2010-2014 Congress Say what you mean, and mean what you say
Mar 192010

  • The Commander of U.S. Southern Command, Gen. Douglas Fraser, presented his annual “Posture Statement” to the House Armed Services Committee yesterday, a week after doing the same in the Senate. This document (PDF), presented to the oversight committees every year, explains how the regional unified command views threats in the region, and how it plans to address them. This was the first such testimony for Gen. Fraser, who assumed command in July. (Video of his House testimony is here, and video of his Senate testimony is here.)
  • The two testimonies were most notable for conflicting responses on Venezuela — a country that is only mentioned in 2 paragraphs in Gen. Fraser’s entire 42-page Posture Statement. Asked about Venezuelan support for Colombia’s FARC guerrillas in the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 11, the general responded that there was no solid evidence indicating that Caracas is, as a matter of official policy, supporting the group.

    “We have continued to watch very closely for any connections between illicit and terrorist organization activity within the region. We are concerned about it. I’m skeptical. I continue to watch for it. … But I don’t see that evidence. I can’t tell you specifically whether that continues or not.”Yesterday, however, according to Reuters, “Fraser said Venezuela continues to provide the FARC a safe haven and ‘financial logistical support’ based on information found on a laptop computer of a FARC commander seized by Colombian soldiers during a raid on a guerrilla camp in Ecuador in 2008.”

  • More than his predecessors, the general’s statement directly links organized-crime activity with a potential terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland: “the same routes and networks by which illicit traffickers smuggle 1,250-1,500 metric tons of cocaine per year around the region could be used wittingly or unwittingly to smuggle weapons, cash, fissile material or terrorists.” This quote is also notable because it clashes strongly with State Department estimates, presented in the March 1 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, that the entire region produced only 705 tons of cocaine in 2008.
  • Colombia’s Supreme Court has refused to extradite Daniel Rendón, alias “Don Mario,” to the United States to face narcotrafficking charges. Rendón is the brother of Freddy Rendón (alias “El Alemán”), former head of the AUC’s Élmer Cárdenas Bloc, and is widely accused of being a chief sponsor of the new generation of “paras” that is proliferating throughout the country. The court denied the extradition because it determined that “Don Mario” is cooperating with prosecutors in the “Justice and Peace” process, which was designed for paramilitaries who demobilized willingly.
  • Two FARC hostages, Pablo Emilio Moncayo and Josue Daniel Calvo, could be released by the FARC sometime this week. Moncayo has been a guerrilla hostage since 1998. Brazilian helicopters are standing by near the Colombian border as they await coordinates for the handover.
  • Days after the murders of 3 people linked to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, the State Department announced that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to Mexico City on March 23rd for the “Mérida U.S.-Mexico High Level Consultative Group.” A long list of top Obama administration officials will join the Secretary. The Washington Post editorial board, however, writes that the United States is not doing enough to help Mexico, calling on the Obama administration and Congress to expand funding for the Merida Initiative and to make “stabilizing a neighbor and major trading partner” a higher priority.
  • At the behest of President Evo Morales, Bolivia’s armed forces are adopting a new coat of arms incorporating the wiphala, the checkered-rainbow flag used by the country’s indigenous groups. The new shield also includes the slogan “patria o muerte, venceremos” (“fatherland or death, we shall overcome”), a saying most frequently associated with Fidel Castro.
  • The Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing Thursday on “Next Steps for Honduras.”
  • Just days before the 30th anniversary of the murder of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, the “Latin Americanist” blog shares a video from Jon Stewart’s Daily Show depicting the Texas School Board’s recent decision not to include Romero in its history textbooks. Apparently Romero was not “famous” enough to make the cut.

11 Responses to “Friday links”

  1. Matt Schewel Says:


    Apparently, Fraser met with Arturo Valenzuela, who changed his mind on Venezuela’s FARC links. See Southcom statement on the flip-flop here:


    Have a good weekend,

  2. Camilla Says:

    I think the general is an ignorant boob and doesn’t know jack about the region.

    Very glad to see Colombia telling the Obama administration NO to the extradition of the paramilitary thug. It’s about time Colombia put its foot down. If Obama isn’t going to treat Colombia with respect, then Colombia should go its own way.

    I am most curious about the nomination of Noemi Sanin. I hate to be sexist, but could this woman, with her ditsy diplomatic background, really take on Chavez and the FARC? I need to be convinced she’s tough enough, it’s important to see someone who’s going to make life very, very, very unpleasant for terrorists, and who will brook no ‘peace process’ talks or ‘humanitarian accords’ with these filthy Marxist dirtbags. That’s my take. As far as I can tell now, I think Santos would be tougher. I like the way Chavez hates and fears him.

  3. Maria Says:

    “patria o muerte” is more accurately che guevara’s key slogan.

  4. lfm Says:

    Call me nit-picker, but it was the Supreme Court that denied the extradition. Something tells me that, if it were up to Uribe, the guy would have long ago been in the US. So, this isn’t about Colombia demanding respect from the US. This is the Supreme Court saying that the Law is meant to be complied with, shocking as it may sound for uribistas.

  5. Tambopaxi Says:

    Whatever the motivation, perhaps the net effect of the SC ruling will be that the USG starts cooperating with Colombia in implementing the Justice and Peace Law. Adam wrote about the problem of the United States’ non-cooperation with Colombia on the law back in February. I suggested then that Colombia simply stop extraditions to get the Americans’ attention on the J&P Law. It appears that someone in Colombia was thinking along the same lines…

  6. lfm Says:

    Off topic, but just because I want to give some a conniption. The US House has passed Health Care Reform. This makes Pelosi, that’s Speaker Pelosi to you, one of the greatest House Speakers ever. The lady from California, legitimately elected by her constituency, and elevated to that prominent position by the legitimate Democratic Party, now in the majority, has shown that she knows how to work with progressives and with, bwahahaha, Big Labor, that is, the organizations that, using the liberties afforded to them by the American Constitution, defend the interests of the American working class, to pass LAWS that improve the lives of millions. Keep this in mind next time somebody says that Pelosi working with Labor “thugs” is some kind of secret plot that only they have uncovered. The real thugs are with business these days, drinking Tea. Just watch C-Span. You don’t need “theater of the absurd” when you have the Republican Party doing it for free.

    Sorry, got a bit giddy there, but I can’t help it. Now I actually wish that Obama and Biden were corrupt war criminals as their predecessors. That way we could impeach them and get Pelosi for President.

  7. Adam Isacson Says:

    Matt: Good find, thanks.

  8. Embassy of Venezuela Says:

    Regarding Gen. Fraser’s comments, the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C. put out a release last week regarding his contradictory statements on Venezuela and the alleged links to the FARC. It’s worth pointing out the timeline of events:

    On March 10, Asst. Sec. of State Arturo Valenzuela mentioned that there might be links between the FARC and Venezuela in testimony before the House. On March 11, Gen. Fraser, while in a hearing before the Senate and under questioning by Sen. John McCain, said he knew of no evidence to make the connection. On March 12, a Friday, at 5:08 p.m., Gen. Fraser posted a correction on the U.S. SOUTHCOM blog stating that no daylight existed between what he and Valenzuela said.

    In fact, plenty of daylight existed between what the two said. And that Gen. Fraser made this correction via a blog that is not often updated, and not through a press release or public revision, provokes more questions.

    Also, if you read Gen. Fraser’s posture statement, not once in 42 pages does he mention any links between Venezuela and the FARC, and he also recognizes that Iran’s role in the region is limited to commerce and energy deals.

    We’re concerned that Gen. Fraser, who has access to intelligence about the region and works closely with military leaders through Latin America, is being pressured for political reasons to change his statements about the alleged links between the FARC and Venezuela.

  9. Alvaro Hurtado Says:

    I don’t know if that’s really a post by someone from the Embassy of Venezuela but, even if this General might have been pressured in such a manner, you don’t have to look very far in order to find other signs of said links or at least of a very suspicious sympathy between the Venezuelan government personnel and FARC.

    I, for one, will not easily forget the gist of the words that came out of Venezuelan Interior Minister Ramón Rodríguez Chacín’s mouth as part of his interactions with FARC guerrillas as shown on the live video footage of one of the hostage releases.

    And no, it wasn’t a manipulated video or any such nonsense. The teleSur logo was on it and I was watching the hostage release when it happened, not after the fact, which makes that maybe not a smoking gun but it certainly provides plenty of visible smoke particles. To date, I haven’t heard anything resembling a good explanation for that “breach of protocol” to put it lightly. I wonder if the Embassy of Venezuela has anything to say.

    That’s just as questionable and reprehensible as some of the things both Chavez and, ironically enough, Uribe himself have said live on national and international television.

  10. Camilla Says:

    I think it really is the embassy – if it’s not, the information is identical to what they put out in their press release, so it’s effectively the same. It wouldn’t be wise of them to not say they were the embassy if they were – IPs pretty well serve as identifiers to the blog owner who is going to know and they want to be his friend to influence him so there’s no point in ill-disguised handles.

    The Chavistas in the states have a small army of what Lenin called Useful Idiots who advise them, ever since the Venezuelan Information Office closed shop. These characters, most with links to Mark Weisbrot, the only person left in Washington who still openly defends Chavez, are quite knowledgeable about the ways of the Internet and serve as a kind of ’strike force’ for whenever someone challenges them on the Internet. They don’t bother with rightwingers, but they do see the left as a soft target that has links to Obama and that can be molded and shaped. It’s a propaganda op of theirs.

    In any case, as regards the message, they are having fun taking advantage of Fraser’s gaffe and Valenzuela’s continuing policy from the last administration. They are saying someone influenced Fraser, trying to create a false issue, trying to drive a wedge between Fraser and Valenzuela with conspiracy theories when it’s obvious that Fraser didn’t know what he was talking about. Well, they noticed and I hope Fraser notices they noticed but I doubt he will, he still doesn’t know jack about his job.

    He’s too busy with supervising construction of SouthCom’s new HQ and hasn’t gotten up on the news.

  11. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Iván Cepeda Representante a la Cámara por Bogotá En la noche de ayer fue asesinado en su casa el periodista Clodomiro Castilla. Durante años, Clodomiro denunció a los políticos y ganaderos, amigos de Álvaro Uribe, por sus estrechos vínculos con los grupos paramilitares. Lo conocí en Montería cuando yo estaba escribiendo A las puertas de El Ubérrimo. Su crimen es un intento por silenciar la verdad de lo que ha acontecido a las puertas de la hacienda presidencial.


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