Paper for the Terrorism and Democracy Conference

Sponsored Jointly by The Secretariat of the Organization of American States and George Washington University's Center for Latin American Issues

by Ernesto F. Betancourt

December 10, 2001


On September 11, 2001, US Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, had to cut short his participation in the Lima meeting convened by the OAS to approve the new Democratic Charter for the region. As has been the tradition in Hemispheric relations over more than a century, the OAS was in the process of adapting its machinery in accordance with the wishes of its members. Secretary Powell's returned to Washington to face the beginning of a new era in which terrorism became the central issue in international relations. That sudden development compounded the ongoing adaptation process of the Inter-American System.

The meeting in Lima had been called in response to a request by the Quebec Summit of Heads of State of the region to adequate the Inter-American System to a new era during which trade integration was to grow in tandem with, and in support of, democratic rule. The new era in international relations opened by the brutal and despicable attack on the Trade Center and the Pentagon, broadens further that effort by adding an issue already under low-key consideration by the Inter-American System: the struggle against terrorism. How can that be reconciled with the current situation in the Hemisphere and the regional commitment to democracy? Although it is too early to reach any conclusions, we will try to provide some background and speculate on the potential impact of this new issue on the process.

Antecedents of adaptations of the I-A system

The first effort at collective approaches to problems besetting the region took place in 1826 and it was exclusively a Latin American meeting, with limited participation, convened by Simon Bolivar in Panama. This was not necessarily by design, there was some hesitation on US participation on both sides and, anyway, the United States representative, whose appointment was delayed by Congressional doubts, died of natural causes on his way to the meeting. At that time, the main purpose, although not the only one, was to reject the return of former European colonial rule to the Hemisphere. However, there was no agreement on how to best accomplish that. Some Latin countries, and in particular Bolivar, favored an alliance with England, which clashed with the United States policy, as stated in the Monroe Doctrine. On the US side, some in Congress had serious reservations about entering into an alliance with the former Spanish colonies.

For several decades, there was little progress in finding common issues worthy of regional collective action. By 1889, the initiative for regional cooperation shifted to the US. The First International Conference of American States was held in Washington, D.C., with Secretary of State James G. Blaine as host. Issues of regional concern were primarily related to trade and public health. An indication of the changes in the rhythm of life that has taken place since then is that, after the meeting, the host invited the delegates to a one month trip by train throughout the US. Consistent with the issues of common interest identified, at this meeting the Commercial Bureau of the American Republics was established and, in 1902, the Pan American Sanitary Bureau. It was not until 1910, however, that the Pan American Union, which eventually became the OAS Secretariat, was formally installed.

Peaceful resolution of conflicts became an issue receiving regional attention in the following decades. Besides, those were the years of Manifest Destiny and US interventions and, by that time, Latin America was more concerned with the expansionism of its northern neighbor than with European restoration. These concerns were addressed mostly in 1933 by President Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy. At the Sixth Conference of American States in Montevideo that year, the US basically renounced unilateral intervention in favor of a regional approach. Acceptance of the abolition of the Platt Amendment in the Cuban constitution, which granted the US the right to intervene in that country, was a central issue at that meeting, as was putting an end to interventions in Nicaragua and Haiti.

The Nazi menace was just emerging in Europe and regional collective security became an issue for the region in the following decade. This phase culminated in the Rio Treaty in 1947. The end of the Second World War in 1945 had led to the establishment of the United Nations and the only regional system in existence needed to be adjusted to fit the emerging worldwide system. This was the purpose of the 1948 Ninth Conference of American States in Bogota.

At that time, the Cold War was becoming a serious concern for the US, while economic issues were of more concern for Latin America. In the end, the US prevailed and concerns over potential Soviet interference in the region greatly influenced the final shape of the first UN regional entity. The Organization of American States, (OAS) became a highly autonomous regional body within the United Nations System. The Charter of the OAS was born and, to this day, with adaptations to changing collective needs as perceived by its members, it is the paramount regional body.

By 1959, the Soviet threat in this Hemisphere emerged in a most virulent form: the Castro Revolution. Despite the sympathy it initially elicited in the region, the Castro regime soon came to be perceived as a threat, not only by the US, but also by the Latin American establishment. The region demanded from the US a Marshall Plan to deal with the economic underpinnings of social unrest. The Eisenhower Administration was coming to an end and its main foreign policy priorities were Europe and Asia. Nevertheless, the Inter-American Development Bank was established in 1959 and, at the 1960 economic meeting in Bogota, the bases for what eventually became the Alliance for Progress were laid.

The Alliance for Progress spirit did not survive for too long after the death of John F. Kennedy in 1963. The United States got entangled in VietNam. By the end of the sixties, the regional institutional apparatus created around the Alliance started to be trimmed by mutual agreement between Latin America and the US. In the face of a fading Castro-Communist threat in the seventies, hemispheric relations started declining in priority, both for the United States and for Latin America. After the Guevara failure in Bolivia and, under Soviet pressure, Castro shifted priority in his military projection overseas to Africa, although continuing some low profile efforts in the region. Most of Latin America normalized relations with the Castro regime.

In the late seventies and the eighties, the OAS saw its role as an instrument for hemispheric action substantially downplayed and its budget severely restrained. Collective regional action came to be concentrated on more focused narrow issues, such as respect for human rights, which the Carter administration made a top priority issue. Afterwards, fighting drugs, corruption, and so forth were added but at a coordinating and information exchange level, not at an operating one. Terrorism also got some minor attention. A review of the Work Program of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE), approved in late 1999, reveals this as an incipient activity with absolutely no operating capability. (OEA/Ser.L/X/2/1-CICTE/ Doc.5/99 rev. 2) None of these narrow issues involved as high a profile role for the OAS as the Alliance for Progress did, or the allocation of substantial budgetary resources.

By 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union had eliminated the Soviet threat for good as an issue of hemispheric concern. The remaining conflicts in Central America, El Salvador and Guatemala, were objects of negotiated settlements with UN mediation, not OAS. It was during this process that the issue of consolidation of democratic rule started acquiring substantial importance. Canada made the democracy issue a priority one as a new member of the OAS.

The region was coming out of the last period of military rule provoked, or some may say rationalized, by the need to fight the Communist threat and hemispheric pressures could be used now to avoid dictatorial relapses through military coups. This was effectively accomplished in the nineties through successful OAS mediation of constitutional crises in Peru, Ecuador and Paraguay. Today, the acceptance of the irreversibility of elected rulers seems to be consolidating at the level of an Inter-American principle with a priority equal to that of Non-intervention.

It is in this evolving climate that the 1994 Summit of the Americas in Miami made representative government a requirement for participation in the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. By agreement of all participants, only freely elected representatives could participate; thus excluding Cuba, the only country without democratic rule in the Hemisphere. After some delays, the Third Summit of the Americas, held in Quebec in April, 2001, established that "any unconstitutional alteration or interruption of the democratic order in a state of the Hemisphere constitutes an insurmountable obstacle to the participation of that state's government in the Summits of the Americas process."

Now, the September Eleven events have added terrorism as a priority issue to the ongoing adaptations that the member countries had envisioned for the Inter-American System in relation to trade integration and democratic rule. The full impact has not been realized yet; and, as we will see later on, there are serious contradictions in the worldwide approach to terrorism taken by the Bush Administration and some of the prevailing hemispheric assumptions on how to deal with that problem.

The nature of the terrorist threat

Terrorism itself has been undergoing a substantial change over the years. It has existed for as long a mankind has been involved in conflicts. In the last few decades, there have been substantial changes due to the motivations under which it has been undertaken and the intensity of the damage it has inflicted. In the Americas, terrorism became a frequent occurrence mostly after Castro promoted it as part of his policy of exporting revolution . We will discuss briefly these three aspects: motivations, intensity and promotion.

It is very difficult to define the motivations for resorting to terrorist tactics and techniques.

There is general agreement that terrorism is resorted to by people who feel too weak to confront the formal forces of the state and thereby opt to undertake their actions under conditions that assure them maximum surprise and impact. Risk avoidance may be a factor but, the frequency of suicidal terrorist actions, indicates that is not an overriding consideration. During the past two centuries, terrorism has been mostly associated with the attainment of political goals. Nationalism or race has been a frequent motivation, ideology another, economic interest, as is the case of narco-trafickers in Colombia, and, finally, religious hostility has been another of the motivating forces. Terrorism has been chosen as an instrument of action by organizations or movements, as well as by deranged individuals. This variety of motivations for terrorist actions weakens the reductionist answer, already being advocated, that relates it primarily to poverty.

The intensity of the damage caused by terrorist actions has increased by leaps and bounds.

Initially, terrorists resorted to assassinations and bombs to dispose of prominent individuals in the status quo they were fighting. Although this type of execution is an unacceptable way of sentencing opponents to the maximum penalty without due process, at least it was related to the actions of that specific individual. More so, if the target of the terrorist action was involved himself on some repressive activity. However, over the last decades there has been a qualitative change in the selection of objectives, and in the techniques used, that extends the damages from terrorist actions to people totally unrelated to whatever is the grievance advanced as a justification by the terrorist. This is terror for terrors sake. It is oblivious of causing damage, including loss of life and limb, to innocent bystanders. In fact, it seems to seek such damage as way of enhancing itself as a threat worthy of attention.

The attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon is the culmination of this escalation in terrorism. The anthrax attack reveals that the are more worrisome weapons available to terrorists that could cause even greater damage than that caused by the September Eleven one. They go from causing epidemics, poisoning air and water to nuclear explosions. We have now reached a stage in which terrorism has become a threat to the most elementary decency we associate with civilized existence; no matter your nationality, your religion, your culture, your geographic location or your status in society.

As to promotion of terrorism, it came to the region mostly from Spanish anarchists who migrated to the region starting in the twenties, at least that was the case in Cuba. When the depression of the thirties severely affected the region's economy leading to social turmoil, some of these individuals became involved in that turmoil and resorted to terrorism as the weapon of choice. Religiously motivated terrorism has not been present in the region. Massive systematic use of terrorist tactics and techniques for political purposes did not become a threat in the region until the sixties. It was a consequence of Castro's resort to those weapons in his failed efforts to overthrew the existing social order in Latin America as soon as he came to power.

Castro started using terrorist tactics during the insurrectionary phase of the revolutionary struggle against Dictator Batista. The 26th of July Movement was involved not only in a guerrilla warfare operation. It also carried out assassinations, planted bombs, carry out kidnappings and undertook plane hijackings. The use of kidnappings as a propaganda instrument was pioneered by the Movement. Argentinian car racer Fangio was kidnapped when he came to participate in a race along the Malecon in Havana, merely to show weakness in Batista's security. In 1958, American workers and Marines from the Guantanamo Naval Base were kidnapped to call attention to US shipments of bombs to Batista's Air Force. As to plane hijackings, they were carried out mostly to escape potential capture, but also for propaganda purposes.

Once in power, Castro undertook a major effort to promote revolution. The regime set up a global network of contacts to identify and recruit potential participants in revolutionary movements. A worldwide conference, the Tricontinental, was held in Havana in 1966 to promote the idea and a Secretariat was established to maintain liaison and provide support. Cuba also set up training camps to transfer skills in all aspects of terrorism. Some of them continue functioning to this day. According to Juan Benemelis, more than 30,000 individuals have passed through these training camps, of them, around 10,000 were from the Caribbean and Latin America. Besides this hemisphere, Cuba has been associated with terrorism in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The Department of the Americas, headed by Major Manuel Pineiro, aka Barbarroja, was set up within the Central Committee of the Party to coordinate revolutionary efforts in this Hemisphere under the direct supervision of Castro himself. These efforts were complemented by facilities and staff of the Ministry of Interior's General Intelligence Directorate.

Cuba has had relationships with, and provided support to, all terrorist movements in the Hemisphere, including those active in Canada and the United States, as well as many outside the region. Among the graduates of Cuba's terrorist training camps one can include a roster of notorious international terrorists, the infamous Illich Ramirez Sanchez, Carlos the Jackal, the Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos, the leader of the FARC in Colombia, Manuel Marulanda, aka Tirofijo, the Peruvian Luis de la Puente Uceda and the Nicaraguan Daniel Ortega.

The anti-terrorist alliance and the Castro response

The initial US response to the terrorist attack has been concentrated on the successful military campaign against the Taliban and the bin Laden organization. The guiding principle of American foreign policy in the war against terrorism, as expressed by President Bush, has been that the United States will not only go after the terrorists themselves but also after the states that harbor and support them. In the Middle East, this new American policy, of hot pursuit of terrorists and their sponsor states, is now being tested in the case of Arafat. Despite misgivings about some aspects of Israeli policies, the Bush Administration is making clear that the Palestinian leader has to break with terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, before the US will accept him as an interlocutor worthy of being received by the President of the United States Even the pressure of crucial Arab allies, such as Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, did not persuade President Bush to meet Yasser Arafat during the recent session of the UN General Assembly.

Granted that to keep world attention focused, it would be advisable not to clutter the agenda with problems that can be dealt with in later phases of the war on terrorism. However, in the Americas, this new US stance raises immediate problems. Use of terrorist tactics to attain political goals has been defacto accepted within the region as a legitimate approach. Will this change now? How can the new clear policy of total rejection of terrorism that guides the US effort worldwide be reconciled with the ambiguity of Castro's position on this issue or with the situation in Colombia, where terrorism is widely imbedded in the political and economic life of the country and in the conflict that afflicts it.

Castro's immediate response was to disassociate himself completely from the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He even offered to send Cuban medical teams to Ground Zero in New York. Then, he started a two-fold campaign: one, to portray his regime as a victim of terrorism--for which he had unfortunately legitimate grounds--and, the second, to reject the U.S. military response to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and mobilize public opinion against it. As is Castro's usual practice when he is trying to distract public opinion away from an issue, no mention was made at all of Cuba's role as the main sponsor and promoter of terrorism in the Americas that is briefly covered above. But we should not ignore what happened.

On November 13, 2001, the Cuban Foreign Minister address to the UN General Assembly attempted to mobilize world public opinion against the US war on terrorism in Afghanistan. While the Foreign Minister was stating that the American effort had been "ineffective and unjustifiable," the Taliban regime disintegration started with the abandonment of Kabul. The campaign has been extremely "effective." With world TV showing Afghans dancing, listening to music, shaving and kids flying kites, not to mention girls being able to attend school, the image that the U.S. attack on the Taliban was an "unjustifiable" attack on the Afghan people lost any credibility.

To further reinforce the image of Castro's regime as a law abiding anti-terrorist one, the rubber stamp Cuban legislature was convened on October 4, 2001 to ratify all UN anti-terrorist agreements. Then, Cuba proceeded with depositing the ratification documents of all these agreements at the corresponding UN agencies; the last one taking place at the International Civil Aviation Organizacion on December 3, 2001 in Montreal. Going another step further in his effort to distance his regime from the image of a terrorism sponsoring state, the Cuban side offered the US delegation attending the regularly scheduled meeting on implementation of the migration agreement to provide information on terrorist activities. An offer rejected because that was not the proper forum and because previous Cuban information on terrorism had been "worthless."

These propaganda efforts to paint his regime as a champion anti-terrorist, did not stop Castro from hosting the tenth meeting of the most blatant international gathering of terrorist organizations of the Americas: El Foro de Sao Paulo. This organization was established after the collapse of the Soviet Union to offer an alternative outlet for the demoralized ranks of the Marxist left in the Americas. Its initial sponsors were Castro and the Brazilian labor leader Luis Ignacio "Lula" da Silva. Today it includes all leftist groups which at one time or another have resorted to terrorism in the pursuit of their political goals and, most of them, in one way or another have been recipients of Castro's support in those endeavors. Attending this session are the ELN and the FARC, active in Colombia, the MIR, active in Chile, the MRTA, active in Peru and the Macheteros, active in Puerto Rico, all still active in terrorist activities. Addressing the opening session, Ramon Balaguer, who is responsible for ideology within the Cuban Communist Party, stated that: the U.S. response to the terrorist attack was a "crude attempt to step up an old imperialistic tactic of presenting as criminals those who oppose its dictates, especially in the left and popular movements."

The agenda for the meeting covered the whole gamut of anti-American issues that pass for a leftist ideological position nowadays, including regional integration under the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the response to the terrorist attack, Vieques, Plan Colombia and neoliberal globalization. At the end of the meeting, an interesting issue was added, the trial of Castro's "Wasp Network" spies in Miami, who are scheduled for sentencing during this week. According to Granma's December 8, 2001 issue, during its last session the Foro demanded that the US free these spies. The fact is that, according to the evidence presented in court they had been involved, among other actions, in providing information that led to the killing of four civilian pilots over international waters, they had gathered information on how to infiltrate weapons and explosives into Florida Keys and about the addresses of military personnel stationed at the Boca Chica Naval Air Station. All these activites are related to the planning of terrorist actions against the United States and not to defending Cuba from terrorist activities, as the Castro propaganda proclaims.

Earlier, Castro opted at the last minute for non-attendance at the Lima Ibero-American Summit on November 23, 2001. It was known that the Summit was going to issue two resolutions, one, supporting the US anti-terrorist campaign and, the other, endorsing the ALCA, or free trade zone of the Americas. The most likely explanation for this absence was to avoid an even more damaging repetition of the clash of positions over terrorism that took place at the Panama Summit last year--broadcasted live by TV networks-- when the President of El Salvador challenged Castro for having supported terrorists in his country during the conflict there. This year the conflicting resolutions were approved without any challenge from Cuba The double talk that has prevailed in these Summit meetings as a result of Castro's presence was avoided. Carlos Lage, Cuba's Vice-President, who attended in Castro's place, opted for a discreet silence.

The question now is how is the Inter-American System, and its most powerful member, going to react to the challenge from the Latin American left under Castro's leadership not only on the free trade issue, but more importantly on the terrorist issue. Can the US accept to make an exception in the Americas and allow organizations such as the ELN and FARC in Colombia to continue negotiating as legitimate political actors with a government it is supporting militarily despite the unquestionable terrorist nature of their actions. Can the intellectual fraud implicit in the Plan Colombia of hair-splitting the difference between fighting drug traffick and fighting guerrillas, financed by that same drug traffick, continue under the new war on terrorism unleashed by the September 11 events? Is the Arafat principle going to be extended also to these terrorist organizations? It seems that will not hold any longer.

What about governments who harbor and support terrorists? Is Castro's attempt to join the anti-terrorist camp, while continuing hosting meetings like the Foro de Sao Paulo that legitimizes terrorist groups and his support for terrorism going to be tolerated? Or, in due time, will a firmer policy insist that Castro will have to dismantle his training camps for terrorists, his under the table financing of terrorist activities and turn over to the US those fugitives from American justice being harbored at present by Cuba? Will inspection of Cuban bio-weapons laboratories be demanded to provide assurances to the Hemisphere that the region will not be subject to the same threat that looms at present over the Middle East from Iraq?

In a quiet, but firm way, the Bush Administration has been fending off Castro's frenetic effort to advance his proposed "cooperation" in fighting terrorism and drug interdiction, as well as getting travel and trade restrictions lifted, while maintaining his traditional anti-American stance. The clearest manifestation of Castro's outrage over that quiet fending off was reflected in the vicious attack made by Granma, on December 8, on Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, Lino Gutierrez.

Under the new era, Latin America as well as the United States, will have to face squarely the issue that Cuba, under Castro's rule, is a terrorist sponsoring and promoting state. No more double talk, no more avoidance of the truth.

The Inter-American Democratic Charter and the anti-terrorist alliance

September eleven, 2001 in Lima was to be the culmination of the process of raising democratic rule to one of the key ruling principles of Inter-American relations, along with non-intervention and peaceful solution of conflicts. Yet, it is ironic that the terrorist attack on the Trade Center and the Pentagon not only forced General Powell to cut short his stay in Lima, but also abruptly opened a new era in which terrorism has become an overriding issue that creates tremendous contradictions for Hemispheric relations. For purposes of this presentation, I will limit myself to two specific potential crises facing the Hemisphere in the near future in which the implementation of the new Democratic Charter may clash with the anti-terrorism issue. One is Venezuela and the other is Colombia. But first we should look at key aspects of the charter that may clash with the realities of these two cases.

The Democratic Charter is conceived around the premise that representative government is equivalent to democratic rule, although there is enough attention given to rule of law and respect for human rights that, with time, wider interpretations will unavoidably emerge from the praxis. The first Chapter, under article 3, provides a definition of the essential elements of representative democracy as agreed by the member governments. Basically, under Chapter IV, collective regional actions are triggered by situation related to problems described under Article 19 as "an unconstitutional interruption of the democratic order or an alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state, constitutes, while it persists, an insurmountable obstacle to its government's participation in sessions...of other bodies of the Organization." Since this provision is linked by a previous clause to "the democracy clause contained on the Declaration of Quebec City," this is the core power vested in the Charter that links participation in the integration process to preservation of representative government. In other words, Article 19 is the one that gives clout to Article 3. This is a most powerful operational instrument for the OAS to have.

We accept the definition that terrorism is to resort to violent actions to attain political goals. These actions, on the opposition side, involve resorting to kidnappings, assassinations, bombings and hijackings to seize power and, as was commented earlier, the tools of that violence seem to be escalating with the development of increasingly sophisticated weapons of mass destruction.

So far, we have been discussing opposition terrorism, but the truth is that state repression, is another form of terrorism: the state resort to force to attain its political goals. A practice that has been the subject of increasing regional and universal attention under the banner of respect for human rights. But, so far, the attention has been limited to state human rights abuses. Neither the NGOs, nor the national and regional institutions involved in human rights violations have paid too much attention when they are committed by so-called revolutionary organizations. The most notorious case in this respect at present is Colombia and, before, it was Peru during the Sendero Luminoso period. It is hard to understand the silence of human rights advocates when the ELN and the FARC commit the atrocities they are committing daily to terrorize the Colombian people, while they raise complaints about military repressive actions or the equally abhorrent atrocities committed by the paramilitary AUC due to their alleged links with the Colombian military.

As to the two hypothetical cases. In the case of Venezuela, the Hugo Chavez government is a legitimately elected government. It meets all the requirements of a representative democracy. However, in practice, it is rapidly losing the support of the population. At present it has lost the support of the labor movement, which rejected the pro-Government candidate for President of the labor confederation; it has also lost the support of the business sector. As of this writing, both labor and business organizations have called for a general strike for the day we are meeting. The Chavez government enacted by decree, although technically under powers delegated by the legislature, a package of 49 pieces of legislation without allowing any consultation of the civic forces of Venezuelan society. Since the present government has gained control of all three branches of power, it is highly unlikely that, if its popular support continues to decline, there will be any legitimate avenues to redress the situation without alteration of the constitutional regime.

Faced with this substantial loss of popular support and increasing social resistance, President Chavez, has openly indicated he will resort to the use of force to retain power. In other words, the hemisphere will be confronting a situation in which state terrorism is likely to be applied to repress popular unrest. On the other hand, the likelihood of the opposition forces moving beyond peaceful demonstrations and resorting to terrorist actions to resist government repression is highly probable. And the specter of a coup d'etat hovers in the background. The situation is turning so serious that The Washington Post, in an editorial on December 8, 2001, recognizing the need to avoid a disaster, has made an appeal for the United States and Latin America to assist Venezuela in finding a way out consistent with the principle "that violations of democracy are taboo."

Should the situation get out of hand, which is highly probable, any attempt to bring a national solution consistent with the prevailing popular sentiment at that time, is likely to clash with the regional policy as stated in the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Following the procedure outlined under Chapter IV of the Charter, President Chavez can invoke Article 17 and ask the OAS to come to his assistance. Since his government has control of all branches of government, even if he had lost popular support, technically the Hemisphere has to side with the government for the sake of complying with the goal of preserving representative democracy. To a certain extent, it seems similar to the situation faced by the Hemisphere in Peru during the last phase of rule by President Fujimori. On that occasion, the OAS was able to play a very constructive and positive role in facilitating a restoration of representative democracy.

The second hypothetical case is Colombia. Responding to widespread popular aspirations for restoration of peace, the Pastrana Government undertook a unique effort to negotiate a peaceful resolution of the decades long conflict afflicting that country. In fact, as a token of good faith, the Colombian Government abdicated sovereignty over a huge portion of national territory by withdrawing police and military forces from it. But it failed to demand as a pre-condition a cease fire. As a result, the negotiating process has been flawed from the beginning.

As has been demonstrated in the Middle East with the Barak/Arafat negotiations, sponsored by the Clinton Administration, the side free to continue waging war in a negotiation of this sort has little incentive for closure. By prolonging the negotiating process, additional concessions can be demanded by the side left free to continue fighting. The policy followed by the Bush Administration after 9/11 has placed an end to this situation by demanding from Yasser Arafat that he break with terrorist organizations that were waging war on Israel while he was making demands for more and more concessions.

In a manifestation of its intention to be consistent worldwide in the war on terrorism, the Bush Administration also labeled the FARC, the ELN and the AUC as terrorist organizations. The FARC leadership realized that such a label places them on notice that at some time in the future they are likely to face a similar treatment than the Taliban. The absurd assumption under the Plan Colombia, that you could fight narco-traffick, without fighting the guerrilla groups protecting the narcos and, at times, engaged in actual production and distribution themselves, seems to be coming to an end.

Such a basic change in defining the problem is a logical application to the Americas of the international policy enacted under the War on Terrorism by the Bush Administration. Faced with that perspective, FARC leader Marulanda announced he was withdrawing from the peace process and even offered to return the huge portion of territory granted to him by the Pastrana Administration, unless the label of terrorist organization be withdrawn by the United States and other concessions. Meanwhile, FARC will continue to be free to kidnap, bomb and assassinate as they have been doing during the negotiating process.

It seems, sometime in the near future, a redefinition is going to be made similar to what happened in Afghanistan and seems to be starting to happen in the Middle East. If we extrapolate from those experiences, the goals of the Plan Colombia will have to be freed of double talk and state clearly what the objective is: defeat of narco-terrorism. As a corollary, overwhelming military force will have to be used against the narco-guerrillas to restore absolute sovereignty of the Colombian Government over the whole national territory. Only under such security conditions will the economic and social development side of the proposed Plan Colombia plan will enjoy the guarantees of rule of law required to attract the massive investment needed to ensure its success.

Such an effort will raise many issues of hemispheric concern involving not only the Democratic Charter but also traditional principles of Inter-American relations such as the peaceful resolution of conflicts and non-intervention. Since the Colombian conflict already has spread beyond its frontiers, this will demand collective action involving not only the United States, but also Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. In any military action required against terrorism, it would be advisable to invoke the Rio Treaty at the level of regional legal instruments and the Inter-American Defense Board at the operational level.

Some concluding observations

It seems that the emergence of terrorism as an issue of regional priority concern will eventually force a reconsideration of many ongoing problems in the Hemisphere and test not only the validity of the principles enacted in the Democratic Charter, as well as the effectiveness of the operational procedures it established, but also will demand a reconsideration of other issues and instruments. In that respect, the following observations or suggestions can be made:

i) The only long term solution is that the principle that resort to terrorist tactics such as indiscriminate assassinations, bombs, kidnappings, bank robberies, plane hijackings and the use of any weapons of mass destruction be considered unacceptable in the pursuit of political goals of any kind. Such actions should be considered violations of human rights in the same fashion that violations of human rights for the sake of state repression is unacceptable. At the operational level of inter-American institutions, denunciation of these violations should be brought under the cover of the expanding legal system for the protection of human rights that has been flourishing in the Hemisphere in the last decades. There should be a proviso that that system, both the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights and the Court, be provided with the necessary authority and resources to become more effective in dealing both with state terrorism, in the form of use of violence to repress opposition, and with opposition terrorism in the pursuit of political goals.

ii) The current charter of the Inter-American Commission Against Terrorism (CICTE) needs to be revised to strengthen its operational capabilities. To cope with the terrorist threat, the Hemisphere will have to resort to the Inter-American Defense Board so that the Latin American military and other security agencies can share the experience being gathered in the United States in the efforts at attaining homeland security. True, it will be necessary to overcome many reservations that prevail in relation to these matters in many circles in the Hemisphere, but we are in a new era and the preventions of the past need to be revised in the face of the threats of the future.


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