People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIV

No. 05

January 31, 2010

ENCIRCLEMENT OF VENEZUELA

 

Netherlands Plays Junior to US Imperialism

 

Naresh ‘Nadeem’

 

MEDIA organisations in the Netherlands are currently busy publicising how the “war-mongering” president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, is “preparing for a war against Colombia” and also ranting against the Dutch country. The latest campaign of media stories depicting Chavez as a “crazy populist,” now up in arms against the wholly innocent, “civilised Netherlands,” started soon after Chavez accused the Netherlands of colluding with the United States against his country.

 

CHAVEZ’S

ACCUSATION

On December 17, as a Boston.com story based on an Associated Press report emanating from Copenhagen during the recent climate change summit said, Chavez accused the Netherlands of allowing the United States to use the Dutch islands off Venezuela's coast to prepare for a possible military attack against his country. The Venezuelan leader said the US military has, in order to prepare for a possible offensive, sent its intelligence agents, warships and spy planes to Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire, which are among the Dutch islands in the Caribbean.

It is to be noted here that the Netherlands has two groups of islands in the Caribbean --- Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles (earlier called the Dutch Antilles). The Antilles consist of Bonaire, Curacao, Sint Maarten (Saint Martin), Sint Eustatius and Saba. Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, commonly known as ABC Islands, lie only 15 to 50 miles off the Venezuelan coast.

Referring to these very ABC Islands which “are still under an imperial regime, the Netherlands," Chavez said, "Europe should know that the North American empire is sending to these islands weapons, assassins, American intelligence units, spy planes and warships."

Outlining how it is a part of Washington’s broader plan to undermine the leftist governments in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Cuba, and how this plan is “a threat to all the people of Latin America and the Caribbean," the Venezuelan president on this occasion urged the European Union to take a stand. "I would like to know what the European Union has to say about this," Chavez said, adding that "The Netherlands is responsible for this."

 

VACOUS

THEORY

Though a spat between the Netherlands and Venezuela is not something new, Chavez's latest remarks were so far his strongest against the Netherlands. Three years ago, too, he had protested against the Dutch government siding with the US, calling the Dutch defence minister a "pawn of Washington." This minister, Chavez said, was part of an orchestrated campaign to vilify him as a "tyrant making plans for invasions of the neighbouring countries."

The latest round of spat began soon after Bogota signed a ten years lease agreement with Washington towards the end of October 2009. This deal allows the US military to use, the way it likes, the Colombian military bases which are seven in number. The Americans already had established their air force bases in Aruba and Curacao. This was what led Chavez to say that "Venezuela is being surrounded by military bases."

Amsterdam was prompt in denying President Chavez’s recent charge as “baseless” and summoned Venezuela’s ambassador there for an explanation of Chavez’s comments. Yet, what remains uncontested is that the US military is using the Dutch islands in the Caribbean. For example, Ian Allen of IntelNews reported on December 24 that no less than Maxime Verhagen, the Dutch minister of foreign affairs, has admitted that the US military is well there in Aruba and Curacao. It is another thing that according to the minister, (1) this military presence is a part of the US’s “war against drugs,” and (2) that the US military activities in the Netherlands Antilles were “routine exercises.” Beyond that, he has so far maintained stoic silence, refusing to divulge any details about what is really going on in Aruba and Curacao.

On the other hand, several writers including Noam Chomsky and Eva Golinger have pointed out in a series of articles how the so-called “war against drugs” has in reality nothing to do with drug smuggling. It has rather been used for other causes such as fighting against guerrilla movements and the spying of other countries. Since the start of the “war against drugs,” they have pointed out, there has only been more smuggling and consumption of drugs.

We cannot forget, either, that US imperialists conveniently overlooked the large-scale cultivation of opium in Afghanistan and its smuggling to the western countries till the Taliban’s bonhomie with the US continued. Thus the theory that the US is building a series of bases in the Caribbean to wage a war against drugs is vacuous from end to end.

In any case, observers see nothing surprising in that the Netherlands is participating in the US’s so-called “war against drugs” and the so-called “war against terror.” The fact is that the Dutch government has a tradition of tailing behind American imperialism in world affairs. After the United Kingdom, the Netherlands is the US’s most important ally in West Europe. The cabinet of the Dutch prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, who is in power since August 2002, extended full support to the invasion of Iraq that, as we know, was based on concoctions. At present the Dutch have their troops in Afghanistan as well, officially in the name of rebuilding the country but in reality to prop up the Karzai regime.

 

IMPERIALIST

DESIGNS

Here it would be better to go a little back into history. In 1999, the Netherlands and the US signed an agreement for the establishment of Forward Operating Locations (FOLs), which gave the US military a right to use the air force bases in Aruba and Curacao. The US soon began to use these bases against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a guerrilla movement for liberation, while purportedly fighting against drug smuggling in the region. Then, with the election of George Bush Junior to the presidency, the US further widened the scope of these bases. The Bush administration saw Venezuela, which the poor and working people of Latin America began to regard as a beacon of hope, as a front-rank enemy and, in 2002, the CIA engineered a coup against the democratically elected Hugo Chavez, though the attempt was aborted. Since then, there have been many more intrigues against Venezuela.

In 2006, the US, Netherlands, Belgium, UK, France and Canada conducted a big military exercise in the Caribbean, named Joint Caribbean Lion 2006, which was clearly a provocation to Venezuela. After the Venezuelan government protested, the then Dutch minister of defence, Henk Kamp, and some rightwing MPs accused Chavez of “wishing to conquer the Antilles.” This was based on a false statement emanating from the Venezuelan opposition, to the effect that Chavez claimed every inch within 200 miles from the Venezuelan coast as Venezuelan territory. In reality, however, Chavez had clearly talked of 12 and not 200 miles in his speech.

The recent moves at militarisation of the neighbouring Colombia and the grant of seven military bases to the US troops have added a new dimension to the conflict. That Venezuela is not talking nonsense, as the pro-imperialist media keep claiming, is clear from the fact that Colombia’s military spending now is five per cent of its gross domestic product. It was only 2.5 per cent at the peak of its struggle against the FARC.

Next, the US stationed its Fourth Fleet back in the Caribbean in 2008. This fleet was disbanded in 1950, but now it is back and close to the Venezuelan coast.

On top of that, Venezuela has detected a number of spy planes in its air space. On many occasions, the US’s Boeing RC-135 has taken off from Curacao and hovered in the Venezuelan air space. An unmanned US drone also made an attempt to enter the Venezuelan air space from Colombian side on Sunday, December 20. All this ultimately compelled Chavez to order the shooting of any spy plane violating his country’s air space.

 

JUNIOR

PARTNER

There thus remains no doubt about the Netherlands playing the role of a junior partner of the US in the Caribbean, after Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite the mounting popular demand, the Netherlands government has refused to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, as its first priority is to comply with President Obama’s demand that Amsterdam keep its troops there for a longer period. A majority of the Dutch people is in favour of withdrawal of the troops.

In the Dutch parliament, the opposition Socialist Party (SP) has several times raised questions about the US intrigues in the Caribbean and the Netherlands government’s complicity therein. But all such questions remain unanswered. Though the ten years period of the lease deal with the US is already over, and a majority of the Dutch are against a renewal of the agreement, the government has so far not given any commitment in this regard.

On December 22, 2009, Harry van Bommel, a socialist MP, also charged that US spy planes are using an airbase in the island of Curacao. As reported by Global Research, a wing of Radio Netherlands, Bommel asked the foreign minister Maxime Verhagen whether the latter was aware that the Boeing RC-135 aircraft has been making regular reconnaissance flights from the Caribbean island's Hato airport over the past few weeks.

Asking for a ban on American military flights between the Antilles and Colombia, Bommel stressed that it is up to the Netherlands to help de-escalate the tensions in its relations with Venezuela.

 

US PRESENCE

IN THE REGION

After the US had to withdraw its military from Panama in 1999 in accordance with the Panama Canal treaties, it re-concentrated its troops and commands in Puerto Rico, which gave rise to a vigorous protest movement there. This forced the US Navy to vacate the bombing range in Vieques on May 1, 2003, followed by the closure of the massive Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in March 2004. Regional headquarters of the army, navy and Special Forces were also moved out of Puerto Rico and taken to Texas and Florida. The Southern Command (SouthCom) had to be headquartered in Miami.

However, the US Navy still continues to operate an "outer range" of nearly 2,00,000 square miles to practise high-tech naval manoeuvres, an underwater tracking range for submarines, and an electronic warfare range in waters near Vieques. The navy and military contractors have used these ranges to test their sophisticated ships and weapon systems. The US Army too has access to a large National Guards firing range at Camp Santiago in Salinas, Puerto Rico.

In addition, the Pentagon is investing in expanding the military infrastructure in the four military bases in the region --- in Manta (Ecuador), Aruba, Curacao and Comalapa (El Salvador), known as "cooperative security locations." These CSLs are equipped with what the US calls “counter-narcotics” monitoring and interdiction facilities.

After its withdrawal from Panama, Washington also signed ten-year agreements with Ecuador, the Netherlands (for Aruba and Curacao) and El Salvador.

All this is in addition to the existing bases including a missile tracking station on Ascension Island in the Caribbean, at Soto Cano in Palmerola (Honduras) and in Antigua, Peru, Colombia and on Andros Island in the Bahamas. The US military used its offices in Venezuela for more than 50 years before its eviction from there in May 2004.

The US’s naval station in Guantanamo Bay enjoys a lease with no termination date. It served as a logistics base for counter-drug operations and for years as an offshore detention centre, besides posing a threat to Cuba, to which the Guantanamo soil belongs. We need not remind anybody about the notoriety the US detention centre in Guantanamo achieved as a centre of inhuman torture.

Though the US military had to move out of Panama at the end of 1999, the Pentagon continues its military flights into and out of Panama daily under a contract to transport cargo and passengers between Honduras, Panama and Colombia.

In June 2002, the US signed an agreement with Costa Rica for an International Law Enforcement Academy, but popular movements have so far prevented its ratification.

Bases belonging to Latin American militaries but built or used by US soldiers are not considered US bases; yet they serve the same purpose. These include the Joint Riverine Training Centre in Iquitos, Peru. In Colombia too, US military personnel are housed in bases which are Colombian in name only.