Where Time is a Frequency and Space is a Holographic Unity
August 3, 2006
from AsiaTimesArticle Website
Hezbollah south of the border
CIUDAD DEL ESTE
at the triple border of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay
This is the way savage globalization ends - at least 20,000 shops, stalls, tin shacks and mini-malls crammed into 15 blocks selling everything under the (tropical) sun.
There's Little Asia - thousands of Taiwanese, mainland Chinese and Koreans. But above all there are some 20,000 Arabs of Syrian and mostly Lebanese descent (another 12,000 live in the Brazilian resort of Foz do Iguacu, across the Friendship Bridge).
Welcome to Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, population 200,000, free-trade cesspit and World Trade Organization wet dream, realm of sacoleiros (bag carriers) crossing the bridge every day and dreaming of the ultimate knockoff, but mostly realm of money changers, prehistoric armored cars, gun-and-coke dealers, dodgy pharmacists and stolen Mercedes with tinted windows.
The border is virtually non-existent, as Paraguay is a Mercosur member (along with Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela). Airspace is free - virtually no radar. Cocaine comes by plane or truck from the Bolivian Andes. Brazilian weapons are everywhere - not to mention real and fake Kalashnikovs. Tons of laundered money whirl in free flow.
The whole thing is a dizzying black void of billions of dollars in contraband, narco-trafficking, weapons smuggling, money laundering, car theft, piracy and corruption of public officials.
And it gets worse: it's crammed with terrorists.
Stand and deliver
The head of the U.S. Southcom (Southern Command), the vociferous General Brantz Craddock, is absolutely convinced the Triple Border is the abode of,
"the transnational terrorist, the narco-terrorist, the Islamic radical fundraiser and recruiter, the illicit trafficker, the money launderer, the kidnapper and the gang member".
The emphasis is on "terrorist" and "Islamic".
[additional info from wikipedia, 4.20.2015) Bantz John Craddock (born August 24, 1949) is a former United States Army general. His last military assignment was as Commander, U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and the NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) as well as the commanding officer of Allied Command Operations (ACO) from December 2006 to June 30, 2009. He also served as Commander, U.S. Southern Command from November 9, 2004 to December 2006. After his retirement in 2009, he was hired by MPRI, Inc., (sometimes called Military Professional Resources, Inc.) to serve as its corporate president]
Southcom - U.S.$800 million annual budget, more than the State, Treasury, Commerce and Agriculture departments combined - is the eyes and ears of the Pentagon over Latin America.
In essence, this is how it works. Armchair gurus in Washington and New York theorize on the so-called five wars of globalization - terrorism, trafficking, money laundering, piracy and migration - and the Pentagon sends the Special Forces posing as cleaners to make it all proper for the "free" world. The underlying assumption is that Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaeda - "in sum, terror" - are profiting like mad from the so-called five wars.
The "new threats of the 21st century recognize no borders", according to the Pentagon. Ergo, everyone may be a terrorist, at least a potential one. Not accidentally, General Craddock hates "anti-globalization and anti-free-trade demagogues".
Sunni or Shi'ite, Marxist or anarchist, ruralist or existentialist, the Russian mafia, the Hong Kong triads, the Nigerian mafia, the Ukrainian mafia - they are all in cahoots. And for the Pentagon, Hezbollah is selling pirate video discs of Christina Aguilera to finance more Katyusha rockets.
At the real Triple Border, though, everyone may be a spy, or a would-be spy, because everyone is there:
the Russian mafia
the Nigerian mafia
the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
the Hong Kong triads
A rule of gold in the underworld is that Brazil is neutral territory and not subject to turf wars:
everyone is entitled to join the fun (technically Ciudad del Este is in Paraguay, but it does business as a Brazilian annex via the Friendship Bridge).
There's no chance of catching one of Ayman al-Zawahiri's lieutenants slipping $100 bills into the G-string of dancer Harlem Roux at the Casino Parana. He - and his al-Qaeda affiliation - would be spotted in minutes.
General Craddock grudgingly had to admit that the Pentagon has "not detected Islamic terrorist cells" at the Triple Border, nor anywhere else in South America, for that matter. But he'll keep trying. If he dropped by Ciudad del Este's mean streets, Craddock would hear a lot of Mandarin - but not Arabic.
He would see every cheap plasma set in every audio-video shop tuned to Lebanese TV - or Al-Jazeera, hardly a terror ID. In his search for preemptive strikes, he could try the Condominio Mesquita - which, as the name attests, is a condo in the shape of a gold-painted mosque (they would love it in Peshawar).
But he would see no Hezbollahs in fake Nikes chewing an empanada and sipping mate with Jet Li lookalikes.
Hezbollah's electronic casino
Anyway, the latest annual State Department terrorism report explicitly regards the Triple Border as a main source of financing for both Hamas and Hezbollah, even though it admits "there's no confirmed information" either Hamas or Hezbollah has "an operational presence" on the ground.
The U.S. government keeps accusing the Brazilian government of regarding Hezbollah as a legitimate political party.
The Treasury Department also said it has detected money transfers from Foz do Iguacu - home of the famous Iguacu (Iguazu in Spanish) Falls, on the Brazilian side - to "terrorist groups" including Hezbollah.
In a report on drugs released in March, the U.S. once again was explicit:
Brazil must fight "terrorism financing" in the Triple Border area.
It doesn't matter that the State Department has found no evidence of "terrorist financing" from Paraguay and was forced to admit that between 1961 and 2003, only 1.2% of worldwide terror took place in,
An International Monetary Fund report on money laundering also revealed the obvious: the Triple Border is awash in cash smuggling, but no sight of "terrorist financing".
In 2001 CNN dubbed the Triple Border "a terrorist paradise" - based on dodgy documents obtained by U.S. embassies in both Paraguay and Argentina. An article in The New Yorker in late 2002 defined the Triple Border as "the center of Middle Eastern terrorism in South America" and "a community under the influence of extreme Islamic beliefs" - with Hamas, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda all training on the spot.
Between late 2001 and early 2002, this whole thing was fine-combed by U.S. and Brazilian investigators.
There was no chance Sheikh Nasrallah would be uncovered operating an electronic casino in Ciudad del Este under an alias. Commercial and banking ties between the Arabs in the Triple Border and their relatives in the Middle East were perfectly legal - just like the ones between resident Arabs in the U.S. and their relatives.
But the heat was on - relentless, humiliating, brutal.
Thus U.S. Immigration and Customs agents, financed to the tune of $2.25 million, will soon be parachuting into the Triple Border to help the locals fight money laundering, contraband and terrorism financing. The Americans will establish "units of commercial transparency".
Up to now the only country in the world boasting a "unit of commercial transparency" was Colombia. The Brazilian Federal Police and the Ministry of Foreign Relations prefer not to comment. American diplomats insist a permanent group representing the U.S., Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay has agreed on the matter.
Common wisdom rules that at least $20 million annually is sent from the Triple Border to finance Hezbollah, linking South American banks to banks in Texas and New York in the U.S., plus banks in Panama, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Egypt and Lebanon.
That would be 20% of total worldwide financing for Hezbollah's military wing.
There's no independent confirmation.
"This figure was arrived at by the Mossad. They always have plenty of people snooping around here," said a Lebanese-Brazilian businessman who owns a bustling audio-video shop.
Hezbollah receives donations from sympathizers worldwide. There's no evidence it is being financed by pirate video discs or cocaine dollars from the Triple Border.
But the pressure is non-stop. Thus the U.S. Congress has approved a motion enabling President George W Bush to ask for a task force to act against "terrorism in the Western Hemisphere", especially on the Triple Border. Bush is also supposed to demand from Brazil and other Latin American countries the branding of both Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations.
The Brazilian Embassy in Washington was furious - reminding the Americans that even the White House admits there's no terror operating on the Triple Border.
Carlos Alvarez, head of the Commission of Permanent Representatives of Mercosur, worries that the Americans,
"want to convert the Triple Border into part of the war on terror".
Diplomats from Mercosur countries say they have enough of an institutional base to fight crime - as that is the real issue.
Brazil has set up a new police unit and has reinforced air and fluvial patrols at the Triple Border - fighting above all the trafficking of drugs and weapons. Starting in two weeks - to the dismay of the business community in Ciudad del Este - they will even start inspecting all the sacoleiros crossing the Friendship Bridge.
Arab businessmen in both Foz do Iguacu and Ciudad del Este dismiss U.S. paranoia as, well, paranoia. They have more tangible things to worry about - like two Lebanese businessmen robbed of $250,000 cash in downtown Ciudad del Este just as they had left a bank.
The robbers - carrying machine-guns - were disguised as Paraguayan investigative police.
The Sunday headline in the Paraguayan daily Ultima Hora also told another popular story:
"It's easier to leave Lebanon than to arrive in Paraguay".
It referred to a Lebanese-Paraguayan family who managed to leave Lebanon in a Brazilian rescue plane, arrived in Sao Paulo but then could find no flights home.
No one wants to fly to Paraguay: airspace is totally unprotected, with no security systems and no radar.
The locals claim they don't need Americans to arrest one of the top Brazilian narco-traffickers, Marcelinho Niteroi, as they did last week. Niteroi carried fake Paraguayan identification, which he obtained posing as a "farmer".
On the other hand, businessmen on both sides of the border focus on made-in-USA missiles used by Israel that killed Lebanese-Brazilian kids, who were born in Brazil.
"Maybe these kids were dangerous terrorists," said a real-estate developer.
Where is Osama's hotel?
Irrespective of the facts on the ground, as far as the Pentagon is concerned the Triple Border remains a nest of subversive activity to be preempted as fast as Syria and Iran.
Take what happened last year when the Foz do Iguacu municipality ran a full-page ad in leading newspapers with a photo of Osama bin Laden.
The caption read:
"When he's not busy blowing up the world, bin Laden spends his time relaxing at Iguacu."
Craddock might have taken it literally - and blown the place apart.
Craddock would have had a heart attack with the recent subversion calendar. Last month the Mercosur chiefs of state got together in Cordoba, Argentina - officially welcoming Venezuela as a new member.
[Mercosur or Mercosul (Spanish: Mercado Común del Sur, Portuguese: Mercado Comum do Sul, Guarani: Ñemby Ñemuha, Southern Common Market) is a sub-regional bloc comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay andVenezuela. Its associate countries are Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Observer countries are New Zealandand Mexico.
Fidel Castro stole the show. Venezuela's news network Telesur - very popular via satellite in Ciudad del Este - provided extensive coverage of "anti-imperialist" speeches by both Castro and Hugo Chavez.
Meanwhile civil society - in the form of social, political, cultural, environmental, student, religious and human-rights organizations - was engaged in the second Triple Border Social Forum in Ciudad del Este, discussing the region's security, a controversial military agreement between the U.S. and Paraguay, and the preservation of the Guarani Aquifer.
The slogan went straight to the point:
"Out Yankee troops and the World Bank".
The "Yankee troops" are holding "training exercises" in Paraguay (more on that in below Part 2 of this report).
And the World Bank is developing a program toward mapping the Guarani Aquifer - which is the first step toward commercial exploration of its precious waters. The Guarani Aquifer is arguably the biggest reservoir of fresh, potable water in the world - right under Triple Border soil. The majority (71%) of its 1.2 million square kilometers lies in Brazil.
According to the United Nations, by 2025 worldwide demand for potable water will be 56% higher than what will be on offer.
When you combine a huge Arab community and lots of non-commercialized water in a Pentagon-defined "lawless area", no wonder bells start ringing.
Watching the non-stop coverage on the Arabic channels of Lebanese civilians dying under Israeli bombs, a Lebanese-Brazilian businessman offered the preferred local version of the "war on terror":
"In Iraq they said there were WMD [weapons of mass destruction]. They wanted the oil. Here they say that we are terrorists. But what they want is our water."
The Yankees are coming
by Pepe Escobar
"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 U.S. troops on Paraguayan soil since mid-2005.
U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. government for establishing an American military base".
The Paraguayan government defines these rumors as "delirious". Brazilians are not so sure.
According 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 U.S. troops.
Paraguayan businessmen even want to scrap Mercosur altogether, complaining that the big members, Brazil and Argentina, monopolize all the decisions.
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 U.S. military base very close to the Triple Border.
Way back in 1982, the U.S. 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 U.S. permanent base is all but inevitable. But maybe not, as Brazil is known to play hardball with Paraguay.
Significantly, the U.S.-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 U.S. 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 South America.
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 U.S. counterpart Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld and crucially, Roger Noriega, the sinister former assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.
John Keane, U.S. 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 U.S. 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 drug mafias.
El Condor pasa (again)
Brazil is one of the very few South American countries with no U.S. bases, garrisons or airstrips.
But now that Brazil is actually facing U.S. 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 U.S.-paid mules will keep planting stories in the media about Arab "terrorists" at the Triple Border, thus justifying a permanent-resident visa for the U.S. forces in Paraguay. What happened in Colombia is also evoked.
The Colombian agreement with the United States stipulated visa-free entry for U.S. 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 political terror.
In the 1970s - with sinister dictator Alfredo Stroessner in full power - the Central Intelligence Agency set up in the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S.$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
Manta in Ecuador
The first two happen to be right in front of Venezuela's coast.
After September 11 the U.S. 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 U.S. 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, U.S. 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 ideological crusade.
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.
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 Border.