Attack in Cauca

El Tiempo reports that one of FARC’s pipe-bomb attacks in Toribio (which is occupied by the Colombian police, who really do act like an occupying Army) seriously wounded a woman, Yolanda Yulucue, and two children. I was in Toribio earlier this year, and plan to publish a photo essay on Northern Cauca soon.

Haiti investigation turned over to Dept. of Colonies

The Inter Press Service reports that CARICOM has agreed to turn the ‘investigation’ of Aristide’s ‘ouster’ (let’s be polite for once) over to the Organization of American States (OAS, which Che Guevara called ‘the department of colonies’) instead of the United Nations. CARICOM has been under tremendous pressure from the US and Canada to accept the coup and stop asking questions, and this can probably be viewed as the first sign that the pressure is working. Evidence is circumstantial, but it’s likely that the OAS played a hand in the coup in the first place: a member of the OAS apparently said, before the coup, that: “the trouble is the international community is so screwed up that you have Haiti being run by Haitians”…

Odd, because it isn’t as if the United Nations wasn’t helpful to the US/France/Canada in allowing the coup to happen… but no doubt the OAS is even easier to control and more predictable. Think of the headaches caused by a Hans Blix, a Dennis Halliday, or a Hans von Sponeck for the US in Iraq. Little risk of such a person coming up through the OAS…

More Bolivia: a coup in the offing?

Folks might recall that in October of last year there were massive mobilizations in Bolivia (you can look back through ZNet Bolivia Watch for lots of material) that led to the ouster of President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, a fellow nicknamed the ‘gringo’ for his American accent and his propensity for selling the country off to US Multinationals (to be fair, he wasn’t alone in it, nor did he invent the practice, even in Bolivia). Unlike in Haiti, Sanchez de Lozada really did resign, after trying and failing a vicious repression that killed dozens of unarmed protesters (and unlike Haiti, they really were unarmed protesters and not paramilitary killers). The Vice President, Carlos Mesa, took over.

Well one of the demands of the movement was that the military officers involved in the killings last year be judged. The Military Court absolved them, but the Constitutional Tribunal overturned that verdict. Now the Army has now taken protest action against the Tribunal’s decision. This is essentially a repudiation of the judiciary’s authority over the army. Admiral Oscar Ascarraga, president of the Military Court, says this is because “you can’t judge someone twice for the same crime”.

There is video footage that has been shown on television of these soldiers (Grover Monroy, Rafael Mendieta, Yamil Rocabado and Enrique Costas) shooting and killing people.

This could well be the first step in a coup against the civilian regime. President Mesa says he is “truly worried.”

[Source: DPA and AFP via La Jornada]


For North American watchers of Latin America the work of Forrest Hylton is as indispensable on Bolivia as the work of Gregory Wilpert is on Venezuela (you can find Forrest’s work on Bolivia at ZNet’s Bolivia Watch and Wilpert’s at Venezuela Watch or, of course, Both of these provide sympathetic, knowledgeable material and are very scrupulous about letting the people of these countries speak with their own voices, which is what is most needed.

Forrest Hylton recently published two stories on a political prisoner in Bolivia, accused of ‘terrorism’ because he’s Colombian: Pacho Cortes. Take a look at the story Hylton wrote and the one he translated. Now, how do you reward a good writer for doing a thorough job, presenting the facts, and actually interviewing people involved in the flesh?

You accuse them of terrorism, of course.

I got this in the mail from Forrest… he wants to send it out just so people are aware of what might come down next.

Comrades, Friends,

Greetings to all. I don’t mean to be alarmist, but following the counsel of a trusted advisor, I wanted to let everyone know that my compañera Lina and I have been accused of being members of the Colombian ELN as a result of our efforts to free Francisco “Pacho” Cortes, who, being Colombian, is currently Bolivia’s “trophy” terrorist. On Wednesday night (if I remember correctly), DA Rene Arzabe, who’s trying to put Pacho away for 30 years, said on TV that he has proof that the foreigners who’ve been visiting Pacho all along (and we’re the only ones he could be talking about) are ELN, and that they would be arrested and detained next time they tried to visit Pacho.

Obviously this is nothig more than a crude, albeit effective, way of silencing dissent and squelching human rights activism. We do not anticipate that anything will come of these threats, but they arise at a time when Pacho’s “comrades” are cutting a deal with the DA to turn state’s evidence on Pacho. To ram the deal through, the DA has demanded that we shut up. Which is what we plan to do until the heavy weather clears.

This e-mail is obviously intended to serve as a preventive security measure in case anything happens to us. In the meantime, and although we are expecting the best rather than the worst, please alert whomever you think should know about this.



What makes a scandal, scandalous?

This is a question that’s been puzzling me.

This morning, Rahul Mahajan’s blog provided a link to the video footage of the helicopter pilots murdering helpless Iraqis from a distance with heavy machine guns. Rahul has also been scrupulous about republishing the photos of the abuse (don’t call it torture, whatever you do) that have been coming out in the mainstream media.

Now, I have to admit that I wasn’t surprised at all when I heard this was going on. Actually that’s not true. I was surprised, in fact — surprised that it got out into the mainstream media. That is what surprises me about these ‘scandals’. How do ‘scandals’ become ‘scandalous’? Why do the media choose to leak things when they do? And why do things that are shown become scandals?

I ask this because on April 10, weeks before the torture– oops, sorry, I meant abuse — became a scandal, and just before the Fallujah massacre — oops, I meant combat — occurred, the UTS blog published a warning. Part of that warning was a video clip that came from CNN. That clip shows a soldier murdering a wounded man as he writhes on the ground, and then screaming, celebration, and commentary afterwards. Presumably, this was broadcast on CNN without any fanfare and no ‘scandal’, and yet the clip of the helicopter shooting couldn’t be aired on most networks.

What’s the difference? I found the CNN footage more appalling, not less, than the other. How did the latter become ‘scandalous’?

Why wasn’t the invasion itself a scandal? The occupation itself? Why isn’t the imprisonment of Palestinian children a scandal, or the starvation in Gaza? Or the massacres in Colombia… or in Haiti…

There’s something here I don’t understand, I guess. Journalists sometimes believe that if some explosive piece of information were to reach the public, that something would happen. Or that if it were to reach the media, they’d break the story and something would happen. But there’s plenty of explosive information reaching the media all the time. They don’t bother to pick it up and often when they do, there’s no reaction from the public.

I suppose if I understood scandals better, I’d set about trying to make scandals out of the many scandalous events that go on constantly.

Back to factual matters tomorrow.

Canadians torture too…

Just a little note to remind Canadians — in case anyone doubted it — that Canada shares the same racism, militarism, and machismo that the US has. The many macabre photos of the torture of Iraqi prisoners by US troops and mercenaries ought to have instantly brought to mind the photos of Canadian soldiers torturing to death Somali teenager Shidane Arone in 1993, and the execution of others. There’s some stuff, including one of the gruesome photos (but not the most gruesome, which I remember made the cover of the Toronto Star), archived on the CBC site.

Write letters to York’s Presidnt

Yes, I spelled Presidnt without the ‘e’, because that’s how York University’s President’s email address is: If you are going to write a letter to help Daniel Freeman-Maloy, the Jewish activist who was expelled from the campus for his use of a megaphone while he was being shouted down by large groups of counter-protesters, please be courteous and civil. I believe this is a case where pressure will help, but though the expulsion is absurd, writing emails proportionate to the absurdity unfortunately won’t help, in my assessment anyway.

If you’re interested in doing so, here’s some more facts and guidelines, and a sample letter…

Please act against the expulsion of Dan Freeman-Maloy from York University!

To All Concerned Community Members:

Last week, a 3rd-year undergraduate student of political science, Dan Freeman-Maloy, received a letter informing him of a 3-year suspension from York University, simply for using a megaphone on campus. The letter referred only to his “use of an unauthorized sound amplification device” at an “unauthorized demonstration”. He was given no information on how to appeal the suspension and was threatened with charges of trespass should he enter the campus grounds after 1 May. The suspension comes into effect on the same day that Dan is to begin work at the University’s principal newspaper, Excalibur.

Dan is a Jewish student who has been vocal in defence of Palestinian human rights, as well as in workers’ rights and other social justice campaigns. His suspension comes following a theatrical display on campus on March 16, 2004, in which students were commemorating the anniversary of the death of US peace activist, Rachel Corrie, who died last year in the Gaza Strip. At the display, Palestine solidarity activists were spat upon, kicked and threatened by an aggressive counter-demonstration. The university administration did nothing to protect the students. Instead, in an attempt to silence critical dissent on campus, they chose to suspend Dan.

Dan is due to complete his degree after one year. He has an excellent academic record and has been an active and respected participant in the life of the York University community. Despite the fact that the university’s own legal guidelines (Presidential Regulation #2) states that students be entitled to an administrative procedure allowing for student appeals (Section E, #3), Dan has been suspended by administrative fiat – in an impersonal letter without any possibility of appeal. Furthermore, York’s regulations specify that only serious infractions (such as a violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code or illegal behaviour) warrant expulsion. This demonstrates total disregard for his academic future and his right to an education, as well as to York’s own procedural regulations.

This expulsion is not only callous toward Dan’s future, but is politically motivated. Megaphones have been used without authorization at countless other “unauthorized demonstrations” in Vari Hall without a single student being penalized, let alone suspended for 3 years, which is a de facto expulsion. Moreover, other students used a megaphone at this very demonstration without any consequences. Dan is being singled out and scapegoated because he is an articulate and effective Jewish advocate of Palestinian human rights. Or, as a member of York’s Board of Directors explained to a concerned graduate student outside a recent press conference, because he is a “rabble-rouser.”

President Marsden is not impartial in this matter, and her record is clear. She has consistently supported right-wing speakers on campus – “Campus Watch” host Daniel Pipes last year, Israeli Minister Natan Sharansky (a proponent of mass expulsion of Palestinians to neighbouring countries) this year. Last year, her administration also brought mounted police on to campus for the first time ever, and coordinated to have three organizers of an anti-war student strike arrested. York’s campus has become more and more repressive recently, as exorbitant and arbitrary “security fees” have been forced upon student groups hosting dissident speakers, as club activities have been prohibited in various public spaces on campus, and as certain student organizations have faced outright bans. This crackdown on critical dialogue – the cornerstone of higher learning – marks a significant step backward for all members of the York community.

We urge everyone who is concerned about maintaining York University’s campus as a progressive space, and all those intent on protecting student rights to free expression and assembly, to contact President Marsden.

We are demanding the immediate reversal of the decision to expel Dan Freeman-Maloy from campus for his political activities. York University prides itself on a reputation as a progressive space where critical development and engagement is encouraged, not stifled. If this reputation is to be maintained, the current administration must act accordingly.


York Free Speech Committee

How to get involved:

Below we have attached a letter to President Marsden demanding that she immediately reverse the suspension of Dan Freeman-Maloy, so that he can complete his studies and report for work on campus without fear of being charged with trespassing. Please sign the letter below and send it to President Marsden at (no “e”) and cc Or, better yet, write a letter outlining these demands yourself, and get whatever organizations you are a part of to draft letters of their own.

Letters can also be postmarked to:
Office of the President
4700 Keele St.
Toronto, ON
Canada M3J 1P3

For more information on our ongoing campaign, contact

Thank you, and we appreciate all of your help!

President Marsden,

I recently learned of the 3-year suspension of Dan Freeman-Maloy for his use of a megaphone at an “unauthorized” demonstration. I find your decision appalling for a number of reasons. First, your decision is a violation of Mr. Freeman-Maloy’s right to freedom of expression as it is a response to his participation in political activity, not his use of a sound amplification device (many students have used a megaphone without authorization in Vari Hall – why is Dan being singled out?). Second, in contradiction with your own regulations on student conduct, your decision provided no opportunity for Dan to defend himself, nor an opportunity for an appeal. Third, this decision reflects a troubling pattern of silencing progressive political activity on campus (including banning tabling and leafleting for political purposes, and imposing exorbitant “security fees” on student groups). Finally, given York’s official commitment to the pursuit of social justice (as declared in the university’s mission statement), it would seem that you should support and actively create space for social justice activism on campus, instead of shutting it down.

I demand that you immediately reverse your decision to summarily expel Dan Freeman-Maloy. You are the head of a prestigious academic institution with a reputation for academic freedom and political diversity. I am requesting that York uphold its own standards.


The War on the Indigenous of Colombia

Some news from Colombia’s indigenous.

In Cali, 5 days ago a member of the indigenous reserve of San Francisco, in Northern Cauca, Colombia named Aparicio Nuscue Nuscue died of wounds in a hospital in Cali. The wounds were taken courtesy of the Colombian Army, who shot him while he was performing a traditional ceremony at a sacred site on April 5 of this year. Northern Cauca is being steadily militarized, occupied by the National Police and Army, who commit a regular grind of abuses against the remarkable indigenous movement of the Nasa in that region.

Still worse is what the Colombian Army and paramilitaries, and therefore US backers, have done to the Wayuu indigenous community in La Guajira. This is a preliminary communique, from the community itself. More thorough investigations may follow, but only if a human rights organization takes it up.

Starting on April 18, the paramilitaries came to their community, “raping our daughters, torturing our children to get information on where their parents were… they didn’t believe them so they killed them or left them…”

“They killed women, youth, and elders (tortured and raped) and we are worried because our children are disappeared and we don’t know if they are alive or dead…”

“We were 580… who abandoned with pain in our souls our territory, our animals, our ancetral belongings, there in the territory there is no one, everyone has fled to different parts, to look for security and protection of our lives… neither the Mayor of Uribia nor the Governor of la Guajira said a word.”

12 were killed and 30 disappeared. And the point of the operation: 580 were displaced from their lands.

The communique I received (spanish) includes some of the names of those killed who the community could identify, which I reproduce below.

6-DIANA FINCE URIANA (Desaparecida sin saber el lugar donde tiraron su cuerpo)
7-REINA FINCE PUSHAINA (Desaparecida sin saber el lugar donde tiraron su cuerpo, menor de edad 13 años).
9-RUBEN EPINAYU (Menor de edad 16 años).
10-Niños que fueron asesinados y comos señala le cortaban miembros de su cuerpo para que fueran reconocidos).
11-Una joven del Clan Epinayu, la sacaron de su casa y aún no ha sido encontrado su cuerpo.
12- Además de todas estad personas, hay muchas mas que estan enterradas en las diferentes zonas de Portete.

Special Killing Train Job Offer!

Private Mercenary Company Seeks to fill Baghdad Interrogator Position

To be honest, I can’t verify the authenticity of this, but I thought I’d blog it anyway. It looks real. Someone emailed it to me, and it definitely deserves linking. It might predate the recent scandals, but it does have the gruesome and macabre quality you’ve come to expect from this blog. Here’s the ad. You can even submit your resume online. Some people are likely to be vacating these positions, so they might have some openings… I’ll put some higlights in.

CACI’s Job Database

Interrogator/Intel Analyst Team Lead Asst.

(Requisition #BZSG308)
Clearance: TS

Assists the interrogation support program team lead to increase the effectiveness of dealing with Detainees, Persons of Interest, and Prisoners of War (POWs) that are in the custody of US/Coalition Forces in the CJTF 7 AOR, in terms of screening, interrogation, and debriefing of persons of intelligence value. Under minimal supervision, will assist the team lead in managing a multifaceted interrogation support cell consisting of database entry/intelligence research clerks, screeners, tactical/strategic interrogators, and intelligence analyst.

Position requires a bachelor’s degree or equivalent and five to seven years of related experience, preferably in intelligence field. Requires a Top Secret Clearance. Strong writing and briefing skills, with competency in automation, research and basic software applications. Familiar with intelligence collection capabilities/planning, as well as analytical procedures.

Minimum of 5 years in intelligence field. Requires a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent. Requires a Top Secret Clearance. Strong writing and briefing skills, with competency in automation, research and basic software applications. Familiar with intelligence collection capabilities/planning, as well as analytical procedures.