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Mar-05-2008 10:59printcomments

Bush Defends Blood Bath in Ecuadorian Jungle as Venezuela Masses Troops

Past U.S. military strategies and aspirations are pushing the stakes.

Assasinated FARC leader Raul Reyes
Assasinated FARC leader Raul Reyes
Photo courtesy: radiosantafe.com

(SALEM, Ore.) - He may be a national leader embraced by millions in his own country, but Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez continues to raise the ire of U.S. President George Bush as his military standoff with neighboring Colombia reaches epic status.

His politics clash with U.S. capitalism, but the personal issues between the leaders of Venezuela and the United States escalated substantially in September 2006, when this elected President called George W. Bush "the devil".

He proclaimed in relation to a recent Bush visit, "And the devil came here yesterday. Yesterday the devil came here. Right here." [crosses himself] "And it smells of sulfur still today."

Ingrid Betancourt is a captive of
the FARC in the Columbian jungle

Current problems began when Columbian forces made an incursion Saturday into an Ecuadorian jungle to kill Raul Reyes, a leader of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and another 20 "leftist" guerrillas. The President of Columbia, Álvaro Uribe, admitted to the killings on the Colombia-Ecuador border.

A spokesman for FARC says Mr. Reyes, "died as he was trying to get in a meeting with French President Sarkozy where progress would have been made in finding solutions to Ingrid Betancourt's situation."

Betancourt is a Colombian politician, former senator and anti-corruption activist who was kidnapped by the FARC on February 23rd 2002 while campaigning for the presidency.

The FARC holds several hundred people as hostages as a part of their political maneuvering. They are considered a terrorist group by the Colombian government, the United States, Canada, the Latin American Parliament and the European Union.

Cuba and Venezuela instead refer to the leftist rebels as "insurgents." In fact, Chávez publicly called on Colombia and other world governments to recognize the guerrillas as a "belligerent force" earlier this year. He argued at the time that they would then be obliged to renounce kidnappings and terror acts in order to respect the Geneva Conventions.

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia members

It has been a scary situation for many Colombians for many years. The FARC was established in the 1960s as the military wing of the Colombian Communist Party.

While they originated as a purely guerrilla movement, the group became involved with the illicit drug trade during the 1980s.

U.S. President George W. Bush

This was problematic in the eyes of the Communist Party and it led to the group's separation and the formation of a political structure it calls the Clandestine Colombian Communist Party.

With the solid backing of George Bush and $600 million a year in American aid under his belt, the confidence of Columbia's President Uribe seems to be reaching higher levels than before.

Bush said, "I told the president that America fully supports Colombia’s democracy, and that we firmly oppose any acts of aggression that could destabilize the region."

Of course Columbia's U.S. backed move over the weekend to shoot to death 21 people blasted holes in any integrity that statement from Bush may have carried.

In fact while it may an unpopular truth, it is the Chavez government in Venezuela that is making the lives of millions of its poorer citizens better. Indigenous people are receiving interest they have never witnessed from a government, and he is closely associated with Evo Morales, the first indigenous president of Bolivia, or any country in that section of the world for that matter.

In Columbia, the residents who possess more material items back Uribe's plans, as the wealthier Venezuelans tend to oppose Hugo Chavez.

In a Robin Hood setting, the likes of Uribe and his band of rich, right-wing henchmen would certainly be the villains, and Chavez with his in-your-face approach to the re-distribution of wealth and the abolition of concepts based in greed would surely be the hero.

But this is the United States, and our government today would rather make unilateral attacks at countries that we view as a threat, than talk to them and try to understand their frustrations.

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, a "War President?"

At the time of this writing, Venezuela is moving air, land and sea forces to its border with Colombia. It is a further escalation of the tensions that erupted over the weekend, after the border incursion into Ecuador. Chavez has stated outright that he does not trust the United States government and military.

Ecuador's María Isabel Salvador

As the situation has worsened, Mr. Chávez made the statement that Columbia was, "The Israel of Latin America". He claims that both Israel and Colombia bomb and invade neighbors by invoking "a supposed right to defense", and he says the United States' political role and aspirations sit squarely in the midst of both.

Western forces like the U.S. now say FARC guerrillas were planning to build a "dirty bomb", which draws them further into the "terrorist" category. But others related to the FARC dismiss the accusation, saying it rings too closely to American claims that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction.

In addition to sending troops to the border, Chavez expelled Colombia’s ambassador and sent him packing. Yesterday, his agriculture minister said the frontier with Colombia would be closed to stop commerce.

In apparent response to that, Colombia said it would file charges against Mr. Chávez with the International Criminal Court, accusing him of assisting Colombia’s largest rebel group. That is based on an accusation that Chavez' government has been funneling millions into the coffers of the FARC.

Ecuador's Foreign Minister, María Isabel Salvador, has demanded the condemnation of acts committed by Colombia, and dispatched a fact-finding mission to investigate the events on its border.

It does seem like a stretch to imagine a western government being happy with border incursions, especially those that leave behind a blood bath. To those related to the FARC's hostages however, the notion of recovering loved ones and eventually disarming the FARC remains the highest priority.

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with almost twenty years experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist and reporter. Today, in addition to his role as a war correspondent in Afghanistan where he spent the winter of 2006/07, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated only with Google News. Watch for Tim's coverage from Iraq set to begin in early April, 2008. You can send Tim an email at this address: newsroom@salem-news.com




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peter pan April 17, 2008 12:12 pm (Pacific time)

Why dont you guys who criticize Chavez come to Venezuela and see it for yourself. You would be really surprised by how short sighted and brainwashed you all are. The truth is out there investigate it for yourself rather than fall victims of propaganda machinery. Its time for step outside of square dont you think!


Henry Ruark March 7, 2008 4:50 pm (Pacific time)

To all: Sorry for premature transmission of Comment re back story. Here's source for that late information: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article19475.htm so you can "see with own eyes" and "use own brain" to evaluate what it means.


Henry Ruark March 7, 2008 4:03 pm (Pacific time)

James: Thank you for your reasonable inquiry. Mine re press corruption meant to point to the actions of the owners, not the working guys and gals...appreciate your demand for clarification, and suggest you check out my Op Eds re media-deterioration generally, in Staff, via "Written by.."-line. Re Chavez, generally agree with your intent, but like Castro et al, not all bad and perhaps we need much fuller information than we now get via ordinary media-coverage. Keep right on using own brain and never hesitate to "call"-me on any words; if I cannot substantiate and/or clarify or "illuminate", then we BOTH learn...which is what honest, open, democratic dialog is s'posed to proved -- exactly as did Federalist Papers, for Founders...for whom we now MUST act, one way or t'other, since they long-gone...!!


James March 7, 2008 3:43 pm (Pacific time)

Henry I don't want to get in the middle of anything but in your 3/6 post @ 6:50am you stated that the "press-side now collapses in it's own corruption." Maybe I'm misreading what you said but what I have been seeing on the business pages of late is that all the major papers are losing circulation and the big one, the New York Times, is losing both in circulation and their stock is dropping (and layoffs are becoming more common). So I guess for those media news outlets who are doing well, then they must be doing something right, right? I frankly think the American is a good consumer when they are provided with choices, and that is what the bottom line is, in my opinion. Regarding the above article I see more negative info is coming out about Chavez, certainly hearing from people who have recently left Venezuala would be the best source, though it would also be an opinion. Those people don't seem to have a lot of choices under Chavez, pretty typical when a tyrant asserts control, or has an agenda would you not agree?


Henry Ruark March 7, 2008 7:22 am (Pacific time)

$2-Cheap Shot: Washington TIMES has long been deplorable Far Right propaganda mill, NOT citable as honestly-published daily newspaper, so recognized in D.C. even when I was there. Those working there are depreciated and some despised by reputable nationally known journalists. Daily press suffers from too much pursuit of profit in very high range (20-30 %) by owners heavily influenced by Wall St. necessities to protect stock prices at all costs --thus then driven to slash news-side to cut costs any way possible. That's inevitable trend as new tech offers many more open channels for information, as here and on Internet. Both management and news staff universally busting guts to make transition work; but print-side will continue since it is absolute essential for full democratic information flow, especially vs talk-radio overwhelmed by dollar-driven Far Right true corruption. Your "corruption" re media generally reflects intentional effort to mislead by obvious distortion and misinformation, and shows contempt for S-N readership better informed for long time now by true-insider factual analysis. See previous Op Eds in my Staff-section, "Written by" line, complete with many "see with own eyes" links to check and evaluate "with own mind." Where's any such check given by $2cheapshot truth-defiler ?


Jimmy March 6, 2008 2:26 pm (Pacific time)

A bloodbath? You call an assault on a group of armed kidnappers that have it as their aim to destabilize a democratically elected government (with term limits mind you) a bloodbath? How about a daring cross border assault on a recognized terrorist group that likes to kidnap and extort?


$Two Dollars March 6, 2008 8:30 am (Pacific time)

No doubt about it, real-life experience trumps non-experience, generally. One poster is certainly correct that the media is collapsing because of its corruption. Though the Washington Times and those that are similar appear to be thriving. Maybe the public is just getting more wise, hence more selective on where they get their information. Must be tough for those who are use to having a free rein in pushing an agenda via distorting information.


Henry Ruark March 6, 2008 6:50 am (Pacific time)

Nick P, Tim et al: Nick's heartfelt sharing of real-life experience, expressed as nobody else could possibly do, and rational response to Tim's good report, prove once again how honest, opend dialog can share with others what would never otherwise come to be known. Thank all involved here, and remember what you learned in remarkable manner not achieved anywhere else "in the press". For me, that's what Internet digital should supply, widely and well, where press-side now collapses in its own corruption.


Mark L. March 5, 2008 7:56 pm (Pacific time)

You can add to the "good points" of Chavez the fact that his socialist policies have led to food shortages in an oil rich nation and his closing the border with Columbia, a major trading partner, will only make things worse for his people. It seems like any tin horn dictator, when the economy is bad, a war will distract the sheep. Remember the Falklands?


James March 5, 2008 6:08 pm (Pacific time)

Say Cleo word has it that those who don't like to hear other viewpoints may think Fidel Castro was not a murderous thug, but a real hero, who after approximately 50 years of rule still mananaged to provide a living example of oppression and on average one meal a day for his "subjects." So why do they risk their lives trying to leave, ditto for those under Chavez? If Chavez is such a great guy, why does he continue to shut down media that provide a different take to his "rule?" So what's your take on that Cleo? I'm no fan of Bush, but if you were providing criticism aimed at Chavez in Venezuela, what do you think would happen to you? Ask some refugees for a more objective opinion, or better yet, go live there for a while and make an actual comparison. People come to America for a reason that maybe you just cannot grasp. It has nothing to do with right wing or even left wing ideology, it has to do with "freedom." P.S. Cleo are you familiar with RFK? I mean historically familiar?


Tim King March 5, 2008 6:02 pm (Pacific time)

Nick, Thanks for that, and you have every right to state your opinions about political leaders here, I appreciate the tact. Of course you would have insight that I admittedly do not have, so you are wise to follow up with information as you have to share with people. I did not know about the President of Colombia's father dying at the hands of the FARC, for example. That certainly would impact the way a person would see it.


Nick P March 5, 2008 5:42 pm (Pacific time)

Tim, I must admit that not long after posting my first comment, I regretted writing it in such a harsh tone. This happens to be a sensitive issue for me as it is for many other Latin Americans. Nonetheless, I apologize for attacking what you had to say in your article, and would like to respond to your post and some of the others (in a more levelheaded fashion, of course). Being that I am of Colombian decent, I have indeed spent a lot of time in Colombia and still visit regularly. Most my family still resides in the country and I hold on closely to my identity as a Colombian. In addition, I am very engaged with the Venezuelan community here in New York City. I think that despite the respectable experience you’ve had reporting in other regions, my experience can be considered more first-hand, and in turn, more relevant to the current situation in South America. While this clearly does not make me an expert, I think you could appreciate the notion that this sort of life experience is enough to establish a valid, informed opinion on the matter. Regarding your comments about Chavez “having balls” and being loved by countless people: I don’t necessarily think having balls should be considered a good point. Using that same logic, one would have to consider the “balls” George W. Bush has as a good point. He has stared levelly into the eyes of his critics and the international community every time he’s made any of his idiotic, brazen decision. That takes balls. You know what though? That doesn’t make him a good leader, nor does it command respect. What it does do is prove he’s an arrogant, stubborn moron. Likewise, I think Chavez’s “balls” are an indicator of the egomaniac’s dangerous arrogance. Hugo Chavez is deplored by many. It is popular belief, among educated Latin Americans, that the group of people (I would hardly say they’re “countless” in size) who do “love” him are those that are uneducated enough that he can take advantage of. Many experts argue the reason the poor love him is because they don’t know any better. Like I said in my first post, Venezuela is suffering at the hands of Hugo Chavez, and it is due entirely to his leadership style; yet, those who are suffering the most are his biggest supporters. I think that’s an interesting point to consider. In response to Vic’s post, no, you did not miss a Venezuelan invasion of another country which caused a million deaths. Was that sarcasm? Very clever... What you probably are not aware of, however, is the widespread terror the FARC has produced in the last four decades. The group is responsible for an average of 1,000 civilian deaths a year. At the moment, about a thousand hostages from all around the world are being held captive by these terrorists (it pains me to use an expression W. uses so gleefully, but there isn’t a better word to describe them). Did you know that Colombia was for a few years considered the kidnapping capital of the world? The FARC adopted and still employs it as a legitimate means of raising funds in the name of their cause. Anybody who might be able to be exchanged for money is a target. This activity has touched the lives of countless Colombians, including the Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe, whose father was killed by the FARC during an attempted kidnapping. The organization also provides protection to Colombia’s drug lords in exchange for money. The impact that narcotrafficking has had on the country should be self-explanatory. By his own admission, Chavez is sympathetic towards the FARC. He provides them with money and protection from the Colombian government when they cross the border into Venezuela. So while Hugo Chavez has not attacked another country, per se, he has contributed to the death of tens of thousands of civilians and the pain and suffering of an entire country. Cleo, is that your idea of a “hero?” Chavez is NOT respected throughout much of the world. Most of the world considers him a loud-mouthed clown. His ridiculous antics make him a joke in the eyes of most of the world. So I completely have to disagree with you Vic. In fact, if Venezuela’s military were as dangerous as the United States’, I’m sure Hugo Chavez would be as hated and feared as President Bush. I’m sorry for my long winded rant, but I really want people to understand why the attitudes toward Chavez exist, and why people get riled up when someone comes to his defense. However, I do assure you I kept this brief. Volumes can be written on why Chavez is an idiot bastard. Haha, I’ll leave it at that.


Jac ko March 5, 2008 2:28 pm (Pacific time)

I actually read the PDF that the address James left, leads to. It is pure right wing propaganda, so anyone who is trying to gain an education on any true aspects of Hugo Chavez should NOT bother reading it, unless you are longing for a good laugh or source of frustrating lies and opinions. I'm sure Archie Bunker would have agreed, that kind of thing. Of course the brutal irony is ANYONE calling Chavez a tyrant while living under a nation commanded by George W. Bush. Old ways die hard, but Chavez is living proof that they do indeed die.


Cleo March 5, 2008 2:18 pm (Pacific time)

Hey James, is that the group that is holding regular seances to bring Joe McCarthy back from the dead? Yeah, tons of freedom from your end of the woods, Chavez is a hero and his detractors are nervous, 'nuff said.


Vic March 5, 2008 2:10 pm (Pacific time)

So Nick thinks Chavez is as bad as Bush...I may have missed it, but what country did Chavez invade and cause a million or so deaths? Chavez happens to be respected throughout much of the world, unlike Bush who is universally hated and feared.


James March 5, 2008 2:02 pm (Pacific time)

For a more informed analysis from those who know Chavez read the current issue of Organization Trends to learn more about Hugo Chavez and his American support network. The article is called "The American Friends of Hugo Chavez: Dial 1-800-4-TYRANT," by Ana Maria Ortiz and Matthew Vadum. Available in pdf format, just google The American friends of Hugo Chavez.


Tim King March 5, 2008 1:38 pm (Pacific time)

Well Nick, thanks for the demeaning approach, I think you are just as confused you suggest I am, by the way. How much time do you have covering these parts of the world? I'm sorry I haven't spent time specifically in Colombia. By the way, I recently wrote a letter to Columbia University and an associate in Salem used to be the head marketing rep for Columbia Sportswear, so forgive my offense, please. Most people point mistakes out in much classier ways, but the demeaning approach means to look for the weak spots, I dig the approach, though I don't use it on people. For the record, I have reported from Mexico, (1 AP award) France, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. I am not an expert on affairs in Central and South America, I'm a reporter. I have a feeling most people reading this do not assume that I am a self-proclaimed expert in any of these areas, but I sure have a lot of people reading my stories every day, and most are OK with what I generate. So, each time I advocate for the good points of Hugo Chavez just a little bit, here comes someone to talk about how bad he is. Well, he has balls, and not just when it comes to writing hostile critiques of published Internet articles, and he is loved by countless people. He is despised by people I do not always necessarily trust when it comes to having the best interests of poverty stricken people at heart. I'm just trying to show people that there is more than the mainstream treatment of this ongoing story, it is important.


James March 5, 2008 1:34 pm (Pacific time)

Actually it's not much of a stretch at all to imagine a western power being happy with border incursions, especially when it causes a bloodbath. Lot's of documanted history regarding that situation. Hey Tim, while in Iraq, be sure to watch out for those snipers, they sure seem to shoot well. I wonder who trained them?


Nick P March 5, 2008 1:09 pm (Pacific time)

This article tickles me... The author writes on the Colombia-Venezuela-Ecuador conflict in a manner he desperately hopes will demand respect. It's hard to respect an opinion on Latin American politics from an individual who doesn't even know how to spell Colombia. When you become familiar with the spelling of the countries on which you're making commentary, maybe then, Mr. King, what you have to say MIGHT have an ounce of validity. That being said, it should be noted that, contrary to Tom King's claims that millions are experiencing improved living conditions in Venezuela, the country's current economic condition is actually in quite bad shape. In fact, many argue that Hugo Chavez's very vocal and dramatic response to Saturday’s events is actually an attempt to distract attention from the serious food shortages his country is currently suffering (the people of Venezuela can count on that issue becoming worse after Chavez's decision to close the border with Colombia, one of Venezuela’s main trading partners). While Colombia may have crossed the line by moving into Ecuadorean territory (1 mile inside the border), there is no justification for the support and protection that the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador are providing the FARC. The group finances their activities through the illegal drug trade, kidnapping and extortion. These are facts that the even the most impartial source would confirm. I loathe George Bush and many things about the US government, but I assure all who read this, Chavez is just as bad, maybe even worse.

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