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Neo-Cons Pushing for Regime Change in Latin America

Neo-Cons Pushing for Regime Change in Latin America

Warhawks targeting leaders pushing populist agendas


By Gonzalo Baeza


Still inebriated by President George W. Bush’s apparent reelection, a number of neo-conservative strategists have begun designing a game plan of further interventionism and foreign policing missions for the U.S. armed forces.

figuring among their targets is a region that has so far been neglected in the so-called “war on terror,” albeit not because of a lack of lobbying by Washington’s top hawks. Latin America was recently signaled by neo-con Frank J. Gaffney Jr. (above) as one of several foreign policy “priorities” to be dealt with by the Bush administration in order to make “the world less dangerous for America.”

Writing for the National Review Online, Gaffney, president and CEO of the highly influential Center for Security Policy (CSP) in Washington, laid out a “checklist of the work the world will demand” of Bush, including everything from the destruction of Fallujah in Iraq, “regime change” in North Korea and Iran, “keeping faith with Israel,” and adopting “appropriate strategies” for dealing with “the emergence of a number of aggressively anti-American regimes in Latin America.”

It is likely that the American public is already used to the fire and brimstone rhetoric of the neo-cons, many of whom are armchair warriors blathering from the safety of their Internet columns. Gaffney and his CSP, however, are difficult to dismiss.

A list of some of the CSP members over the years reads like a neo-con who’s who: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Chairman of the Defense Policy Board Richard Perle, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and National Security Council member Elliot Abrams.

Gaffney’s Nov. 5 column predictably stirred some waves throughout Latin America, leading Mexican newspaper La Jornada to approach him in order to find out which of the region’s governments he considered as threats to America’s security.

According to Gaffney, these include not only communist Cuba but also such South American nations as Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Uruguay and Argentina.

In Gaffney’s view, the Cuban communist regime of Fidel Castro “is first on the list” based on the fact that it has perpetuated itself for nearly 45 years. It seems to have escaped Gaffney that ever since the Soviet Union collapsed, the Cuban regime has been nothing but a petty authoritarian government with an ever-weakening economy and, most importantly, posing no serious threat to the United States.

Closer to first place in Gaffney’s list of regional enemies is Venezuela and its president, Hugo Chavez. Although the analyst tangentially alluded to the fact that Venezuela supplies the United States with nearly 15 percent of its oil needs, he insisted on accusing Chavez of fostering a “rabid anti-American sentiment.”

Gaffney conveniently hides the fact that several neo-cons, including Abrams, were directly involved in the short-lived April 2002 coup against Chavez. The U.S. embassy in Caracas knew two months in advance about plans to oust the Venezuelan head of state.

To make matters worse, the Bush administration dropped any pretense of neutrality by immediately endorsing the new government of businessman Pedro Carmona, an administration that lasted a mere 48 hours as Chavez was swiftly reinstated.

In addition, Gaffney stated that he was worried about “the aggressive anti-American sentiment of [Brazilian President Luiz Inacio] Lula da Silva,” in spite of the fact that he disguises it under what he called “pro-market policies.”

Summing up his assessment of the alleged threat posed by Latin America, the analyst, possibly concerned about the region’s turn to both populist and left-wing governments after a decade of disastrous free trade policies and International Monetary Fund-mandated “structural adjustments,” stated that the region was following a “wrong” course.

Even though leaders such as Ecuador’s Lucio Gutierrez—also on Gaffney’s checklist and presently immersed in a corruption scandal—are hardly the answer to Latin America’s problems, they are not threats to U.S. security.

This has not deterred other neo-cons, however, from recommending harsh measures against the region’s governments.

As the recent 9-11 commission report revealed, only a few days after the 9-11 terrorist attacks senior Pentagon officials were proposing South America as a potential target for military action. The rationale behind “hitting targets outside the Middle East” was, as stated in a top-secret Pentagon document, to deliver “a surprise to the terrorists.”

The 9-11 panel’s report indicates that the author of the unsigned memo is in all likelihood Feith, who apparently sought to catch the terrorists off guard by attacking a region completely unrelated to the conflict.

Nonetheless, Gaffney is but the latest neo-con in warning of the imaginary threat posed by Latin America in the “war on terror.” His paranoid tirade neatly dovetailed with revived fear mongering about alleged terrorist activities in the so-called tri-border area where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet.

Home to thousands of Muslims, many of whom have resided there for decades, the area is periodically signaled by the State Department as a potential hub for terrorism. But after three years of monitoring the area in conjunction with the police forces of the three South American countries and placing a special eye on financial outflows from Muslim businessmen, U.S. intelligence has been unable to find any link to international terrorism or Al Qaeda.

Interpol crime intelligence officer John Newton had stated in early October that there were “indications” that Al Qaeda could possibly derive some of its income from smuggling operations originated in the region. Newton’s assertion, however, added nothing new to accounts from both U.S. security officers and news articles over the last few years, all of which fail to identify any source or provide solid facts to back up these claims.

U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay John F. Keane stated in early November that the White House was concerned about the area’s financing flow “toward groups in the Middle East that sponsor terrorism.”

Keane’s remarks came only a few months after the local press waged a campaign requesting the U.S. State Department’s internet web page to stop issuing an “alert” over the dangerous nature of the area.

According to Brazil’s Ambassador to Paraguay Valter Pecly Moreira, whose government has similarly been active in monitoring terrorism, “there is no indication of terrorism in these regions.”


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