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Crimes of War and Crimes of Press Media: Bolivarian Republics of Colombia & Venezuela

by Ecosolidarity Andes Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2003 at 9:06 PM

Billionaire corporados control world's media, cause death of democracy & millions of people. Their crimes in the Andes means people worldwide must seize the presses, crush elite, remake the world. USA cornered & vulnerable - revolution whenever we want. We onlywant the world... Why wait. US out!

Crimes of War and Cr...
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Crimes of War and Crimes of Press Media: Bolivarian Republics of Colombia & Venezuela:

Ecosolidarity Andes at

“In July, at the invitation of Venezuela’s Women's Institute, we sent a sister from Guyana, one from Peru and one from the US. Having voted in President Hugo Chavez to head their movement, Venezuelans began to reclaim their oil revenue to eliminate the poverty of 80% of the population. They soon faced a military coup, engineered by the US and the racist Venezuelan elite that had been electorally overthrown after over 40 years in power. But hundreds of thousands of grassroots people, led by women who risked their lives first,

came into the streets and defeated the coup. Now their government, acting on the growing conviction that none of us can win without international support, was calling women activists to build an international network of solidarity. This 21st century revolution in Venezuela is telling the story that is never told [how] acting in its defense, Venezuelans, and above all grassroots women, are forming their own organizations to replace the traditional political parties based on corporate interests, personal ambition and corruption. We are spreading the news that CNN and Fox hide about what we are winning in Venezuela against overwork and poverty, which is a lever for everyone.” Women’s Global Strike 2003

In Venezuela and Colombia one appreciates the powerful performance spectacle that is the global media circus. Information access and the quality of the people’s information, news and viewpoints are the foundation of a real democracy, indeed of civilization itself.

The other side of the coin is that distorted information and secrecy are the foundations of the present global corporate domination and the invisible fingers of obscene profits.

We are being poisoned, malnourished and stupendously/tragically deceived. The remedy for this disease that corrodes everything we believe in, is severe and urgent. News and reporting, everywhere, must be liberated from the corruption of corporate directorship.

“Info to the People,” diversity and anti-corruption are new rallying cries and worldwide popular demands. These demands much like Lula and Chavez are not radical – they are moderate and reasonable. Waiting for the failure of the moderate path, a growing segment of the population in many Latin American countries sees a class and race conflict breaking and a shift to radical demands for a new socialism and broad nationalization of property and industry.

This is not a commercial advertisement, nor an info-mercial pitch. The story that I want to tell you about the Wars and the Lies of, “Beautiful but Deadly,” Colombia is an alternative media example of what you will soon see more of. Civic society demands better information and input from all sectors of society and a greater dialog of conflicting political expressions.(

In the explosive movement for change that is sweeping South America, a package of popular demands binds the important issues together in common solutions. The US-backed drug wars, terror wars, trade wars, debt wars, the FTAA and mis-mangement by the IMF are seen as the same curse: a virulent US-designed neoliberalism. The secret ingredients in the US and the elite’s potent recipe for control are: some clever media spins for the short term and a drug-like ‘value commercialization’ for the long run – the total programming of a compliant, mass, materialistic culture – an “Americanized” Latin market that would buy a great deal of US products. These US consumer sales are just as crucial for the struggling US economy as is the South American oil.

If the media doesn’t report on a massacre, did it really happen?

If the media bosses decide to doctor-up a protest video is there really reality?

“Senator Paul Wellstone’s Amendment would convert the [Clinton] Administration’s proposal for aid to the Colombian military to funds for drug treatment in the US. Such treatments are 20 times more effective than drug crop eradication, in reducing drug use.” - Colombia Support Network, June 6, 2000.

September, 2002: “There is now a widespread consensus that drug eradication, long the centerpiece of US narcotics policy, has failed…” - (Foreign Affairs, Vol. 81, No.5, page 124.)

Toxic defoliant spraying by the US continues to poison Colombia and neighboring countries despite lawsuits and protests against the harmful effects of this failed policy.

The Shot Not Heard Around the World

In Colombia, the major media conglomerates from Bogota to the New York Times (Times – “they aren’t a-changing”) have done such a mind-blowing snow-job that more people have died there from government assassination in the last 20 years than in all of the rest of the continent – and yet, the public around the world perceives the situation in Colombia as only a few bad guys dead from some kind of narco-civil war. Through a magical realism befitting this land’s fate, thousands of women and children, many journalists and hundreds of union leaders are killed in state-sponsored premeditated cold blood as the world yawns and the corporations spray the headwaters of the Amazon with untested chemical mixtures. People outside of Colombia are so poorly informed that most don’t even know which side the guerrillas and the death squads are on.

In neighboring Venezuela, a clique of corporate and private media moguls brazenly preach violent rebellion with the same impunity enjoyed by death squads throughout Colombia. The two countries are closely linked through legal and illegal trade. Millions of refugees and immigrants have crossed their borders over decades of civil strife and state-terror. The multinational corporate pursuit of the region’s coal and oil resources is intertwined with a US interventionist foreign policy and the media oligarchy dutifully plays its important role of deception and misdirection.

In the lens of this coalition of manipulators and greed, life becomes not a virtual, but a reality TV tele-novela soap-opera of a deep social denial. The media message denies the great need for change in Latin America and the extreme poverty that must be addressed through redistributive polices. They fail to warn the audience that failure to change will lead to greater poverty and greater violence.


If you could change the channel you might learn that industrial pollution and the drug war are endangering two of the most biologically diverse places on Earth. Or that the IMF and US went along with loans to many Latin American countries even when they knew that the governments would steal or waste much of the money in the 1980’s and 90’s. But these programs are kept off-screen and even major environmental groups have ignored or downplayed the ongoing ecological catastrophe. Global warming, stormy weather and corporate exploitation are combining to extinguish thousands of species and many indigenous tribes in the Amazon and the Andes mountains.

“The news that we do get tends to be sensational and superficial, aimed at catching the eyes of consumers, not at informing or enlightening the public. This news—call it “3-D” for drugs, dictators and disasters—reinforces stereotypes while disempowering citizens and activists… the easiest things to sell to domestic audiences are flashy, dramatic images that play on the majority’s emotions and biases. Whipped by hurricanes, ruled by crazed maniacs, and dependent on exotic drugs, Latin America is the setting of a tragic movie (that we call “news”), and the only time Uncle Sam is seen is when he comes riding to the rescue.

The news manager of a network affiliate in Minneapolis, [said] “We have to bring in viewers to get the advertising to pay the high costs of doing local news. We need to lead with a grabber. It may not be good journalism, but we need to keep our ratings up.” Her point? A commercial news operation must produce bad journalism to pay for producing . . . bad journalism.” -Jeff Nygaard “Desaparecidos” (

The news media – especially in the US - disappear the bodies of the dead along with any semblance of the truth. The news is disappeared. Where are you?

From Chemical Warfare to War Crimes and Toxic Media

More than 22 US helicopters have crashed or been shot down by rebels in Colombia in recent years says Georgia Republican congressman, Bob Barr. Though the Pentagon and US Embassy in Bogotá refuse to confirm or deny this, they admit that three State Department aircraft in Colombia were all hit by rebel ground fire on the same day in

November 2002. Many other US intelligence and toxic defoliant spray aircraft have been hit by gunfire and several have crashed. The leftwing guerrillas have surface to air missiles, but there is no evidence that they have used them. The CIA contracted airplane shot down on February 13 was hit by machinegun fire not rockets. At least two CIA officials are being held by the guerrillas deep in the rugged terrain of Colombia's southeastern war zone. []

Drug crop production and heroin and cocaine exports are up sharply in the Andean region despite the endless promises of Bush Jr and the US State Department. Failed policies thrive on when the corporations like them. ( see: )

The Actors and their Patterns of Subterfuge

The same family of dastardly characters continues to haunt both of these countries. In January 1982, then Vice-President George Bush Sr, had just taken over President Reagan’s Task Force on Drugs. Bush Sr. became the first cabinet-level Drug Czar and initiated a militarization of drug enforcement that would change Colombia forever. Reagan – The Great Communicator – would survive six more years of presidency at which point he handed the job off to Bush Sr. It was a chilling moment when a former head of the CIA who was deeply involved in arms deals with Iran and cocaine politics in Nicaragua, beat Massachusetts liberal Michael Dukakis in a landslide victory. The year was 1988. A story of grotesque proportions leads up to this inauguration of the Bush Dynasty that still haunts the world.

1982 in Colombia, saw Belesario Bentacur beat the popular reformer Carlos Galan in a three-way race that excluded the left from victory and denied Colombia its last path to peace. Colombia’s President, Alvaro Uribe, became the quiet Mayor of Medellin that year and he kept a low profile even when horsing around with the Ochoa clan drug lords. Pablo Escobar, Kingpin of the Medellin Cartel, won a seat as an alternate to the Colombian Congress in 1982 and enjoyed the status and the legal immunity that came with the job for several years despite major indictments.

1982 was also the year that a young Colombian named Marta Hinestroza began her college studies that would make her a human rights lawyer and lead to her exile in London – under threat of death 20 years later. This daughter of a miner and a seamstress grew up in rural Antioquia where she returned after college to a position as an ombudsman dealing with the complaints of the local people. Many were farmers angry at British Petroleum and the damages done to their farms by the oil pipeline called Ocensa.

George Bush Jr. – “W-Dubya” was casually bankrupting a few speculative oil companies in the US and breaking a few annoying laws. In the mid-1980’s, both Bushes cultivated close relationships with the now defunct Fraud-Masters at Enron, their old buddies in Big Oil and a shadowy host of anti-communists such as the anti-Castro terrorist Otto Reich (Ambassador to Venezuela 1986-89) and the billionaire Cisneros Clan of Venezuela – the latter two both being Cuban exiles and connected to billions of dollars in South Florida Latin drug money, slush funds and a significant intelligence apparatus. [4]

Larry Birns, a former member of the UN economic commission for Latin America, said in 2002: "Those responsible for Latin America in the U.S. State Department are the most extremist, off-the-wall team!" Their chief is the notorious Otto Reich, who has a long record of covert meddling in Latin America. Bush appointed him to the State Department against the advice of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. And in the Pentagon, there's Rogelio Pardo-Maurer, who as an aide to the head of the Contras helped wage a U.S.-backed terror war against the democratically elected Sandinista government in Nicaragua. In 1982 the Contras were shooting up schools and preparing to mine the Nicaraguan harbors. [5]

The hunt for Pablo Escobar from 1989 until his death in 1993 and the indiscriminate urban violence that accompanied this war opened the doors of Colombia’s future to the US military. Since 1980, US intelligence agencies have inserted themselves deep into governments throughout the western hemisphere from Haiti to Venezuela and Argentina.

The CIA and DEA have a long history of working with notorious drug traffickers and their private armies.

Do Cry for Colombia

By the late 1980’s the drug scene in the US was expanding too fast for the elite to tolerate and “coincidentally” it made real public relations sense to manipulate the slant of this social and public health crisis. Bush Sr.’s drug war became a “Can’t-Say-No” gimmick that helped his career as he and the right wing in the US championed: Responsibility; Zero Tolerance and Law and Order – minor exceptions were made for the US-friendly Cali Cartel and the death squad allies of the US in Colombia. These same themes and the same exceptions mark Bush Jr.’s reign of lies and business deals for arms, oil and merchants of death in South America. (Sins of the father…, the Son and the Holy Corporate Dollar)

In Colombia too, the drug scene was expanding so fast that the elite had to respond. So they joined the war on drugs too? No, in Colombia the elite skimmed what they could of the explosion of drug profits through money laundering and they made temporary arrangements of convenience with drug cartels and their bodyguards – the paramilitaries and the corrupt Colombian armed forces. The Oligarchy had always been dirty and self-corrupting. It was the reformers, Galan, Lara, Antequera, Jaramillo and Ortiz among – dozens of other martyrs who led the “Ghandian-like democratic last hope” for Colombian peace and civil reconciliation – it was they who demanded investigations into the cartel-government drug-money corruption scandals.

Soon they were all dead. … their children, families and friends as well. The killings began in earnest in1989 and continue on today.

Most of these peaceful reformers were killed by US trained forces who were often directed by US intelligence and US Special Forces. There is no way that this slaughter could have widened and persisted without the tacit blessing of the USA.

“It is no accident that Colombia lacks a state apparatus or effective institutions outside its principle cities. Neglecting such developments was a conscious decision by the country’s ruling class, which realized long ago that limiting the reach of the army and police was the best way to guarantee that the elite could exploit the country’s riches.”

– A rare gem from the flawed and right-slanted article by Julia Swieg, Foreign Affairs, Sept.2002, page 125.

There has never been a government presence, public services or attention given to the rural and low land areas the make up two-thirds of Colombia. This is a land bigger than France and Texas combined – add in Venezuela and one has an area almost as big as the entire Western US land region. And it is a land of three major mountain ranges and giant rivers – a wild land and the world renowned gem of biodiversity – more species of birds and amphibians live there than in all of North America.

Toxic defoliant spraying by the US continues to poison Colombia and neighboring countries despite lawsuits and protests against the continuing harmful effects of this failed policy.

The failures of US domestic drug policies and a cruelly competitive society have led to an insatiable demand for drugs in the US. The illegality of drugs created a multi-billion dollar market in rich America and poor cunning Colombians sought to supply the US addictions. Forty-three million Colombians and their neighbors in Venezuela (25 million with a million Colombian refugees) are suffering a virulent and violent capitalist greed driven by drug trafficking and US foreign policy intrigues.

From the grimy life-destroying ghettos where an underclass of millions live unseen lives in the US to the penthouses and Ski Vacation condominiums of Vail and Aspen, Colorado, people consume billions of dollars worth of cocaine and heroin each year. The celebrities and the poor, deranged addicts pay for the death squads of Latin America. President Bush uses these tragic social diseases in the US as an excuse to militarize Colombia and back a civil war against the poor and the minority populations. Clever US government TV advertisements and global propaganda misdirect people’s attention and common sense against drugs instead of against failed right wing policies and corruption.

Dead Innocents and Smoke Screens

In the mid-1980’s many of the death squads became narco-paramilitaries. At their helm were the Castano brothers, Fidel and Carlos, and an Italian born military strategist, Salvatore Mancuso. Backing them up was Alvaro Uribe, General Tapias, the US government and its intelligence apparatus, including Delta Force. And the Cali Cartel was in on the deal too. In order to kill Pablo Escobar and destroy the Medellin drug cartel Colombia’s president, Cesar Gavaria, turned the future of Colombia over to the US in 1989. Hundreds of US personnel joined the hundreds already working covertly, in army training or at the US Embassy in Bogota (now there are thousands). This coup de etat made President George Bush the kingpin of power and drugs in Colombia and the region - A claim that his son has now fully assumed. [7]

Even when motivated the Colombian government couldn't stop the violence or catch Escobar so with US blessing, electronic surveillance and excitement, the Colombian army formed a death squad called Los Pepes. This stood for "people persecuted by Pablo Escobar" - A sign of the strange humor and drama that was about to engulf Colombia. - A place Garcia Marquez fills with Magical Realism and others call "the place where nothing is as it seems." Colombians know what is going on, it is the rest of us who are fooled by the media and these slogans.

Los Pepes/Delta Force targeted Escobar’s relatives, associates and other enemies of the Cali drug cartel. Hundreds died. By 1994 the US plan was fully operational. Escobar was dead and the Castanos and the Cali cartel had united their death squads to keep business stable and fight the leftist guerrillas, peasant supporters and indigenous people who stood in the way of land development schemes or lived in the war zones. More guerrillas rearmed after witnessing another thousand of their supporters executed by the Colombian armed forces and their allies. Corporations like Exxon, Texaco and British Petroleum (BP) made large investments at this time and trained their own death squads or borrowed Castano's. Soon the AUC became a formal organization with designs on politics and “peace” negotiations – on their own terms.

The Drug War That Wasn’t

The flow of drugs to the US has never slowed. President Clinton resurrected the Drug War anyway saying, "This money will only go to drug interdiction not for civil war." But US money and drug money had been flowing to members of the Colombian armed forces for years.

In the latter part of the 1990's US anti-drug efforts in Bolivia and Peru drove the market for coca growers to Colombia. The US accomplished this by supporting the death squads in Bolivia and the terror program of Peru’s Vladimir Montesinos and the brutal Fujimori regime that is now so disgraced. With the coca being grown and processed in Colombia more money was generated in Colombia and corruption spread. The death squads increased from less than a thousand in 1992 to 5000 in 1999 to 12,000 in 2002. The death rate from their atrocities increased similarly. Judges, students, teachers, unionists, small farmers, peasants and indigenous people died by the thousands each year since the US took over Colombia in 1989.

The left-wing guerrilla forces have a forty-year history in Colombia and can trace their roots back to the 1940's when persecuted peasants began colonizing remote lands and declaring independent republics. The wars in Colombia are over land, which is where wealth and power are derived. The drugs, guns and ideology (free trade) are used to justify the mass murder that the racist and domineering Colombian elite have performed persistently since the 1940's.

The Ejercito de Liberation National (ELN) has long controlled much of the North East of Colombia, Santander, Aruca, and the Middle Magdalena. They now number about 8000 fighters. The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia (FARC) have controlled many parts of Colombia from Tolima to Antioquia to Caqueta and the Macarena. A third of the FARC’s 18,000 fighters are women and a higher percentage make up the support base of millions from which the guerrillas have managed to survive through decades of armed struggle. On high school graduation days the majority of students in rural areas go out to the designated meeting places to join the guerrillas, few go to college and jobs are almost non-existent in many areas. The slums of Bogota and Medellin offer little as alternatives.

For decades, life in guerrilla zones had been relatively uneventful. The guerrillas would hold town meetings and listen to the people and in turn the guerrillas would promise people a better day, a new Colombia of socialism or sharing… "Down with the Oligarchy!" Until 1999 most of the massacres were committed directly by the Colombian Armed Forces and they were somewhat predictable. After the rise of the death squads in the late 1990's this relative peacefulness in rural areas vanished and a widespread and bloody war ensued.

By the time President Clinton signed Plan Colombia into law (December 2000) more than a third of the 35,000 Colombians murdered each year were killed at the hands of the US death squads and their narco-trafficker friends and paymasters. The economy of Colombia began to collapse and people gave up on democracy.

The Year of No-Return

1999 was a turning point year in Colombia. The AUC narco-paramilitaries increased their attacks which had mounted since 1995 when Alvaro Uribe was the governor of Antioquia. Peace commissioner Alex Lopera and popular comedian and radio host Jaimie Garzon were assassinated that year after General Mora, the current head of the Armed Forces, branded them as guerrilla sympathizers – a certain death warrant.

Amid peace negotiations, the AUC death squads launched an offensive that spread their terror throughout the country. Guerrilla bombings of the oil pipelines increased and lawyer Marta Hinestroza and her 11 year old daughter began receiving death threats from the AUC. Her mother and four of her colleagues – ombudsmen in neighboring communities - had already been brutalized and murdered by the AUC death squads a few years earlier in the first big wave of attacks on peaceful villagers.

Marta continued her work with hundreds of impoverished farmers who are still demanding compensation from BP for its destructive and murderous pipeline activities. When her name appeared on the death squad list of targets, Marta had to flee Colombia with the aid of the Colombia Solidarity Campaign.

WAR and More War

The Colombian peace talks collapsed because then President Pastrana chose not to stop the narco-paramilitary expansion. President Bush wanted the talks to end and so that he could justify the shift of drug war money and guns over to the anti-FARC civil war. To justify listing the FACR and ELN as terrorist the US had to include the AUC - the Sixth Division of the Colombian Army. With the spotlight on AUC's terrorism it was hard for the US to continue its inexplicable seven year pause in requesting the extradition of Carlos Castano on major drug trafficking charges. Castano and his AUC military strategist Salvatore Mancuso are the grandest mass-murders in the history of the Western Hemisphere. The US and Colombian armed forces know where these criminals are, but instead of apprehending them they come to their rescue whenever the guerrillas threaten the death squads. Under Uribe the death squads have little to fear and many of their activities have been legalized. And they have little to fear from the Colombian or global media.

Lies, Lies and the Struggle for Dignity

Recent claims of battlefield victories against guerrilla units by the Colombian security forces are bluff and lies. So are the claims that the army is combating their traditional allies in the paramilitary death squads. The successes of the Colombian military high command in their war against Colombia’s leftist rebel movements are false exaggerations. Observers say that the army, hoping for more assistance, is desperate to show that the US military aid given to them is well spent.

Declarations of military victories against their traditional allies in the paramilitary death squads are designed to give the impression that the Colombian security forces are breaking their ties to such groups. “We’ve seen it before, putting out numbers that are not based on anything, clearly manipulated to further this idea that the military is having success against the guerrillas and particularly, for a US audience, the paramilitaries” said Robin Kirk of Washington-based Human Rights Watch recently.

Colombian human rights groups believe that the military is fabricating reports of alleged operations against the death squads in an effort to hide their close relationship with these groups. A journalist told ANNCOL that he had passed through a joint army-paramilitary roadblock the same day that soldiers in the region supposedly killed ten paramilitaries in the area. Discrepancies in what the US government and the Colombians are saying with regards to the alleged war on the paramilitaries add weight to the fabrication claims. Respected human rights groups in Colombia state categorically that the inconsistencies occur because the figures are simply plucked from thin air and the supposed war against the paramilitaries is in reality a ‘phony war’.

In a particularly shocking case in October the Colombian army claimed to have killed 19 guerrillas of the ELN rebel organisation near the village of Caracoli in Bosconia municipality of Cesar department. The bodies of the supposed guerrillas were paraded for the television cameras as evidence of yet another victory over the guerrillas, yet the dead later turned out to be peasant farmers whom the army had executed and then dressed as rebels as part of their new strategy to present themselves as winning the war.


Marta Hinestroza sits in a cold and wintry London wondering if it will ever be safe for her to return with her daughter to Colombia. She presses on with her efforts to gain compensation for the thousands of farmers and other people affected by US militarization and British Petroleum’s drive for oil profits. She is 37 years old and lucky to be alive.

The world is listening, but do they hear the cries and the agony?

Can they hear anything above the buzz and static of the medias’s clever lies?


In December 2000 a group of gunmen attempted to assassinate Wilson Borja the leader of the public sector workers trade union FENALTRASE. The attempt to assassinate him was organised by military intelligence units attached to the 13th Brigade of the Colombian army in Bogotá – a unit with which I previously worked. The plan was sanctioned both by General Reynaldo Castellano Trujillo, then the commander of the 13th Brigade, and by his superior General Jorge Enrique Mora Rangel, who was then the head of the Colombian army and is now the most senior military officer in Colombia.

Colombia's second-largest Marxist rebel force, the Cuban-inspired National Liberation Army, said on Thursday it had broken off preliminary peace talks in Cuba with the Colombian government, accusing officials of preparing for war. "The government is preparing to fight and finance a war, expand it throughout the country and legitimize foreign intervention," the guerrilla army known by the Spanish initials ELN said in its Web site ( The ELN said that Uribe, who has started a military build-up and wants to establish a million-strong network of civilian informants, was refusing to negotiate about the social problems which it said lay beneath the country's conflict.

COLOMBIA WATCH znet Adam Weiss

Thus, initially in Cordoba and later throughout northwestern Colombia, a network of landed elites and military personnel sponsored and used paramilitary forces not only for protection, but also to eliminate any manifestation of a threat to their status, taking great pains to brutally suppress the Patriotic Union. The party did not last long, since about 3,000 party members were assassinated, including many presidential, mayoral, and legislative candidates. Betancur’s peace process did not make any significant progress and the AUC continues to exist as the major paramilitary force in Colombia.

*** In October "Colombia and Corporate Profits: The Political Economy of a Narco-Terror State," was published in Z Magazine. This work exposes the involvement of giant US and European corporations in the civil war in Colombia.

Articles we have published include: CIA Cocaine Death Squads, Covert Action, Winter 1999; Andes on Fire. and, April, 2002; Free Trade Reality and Colombia's Farmers, Peaceworks, April, 2002;; The Earth Charter: Transition to a Sustainable World?, EF! Journal; World of Possibilities: The Imperative of Agrarian Based Localization,, July 2002 (with 40 pages of footnotes!); Political Economy of a Narco-Terror State: Colombia and Corporate Profits, Z Magazine, October 2002, POLITICAL_ECONOMY.htm; New Keys: Old Lies – Colombia and US Foreign (OIL) Policy October 2002 (with comprehensive documentation, 20 pages); Indict Castano y Mancuso,, October 2002.

Our Spanish translating ability is expanding and we hope to reach a wider audience. Spanish print or web-based media contacts and venues are requested. Inbterviews with radical community groups are requested too.

* Working for the peoples of the Northern Andes to expose corporate and government corruption and criminal acts. Peace follows Justice.

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