Monday, May 29, 2006


Some really shameful behavior here. A perfect example of how we treat one of our best friends in the region when they threaten to get too far out of line. Cold brute power politics that could not be more stupid even from the hard-liners point of view.

Leak Reveals U.S. Arm Twisting To Thwart Venezuela’s Security Council Aspirations Analysis by Justin Vogler
Santiago Times

(May 30, 2006) In a meeting in Washington, April 21, the U.S. secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, told her Chilean counterpart, Alejandro Foxley, that Washington would “simply not understand” if Chile were to support Venezuela’s bid to become a non-permanent member of the United Nation’s Security Council.

The American deputy secretary of state Robert Zoellick was more emphatic. He told Foxely that Chilean support for Venezuela would “decisively damage” bilateral relations between Chile and the U.S. Furthermore, Chile would be denied the status of “major non-NATO ally of the U.S.” and the cost in terms of the commercial exchange between Chile and the U.S. would be “extremely high.”

Details of the April 21 meeting – obtained from an undisclosed source in the Chilean foreign ministry – were revealed in an article in the May 28 edition of the Chilean daily La Tercera. La Tercera is Chile’s second biggest newspaper and is believed to have good contracts within the government. The article was written by Ascanio Cavallo, Dean of the Adolfo Ibañez University’s School of Journalism.

Chile’s president, Michelle Bachelet, will visit Washington on June 8 when she is scheduled to hold a working lunch with George Bush. According to Cavallo, Venezuela’s Security Council application will dominate the agenda. Indeed, Cavallo says that Foxley was surprised during his meetings with American officials to find them fixated with the Venezuelan issue to the exclusion of all else.

The U.S. is alarmed by recent signs of rapprochement between Michelle Bachelet and her Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chávez. Bachelet recently called on the international community not to “demonize” Chávez. Both leaders went out of their way to joke and embrace before cameras at the LAC-EU summit in Vienna earlier this month (ST, May 15). Prior to the summit they held a two hour bilateral meeting to discuss ways of improving ties between Chile and Venezuela.

Sunday’s article provoked reactions from across the political spectrum in Chile. “In international affairs you don’t use these kinds of threats; I find it strange that a U.S. secretary of state would say something like that,” said senate president Sergio Romeo, member of the rightwing National Renovation party (RN).

Jorge Tarud, president of the foreign relations committee of the chamber of deputies, and a deputy for the centre-left Party for Democracy (PPD), was more cautious. “If Rice asked for support for a given candidate, that’s fine, she has that right. But Chile also has the right not to respond.”

Tarud went on to say that UN votes should be conducted secretly “to protect small nations from the pressures that the great powers exert.”

Presidential spokesman Ricardo Lagos Weber (son of former president, Ricardo Lagos) said: “Chile is an honourable country that will not submit to pressure. It is a country that works through diplomacy … we are not here to be pressured, we are here to build consensus.”

Santiago has already had two major diplomatic run-ins with the Bush administration. Chile held one of the pivotal votes in the UN Security Council in 2003 prior to the invasion of Iraq. Despite intense pressure from Washington, the then Chilean president, Ricardo Lagos, refused to support a resolution authorising the invasion.

On that occasion, Robert Zoellick intervened on Chile’s behalf to ensure that the White House didn’t punish Santiago by tearing up the free trade treaty the two countries were poised to sign. Cavallo quotes Zoellick as saying to Foxely that “this time (concerning support for Venezuela) I will not do the same”.

Last year, Santiago was again at loggerheads with Washington over the nomination of the Chilean socialist Jose Miguel Insulza to the presidency of the Organisation of American States. The Venezuelan government was instrumental in securing Insulza’s eventual victory over the U.S.-backed candidate, the former Mexican foreign minister Luis Ernesto Derbez.
With the major South America states – Brazil and Argentina – expected to support Venezuela, Chile’s backing could sway the balance decisively in Caracas’ favour.

This episode is part of on-going attempts by the US state department to drive a wedge between what it regards as the “responsible progressive” South American left in Chile and Brazil, and the “irresponsible populist” left in Venezuela, Bolivia and Argentina.

Bachelet and South America’s other leaders have repeatedly stated their commitment to regional unity and seem determined to scupper Washington’s efforts to divide them.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Southcom chief wants review of Cuba policy


WASHINGTON - The outgoing head of the Miami-based Southern Command, Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, said Thursday he favors re-examining a longstanding ban on most contacts between the U.S. and Cuban militaries.

The comments came just days before President Bush is to receive a major report on U.S. policy toward Cuba, coordinated by the State Department but with inter-agency input, including the Department of Defense.

''I don't want to make a judgment on whether or not to change [the policy], but I think it needs to be re-looked,'' Craddock said in response to a question during a briefing for a small group of reporters.

Some of Craddock's predecessors at Southcom, in charge of U.S. military activities in most of Latin America, have voiced similar opinions, but only after retiring. The Bush administration and some of its predecessors have opposed military-to-military contacts with the island.

Critics of the U.S. ban have argued that the U.S. military should have regular channels of contacts with their Cuban counterparts, to allow for clear communications in case of instability on the island. U.S. and Cuban military officers meet regularly along the fence surrounding the U.S. Navy base in Guantánamo, but those talks are focused on purely local issues.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Rise of the Colombian Left

Carlos Gaviria aka 'Papa Noel' = Santa Claus. The academic and former head of Colombia's highest court has leapfrogged past Liberal Party candidate Horacio Serpa to move into second place. Since March, polls show that support for Gaviria has tripled to 24 percent.

From the Comombia Review
by Garry Leech

Given the continued popularity of Colombia’s right-wing President Alvaro Uribe, many analysts have viewed Colombia as the exception to South America’s shift to the Left. While it is true that Uribe will likely be re-elected on May 28—although it no longer appears guaranteed that he will win outright in the first round of voting—his nearest competitor is no longer a candidate from one of Colombia’s traditional political parties. Instead, the center-left Democratic Pole’s candidate Carlos Gaviria is running second in three recent polls. This unprecedented support for a leftist Colombian presidential candidate follows on the heels of the Democratic Pole’s successes in March’s congressional elections. The recent rise of the electoral Left in Colombia has primarily come at the expense of the centrist Liberal party as the country has become increasingly polarized between Right and Left.

Despite being linked to several ongoing political scandals, Uribe’s Teflon coating still appears to be intact. A recent survey by pollster Napoleon Franco shows that 57 percent of Colombians intend to vote for Uribe on May 28. While this is still an impressive figure, it is significantly lower than the 70 percent who supported the president a year ago. The slip in support for Uribe has benefited the Left as Gaviria has seen his poll numbers increase to just shy of 20 percent over the past few months. If this trend continues, there exists the remote possibility that Uribe will fall short of the majority he needs for a first-round victory and that Colombia’s presidential election will enter a second round with candidates on the Right and Left facing off for the first time in the country’s history.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

RIP Katherine Dunham: Cultural Pioneer

I'll never forget meeting Mrs. Katherine Dunham in her home in East St. Louis during college. (There was a time when I was in the devastated city nearly every weekend as part of my City Planning studies at the University of Illinois). That day we were there to help clean up her back yard, and help create a park nearby. She had arranged a BBQ for us, and when we met hers she was as warm, graceful and beautiful as anyone I had ever met.

Her contribution to anthropology and dance is indisputable. Her connection to the Afro-Latin and Caribbean diaspora was a revelation. For her endeavors, Dunham received 10 honorary doctorates, the Presidential Medal of the Arts, the Albert Schweitzer Prize at the Kennedy Center Honors, and membership in the French Legion of Honor, as well as major honors from Brazil and Haiti.

But Dunham's contribution to humanity is perhaps her greatest legacy. She talked justice everywhere she went, and was not afraid of making waves. In 1992, she embarked on a risky 47-day hunger strike in response to our country's policy on Haiti, which sent rafter back to a civil war, rather than treat them like the refugees they were. At the time Clinton was also undecided about what to do about the right-wing coup that had ousted President Aristide. When Jesse Jackson joined Dunham, Clinton finally caved and re-installed Aristide with the support of US gunboats.

The end of her life is instructive in how America treats its royalty. Working to try to get people in East St. Louis into something positive and explore culture, she set up a museum and cultural center. Soon however, Reagan arrived and funding dried up. There was a constant battle to pay her bills and generous contributions from celebrities like Harry Belefonte kept things going, albeit scaled back. She lived her last 2 decades in poverty, struggling to pay each Bill. "She didn't end up on the street though she was one step from it," Ottley said. "She has been on the edge and survived it all with dignity and grace."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bush Goes Off the Cuff on Bolivia, Venezuela

At a comencemet address in Chicago, Bush was asked about Bolivia and Venezuela. Here is what he started with:

"I am going to continue to remind our hemisphere that respect for property rights and human rights is essential for all countries in order for there to be prosperity and peace."

So, the hemisphere has to respect property rights for their to be peace? Well we know that has been true the last 50 years in Latin America, but we've never had a President admit to it. (I love it when Bush is caught off-guard)

"I'm going to remind our allies and friends in the neighborhood that the United States of America stands for justice; that when we see poverty, we care about it, and we do something about it.. (stammer). That we care fo... stand for good health care ..."

I'm sure our "friends" appreciate the reminder about Bush's passion for justice and good health care. We show that by giving the richest billions more on their Estates and Capital Gains, while a million are without shelter and 45 million (and rising) are without health care.

"I'm going to remind our people than meddling in other elections is a... to achieve a short term objective is not in ou.. not in the interest of the neighborhood."

He actually did slip there almost saying 'our interests.' But what an amazing statement coming from the world's worst offender in tampering with elections. Here Bush can't claim ignorance because the Bush family has had plent to do with that. With this, he appeared to be directly confronting Bolivia and preparing the ground for an Ortega win in Nicaragua, which will be blamed on the Latin axis of evil. And the media wil ignore that our taxdollars and diplomats are the only illegal foregin interference in Nicaragua.

"I will continue to remind people that trade is the best way to help people be lifted from poverty."

No one is against trade, in fact we socialists love it. What we are against is a prohibition on planning, on tailoring different polcies depending on our nation's goals. If we want to protect certain industries, we should, if we want to help push sustainable technologies, we should. The trade Bush refers to is where the US lawyers set the rules and control the game - to the benefit of our cherished companies.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Chile: Bachelet Pledges Huge Social Spending Plans

By EVA VERGARA Associated Press Writer
© 2006 The Associated Press

SANTIAGO, Chile — President Michelle Bachelet said Sunday that Chile will use some of the billions of dollars from its booming copper exports to advance her social agenda, creating 130,000 jobs while investing in health, housing and education.
Addressing Congress in the port city of Valparaiso, Bachelet also promised to seek "truth and justice" for the human rights violations during the 1973-90 military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, including the fate of hundreds of dissidents who remain unaccounted.
Bachelet, who took office March 11, announced a one-time $35 grant to some 1.2 million low-income Chilean families with low income.

Bachelet gave no figures on her social-spending plans but she has cash to work with; income from copper exports was $3 billion more than expected during the first quarter of the year.
Part of the additional income will be used to build two hospitals and provide modern equipment to others. The government is also building nursery schools throughout Chile and financing scholarships for poor students and housing projects.

She seems sincere. Lagos always had good words too. But $35 to each family seems a little maternalistic (and Bushy). Still, she also pledged to fix the broken pension system and increase funding for educations and neighborhood projects.

One interesting note about Chile that I did not know until recently, is that it retains ownership and control over its copper reserves. It is one move Piochet did not overturn from Allende's brief period. Still nationalization was Allende's fatal mistake... much worse than anything else a Latin leader could do.

OAS: US ‘too hasty’ in move to condemn Ecuador

I meant to post something earlier on the extraordinary response of the US to instantly condemn Ecuador for an Ecuadorian Court decision that found US oil company 'Oxy' had violated the terms of its contract. Once that determination was made the country had no choice but to follow the law and void the contract, which lead to the confiscation of assets. This did not stop the US from treating the move as in "illegal" act and immediately ending trade talks with the Andean country, which faces an election in 5 months. The frontrunner socialist candidate Leon Roldes has come out in support of move.

Most press organs in the West was also aghast at this latest form of 'populism.' But now, amazingly, the usually compliant Organization of American States (OAS) has supported the move, and come out strongly against the American reaction. Excerpts from the Financial Times piece:

Ecuador ‘was right to revoke Occidental licence’
By Hal Weitzman in Quito
Published: May 21 2006 19:12

The secretary general of the Organisation of American States (OAS) has sharply criticised the US for moving too swiftly to condemn Ecuador over its decision to seize the assets of California-based Occidental Petroleum following a legal dispute.

In an interview with the FT, José Miguel Insulza said the US should have examined the case more carefully before deploring the move and suspending trade talks between the two countries.

“I don’t think more than few hours passed between the Ecuadorean announcement and the US response,” Mr Insulza said, adding that Ecuador had believed it had been “within its rights”. “These kind of things cause resentment … and that is not good for the hemisphere.”

Mr Insulza, who completes his first year in office this week, downplayed fears that the region is becoming increasingly polarised as a result of the growing influence of Hugo Chávez, the radical leader of oil-rich Venezuela. “There has been no sharp shift to the left or the right,” he said.
He urged governments, multilateral banks and other international agencies to be more flexible in the way they disburse aid to Haiti, whose newly elected President, René Préval, took office 10 days ago.

Donors meet in Brasília on Tuesday to discuss ways of helping Mr Préval revive the country’s stricken economy. Not much more than a half of the $1.4bn pledged in July 2004 has actually been disbursed and too little of the spending has resulted in concrete and visible improvements to infrastructure.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

After God Comes Cuban Doctors

Cuban doctors wait to be dispatched to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

People often ask why I spend so much time and effort supporting Cuba. The answer is simple: under socialism they are able to help people, to act selflessly in the service of humanity. Under capitalism there is no way or incentive for doctors, no matter how good intentioned, to get organized to help those most in need (ie. those without money). While in Cuba, an abundance of highly skilled and motivated professionals is helped by a government to do what everyone wants to do = help those less fortunate.

There are currently more than 25,000 Cuban doctors helping people in the 3rd world. That is the equivalent of 500,000 American doctors working abroad. But we only have 800,000 doctors - a shortage that is growing worse every day (experts predict a gap of 200,000 needed doctors in 10 years). But even if we had the doctors, our government does nothing to help them get abroad (or enough to get them to inner cities and remote rural areas). But:

In Haiti, where President Rene Preval has turned to Cuba and Venezuela for help, Cuban doctors have held more than 8 million office visits and done more than 100,000 operations. 120 Haitian doctors have graduated from medical school in Cuba, with 600 more future doctors currently in school. It is Preval who recently said in Havana, "In Haiti, we say after God comes Cuban doctors.” Meanwhile,Prevall has officially jointedPetroCaribee - the Venezuelan led (cheaper) oil distribution system. Haiti's previous (right wing) had avoided the cheaper oil despite the fact that most towns are without electricity because they can't afford to power their generators...

In Pakistan, Cuban doctors flooded the northernmountainouss region where an earthquake had killed 75,000 people. Recently in a meeting with the Doctors, the Pakistani foreign minister recalled how after the earthquake, a second wave of deaths caused by epidemics and the arrival of winter had been feared but was prevented – he pointed out — by international help, especially that provided by the Cuban medical brigade. 1.7 million patients were treated by Cuban doctors The minister thanked the Cuban government’s gesture of donating all the rehabilitation equipment used by the physical therapist.

In Bolivia, 180 new clinics offering quality medical care to all, staffed largely by Cuban volunteer doctors, and a nascent government-sponsored literacy program with aid from Cuba and Venezuela, are gaining popularity among Bolivia’s working people. 687 lives were saved and eyesight has been restored to 7,613 Bolivians in Bolivia and Cuba, at absolutely no cost. Meanwhile 5,000 scholarships to Bolivian doctors to study in Cuba are being provided. Havana is also providing reading materials and 30,000 television sets. The goal is to teach 720,000 Bolivians to read and write in two years.Though the US offers official development assistance to Bolivia, a May 14th NYTimes article's headline read “U.S. Aid Can’t Win Bolivia’s Love as New Suitors Emerge” (referring to the Cubans).

In Honduras, where Cuban doctors arrived after the devastating Hurricane Mitch in 1999, huge improvements are being seen. Before the Cubans arrived. the infant mortality rate was 30.8 per 1,000 live births and the maternal death rate 48.1 per 10,000 live births. With the arrival of the Cuban doctors in the country these indices have been reduced to 10.1 and 22.4 respectively, in the areas where they are working.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

US and UK Press Use Ridicule to Dismiss Venezuela's Chavez

The recent oil take-backs in Bolivia and Ecuador, as well as Hugo Chavez being welcomed by the (socialist) Mayor of London, has allowed the Western press to show themselves for the protectors of capitalism they really area - as Media Lens, a British media watchdog group, reports:

Controlling what we think is not solely about controlling what we know - it is also about controlling who we respect and who we find ridiculous.

Thus we find that Western leaders are typically reported without adjectives preceding their names. George Bush is simply "US president George Bush". Condoleeza Rice is "the American secretary of state Condoleeza Rice". Tony Blair is just "the British prime minister".

The leader of Venezuela, by contrast, is "controversial left-wing president Hugo Chavez" for the main BBC TV news. (12:00, May 14, 2006). He is as an "extreme left-winger," while Bolivian president Evo Morales is "a radical socialist", according to Jonathan Charles on BBC Radio 4. (6 O'Clock News, May 12, 2006)

Imagine the BBC introducing the US leader as "controversial right-wing president George Bush", or as an "extreme right-winger". Is Bush - the man who illegally invaded Iraq on utterly fraudulent pretexts - +less+ controversial than Chavez? Is Bush less far to the right of the political spectrum than Chavez is to the left?

While we're on the subject of media bias, lets take a stroll down memory lane of some of the more appalling MSM blunders(?) in regards to Chavez - as reported by the US watchdog FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting):

Spotlighting (Some) Venezuela Killings: Deaths during pro-Chavez protests don't interest New York Times

U.S. Papers Hail Venezuelan Coup as Pro-Democracy Move

Editing Chavez to Manufacture a Slur: Some outlets spread spurious charges of anti-Semitism

Globalization vs. Growth: NYT op-ed omits stats that debunk pro-corporate claims

Parade Magazine's Chavez Smear: Venezuelan president a terrorist funder?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Ecuador's Oil: Another Win for the Andean People

Demonstrators march in Quito on May 9 during a protest against the US oil company Occidental.

Ecuador moves against US oil giant
By Alonso Soto - Rueters
Tue May 16, 3:47 PM ET

Ecuador began on Tuesday to take over operations of U.S. oil giant Occidental Petroleum Corp, the latest move in Latin America against foreign energy producers after nationalization in Bolivia and growing state intervention in Venezuela.

Ecuador revoked Occidental's contract on Monday after accusing it of transferring part of an oil field without authorization. Occidental says it has complied with its obligations and still hopes to settle.

Occidental share prices fell by 2.35 percent on Tuesday as company executives held talks with Ecuadorean energy officials, who were escorted by police into the company's Quito headquarters.

President Alfredo Palacio has been under pressure from Indian groups in the oil rich Amazon to expel Occidental, who accuse the firm of exploiting natural resources with no benefit for Ecuadoreans. Occidental had also become a lightening rod for criticism of U.S. "imperialism."

The surprise contract cancellation came a little more than two weeks after leftist President Evo Morales of Bolivia, the country's first indigenous president nationalized the industry and ordered the military to occupy natural gas fields.

Bolivia's move sparked Wall Street fears that leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a self-styled revolutionary famous for his anti-U.S. rhetoric, was pushing his neighbors in a campaign to tighten state control over natural resources.

Ecuador's top trade negotiator said the oil field takeover had prevented free trade talks from the United States from going forward.

"We are disappointed by this decision and seeking for clarification with the government of Ecuador," said Kurtis Cooper, spokesperson for State Department when asked about the Occidental case.

Analysts warned against pointing the finger at Chavez as the culprit in Ecuador and said moves against foreign producers were often due to high energy prices worldwide.

"Each country has its own reasons to do what it is doing," said Rob Cordray, director of Houston consulting group PSC Energy. "This is something that is happening everywhere, not only in Latin America. Oil companies are profiting a lot and the governments want to get a bigger part of it."

Ecuador on Tuesday ruled out any nationalization of the oil industry. Officials say the country will receive an extra $100 million per year in oil revenues due to the Occidental contract cancellation.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Expert: Cuba Measures are a Sign of Strength Not Weakness

Cuba crackdowns are a sign of perceived strength
Paolo Spadoni
Special to the Orlando Sentinel

May 14, 2006

In a recent Los Angeles Times article about Fidel Castro's push to preserve his legacy, a group of U.S. scholars analyzed the Castro government's latest crackdowns on corruption and capitalist practices in Cuba. They fairly pointed out that Cuba's campaign against petty theft and black market activities as well as rollbacks of the timid economic reforms implemented in the early 1990s are part of a general strategy to increase efficiency, stem income inequalities in the society, and rally people around socialist ideals.

Regardless of their merits and likelihood for success, these actions represent an attempt by the island's authorities to preserve the anti-capitalist legacy of Castro, who will turn 80 in August, and breathe new life into the egalitarian precepts of his revolution.

What struck me the most in the article was a comment by Caleb McCarry, the U.S. State Department's Cuba transition coordinator, who depicted the crackdowns as "a sign of weakness and fear on the part of the regime." While the U.S. official might be correct in his prediction that Castro's efforts will fail to stir up the revolutionary fervor among Cubans, he provided an interpretation of the current situation on the island that is clearly out of touch with reality. His portrayal is at least as misguided as Washington's repeated claims that the present regime in Havana is on the verge of collapse and that U.S. sanctions are hastening a democratic transition on the island.

A government might show signs of distress or debility when it is forced to introduce changes it stoutly resists as a result of severe economic problems, domestic and external pressure, or a combination of these factors. But how can one say this is the case when a government is re-centralizing the overall economy, increasing its control over society, and practically backtracking on several reforms it would have never implemented under different conditions?

This is an indication of perceived strength, not weakness.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Cuban-American Intellectuals Disagree with Miami Line on Cuba

AN open letter signed by more than 100 prominent Cuban-American academics, writers and artists was published as a full-page advertisement in the daily Miami Herald. The letter describes U.S. policy on Cuba as a "political and moral failure for almost half a century."

The letter says, "We have organized ourselves to voice our outrage at a policy that is inhumane, unjust, ill-conceived, hypocritical and contrary to American ideals."

"Every time the embargo, travel restrictions or any other issue related to Cuba comes up, it is the same small group of people who are consulted and interviewed," she said. "We want everybody to know that, among Cuban-Americans, there are many different positions. I would dare say that a majority in the Cuban-American academic
community disagrees with U.S. policy toward Cuba."

The New York Daily News columnist calls the "unmistakable message" in the open letter a "categorical and even angry denunciation of Washington's obsolete Cuba policy." Ruiz says that the group "seeks to reverse a U.S. policy that, for almost 50 years, has had as its centerpiece an economic embargo whose cruelty to the people of Cuba is legendary."

The article adds that "The letter is bound to resonate loudly from Washington to Miami given the nature of its signatories. Most of them are professors affiliated with 60 universities, including some of the nation's leading institutions. The rest are artists, writers, curators, playwrights, poets, novelists, attorneys and editors, many of them very well known." The signers include professors from Columbia University and New York University.

"For too long, this debate has been dominated by one sector of our community. We are determined that no longer will others in our community speak for us as they continue to insist on taking this country down a misguided path that has served neither the best interests of the U.S. nor those of the Cuban people.

Albor Ruiz, a columnist with the New York Daily News, notes that the letter was published a few weeks before a Bush administration panel - what he calls "the clearly interventionist Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba" - issues its second report and "tightens even further restrictions on travel to Cuba," and comments that the letter "is sure to cause a stir in the Cuban-American community."

Bolivia + Brazil + Chile = Tranquillo

After all the guff in the US press about the "disaster,", the "rift," the "shock" - the decision of Bolivia to control of one's natural resources - it appears even the Wall Street Journal will have to relax. While the most affected (Brazilians) reiterates its absolute respect" for the move, the US press screams bloody murder.

The Associated Press
LA PAZ, Bolivia — Bolivia and Brazil will form a commission to discuss the implementation of Bolivia's decision to nationalize its natural gas industry, a move that raised tensions between the South American neighbors.

Energy officials from the countries met Wednesday night to discuss Bolivia's decision last week to set gas prices and transfer majority control of all energy operations to its state energy company.

In a statement after the meeting, officials from both countries said the Brazilian government "reiterates its absolute respect for the sovereign decisions taken by the government and people of Bolivia" in the nationalization decree....

On what Mr. Morales has planned in other sectors, we must read the Cuban press.

On Chile:
The Bolivian government's (previous policy) "has been replaced by a diplomatic rapprochement with Santiago". There is a Morales-Bachelet meeting in Vienna as part of the EU-Latin America and Caribbean Summit. Bachelet was recentlly quoted as saying that Latin American countries with governments trying to eradicate unequalities should not be demonized, in a reference to Venezuela and Bolivia.

On the Peasantry:
"Bolivia is preparing a second agrarian reform to redistribute the land in a model differing from the neoliberalism in force since 1985. This will require either meeting the requirements or turning the estates over for redistribution within the community and poor farmers, part of the National Development Program to be announced May 31. With completion set for 2010, redistribution is truly aimed at making idle land productive, something the Confederation of Private Businessmen resists, but accepts."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

FBI Puts Human Rights Group Under Surveillances

Is the FBI Calling Non-Violent Protesters of human rights abuse Terrorists???

Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive
The FBI has been keeping tabs on SOA Watch, the human rights group that monitors the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia.

In fact, the FBI has elevated its concern to “priority” level, claiming that the group is subject to “counterterrorism” monitoring, according to documents released on May 4 by the ACLU and its Georgia chapter.

SOA Watch was founded by Father Roy Bourgeois back in 1990, and it organizes annual protests at Fort Benning that now draw about 10,000 protesters. (The School of the Americas, in a PR stunt, has changed its name to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.)

“Our intentions are peaceful and our commitment unwavering as we nonviolently call attention to a school that has trained some of the worst human rights abusers in this hemisphere,” says Father Bourgeois in the ACLU press release.

The FBI itself recognizes the nonviolent nature of the group, according to one memo from October 2003. “The leaders of the SOA Watch have taken strides to impart upon the protest participants that the protest should be a peaceful event,” the FBI document states.

The FBI denies doing anything wrong in its investigation of SOA Watch.

“Our reaction is the same to all the other ACLU allegations about FBI spying,” says Bill Carter, a spokesperson for the agency. “The FBI does not investigate individuals based on First Amendment activities. The FBI investigates only when we have information that an individual or a group may be involved either in violent activity or national security issues.”

Cuba Wins Seat on UN Human Rights Council

The votes were just tallied at the innagural election of the new Human Rights Council. Cuba has triumphantly won 135 of 191 votes - enough to win a seat on the newly adopted Human Rights Council.

The State Department had this to say about the vote: "There are some members in our view that don't share a genuine commitment to human rights." Silverberg mentioned only Cuba as a nation the U.S. opposed for membership, even as the Bush administration is locked in a dispute with Iran over its possible nuclear-weapon ambitions. We expected no words about Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or Azerbaijan, but to mention Cuba over IRAN???

Curiously, Venezuela did not win a seat. One might suspect the US, who bowed out of the voting rather than be embarressingly voted down, had something do do with this result. I can envision US diplomats strategizing that focussing their intense behind the scense lobbying efforts against Venezuela (rather than Cuba) would garner more benefits. It would allow the US to continue its crying about the legitimacy of the UN (with Cuba on board), while also preventing a powerful regional foe from excercising its vocal criticisms of the US.

Human Rights Watch head Kenneth Roth really exposed himself in his post-election comments: "The good news is that two of the least deserving governments were not elected, Venezuela and Iran." HRW staff may wonder where the Venezuela snipe came from - as they did not mention it in their previous press forays.

This follows pre-election comments on Cuba, where Roth called Cuba "A forceful defender of rights abusers and an outspoken critic of the United States... Unfortunately, this attracts the support of a number of countries." Such a trite statement lays bare the blatant biases of this group. In one swoop, HRW dismisses valid criticism of the Unites States' rights record (according to its own reports) as unfortunate - and dismisses the vital work Cuba has done in trying to investigate abuses in Iraq and secret prisons worldwide (they lament only 5 countries voted to investigate Guantanamo last year - praising South Africa and ignoring Cuba's role). It is also patently false to claim that the 135 countries that voted for Cuba did so because Cuba protects them.

Lets remember the human rights community (HRW and Amnesty) also lambastes China and Russia. How out of touch are these groups, when they cite the 2 countries who received the highest # of votes in their respective regions? Have they forgotten or just don't care aobut China's role in lifting more people out of destitution and hunger than any country in history? Can they not read the writing - that many people and countries TRUST our rivals more than the US.

Lets hope this Human Rights Council does its job and treats human rights in their totality, placing social and cultural rights alongside political and economic rights. Lets hope the US press (we know the US Govt. won't) spends as much time criticizing the farse of Saudi Arabia being elected - a country who denies basic rights to half its population - as Cuba and China. And will at least one media outlet tell the American people the truth about why we abstained from putting ourselves up for election?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Bolivia Gas Gamble Wins Round 1

While the people of Bolivia celebrated the May 1 announcement that the contracts with foreign multi-national oil companies will be renegotiated to the benefit of them, the world's press sought fit to scare its readers with doomsday scenarios painted by Wall Street investors and oil industry experts. It was called a populist takeover" by the NY Times, the Washington Post posited a "crisis."

The outraged scribes did not seem to mind that much of the details were not known, and barely mentioned that this move was the centerpiece of Evo's campaign pledge. The newspapers decided to run photos NOT of celebrations and demonstrations of support, but instead of troops guarding refinaries from looting and removal of information. Of course the history of sabotage and looting in similar situations (see Venezuela) was not mentioned alongside these menacing pictures either

This at a time when the impotence of our own Government's ability to formulate a coherent energy policy became increasingly clear. Republican attempts to buy off voters with a $100 check got dismissed - and Democratic ideas for more studies and tax breaks was revealed as the waste they were.

The days of media hoopla finally subsided when the regions affected leaders came together in Puerto Iguazu and agreed on a way forward and dismissed the notion that Bolivia's policy had caused a rift. And tax and pricing changes would be negotiated and investments would be compensated. But in the end one thing is sure - the mountains of profits the ol and gas companies had stacked in Bolivia due to the overly generous privitization regime of the 90s was finally at the end of its rope.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Justice and Terrorism in the United States

Forget the UN Human Rights Council vote (see below). The real specacle in NYC was the US testifying before the UN n their use of torture. There, State Dept. officials were grilled by Chinese lawyers about their use of water-boarding techniques.

Instead, lets remember last week, when we were all supposed to feel good about ourselves, and our President, with the convictions of 2 "terrorists" - a delusional (mentally ill) Z. Moussaoui and a lazy wannabe Pakistani from Lodi, California.

I think Moussaoui is a big mouted scumbag, who deserves to rot in prison. But I'm glad the jury rejected the Government's rather disgusting piece of theatre (trotting out 9/11 victims when the man who had nothing to do with the event). He once got paid by a terrorist, but (despite his ideal dark skin) was deemed unreliable. For that he should face long justice, but the American people should understand what we've given a life sentence in our nation's most SuperMax prison to a man who just admitted he lied on the stand - about all the critical points he "confessed" to. The post-trial commentary by Lodi jurors show they convicted on based on a man's thoughts, not any evidence of a threat.

The Lodi man was a cherry factory worker in the Central Valley, who apparently had a thing for radical Islamic ideas and books - based largely on his family's ties with Pakistani (state-supported) groups fighting in Kashmir. His mother sent him to Pakistan to learn the Koran and learn the culture. The FBI scanned all such Americans in Pakistani schools and began spying on this "terrorist." They paid a convenient store clerk from Oregon to befriend the man. After 3 years of basically calling him a wuss about not doing anything about his beliefs, the "terrorist" let up and went to Pakistan. What happened there is in dispute. The Lodi terrorist was convicted from the tesimony of the informant, who also claimed AQ #2 Al-Zawahiri was in Lodi... later disproven. There were also substantially conflicted statements to the FBI in a 6-hour interrogation., later said to be obtained out of duress.

Hooray, hooray.

Meanwhile the hemisphere's biggest terrorist (#1) has the nerve to ask for US citizenship while he's awaiting extradition to a friendly country... who apparently aren't being very friendly as no offers have arisen (this after Posada was found to risk torture if sent to Venezuela for an airplane bombing he engineered... total BS).

Meanwhile Cuban terrorist #2 is found with 1,500 guns he claims were supplied by current or past US Special Forces and Government agents.

Meanwhile in the trial for the one Cuban terrorist actually facing justice (#3 - he was found in a boat with AKs and bazookas), leaked testimony has proven US complicity in the arrival of Posada (terrorist #1) on boat to Florida. He had claimed to come through Mexico - and the US State Dept. is on record supporting that view. Trouble is the FBI had an agent on the boat - with Posada and this terrorist as a matter of fact. As the Herald's blogger notes; It's the first time one of the five official passengers on the boat relays Fidel Castro's version of Posada's entrance into the United States. Posada and his Miami allies have long maintained that he entered the U.S. through the Mexican border. The US Embassy has had to hand over documents to the Panamanians in how Posada escaped after being pardoned by the last President.

Then when the country on the receiving end of all these terrorist attacks tries to defend itself by monitoring the groups in Miami, the anti-terrorist 5 get put in jail by a jury ruled to be biased.

Immigration: A Socialist View

This came from a comment I posted on my cousin's (right-wing) blog about his approval of McCain's bill:

I actually think I may come close to agreeing with you on this issue Mark. While I was in and out of the marches and was really inspired, I don't agree with blanket amnesty, not a wide open border policy.

However, also don't support a "guest worker" program, where people who are needed remain a 2nd class citizen and are not given a path to citizenship. I think we need to recognize that big business and the free-trade is more responsible for the mass migration in the last 10 years than anything else. Conservatives can't play it both ways. I have witnessed many saying plainly that "illegals" don't have a right even to assemble or protest... let alone have decent pay or working conditions.

If low paid foreign migrants are needed in many US sectors then lets figure out how many, where, and be able to regulate the flow. In other words we need to use our brains, to plan. The right must acknowledge that if you are going to worship the "free-market," then freedom of labor movement is part of that. If capital is free, labor must also. The 2 are the sides of the economic coin. My ideal actually does not involve "freedom" of labor or capital. But if you believe in one, you have to believe in the the other. If capital is given the advantage, labor will be exploited. Displaced migrants keep coming here and we continue losing hard fought worker gains.

NAFTA and agreements like it have displaced millions of people - making many communities redundant. The doubling of Mexican migrants since 1994 is no accident. Mexican farmers can't compete with US agricultural technology and scale.

At least Europe is not being hypocritical. This week they lifted the freeze on Eastern Europeans being allowed to work in Western Europe - as part of the EU.

I think the solution lies in providing a reason to live in Latin America. Free trade, neo-liberalism and the Washington Concensus has instead put progress on a 20-year pause. These last 2 years of Latin "populsism" have been some of the best on record...