THE ROVING EYE Part 2: Lost paraguayos: The Yankees are
coming By Pepe Escobar
For Part 1: Hezbollah south of the border, click
ASUNCION - "The Yankees are coming," says a Paraguayan university student in
Villa Morra, the slice of North American suburbia in eastern Asuncion. Wait; in
fact they're already here. And not only because of the American University, or
the rows and rows of private clinics, medical services, pharmacies and
life-insurance companies catering to expat customers in Mariscal Lopez Avenue.
President Nicanor Duarte has been allowing US troops on Paraguayan soil since
mid-2005. US Special Forces are performing 13 military exercises, to expire
late this year, including "educational courses", "domestic peacekeeping
operations" and counter-terrorism training, this one part of
Operation Commando Force 6, scheduled to go on until next month.
The whole package is part of a controversial military agreement between
Paraguay and the United States endorsed by the Paraguayan Congress more than a
year ago. The US Special Forces are guaranteed total immunity and diplomatic
status. They are free to import and export, they don't pay any taxes, and what
they trade is not subjected to any inspections. Contraband kingpins at the
Triple Border would kill for a deal like that.
The Foreign Ministry for its part insists that "the national government did not
sign any accords with the US government for establishing an American military
base". The Paraguayan government defines these rumors as "delirious".
Brazilians are not so sure.
to Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, "They told us this is just training
and humanitarian health missions ... There is no reason to believe that there
is something related to terrorism." Brazilian diplomats worry that Paraguay
didn't even bother to tell its Mercosur counterparts it would be hosting US
troops. Paraguayan businessmen even want to scrap Mercosur altogether,
complaining that the big members, Brazil and Argentina, monopolize all the
When in doubt, invade
It's useful to remember that soon after September 11, 2001, notorious neo-con
Douglas Feith suggested to George W Bush an air invasion of the Triple Border -
where the boundaries of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet - to capture
al-Qaeda fighters and permanently occupy the region. No wonder that as early as
2002 a study by the Brazilian army was asking whether "these armed forces that
ring the border of Brazil, especially in the Amazon region", could be used "for
reasons that are [at present] undeclared".
Although the Paraguayans insist these troops are in the country on a
"temporary" basis, they may represent a giant step toward Washington's setting
up a US military base very close to the Triple Border. Way back in 1982, the US
built and started operating a semi-clandestine airstrip in Mariscal
Estigarribia, in the Chaco region in northern Paraguay near the Bolivian
border, where B-52 bombers and C-5 Galaxy cargo planes are able to land with no
hassle. The airstrip is literally in the middle of dense forest. It also
happens to be only 270 kilometers from the Brazilian border.
Some Brazilian diplomats bet off the record that a US permanent base is all but
inevitable. But maybe not, as Brazil is known to play hardball with Paraguay.
Significantly, the US-Paraguay military agreement happened right when President
Duarte was struggling against social movements contrary to his privatization
wave, and peasant movements fighting for more land.
The "training" provided by the US forces is the usual mix of combat and
counter-insurgency and counter-terror theory. After that, it could be adapted
for use against any "terrorist" threat. For Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, the Bush
administration's real target is to smash popular movements and governments in
The Washington-Asuncion axis has been a stellar accomplishment of President
Nicanor Duarte, who came to power in August 2003. Duarte is described by
economic analyst Pablo Herken as "populist, demagogue, charlatan, liar,
incoherent, authoritarian, rancorous and irresponsible".
The supreme Pentagon obsession remains the Triple Border and Ciudad del Este,
Paraguay - the Wild West of the "war on terror". Brazil, Argentina and
Venezuela have been very critical toward Washington's regional geostrategic
designs. So for the Bush administration a weak and corrupt Paraguayan
government is the perfect Trojan horse.
Duarte is a certified FOB (Friend of Bush). He was personally received at the
White House. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Asuncion one year ago.
Paraguayan Vice President Luis Castiglioni met his US counterpart Dick Cheney,
Rumsfeld and crucially Roger Noriega, the sinister former assistant secretary
of state for Western Hemisphere affairs. John Keane, US ambassador to Paraguay,
publicized a huge contribution to fight "drug trafficking, terrorism, money
laundering and corruption". The Triple Border has always been the top issue on
all meetings between these players, not to mention the ministerial meetings
sponsored by Southcom (the US Southern Command).
The lethal cocktail of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Noriega, the Triple Border and all
those thousands of "Ay-rabs" in Ciudad del Este could not but spell endless
trouble. Argentine non-governmental organizations also identify the Triple
Border as the Americans' No 1 geostrategic target. The master plan would be
typical Rumsfeld: light, "rapid reaction" forces based in Paraguay intervening
in neighboring countries and conducting low-intensity warfare against the -
non-existent - Triple Border "terrorists". The Pentagon's agenda is the
militarization of the so-called Western Hemisphere. In his South American trips
the Rumsfeld mantra has been "dominion over ungoverned spaces". So Pentagon
logic equally applies to the Triple Border and the Rio favelas run by
El Condor pasa (again)
Brazil is one of the very few South American countries with no US bases,
garrisons or airstrips. But now that Brazil is actually facing US troops on two
flanks - north, in Colombia, and south, in Paraguay - no wonder Brazilian
congress members have started to regard it as "a threat to our national
security". Public intellectuals in both Brazil and Argentina fear that the
usual US-paid mules will keep planting stories in the media about Arab
"terrorists" at the Triple Border, thus justifying a permanent-resident visa
for the US forces in Paraguay. What happened in Colombia is also evoked. The
Colombian agreement with the United States stipulated visa-free entry for US
civilians. But these "civilians" happen to be mercenaries, working for private
security firms. The same process could happen in Paraguay.
Essential in the Pentagon machinery is the new Counter-Terrorism Fellowship
Program, which is operated (with no supervision by anyone) out of the
Pentagon's Office of Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict. What this
represents in fact is nothing but a rerun of the infamous Operation Condor
coordinated by infamous Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet during the 1970s. As
much as Condor, the Counter-Terrorism Fellowship Program may work as the de
facto Central Command in a South America-wide campaign of intimidation and
In the 1970s - with sinister dictator Alfredo Stroessner in full power - the
Central Intelligence Agency set up in the US Embassy in Asuncion the most
powerful electronic spying station in South America. According to researcher
Anibal Miranda, it's still operational.
For the past five years the US has also set up a real sanitary cordon in South
America, from the Caribbean to the Paraguayan Chaco - 20 garrisons split
between air and radar bases, at the cost of roughly US$340 million. Spy planes
roam the Amazon, the Andes and the Antilles. Operating under the "war on drugs"
banner, three airstrips are crucial in this plan: Hato in the Netherlands
Antilles, Queen Beatrix in Aruba, and Manta in Ecuador. The first two happen to
be right in front of Venezuela's coast.
After September 11 the US State Department mantra was that al-Qaeda and/or
Hezbollah had an intimate connection with FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias
de Colombia). The "coincidence" could not be more extraordinary: "terror" at
the geographic heart of Mercosur - which happens to be dreaded in Washington as
the made-in-South America answer to the Washington-promoted Free Trade Area of
the Americas - was suddenly connected with "terror", which happens to be the
biggest obstacle to the US occupation of the Amazon rainforest.
Before September 11 the main rationale behind Washington's Plan Colombia was
the "war on drugs". Then it became the "war on terror" - and Plan Colombia
spread way beyond the Andes. The Pentagon's new Long War (war on terror
remixed) is now the catalyst that multiplies "evidence" forever justifying
sending special agents, US Special Forces, "training" of local forces, "joint
military operations" and, sooner rather than later, a permanent military base.
Eyes on the loot
The Grand Prize may not be only the fabulous freshwater wealth of the
Guarani Aquifer. There are also the huge gas reserves of Bolivia, and great
unexplored reserves of carbon in southern Brazil, not to mention Venezuelan
oil. It all comes back once again to the 21st-century energy wars.
Anyone familiar with South America knows that the key issue is not terrorism
but lack of investment in health and education, and hunger and unemployment
inevitably leading in despair to petty crime and beyond. But for the Pentagon
shock troops of hardcore globalization, the only thing that matters is an
General Brantz Craddock, the man who sees a terrorist behind any pirate video
disc sold in the Triple Border, recently said that "transnational terrorism" is
Latin America's "foremost" problem. The Pentagon managed to fabricate a
hardcore Islamic jihad in Iraq out of nothing. There's no reason to doubt it
may fabricate a South America-wide Ciudad del Este out of a single Triple
This is the concluding article of this report.
Click herefor Part 1.