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The United States helps the Salvadoran government organize a rural paramilitary force known as the Democratic Nationalist Organization (ORDEN) and the Salvadoran National Security Agency (ANSESAL) under the auspices of General Jose Alberto “Chele” Medrano, who is a senior officer in the National Guard and Armed Forces High Command of El Salvador. As early as 1963, the Green Berets send over ten counterinsurgency trainers to help Medreno. Both agencies are formed with the stated purpose of combating communism. ORDEN is tasked with “indoctrinat[ing] the peasants regarding the advantages of the democratic system and the disadvantages of the communist system,” but also operates as an intelligence network. Intelligence relating to “subversive” activities will regularly be relayed to ANSESAL and then to the office of the president, who will then take “appropriate action.” ORDEN in particular will be later blamed for numerous human rights abuses, with Amnesty International accusing it of being created with the intention of using “clandestine terror against government opponents.” One of the offshoots of ORDEN, the White Hand (Mano Blanco), is later called “nothing less that the birth of the death squads” by a former US ambassador to El Salvador. [The Progressive, 5/1984; Montgomery, 1995, pp. 55-56]
A group of reformist civilian and military officials in El Salvador organize a coup to overthrow the regime of General Carlos Humberto Romero. The group is made up of a mix of reformists with a genuine interest in political and economic reform and anticommunist hardliners concerned that the Romero regime was incapable of preventing a leftist uprising from taking over the country as had happened earlier in the year in Nicaragua. [Montgomery, 1995, pp. 73-75] Two army colonels, Adolfo Arnoldo Majano and Jaime Abdul Gutierrez, serve as the figureheads of the new regime. They promise land reform, greater political tolerance, democratic elections, an end to corruption, and a stop to the harsh repression by security forces. [Washington Post, 10/21/1979]
Almost immediately after a military coup in El Salvador is successful, reformist heads of the military junta are forced out and reactionaries are let in. Two rightists, Colonel José Guillermo García and CIA asset Colonel Nicolás Carranza, are given the positions of minister and vice-minister of defense, respectively. [Montgomery, 1995, pp. 75-76]
El Salvador is ravaged by a bitter civil war leaving around 70,000 dead. [BBC, 11/23/2005] The US provides military funding during this period to the tune of more than $5 billion. [Wood, 2000, pp. 50]
Vice President George Bush hosts a secret meeting with his foreign policy adviser, Donald Gregg (see 1982), and former CIA agent Felix Rodriguez. The meeting is the first impetus of the National Security Council (NSC)‘s initiative to secretly, and illegally, fund the Nicaraguan Contras in an attempt to overthrow that country’s socialist government. Rodriguez agrees to run a central supply depot at Ilopango Air Base in El Salvador. In a memo to NSC chief Robert McFarlane, Gregg will note that the plan is rooted in the experience of running “anti-Vietcong operations in Vietnam from 1970-1972.” Gregg will also note that “Felix Rodriguez, who wrote the attached plan, both worked for me in Vietnam and carried out the actual operations outlined above.” [Spartacus Schoolnet, 12/28/2007] Rodriguez and Gregg, along with others such as Watergate burglar Frank Sturgis (see April-June 1972), were part of the CIA’s “Operation 40,” an assassination squad that operated in Cuba and the Caribbean during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Rodriguez tried at least once, in 1961, to assassinate Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. In 1967, Rodriguez interrogated and executed South American revolutionary Che Guevara. He was part of the infamous and shadowy Operation Phoenix during the Vietnam War. [Spartacus Schoolnet, 1/17/2008]
Entity Tags: Felix Rodriguez, Donald Gregg, Contras, Robert C. McFarlane, Fidel Castro, Frank Sturgis, George Herbert Walker Bush, ChÃ© Guevara, ’Operation 40’, National Security Council, ’Operation Phoenix’
Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair
The United Nations names the army officers who committed the worst atrocities of the civil war in El Salvador. Forty-five of the over 60 officers identified in the report, or nearly two-thirds, had been trained at the US Army’s “School of the Americas” located at Fort Benning, Georgia. [UN Security Council, 3/15/1993; Guardian, 10/30/2001; Kloby, 2003, pp. 272]
US involvement in El Salvador is being put forward by some in Washington as a model for a possible solution for Colombia’s 30-year civil war. [BBC, 3/24/2002]
Denis Paradis, Canada’s Secretary of State for Latin America, hosts a two-day meeting at the Meech Lake Lodge called the “Ottawa Initiative.” The meeting is designed to look at the current situation in Haiti, and is held without public access. In attendance are two high-ranking officials from the US State Department, officials from France, EU, El Salvador, and Canada. No one from Haiti is invited. What is discussed at the meeting is kept secret until it is leaked in March (see March 22, 2005). [News Haiti, 8/28/2004]
McClatchy reports that economies in Latin America are beginning to improve following the global financial crisis. The signs of the recovery include a “booming” construction industry in Peru, strong property sales in Peru, and expanding software companies in Chile. However, McClatchy says that the recovery in Mexico and other Central American countries is lagging behind, due to the slow recovery in the US. Prior to the global financial crash, Latin America had experienced its best five years of prosperity since the 1950s. [McClatchy Newspapers, 9/28/2009]
In his first speech to the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters, President Obama says all nations bear responsibility for addressing the global problems of nuclear proliferation, war, climate change, and economic crises. “We must build new coalitions that bridge old divides,” Obama says. “All nations have rights and responsibilities—that’s the bargain that makes [the UN] work.” Obama acknowledges that high expectations accompanying his presidency are “not about me,” adding that when he took office at the beginning of the year: “Many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and mistrust. No world order which elevates one nation above others can succeed in tackling the world’s problems. Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone.” Obama devotes a considerable portion of his speech to discussing the challenges inherent in finding a peaceful solution to settlements in the Middle East. He calls for the resumption of Israel-Palestine negotiations “without preconditions,” and also uses his speech to indicate that the US has returned to the global arena as a team player.
Warm but Restrained Reception - Although warmly received, applause appears slightly restrained, perhaps an indication that expectations for the Obama presidency are becoming more realistic, given the global problems with which most nations now struggle. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opens the 64th Session’s proceedings by saying, “Now is the time to put ‘united’ back into the United Nations.”
Followed by Libyan Leader - Libya’s President Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi follows Obama and speaks for over an hour, vehemently criticizing the UN’s power structure as uneven, archaic, and unjust. From a copy of the preamble to the UN Charter, al-Qadhafi reads: “It says nations are equal whether they are small or big—are we equal in the permanent seats? No, we are not equal. Do we have the rights of the veto? All nations should have an equal footing. For those who have a permanent seat, this is political feudalism. It shouldn’t be called the Security Council; it should be called the Terror Council.” Despite reigning in Libya for over 40 years, this is al-Qadhafi’s first UN General Assembly speech. [BBC, 9/23/2009]
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