This is a terrific tribute to the Cuban Revolution.
Reflections on the Cuban revolution today
Guest Commentary by Harry Targ
by Harry Targ
Date posted online: Saturday, February 23, 2008
President Bush now travels through the African continent trumpeting the United States as a model for the peoples of the Global South. At the same time Fidel Castro steps down as Cuba’s chief of state, stimulating reflections on the role of the Cuban revolution at home and abroad. Which country has had a more progressive impact on the historical development of the world?
Despite enormous changes and advances since the 1959 Cuban revolution, Cuba remains part of the Global South (what used to be referred to as “Third World” or “developing countries”), a world that has been shaped and distorted in its economics and politics for 400 years by the global capitalist system. Cuba, while in many ways a developed and even industrialized country, remains closer in economic profile and diplomatic standing and possibility to the nations of Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America than the industrial capitalist countries of North America, Europe and Japan
In the words of C. Wright Mills, reflecting on the Cuban revolution at its outset, Cuba remains part of the “hungry bloc,” not in the sense of poverty and scarcity as he meant it — Cuba is part of the developed world in these terms — but in the sense of still struggling to achieve its right and capacity to define its own destiny. In fact, it could be argued that Cuba’s “hunger” for self-determination, its spirit of nationalism, is what drove the revolution in the 19th century, in the 1930s, in 1959 and still drives the revolution today.
The spirit of revolution links Cuba’s past to its present. There have been other continuities in Cuban history as well, particularly since 1959. The most obvious one has been the hatred and aggressive stance of the United States. The United States suspended formal diplomatic relations with the island nation before President Eisenhower left office, launched a full-scale economic blockade of Cuba in the Kennedy period, initiated a long-term program of subversion and sabotage of the islands economy and polity, and extended the blockade to pressure other countries to cut their ties to the island’s economy.
The hostile United States policy since the 1950s has been driven by the needs and hopes of capitalism; cold war fears of “communism;” the “realpolitik” philosophy which says that Cuba is within the U.S. sphere of influence; and the historically claimed right of the U.S. to control Cuba’s destiny enshrined in the Monroe Doctrine of the 1820s.
Despite this hostility, since 1959 there has been a high level of support for the revolution among Cubans because it provided substantial economic advances for the people and satisfied their thirst for self-determination. Consequently, even during the “special period” of the 1990s support, while declining, held because the revolution continued to represent the spirit of nationalism for the vast majority of the Cuban people.
Finally, a continuous element of the Cuban revolution has been change and a pragmatic spirit that addresses needs, possibilities, and dangers as they arise. Cuba has been one vast laboratory experiment in which new policies, priorities and programs have been introduced to meet the exigencies of the moment. Alongside inevitable dogmatisms and bureaucratic resistances has been the willingness of Cubans to throw out the old, the unworkable, the threatened, and replace it with the new as history requires (shifting from fertilizer, pesticides and hybrid seeds to organic agriculture for example). Over its long history, the revolution ended foreign ownership of the Cuban economy. It created an egalitarian society. It provided health care, education, jobs and a rich cultural life for most of its citizens.
At the most fundamental level, the revolution fulfilled all of the economic and social goals Fidel Castro articulated in his 1953 “History Will Absolve Me” speech. For most Cubans alive before 1959, there is no question that the revolution has been an outstanding success. This is true for their sons and daughters if one could compare what would have been their possibilities before 1959 with what they have achieved today. The revolution has worked.
And finally, in the great debate between the U.S. and Cuba as inspirations and models for most of the citizens of the globe, Fidel Castro might say again “History Will Absolve Me.”
As amply demonstrated by Germany and Italy of the 1930s, there is absolutely nothing new about a substantively uninformed, and highly manipulated electorate, euphorically and uncritically lining up lock-step behind a political figure offering a dangerously superficial, media sound-bite rhetoric which indefinably calls for “change.” The consequences of falling prey to such superficiality are dangerous and immense.
The largely consolidated U.S. corporate media in the 21st Century continues overwhelmingly to actively attempt to diminish and/or outright ignore the enormous potential and importance of third parties on the American political landscape, including the Reconstruction Party, the Green Party, and the Peace and Freedom Party, etc. Heaven forbid that the American people collectively, Black, Brown, Red, Yellow, and White come to realize that the Democrat and Republican Parties represent anything but real systemic change. And of course fundamental, clearly defined, systemic change is exactly what the people of the U.S. so desperately need.
This is not lost upon the U.S. corporate media, which is precisely why said media promotes Barack Obama, and others, who represent superficial, feel-good change, which really means window dressing change [i.e. no change at all for the vast majority of people]. Such so-called change is akin to telling a terminally ill patient that if he or she simply feels good about themselves, their illness will not kill them. “Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down…” The American people don’t need a “spoon full of sugar;” we need a completely changed diet consisting of systemic change that does not serve the interests of corporations and their military partners.
In a nation that allegedly represents the bastion of democracy, it is the height of absurdity and hypocrisy that its peoples are fed a constant corporate diet consisting of there being only two (joined-at-the-hip) so-called “major” political parties, whose only insignificant differences are rhetorical – and whether or not to economically, politically, and socially suffocate the people quickly [i.e. the Republicans] or a little slower [i.e. the Democrats]. Malcolm X correctly referred to these Republicans and Democrats as “wolves and foxes.” Indeed, they are the joined-at-the-hip “Republicrats,” the corporate/military surrogates of the 21st Century.
It is appropriate at this juncture to reiterate my written comments in this column of February 7, 2008:
“We need to be about the business of thinking and acting outside the box and building political parties that are outside the box, parties that serve the economic, social, and political interests of the masses of people. This is precisely why the candidacy of former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney for President and the Power To The People Coalition is of such enormous importance for the present and for the future. This coalition is all about collectively laying the foundation for systemic change – which is the only way that we can enjoy real change.”
Not only do both the Democrat and Republican Parties, in reality, oppose the economic, political, and social interests and needs of the vast majority of people in the U.S. and around the world – neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are seriously exposing, addressing, and fundamentally changing and correcting the enormously flawed and corrupted electoral voting system in this nation. Despite the rhetoric of so-called “change,” it still remains all about de facto voter disenfranchisement as real and large scale voter enfranchisement does not serve the interests of big corporations and their military partners, which in turn does not serve the interests of the Democrats or Republicans. These are not the actions of a democracy but of a republicracy. It continues to be all about the Democrats and Republicans rhetorically saying one thing while doing quite another.
Resigning one’s self to voting for the so-called “lesser of the two evils” plays right into calculated corporate hands of media manipulations and the disempowering Democrat and Republican Parties. By the same token, euphorically goose-stepping behind the candidacy of Barack Obama, or any other Democrat or Republican, is tantamount to choosing death by hanging as opposed to death by firing squad. This is not exercising a choice. It is dangerous and ridiculous non-choice, especially in America – the so-called bastion of democracy.
Whatever the rhetorical difference in their code words [e.g. terms such as “US interests,” “US security interests,” “US world leadership,” “democracy,” etc.], Barack Obama, and his Democrat and Republican Party counterparts, (with their big corporate donors and advisors) all adhere to the notion of U.S. military and corporate hegemony, with a strong dose of support for corporate apartheid Zionism [Reference and read thoroughly Barack Obamas’ speech last year to the Zionist lobby known as AIPAC]. The term “U.S. interests” has little or nothing to do with the economic, political, or social needs & interests of the majority of peoples in the U.S. or the world; and most definitely nothing to do with justice or real democracy. Unfortunately however, Obama went even further, having called for blocking the right of return of the Palestinian people to their occupied lands, and of course having repeatedly called for the use of “unilateral” U.S. military actions against other nations. The sad and dangerous list goes on and on. It is stunning, for example, and almost beyond belief, that a so-called Democrat could heap praise upon the late Republican U.S. President Ronald Reagan who:
opposed the labor movement and the economic rights of working women and men in the U.S. and around the world
who was a strong supporter of the apartheid government of South Africa
who utterly despised affirmative action and the human rights of Black, Brown, and Red Americans and the working poor
who made horrible economic cut backs to the already inadequate food programs for mothers and children in America
who, in the name of (here we go again) “U.S. security interests” unlawfully and militarily invaded the tiny Black nation of Grenada
With reference to the United States, one must apply the political term “third parties” loosely, in that the Democrats and Republicans are, for all practical purposes, one party – the Republicrats. The so-called difference comes down to choosing to die quickly or to die slowly. We must think outside of the Democrat and Republican Party box of death. We must choose not to die at all. We must demand and organize for total and complete universal health care – with no profits to the blood-sucking corporations. We must demand and organize not only for an immediate end to the U.S. war of aggression in Iraq – but also for an end to the very notion that military aggression anywhere by anyone is acceptable. We must demand and organize for an end to the vampiric, blood-sucking corporate and military apparatus – and build organizations based upon fulfilling human needs, not exploiting human weaknesses. We must demand and organize for an educational system that truly educates the people – and not one that brainwashes them to serve as corporate or military cannon fodder. We must remember that, as in the case of the ongoing “Hurricane Katrina” U.S. federal and state government debacle – we ultimately do to ourselves what we do to each other. We must organize outside of (the Democrat and Republican Party death) box. We must consciously and consistently build third political parties throughout the United States. We must struggle and build locally, regionally, and nationally, building third party coalitions wherever possible and appropriate to the needs of the people, collectively. This is about collective hard work – not some corporately brokered and cloned echo of misplaced “hope” and superficial “change.” This is about us – all of us as people – not as unwitting and helpless pawns of U.S. multinational corporations. As I wrote back in April of 2006, “Perhaps people will stop repeating the human-made catastrophes of the past when we cease being ahistorical and truly learn from history’s lessons. Indeed, after all is said and done, we truly are not helpless in this regard.” [Reference The Boston Globe, April 27, 2006].
What time is it in America? It’s third party time!
It’s time to stop mentally goose-stepping, and start critically thinking. What a revolutionary concept. This too, is what “Keeping It Real” is all about.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Larry Pinkney, is a veteran of the Black Panther Party, the former Minister of Interior of the Republic of New Africa, a former political prisoner and the only American to have successfully self-authored his civil/political rights case to the United Nations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. For more about Larry Pinkney see the book, Saying No to Power: Autobiography of a 20th Century Activist and Thinker, by William Mandel [Introduction by Howard Zinn]. (Click here to read excerpts from the book) Click here to contact Mr. Pinkney.
Global Voices Online has not posted anything about Cuba for two weeks and it has been about 10 days since it published a post about Venezuela. Since GVO tends to use only three or four blogs to educate us about Cuba and Venezuela and these blogs are on the far right, I’m relieved when GVO has a drought.
Here at Global Voices Censored, we have plenty on Cuba, Venezuela and more. Go to the tag cloud to the right side of this blog and select a topic of interest. If you would like more in-depth analysis of current issues associated with Cuba, Venezuela, and Haiti, please go to: http://hcvanalysis.wordpress.com
“Left political alternatives,” writes Regalado, “will have to include the struggle for revolution.” And “the use of some type of revolutionary violence will be inevitable, because those holding power in the world will cling to it to the very end.”
U.S. policies doomed to fail in Latin America
By John Catalinotto
Published Jun 12, 2007 11:01 PM
Latin America at the Crossroads—Domination, Crisis, Popular Movements & Political Alternatives, by Roberto Regalado Álvarez, 2007, Ocean Press, 263 pages, available from leftbooks.com.
The Cuban Marxist economist Roberto Regalado, in the preface to the English edition of his book, takes note of the “challenge to write a book that deals with current-day events.” The December 2005 election of Evo Morales as president of Bolivia had forced him to revise the last two chapters before publication.
It is likely Regalado would now like the chance for another revision. Since he wrote those lines the Ecuadorans have elected leftist Rafael Correa president, Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega won the presidential election in Nicaragua and Hugo Chávez was re-elected by a landslide in revolutionary Venezuela. These new developments, however, only serve to establish Regalado’s main points:
• U.S. imperialism needs to exploit Latin America’s resources and labor even more mercilessly than it did in the period up to the late 1970s. It does this by imposing the policies of “neoliberalism”—essentially, using the state power to aid the banks and transnational corporations to concentrate capital while never using the state to aid poor and oppressed groups or individuals. Washington has tried to do this with minimum intervention, but this has turned out to be impossible; the U.S. is again intervening, subverting and threatening military intervention.
• Washington and the South American oligarchy have allowed the electoral arena to be open to more popular candidates with the plan of gaining a consensus of support for the system. The role of these parties is supposed to be to alternate with the right wing in administering the same neoliberal program. This has led to victories of left-leaning candidates and parties, which are unable to offer significant concessions to the workers and poor within the confines of the existing system.
• These changes, with a big impulse from the 1991 Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, are nourishing a debate in the Latin American left. The potential for a struggle for a socialist alternative is gaining credibility, even if such a struggle is not on the order of the day; Colombia is the only country where an armed struggle is under way. This socialist alternative offers the only solution to the crisis of contemporary capitalism.
Regalado is currently the section chief in the Department of International Relations of the Cuban Communist Party. A former diplomat in the U.S. and Nicaragua, he has researched and written on Latin American politics since the 1970s. He also appears to be well acquainted with U.S. politics and even with developments in the U.S. progressive movement.
The book is effective on a few different levels. It summarizes the recent economic development of the worldwide imperialist system and especially in Latin America. It goes over Latin American history and reviews in detail the change in the type of imperialist domination and exploitation from the earlier part of the 20th century to the period since the mid-1970s.
It reviews the political struggles within the Latin American left—the social movements, social-democratic parties and the broad electoral fronts that have led to the elections of “left” candidates or parties in Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia and Venezuela. The next edition will undoubtedly include Ecuador and Nicaragua.
Regalado also makes a devastating critique of the role of European social democracy and the parties of the Second International, especially those that, like British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labour Party, welcomed their new role as administering social cutbacks. In the immediate post-World-War-II period, these parties ran ‘’welfare states” to counter the challenge from the socialist camp, and claimed they would change capitalism. But, Regalado notes:
“It was not social democracy that reformed capitalism, but capitalism that reformed social democracy. This was clear, since by the end of the 1970s, social democracy was participating in dismantling the welfare state and functioning as the spearhead of European imperialism in the South.”
The author discusses the conflicts between socialist Cuba and the U.S., and briefly discusses the Caribbean, but focuses on Latin America. It would be interesting to see what he would write about the U.S. war on Iraq and the impact of the Iraqi resistance on Washington’s ability to intervene in South America, if that were within the scope of the book.
The dilemma the U.S. faces is that the neoliberal scenario continually narrows popular support for the system and its institutions. It wipes out the middle class and impoverishes workers. Thus imperialism is finding it necessary to intervene more directly, as in Haiti and Venezuela, in the Mexican election, etc. While at present the conditions don’t exist for a struggle for socialism, the continued deterioration of living conditions and the threat to humanity from the crisis of capitalism will soon raise this question anew.
“Left political alternatives,” writes Regalado, “will have to include the struggle for revolution.” And “the use of some type of revolutionary violence will be inevitable, because those holding power in the world will cling to it to the very end.”
This conclusion, while not new in classical Marxist literature, bears repetition in this post-Soviet period. To understand how Regalado comes to it, it’s best to read his book.
Articles copyright 1995-2007 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
Page printed from:
Fascinating story from “World War 4 Report.” This is a long article, so I am only including two excerpts here. For the full text of the article, double-click on the article title below.
The first excerpt focuses on the bizarre and convoluted path that led to Simon Trinidad’s conviction and sentencing (even the USAID is involved) and the second excerpt is a summary of his hour long statement in court and I guess his version of “History Will Absolve Me.”
Submitted by WW4 Report on Mon, 01/28/2008 – 23:21.
“Simón Trinidad , the FARC’s well-known prisoner-exchange negotiator, was today sentenced to 60 years in prison in Federal District Court in Washington, DC. Several months ago, Trinidad was found guilty of conspiracy to take three military contractors as hostages, a crime occurring back in 2003. The sentence was determined in a separate proceeding held today.
The 60 year penalty, the maximum allowable under Colombian law, is a relatively new invention. In 2004, under a program funded and administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Colombia reformed its penal code (Law 890, which modified Article 31) to increase the maximum allowable penalty from 40 to 60 years. As one of the first beneficiaries of the legal reform, it seems fitting that the punishment would be calculated in Washington. Even more so because this penalty didn‚t even exist in Colombia back in 2003 when the crime was committed.
The penalty was calculated according to the US federal sentencing guidelines. Factors used to calculate the sentence included whether a demand was made for the release of the hostages, whether a weapon was used, the length of time the hostages were held, whether Trinidad accepted responsibility for the crime, and the relative importance of his role in it. Another factor—and a big one—was whether taking the three contractors prisoner was an act of “terrorism”—i.e., a violent crime intended to intimidate a government and extract a concession from it.
The defense argued that Trinidad’s “agreement”—a conspiracy is essentially an agreement to commit a crime—was limited to taking a letter from FARC commander Raul Reyes to Ecuador, to present to James LeMoyne, a UN official who had brokered the FARC’s negotiations with the government of President Andres Pastrana. Trinidad didn’t have the mens rea, or guilty mental state, had never made any demand for the hostages’ release, had no say in whether they ever would be released, and has never even seen the hostages.
Nevertheless, the judge found against Trinidad for every sentencing factor, indicating the maximum penalty available for this crime, which under US law would be life imprisonment. However, the judge noted that he would respect the wishes of the Colombian government, which asked for the sentence to be limited to 60 years, in accordance with the new law. Judge Lamberth acquiesced and sentenced Trinidad to 60 years without parole.”
“Simon Trinidad’s Statement at his Sentencing Hearing for Hostage Taking
After thanking the judge for his help with medical and other problems he’d had at the DC Jail, and for permitting the meeting with Piedad Cordoba, and thanking the US Marshalls and others working at the court for the respect with which he’s been treated, Simón Trinidad began his statement by saying that he was speaking today as a member of the FARC, an insurgent group that had taken up arms against the Colombian government.
From the moment of its inception, the FARC had struggled to change an oligarchical system that had maintained itself over the years through blood and fire. Beginning on July 20, 1964, the FARC had sought peaceful democratic change through the masses, but the oligarquia had used paid assassins—pajaros, chulavitas, and now paramilitaries—to terrorize the population with the power of the bullet. Nelson Mandela, who founded a guerrilla movement in South Africa and later rose to become president of that country, said it is the oppressor who always dictates the terms of the struggle, not the oppressed. In Colombia, the oppressor is the oligarchy and the use of force against the people is what led to the formation of the FARC.
The FARC, he said, are a part of the Colombian people who express their dissent in various ways to the violent and elitist regime. Founded by campesinos like Manuel Marulanda, the FARC’s efforts have centered on agrarian issues and the protection of campesinos. Created by campesinos and workers, the FARC fights for the improvement of wages, unionization, and has a political strategy against the oppressors.
Citing Ciro Trujillo and Hernando Gomez Acosta, Trinidad said the FARC
respects indigenous and womens’ organizations, and believes in a pluralistic and democratic Colombia. Latin America, he continued, is a region of great economic disparity and is third in the world in social disparity. The FARC supports the basic human rights that everyone needs to lead a dignified life, including access to nutrition, education, potable water, electricity, dignified living conditions, recreation and rest. Some 54% of Colombians, he said, or 24 million people, live below the poverty line, living on just $1-2 dollars a day.
A variety of fertile lands and climates would permit the harvesting of crops in Colombia 12 months of the year, providing enough for all Colombians as well as a surplus for export. Colombia is also rich, he said, in mineral resources, including gold, nickel, coal, salt and oil. Colombia’s biodiversity, in flora and fauna, the fish in its rivers, and a wealth in human resources make Colombia a very rich country able to provide for all of its inhabitants.
Nevertheless, a small group of people, the petty governing class, has monopolized these resources, taken the best lands, controlled the economy, and kept the rest of Colombia in poverty. Leaders of both Liberal and Conservative parties have legalized these monopolies for the benefit of the rich, and by the same token, handed over Colombia’s resources to foreign capitalists for their own enrichment.
The oligarchy’s policy of violence utilizes murder, torture and disappearances as tools against their opponents to keep themselves in power. Examples range from the genocide of the Gaitanista movement in the 1940s to the extermination of the Union Patriotica in the late 1980s. The three branches of power in the government have granted themselves impunity for all of their crimes, as well as those of the military and paramilitaries.
The unjust character of the government, where immorality and cynicism have been the norm, and its corruption are shown through the management of the people’s money paid as taxes, and the mismanagement of state-run industries. The government has abused its power by selling the nation’s resources to foreigners. It’s true that in Colombia, those who govern are elected every four years, but democracy isn’t just voting, and 65% of Colombians typically abstain from voting anyway. Large numbers of votes are bought. Voters are promised a job. Dead people vote. Others vote more than once. The electoral process in Colombia is illegitimate and a farce.
In the last 14 years, the presidency of Colombia has been manipulated by drug traffickers. The Cali cartel contributed $6.5 million dollars to the campaign of Ernesto Samper. Andres Pastrana was furious when he didn‚t receive the support of this cartel, and it took him four more years to become President. An August 2, 2002 report of the US Defense Intelligence Agency describing Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel lists both
Fidel Castaño and Alvaro Uribe as members. After his election, Uribe gave public contracts and political offices to his friends in an effort to reform the constitution so he could be re-elected a second time automatically. This is the best picture that can be drawn of Colombian democracy. It is a paper democracy, but what is described in the papers is far from the truth.
Colombia has been at war for more than 60 years, with a growing participation of the USA. Today the war against the insurgents is disguised behind other arguments. The war on drug trafficking is a disguise the US uses for greater interference in the Colombian conflict, sending advisors, spies, weapons, and investing millions of dollars in the war. This financial and military support emboldens the oligarchy and sustains the conditions that cause the Colombian conflict, but provides no solutions. Simon Bolivar said that “the destiny of the US was to plague America with misery in the name of liberty.”
The US government, and some members of the US Congress have misunderstood the Colombian conflict as being centered around drugs. Although in Colombia there are no serious ethnic, religious, or separatist divisions, the conflict has deep social and historical roots that have nothing to do with drug trafficking. The FARC do not share the Colombian government’s belief in a military solution to the conflict. This conflict is harmful to the dignity of the Colombian people. Instead, the FARC advocates social investment and the participation of communities in the planning of agriculture and crop substitution. The military strategy should be changed. The US and Colombian governments should work together to confront the challenges that face humanity. No country has the exclusive power to lead the fight in this area. The international community must have a greater participation, particularly countries where drugs are
Simon Trinidad said he was quite surprised when the Department of Justice introduced clumsily altered videos, made by the Colombian military, to try to prove that he was a member of the Secretariado of the FARC. He said he was sorry he never saw the letter sent by the US authorities to the Colombian government, because he was sure that a serious complaint must have been made about this mockery of justice. If the Colombian army can shamelessly lie to the people who provide them with so much money, just
imagine what they are doing in Colombia.
Trinidad said his trial was political. The political nature of his trial proves the political nature of the FARC. Politics, he said, is an expression of economics, and war was the expresion of politics by other means. His trial was political from beginning to end. At least, he said, his trial allowed him the opportunity to explain the FARC’s revolutionary philosophy and the position of its Secretariado on various issues, and he is satisfied that despite great efforts, the jury could not find him guilty of supporting a terrorist organization, because the United States had erroneously classified the FARC as a terrorist organization.
Trinidad said that because he and his organization, the FARC, had been labelled a terrorist organization, he wanted to take the opportunity to condemn all terrorism, regardless of the source. Don’t forget, he said, that the terrorist faction of the state was what brought him to become a member of the FARC to combat it. Based on his own principles and ideological conviction, he could not condone terrorism. Like the FARC, he felt that any force that wants to rise to power cannot engage in terrorism.
By the same token, though, he rejects the extradition of Colombians to be tried in other countries. This is a neo-colonial practice that undermines the sovereignty of the country. It is used as a weapon to blackmail men and women fighting for a just cause, including Sonia and himself.
In Colombia there is a war, with prisoners taken on both sides. This is a very real problem that demands a solution. The political order that came from Trinidad’s superiors was a first step to carry out a humanitarian action meant to benefit prisoners on both sides. “My conscience absolves me. I join the ranks of those that history can and has absolved.”
Trinidad said he was also satisfied with the letter he wrote to Manuel Marulanda requesting proof of life of the three Americans, and still he does not want to be an obstacle for the exchange of prisoners. He is convinced that this will be an important factor in achieving peace with social justice in Colombia. The first point on the FARC’s political platform is to find a political solution to the conflict.
Trinidad said it was his sincerest wish that the three Americans are returned safe and sound to the bosoms of their loved ones. He had already met with officials from the State Department, and would be willing to have further meetings to continue the dialog. He said that when he joined the FARC, he knew he could lose his life and liberty fighting for justice and peace in his country.
Finally, Trinidad thanked the Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera and quoted the Cuban revolutionary Jose Marti: “What Bolivar didn’t do remains undone today.” Trinidad concluded his statement with the following words, which he spoke in the same tone of voice as the rest:
Long live Manuel Marulanda
Long live the FARC
Long live Simon Bolivar, whose sword of freedom continues to run through America.
After hearing all this, Judge Lamberth looked Trinidad in the eyes, said he respected Trinidad’s intelligence, sincerity, and eloquence, and then proceeded to sentence him to 60 years, the longest sentence ever imposed on a Colombian. Trinidad had gone over the line, explained the judge, when he joined this conspiracy. His crime was terrorism, a heinous and barbaric crime that violated the law of nations. No civilized nation will tolerate terrorism, he concluded, and this was a court of law. The maximum sentence allowed for hostage taking was life imprisonment, said the judge, but he would abide by the wishes of the Colombian government and only impose a term of 60 years. “Good luck to you, Mr. Palmera Piñeda.”
Paul Wolf on the scene in Washington DC”
REFLECTIONS BY THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF
THE ANTITHESIS OF ETHICS
On the day when hundreds of intellectuals coming from every continent are
meeting in Havana to take part in an International Conference for World
Equilibrium on the date of José Marti’s birth, on that same day, by some
strange quirk, the President of the United States spoke. In his last State
of the Union address to Congress, making use of the teleprompter, Bush tells
us more with his body language than with the words arranged by his advisors.
If to the three speeches that I mentioned in my words to the delegates at
the Meeting of January 29, 2003 we added the one he gave yesterday on the
28th, translated into Spanish by CNN -accompanied by the raising of eyebrows
and odd gestures- recorded and immediately transcribed by qualified staff,
this one is the worst of them all on account of its demagoguery, lies and
total absence of ethics. I am speaking of the words that he probably added,
of the tone he used and which I personally observed; that is the material I
“America is leading the fight against global poverty, with strong education
initiatives and humanitarian assistance (…) This program strengthens
democracy, transparency and the rule of law in developing nations, and I ask
the members of this Congress to fully fund this important program.”
“America is leading the fight against global hunger. Today, more than half
the world’s food aid comes from the United States. Tonight, I ask Congress
to support an innovative proposal to provide food assistance by purchasing
crops directly from farmers in the developing world, so we can build up
local agriculture and help break the cycle of famine.”
At the beginning of this paragraph he is referring to the old commitments
taken on by the United States in the past with FAO and other international
agencies, one drop of water in the sea of the agonizing present needs of
“America is leading the fight against disease. With your help, we’re
working to cut in half the number of malaria-related deaths in 15 African
nations. And our Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is treating 1.4 million
people. We can bring healing (…) to many more (…) And I call on you (…)
to approve an additional $30 billion over the next five years.”
“America is a force for hope in the world because we are a compassionate
“Over the past seven years, we’ve increased funding for veterans by more
than 95 percent (…) And as increase funding we must also reform our
veterans system to meet the needs of a new war (…) so we can improve the
system of care for our wounded warriors.”
“So I ask you to join me in (…) creating new hiring preferences for military
“By trusting the people, succeeding generations transformed our fragile
young democracy into the most powerful nation on Earth (…) our liberty will
be secure and the state of our Union will remain strong.”
He states all this calmly, but from the beginning of his speech, where he
avoids all the thorny problems, he goes along brick by brick laying the
foundations of that false liberty and prosperity, without even the slightest
mention of the American soldiers who have died or been wounded in the war.
He had begun the speech by pointing out that “most Americans think their
taxes are high enough (…)”. He threatens Congress: “(…) [you] should know
(…) if any bill raising taxes reaches my desk, I will veto it.”
“Next week I’ll send you a budget that terminates or substantially reduces
151 wasteful or bloated programs, totaling more than $18 billion. The
budget that I will submit will keep America on track for a surplus in 2012.”
Either he made a mistake with the figure, or the collecting of $18 billion
means nothing to a budget that totals 2.8 trillions.
The most important thing is to distinguish between the deficit of the State
budget which totaled 163 billion, and the deficit of the current account of
the balance of payments that totaled 811 billion in 2006, and the public
debt is calculated at 9.1 million millions. His military spending totals
more than 60 percent of the total invested in the world for that reason.
Today, on the 29th, one ounce of gold broke a record at 933 dollars. This
mess results from the unrestricted issuing of dollars in a country whose
population spends more than it saves and in a world where the purchasing
power of United States currency has been extraordinarily reduced.
The formula his government usually employs is to express confidence and
assurance in the economy, lowering the bank interest rates, throwing more
bills into circulation, worsening the problem and postponing the
What does the price of sugar mean today, as it stands now at 12.27 cents a
pound? Scores of poor countries dedicate themselves to its production and
export. I mention this example just to illustrate that Bush deliberately
entangles and mixes everything up.
The President of the United States carries on like this in his Olympian
stroll through the problems of a planet lying at his feet.
“Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,
modernize the Federal Housing Administration, and allow state housing
agencies to issue tax-free bonds to help homeowners refinance their
“We share a common goal: making health care more (…) accessible for all
Americans (…). The best way to achieve that goal is by expanding consumer
choice, not government control (…)”
“(…) we must trust students to learn if given the chance, and empower
parents to demand results from our schools.”
“African-American and Hispanic students posted all-time highs (…) Now we
must work together to increase accountability, add flexibility for states
and districts and reduce the number of high-school dropouts (…)”
“Thanks to the (…) Scholarships you approved, more than 2,600 of the poorest
children in our Nation’s Capital have found new hope at a faith-based or
other non-public school. Sadly, these schools are disappearing at an
alarming rate in many of America’s inner cities (…). And to open the doors
of these schools to more children, I ask you to support a new $300 million
“Today, our economic growth increasingly depends on our ability to sell
American goods and crops and services all over the world. So we’re working
to break down barriers to trade and investment wherever we can. We’re
working for a successful Doha Round of trade talks, and we must complete a
good agreement this year.”
“I thank the Congress for approving the (…) agreement with Peru. And now I
ask you to approve agreements with Colombia and Panama and South Korea.”
“Many products from these nations now enter America duty-free, yet many of
our products face steep tariffs in their markets. These agreements will
level the playing field. They will give us better access to nearly 100
million customers. They will support good jobs for the finest workers in
the world: those whose products say ‘Made in the USA’.”
“These agreements also promote America’s strategic interests.”
“Our security, our prosperity, and our environment all require reducing our
dependence on oil (…) generate coal power (…)
“Let us create a new international clean technology fund, which will help
(…) to slow (…) and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases.
“To keep America competitive into the future, we must trust in the skill of
our scientists and engineers and empower them to pursue the breakthroughs of
tomorrow (…) So I ask Congress for (…) federal support (…) and ensure
America remains the most dynamic nation on Earth (…)”
Always appealing to chauvinism, he continues his flight of fancy to other
“Tonight…America honors (…) the resilience of the people of this region
[the Gulf Coast]. We reaffirm our pledge to help them build stronger and
better than before. And tonight I’m pleased to announce that (…) we will
host (…) the North American Summit of Canada, Mexico and the United States
in the great city of New Orleans (…)”
“The other pressing challenge is immigration. America needs to secure our
borders -and with your help, my administration is taking steps to do so.
We’re increasing worksite enforcement, deploying fences and advanced
technologies to stop illegal crossings (…) and (…) this year, we will have
doubled the number of border patrol agents.” This is one of the sources of
well-paid jobs that Bush has in mind.
He does not wish to remember that Mexico was robbed of more than 50 percent
of its territory in a war of conquest, and he would like nobody to recall
that on the Berlin Wall, during its almost 30 years of existence, less
people died trying to gain access to the “Free World” than Latin Americans
are dying today –no less than 500 each year–trying to cross the border in
search of employment, with no Adjustment Act to grant them privileges and
motivation as it does for Cuban citizens. The numbers of illegal immigrants
arrested and traumatically deported every year totals in the hundreds of
Straightaway, the speech leaps to the Middle East from which he has just
returned after a “Veni, vidi, vici” diplomatic junket.
After mentioning Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, he states: “And
that is why, for the security of America and the peace of the world, we are
spreading the hope of freedom (…) In Afghanistan, America, our (…) NATO
allies and 15 partner nations are helping the Afghan people defend their
freedom and rebuild their country.”
He makes no mention whatsoever that this was exactly what the USSR tried to
do when it occupied the country with its powerful armed forces that ended up
defeated in the clash with that country’s different customs, religion and
culture, independent of the fact that the Soviets had not gone there to
conquer raw materials for their great capital and that a socialist
organization that never did any harm to the United States attempted to
change the course of the nation in a revolutionary manner.
Right away Bush leaps to Iraq which had nothing to do with the attacks on
September 11, 2001, and which was invaded because that was what Bush,
President of the United States, and his closest collaborators decided to do,
with nobody in the world harboring any doubt that the aim was to occupy the
oilfields; this action cost that people hundreds of thousands of dead and
millions of people uprooted from their homes, or forced into emigration.
“The Iraqi people quickly realized that something dramatic had happened.
Those who had worried that America was preparing to abandon them instead saw
tens of thousands of American forces flowing into their country. They saw
our forces moving into neighborhoods, clearing out the terrorists, and
staying behind to ensure the enemy did not return (…) Our military and
civilians in Iraq are performing with courage and distinction, and they have
the gratitude of our whole nation (…)”
“A year later (…) we’ve captured or killed thousands of extremists in Iraq
(…) Our enemies in Iraq have been hit hard. They are not yet defeated, and
we can still expect tough fighting ahead.”
“Our objective in the coming year is to sustain and build on the gains we
made in 2007, while transitioning to the next phase of our strategy.
American troops are shifting from leading operations, to partnering with
Iraqi forces, and, eventually, to a protective overwatch mission (…)”
“(…) this means more than 20,000 of our troops are coming home.”
“Any further drawdown of U.S. troops will be based on conditions in Iraq and
the recommendations of our commanders.”
“Progress in the provinces must be matched by progress in Baghdad.”
“(…) still have a distance to travel. But after decades of dictatorship and
the pain of sectarian violence, reconciliation is taking place -and the
Iraqi people are taking control of their future.”
“The mission in Iraq has been difficult (…). But it is in the vital interest
of the United States that we succeed.”
“We’re also standing against the forces of extremism in the Holy Land (…)
Palestinians have elected a President who recognizes that confronting terror
is essential to achieving a state where his people can live in dignity and
at peace with Israel.”
Bush says not one word about the millions of Palestinians stripped of their
lands or driven away from them, victims of an apartheid system.
Bush’s formula is well-known: 50 billion dollars in weapons for the Arabs,
from the industrial-military complex, and 60 billion for Israel in ten
years. We are talking of dollars that maintain a real value. Someone pays
for it: the hundreds of millions of workers producing cheap goods with their
hands and being paid a minimum salary, and hundreds of millions more who are
But the speech does not end here: “Iran is funding and training militia
groups in Iraq, supporting Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, and backing
Hamas’ efforts to undermine peace in the Holy Land. Teheran is also
developing ballistic missiles of increasing range, and continues to develop
its capability to enrich uranium, which could be used to create a nuclear
“Our message to the leaders of Iran is also clear: Verifiably suspend your
nuclear enrichment, so negotiations can begin.”
“America will confront those who threaten our troops. We will stand by our
allies, and we will defend our vital interests in the (…) Gulf.”
We are not talking about the Gulf of Mexico, but the Persian Gulf, in waters
that are only 12 miles away from Iran.
There is a historical fact here: in the days of the Shah, Iran was the best
armed power in the region. When the Revolution triumphed in that country,
led by the Ayatollah Khomeini, the United States encouraged Iraq and
provided support for the invasion. That was the beginning of a conflict
which cost hundreds of billions and untold numbers of dead and maimed, and
today is being justified as part of the cold war.
Really, we don’t need other media to inform us about the speech made by the
President of the United States; all we need to do is to let Bush speak for
himself. For people who know how to read and write, people who think,
no-one can make a more eloquent criticism of the empire than Bush himself.
I’m responding to him on behalf of the country in question.
I have worked hard.
I hope that I have been impartial.
Fidel Castro Ruz
January 29, 2008.
Time: 7:35 p.m.
“The day on which he fell, May 19, 1895, Martí was sacrificing his own life
for the right to life of all the inhabitants of the planet.
In his now famous unfinished letter to his close friend Manuel Mercado,
which Martí interrupted to march off to an unexpected battle, a battle that
no one could keep him from, Martí left recorded for history his innermost
thoughts. And although they are so often repeated and thus so well known, I
will nevertheless repeat them once again: “I am in daily danger of giving my
life for my country and duty, for I understand that duty and have the
courage to carry it out – the duty of preventing the United States from
spreading through the Antilles as Cuba gains its independence, and from
overpowering with that additional strength our lands of America. All I have
done so far, and all I will do, is for this purpose.”Read the full speech
Once again, nothing escapes the keen, analytical eye of John Maxwell who writes a column for the “Jamaica Observer.”
Sunday, January 27, 2008
On Tuesday, January 29, it will be exactly six months since I established a folder on my computer titled The Crash of 2007. Tuesday January 29 will also be the 56th anniversary of my entry into what I thought was the honourable profession of journalism.
These days many journalists ask themselves whether what they practise is a profession; whether what they do is honourable and even whether it constitutes journalism. As disaster approaches, we wonder why the global media don’t seem to notice.
As the so-called Thatcherite-Reaganite revolution cartwheels its ungainly, calamitous and soul-destroying progress towards implosion and self-destruction, many of us are too mesmerised by the gargantuan awfulness of it all to look at anything but the accompanying economic and financial mayhem.
But there’s are lots more that’s not so obvious.
In Iraq at this moment, the major evidence of humanity’s eight millennia of civilisation is being looted and sold off to ‘investors’ who have more faith in the artifacts of Nebuchadnezzar’s peasants than in all the oil wells of George Bush. As well they might. As we sang in the late 1960s: Everything Crash
As Field Marshal (ret’d) Rumsfeld will tell you again, “Stuff happens!” Move on! Get over it!
What is happening is so enormous, so transcendental that we can no more see it than we can see the rotation of the Earth.
But there are many people, neither prophets nor even experts, who for a long time have been feeling in their bones that something untoward is under way, rather as they say cats and dogs can sense seismic disturbances before earthquakes shake us up and destroy our cosy domesticity and often our lives.
Even people like me, who thought they were feeling the precursor tremors, are probably just as scared and apprehensive as anyone else. Worse yet, while we can vividly imagine what may happen, most people don’t get really frightened until their own houses start to do the tango.
I’ve been watching for a long time as the invisible hand of capitalism attempted even more daring feats of prestidigitation; as the managers seized control from the shareholders, and the corporate system abandoned any idea of public responsibility or accountability, as jobs and the people in them were ruthlessly discarded and production was outsourced to slave societies – oops – ‘more cost-effective countries’ – and the American capitalist forgot what the trade unions had been trying to tell them before they were emasculated: The money paid to American workers is what fuels American production. But the Enrons and the Exxons have never been interested. The idea was to make as much money as possible as fast as possible and to hell with the workers.
A declining workforce still being paid at the equivalent of 1975 wages could obviously not support the enormous superstructure of speculation, competitive consumption, greed, and waste into which American capitalism has transformed itself.
If the workers couldn’t afford to support the economy out of their wages or savings, their masters could always borrow European or Japanese or Chinese money to lend the workers and allow them to borrow more, paying ever higher rates of interest, running faster on the treadmill and losing ground, and the whole elaborate Ponzi scheme would go on and on until the second coming of Ayn Rand.
Multi-billionaires like George Soros who spoke of ‘gangster capitalism’ and Warren Buffet, who spoke of the unfairness of the system, were ignored: perhaps they were just envious of how fast the new Lords of the Earth could make money and didn’t really understand modern capitalism.
What American capitalism has accomplished would have confounded Adam Smith and astonished even Karl Marx: it destroyed its own working class.
For the new-rich, capitalism was a no-risk game where governments had a duty to come to the rescue of those involved in unfortunate accidents, like Enron or the sub-prime mortgage debacle.
Mr Alan Greenspan who keeps Ayn Rand at his bedside, had always delivered when necessary, despite a schoolmasterish tendency to vaguely deplore the ‘animal spirits’ and other juvenile delinquencies of his billionaire charges.
The problem, of course, was that there were too many balls in the air and little or no certitude about how many capitalists could dance on the head of a peon. Ayn Rand, from beyond the grave, advised self-love and selfishness as the only virtues.
Margaret Thatcher did say ‘There is no such thing as Society” – expressing the Rand philosophy even more succinctly than Miss Rand herself. This pithy aphorism was then swallowed by various dummies all over the world. In the United States, the explicit application of that principle has wiped out a significant proportion of the savings accumulated by African Americans over the last 50 years or so. And, though it is Blacks who are most critically affected, Whites, Hispanics, and what is left of the working class are all condemned to fulfil the bizarre prediction in the gospel according to Matthew: “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath”. I’ve always considered that verse to perfectly represent capitalism.
The legacy of the Thatcherite-Reaganite counter-revolution is not simply economic and social catastrophe, but structural unsustainability in every dimension.
Though the Reagan/Thatchers did not believe in society, their commonplace lunacies – such as the deregulation of aviation and Reagan’s firing of air traffic controllers – worked because of human altruism and the self-sacrifice of the victimised.
They privatisated essential services – disregarding the fact that they would be run by the same people. According to them, these people would suddenly become more efficient, since there was a profit involved. They ignored the probability of corruption, corner-cutting, destruction of social capital and decreases in the indices of civilised existence.
Thatcher and Reagan were not the causes of global warming or of any of the dire curses that attend us; they simply made it much harder for us to act quickly, effectively and responsibly. The practical, pragmatic guys who ‘make things happen’ too often produce developments that depend on destroying the environment, maximising their profits and stealing environmental goods from the rest of us.
We have lost the 21 square miles of Kingston Harbour to sewage, solid waste, to assorted manufacturers and to the Port Authority. Do you hear any of them offering to replace what they have stolen?
Of course, when the beach sand goes and when the jellyfish swarm the beaches stinging and scaring our visitors, guess who will be asked to find the money to fix the problems?
THE BIGGEST JAILBREAK IN HISTORY
Ayn Rand would have approved of Israel’s latest initiative in Gaza. To punish the unruly Palestinians, Israel, with the approval of the West, imposed a blockade, which quickly shut down municipal services, food supplies, and emergency rooms.
As someone (not Margaret Thatcher) once said, “The prospect of being hanged concentrates the mind wonderfully,” but what if the mind belongs to baby on a respirator who will die when the last generator runs out of fuel?
If Mugabe or Milosevic had done what the Israelis have done (and not for the first time), there would have been outraged howls from the State Department and other chancelleries of the civilised world, condemning barbaric, primitive and inhuman behaviour.
What happens to Palestinians or Haitians is not the concern of the cognitive elite of the world. Haitians and Palestinians live in law-free zones where human rights should not interfere with effective governance. And Condoleezza Rice, George Bush and the governments of the North Atlantic community approve of Israel’s turning Gaza into a concentration camp. Their motive: to convince the Palestinians that they were wrong to choose as their government the Hamas party. The Fatah party, once led by Yasser Arafat, was judged wanting by the Palestinians who voted for the much more radical Hamas. Fatah, once into hijacking planes and reviled as a terrorist organisation, became the darling of the West after the death of Arafat.
Hamas and Israel share the same basic prejudices. Hamas refuses to recognise Israel’s statehood; Israel refuses to recognize the Palestinians’ right to their own country. Normally the Hamas opposition is expressed as if it meant the extermination of the Israelis. The last intifada was sparked by Israeli retaliation for the assassination of an Israeli cabinet minister who advocated exterminating the Palestinians or at the minimum, expelling them from Palestine.
The Europeans, atoning for Hitler’s attempt to exterminate the Jews, have consistently backed the Israeli contention that the Jews of the world deserve a homeland, and that homeland should be the territory of Palestine (land of the Philistines/Falastin).
For the last 70 years, those Palestinians not expelled by Israel have lived in smaller and smaller reservations in their own homeland with Israel continuing to install ‘facts on the ground’ – Israeli-owned housing schemes on Palestinian-owned land.
A map of Palestine (if the western media would print one) would show Palestine looking rather like a chocolate chip cookie, with Israeli settlements represented by the chocolate chips. Palestine is essentially split into two non-viable tribal reservations, the West Bank (of the Jordan River) including Jerusalem and a slim sliver of land on the Mediterranean – the Gaza Strip.
Unlike the Haitians, the Palestinians are recognised by the United Nations as refugees in their own land and have been so since 1948. Hamas two years ago won the electoral loyalty of the majority of Palestinians. Israel and her western allies decided that democracy was fine for Gaza, but that, as in Haiti, you can vote for anyone you choose as long as it’s our surrogate – the Henry Ford principle.
The Israelis try to control the Palestinians by a variety of means, incursions by the Israeli army in which Palestinians including children, women and other innocents are ‘unfortunately’ killed; and by other means such as pre-dawn runs by Israeli aircraft generating sonic booms, which terrify children and drive adults crazy.
The Gazans retaliate by firing primitive rockets into Israeli settlements (built on Palestinian land) and by suicide bomb attacks – although, mercifully, there haven’t been any for some time.
The situation is dangerous, crazy and unjust for everybody. The latest clampdown on Gaza was forcing people into starvation, putting children and sick people at dangerous risk and imposing generally inhuman punishment on the entire population for the sins of the rocket-launching radicals. The Gazans were penned into this prison by an Israeli- built analogue of the Berlin Wall, a 26 ft./8-metre high concrete and steel barrier.
The Hamas government of Gaza last week decided to create its own facts, in the words of one of its leaders. Its sappers and heavy equipment drivers knocked down the massive wall and nearly half a million Gazans streamed out into Egypt on the first day. For some it was their first time out of the Gaza prison/concentration camp in their entire lives.
The difference in perceptions is vast. TIME, Newsweek, CNN and other US media treated the breakout as if they were reporting the annual Spring merchandise sales in the US. To describe the desperate scramble of people seeking baby food and basic necessities in Egyptian shops across the border, TIME said: It took explosives to do what diplomacy couldn’t: allow Palestinians to go on a shopping spree – Newsweek and CNN evaluated the incident in terms of a public relations disaster for Israel.
That’s what we journalists call ‘the human touch’.
The Israelis say it is up to the Egyptians to restore the wall and the prison. The Egyptians realise that popular opinion is with the Palestinians, and everybody realises that Palestine is the main excuse for the existence of Al Qaeda.
What with Gaza, the imminent worldwide economic collapse and climate change, all our lives are going to become much more interesting very soon.
Copyright©2008 John Maxwell
Excerpt from article:
“Another violent military operation occurred in July 2005, when an estimated 22,000 bullet holes were found after an operation by MINUSTAH in Cite Soleil. Reports by HIP cited accounts by residents that the wounded and dead were found inside their own homes. These accounts charge that soldiers shot at people indiscriminately, which had devastating effects in a neighborhood where housing conditions are extremely precarious.”
My Comment: The author, Maria Luisa Mendonca, is a human rights representative from Brazil which is especially important because the UN mission in Haiti is led by Brazil. Further, in the July 2005 attack described above, between 300-400 UN soldiers participated and included numerous armored personnel carriers and helicopters. The July 6 attack was indeed a massacre. If interested in reading more about this attack, please see an article I wrote about it entitled, “July 6, 2005: Haiti, The Gaza Strip of the Caribbean.”
Americas Program Commentary
UN Troops Accused of Human Rights Violations in Haiti
Maria Luisa Mendonça | January 21, 2008
Americas Program, Center for International Policy (CIP)
The UN Security Council decided in October 2007 to extend the mandate of the MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) through Oct. 15, 2008. The Brazilian Government is responsible for coordinating the MINUSTAH forces that include approximately 9,000 troops. Yet there is very little discussion in Brazil about the country’s role in the occupation of Haiti, and especially, about the accusations leveled against the UN troops for their participation in human rights violations.
One of the cases documented by Haitian human rights organizations was that of the massacre that took place on Dec. 22, 2006 in the Cite Soleil area of Port-au-Prince, following a protest by some 10,000 people who demanded the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the withdrawal of foreign military forces. According to reports by local residents and video footage recorded by the Haiti Information Project, the UN forces attacked the community and killed about 30 people, including women and children.
In response to the criticism by human rights organizations that denounced those killings, MINUSTAH justified its actions by claiming that it was combating gangs in Cite Soleil. However, the images shot by Haiti Information Project show that UN troops shot unarmed civilians from helicopters. Inter Press Service, which covered the conditions in the area immediately following the attack, reported finding high-caliber bullet holes in many homes. HIP director Kevin Pina accused MINUSTAH of participating together with the Haitian National Police in summary executions and arbitrary arrests. He concluded, “In this context, it is hard to continue seeing the UN mission as an independent and neutral force in the country.”
Camille Chalmers, a Haiti University professor and member of the Haitian Platform for Social Movement Integration, explained in an interview with journalist Claudia Korol of the Adital Agency: “MINUSTAH tried to build legitimacy by saying that it is fighting criminals. But many people realize that the only things that can truly reduce the lack of safety are public policies and social services. Unfortunately, what we have is a violent military apparatus.”
Another violent military operation occurred in July 2005, when an estimated 22,000 bullet holes were found after an operation by MINUSTAH in Cite Soleil. Reports by HIP cited accounts by residents that the wounded and dead were found inside their own homes. These accounts charge that soldiers shot at people indiscriminately, which had devastating effects in a neighborhood where housing conditions are extremely precarious.
These accounts also charged that MINUSTAH did not allow the Red Cross to enter the area—a violation of the Geneva Convention. U.S. Government confidential documents, obtained by human rights organizations through the Freedom of Information Act, show that the American Embassy knew that the UN troops planned an attack on Cite Soleil. Local community organizations believe that the goal of the military was to prevent a demonstration commemorating ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s birthday, which was on July 15.
A report by Project Censored estimates that more than 1,000 members of Lavalas, a loose organization that groups supporters of Aristide, were arrested and about 8,000 people killed during the “interim government” that ran the country from 2004 to 2006, following the coup against Aristide on Feb. 29, 2004.
Camille Chalmers characterizes this action as an “intervention led by the governments of the United States and France.” He further explains that “solidarity with the people of Haiti means helping to rebuild the country and find answers to the most pressing social problems, and the military presence does not help. The goals of security and human rights have not been met. On the contrary, we believe that the presence of MINUSTAH constitutes a violation of the Haitian people’s right to self determination.”
On Feb. 2, 2007 UN troops conducted another operation in Cite Soleil that resulted in the deaths of two young women who were sleeping in their homes. On Feb. 7, various demonstrations took place in the country, and on Feb. 9 there was another military attack, which was denounced by local organizations such as the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.
On Oct. 30, 2007, the kidnapping of Dr. Maryse Narcisse, who is a member of the national leadership of Lavalas and worked with health and education social programs in Haiti, was made public. Another member of Lavalas, the psychologist and human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, disappeared on Aug. 12. Local organizations accuse the UN troops of generating public instability and attacking those who defend democracy and human rights.
The Brazilian Bar Association (Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil, OAB) led an observation mission to Haiti in late June 2007 and concluded that MINUSTAH plays a “violent” and “repressive” role that cannot be characterized as a “humanitarian action.” Anderson Bussinger Carvalho, the lawyer responsible for the report, called for the withdrawal of Brazilian troops from Haiti. “I have concluded that the presence of Brazilian troops is not humanitarian. It is a strictly military mission. Haiti has a history of military occupations and Brazil ends up playing a role in this history,” said Carvalho in an interview with the newspaper A Folha de São Paulo (Sept. 4, 2007).
The role played by Latin American countries in Haiti today is similar to the one played by the multilateral forces that stayed in the Dominican Republic following the invasion by the United States in 1965. The Dominican Republic suffered under a long military dictatorship that lasted until 1961 when longtime dictator Rafael Trujillo died.
In 1962 Juan Bosch was elected president but was deposed by a military coup after seven months in power. In April 1965, a series of widespread demonstrations demanded the return of ex-president Juan Bosch. It was during that time that U.S. President Lyndon Johnson ordered a military invasion of the Dominican Republic by 20,000 marines. A few weeks after the invasion, the Organization of American States sent in the Inter-American Peace Force of 1,129 soldiers. During that period, while Brazil was under a military dictatorship, the role of Brazilian troops in the Dominican Republic was similar to the one they play in Haiti today.
According to the North American writer Norman Solomon, writing in his book War Made Easy: “In retrospect, the 1965 invasion of the Dominican Republic foreshadowed a series of U.S. military actions in the Western hemisphere and beyond. Covert intervention by the CIA in Latin America was as constant as the seasons, the overwhelming arrival of so many U.S. troops in the small country was a kind of political and media prototype for a pair of lightning strike invasions in the 1980s—Grenada and Panama—as well as, in more complicated ways, the relatively limited military interventions in Haiti during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. In each case, the man living in the White House found ways to set the media agenda for public approval to affirm the kind of desire expressed by Lyndon Johnson to Assistant Secretary of State Mann: ‘We’re going to have to really set up that government down there and run it and stabilize it some way or other.'”
The experience of Brazilian troops in Haiti was described by soldier Tailon Ruppenthal in his book A Brazilian Soldier in Haiti (Globo Publishing). He was 20 years old in 2004 when he took part in the UN mission for six months. “Even today, more than two years since I got back to Brazil and left the Army, I can’t forget what I saw there. Once when I was on foot patrol, I saw something far away that looked like a pig that that had been completely burnt. As I got closer, I started to shake and almost lost control before a horrifying sight: it wasn’t a pig, but a child around three years old,” recounts Ruppenthal in his book.
“A soldier must have courage above all. But the collective depression starts to spread, and after a few months even getting out of bed is hard. You remember that you will cross paths with all those people who are starving but there’s nothing you can do,” writes Ruppental.
In another part of the book Ruppenthal describes what happened during a visit from then UN Secretary Koffi Annan: “The shooting was petrifying. There were bullets flying everywhere. You couldn’t tell from where in the slum the bullets were coming and so the soldiers started to shoot blindly, setting off the biggest barrage of bullets that I experienced in the peace mission. The whole situation was out of control, and within one or two minutes bullets were flying from every direction.”
When Ruppenthal returned to Brazil his behavior changed. “I was very aggressive and started to drink a lot. My mom noticed how much I had changed, and we found a doctor who diagnosed post-traumatic syndrome. I would need to receive psychological help. We approached the Army, but they refused to help me, claiming that they examined me upon my return and found nothing wrong with me.” And he sums up, “And I just would like to remind everyone that we are losing the real war: against poverty … Only the fight against poverty will bring peace. When will they see that?”
Unfortunately, Ruppenthal’s opinion and the many criticisms of the negative role the UN troops play in Haiti are not taken into account by the Brazilian government. The Brazilian government’s policy in relation to Haiti serves to legitimize a coup d’etat and strengthen U.S. interests in the region.
Maria Luisa Mendonça is a journalist and coordinates the Network on Social Justice and Human Rights in Brazil.
Sat Jan 19, 2008 8:55 am (PST) THE NEW YORK TIMES
January 19, 2008
U.S. Diplomat Nicholas Burns Stepping Down
By HELENE COOPER
WASHINGTON – R. Nicholas Burns, the country’s third-ranking diplomat and
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s right-hand man, is retiring for
personal reasons, the State Department said Friday.
The White House said that it was nominating William J. Burns, the United
States ambassador to Russia, to replace him as under secretary of state for
political affairs. The two men are not related. Like R. Nicholas Burns,
William Burns is a career foreign service official. He has served as
assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs as well as ambassador
“This is a very bittersweet time for us because Nick Burns has decided that
it is time for him to retire,” Ms. Rice said in announcing Mr. Burns’s
resignation in the State Department’s ornate Treaty Room. “He has decided
that it’s the right moment to go back to family concerns.”
R. Nicholas Burns, 51, has led the administration’s efforts on Iran, serving
as the United States negotiator with the five other countries – Russia,China, Britain,
France and Germany – that have been seeking to rein in Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
A career foreign service official, Mr. Burns has thrived under a succession of administrations,
both Republican and Democratic.
in almost all of the Bush administration’ s major foreign policy initiatives.
A senior administration official close to Mr. Burns said that he was
retiring so that he could focus on getting his three daughters through
college.Mr. Burns has not lined up his next job, but has dismissed talk of running
for office in Massachusetts, his home state.During an interview, Mr. Burns said he was proud of the administration’ s
offer in 2006 to hold talks with Iran if it agreed to suspend its uranium
enrichment. “It’s very important that we continue the effort to find a way
toward negotiations with Iran,” he said.He said that he believed that the United States and NATO still had some
distance to go in managing the military presence in Afghanistan, where
forces from the United States and several allies are working to end the
Taliban-led insurgency. “I’ve spent a lot of time trying to help organize
our efforts in Afghanistan, and that is a singular challenge for us,” he