court in the Hague and has participated in invasions, coups, assassinations, all through the last century and continuing into this one. Two recent prime examples are Afghanistan and Iraq – without even mentioning on a lesser scale, the backing for the 2002 coup in Venezuela or the kidnapping of Jean Bertrand Aristide from Haiti and the resulting puppet regime installed there.

It begs the question to ask whether the US State Department would applaud Chavez and the Venezuelan government if Pedro Carmona Estanga … the April 2002 “Dictator for a Day” … were to be snatched from Bogota … or Carlos Fernandez from Miami, or Carlos Ortega from Costa Rica … using the same methods as the Colombian government?

Terrorism does not always come from the barrel of a gun – trying to starve the Venezuelan people during the lock out and oil industry sabotage in December 2002February 2003 cost lives and falls into the same terrorist category.

I am certain that the US State Department would go at least “diplomatically ballistic” if any of these terrorists were snatched, even though all three are fugitives from Venezuelan justice. Note well that in the case of Granda, he was not on any wanted list, as explained earlier.

The Granda kidnapping should be viewed in the context of the longer term objectives of Plan Colombia … sold to the Colombians as a strategy to promote social programs, defeat the FARC and ELN, combat drug trafficking, safeguard the population from massacres and kidnappings carried out from time to time of innocent civilians by the FARC, ELN and paramilitaries.

The US has pumped military aid, equipment, helicopters and “advisers” into Colombia (sounds like Vietnam at the beginning of the 1960s - then, the enemy was “communisn,” now it is “terrorism”) with the blessing of the Uribe government and has effectively managed to displace drug shipments from Colombia to neighboring countries Venezuela, Ecuador and Brazil … thus, drug running still continues, but by different routes.

Plan Colombia also includes fumigating coca plantations to “eradicate the drug menace at the source,” and this has caused many illnesses not only among Colombians but also Venezuelans and Ecuadorians living in the border regions – sounds almost like the Agent Orange program used in Cambodia and Vietnam – it is a disguised form of chemical warfare.

According to neoliberal market economics, if there was no demand for cocaine in the United States, there would be no production and hence no problem.

Perhaps the US should put its own diseased society in order before spraying toxic chemicals on to fertile lands and poor peasant farmers with the probability of triggering genetic defects in future generations – once again as in Vietnam.

Is this chemical terrorism, by any chance?

Almost two hundred years ago, Simon Bolivar realized that he could not liberate Venezuela from Spanish imperial control except from a base in Colombia. This strategy was built on an understanding of the importance of the Caribbean as a staging area for successive forays into the mainland.

By the same token, the US presence in Colombia is not only about controlling Colombia as a geostrategic focus in South America with the connivance of US lackeys in the Colombian ruling classes … as was Santander in the 1820s … but also about controlling or invading Venezuela from Colombian territory.

In effect, Plan Colombia is the US staging post … or one of them … to “control Venezuela” and ensure a supply of cheap oil from its “backyard” from the massive Bolivarian energy arc that goes from Trinidad all the way down to Ecuador and Bolivia.

The US already has a base in Mantua (Ecuador) conceded by the neoliberal Harvard-educated Jamil Mahaud — who was kicked out by a popular indigenous uprising in 2001, after initiating the dollarization of the economy.

Now US Special Forces and troops are actually on Colombian territory.

The spin-offs from the Granda kidnapping must be seen in this context … it is no coincidence that Condoleezza Rice threw her hat in the ring by saying that the Chavez government is “a negative force in the region.”

All these declarations form part of a plan to oust Chavez in some way or other, by causing internal destabilization making Venezuela “ungovernable,” thus the US has to send troops to protect oil supplies. By linking Chavez with the FARC or Al Qaeda (apparently there are Al Qaeda training camps on the Venezuelan holiday island of Margarita in the Caribbean Sea, which is small, and no one has managed to photgraph or film the training camps after more than two yesrs since the first “reports”, or rather media inventions).

Thus, in the name of the international campaign against terrorism espoused by the Bush administration, Chavez has to go … he is a terrorist or consorting with them, and ergo will destabilize the whole region … so we have to do something … like invade to protect the oil supplies and US interests, an so on…

Despite the facetious way of writing this part, this is a real threat that cannot be ignored.

In a South American context, the recent signing of the legal documents to create the South American Community of Nations (SACN) in Cuzco-Peru on December 9 between all 12 South American nations (excluding the colony of French Guiana) is another reason to use incidents such as the Granda case to cause a hiatus between Colombia and Venezuela.

With diplomatic problems between two historically Bolivarian nations … which were once part of the Gran Colombia, together with Ecuador in the 1820s … there is no real “community” possible if the Colombian government (as part of the USA-inspired Plan Colombia) infringes Venezuela’s territorial sovereignty with illegal premeditated actions as the US’ main South American lackey.

The SACN will effectively block the implementation of the FTAA, and the multi-state oil company Petrosur (now in existence), plus TVsur and a possible Latin or South American Monetary Fund or Central Bank … are all elements to challenge the US’ traditional hegemonic ambitions in the region.

Chavez has been the main protagonist of South American union as well the aforementioned initiatives, and the US wants him out for this reason as well.

The diplomatic rumblings of the Granda case still continue, with Bogota conveniently leaking “information” to the press, before sending it to the Venezuelan government to create yet another “matrix of opinion” in the mass media to keep up the pressure.

This “information” concerns eight guerillas/terrorists who are “frequent visitors” to Venezuela, implying that Chavez is somehow allowing them free rein to enter and roam on Venezuelan territory … when in reality this is just a rehashed list of well-known guerilla leaders.

Obviously, the Venezuelan immigration authorities will trace the comings and goings of the eight named in this Narino list to verify if they were ever recently in Venezuela at all. Raul Reyes was in Venezuela several times during the Carlos Andres Perez government at the beginning of the 1990s, when Perez was trying to broker a peace settlement between the FARC and the then Colombian government … he was a “frequent visitor” then, but now? Let’s wait and see.

The supposed “proof” of the location of the FARC encampments inside Venezuelan territory from the Narino Palace has been yet another damp squib as there is once again and, as in the last six years of this game, NO HARD EVIDENCE that they exist.

The list produced by Colombia’s Foreign Minister, Carolina Barco, is just another mirage of rehashed evidence. I remember seeing heroic journalists “discovering” an abandoned FARC encampment on Venezuelan territory three years ago on Venezuelan TV. The jungle in the report could have been anywhere in South America, but it was “definitely” in Venezuela. The TV said so!

Brazilian President Lula Da Silva has offered to mediate in the diplomatic rift, and it is interesting to note that not one single South American nation has spoken out in support of Colombia’s action in Caracas on December 13.

Chavez has offered to meet Uribe in private as it is … from his point of view … a bilateral issue, whereas Uribe proposed to discuss it at the next meeting of the South American summit or meeting of Presidents – probably to wash the dirty linen in public, and try to discredit Chavez even more in an international context.

Chavez is smarter than to fall for that old dog’s trick.

Whatever the outcome of this impasse between Colombia and Venezuela, it is doubtful that diplomatic relations will be broken off. Both countries have too much to lose economically speaking. The most probable outcome, from my analysis, will be that Colombia’s Defense Minister Jorge Uribe will pay the political cost of this badly calculated gaffe and resign … as he offered to do on January 18 if this “would solve the crisis” … thus obviating the need for President Uribe himself to eat humble pie for the gross miscalculation.

Never fear … this sort of US interventionism into Venezuela’s sovereign affairs using Uribe’s USA puppet regime and Plan Colombia will continue as this is an undeclared war on the Bolivarian Revolution and its implications for the real independence of South America, (without mentioning the vast oil and gas reserves under Venezuela’s control) almost two hundred years after the first independence movements of Bolivar and San Martin.

This strategy will be backed to the hilt by the transnational mass media, as they continue to blacken Venezuela’s image in the world.

Their objective is the maintenance and furthering of USA interests in the region and the eventual non-democratic removal or assassination of President Hugo Chavez Frias, leading to a civil war in Venezuela and the inevitable US military intervention … to protect (?) strategic oil supplies…

Carlos Herrera

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