Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Alvaro Uribe's Laptop Lies

It seems Colombian President Uribe's government is playing favorites when it comes to rebels, warlords and laptops. Perhaps his own allies dealings in drug trafficking would have been exposed if these laptops were open to public scrutiny.

Why on earth were known criminal, murdering, drug-dealing warlords - men known to have ordered the murders of thousands - even given laptops, blackberries etc. while in prison?

Perhaps because Uribe is and always has been involved with these drug dealers (at least according to the US intelligence community):
The release of a 13-year-old previously classified military intelligence document linking Colombia’s right-wing president Alvaro Uribe to drug traffickers has intensified the crisis of Washington’s most slavish supporter in Latin America.

A virtual “who’s who” of the Colombian cocaine trade, the report was issued by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in 1991. It was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archives, a non-governmental research group based at George Washington University.

The document lists 104 of the “most important Colombian narcoterrorists contracted by the Colombian narcotics cartels for security, transportation, distribution, collection and enforcement of narcotics operations in both the US and Colombia.” Uribe appears as number 82 in this list of assassins and drug smugglers.

The confidential DIA report described Uribe in the following terms: “A Colombian politician and senator dedicated to collaboration with the Medellín Cartel at high government levels. Uribe was linked to a business involved in narcotics activities in the US. His father was murdered in Colombia for his connection with the narcotics traffickers. Uribe has worked for the Medellín Cartel and is a close personal friend of Pablo Escobar Gaviría.” It added that Uribe had “attacked all forms of the extradition treaty” that Washington had sought to bring Colombian drug traffickers to trial in the US.

Van Auken, Bill. 05-Aug-2004. Colombia’s Uribe: US ally in “war on terror” named as drug trafficker.
Meanwhile the international press is eager to jump on any "evidence" Colombia releases which discredits FARC or any other leftist.

The corruption is disgusting.

From the AP:
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- Laptop computers have proven evidentiary treasure troves of late for Colombian investigators probing far-right militias and leftist rebels.

So it amazed many to learn that authorities did not immediately secure the laptops and cell phones belonging to most of the 14 paramilitary warlords they yanked out of prison on May 12 and extradited to the United States to stand trial for drug trafficking.

The hard drive in warlord Ramiro Vanoy's laptop and three cell phone SIM cards - which store phone numbers and text messages - went missing from Itagui prison outside Medellin, where half of the extradited warlords were held.

And prosecutors are not yet able to say whether any of 10 seized computers were tampered with during the more than 48 hours that lapsed before prison officials handed them over to judicial investigators.

The apparent neglect - or worse - was especially striking given officials' recent handling of evidence found on other laptops.


"It's sabotage of important evidence, though you don't know whether it's ineptitude or done deliberately," Lopez said in a telephone interview.

After an uproar in Colombian media about the mishandled equipment, Vanoy's lawyer turned over on Friday what he said was the errant hard drive, "its seals of guarantee perfectly intact," according to the national prisons authority.


The laptops' presence in prison owe to their owners' unusual situation: the warlords surrendered under a 2003 peace pact that offered them reduced prison terms in exchange for their full cooperation in confessing to crimes. Many were using the machines to compile details of their transgressions.


Mancuso has implicated more politicians and military officers than any other paramilitary boss as criminal accomplices of the warlords, who seized control of Colombia's Caribbean coast beginning in the late 1990s, killing thousands and stealing millions of acres of land.

Many believe Mancuso had information in his laptop that could have incriminated more of his partners in crime and correctly suspected his extradition could be imminent when President Alvaro Uribe extradited a first paramilitary warlord on May 7 after receiving a court's go-ahead.


Chief Prosecutor Mario Iguaran's office provided the following update Tuesday on the paramilitaries' legacy: 1,492 bodies of victims have been recovered from common graves and demobilized fighters have confessed to 5,841 crimes.

It said it believes another 4,000 common graves remain to be unearthed.

Bajak, Frank. 28-May-08. Warlords' laptops: not handled with care. Wired News.

China in Africa by Richard Behar

China is leveraging its Communist political legacy and 3rd world status, as well as its surging financial muscle, to compete head-to-head with the Western neo-colonials in Africa. Specifically China has gotten in on the resource grab for oil, timber, copper and other minerals which the US and European powers have been engaged in for well nigh a century.

There are signs, depending always on the quality of the local leadership, that the overall model may have longer lasting positive effects such as infrastructure and hospital projects, there are signs that China is even more exploitative of the African workers than the Westerners.

This is the most disturbing aspects, that China is using its credentials as a nation exploited by Western colonizers to gain leverage with African nations sharing a similar history. However, based on this article, it is not applying socialist principles to those efforts but instead applying the most brutal capitalist exploitive model possible on the ground against local workers. Behar even suggests that there are reports that Chinese workers imported to Africa are convicts, essentially slave labor.

This is especially sad in the case of countries like Zambia where during the 70s workers enjoyed cradle-to-grave security based on an extensive welfare state funded by nationalized mineral wealth, a model the western powers could not abide for long and one that the Chinese government, at least for now, seems uninterested in resurrecting.

Below is an excerpt from an incredible article by the tenacious journalist Richard Behar which appeared in, of all places, Fast Company magazine. I highly recommend you take the time to read the article:

An unfathomably vast terrain comprising 49 nations, the sub-Sahara represents nearly one-fifth of the earth's landmass. Yet its total economy is tinier than Florida's. Here, 300 million people get by on less than $1 a day. Until they don't: It is the planet's biggest tomb, where compared to the 1960s, twice as many children under the age of 5 are now dying each day from disease; a bottomless badland where $500 billion of Western aid since World War II (more than four Marshall Plans) has barely made a dent in the poverty; a region whose market share of world trade is shrinking by the hour as it gets left behind, perhaps permanently, in the dust of globalization; a place so desperate for everything -- cash, trade, investment, infrastructure -- and so powerless to negotiate strategically, that it's pretty much up for sale to the highest bidder.


In describing China's exploits, it's tempting to evoke the image of a benign, postcolonial West being outfoxed by a ruthless and unscrupulous neo-communist power. Don't bother. The American track record in modern Africa has been deplorable -- a half-century of backing strongmen, turning a blind eye, and taking what we can get with little or no regard for the health or welfare of the locals. So no, this is not an update about the Yellow Peril, although no shortage of U.S. officials see China's safari as precisely that. Instead, this is a story about an economic model of exploitation that is at once formidably efficient and tragically flawed, about a planet that's being consumed by those who live on its surface. Today's global economy has an insatiable need for raw materials. That's as true for China's rise as it is true for the maintenance of America's economy. With China exporting some 40% of its GDP, Americans need to understand that behind that Made in China tag at Wal-Mart is a mutually reinforcing death spiral. We are beginning to overwhelm our host.


Equatorial Guinea is less a country than a corrupt, extended-family business that cooked up its own national anthem. And the American oil industry has been singing along for years, cuddling up as much as necessary (and with barely any competition) to Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the 66-year-old despot who has ruled this backwater since 1979. Smaller than El Paso, Texas, E.G. has nevertheless managed to get itself at or near the top of just about every shameful list in the world -- from the most-censored countries (according to the Committee to Protect Journalists) to the most corrupt (Transparency International) to the worst places to do business (the World Bank). Geoffrey Wood, a business professor at the U.K.'s University of Sheffield and coauthor of The Ethical Business, concluded in his own 2004 study of E.G. that the country is a "criminal state" that matches or exceeds the "rapacity and brutality" of the Duvaliers' Haiti, Somoza's Nicaragua, and Batista's Cuba. Despite an economy with the highest average annual growth rate in the world (21%) since 2001, more than half of the population lacks access to potable water and electricity. The UN says E.G. shows the greatest disparity on earth between per capita income ($50,000, surpassed only by Luxembourg) and human welfare (most of E.G.'s citizens live on less than $1 a day).

Behar, Richard. June-2008. China in Africa: Part I. Fast Company.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Longshoremen May Day Strike

Happy May Day!
“We’re standing up for America, we’re supporting the troops, and we’re telling politicians that it’s time to end the Iraq war now!” longshore union workers say.

More than 25,000 longshore workers at 29 west coast ports are exercising their First Amendment rights today by taking a day off work and calling for an end to the war in Iraq.

“Longshore workers are standing-down on the job and standing up for America,” said ILWU International President Bob McEllrath. “We’re supporting the troops and telling politicians in Washington that it’s time to end the war in Iraq.”

McEllrath says rank-and-file members made their own democratic decision in early February when Longshore Caucus delegates voted to take action on May 1. Employers were notified of the plan, but refused to accommodate the union’s request despite plenty of advance notice. The employer group, represented by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) consists of large carriers and port operators, most of which are foreign-owned.

“Big foreign corporations that control global shipping aren’t loyal or accountable to any country,” said McEllrath. “For them it’s all about making money. But longshore workers are different. We’re loyal to America, and we won’t stand by while our country, our troops, and our economy are destroyed by a war that’s bankrupting us to the tune of 3-trillion dollars. It’s time to stand up, and we’re doing our part today.”

01-May-2008. Dockworkers protest Iraq war, stay off job on May 1. People's Weekly World Newspaper.