Posts Tagged ‘CIA Black Sites’

Why was Latin America a rendition-free zone?

March 15, 2013
Double click to enlarge.

Double click to enlarge.

A report by Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), a New York-based human rights organization, has identified 54 governments that helped in the United States “extraordinary rendition” program.

This involved seizing people thought to be aiding the enemies of the United States, and sending them to secret sites around the world for interrogation, usually involving torture.  Some were interrogation centers operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, some were operated by foreign governments.   The most common destination, according to OSJI, was Syria.

If you think this is a good idea, what would you think about such a program being operated by some other powerful country, such as Russia or China.

It is interesting that both Libya and Syria hosted detention sites.  I bet this made Libya’s Qaddafi and Syria’s Assad think they were in the good graces of the U.S. government.   They must have been surprised when Washington turned on them.

What is especially interesting about the map is that one big region of the world, namely Latin America, had no governments known to have helped with the rendition program.   Greg Grandin, writing in Mother Jones, explained this is because of Latin America’s experience with a previous U.S. “war on terror”.

Even before the 1959 Cuban Revolution, before Che Guevara urged revolutionaries to create “two, three, many Vietnams,” Washington had already set about establishing two, three, many centralized intelligence agencies in Latin America.  As Michael McClintock shows in his indispensable book Instruments of Statecraft, in late 1954, a few months after the CIA’s infamous coup in Guatemala that overthrew a democratically elected government, the National Security Council first recommended strengthening “the internal security forces of friendly foreign countries.”

In the region, this meant three things. First, CIA agents and other US officials set to work “professionalizing” the security forces of individual countries like Guatemala, Colombia, and Uruguay; that is, turning brutal but often clumsy and corrupt local intelligence apparatuses into efficient, “centralized,” still brutal agencies, capable of gathering information, analyzing it, and storing it.  Most importantly, they were to coordinate different branches of each country’s security forces—the police, military, and paramilitary squads—to act on that information, often lethally and always ruthlessly.

Second, the US greatly expanded the writ of these far more efficient and effective agencies, making it clear that their portfolio included not just national defense but international offense. They were to be the vanguard of a global war for “freedom” and of an anticommunist reign of terror in the hemisphere.

Third, our men in Montevideo, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Asunción, La Paz, Lima, Quito, San Salvador, Guatemala City, and Managua were to help synchronize the workings of individual national security forces.

The result was state terror on a nearly continent-wide scale. In the 1970s and 1980s, Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s Operation Condor, which linked together the intelligence services of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Chile, was the most infamous of Latin America’s transnational terror consortiums, reaching out to commit mayhem as far away as Washington D.C., Paris, and Rome.  The US had earlier helped put in place similar operations elsewhere in the Southern hemisphere, especially in Central America in the 1960s.

By the time the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans had been tortured, killed, disappeared, or imprisoned without trial, thanks in significant part to US organizational skills and support. Latin America was, by then, Washington’s backyard gulag. Three of the region’s current presidents—Uruguay’s José Mujica, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega—were victims of this reign of terror.

via Mother Jones.

After the 9/11 attacks, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld flew to Chile to urge Latin American governments to join in the current “war on terror.”  Leaders in Latin America remembered their history too well to go along.  What, I wonder, will be the legacy of the present policy 20 or 30 years from now?