MAS peasants arrive in La Paz after 190km march in 2005
Picture: Indymedia Bolivia

When the proponents of AFRICOM talk about stability operations, one can look at Bolivia and Venezuela to see examples of how these operations work. With AFRICOM, USAID will be subsumed under the Department of Defense. In Bolivia USAID is using taxpayer money to destabilize the Bolivian government. AFRICOM intends increased use of mercenaries by US and corporate employers. In Venezuela US and Columbian mercenaries are contracted by large landowners, business owners, and other elites to control local populations and destabilize the central government. Much of the funding for the mercenaries comes from drug dealing. Many of the mercenaries come from AUC, a right wing terrorist organization from Columbia.

Undermining Bolivia by Benjamin Dangl:

Declassified documents and interviews on the ground in Bolivia prove that the Bush Administration is using U.S. taxpayers’ money to undermine the Morales government and coopt the country’s dynamic social movements—just as it has tried to do recently in Venezuela and traditionally throughout Latin America.

Much of that money is going through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
. . .

Morales won the presidency in December 2005 with 54 percent of the vote, but five regional governments went to rightwing politicians. After Morales’s victory, USAID, through its Office of Transition Initiatives, decided “to provide support to fledgling regional governments,” USAID documents reveal.

Throughout 2006, four of these five resource-rich lowland departments pushed for greater autonomy from the Morales-led central government, often threatening to secede from the nation. U.S. funds have emboldened them, with the Office of Transition Initiatives funneling “116 grants for $4,451,249 to help departmental governments operate more strategically,” the documents state.
. . .
“The U.S. Embassy is helping this opposition,” agrees Raul Prada, who works for Morales’s party. __ . . . “USAID is in Santa Cruz and other departments to help fund and strengthen the infrastructure of the rightwing governors.”

USAID has funded the regional right wing governors, allowing them to oppose democratic distribution of resources, giving them more political strength and clout to defy the central government. It has undermined youth movements, and other local political activities.

“USAID always took advantage of the poverty of the people,” Mamani says. “They even put up USAID flags in areas alongside the Bolivian flag and the wiphala.”

In the one demonstration project USAID invited Mr. Dangl to view, workers would not give their names, and said they would be beaten if they told the truth. And Fulbright scholars are being asked to report political information to the US embassy, in violation of Fulbright guidelines.

And this week from the Washington Post:

President Evo Morales declared a U.S. Embassy security officer to be an “undesirable person” on Monday after reports that the officer asked an American scholar and 30 Peace Corps volunteers to pass along information about Cubans and Venezuelans working in Bolivia
. . .
Fulbright scholar Alex van Schaick told The Associated Press that Cooper, the embassy’s assistant regional security officer, asked him to pass along the names and addresses of any Venezuelan and Cuban workers he might encounter in the country. “We know they’re out there, we just want to keep tabs on them,” Schaick quoted Cooper as telling him on Nov. 5.
ABC News reported that Cooper made a similar request to 30 newly arrived Peace Corps volunteers on July 29

The US embassy came out with the usual, why we would never consider doing such a thing, we only do good. They also made the following laughable statement:

Peace Corps volunteers had been mistakenly given a security briefing meant only for embassy staff, asking them to report “suspicious activities.”

In Venezuela:

Azzellini (Caracas-based German Political Scientist Darío Azzellini, author of a study of Columbian paramilitary activity titled The Business of War) reported that paramilitary operations are carried out by mercenaries from the U.S. and Latin America who are recruited by private military companies but pose as civilian employees. Beyond government oversight, they are contracted by large landowners, business owners, and other elites to control local populations.

A principal source of paramilitary income is their control of 100% of Colombian heroine exports and 70% of Colombian cocaine exports, Azzellini claimed. In Colombia, giant drug cartels manage large quantities of the drugs, but in Venezuela paramilitaries deal smaller amounts in local communities to increase their leverage within the populations they are contracted to control. Chavez and Azzellini publicized this “open secret” at a time of heated opposition accusations that Chávez does not sufficiently cooperate in combating drug trafficking through Venezuelan territory.

Azzellini explained that the groups now in Venezuela are descendents of the United Self-defense of Colombia (AUC), a brutal paramilitary force formed in the 1980s by Colombian elites to assume the dirty work of the government, which was seeking to improve its dismal international human rights reputation. While the AUC tactic of “total terror” has been used in Colombian cities such as Medellín, paramilitaries now in Venezuela leverage local economic and political power more than sheer violence, according to Azzellini.

Nonetheless, paramilitaries in Venezuela are known for “social cleansing,” or the hired killing of local community members, says the Ezequiel Zamora National Farmers’ Front (FNCEZ), an organization that defends the rights of rural communities. Since an agrarian reform law favorable to rural workers was passed by the Chávez administration in 2001, paramilitaries have murdered 190 rural community members who dared to stand up to the owners of plantations, milk factories, and mines.

The most recent killings were last month, when Municipal Legislator Freddy Ascaño and Community Council Federation President Alfredo Montiel were executed by paramilitaries in their municipality of Tucaní, south of Lake Maracaibo in western Venezuela, the local population reported

I don’t generally write about issues in Latin America. But the way the US deals with Latin America, historically, and especially under the Bush administration, has many parallels and lessons for African countries.

AFRICOM brags about engaging in stability operations and nation building.
Nation building and stability operations mean:

  1. Destabilize the current government (unless it is already a compliant or puppet government, in which case, undermine the opposition).
  2. Call opponents terrorists.
  3. Stabilize, engage in “nation building”, by supporting or installing a government that will follow US corporate bidding, rather than democratic principles.

This is imperialism.
“Stability” and “nation building” follow a Bush pattern of naming things the opposite of what they are and what they do.

Africa has already experienced some of these “stability operations”, in Somalia, destroying the only functioning government in 15 years, and creating an overwhelming humanitarian crisis, and in the Kenya election fiasco, being the most recent and dramatic. There are ongoing “stability operations” in other places in Africa and around the world.

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