The US Military Descends on Paraguay | The Nation


The US Military Descends on Paraguay

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According to BASE-IS, Paraguayan officials have recently used the threat of terrorism to justify their aggression against campesino leaders. One group, the Campesino Organization of the North, has been accused of receiving instructions from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), that country's largest leftist guerrilla movement. The FARC has also been accused of colluding in the kidnapping and murder of the daughter of former Paraguayan President Raúl Cubas Grau last year. A June 23 report from the Chinese news service Xinhua said that Colombia's defense minister, Camilo Ospina, spoke with Paraguay's attorney general, Ruben Candia, about the presence of the FARC in Paraguay. Ospina said the FARC was consulting organized crime groups and "giving criminals advice on explosives" in Paraguay.

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Regarding the FARC connection in Paraguay, Paul Wolf, an international attorney in Washington who has studied the group closely and written about it, said, "Since the Colombian government hasn't shown any evidence or given any names, this can't be considered as anything but war propaganda." Linking Paraguayan campesino groups to the FARC is nothing new, particularly since the death of Cubas's daughter. However, in an interview with the Paraguayan newspaper La Nación, the bishop of Concepción, Zacarias Ortiz Rolon, said, "As far as the official interest in making believe that there is a guerrilla group and that it is fed by the Colombian FARC, that seems a bit suspicious to me."

The Association of Farmers of Alto Paraná (ASAGRAPA), a campesino group near the Triple Border, reported that a local politician offered one of the organization's leaders a sum of money equivalent to a monthly salary, in return for which the ASAGRAPA member was told to announce that other leaders in the organization were building a terrorist group and receiving training from the FARC. BASE-IS reports suggest that this type of bribery and disinformation is part of an effort to guarantee the "national security of the US" and "justify, continue and expand the North American military presence."

"All of these activities coincide with the presence of the US troops," Palau explained about the violence against farmers. "The CIA and FBI are also working here. It's likely they are generating these plans for fabricating lies about guerrilla and terrorist activities. They need to find terrorists to use as an excuse for militarization." Last October the Cuban media outlet Prensa Latina reported that FBI director Robert Mueller arrived in Paraguay to "check on preparations for the installation of a permanent FBI office in Asunción...to cooperate with security organizations to fight international crime, drug traffic and kidnapping."

Journalist Hugo Olázar of the Argentine paper Clarín reported last September that US troops were operating from an air base in Mariscal Estigarribia, Paraguay. He visited the base last year and said it had an air-traffic control tower, a military encampment and was capable of handling large aircraft. Though the United States denies it is operating at the base, it used the same rhetoric when first discussing its actions in Manta, Ecuador, which is currently home to an $80 million US military base. The base there was first described in 1999 as an archaic "dirt strip" used only for weather monitoring. Days later, the Pentagon said it would be utilized for security-related missions.

Other indications that the US military might be settling into Paraguay come from the right-wing Paraguayan government. Current President Nicanor Duarte Frutos is a member of the Colorado party, which has ruled the country for more than fifty years. It was this party that established the thirty-five-year dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner. Soon after his election in 2003, Duarte became the first Paraguayan president to be received at the White House. Last August Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld flew to Paraguay. Shortly afterward, Dick Cheney met with Paraguay's vice president.

Last year, Argentine Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel commented on the situation in Paraguay, "Once the United States arrives, it takes it a long time to leave. And that really frightens me."

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