May 12, 2008

SSOT? Maybe. Criminal conspirator? Definitely.

Quico says: What would it take to get Mark Weisbrot, Larry Birns & co. genuinely cheesed off at the Venezuelan government? Would documentary evidence that Chávez had actively conspired with foreign gunmen to cover up the killing of Venezuelan soldiers do the trick? We'll find out soon...

Lets connect some dots. In their recent communiqué questioning Colombia's interpretation of the Reyes laptops, Birns, Weisbrot and their motley crew of groovy ñángara academics credit Adam Isacson of the Center for International Policy with conducting "the most extensive evaluation of the available documents."

Isacson, in his latest post, notes that:
There is little doubt that the documents are real and untampered with. Interpol is very likely to conclude that, and it stands to reason - it would be hugely embarrassing for Colombia to be discovered to have been tampering with the computer files. We have to proceed on the assumption that these guerrilla communications are real. Venezuela’s denials of their authenticity constitute a weak defense.
Nonetheless, Isacson concludes that the material on the laptops, while troubling, is probably not enough on its own for the US to label Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism. Fair enough: if your main concern is the US policy implications of the Reyes files, that's sound advice. Given the massive economic and geostrategic consequences of such a move, erring on the side of caution seems like the only sane course for a US policy maker.

But notice what's happened here: in the context of a debate about US policy, Larry Birns and Mark Weisbrot have basically told us that their go-to-guy on the Reyes Files thinks the files are authentic, and that Interpol will say as much.

Question is, what else was on those laptops that Birns and Weisbrot's favorite expert thinks are for real? Lots and lots of stuff...much of which has no direct bearing on SSOT status, but raises very troubling questions about the regime they have been working so assiduously to bolster for so long.

A button for show: Colombian weekly Semana reports that the Reyes Files contain a detailed e-mail volley about a massacre perpetrated by FARC inside Venezuela, in Apure State on September 23, 2004. (Excerpts in English here.)

The emails, between Iván Márquez, 'Mono Jojoy', Rodrigo Granda and the late Raúl Reyes, reveal that FARC mistakenly ambushed a group of PDVSA engineers and their Venezuelan military escorts near La Charca that day. It was all a big case of mistaken identity, but when the dust settled six Venezuelans were dead: five soldiers and one woman working as a PDVSA engineer.

As soon as he hears this, Reyes sends a message to his brothers in arms noting that the Venezuelans would have no trouble realizing FARC was responsible for the killings. He says FARC should immediately own up to its mistake and apologize to the Venezuelan government, stressing the need to keep the whole thing quiet. Later emails from Granda note Chávez's anger at the killings, but also his determination to give the mishap a 'prudent and political' response.

The files detail the close collaboration between FARC and the head of Venezuelan military intelligence, General Hugo Carvajal, their determination to improve coordination in future, and their shared interest in not allowing "the right wing" to exploit the fracas.

Sure enough, within days, then Venezuelan defense minister Jorge García Carneiro was in front of the TV cameras in Caracas blaming the Apure Massacre on Colombian paramilitaries who had "acted in cold blood." The perpetrators were never caught, much less tried. The murders remain unsolved.

So if I'm keeping score right here, Weisbrot and Birns' more or less accept the authenticity of documents detailing Chávez's involvement in a criminal conspiracy with foreign insurgents to pervert the course of justice in the mass murder of five Venezuelan soldiers and one Venezuelan public employee. We'll be expecting a strongly worded communiqué from them denouncing this chicanery any time now.

The Apure Massacre and its cover up have very little bearing on the SSOT status debate. If your main concern about the Reyes Files is what the US should do about them, you can see why you might not pay much attention to these sordid events.

But if your worry is focused more on the moral sensibility of the Chávez regime and its foreign boosters, the massacre and its cover up take on a whole different hue. Larry, Mark, the time to take a principled stand is now. Here's your chance.

Lets step back and think through what we're really dealing with here. Imagine, for one fleeting second, what would happen if Larry Birns and Mark Weisbrot got their hands on authenticated documents detailing George W. Bush's personal involvement in a conspiracy to cover up a multiple murder of US servicemen carried out by foreign insurgents.

Just picture it.