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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

That Paraguay perplexity (geographical update)

Remember the report that Bush had bought land in Paraguay?

We now learn that the White House has denied the story. Furthermore, we are supposed to believe that a foreign intelligence service placed the rumor. Presumably, this is a reference to Cuba, since a Cuban News Service was one of the earliest sources for the story. The earliest non-Cuban piece on the topic known to me appeared on October 11 of last year. It's here. Note that author April Howard is careful to use the word "rumor":
The Governor of Alto Paraguay, Erasmo Rodríguez Acosta has admitted to hearing that George Bush Sr. owns land in the Chaco region of Paraguay, in Paso de Patria. Acosta says that rumor has it that Bush owns near to 70 thousand hectares (173,000 acres) as part of an ecological reserve and/or ranch. However, the governor said he had no documents to prove the rumor. Acosta said that some stories credited the land to the Fundación Patria, which Bush would be a member of. The spokespeople of the organization were not available to comment. Supposedly, Timothy Towell , the U.S. Ambassador in Asunción (the capital of Paraguay) is the present administrator of the land. First accounts signaled that Bush had acquired 40,000 hectares (99,000 acres) in the Chaco zone of Fuerte Olimpo, near the Bolivian Border. A spark of the interest in this property may have been Jenna Bush's private visit to Paraguay with Unicef, which started Saturday, October 7, 2006. Supposedly Jenna will travel to the ranch to ''observe'' several indigenous villages are located on the property.
Back in October, I referenced these data with the following caveat:
I cannot verify this information at this time, so apply a strong note of caution to all of the above.
In the ensuing months I have, rather less responsibly, taken the Paraguay accusations at face value -- if only because they entered the "mainstream" blogosphere via Wonkette and other high-profile sources, with no refutation.

Frankly, I could not understand -- still cannot understand -- why a foreign intelligence service would make up such a tale. It's not the sort of thing destined to arouse the attention of a vast number of citizens. Even if the report were confirmed, most Americans file it under "odd" rather than "outrageous."

TPM cafe notes that there are some oddities about the manner of denial:
A government office forbidden by law from disseminating information domestically was the mouthpiece of choice for the administration to deny rumors that the Bush family purchased thousands of acres in a remote portion of northern Paraguay...

The State Department's response is posted on the USINFO website in its "media archives." Curiously, the official denial (below) was not issued separately but was appended to an earlier statement responding to equally persistent rumors of a U.S. military base in Paraguay.
After the official denial is quoted directly, TPM Cafe's truthista continues:
Note that, while Timothy Towell's response apparently came directly from him, the responses of the President and former President were issued by anonymous persons in the "White House" and the "office" of George H.W. Bush. This is a classic method for creating plausible deniability. If the allegation is not true, why not issue the denial directly rather than through an obscure web page?
A TPM cafe reader adds this snippet:
I don't know about the Bush family owning property in Paraguay but Bush ally, the Reverend Moon owns large tracts of land there and in Brazil. Khalid Sheik Mohammed who is or was married to a Brazilian also owns property in southern Brazil.
Khalid Sheik Mohammed is the alleged Al Qaeda leader who was captured -- if captured he was -- under very mysterious circumstances. I did not know, previously, about the southern Brazil property he supposedly owns or owned. Frankly, I cannot find confirmation for the claim of ownership (perhaps a reader could help?), although CNN has reported that KSM did make frequent trips to this area, and a rather mysterious Wikipedia entry (without citing sources) claims that he did so to promote a firm that secretly funded Muslim militants in Southeast Asia.

The Moon investment is well-known, as is the Moon sect's closeness to the Bush clan. The alleged Moon enclave is located in Paraguay near the borders with Brazil and Bolivia. In so wild an area, national boundaries would, of course, matter little.

If the entire Bush-in-Paraguay meme was concocted by one of Fidel Castro's spooks -- well, it's certainly no worse than the whoppers concocted by our own spooks. What troubles me is the sheer strangeness of the accusation.

Suppose, for example, the Cubans had planted a story that Bush had personally sold short one of the firms whose interests were harmed on 911. The political value of that kind of disinformation would be obvious. But...Paraguay? Most Americans simply don't give a damn about anything that happens in Paraguay. Why improvise on that theme?

My gut tells me that something odd is going on here. (Note: The original version of this post contained an error of geography; see the comments.)

UPDATE: So just where IS the alleged Bush compound? This Guardian story says the Chaco region in the North. The earliest story to give this rumor mentions both the Chaco area in the North and the Paso de Patria, which is in the south. Also, the Moon story claims that
The scorching sun beats relentlessly on one of Latin America's most desolate zones. It is here in the northern province of Chaco, directly above the Guarani aquifer, the largest resource of fresh drinking water in the world, where Moon's associates claim he wishes to build an ecological paradise.
But the Chaco area and the aquifer are on different sides of the country. And is the Chaco region really so scorched desolate? This map indicates that the area is mostly forest; the desert parts are to the south.

Do any readers know what the hell is going on in Paraguay?

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For whatever it's worth, there's also this, from October 1997, involving the same river system, only on the Argentine side of the border:

The first privately financed mega-dam in Latin America is planned for the middle Paraná River in Argentina. The Paraná Medio Dam would be the thirteenth largest dam in the world, and would create the world's second largest reservoir, turning a rich wetlands ecosystem into a massive shallow inland sea of stagnant water and rotting vegetation. First proposed by a team of Soviet engineers in the 1970s, including those who supervised the construction of the Aswan Dam in Egypt, the proposal was revived in March 1996 by a consortium of U.S. companies called Energy Developers International (EDI). Now, determined local opposition and a new provincial law declaring the Paraná River a "dam-free zone" may mean rough water ahead for the Paraná Medio dam project. . . .

Energy Developers International (EDI) is based in Metairie, Louisiana. The consortium partners are New Orleans-based Avondale Industries, which would construct prefabricated steel modules for the plant; Houston-based Brown and Root, which would build roads, bridges, levees and infrastructure for the dam; and Baton Rouge-based Forte and Tablade, an engineering firm which would provide engineering design and project coordination.

To secure the Argentine government's support for the project, the consortium has employed high-level officials of the Bush administration, according to Argentine press reports. Among the consortium's lobbyists: former Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady, now chair of Dillon Read, which would coordinate financing for the project; former Defense Secretary Richard Cheney, chair of the board of Halliburton, Brown and Root's parent company; and the ex-president's son, Texas Governor George Bush, Jr.

The consortium's political connections are more impressive than its construction qualifications. There are serious questions about Avondale's capacity and qualifications to construct the enormous Paraná Medio Dam. As a guarantee of the consortium's ability to carry out the project, an EDI brochure states that "the government of the United States will guarantee Avondale's investment since it is a Navy contractor which is transferring its technology to civil use." U.S. House of Representative Armed Service Committee officials say that no such guarantees exist.

Just to clarify the geography a little further -- the Paso de Patria area of Paraguay, where the story claims Bush Sr. owns land, is in the southernmost corner of the country, in an angle between the Parana River and one of its tributaries, which form the border with Argentina.

It is at the other end of the country from the Tri-Border Region, where northern Paraguay borders on Bolivia and Brazil.
You're right, starroute. The Moon enclave is in the northern area. I shall correct.
Q: Why would Bush have the land and why would Bush deny having the land?
A: Same reason as all the Nazis who fled there after WWII - to escape justice for war crimes
IF, and it's a big if, this was planted by a foreign intel agency, the value of the story would be it's symbolism. While most Americans have never heard of Paraguay, the news junkie and educated classes would immediately associate that country with fleeing Nazis. The purpose of spreading this meme would be to create exactly the effect the story did in fact have in the blogosphere, namely, the vague feeling that the Bush family -- having screwed up the country, committed war crimes, lost a two front war, and finally provoked revulsion and revolt among the citizenry -- was planning its getaway, just like the Nazis with whom the Bush lineage seems to be so closely linked. And once it became widely believed that the Bush clan was planning on a Boys-in-Brazil getaway, more members of those classes might be encouraged to turn on them.

HamdenRice of DU
Hamden, I think you may be right. Guess it's possible that Catro's folks are cleverer than we thought. On the other hand, it's possible that Bush interests really have bought up land down there, probably using a front group.

By the way, you have any idea why I'm banned from posting at DU? I keep writing to see if the problem is technological or otherwise, but no response...
if yore banned is simply Karma.
He who bans is banned
DU is a public space. This is my home. And I'll be damned if I'll be insulted in my own house. Why put up with that? It's not like I'm being paid for this gig.
Almost certainly they intend Paraguay to be a strategic redoubt when they unleash Chiang on the rest of us.
Joseph, I had no idea you were banned at DU. When I saw a post of yours over there, I was hoping that you would become a regular and prominent poster. Indeed, if you really are going to give up Cannonfire, DU and DU Journals would be a great venue for you to continue your work on an occasional basis, with a built in audience and less hassle. I can't for the life of me understand why you would be banned, but I'll ask around.

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