Monday, December 01, 2008

Terrorism By Any Other Name...

(digitalwarriormedia) On Friday, President Evo Morales offered his condolences to the nation of India for the terror attacks that have rocked Mumbai since Wednesday.

He sent a letter to the Prime Minister of India offering his solidarity with the Indian people and calling for a “culture of life and peace”. Morales joined leaders from all over the world who have condemned the acts of terrorism.

Homegrown Terrorists

Less than three months ago, Bolivia suffered its own domestic terror attacks - no less horrible than those in Mumbai - but without nearly the level of preoccupation by the Western media nor the widespread sense of international indignation.

Bolivia’s September 11th actually took place on Thursday, September 11, 2008, when 20 indigenous peasants were massacred in the department of Pando.

Just outside the city of Cobija, in Porvenir and Filadelfia, indigenous men, women and children were ambushed by people with automatic weapons. Those who tried to flee were hunted down like prey and shot at mercilessly. Initially more than 100 people were missing.

It was the worst massacre in Bolivia since 2003, when 67 protesters were killed by government forces during the presidency of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. In 2003, the U.S. State Department declared that the American people and the U.S. government supported the Bolivian government.

Bolivia’s 9/11 attacks occurred in the midst of weeks of civil unrest stirred up by an anti-government opposition that laid siege to roads, airports and government buildings, sabotaged natural gas pipelines and left certain regions of the country with shortages of food and oil.

While the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Organization of American States, and the European Union condemned the attacks on the indigenous peasants – the same humanitarian gesture was not issued from the Bush White House. There was no denunciation of the terrorist attacks that required President Morales to call a state of siege in Pando and send military forces into the province.

In the wake of these occurrences, UNASUR formed a special commission to investigate the attacks of September. This week they submitted their findings.

On Tuesday, UNASUR’s Human Rights Commission handed its final report to Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, pro-tempore president of the regional body. Details of the report have not been made public, however media reports indicate that the commission found Pando authorities legally responsible for the events.

The head of the Human Rights commission, Argentinian lawyer Rodolfo Mattarollo, worked with commissioners from UNASUR member countries, as well as forensic and ballistic experts to compile the report.

The delegation interviewed victims and suspects that had been detained in connection with the massacre, including Leopoldo Fernandez, ex-prefect of Pando, who remains imprisoned in La Paz facing charges of genocide. Mattarollo stated that it was in the interest of justice to obtain different statements and ascertain perspectives from the various parties involved.

Another report was issued this weekend by Bolivia’s Ombudsman Waldo Albarracin. His findings described how indigenous peasants were chased from “home to home”, and shot at as they tried to escape into the river and forest. Similar to the UNASUR commission, Albarracin faulted the police in Pando. He cited the authorities for failing to protect peasants seeking refuge. He made particular note of the psychosocial trauma suffered by the children who witnessed these attacks and offered recommendations to several governmental agencies for dealing with the victims and perpetrators.

Suspects and Suspicion

So far the fact-finding coming from the Bolivian government keeps pointing to U.S. involvement.

Once again President Morales leveled charges that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the Drug Enforcement Administration supported the civil coup against his government. Nonetheless Morales says he wants to improve Bolivia’s relationship with the U.S. – a hope Morales has expressed more avidly since the election of Barack Obama in early November.

This week more arrests were made in connection with the sabotage and civil coup in September. Reynaldo Bayard, president of the Civic Committee of Tarija, and others were arrested on charges of bombing a gas pipeline in the Chaco region.

Interior Minister Alfredo Rada announced formal charges were filed against Branco Marinkovic, head of the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz, for his role in the domestic attacks against government institutions.

And in other developments, almost 900 pounds of smuggled munitions were intercepted by Bolivian customs authorities in the Cochabamba department on Wednesday. President of Customs Clearance Wilfredo Vargas said the ammunition, shipped from the U.S., was the same kind that was used in the Pando massacre, although investigations are ongoing.

Co-opting 9/11

And while many in the Western press refer to the attacks in Mumbai as “India’s 9-11”, this terminology may be misplaced.

As planned operations, India’s attacks have more similarity to Bolivia’s 9/11 in which trained individuals used paramilitary tactics and automatic weapons to exact terror on a population of people.

The media’s eagerness to use the 9/11 comparison as a means to convey the severity of the attacks begs the question: why didn’t Bolivia receive the same kind of outpouring of international outrage and support on that fateful September day?

As a matter of a percentage of population, Bolivia lost more individuals than even the U.S. during the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The most glaring similarity to the attacks in 2001 and Mumbai is the possibility that Islamic fundamentalists are responsible. However the origin of these attackers and whether or not they are connected to Al Qaeda is still unknown, making the use of the 9/11 comparison premature.

Here Michel Chossudovsky asks some probing questions as to who may actually be implicated in the Mumbai attacks.

By appropriating 9/11 to describe the events in Mumbai, it trivializes the loss of life in other countries where domestic terrorism claims the lives of innocent victims. It also glosses over India's ongoing history with domestic terrorism.

Bolivians, who experienced threats of violence and anti-government aggression in five of nine departments, deserved to have world leaders condemn the domestic terrorism that rocked their nation. The events of September threatened to destabilize the Latin American region – it disrupted trade and sent criminals into neighboring Brazil.

But most importantly Bolivia needs the support and expertise of the international community moving forward to help bring those perpetrators of domestic terrorism to justice.

Photos: ABI, SigloXXI, Reuters



Blogger Digital Warrior Media said...

Nine Is Not 11 (and November Isn't September)by Arundhati Roy

We've forfeited the rights to our own tragedies. As the carnage in Mumbai raged on, day after horrible day, our 24-hour news channels informed us that we were watching "India's 9/11." And like actors in a Bollywood rip-off of an old Hollywood film, we're expected to play our parts and say our lines, even though we know it's all been said and done before.

...." terrorism exists in a particular time, place, and political context, and to refuse to see that will only aggravate the problem and put more and more people in harm's way".....

December 16, 2008 5:51 AM  

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