Skip to comments.US military presence in Paraguay irks neighbors
Posted on 12/02/2005 1:36:44 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
CUIDAD DEL ESTE, PARAGUAY - Outside the Jebay mall, a bustling hive of black market shops guarded by men with pistols and shotguns, a motorcycle taxista shouts from inside his helmet: "They want to control all this. They think terrorists are here."
"They" means the US military.
The recent arrival of US troops in this landlocked nation of 6 million is brewing fears of the repeat of cold-war intervention in the heart of South America. And in cabs, newspapers, courtyards, and restaurants throughout region, conspiracy theories about Washington's intentions are spreading like wildfire.
In May, Paraguay rankled neighbors by hosting 400 US troops for 13 joint military exercises that began this summer and will end in December 2006. Washington is paying $45,000 for each exercise, some of which are humanitarian, and Paraguay reportedly hopes to land $35 million in extra aid.
When President Bush arrived in Argentina for the Summit of the Americas last month, civic groups in Paraguay simultaneously announced a forum to address the US troop deployment in the country. Many here fear the troops are laying the groundwork for a permanent base similar to the Pentagon's Manta Base in Ecuador. But US and Paraguayan officials are vehement. "The United States has absolutely no intention of establishing a military base in Paraguay," said an official at the US Embassy in Asunción, Paraguay's capital.
Skeptics point out, however, that the US initially denied the Manta base would be permanent back in 1999.
"One day a Pentagon official came to our office to assure us that Manta would only be peripherally used, with no hardened structures or overnight facilities," recalls Larry Birns, executive director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington. "A week later, he telephones us and says that things had dramatically changed and that Manta now was scheduled to be made into a 'multimillion-dollar' major US military facility. This is what worries us about Paraguay. What the Pentagon has in mind for Paraguay today may be different from what it may decide down the road."
Terrorist activity? Before and immediately after 9/11, US officials suspected that Al Qaeda was active in the so-called Triple Border area where Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil meet. Those fears have dwindled to allegations that Arab businessmen in Ciudad del Este use profits from pirated goods to fund Middle East terrorist groups. The Brazilian government has estimated that $6 billion of illegal funds are wired out of Ciudad del Este annually.
State Department officials say they are concerned about terrorist-related activity in the area, but a July statement from the US Embassy in Asunción said the US had "no type of intervention" planned for Ciudad del Este, except for programs to boost employment in the city. Yet this hasn't stopped locals from speculating that the Pentagon wants to monitor people of Arab descent living in the area.
Others here voice a more radical theory: that the US wants to control strategic gas reserves in neighboring Bolivia. Many Paraguayans don't go that far, but do claim that Washington wants more of a presence nearby because it is worried leftist candidate Evo Morales would nationalize Bolivia's natural gas industry and decriminalize coca growing if he wins the presidential elections on Dec. 18.
"The US has a long and resented history of intervening in Bolivia's internal affairs," says Jim Shultz, executive director of The Democracy Center, a think tank based in Bolivia. "With the arrival of soldiers so close to Bolivia's border, people here are understandably worried that the US is cooking up something even more drastic."
The US official in Asunción firmly denies any links between the Paraguayan exercises and Bolivia.
Dr. Birns says that expansion of military ties with Paraguay could have "damaging regional geopolitical ramifications far beyond anything that Washington may have anticipated as of now. We would like to remove this temptation before it gets Washington into trouble."
Brazilian officials have complained publicly about the US military presence. Celso Amorim, Brazil's foreign minister, told media outlets that Paraguay's position within MERCOSUR, a four-nation trade bloc that also includes Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, could be jeopardized by its decision.
The trade factor Officials in Asunción have complained that MERCOSUR, which is dominated by Brazil, unfairly hurts their country's exports, especially beef and textiles. It is reportedly seeking permission from MERCOSUR partners to pursue trade deals with the United States without having to leave the bloc, something Uruguay has done.
"This is all about trade," says Anderson Siglkicki, a restaurant manager in Foz de Iguaçu, Brazil, just across the Parana River from Paraguay. "Paraguay thinks MERCOSUR is unfair, so they want to make friends with the United States. Paraguay wants to join the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas."
But Milda Rivarola, a Paraguayan political analyst and historian, says officials will feel little domestic pressure to kick the US troops out of the country.
"Most Paraguayans are indifferent," she says. "Progressive sectors and leftist groups have protested, and the press made it an object of debate. But in the country, few people are going to complain, especially if they get free services and some money."
"Most Paraguayans are indifferent," she says. "Progressive sectors and leftist groups have protested, and the press made it an object of debate. But in the country, few people are going to complain, especially if they get free services and some money."***
I'm sure Hugo Chavez is anything but indifferent. He believes Paraguay is in his camp, along with Brazil,Argentina and Uruguay.
Chavez appoints radicals to head Venezuelan passport agency - reports of Arabs otaining ID documents*** CARACAS -- Already facing allegations that Muslim extremists have obtained Venezuelan identity documents, President Hugo Chávez has put the country's passport agency in the hands of two radicals -- one a supporter of Saddam Hussein.
Hugo Cabezas and Tareck el Aissami were appointed last month as director and deputy director of the Identification and Immigration Directorate, in charge of border controls and issuing passports and national ID cards. The agency also works with electoral authorities on voter registration.
Both were top student leaders at the University of the Andes in the western city of Merida, described by senior school officials as a virtual haven for armed Chávez supporters and leftist guerrillas.
When El Aissami served as president of the student body from 2001 to 2003, his armed supporters controlled the university's dormitories, said Oswando Alcala, a professor and director of student affairs.
Cabezas and El Aissami declined several Herald requests for interviews. Calls to the Information Ministry in Caracas also failed to elicit an official response.
Their appointments to the passport office raised eyebrows both because of the reports of Arabs obtaining Venezuelan ID documents and the possibility of fraud in an ongoing drive for a referendum to recall Chávez. His popularity stands at less than 40 percent.
''These appointments raise suspicions,'' said Pompeyo Marquez, a former Cabinet minister for border issues and an opponent of Chávez opponent. ``The risk is that they can play tricks both as regards elections and with identity cards.''
Allegations that Chávez's leftist government issued ID documents to Islamic radicals surfaced most recently in the newsweekly U.S. News and World Report. ''Venezuela is providing support -- including identity documents -- that could prove useful to radical Islamic groups,'' the magazine reported last month, quoting senior U.S. military and intelligence officials.
Chávez has strongly denied previous opposition allegations of links to Islamic radicals and leftist guerrillas from neighboring Colombia. Following the U.S. magazine's report, he accused the U.S. ''extreme right'' of trying to justify his ouster by ``anything: an assassination, a coup d'etat, an invasion.''***
***....There is now incontrovertible evidence, for instance, that Chávez has financed, harbored, and supplied weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, Colombia's narcoterrorists. Last December, high-ranking FARC terrorist Rodrigo Granda was arrested in Caracas. Granda had been living in baronial splendor under the protection--and at the expense--of the Chávez government. Bounty hunters kidnapped Granda and drove him to Colombia, where he is now imprisoned and awaiting trial. Days after the arrest, El Salvador president Antonio Saca announced plans to investigate ties between Chávez and his country's FMLN terrorist organization. In Nicaragua, Chávez has funded Daniel Ortega's Sandinista party; in Bolivia, he funds Evo Morales, the leader of the coca-growers' movement.
But Chávez's ambitions extend beyond the Americas. He has signed treaties for "technological cooperation" with the dictators of Libya, Iran, and Syria. He has numerous business interests in those countries, and has publicly described the terror-sponsors who rule them as his "partners" and "friends." The feeling is mutual. Iran and Libya have hundreds of millions invested in Venezuela. Significantly, Chávez was the only foreign leader to visit Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf war. During his visit he embraced Saddam and called him "brother."
There is no sign that these alliances proceed from anything other than Chávez's deepest convictions. Less than a month after taking office, Chávez wrote a fan letter to Illich Ramirez Sanchez, the Venezuelan-born terrorist imprisoned at La Santé maximum-security prison outside Paris. Popularly known as "Carlos the Jackal," Sanchez began his long, bloody career by shooting Joseph Sieff, a Jewish businessman in London. He committed terrorist bombings in France, hijacked airliners, and kidnapped the OPEC ministers in Vienna. After retiring to the Sudan, he was captured and sent to France to stand trial for murdering two Parisian police officers. Yet Chávez addressed Sanchez as "Distinguished Compatriot" and lavished praise on him. He described himself as "swimming in the profundities expressed in [Sanchez's] letter," and signed off "with profound faith in the cause and the mission." When the letter was leaked, Chávez dismissed all criticism and said he was simply expressing solidarity with a fellow Venezuelan. ........*** Hurricane Hugo
3 IRA-linked fugitives back in Ireland - Trained FARC in Columbia - hid out in Venezuela/Cuba*** DUBLIN -- Three men linked to the Irish Republican Army who were convicted of training rebels in Colombia have returned surreptitiously to Ireland, eight months after going on the run. ....***
Venezuelan troops get provocative book***CARACAS - A book published and distributed by the Venezuelan army argues that ''revolutionary Islam'' and U.S. religious extremism are moral equivalents and quotes approvingly from the Venezuelan terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal. The 250-page Peripheral Warfare and Revolutionary Islam was written by Spanish politician and academic Jorge Verstrynge and is being distributed on the personal orders of Army Chief Gen. Raúl Baduel, a long-time supporter of leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
Report alleges rebels trained in Venezuela***QUITO - An Ecuadorean military intelligence report alleges that leftists from Ecuador and seven other Latin American nations received guerrilla training in Venezuela this year from backers of President Hugo Chávez.
The report does not link Chávez personally to the training in explosives, weapons and urban guerrilla tactics. But it notes that part of the training took place in two Caracas military bases, one used by the army reserves and another that houses the Defense Ministry. ....***
ping for later
One of the things that makes progress more difficult for our Latin American policy is that the whole region is infested with US and other Western leftists, and has been for decades. They work quietly to keep anti-Americanism whipped up, and they succeed.
Then I'm pleased when we have "overnight" action.
The tri-border region has been troublesome for years. In the early 20th Century Paraguay became the home of many Syrian/Lebanese Christians. Many of the families have grown wealthy and now fear the influx of Middle East Muslims, especially radical Palestinians, which began under the kleptocrat Stroessner. Today, the activity of Ciudad del Este Muslims is of interest to a number of countries (of especial interest is the Libyan "Country Club" in Foz de Iguacu, Brasil).
The greatest problem is Paraguay is not the Arabs in Ciudad del este but the endemic corruption and thievery that runs through all segments of society.
Ask about the phrase "mau" (yeh, I know I spelled it wrong), the concept that it is legal to own or even register property stolen from another country. Most of the cars in paraguay are "mau". Ask about a coffee industry measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars in a country that does not grow coffee.
Stroesner was a thief, but the country was stable and fairly prosperous. Today it is poor, corupt and very dangerous, now that the government is leftist and democratic.
Paraguay has been and will continue to be the US base for the CIA & etc. Paraguayan corruption has been tolerated by the US in exchange for its usefulness in foreign policy the world over, always far beyond whatever is going on in Paraguay at any given moment.
When "La Colonela," Stroessner's lame-ass son was finally accused of drug trafficking it was because the Cold War was over and only because of that. Stroessner's successor regimes, including the current one, have all played ball with the CIA and State Dept.
Yes, Ciudad del Este is a problem for its Islamist connections, but no, it's not beyond control. Funding conduits have been shut down, and this latest excercise is a large, very large message to any existing operations.
Jim V., your nostalgia for Stroessner is missplaced. Stroesner was a tool. There was nothing good in him beyond that.
Thank you all for the information.
For your information, in the mid-eighties the DEA office in Buenos Aires had info that Stroessner's son was involved in drug trafficking. The DEA devised a trap to get Gustavo out of Paraguay into a neibhboring country where business would be transacted allowing a fake narcotics trafficking group to open a "factory" in the Paraguayan Chaco. The trap was laid but was ended by the U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay who thought such an action might be dangerous to his personal health. He influenced the feckless U.S. ambassador to Argentina, a political appointee, to shut the operation down.
civic groups ?
many here ?
These are communist they are talking about, right ?
Sounds like we are getting ready to do some work in our own hemisphere.
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