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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

No friend of democracy

When George W. Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard talk about launching democracy onto an unsuspecting world, the establishment media takes furious notes then praises the leaders for their "vision." Such is the case when selling military hardware to many of the world's dictatorships. When America announced in March that it would be selling F-16s to Pakistan, India reacted angrily. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice mumbled something about assisting regional security, and then promptly flew home to Washington.

In Latin America, Venezuela has been a welcome thorn in the side of the Bush administration for some time. President Hugo Chavez has consistently accused the US of meddling in his country's affairs, even suggesting that the Americans are trying to assassinate him. His is a country with massive social and political problems and, most importantly for the West, vast oil reserves.

Washington is now selling further weapons to Chile, Colombia and Pakistan, in a move largely seen in the region as attempting to isolate Venezuela. One of the likely effects, however, is the start of a new arms race.

On a separate but related issue, at what point will the world ask the tough questions about America's support for Colombia's "War on Drugs"? Military aid provided to Colombia is being explicitly used in gross human rights abuses and yet America remains silent. More disturbingly, reports are surfacing that suggest the Colombian government is using US tax dollars to fight their own "War on Terror". Translation? US-funded death squads are proving deadly effective against the local indigenous population and destroying farm land. The unspoken truth of this phoney war is that the state, not drug cartels, is the main supporter and beneficiary of the drug trade. And guess who is receiving US aid to continue this "struggle"?


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