Friday, June 8, 2007

Death Squads Are Bananas! Be Ay En Ay En Ay Ess!

Protection money for Columbian terrorists: 1.7 million dollars.

Paying off the U.S. Justice Department: 25 million dollars.

Being sued by the relatives of 144 victims of the terrorists you paid: Priceless.


Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnny Yen said...

I'm sure that the Colombian people will do that, just as soon as the United States stops pouring billions of dollars of military supplies into the country that somehow make their way to right wing militias and death squads.

Elizabeth said...


I deleted my original comment because your comment made me feel stupid, but I decided to put it back up because I know that I am right.

The more that people are oppressed, the more physically and intellectually fierce they must become. The fact that American money is going in to the wrong hands is a reason to fight even harder.

My grandfather was a POW during WWII and my father served two tours of duty in Vietnam and I know they would both agree with me. Believe me, I didn't just pull my beliefs out of my ass.

Original comment:

I feel for Chiquita. No, ideally a company should not pay off terrorists, but what were they supposed to do? I seriously doubt they would have received any help from the UN or the US military. I believe they really were trying to protect their workers and had no one to turn to. Should they have bailed out of Columbia, leaving all of these average joe’s with no way to feed their families? Now that Chiquita is gone, these regular folks are going to have to starve, steal or succumb to the drug trade that will surely get them killed anyway.

These families are suing for the money. I feel for them, they live a hellish existence and have to survive any way they can. The problem is that they are clinging on to attorneys rather than pulling up arms and fighting the terrorists who are responsible for the hell they live in.

Decent Columbians (like so many others around the world) are going to have to realize that they have to produce their own freedom, just as our American ancestors took it upon themselves to not allow their government (the British) to further bully them. As a direct descendent of American revolutionary soldiers I truly believe it is better to die for freedom than live in bondage. We did not gain our freedom by suing tea companies, we gained our freedom from learning how to organize, network and fight (thanks to the tutelage of the French Army). Every citizen of every country must come to the realization that the path to freedom rests on their own shoulders.

It is the Western world’s responsibility to figure out who the good guys are and teach them how to fend for themselves. Then it is up to THEM to fight for THEIR OWN COUNTRIES. There is no other way.

Getting back to Chiquita, having that money will help the families short term, but without their own willingness and bravery to get the heart of the matter, this small financial success will mean nothing in the end.

Elizabeth said...

And another thing...

Everybody, get involved. If you're not volunteering for your political party, start. Despite all the bullshit, the US really is the most fortunate country in the world. Our battle is to make our government behave as it should and not oppress its own people or assist in the oppression (intentionally or not) of any other nation.

Johnny Yen said...

Elizabeth, I'm sorry-- my comment was not made to make you feel stupid, believe me. I agree with it your comments. People have to want freedom, to be sure. They also need, though, the means to obtain and maintain that freedom.

Colombia has been, along with the rest of Latin America, a place where right wing governments have been fuelled and funded by the United States government, over the objections of many of the citizens of both countries. The United States has poured many billions of dollars of money labelled as "counter-insurgency aid" that was really just thwarting social change in Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and every other country in South and Central America.

In the case of Chile, we actually sanctioned the military coup that resulted in the murder of their democratically elected President, and nearly two decades of brutal dictatorship. We justified it with the Cold War, but in the end, it was revealed that the Pinochet dictatorship was just another Latin American kleptocracy-- people who took power evoking lofty ideals, but were there just to steal what they could, and stayed in power so that they wouldn't be called to the carpet about what they'd done.

Yes, they must want democracy and freedom. But what happens when the guy who formed a teacher's union ends up on a back road with his face shot off for his effort? Read up on the death squads of El Salvador in the 1980's. What happens is, either they give up, move somewhere else (for instance, the United States-- illegally), or yes, toughen up and join the FMLN (the primary El Salvadoran revolutionary group in the 1980's-- the were generally tagged with the label "communist insurgents.")

Deadspot and I actually met while working in a college group dedicated to monitoring US involvement in many of those countries.

BTW, I have both FBI and CIA files because we were working with that group. My guess is that Deadspot does too.

The problem with the Western world is that it is, right now, losing sight of all of the great ideas-- rule of law, democracy, due process, civil liberties, etc-- that it brought to the world in defending itself. We have to do our job defending freedom here so that good Colombian people and other people around the world can do the same.

Elizabeth said...

I agree that we haven't done our job here. I feel that our government's corruption is our own fault. We let this happen. There seems to be the mentality that if we don't seem to be personally inconvenienced, we ignore what's going on. This has to stop. I don't believe for one minute that the people who started this country ever believed we should have such apathetic attitudes.

Tell me more about the FMLN. What's our government's attitude towards them? What have they done, good or bad for their country?

Lots of people were killed here for African-American rights including our own politicians. What did the American blacks have going for them that the Colombians don't? There has to be someone in their government willing to stick their necks out. In Colombian history there has been not so much as one John or Bobby Kennedy? There have been no motivational powerhouses? No King's or Malcolm X's in all of their history? No one?

Tell me what one American citizen could do to have even the slightest effect on how our government handles its relationship with Colombia, El Salvador or any other country that exists under such confinement?

I refuse to believe in utter hopelessness. Is there anything you or Deadspot could suggest for the readers of this blog? What can one regular person do to make a difference, no matter how small?

Johnny Yen said...

The FMLN was the enemy, according to the US government. It was actually a coalition of rebel groups. The US called them terrorists and poured billions in military aide to the corrupt Salvadoran government. The United States trained officers from the Salvadoran Army at the controversial School of the Americas. Many of those officers were later implicated in death squad killings and torture. Look up the School of the Americas on the net. Lots of bad stuff.

Wikipedia has an article on the FMLN, which is now a legal political party.

In 1990, the FMLN had a huge offensive. It didn't win, but the government of El Salvador realized that it could not defeat them-- that they had wide backing of the Salvadoran people-- and negociated a peace with them. There are now many elected FMLN officials in Salvador.

I too refuse to succumb to hopelessness. As Mao said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." I think you've done that-- by becoming informed!

The difference with African-American people here was that the three branches of the government, judicial, executive and the Congress all did their job. In Colombia, the government is either out and out corrupt or ineffective.

There have been a number of motivational people in Colombia's history-- for instance Father Camilo Torres, who was a Catholic priest who fought as a left-wing rebel. He was killed in battle in the 1960's.
The main armed combatants in Colombia right now is FARC--

In Colombia, both sides, left and right, use drug sales, or protection of coca growing for financing. The war is brutal, with civilians getting caught in the middle.

My belief is that if the United States pulled military aide it gives the corrupt Colombian military under the guise of "the war on drugs," it would force the government to negotiate a peace. Find out how your congressperson and Senator voted on bills relating to military aid to Colombia. Write them letters: they really do listen to those, seriously.

deadspot said...

Back in the day, I worked as a lobbyist and organizer for a national disarmament group. I haven't checked, but I'm pretty sure Johnny's right about those government files. On the other hand, it gave me a good idea of how this whole government thing works.

Phone calls are even better than letters. Government officials do a calculation where they figure that each contact with a voter is really worth a certain number of additional voters who actually care about the issue but haven't made the effort. The more effort the contact takes, the more voters it is worth. Phone calls are worth a lot of voters, they rank high in the calculation. Things like post cards and email are very low on the list because they are so easy.

Letters are somewhere in the middle, unless they're form letters, in which case they drop down into the same category as email and post cards.

If you get the chance, try and find out the staffer in charge of the area that calling about and ask for them by name. Your congressman doesn't really do much of his own research. There's just too much legislation. If you just call and don't ask for someone, you get stuck with a low level phone monkey. You want to talk to the staffer responsible. That also bumps your contact higher in their calculations. You care so much about the issue that you tracked down the right person. If you're that pissed off then there must be momentum behind this issue.

If you do get a letter back from your congressman and want to know how well you did, look at the bottom. Every letter has the congressman's signature, whether he saw your letter or not, but under the signature will be a set of initials. Each staffer who signed off on the contents of the reply has their initials there. The more initials there are, the more staffers the reply came through, and the higher in the chain of command your letter went.

That said, especially in the developing world, multinational corporations can be bigger actors than governments. They throw around more money, and they aren't accountable to voters. So I whole heartedly approve of putting the screws to them. They don't care about ethics, but they do care about their bottom line. If people can make it expensive for them to act badly, then they will reign it in.

Elizabeth said...

From reading Wikipedia I'm not getting the impression that the Clinton administration did any better then any of the Republicans. Am I wrong?

There are so many rumors that Gore might run. I need to find out where he stood in all of this when he was VP.

Thank you for all of the information guys. I had a feeling e-mails didn't do any good.

I signed up to do volunteer work for the Democratic Party and several grassroots organizations have asked me to be their "friend" online. I'm sure you won't mind if I pass all of this informaion on to them.

Thanks for the homework. Now I won't be bored this summer, I have a lot to look into.

I do have one more question. Say Chiquita had refused to pay the AUC. What do you think would have happened?

deadspot said...

I wouldn't say that email has no effect, but it has a lot less effect than a letter or phone call. They just know how easy it is to set up a link that lets people send an email with one click of the mouse, so it takes a lot of them to equal the impact of a phone call.

If you're interested in this stuff, Rules For Radicals by Saul Alinsky is a great book. It's got a lot of good information on organizing and some really funny stories.

Not to be flippant, but the main effect of Chiquita not giving money to those guys would be that paramilitaries would have $1.7 million dollars less than they do now.

In the short term, Chiquita kept a few people a little safer but a lot of other people got hurt because of it. In the long term, even those few people aren't really safe.

When you pay off a protection racket, you buy a little temporary safety... until the next time that they come to collect, but you've also made sure that they'll be a lot more heavily armed the next time they come around. And since you showed them that you have money and are willing to pay, you've insured that they will come again.

By pumping $1.7 million into the organization, Chiquita gave them the capacity to buy off more politicians and to buy more weapons: Chiquita gave them the power to kill a lot more people and to get away with it more often, and that's why they're being sued.

deadspot said...

And you're right. Democrats and Republicans both have a terrible record on Latin America, going back a long way. To a certain extant, you just have to go with your gut on who will do the least harm when they're in office.