Archive for the ‘Colombia’ Category

Coming to terms – A photo affair

December 6, 2007

It is over a month since President Evo Morales in an interview with an Italian daily denounced there was a rightwing conspiracy against him and his indigenous government. Active members of the conspiracy were allegedly U.S. Ambassdor to Bolivia Philip Goldberg, Industry and Commerce Chamber president Mr. Gabriel Dabdoub, and John Jairo Banegas, hitherto an unknown Colombian first charged with leading a gang in Santa Cruz then escalated to a paramilitary condition.

Now Interpol has ended  the probe about alleged paramilitary activities in Colombia. Interpol chief, Col. Miguel Estremadoiro, told Fides news agency that Banegas is clear in his native country. He has no guerrillas or any criminal record in Colombia, he said. Fides report was published by La Razon website.

One tends to believe that the presidential word when denouncing a conspiracy is something too serious to be treated lightly or ignored. It was, at least by some leading Bolivian dailies which apparently decided it wasn´t worth their time and space.

But the President didn´t. At the “why-don´t-you-shut-up” Ibero-American summit in Santiago, he flaunted the picture he considered the supreme evidence of his allegation. The picture shows Goldberg, Dabdoub and Banegas at the Santa Cruz main fair held last September. Mr. Goldberg and Mr. Dabdoub have denied the president´s allegation. But Banegas hasn´t been given a chance to say a word. He is in the Palmasola prison, in Santa Cruz´s outskirts, since early October under charges of leading a gang of street assailants. And one would think he is held incomunicado since no direct word from him has appeared on the dailies.

A couple of weeks ago I was watching a TV news program and almost by pure coincidence heard a prosecutor stating that neither the Interior Ministry nor the Presidency had officially asked for a probe on the allegation and that the case had been dismissed. But the news wasn´t fit to print, apparently. I saw nothing in several dailies the following days. Tonight, another TV news cast said the Bolivian police had no information whatsoever that Banegas had a criminal background in Colombia. That is, he´s not a paramilitary as the Interior Ministry had charged him. Then came Fides news agency report.

If this is the end of the affair, then President Morales owes several explanations…and apologies. To the alleged conspirators, to begin with. And to his Latin American colleagues and King Juan Carlos. A special apology should be given his friend Hugo Chavez. Because it were some complaints against Spain presented by President Morales while addressing the summit that triggered Chavez storming loquacity, which in turn triggered the now-famous “por qué no te callas” of the usually quiet King.

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Mr.Morales, the Ambassador and a paramilitary

November 3, 2007

President Evo Morales has denounced a few days ago, in an interview with Communist daily Il Manifesto, that paramilitary forces are operating in Bolivia against his government. “We have a picture”, he said, “ of the U.S. Ambassador with a Colombian paramilitary, recently taken here in Bolivia. Luckily, the paramilitary has been arrested and as of this moment is in prison. We have information of armed and organized  military forces in our country by elements from the right and criminals. When the right cannot mobilize as it did in the past, it goes to the other extreme: the paramilitarism”.

The interviewer mentions recent “attacks” in Santa Cruz and the seizure (and back-taking) of Viru Viru Airport in Santa Cruz and asks: “¿Where do these actions come from?” The president answers: “There is a domestic right and a foreign right. The domestic right comes from oligarch groups, the foreign (right) from the United States Embassy”.

The Bolivians would like to learn details about such a paramilitar.  If he is under arrest (¿since when?) he is supposed to have given  information to the police agents.  Specially, if there are photographs of him (there are, surely) they should be shown to the public. But overall, if there are armed and organized paramilitary forces in Bolivia, the public must at least be informed. ¿In what part of the country they are operating? ¿Are the Armed Forces involved -or about to be involved- in fighting them? Also, we´d like to know details of the alleged role of the U.S. Embassy. This is a very serious matter to go on the foreign press first. The episode takes place only a few days after a verbal impasse between the Ambassador and the Government (President Morales and his Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca) over changing New York as the United Nations venue was officialy settled and terminated. ¿Is another impasse coming up?

Then the journalist mentions to the president that before coming to Bolivia Ambassador Goldberg was “Chief U.S. Mission to Kosovo, and before that he was the right hand of Bosnia Ambassador Richard Halbrooke, form where Yugoslavia imploded”. Then he asks: ”¿How does he behave now?” President Morales answers: “In Bosnia Glodberg scored some points in (for) his diplomatic career, but in Bolvia he will not get it.”

The president was also asked about his relations with the United States. His answer: “We have relations with the whole world, but we do not accept provocations. Besides, one thing is the ambassador, another thing is the country (the ambassador represents). It is true that Mr. Goldberg has, without a doubt, a long experience in convulsing (disrupting) democratic governments.”

The president also talked about natural gas and criticism he is receiving from former Energy Minister Andrés Solíz Rada, considered a key man in the nationalization of oil on May 1, 2006. (The former minister, who left the government in October that year, continuously says in hiscolumn in Bolivian dailies that the government has lost its path in the nationalization). “¿What do you answer to Soliz?” “That Soliz is a resented am. I was wrong giving him a ministry.”See the full versión in Italian:

http://www.ilmanifesto.it/ricerca/ric_view.php3?page=/Quotidiano-archivio/30-Ottobre-2007/art11.html&word=Evo;Paramilitari 

Or the translation to Spanish published by Cuban daily Rebelion: http://www.rebelion.org/