Archives: January 2010
COLOMBIA: Mass Grave Discovered
From: "J.F. String"
Date: Fri, January 29, 2010 6:40 am
With today’s headline, we go outside the major papers to a significant story developing in Colombia where a mass grave containing an estimated 2000 bodies was recently discovered near the city of La Macarena. Via Plan Colombia and Beyond who has the major details of the story, the Nuevo Herald reports yesterday that the unidentified bodies were dumped in the grave fairly recently by the Colombian military (Adam Isacson says the mid-2000s while Jairo Ramírez of the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Colombia says the dates on plaques near the grave begin in 2005). A commander of the Colombian Army claims the bodies are those of guerrillas, captured by the armed forces but residents of the area maintain the mass grave is filled with relatives and friends who’ve disappeared in the last 4 years—individuals who they say were unaffiliated with guerrilla groups that operate in the area.
The grave is already being considered the largest single discovery of unmarked bodies ever found in Colombia, according to the Nuevo Herald. Excavations by the Colombian prosecutor-general’s office are set to begin sometime in March. And, as Adam Isacson notes, the shock waves of the discovery could reach the United States since La Macarena has been an important site of U.S.-supported military and development operations. He writes:
“In this area, the U.S. government supported and advised the Colombian Army’s 2004-2006 “Plan Patriota” military offensive, and since 2007 has supported the “Plan for the Integral Consolidation of La Macarena” or PCIM, part of the new “Integrated Action” framework that is now guiding much U.S. assistance.”
In two other Colombia-related pieces this morning, Reuters notes that an anti-crime plan being proposed by President Alvaro Uribe, which would see the government paying students to spy and inform on violent gangs in Medellin, is drawing fierce criticism from the opposition. And independent journalist Mareclo Ballvé of New America Media has new details about the increased use of unmanned (and unarmed) drones in counter-narcotics surveillance operations in Latin America—from Colombia to Mexico.
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Ecuador: Interview -- President Rafael Correa discusses `Citizens' Revolution', socialism for the 21st century
Ecuador: Interview -- President Rafael Correa discusses `Citizens' Revolution', socialism for the 21st century
In April 2009, Rafael Correa was elected to his second term as president of Ecuador with 51% of the vote. This gave him a mandate to continue and deepen the program of reforms and structural changes initiated since he first became president in November 2006. In three years Correa’s government has introduced unprecedented social and economic reforms – known as the Citizens’ Revolution – to reverse the poverty and exploitation suffered by the majority of the population in a country which has been ravaged by neoliberalism.
Correa has announced that Ecuador is building socialism for the 21st century and joined the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). In late October 2009, he made a brief trip to London, speaking at universities and to over 1000 Ecuadorians living and working in London, en route to a formal state visit to Russia. On December 13, 2009, Helen Yaffe had the privilege of interviewing President Correa during a boat trip on the River Thames and a translation appears here.
[This interview first appeared in socialist newspaper Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, #212, December 2009/January 2010. It has been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.]
Helen Yaffe: In what way is ALBA distinct from previous attempts by Latin American countries to develop mutually beneficial trade and investment strategies?
Rafael Correa: In every way because it is integration based on fraternal solidarity, not between competitors, which has been the great mistake in the past. The integration that we have sought, above all in recent years, has been orientated towards trade, to having larger markets and competing between us. In ALBA we don’t talk about competition, we speak of coordination in energy, finances and even in defence, but coordination, not competition.
In 1965, Che Guevara said, "there should be no more talk about developing mutually beneficial trade based on prices imposed on the backward countries by the law of value and the international relations of unequal exchange that result from the law of value… We have to prepare conditions so that our brethren can directly and consciously take the path of the complete abolition of exploitation …" How does ALBA trade and the formation of supranational companies achieve this – constraining commercial exchanges based on profit - particularly given that, with the exception of Cuba, the means of production in the ALBA states are predominantly in private hands?
The question of value is perhaps the most difficult and complex economic problem. It is clearly very difficult to remove the question of monetary prices when large parts of the means of production are in private hands. But with ALBA we are experimenting with other forms of exchange, not necessarily based on market prices but on mutual compensation, collaboration and bi-national enterprises. For example, since the beginning of my government I have sent crude oil [to Venezuela] and they refine it and charge me the cost.
So, Che was right, and you are right, it is difficult to remove the law of value, basically monetary prices imposed by the market, when the means of production are in private hands and are guided by the logic of capitalism, the logic of profit. But at the level of countries something can and is being done. For example, Chavez has a lot of experience with petrol in the area of the Caribbean where he gives petrol without considering the market prices but considering the costs and the need for help and other circumstances. We are doing a lot of this. We are seeking food sovereignty and sovereignty in health, producing our own medicines, guiding ourselves by planning and coordination, without competition and without this relationship to the market.
Let me state something clearly, Marxism has not overcome this question of value either. It is very difficult. Sometimes you can remove monetary prices set by the market, other times you cannot. You have to try to prevent speculation and the power of the market.
There is the problem of what value is, and the problem of utility also – the markets try to respond through supply and demand. Supply expresses the costs of production and the social costs of producing; demand expresses preferences, the usefulness to the consumer, but in practice with an unequal distribution of income, price represents anything, not the intensity of preference. So the problem is there and no-one has been able to convincingly solve it. In its trade the Soviet Union also used money prices, not necessarily set by the market, but not compensations based on equivalent values either.
There are alternative proposals, like the one for equivalent values presented by Heinz Dietrich who works on socialism for the 21st century, but all these alternatives are insufficient and inapplicable.
This term "socialism for the 21st century" is sometimes used as a way of rejecting all the antecedents, all previous struggles …
There are things which should be superseded – I have spoken with Raul and Fidel about Cuba – for example, state ownership of all the means of production. Of course there should be a certain space for private property and obviously the strategic sectors, certain areas which are fundamental for food sovereignty and so on, should be controlled by the state. But in the 21st century, it is difficult to sustain state ownership of all the means of production.
It is also difficult if you permit small private production. What controls are there to prevent the accumulation of capital or speculation?
This is easier than directly managing everything.
Announcing the plan for land distribution, Ecuador’s minister of agriculture said that the land was "not considered to be a commodity, but for its social function, as a means of production, a place for settlement and a way of living".
This is important. There are things which are not commodities – the earth, water – that have to be under state control – their exchange has to be controlled. We are introducing a law where the state has to authorise the sale and purchase of land to avoid what has occurred in the past – peasants cheated and left without land. But the land is going to be theirs and the communes’; it is not going to belong to the state. Under control of the state – that’s another matter.
It is similar to the new campaign in Cuba to distribute lands in usufruct. They have to produce, if they don’t produce, the land will be taken back.
Yes. We are also going to distribute 130,000 hectares of state land and we are drawing up an inventory of all the unproductive private lands to distribute – around one and a half million hectares. This is why they are desperate to destabilise us so quickly.
Che Guevara believed in using the technological advances and managerial methods of capitalism but with different social objectives… You were trained in economics in the US and you have spoken about the poor quality of university education in Ecuador. How does your government plan to train skilled workers, while at the same time forging a political commitment to social development and the Citizens’ Revolution?
What Che did was commonsense. Technology cannot be the patrimony of capitalism – there is no capitalist technology, just technology. Of course it uses the human resources formed by capitalism. The Cuban Revolution benefited from the human resources formed by the Soviet Union, China and so on. For the development of our countries we have to emphasise technology and this is linked to human resources. We are not referring to having technology without the human resources capable of using and generalising it, so we are introducing major reforms in education that have generated resistance from the groups which have always appropriated the education system.
Public education in Ecuador is very bad, we need to make a huge effort to improve it and higher education is also terribly bad. We have a new law which, among other things, obliges universities to carry out research. At present, half of the universities don’t spend 20 centavos on research. Their argument is that resources are scarce. But there is Cuba, with few resources, carrying out research. Resources are always going to be scarce, but these universities have invested in expensive extensions instead of funding research. We have strong programmes to improve education, the law of higher education, scholarship programmes, to train people in other countries, and clear policies to invest in science and technology despite the scare resources.
The development of revolutionary consciousness and commitment depends on various factors. I believe that part of this education is about social commitment, without it being partisan. I also believe that when leaders are seen to have enthusiasm and a real desire to change the country, people support this desire for change. The future professionals, who will be trained because of this change, are going to have this revolutionary consciousness. With this dynamic period Ecuadorian society is living through – along with the opportunities that we are creating – we believe that all these new professionals who are receiving scholarships, who go abroad to train, will develop this revolutionary consciousness. But you are probably right that we have to work more directly on this. We are already training people, but what you said about revolutionary consciousness is more difficult to achieve. We have political education schools, but we lack structure in the Movimiento País [the political organisation which Correa heads], we lack consolidation and this is perhaps the great challenge that we face.
The next question is about the SUCRE [the common trading currency among ALBA countries] – how will it function?
It is very easy, we are going to start pilot operations to test it. It is a system of compensation. It is for commercial or private trade. It will not be pegged to the dollar. We are going to create an electronic currency and we won’t have to use any [US] dollars.
If the aim of the SUCRE is to replace the dollar in trade between ALBA countries, is the goal eventually to replace the dollar as the national currency of Ecuador?
No. We are minimising the need for dollars. Unfortunately, Ecuador adopted the dollar as the national currency [in 2000]. It is very difficult to undo dollarisation; it could create a total social cataclysm.
How can the ALBA countries defend themselves against the kind of reaction seen with the coup in Honduras?
Well, there is no infallible defence, but, for example, [the media organisation] Telesur is a great assistance – in providing information – imagine, before that the news came from CNN – as is having strong relations between countries for mutual support. But there is nothing that guarantees that this cannot happen in Ecuador, in Venezuela, in Bolivia. We must be very well organised. You know that our governments have great popular support, but we are not organised to defend our process from any intent at destabilisation. They tried to do this in Ecuador a few days ago and unfortunately indigenous people and teachers collaborated. A small group of teachers called a totally unjustified indigenous uprising and the right wing began a campaign in their newspapers claiming that the popularity and credibility of the president had fallen. They are also preparing mobilisations in Guayaquil. They had everything ready when we managed to resolve the problems, but perhaps not next time. Basically every country has to organise its internal structures.
Recently you spoke about socialism for the 21st century in Ecuador combining elements of "classical socialism", the socialism of Mariategui and liberation theology, and socialism based on Ecuadorian conditions. Can you expand on these concepts?
Socialism for the 21st century is a process of construction which tries to take the best of traditional socialism, but also of other socialisms that have existed, like Andean socialism, agrarian socialism and also, at least in Ecuador, you note the social doctrine of the church, liberation theology. We are a Christian continent. In Cuba, they declared the state to be atheist when the people were believers. This created big conflicts and impeded, perhaps pointlessly, significant support because there were many Catholics committed to the revolution. They recognised the mistake and rectified it decades ago. A much better and legitimate strategy is to guide religion to be revolutionary also. This is what liberation theology did. Basically the message was "enough with this theology that tells us to endure exploitation in life because after death you are going to have the Kingdom of Heaven". No, the Kingdom of Heaven must be made here – it is the kingdom of justice. You have to struggle against injustice. 21st century socialism is based on this search for social justice, and it coincides with the social doctrine and liberation theology. This project can be joined by atheists, practising Catholics – because I am a practising Catholic. It doesn’t contradict my faith which, on the contrary, reinforces the search for social justice.
Socialism for the 21st century seeks this change through democratic processes and the vote, we have became accustomed to this in Latin America, it is no longer through armed struggle. There are things in traditional socialism which we agree with; the primacy of human labour above capital, the need for collective action, the need for planning, the role of the state in the economy, the search for justice in all its dimensions, social justice, gender justice, ethnic justice, international justice. But we are obliged to reject some elements of traditional socialism which are not feasible or desirable; class struggle, violent change and dialectical materialism itself. This will grate with you as a Marxist, but any attempt to explain processes as complex as the advance of human society with simple or simplistic laws will fail. Just as it is simplistic to say that the motor for the advance of society is individualism, abstracted from culture, the community, etc, it is also a simplification to say that it is class struggle, the opposition of forces within the productive system.
A technological revolution can create more social changes in the revolutions in production than by supposed dialectical materialism, the conflict between oppositional forces. Not only this, dialectics takes as an infallible law thesis, anti-thesis and a synthesis which emerges and is better than what you began with. It doesn’t have to be that way. You can have a thesis that is true, you present an antithesis that is erroneous, and the synthesis can be worse than the thesis. This is the reality we have lived in Latin America. We propose something that is correct, we are told some nonsense in the name of democracy, of dialogue, and we have united the two proposals and produced a synthesis, but the synthesis is worse than what we had before. We have to improve all these things, it is necessary to be objective, it is not necessary to be romantic.
Doesn’t what happened in Honduras, or before that in Venezuela, demonstrate the importance of class struggle?
We completely agree that the great challenge in our countries is to change the relation of forces and pass from a state which is captured by certain powers to a state that represents popular power. This is the first step in Latin America, but to go from that to believing that this change in the relation of forces will resolve everything is a mistake in my view. There are many important things to consider. The technological base, cultural changes; also be careful about how you identify the poor. The poor have many values, but they often make mistakes. It is not certain that the masses, the proletariat, are always right. You can convert a bourgeois state into a popular state, but that does not mean that it is going to take all the right decisions.
For example, Latin America has to make huge cultural changes. Among the Indigenous people, who are so mythologised, is where there is most interfamilial violence, but these things are not spoken about. So the point is not only about transforming the structures, it is also about transforming the family, people, transforming culture, transforming technology. There are many factors which generate social advance. It is a very complex process. This is a difference. We do not reject dialectical materialism, but neither do we accept that the idea that it is fundamental for us, as the motor for society, producing class struggle which means violent changes.
Perhaps the greatest error that traditional socialism made was in not disputing the notion of development proposed by capitalism. They sought the same, via a faster and supposedly more just route, but the same, in the Soviet Union – industrialisation, mass consumption, accumulation – this was a mistake. It is impossible to generalise the Western development model. If all the Chinese people achieved the standard of living of people here in London, the world would explode. Traditional socialism never presented an alternative notion of development. Today we are presenting this alternative.
To what extent can we say that the welfare-based development model of socialist Cuba, and its global status achieved through its internationalist health and education programs, was the inspiration to ALBA.
Cuba has great things and obviously ALBA was started by Chavez and Fidel. A great example provided by Cuba is that in its poverty it has known how to share, with all its international programs. Cuba is the country with the greatest cooperation in relation to its gross domestic product and it is an example for all of us. This doesn’t mean that Cuba doesn’t have big problems, but it is also certain that it is impossible to judge the success or failure of the Cuban model without considering the [US] blockade, a blockade that has lasted for 50 years. Ecuador wouldn’t survive for five months with that blockade. Of course ALBA is largely inspired by the good things of the Cuban model, like solidarity, trade between peoples based on solidarity, not for profit, cooperation for development. Of course ALBA is inspired by the successes of the Cuban model.
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HAITI: Some reflections and background.. Homeless told not to come to US
"Many walk the streets, some barefoot, balancing on their heads bags containing what belongings they could grab before they fled and clutching plastic containers for water," says Oxfam's Catherine Gluck from Port au Prince, Haiti. "Large numbers are also wearing masks to stop inhaling the thick grey smoke that lingered long after the quake. The masks also offered some protection from the thick stench of dead bodies that lined the streets in the immediate aftermath of the quake and are still turning up wrapped in sheets or pieces of clothing."
Then there are the mind-numbing numbers:
50,000 to 200,000 dead
300,000 living homeless in the streets of Port au Prince
Subject: Breaking News Videos from CNN.com
A working hospital in Haiti
This video of the hospital is incredible, inspiring and a reality
by which to measure what we are doing, and what can be done.
If there were a sparkle in the often horrific blizzard of discouraging
and repetitive media coverage, this is that gem.
* A special note: Amy Goodman and DN crew moved to Haiti and will
cast their superlative coverage from there for the duration, beginning
tomorrow. Today's program honors Dr. King, appropriately. - Ed
An Interview with Randall Robinson
"Well, it's an opportunity, I think, for the American people, at long last,
to learn the full truth about Haiti and about our relationship with Haiti.
They've been caused to know very little about it. And I think progress-
a new beginning starts with the truth."
Democracy Now: January 15, 2010
Randall Robinson, visiting law professor at Pennsylvania State University.
His most recent book is An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, from Revolution to the
Kidnapping of a President. He is the founder and past president of
Just before the program, I spoke with Randall Robinson. He's the founder and
past president of TransAfrica. He's currently a visiting law professor at
Pennsylvania State University, though he goes home to Saint Kitts tomorrow,
where he lives. His most recent book is An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, from
Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President. I began by just asking for his
thoughts about the crisis right now in Haiti.
RANDALL ROBINSON: It's important, in trying to find ways to help, to be
generous and to give, and to give generously. I would like to commend
President Obama for his strong and fast response of a commitment of $100
million. Operations are already underway. I think the world is being
incredibly generous, as I understand the pace of things to be at this point,
the pace of giving. But, of course, as many lives as can possibly be
salvaged need to be salvaged as quickly as possible, and I have every reason
to believe that the administration and others are doing the very best that
they can. As a private citizen, it's my responsibility, and our general
responsibility, to support every effort that's being made to save lives in
AMY GOODMAN: Word is now President Prïval has said they've just
burned-buried 7,000 bodies in a mass grave, but the most important thing
right now is the search equipment, to go in and to save people who are just
hanging on, perhaps who have been crushed, who are hidden in the rubble. And
yet, that has yet to come. Some word is there's a lot of aid at the airport
not able to get through, and then other aid just hasn't come.
RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, that's not surprising. It's hard for things to
function when virtually all of the infrastructure has been destroyed. The
Haitian government is unable to function, I would imagine, because it's
under the same burden that all Haitians are under. The President's home has
been destroyed. It's hard to get from point A to point B, because the roads
are blocked, petrol is not available. Heavy equipment is not yet available.
But in the spirit of konbit, the Haitian Creole word for "collaboration
and cooperation," Haitians are doing everything they can. They are
resilient, industrious, courageous people. They're doing everything they can
to save the lives of their fellows, and they're doing it, thus far, with
very little, because it's taking a while for that kind of assistance to
AMY GOODMAN: President Obama has tapped President Clinton and former
President George W. Bush to coordinate the aid relief to Haiti. I was
wondering your thoughts on that.
RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, Amy, I'm, of course, troubled by that. I don't
think this is the time-neither the time nor the place to discuss those
things that have troubled me for a long time in the history of American
policy towards Haiti. Now the focus must be upon the rescue efforts that are
underway to save lives.
But I hope that this experience, this disaster, causes American media to
take a keener look at Haiti, at the Haitian people, at their wonderful
creativity, at their art, at their culture, and what they've had to bear. It
has been described to the American people as a problem of their own making.
Well, that's simply not the case. Haiti has been, of course, put upon by
outside powers for its whole post-slavery history, from 1804 up until the
Of course, President Bush was responsible for destroying Haitian democracy
in 2004, when he and American forces abducted President Aristide and his
wife, taking them off to Africa, and they are now in South Africa. President
Clinton has largely sponsored a program of economic development that
supports the idea of sweatshops. Haitians in Haiti today make 38 cents an
hour. They don't make a high enough wage to pay for their lunch and
transportation to and from work. But this is the kind of economic program
that President Clinton has supported. I think that is sad, that these two
should be joined in this kind of effort. It sends, I think, the wrong kind
of signal. But that is not what we should focus on now. We should focus on
But in the last analysis, I hope that American media will not just
continue to-the refrain of Haiti being the poorest country in the western
hemisphere, but will come to ask the question, why? What distinguishes Haiti
from the rest of the Caribbean? Why are the other countries, like the
country in which I live, Saint Kitts, middle-income and successful
countries, and Haiti is mired in economic despair? What happened? And who's
had a hand in it? If Haiti has been under a series of serial dictatorship,
who armed the dictators? There are other hands in Haiti's problem. Of course
Haiti is responsible for some of its own failures, but probably not
principally responsible. We need to know that. We need to be told the whole
story of these wonderful, resilient, courageous and industrious people. And
we have not been told that. I would hope that this would be an opportunity
for doing so.
AMY GOODMAN: In talking about President Bush, while most people may not
know the role the US played in the ouster of President Aristide February
29th, 2004, probably what would come to mind when there's any discussion of
relief efforts is Katrina.
RANDALL ROBINSON: Yes. The problem of what happened in February 2004
continues. We had democracy in Haiti, and that democracy was blighted by the
Bush administration. And now President Aristide's party is prohibited from
participating in the electoral process. His party is the largest party in
Haiti. And why should we be so afraid to let his party participate? If
Haitian people don't want them, they won't vote for them. That is the very
essence of democracy, that people get a chance to stand for election, and
the electorate gets a chance to make a decision. But we have obstructed that
process in Haiti. We have done that under the Clinton administration, under
the Bush administration, and that continues under the Obama administration.
And that is indeed unfortunate. I am imploring American media to examine
this in whole part, in ways that media have failed to do so up until now.
AMY GOODMAN: This history, the two crises, the natural catastrophe that is
the earthquake, that the Red Cross is now saying they believe perhaps up to
50,000 people have died-and we're not talking about, you know, just what has
happened in the past, but what is currently happening. Who was just quoted?
Lieutenant General Russel Honorï, the retired general who took charge of
relief efforts in New Orleans, said that aid should have arrived, that said
the US military should have arrived in earthquake-devastated Haiti
twenty-four hours earlier. Of course, as we know, people trapped under
rubble, every minute counts.
RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, I'm not in a position to comment on that. I simply
can't make an assessment of how fast or how slowly they arrived or how soon
they should have arrived. And so, I will withhold comment on that.
AMY GOODMAN: Does it make you nervous to hear about US soldiers on Haitian
soil? If you can share a little more of the history of the United States and
Haiti-or do you think this isn't the time to talk, for example, about 1915
to 1934, the first US Marine occupation, and then-
RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, I should think it would-I should think, Amy, it
would make Haitians nervous under these circumstances. Of course, I'm sure
that they are, understandably, quite happy to see assistance from any
But it was in 1915 that Woodrow Wilson, of course, with a force of
American Marines, invaded and occupied Haiti until 1934. They seized land,
redistributed it to American corporations, took control of the country, ran
the country, collected customs duties for that period of time, and ran the
country as if it were an American possession.
But this has marked the relationship since Toussaint L'Ouverture and an
army of ex-slaves overthrew French rule in 1804. The French exacted, of
course, reparations from the new free black republic of Haiti, bankrupting
the country. The Vatican didn't recognize Haiti until the 1860s. The Western
nations of the world, responding to a call for isolation and embargo from
Thomas Jefferson, imposed sanctions on Haiti that lasted until the
Emancipation Proclamation in the United States, of course followed in the
twentieth century by President Wilson's occupation and then by the
dictatorial blight of Duvaliers, Papa and son, and all of the other military
generals that, of course, were armed by the United States.
And so, Haiti's plight up until this point has been, in some significant
way, attributable to bad and painful American, French and Western policy
that some believe is caused or described, motivated by Toussaint
L'Ouverture's victory over Napoleon. The French have never forgiven the Haitian people for this.
AMY GOODMAN: Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide said he's ready to
return to help rebuild his country in the wake of the devastating
earthquake. Why can't he just return?
RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, the-I'm not sure what the stated American policy
is, but of course the Bush administration policy was to forbid his return.
But any obstruction of his return by any power would constitute a violation
of international law, a violation of the UN Charter, a violation of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a violation of any number of major UN
human rights conventions. You cannot restrict people either from leaving
their country-citizens, either from leaving their country or returning to
their country. He has every right to return home, should he want to. And one
would hope that no administration, the American administration nor any
other, would stand in the way of his passage home.
AMY GOODMAN: A few nights ago, Naomi Klein was in New York, author of The
Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, and she quoted a Heritage
Foundation press release that came out very soon after the earthquake,
talking about this being an opportunity. That is the question, whether it is
an opportunity, she said, of the corporate vultures hovering over Haiti,
waiting to descend and restructure Haiti, or an opportunity for progressive
Haitians to rebuild their own country, to rebuild Haiti. What are your
thoughts about this?
RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, it's an opportunity, I think, for the American
people to, at long last, learn the full truth about Haiti and about our
relationship with Haiti. They've known-they've been caused to know very
little about it. And I think progress-a new beginning starts with the truth.
That is a truth that has been suppressed for all of these many years. The
American people know almost nothing about what happened in 2004, about the
abduction of President Aristide, about the destruction of Haiti's democracy
as a result of the efforts of both the United States and the French
government. We need to know that.
And in the last analysis, Haitians have at their disposal a vigorous,
creative, industrious and successful community in the United States, in
France, in Canada. The Haitian diaspora is very much engaged with Haiti.
They need to be given an opportunity to help Haiti rebuild itself.
We need to go away from what we've been doing in support, a sort of an
unconditional support, for wealthy Haitians that are running sweatshops in
the country, that pay people appallingly low wages. That is not the way to
any bright future for Haiti. And that is the-of course, the idea that former
President Clinton has been advancing for Haiti. I think it is sad. It can't
work. It won't work. It will brew a further resentment of the United States.
And I think that the only way we can move ahead constructively with Haiti
is to begin by telling the full story of our relationship with Haiti since
1804, what happened in the nineteenth century and what has happened in the
twentieth century, so that Americans will understand at long last that
misery is largely not of its own making. They will learn of a Haitian people
who are quite different from those who have been described to them. And I
think it is at that point we can make the beginning that we need to make and
that is rooted in a policy that is constructive and sensitive and caring and
productive for the United States, as well as for the Haitian people.
AMY GOODMAN: Randall Robinson, founder and past president of TransAfrica. He
fasted almost until death years ago under the Clinton administration to try
to get President Clinton to close Guantanamo. In that case, it was to close
Guantanamo so that Haitian refugees who were trying to escape the coup in
Haiti were able to come into the United States. Randall Robinson's latest
book is called An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, from Revolution to the Kidnapping
of a President.
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EARTHQUAKE IN HAITI:
If you can't make it to the benefit concert, you can still make a donation to help the people in Haiti. The Micah Program will collect donations in the Micah office until January 22, 2010. 100% of donations will go to the Haiti organization**. This night of music at the Billiken Club at Saint Louis University is to benefit two organizations doing important work in Haiti: Centre Children International Life Line d'Haiti: The effective, though cash-strapped, grassroots organization International Lifeline for Haiti. Established by a native couple, it operates schools, a clinic, an orphanage, and international adoptions. SLU students and grads have done mission work for this organization and highly believe in the work they are doing. Partners in Health: The organization that is the focus of the Tracy Kidder's Pulitzer-prize winning book Mountains Beyond Mountains. Here is breaking news from the Partners in Health website "A major earthquake centered just 10 miles from Port-au-Prince has devastated sections of the city and knocked out telephone communications throughout the country. In an urgent email from Port-au-Prince, Louise Ivers, our clinical director in Haiti, appealed for assistance from her colleagues in the Central Plateau: "Port-au-Prince is devastated, lot of deaths. SOS. SOS... Temporary field hospital by us at UNDP needs supplies, pain meds, bandages. Please help us." "We are still in the midst of collecting information from all our sites in Haiti, and determining how we can best help with the recovery efforts in the areas hardest hit". http://www.pih.org/home.html: Come out to enjoy some outstanding local music and support Haiti at the same time! Recommendation of $5+ donation on entry*. The JamFest Lineup will feature... Cameron Matthews the Bear Ceuse: http://www.myspace.com/ctmatthews , http://www.talentplus-artists.com/?name=cameron_matthews Tim Session: http://www.timsession.com/ , http://www.talentplus-artists.com/?name=tim_session Hither & Yon James & Mary of Firekite *Directions to the Billiken Club (http://thebillikenclub.wordpress.com/): The Billiken Club is located in the lower level of Saint Louis University’s Busch Student Center in Midtown Saint Louis. The BSC is located at 20 N. Grand Boulevard (at the Northeast corner of Grand Boulevard and Laclede Avenue). Parking may be found at Laclede Parking Garage, located on the Southwest corner of Grand and Laclede. You will have to take a parking ticket but if you leave after 9pm then parking is free. Street Parking is also available along Laclede, West of Grand. A special thanks goes out to TalentPlus Entertainment, who helped us to book two of our fine artists playing! **Make your checks out to International Lifeline for Haiti or Partners in Health and bring/send them to: The Micah Program Saint Louis University Brouster Hall, Suite 100 3840 Lindell Blvd. St. Louis, MO 63108 314-977-3615 Micah@slu.edu -- Debra L. Wilson, Program Coordinator The Micah Program of Saint Louis University Brouster Hall, Suite 110 3840 Lindell Blvd. St. Louis, MO 63108 314-977-3615 Fax: 314-977-3270 http://Micah.slu.edu More...
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COUNTRY UPDATES: El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Briefs
We wrote to you on December 26 to inform you of the death of Ramiro Rivera, anti-mining activist and vice-president of the Cabañas Environmental Committee (CAC). Rivera was murdered alongside his neighbor Felicita Echeverría in front of his thirteen year old daughter. This was the second attack on Ramiro Rivera, the first one was committed in August of this year when he was shot eight times by hitman Oscar Menjiver. Ramiro was from the small community Canton Trinidad, where the level of gold found in the ground is higher than in most other parts of Cabañas.
Tragically, on the very day we sent the last email, another person fell victim to the violence in Canton Trinidad. Dora "Alicia" Recinos Sorto, eight months pregnant at the time, was shot and killed while returning from the river where she was washing clothes. She was carrying her two year old son in her arms when she was shot. The child was shot in the foot, but survived the attack. Alicia, who was thirty-two years old and the mother of six children, was an active member of the Cabañas Environmental Committee alongside her husband Jose Santos Rodriguez. According to witnesses, armed men showed up at Alicia's home looking for José just a few days prior to her killing, and he had previously been attacked with a machete by Oscar Menjiver, a well-known promoter of Pacific Rim Mining corporation. Menjiver is currently in jail for his attempt on Ramiro Rivera's life in August.
As you can imagine, the people of Cabañas are living in fear, as this a horrible end to the very violent year of 2009 for the environmentalist struggle in Cabañas. The first victim of the anti-mining movement was environmental activist Marcelo Rivera, who was disappeared, tortured and murdered last June. Various other members of the anti-mining movement have fallen victim to threats as well, including Father Luis Quintanilla and the community radio "Radio Victoria," whose staff has received a slew of threats by text message and email throughout the year. One of the threats, via email, after the killings of Marcelo and Ramiro, read: "We're not messing around. We've shown that we have the logistical and financial capacity to get rid of who we want, it doesn't matter if you have a whole battalion of police watching your back like dogs, we'll shoot you when we want to, the deaths will continue and nothing is going to stop the revenge that has begun..."
Unfortunately, the local police and mayor's office as well as Canadian mining company Pacific Rim write these murders off as unrelated instances of common crime in El Salvador. In regards to the December murders, Pacific Rim posted this statement on their website: "The same anti-mining groups that have wrongfully implicated PacRim in the murders have portrayed the incidents as the result of an allegedly hostile conflict related to the debate over mining in El Salvador. However, there is no evidence indicating these violent acts bear any relation whatsoever to the debate over mining in the country. PacRim encourages all parties affected by the recent violence in Trinidad to rely on the appropriate legal processes to determine the true facts of these cases." The United States Embassy in El Salvador took a similar tone when they chastised the environmental movement in Cabañas for blaming the mining companies for the violence without concrete proof and placed blame on anti-mining activists in the zone for the escalating violence. However, the sub-director of the National Police Department, Augusto Cotto had a different tone in a statement made on ContraPunto, on online Salvadoran news source, in which he is quoted as saying: "It's clear there is a link between the two homicides (of Ramiro and Alicia). The acts have to do with the differing opinions for and against mining exploitation in the zone. Both homicides show evidence of previously planning and were committed by hired assassins."
SHARE, The National Working Group on Metallic Mining in El Salvador, and a number of other organizations, communities and individuals in the social movement are working to ensure the safety of the affected communities with a team of lawyers who are working to request protection from the Organization of American States (OAS). In the long-term, they will work on presenting a case in the Salvadoran Supreme Court to declare CAFTA unconstitutional under Salvadoran law, based on the Pacific Rim lawsuit. We will also work to mobilize Salvadorans to demand that the Attorney General properly investigates these murders. Now more than ever, the people of El Salvador are standing strong to say NO to the mining in El Salvador, as mining companies have shown that economic interests rule over concern for peoples lives.
For the people of El Salvador, international solidarity is incredibly important in this difficult time. For immediate action, visit the CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) website.
From Rights Action:
BODY COUNT RISING
4th KILLING OF COMMUNITY MEMBER
WHERE CANADIAN COMPANY “PACIFIC RIM”
WANTS TO MINE FOR GOLD IN EL SALVADOR
December 30, 2009
On December 26, Dora “Alicia” Sorto Recinos (8 months pregnant) was murdered in the community of Trinidad, department of Cabañas, where Pacific Rim Mining Corp. wants gold
On December 20th, Ramiro Rivera Gomez, and his neighbor Felicíta Echeverría, were assassinated
In early July, Marcelo Rivera (no relation to Ramiro) was found tortured and killed in Cabañas
BELOW, REPORT BY: CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador)
On December 10, Rights Action published an article “International Mining & Impunity Day” (http://www.rightsaction.org/articles/mining_&_impunity_day_121009.html) about the assassinations of community leaders in Chiapas, Guatemala and El Salvador involved in community development and environmental justice struggles with Canadian mining companies.
See “The Real News” report on the death of Marcelo Rivera in El Salvador, linked to the struggle against the mining interests of Pacific Rim: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=4118
On December 23, RA published a report about the December 20th killing of two community members in Cabanas, linked to the mining interests of Pacific Rim: http://www.rightsaction.org/articles/mining_salvador_122409.html
Now, another killing in Cabanas, El Salvador, linked to the mining interests of Pacific Rim.
EMERGENCY RELIEF FUNDS NEEDED: As in the cases of recent assassinations in Chiapas, Guatemala and El Salvador, RA is providing emergency relief funds for the family and community members of the murder and repression victims. To make tax-deductible donations, see below.
WHAT TO DO – See below
Please re-distribute & re-publish this information all around
To get on/ off Rights Action's email list:
FOR INTERVIEW & MORE INFORMATION: Annie Bird, firstname.lastname@example.org, 1-202-680-3002; Grahame Russell, email@example.com, 1-860-352-2448
* * *
Action Alert, December 29, 2009
By CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with El Salvador), www.cispes.org, 202 521-2510, firstname.lastname@example.org
On December 26, Dora “Alicia” Sorto Recinos was murdered in the small community of Trinidad in the department of Cabañas. Sorto Recinos was eight months pregnant and carrying her two-year old child when shot after doing laundry at a nearby river. The child, who was also shot in the leg is currently receiving medical attention.
Watch a Democracy Now interview with CISPES director: http://www.democracynow.org/2009/12/29/anti_mining_activists_killed_in_el
Sorto Recinos and her life partner, José Santos Rodríguez, were opponents of the “El Dorado” gold mine, which Pacific Rim, a Vancouver BC (Canada) company, is desperate to open despite widespread community and governmental opposition.
DEATH TOLL FOR CABAÑAS ANTI-MINING ACTIVISTS:
1- Dora Alicia Sorto Recinos was a member of the Environmental Committee of Cabañas, active in educating and mobilizing the local community against Pacific Rim’s El Dorado gold mine; her life partner José Rodríguez is a board member of the committee and has received death threats and survived three separate attempts against his life.
2- Last week, the Committee’s vice-president, Ramiro Rivera, was gunned down in front of his daughter, despite his 24-hour police protection since being shot eight times in August.
3- His neighbor Felicíta Echeverría was also killed in the attack.
4- The first murder related to this gold mining struggle occurred last June, when anti-mining and FMLN activist Marcelo Rivera (no relation to Ramiro) was found tortured and killed in Cabañas.
A common thread among the two most recent slayings is Oscar Menjívar. Currently awaiting trial for shooting Ramiro Rivera 8 times in August, he was previously arrested for attacking José Rodríguez with a machete. Menjívar’s neighbors report that he was one of Pacific Rim Mining’s paid “promoters,” though Pacific Rim denies that he has ever been on payroll.
Violence has become a harsh reality for Cabañas residents since the arrival of Pacific Rim. After community organizing efforts successfully blocked Pacific Rim’s attempts to obtain gold mining permits, the company filed a lawsuit against the Salvadoran government under CAFTA, the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. In recent months, it has proven especially dangerous to oppose mining in Cabañas, with a steady stream of attacks, death threats and attempted assassinations and kidnappings against community leaders and anti-mining activists.
Despite the overtly political overtones of these violent acts, whose frequency is only increasing, local police authorities and the former Attorney General's office have classified these cases as “common crimes”. Salvadorans are fearful and outraged by the continued violence and by the inability or unwillingness of the police and the office of the Attorney General to protect community activists like Alicia Sorto Recinos, Ramiro Rivera and Marcelo Rivera.
Community members believe that until these cases are thoroughly investigated for political motives and the perpetrators brought to justice, impunity against the mining resistance movement in Cabañas will continue, sending a message to the intellectual authors of these crimes that they can continue their wave of violence and murders without punishment.
* * *
WHAT TO DO
WRITE TO CANADIAN GOVERNMENT & POLITICIANS & TO PACIFIC RIM
TALKING POINTS (From CISPES)
“I have been following the news about Pacific Rim’s El Dorado mine in El Salvador and am extremely disturbed by the news of three community members murdered this past week, as well as a 4th in July. These individuals were part of local organizations that have been promoting community development and environmental justice – and opposing Pacific Rim’s mine since 2004. I call on CEO and President Thomas Shrake and Pacific Rim’s board of directors to:
Immediately withdraw from Cabañas and cease all efforts to mine gold from the El Dorado site
Immediately withdraw its lawsuit against the government of El Salvador. It is disgraceful for a company to sue a poor nation like El Salvador, especially when the Salvadoran people and government have every right to prevent cyanide gold extraction from destroying their lands and communities.
Cooperate fully with the official investigations surrounding the murders of Alicia Sorto Recinos, Ramiro Rivera and Marcelo Rivera, providing full disclosure on all the people the company has contracted in the region and any other monetary transactions it has conducted among community members, organizations and local government officials. Violence is tearing apart Cabañas, and the company has every obligation to offer its full support to bring to justice the perpetrators of these murdered community members, all of whom have openly opposed the El Dorado mine.”
Toll Free: 1-888-775-7097
T: (604) 689-1976
#1050 - 625 Howe Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6C 2T6
Thomas Shrake, CEO and President
Barbara Henderson, VP Investor Relations
END IMPUNITY FOR CANADIAN COMPANIES
SEND COPIES TO YOUR OWN POLITICIANS, ASKING THEM:
Why the Canadian government fully supports the expansion of Canadian mining companies across the globe, often contributing to repression, death, human rights violations and environmental harm?
Why the Canadian government opposes the passing of any legislation whatsoever so that Canadian companies and investors can be held criminally and civilly accountable in Canadian courts for repression, human rights violations and environmental harms caused in other countries.
(Thanks to www.ccic.ca for this list)
Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)
125 Sussex Dr
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G2
T: (613) 992-0253
F: (613) 992-0887
Rafael Angel Alfaro Pineda
Ambassador of El Salvador to Canada
209 Kent St,
Ottawa, Ontario K2P 1Z8
T; (613) 238-2939
F: (613) 238-6940
Claire A. Poulin
Canadian Ambassador to El Salvador
Centro Financiero Gigante
63 Av. Sur y Alameda Roosevelt, Local 6, Nivel Lobby II
San Salvador, El Salvador
T: (503) 2279-4655
F: (503) 2279-0765
Kevin Sorenson, MP
Chair, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
T: (613) 947-4608
F: (613) 947-4611
John MacKay, MP
Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
T: (613) 992-1447
F: (613) 992-8968
Bob Rae, MP
Liberal Party Foreign Affairs Critic
T: (613) 992-5234
F: (613) 996-9607
Francine Lalonde, MP
Bloc Québecois Foreign Affairs Critic
T: (613) 995-6327
F: (613) 996-5173
Paul Dewar, MP
NDP Foreign Affairs Critic
T: (613) 996-5322
F: (613) 996-5323
Director Caribbean, Central America & Regional Policy, Central America Division, DFAIT
125 Sussex Dr
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G2
Director, Canadian International Development Agency, Central America Division
200 Promenade du Portage
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0G4
E: barbara.curran@ acdi-cida.gc.ca
How to contact your Member of Parliament in their ridings:
* * *
HUMANITARIAN RELIEF FUNDS
To donate tax-deductible funds to family members of the victims of mining-related violence and repression and to community organizations in mining affected regions, make tax deductible donations to “rights action” and mail to:
UNITED STATES: Box 50887, Washington DC, 20091-0887
CANADA: 552-351 Queen St. E, Toronto ON, M5A-1T8
CREDIT-CARD DONATIONS: http://rightsaction.org/contributions.htm
Upon request, Rights Action can provide a proposal of which community organizations resisting the harms and violations caused by mining in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador we are working with and channeling your funds to.
The Guatemala Times: Guatemala: Rosenberg murder was suicide
Tuesday, 12 January 2010 09:01 Barbara Schieber
Guatemala City. Guatemala's Rosenberg murder was suicide, according to today's statements of Dr. Carlos Castresana, Director of the CICIG, International Commission against Impunity, entity in charge of the investigation of the Rosenberg murder.
Lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg was killed on May 10, 2009 while riding his bicycle in Zona 14 of Guatemala City.
The intellectual authors of the murder of lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg where his cousins and friends, businessmen Jose Ramon Francisco and Jose Estuardo Valdez Paiz. The brothers Valdez Paiz where identified by 11 suspects arrested in September 2009, for shooting lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg on May.10, last year. But in reality it was Rosenberg who asked the brothers Valdez Paiz to help him to order a hit. The brothers did not know that the hit was on Rosenberg himself.
He was severely disturbed by the murders of Khalil Musa and his daughter Marjorie Musa and was sentimentally linked to Marjory Musa, Rosenberg's mother had also recently died.
After the murder of the Musa family members he tried to prove that the government and other officials he named in the video where responsible for Kalil and Marjory's Musa´s murder. He could not find any proof. To intimate friends he says repeatedly "I am disintegrating emotionally, I am in despair and there is no justice in Guatemala."
Previous to his death, he buys 2 graves, one for himself and one for Marjory Musa. He leaves all his personal and professional issues in order. He announces to his staff at the office that he will retire from the law office. He leaves lawyers in charge of legal issues of his children.
In his disturbed and depressed mindset he decides to order a hit on himself and to make the video launching murder accusations and accusations of other illegal activities - money laundering and corruption, against the current government. Rosenberg made the video with the help of journalist Mario David Garcia, Luis Mendizábal distributed copies at Rosenberg's funeral.
In a video released after his death, Rosenberg accused President Colom, his wife and other high ranking government officials to have ordered his killing.
After the murder took place, President Colom required the assistance of the FBI and CICIG to investigate the crime and stated that he was innocent.
Rosenberg's murder was used by the right wing conservative interest sectors of Guatemala to try to remove Colom from office. The media and right wing bloggers played a key role in inciting the public to protest against Colom and to demand his resignation. The exception in the Guatemalan media was The Guatemala Times and the newspaper "La Hora". Oscar Clemente Marroquin, President of La Hora, maintained an objective editorial and reporting line.
The mobilized the middle and upper classes demanded that Colom step down and the country's poor where mobilized to stand behind the head of state. It was a very serious political crisis for the government.
The case was less important internationally for the murder than for the political campaign springing from it, a campaign to remove Colom from office. That would have been a giant step backward for the country's fragile democratic institutions.
The first arrests came in September and Castresana said then that the suspects were members of a gang dedicated to kidnapping, extortion and murder-for-hire.
December 10, 2009, arrest warrants where extended for the Valdez Paiz brothers. They disappeared and have not been located to this day.
CICIG requested a media blackout of the case to avoid further killings related to the case. An investigator of the Public Ministry in charge of the Rosenberg case was murdered last year and the media had been leaking information related tot eh investigation. .
Today's Press Conference was organized by Dr. Castresana to provide first hand information about the case and end the rumors and speculations in the press.
Present at the Press conference was Guatemala's Attourney General Amilcar Sarraté who introduced the case at the Press Conference. Several ambassadors of the countries that support the efforts of CICIG where present as well.
Castresana expressed that this case had special relevance because of the impact it had on the political situation and governance in Guatemala.
Castresana stated that in Guatemala had 6,451 violent deaths, with an impunity rate of 96.5%.
Castresana indicated that Guatemala's Attorney General had been an active part of this investigation since the beginning.
More than 300 people had been involved in the investigation, from eleven countries.
CICIG started the investigation on the 10 of May, the same day that Rosenberg was killed. CICIG had been alerted about the murder before it became public knowledge because the case was considered of extreme importance.
Surveillance camera footage obtained from several residences of this residential area provided the evidence for CICIG to start to track down the murderers. The cars used in the killings where filmed, the owner of the cars where identified.
That is how CICIG started to identify the people involved in the crime.
The cell phones of the suspects where intervened, and CICIG and the Public Ministry where able to identify all the members of the gang and the intermediaries who contracted the killers.
Rosenberg told Luis Medizabal that he was receiving death threats from a certain phone. After the murder, Luis Mendizabal told CICIG that Rosenberg received death threats from a specific phone, from the 5 to 10th of May 2009.
A person gave the instruction to buy the cell phone to Luis Lopez, he told him to never give a name, but he did, that is how CICIG was able to track down the owner of the phones.
Two phones where bought on the 5th of May.
Vide camera footage showed that this cell phones where handed over to the driver and body guard of Rodrigo Rosenberg.
Interviewing employees at Rosenberg's offices, CICIG established that it was Rosenberg who ordered to buy the cell phones.
Experts established that Rosenberg made the death threat calls himself, from one cell phone to a second cell phone at his own residence.
One of the phones was send by Rosenberg with his bodyguard to the brothers Valdez Paiz.
Luis Alejos, was friend of Rodrigo Rosenberg, he send the check of $40,000 from Panama to the offices of Rosenberg by DHL.
The secretary of Rosenberg sends the check to Francisco Valdez Paiz. Valdez Paiz realizes the purpose of the chek and decides not to use it.
Luis Alejos did not know what the money was to be used for.
Conclusion: Rodrigo Rosenberg ordered a hit on himself. It was suicide.
CICIG will continue to investigate other pending issues.
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CHILE: Election Run-Off on Sunday, January 17: Chile Turns Right
REPUBLICA DE CHILE
MINISTERIO DEL INTERIOR
Votación Candidatos por País
Presidencial 2ª v 2009
Sebastián Piñera Echenique------1.661.233-------51,27%
Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle---------1.578.638-------48,72%
Sebastián Piñera Echenique------1.921.567-------51,89%
Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle---------1.781.163-------48,10%
Sebastián Piñera Echenique------2.132.783--------51,87%
Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle---------1.978.784--------48,12%
"EL TERROR SE BASA EN LA INCOMUNICACIÓN, DIFUNDA ESTA INFORMACIÓN, VUELVA A SENTIR LA SATISFACCIÓN MORAL DE UN ACTO DE LIBERTAD" R. Walsh
"Enseñar exige comprender que la educación es una forma de intervención en el mundo" - (Paulo Freire)
Most teachers teach facts, good teachers teach ideas, great teachers teach how to think. Jonathan Pool
The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality. Dante
La ignorancia es el peor enemigo de la civilizacion, y la ignorancia suele ser, en sus efectos y frecuentemente en sus impulsos, tan malvada como la misma maldad. Eugenio Maria de Hostos
Todo taller de FORJA parece un mundo que se derrumba.
Chile Turns Right?
January 15, 2010
The Chilean right-wing is salivating.
Buoyed by a better-than-expected showing in mid-December's first-round presidential voting, conservative candidate and billionaire business magnate Sebastián Piñera is the frontrunner to triumph when Chileans return to the polls on January 17.
Proclaiming himself the populist "change" candidate, Piñera has capitalized on long-simmering dissatisfaction with the corruption and staid thinking of the ruling center-left parties. He promises to lead Chile into a new era of fresh ideas and honest government. Even the popular and nominally progressive current president, Michelle Bachelet, has been unable to put the brakes on this apparent rightward turn by the change-starved Chilean people.
A Piñera victory would give Chile its first right-wing government since the U.S.-backed Augusto Pinochet dictatorship (1973-90), and its first elected right-wing government since Jorge Alessandri took office in 1958. This puts the South American nation in stark contrast to its neighbors, where increasingly active social movements have swept a new generation of progressive and populist leaders into office.
With the Chilean right-wing closer to taking the reins of power than at any moment since Pinochet's departure, Chile appears to be a regional anomaly. But is this a fair characterization of the Southern Cone nation and its people? And is there any hope of a resurgence of the movements that brought Salvador Allende into office four decades ago as the world's first democratically elected socialist president?
The Chilean Political Climate
The post-Pinochet political system has amply demonstrated that it works for, and is designed to work for, those with power and privilege. Even victories at the ballot box for a series of nominally left-wing Chilean presidents — every one since Pinochet's departure, including current head-of-state and Socialist Party member Michelle Bachelet — have failed to bring about profound changes in the oppressive structures that the dictatorship left behind.
While several Latin American nations have held constitutional assemblies in order to discard the constitutions that military regimes instituted, the Chilean state's guiding document is still the same one produced under the Pinochet dictatorship.
True, Bachelet made important reforms to the Chilean constitution, such as increasing government control over the armed forces, and eliminating provisions that allowed for the appointment of "senators for life." However, it's simply too early to declare, as Bachelet has done, that Chile has finalized its transition to democracy. In an issue that has repeatedly drawn the ire of international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Bachelet has followed her predecessors' lead in applying the constitution's draconian "anti-terrorism" provisions to indigenous Mapuche protesters in the country's south. In one recent case, a federal police officer shot an indigenous protester in the back and killed him.
Along with drafting a new constitution, the other third rail for Chilean politics is the country's neoliberal economic system, imposed by the dictatorship and its Chicago-trained economists. Bachelet herself ran on a platform of continuing with the country's adherence to a free-market, export-dominated economic model, though she also pledged, and to a modest extent delivered, a larger safety net for the have-nots (expanding, for example, health care benefits for the elderly).
To a degree, Bachelet's strategy has worked. Chile is the world's largest copper exporter. High prices for the metal on the world market — fueled by demand from China and other rising Asian economies — have filled the state's coffers during Bachelet's administration. This influx has thus far allowed the country to avoid the worst of the world economic crisis, and Bachelet's approval rating has doubled. As of fall 2009, fewer than one in six Chileans disapproved of her job performance.
Still, Chile has a stubbornly high level of income inequality, particularly for a middle-income nation. Palliative measures will not be enough to bring of the benefits of the country's economic boom to the millions who have been left behind.
Chilean civil society has not been entirely quiescent. A remarkable student movement blossomed in 2006 to fight for increased public support for education and the repeal of Pinochet-era education laws. Indigenous Mapuche activists are in the midst of a courageous effort to retake their land in Chile's south. Labor unions have seen an uptick in militancy. These flashes of activity aside, the Chilean political landscape is desperately lacking the sort of grassroots engagement that has characterized much of the rest of Latin America in recent years.
Undoubtedly, Chilean social movements still bear some of the scars from the brutal repression of the Pinochet years, when some 100,000 people were tortured (and thousands "disappeared"). It's not uncommon for parents even today to warn their university-age children against getting involved in something as innocuous-sounding as campus politics, for fear that in the event of another coup d'état, activists will again be targeted by government agents of repression.
Thus, in a business-dominated political climate with little popular mobilization, many Chileans simply abstain from the electoral process and politics more generally. Politics is a spectacle that has little to do with the challenge of eking out an existence, in a nation whose income inequality is nearly as bad as that of even notoriously stratified states such as Brazil and South Africa.
Elections and Outcomes
While election results in a depoliticized society, then, can conceal more about the country's political scene than they reveal, the first round of presidential elections in mid-December nevertheless does give important insights into Chilean political and social trends.
Four candidates ran for president. The two highest vote-getters — Piñera (44.1 percent) and the uninspiring former president Eduardo Frei (29.6 percent), who has failed to resonate with voters in spite of receiving official backing from the much more popular Bachelet — face off in this week's election.
Unusually, Frei faced stiff first-round competition from a former member of theConcertación (Concert of Parties for Democracy), the bloc of parties that has held the presidency since the end of Pinochet's rule in 1990, and to which Frei himself belongs.
Marco Enríquez-Ominami (popularly known as "MEO"), a Socialist Party member-turned-independent and vocal critic of the ruling coalition, picked up 20.1 percent of the first-round votes, an indicator of the widespread disillusionment with Chile's post-dictatorship governments. Significantly, despite the vague nature of his Obamaesque campaign platform, he has emerged as a potentially progressive force in Chilean politics and has refused to openly back Frei in the second round.
Lastly, Juntos Podemas Más (Together We Can Do More) candidate Jorge Arrate finished with 6.2 percent of votes, a stronger-than-usual showing for a candidate running on an openly leftist platform. In this vein, three members of the Communist Party won seats in the concurrent congressional elections. This is the first time that members of the party will hold political office in Chile since former president Salvador Allende was violently overthrown by a U.S.-backed coup in 1973.
Given his tremendous political advantage, it would be reasonable to think that Piñera should have easily won a first-round majority. The press leans right, and Piñera himself owns one of the country's largest TV stations. His campaign flooded the streets with ads. And his main competitor was an unpopular former president, against whom he could present himself as the "change" candidate. That Piñera was still not able to muster the support of over half of the electorate in first-round voting indicates that support amongst Chileans for openly conservative and business-friendly candidates is less than a perfunctory analysis would suggest.
Chile and the U.S.: Ties that Bind
From Hugo Chávez in Venezuela to Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Evo Morales in Bolivia, a contingent of South American presidents, with strong backing from social movements, has led a continent-wide movement to break free from the stranglehold of U.S. influence and pursue an independent path of development. Even comparatively U.S.-friendly leaders, such as Lula in Brazil, have refused to break the emerging united South American front.
In this context, Chile has become an even more important U.S. ally. In March, Vice President Joseph Biden travelled to the Chilean coastal resort city of Viña del Mar for the Progressive Leaders Summit, as well as a personal meeting with Bachelet. The Chilean press took this as a vindication of the country's neoliberal economic model. Though not a stooge for U.S. interests in the region — Bachelet, for example, stood with Morales as the Bolivian right-wing launched a civic coup against his government in August 2008 — Chile remains firmly in Washington's orbit.
The U.S.-Chile free-trade agreement is one important sign of this relationship. In June, Bachelet met Barack Obama at the White House and kept a coy silenceabout recent U.S. moves to ratchet up its military presence in Colombia, even as other regional leaders have criticized the move. Chile has also indicated that itmay follow U.S. policy and back a Honduran government headed by Porfirio Lobo, who won a recent fraudulent election after right-wing forces overthrew the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya.
Tellingly, Obama has praised Bachelet as one of Latin America's (and, indeed, the world's) best leaders — a clear knock against her leftist counterparts — while commenting that he looks "to President Bachelet for good advice and good counsel in terms of how the United States can continue to build a strong relationship with all of Latin America." Washington clearly views Chile as a "moderate" regional partner through which it can spread its influence vis-à-vis its less pliant neighbors.
Washington will be even more enthusiastic if Piñera wins. As one left-wing Latin American source puts it, "the arrival of Sebastián Piñera will mean opening a door in the south of Latin America to Washington's geopolitical interests." In fact, Washington swung that door wildly open in 1973, and it has yet to be shut since.
Kevin Funk is an editor with Foreign Policy in Focus' Youth and Activism section, and writes frequently on U.S. foreign policy. He currently lives in Valparaíso, Chile, and is the co-author of, The Scramble for Africa: Darfur – Intervention and the USA (Black Rose Books, 2008).
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The campaign to win comprehensive immigration reform is ratcheting up to a new level this month. The window for this Congress to pass fair and humane reform is narrow, but the opportunity to finally fix the nation's broken immigration system has never been stronger.
On Thursday, January 7, the Center for American Progress and the Immigration Policy Center released important new research findings that demonstrate that the legalization of America's undocumented immigrants will result in $1.5 trillion in economic growth over the next 10 years, lift the wages of native born workers, and create hundreds of thousands of jobs. This benefit stands in stark contrast to the alternative proposed by opponents of reform - deportation of 12 million undocumented immigrants would drain the economy by $2.5 trillion over 10 years.
Building on this new economic data, next week Reform Immigration FOR America kicks off its 2010 campaign with more than 100 events across the nation, from Florida to Alaska. Together, we'll make a strong statement that comprehensive immigration reform is critical for America's economy, security and families. For more information, check out the Campaign website early next week. Also look for new polling data sponsored by America's Voice which demonstrates that America's voters continue to support comprehensive immigration reform by large margins.
But there's more momentum building across the nation.
On Wednesday, January 6th the US Catholic Conference of Bishops announced new efforts to mobilize Catholics in support of comprehensive immigration reform. As part of this effort, described at www.justiceforimmigrants.org, the Catholic Conference has circulated more than 1 million post cards calling for one American family under God.
On January 1st, inspired in part by the Civil Rights movement and growing out of the Movement Building Trainings organized by the Campaign for Community Change, RI4A, United We Dream and the New Organizing Institute, four undocumented immigrant student members of Students Working for Equal Rights began a Trail of Dreams. Over the next four months, these brave young men and women will walk from Florida to Washington, DC to build support for comprehensive immigration reform. Click here to see how you can help them get there!
In another highlight this week, a New York Times Editorial from January 6th underscored the opportunities and challenges ahead: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/06/opinion/06wed1.html
The bottom line for this campaign remains our magic number: 279. To enact comprehensive immigration reform we need 279 votes - 216 Representatives, 60 Senators and the President's signature. This will mean gathering new strength where we haven't been, building coalitions with partners we haven't had before, and engaging Democrats and Republicans alike in the important political and policy choices ahead.
To endorse the Campaign to Reform Immigration FOR America, please go to www.reformimmigrationforamerica.org
Political Workshop by Gov. Holden to Dinorah Bommarito at email@example.com or call her at 636-225-7431A
What: Political Workshop to Hispanic Leaders in preparation for Hispanic Day in Jefferson City on February 9th. When: Tuesday, January 26th at 6:30pm Where: Webster University's downtown campus located in the Mid-level Old Post Office at 815 Olive Street, St. Louis, MO 63101 Parking is available directly across the street at the 9th Street garage, which is accessible from Olive Street. Governor Holden will touch on three main topics during his presentation: Establishing Important Contacts within Government, Networking & Utilizing Non-Government Actors, Experiencing Challenges and How to Overcome Them
Wake Up--It's Happening NOW: A New Immigrant Revolution Takes Shape by Jane Guskin
On January 1, five residents of South Florida stopped eating in a protest action. They are demanding that the Obama administration take measures now to put an end to the deportations that are separating families--at least until Congress can provide more permanent relief by fixing our harsh immigration laws.
Read full post at:
Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jane-guskin/a-new-immigrant-revolutio_b_415731.html
or Monthly Review's MRZine: http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/guskin120110.html
Jail Protest by Immigrant Detainees Is Broken Up by Agents
January 21, 2010
Jail Protest by Immigrant Detainees Is Broken Up by Agents
By NINA BERNSTEIN
Agents in riot gear from Immigration and Customs Enforcement tried to break up a hunger strike by detainees at the Varick Federal Detention Center in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday, three detainees at the center said Wednesday in telephone interviews.
Matthew Chandler, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, denied that there was “a sustained hunger strike” at Varick, but said immigration agents entered and searched a jail dormitory when detainees complaining about conditions refused to leave it.
A Jamaican detainee in one dorm said “all hell broke loose” after about 100 inmates refused to go to the mess hall on Tuesday morning and gave guards a flier declaring they were on a hunger strike to protest detention policies and practices.
The detainee, who asked that his name not be published for fear of retaliation, said a SWAT team used pepper spray and “beat up” some detainees, took many to segregation cells as punishment and transferred about 17 to immigration jails in other states. The 20 detainees remaining in his dorm were threatened with similar treatment if they continued the hunger strike, he said.
But Mr. Chandler, in a written statement, said, “No pepper spray was used at any time during this search, and any allegations of threat or intimidation are simply untrue.”
Two detainees in another dorm said they had seen eight immigration agents in riot gear dragging two detainees from the far side of the jail, while at least eight other detainees were escorted toward the segregation unit.
“After we started the hunger strike yesterday the SWAT team came into the other side,” Chao Chen, 36, a chef who is fighting deportation to China, said as his immigration lawyer, Chunyu Jean Wang, translated. “On our side a gentleman from
immigration came and told them not to strike.”
The third detainee, an architect who said he had been a legal resident for 30 years, gave a similar account, but he would not give his name.
“I don’t want to be singled out,” he said. “A lot of things are happening in the night — people are being moved secretly.”
Last week, the government announced that it would close the Varick jail and transfer all detainees to the Hudson County Correctional Facility in Kearny, N.J., by Feb. 28. The three detainees said that they opposed the transfer, but that the hunger strike was part of a broader protest over detention.
According to the flier, the idea for the hunger strike originated at the Bergen County Jail, one of several in New Jersey where the federal government holds noncitizens while it tries to deport them.
“We are seeking answers from President Obama’s administration in immigration reform that he promised,” the one-page flier says, asking that detention and deportation be suspended for people with family members who are citizens or legal residents.
Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company
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MEXICO: CHIAPAS/ZAPATISTA NEWS SUMMARY
DECEMBER 2009 CHIAPAS/ZAPATISTA NEWS SUMMARY
1. 16 Years of Zapatista Resistance! - January 1 marked the 16th Anniversary of the 1994 Zapatista Uprising. The Zapatistas closed the five Caracoles to the public (both national and international) on December 30 with signs announcing that they would reopen after January 2, 2010. Meanwhile, the Mexican Army moved into Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of Chiapas, with 26 armored tanks and 600 additional soldiers, to "dissuade" any possible confrontations.
2. San Cristóbal Seminar in Honor of Andrés Aubry - On December 30 and 31 and January 1 and 2, an international seminar of reflection and analysis took place at Cideci in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas. The 4-day gathering coincided with the publication of a book from the gathering 2 years ago in which the EZLN and some leading anticapitalist and antisystemic thinkers participated. It also coincided with the 16th Anniversary of the Zapatista Uprising, leading to much speculation about whether any Zapatistas would appear or participate in the seminar. That did not happen.
3. A New Cocopa Arrives in Chiapas - The Mexican Congress (federal) appointed a new Commission of Harmony and Pacification (Cocopa, for its initials in Spanish), as required by the 1995 law of the same name. Its legal mandate is to mediate between the federal government and the EZLN in a process of dialogue and negotiation to reach peace agreements. The new Cocopa is currently lodged in San Cristobal, trying to make contact with the EZLN. The commission did not explain why the EZLN should return to dialogue and negotiate with a government that failed to implement the first agreement it reached with the EZLN, known as the San Andres Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture.
4. Scathing Human Rights Criticisms of Mexico - Mexico came under scathing attack from 3 sources this month for its human rights abuses. On December 9, Amnesty International accused the federal government of being complicit in serious human rights abuses committed by the Mexican army, often under the guise of fighting drug trafficking. AI accused the government of inadequate responses and ineffective investigations at all levels, leading to a general climate of impunity among security forces. A recent AI study found that human rights abuses by the army tripled under the Calderon administration.
On December 10, the Inter-American Human Rights Court accused Mexico of egregious human rights violations related to the femicides in Ciudad Juarez. Ruling on a case from 2001, the court found Mexico guilty of violating the most fundamental rights outlined in the Constitution, including the right to life, personal liberty, judicial protection and equal treatment. The wide-ranging decision ordered Mexico to repair the damages, fully investigate and process the crimes, sanction those responsible, and publicly recognize the state's international responsibility for its egregious failures.
On December 21, Alberto Brunori, representative of the United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that cases of impunity almost always go hand in hand with smear campaigns designed to discredit denunciations of human rights abuse. He maintained that Chiapas is one of the states where there are serious cases of impunity and it is "difficult for humanitarian defenders to work," because of situations of insecurity and the smear campaigns against them. Brunori was in Chiapas to meet with government officials, campesino organizations and to attend the 12th commemoration of the Acteal Massacre.
5. The US Delivers 5 Helicopters to Mexico - Oblivious to the rampant human rights abuse by Mexico's security forces, the United States delivered 5 Bell-412 helicopters to Mexico's Secretary of Defense on December 15. John Brennan, an advisor to Barack Obama on internal security and counterterrorism, personally handed over title to the helicopters as part of the Merida Initiative (Plan Mexico) to help Mexico in its "War Against Drugs." Meanwhile, in Washington DC, the Senate was approving more money for Plan Mexico.
6. OCEZ Ends Its Protest on Cathedral Plaza - On Christmas Eve, as a result of negotiations with the Chiapas government, the Emiliano Zapata Campesino Organization (OCEZ) removed its sit-in on Cathedral Plaza in San Cristobal de las Casas. The Chiapas government agreed to legalize certain disputed lands occupied by OCEZ members and to study the possibility of legalizing others. It also agreed to give OCEZ 1,150,000 pesos for a number of "productive projects," with which its communities can start small businesses. Another meeting on the agrarian issues will take place on January 13, 2010. The state government also agreed to pay lifetime pensions to the widows of the two men killed in the accident that occurred while they were attempting to stop the detention of Jose Manuel Chema Hernandez Martinez. It also agreed to pay disability benefits to a man who was paralyzed as a result of that same accident, and to reimburse OCEZ for the truck that was in the accident and its expenses for maintaining the sit-in.
7. Chiapas State Congress Passes Anti-Abortion Law - The local Chiapas Congress approved the "Law of Responsible Paternity," which grants rights to persons from the moment of their conception, and revokes the penalty of prison against women that abort but imposes psychological treatment on them "to reaffirm the values of maternity." The legislation was approved over strong protest by women's rights organizations. The bill now goes to the 118 municipalities for approval as it involves a change to the state Constitution.
In Other Parts of Mexico...
1. Mexico City Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage - Gay activists in Mexico City received a Christmas present from Mexico City's Congress. It approved legislation granting same-sex couples the right to marry. The law sets a precedent in Mexico and will also give gay couples the right to adopt children. The law is scheduled to take effect in March. There is currently an intense backlash against the legislation led by the Catholic Church.
2. Charges Against APPO Member in Brad Will Murder Reversed - A district court judge in Oaxaca granted a protective order to Juan Manuel Martinez Moreno, an APPO member accused of the murder of Indymedia jounalist Brad Will. This means that Martinez Moreno will be released from prison if the Attorney Generak of the Republic does not appeal within the next ten days. The judge found a lack of evidence against the accused and absolved him of the crime.
3. Lack of Health Care Cited in Guerrero Deaths - The Guerrero Network of Civil Human Rights Organisms reported that 22 people died in an indigenous region of the state in the last two months because of a lack of adequate health care facilities. 46 communities do not have even a casa de salud and those that have one lack medicines. Clinics in the region do not have doctors or nurses 24-7, and some clinics completely lack doctors. This same situation is also found in rural Chiapas. It is one of the first problems the Zapatistas began to address and advance in. It is why the Chiapas Support Committee's Pharmacy Warehouse Project, and others like it, are so important.
Critiquing the Trajectory of the Zapatista Movement
Written by Ramor Ryan
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
It has been noted, perhaps somewhat unfairly, that by this stage there are probably more books and papers written about the Zapatistas than there are actual Zapatista milicianos. Niels Barmeyer's new work, Developing Zapatista Autonomy: Conflict and NGO Involvement in Rebel Chiapas adds to this cannon, but distinguishes itself by coming from the perspective of a militant anthropologist, an embedded solidarity activist investigating— from below—the inner workings of the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) and the solidarity and NGO organizations surrounding it. It also distinguishes itself by being more critical than most, certainly of those ostensibly coming from a sympathetic position.
The German anthropologist went to Chiapas in the 1990s, “drawn, like most other internationals, by notions of egalitarianism, communal living and independence from globalized economies.”Barmeyer relates how he was originally captivated by the dynamic Zapatista movement through his involvement in the left/autonomous scene in Berlin which exposed him to ideas about participatory democracy and horizontal forms of social organization. He put these theories into practice through working in solidarity with the Zapatistas in Chiapas , first as a human rights activist in peace camps, and later as a volunteer installing water systems in indigenous rebel villages.
But as he methodically dissects his extensive research and experience in Zapatista communities over the years, Barmeyer's gaze moves from that of a bright-eyed solidarity activist to that of a cold and critical anthropological student, thus ensuring a rigid, unsparing and often scathing appraisal of his subjects.
"Even fifteen years after the uprising [of 1994]," writes Barmeyer, "there is a great gap between the impression that the rebels have managed to create among a worldwide sympathetic audience and the realities on the ground."
But Barmeyer's experience is not simply the familiar narrative of a white European going to a foreign land in search of the exotic other, and finding only disillusionment and disenchantment with the reality there. His is a careful study of a revolutionary initiative and its repercussions, specifically the problem of reconciling the language and posture of the actors (local, national and international) and the actual situation.
“It struck me that in its portrayal of social organization in the communities under its control,” writes Barmeyer, “the EZLN readily catered for utopian visions so cherished by their sympathizers around the globe. Accounts from rebel villages were rather vague, leaving it up to readers to fill in the gaps with their own favored images; poetic fiction characteristic for Marcos communiques has usually prevailed over concrete and self-critical assessments of the situation on the ground.”
It is this proliferation of idealized images that Barmeyer deconstructs in this work. His focus is on the space between the actual Zapatista communities and the indigenous culture as he experiences and sees them, and the imagined and illusionary notion of the rebel movement. These idealized images are, he posits, forged in the writings of Zapatista spokesperson Subcommander Marcos, and reproduced by solidarity groups and NGO organizations working in the region. The result is "rosy portrayals" that are "stunningly uncritical" in their analysis, presenting an image that reflects more what the people outside want to hear than the reality on the ground.
What kind of idealized images is he taking aim at? Taking a closer look at the much-feted workings of Zapatista governance—generally understood as an extension of a deeply rooted egalitarian indigenous culture and a good example of the 'horizontalist' model of organizing—Barmeyer describes how decision-making structures are, in practice, less a model of grassroots participatory democracy than a process often dominated by men, older community members and those who can dispense patronage.
"Autonomous administrative structures and the way today's rebel municipalities are run have little to do with Mayan heritage but are actually a hodgepodge of practices ranging from the Catholic cult of village saints imposed by the Spanish crown to the ejidal administration structures laid down in Mexico's Agrarian Law and organizational elements introduced by cataquistas (lay preachers) and Maoist students in the 1970's," writes Barmeyer.
It could also be argued that any kind of emancipatory democracy that emerges from such authoritarian roots should be commended. While the notion of Zapatista horizontal democracy seems more aspirational than actual, the reality is that within the Zapatista movement there is a constant struggle between the old forms of exercising power and new, emancipatory ones. The inclusion of more women and youth in the decision-making process is, as Barmeyer points out, evidence of a shifting paradigm.
'Never Trust a Peasant'
Next, Barmeyer takes to task the common misconception that the Zapatistas are made up of a uniform mass of dispossessed indigenous peasants perpetually up in arms against the outside oppressor. On the contrary, the EZLN and its base of support are composed of a small, hardcore base of adherents with a larger fluctuating support base among the widerChiapas population. Barmeyer dwells a lot on the problem of shifting allegiances within the indigenous communities, suggesting that there is a fundamental lack of political or ideological commitment among the base. Ultimately, it is an economic imperative that draws impoverishedcampesinos to the rebel organization and the same motive that cause them to leave and assume a pro-government position.
“Frequent shifts of affiliation among the inhabitants of the Selva Lacandona and Las Canadas [Zapatista strongholds] confirm that they are pragmatic planners of their fate, willing to throw their lot with whomever they trust to help them along the way to fulfilling their aspirations.”
Coincidentally, Barmeyer's observations call to mind Lenin's infamous words - 'never trust a peasant' - questioning the revolutionary potential of the rural proletariat.
In one particularly stark passage, the author returns to a former Zapatista community and probes the residents on their reasons for desertion. Ex-Zapatista Lorena blames the ongoing level of poverty suffered by the villagers, for although she “approved of what Marcos had done and continued to do, she also said that, in her view, the EZLN had never really delivered anything of what was needed in the community.” The government on the other hand, she points out, “ might only give a little bit, but at least they give something.”
But while the Mexican government's ongoing counter-insurgency strategy of buying off individuals or whole communities has certainly inflicted a lot of damage to the EZLN, it has not defeated them. It seems remarkable that despite the obvious economic hardship that comes with Zapatista affiliation, a sizable hardcore of the Zapatista base remain loyal to the cause. Even fifteen years after the initial uprising, the EZLN can still count on a considerable body of the indigenous population to rally to their call—even if it is a fraction of the amount they could mobilize at the height of their popularity.
This manifestation of ideological steadfastness is recognized by the anthropologist in the final words of his book, granting that a whole new generation of indigenous rebels “particularly among the inhabitants of the new Zapatista settlements where revolutionary practice is part of everyday life, bears witness to the fact that these people are indeed committed to a cause that transcends their own immediate benefit.”
Informants and Informers
Academic texts are often turgid to read, and laborious to decipher. Barmeyer's work (conducted in the context of a Ph.D. course) is salvaged by a lively, informative and often witty tone of narration. Caught between his activist and academic caps, he is mischievous in his descriptions, as his friends become 'informants' (informers some would say), while his home in San Cristobal where he invites Zapatistas to stay, his 'center of research.' He befriends one local Zapatista—Cipriano, a self-described wild rover—and he and his extended family become the ongoing object of Barmeyer's research. Therein lies the dubious academic practice of befriending people on the ground to study them.
Early in the book, Barmeyer describes how one local NGO operative refused to allow him to participate in their particular solidarity project because he was an anthropologist. How could this kind of anthropological research benefit the communities, asks the solidarity worker, arguing that a publication ofBarmeyer's findings could only help the Zapatista's enemies. Indeed, in the midst of ongoing low-intensity warfare, it doesn't seem overtly paranoid to think that military intelligence and other counter-insurgency elements are not using this kind of insider information for their own ends. It is a moot point, never fully answered byBarmeyer. Perhaps by replacing one´s activist cap with an academic cap, one can distance oneself sufficiently from such moral dilemma's.
But it can also be argued that an extensive and thorough investigation into the failures of the Zapatista movement, such as Barmeyer's work, can strengthen and consolidate the movement. Despite its' stinging critique, Developing Zapatista Autonomy is a work that portends not so much to undermine the validity of the rebel project, but, at its base, to dispense with idealized or imagined images. Instead of harboring untenable illusions or offering unconditional solidarity for revolutionary groups, Barmeyer's work allows Zapatista supporters an opportunity for reflection on the development of the Zapatista project for autonomy so far.
Finally, it should be remembered to put things into perspective. As Mexico slides deeper into crisis with an illegitimate government implementing increasingly discreditedneo -liberal policies and relying on the military to deal with pressing social and political conflict, it would seem the need for an emancipatory Zapatista movement is desirable and indeed necessary now more than ever. In that wider context, the criticisms emphasized in Developing Zapatista Autonomy may seem like nitpicking, without giving enough credit for the impressive achievements of the rebel organization.
As Marcos pointed out (in one of his possibly less romantic and idealized comments), “We are not trying to make an orthodox revolution, but something much more difficult: a revolution which makes possible the revolution.”
Ramor Ryan is an Irish journalist based in Chiapas, Mexico. His book Clandestines: the Pirate Journals of an Irish Exile was published by AK Press in 2006.
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