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MEXICO: The NAFTA, crude oil and something else

PROGRESO WEEKLY
January 17-23, 2008
México: The NAFTA, crude oil and something else

“Without corn there is no homeland, neither without bean.” And without
petroleum?

By Eduardo Dimas

Ordinarily, little is said in the international media about the North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada and
Mexico, which became effective Jan. 1, 1994.

Recently, more has been printed about the ASPNA (Alliance for the Security
and Prosperity of North America), a monstrosity intended to strengthen the
neoliberal model and U.S. domination over the other two partners.

The enactment of the NAFTA coincided with the uprising of the Zapatistas in
Chiapas and a major crisis in the Mexican economy, which provoked an urgent
intervention by the government of William Clinton, which provided a loan of
more than $14 billion so Mexico could get out of its mess.

The consequences of that economic disaster (“the tequila effect”) lasted for
a long time. Today, 14 years and a few days later, very few people remember
those events. The Zapatistas make the headlines once in a while.

Now, the NAFTA has again attracted the attention of the media, as one of the
clauses of the treaty takes effect in Mexico. That clause frees from import
tariffs several agricultural products from the United States and Mexico,
among them corn and beans, two of the main products of Mexican agriculture.

The media attention is directed not so much at the activation of that clause
but at the protests it has raised among peasant organizations and agrarian
labor unions, which see competition from U.S. and Canadian products as a
serious threat to their economies.

To them, it is impossible to compete, because of the differences in
technical development and because U.S. agricultural products are subsidized.
In 2006 alone, the U.S. government distributed $18 billion among U.S.
farmers.

According to leaders of peasant organizations, since the NAFTA was signed,
two million jobs have been lost in Mexican farms, the prices of farm
products fell between 40 percent and 70 percent, and Mexico’s alimentary
dependence on the United States rose by 40 percent in 2006.

So far, the mobilization of farmers throughout Mexico to demand a
renegotiation of the NAFTA, including a demonstration in the capital and a
human wall in the city of Juárez, on the border with the U.S., have been
unsuccessful.

Through its Secretary of Agriculture, the Mexican government has said that
the NAFTA has brought more benefits than ills, and that Mexican production
and the agricultural industry are doing well. Many analysts and observers
counter that that assertion is either wrong or does not match reality.

According to some critics of the Mexican governments (from Salinas de
Gortari to this date), it was no coincidence that the signing of the NAFTA
was preceded by an amendment to Article 27 of the Constitution, which
forbade the sale of the “ejidos,” or communal lands.

Those critics say that the objective of Salinas de Gortari, Zedillo, Fox and
now Felipe Calderón was — and is — to remove the largest possible number
of people from the countryside, thus permitting the food transnational
corporations to assume control of the Mexican agricultural industry.

Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but if we analyze how the big U.S.
food producers and marketers today control the distribution of food in
Mexico, it might be true. Only one of those companies is Mexican-owned.

In an article published in the daily La Jornada, titled “Agriculture and
free trade: a fallacy,” journalist Luis Hernández Serrano points out that
“According to information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the
agricultural food trade balance between Mexico and the United States clearly
represents a deficit for our country. It has been so ever since the start of
the NAFTA. Until October 2007, Mexican imports totaled more than $10.487
billion, while exports barely added up to $8.479 billion.

“The same has happened since 1994. National purchases of food products to
our neighbor totaled about $10.881 billion in 2006 and sales rose to $9.39
billion. In 2005, we imported $9.429 billion and exported $8.33 billion.”

Hernández Serrano adds that what somewhat saves Mexico’s food trade balance
with the United States is the sale of beer, which in 2006 amounted to $1.3
billion. One might inquire if beer production remains in Mexican hands or if
it went to foreign hands, like almost all other industries.

Even before the clause on the most sensitive farm products went into effect,
the NAFTA had caused the ruination of 40 percent of Mexican farmers, several
million people and a massive exodus from the countryside to the cities. Not
to mention an increase in the number of people who want to enter the U.S.
illegally.

According to some Mexican media, beginning in 1994, the Mexican authorities
permitted the importation of corn and beans from the United States and
Canada without charging tariffs, thus violating the rules established in the
NAFTA itself. The same happened with rice, cotton and milk, products that
Mexico used to export.

So, it is difficult to think that the current Mexican government will
renegotiate the NAFTA with the United States and Canada. Rather, it may do
everything possible to comply with the accord, no matter what the
consequences.

The small and midsize farmer (with less than 100 hectares of land) is
sentenced to ruination, because he cannot compete with U.S. farmers,
particularly with the big producers and marketers of food, who are investing
large sums of money in the Mexican agriculture.

Another issue at hand is the complaint by Mexican farmers about the use of
genetically modified seeds, to the detriment of the homegrown seeds, which
are beginning to disappear. To utilize those seeds means to depend, from now
on, on companies like Monsanto, Cargill, Bayer or BASF, because the
resulting product is a hybrid seed, that is, it cannot be planted again.

If you think of a policy designed so that the big transnational corporations
may control Mexican agriculture, in collusion with the Mexican oligarchy,
you will not be far from the truth. The NAFTA is the best expression of
neoliberalism; the ASPNA is its purest application.

“The fields can take no more,” says one of the slogans of the peasant
protests. The next most used is “without corn, there is no country; without
beans, the same.” The slogans are accurate. But, what about without crude
oil?

For years now, Mexican personalities from all political parties have been
denouncing the systematic policy of the government to privatize Petróleos
Mexicanos (PEMEX), an endeavor prohibited by the Constitution and something
that no government has convinced the Congress to amend.

Nevertheless, the different governments have created the conditions for such
a privatization in a not-too-distant future. For example, little by little,
they have postponed the necessary repairs and expansions of the industries
that carry out the extraction, transportation and refinement of crude oil
and natural gas.

They have also plunged PEMEX into debt, with the objective of eventually
provoking the “necessary” intervetion of private enterprises. Last year,
PEMEX’s debt amounted to $107 billion. A paradoxical fact about that policy
of privatization is that PEMEX contributes more than 50 percent of the state
budget.

On Jan. 9, the Coordinating Commission for the Defense of Petroleum (CCDP)
called for a national movement to denounce the delivery of Mexican crude to
the foreign transnational corporations, even when the Constitution forbids
it.

The reason for the call was the enactment of a contract given to Energy
Maintenance to provide security to more than half of PEMEX’s oil pipeline.
According to the CCDP, the transaction initiated the transfer of PEMEX’s
strategic zones to private companies — a concession that violates the
Mexican Constitution.

The CCDP also pointed out that, for the past 25 years, the neoliberal
governments have been looking for a pretext to privatize crude oil and
electricity and that now they are drafting laws to permit a greater private
participation in that industry.

The most significant aspect of the complaint is that PEMEX’s leadership has
kept secret its links to five foreign oil companies. PEMEX directors even
made a commitment to those foreign firms not to report those links to the
Federal Institute of Access to Information.

According to the CCDP, PEMEX signed the accords and agreed to pay a fine if
it broke its pact of silence with Royal Dutch Shell (Anglo-Dutch), Chevron

(U.S.), Nexen (Canada) and Statoil (Norway).I think you will agree with me that PEMEX”s privatization is closer at hand
than most people think, unless the Mexican people and progressive
organizations form a common front to prevent that event.

The tendency of some sectors of the oligarchy and bourgeoisie to sell their
country away is surprising. But let’s not forget what happened in Argentina
during the military dictatorship and later, during the 10 years of Carlos
Menem’s administration. They simply sold everything to foreign companies.

Sometimes we forget that neoliberalism is not only an economic model. It is
also an ideology that places the free market, business, above any other
consideration, be it nationalist or patriotic.

If the alimentary transnationals manage to control the Mexican agriculture
and oil is privatized, how much economic and political independence would
Mexico retain? It would become practically annexed to the United States, but
with a dividing wall that would prevent Mexicans from crossing the border.
The people of Juárez do not deserve that fate.

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January 17, 2008 Posted by | Imperialism, Latin America, Mexico, US | , | Leave a comment

AFRICOM THREATENS THE SOVEREIGNTY, INDEPENDENCE AND STABILITY OF THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

A POSITION PAPER OF THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF BLACK LAWYERS
January 15, 2008

This position paper was prepared by NCBL members Mark P. Fancher (principal drafter), Jeffrey L. Edison and Ajamu Sankofa. Information about NCBL can be found at
http://www.ncbl.org

What NCBL has concluded about Africom

The National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL) concludes that the mission of Africa Command (Africom) infringes on the sovereignty of African states due to the particularity of Africa’s history and Africa’s current economic and political relationship to the United States.

Further, Africom is designed to violate international law standards that protect rights to self-determination
and that prohibit unprovoked military aggression.

Africom is also likely to become a device for the foreign domination and exploitation of Africa’s natural resources to the detriment of people who are indigenous to the African continent.

NCBL opposes Africom in the strongest terms and calls upon people of African descent in the U.S. to avoid military service to ensure that they will not be ordered to carry out missions on behalf of Africom, or any military unit or program engaged in violating international law, committing crimes against humanity, or committing crimes of any kind that threaten the peace of any continent.

What Is Africom?

Africom is a project that will substantially change the nature of the U.S. military presence in Africa by establishing a single U.S. military command headquarters that will have Africa as its sole focus.

Africom has become a Rorschach Test because while the U.S. government sees it as a vehicle for bringing peace and prosperity to the continent, it is seen by others as Africa’s greatest new threat.

Because of vague, confusing official statements, it has been difficult to ascertain precisely what the U.S. government claims that Africom will actually do. Africom’s website describes the project as a vehicle for the Defense Department to collaborate with “partners to achieve a more stable environment in which political and economic growth can take place.”

That description raises more questions than it answers. The following official statement sheds little additional light: “Africa is growing in military, strategic and economic importance in global affairs.

However, many nations on the African continent continue to rely on the international community for assistance with security concerns. From the U.S. perspective, it makes strategic sense to help build the capability for African partners, and organizations such as the Africa Standby Force, to take the lead in establishing a secure environment. This security will, in turn, set the groundwork for increased political stability and economic growth.”

Some critics are highly suspicious of the reference to “economic growth.” Specifically, does that refer in real terms to the economic health of Africa’s poor, or instead to expansion of opportunities for multinational corporations to exploit Africa’s natural and human resources as they have for decades?

It has been suggested that the Bush Administration actually has three primary items on its agenda:
1) making Africa another front in the Administration’s war on “terrorism”;
2) protecting U.S. access to African oil, mineral wealth and other raw materials; and
3) putting the U.S. in a better position to compete with China for domination of Africa’s resources.

It is further suggested that the Bush Administration has no interest in accomplishing any of these objectives directly, and that Africom’s purpose is to identify and nurture the development of African governments that will function as U.S. surrogates. In this regard, Africom is off to a very bad start.

As of the date of this writing, the Africom concept has been received with everything from skepticism to hostility by significant African governments, and NCBL is aware of only Liberia as having expressed a clear willingness to provide a location for Africom headquarters.

TransAfrica Forum spokespersons have astutely suggested that Africa’s cool reaction to Africom may well reflect shared memories and opinions that: “[d]uring the cold war, African nations were used as pawns in post-colonial proxy wars, an experience that had a devastating impact on African democracy, peace and development.

In the past Washington has aided reactionary African factions that have carried out atrocities against civilians. An increased U.S. military presence in Africa will likely follow this pattern of extracting resources while aiding factions in some of their bloodiest conflicts, thus further
destabilizing the region.”

Why NCBL is concerned

If there is any principle that runs like a thread through all of the work of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, it is that protecting the human right of self-determination for all people must be given the highest priority.

NCBL also recognizes that crimes against peace are among the most serious of all international criminal law violations. NCBL’s principles have motivated the organization to consistently oppose military intervention into the sovereign territories and internal affairs of other countries.

NCBL has opposed military operations against the Palestinians, instituted litigation against the Reagan administration in the aftermath of the invasion of Grenada, and also provided a consistent voice in opposition to the efforts by several administrations to destabilize Cuba through covert and military means. NCBL has opposed threats of military intervention and the use of mercenary proxies in Nicaragua, Angola and elsewhere.

NCBL vigorously opposed the kidnapping of Jean Bertrand Aristide from Haiti, and has sounded an ongoing note of concern about the shrill threats made against the current government of Zimbabwe. Lastly, NCBL has opposed the war in Iraq, and regards it as a crime against peace. It is against this backdrop that NCBL has grave concerns about expansion of U.S. military operations in Africa.

The U.S. in Africa – The Historical Context

To say that the U.S. enters Africa with unclean hands understates the reality. The full extent of U.S. crimes against African governments and leaders during the past 40 years is likely yet unknown.

However, in 1978, former CIA agent John Stockwell provided for many their first peek into a deadly, ruthless U.S. foreign policy that destroyed what could have been a far more promising political and economic future for the continent.

In his book, In Search of Enemies, Stockwell explained that U.S. policy in Africa was driven heavily by cold war concerns. Socialist forces in Angola and Mozambique were prime targets, and the favored method of suppression was use of mercenaries. Stockwell wrote:

“Mercenaries seemed to be the answer, preferably Europeans with the requisite military skills and perhaps experience in Africa. As long as they were not Americans…” He went on to describe a collaboration between the CIA and South Africa’s apartheid regime in a campaign to crush emerging progressive Black leadership in Southern Africa.

The use of proxies and mercenaries to carry out U.S. objectives in Africa became a standard practice as a new class of socialist leaders emerged during the early years of African independence.

In his book, Stockwell referenced the CIA’s complicity with dissidents in Ghana who overthrew Kwame Nkrumah, the country’s first president. Congo’s first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, received special attention from the highest levels of the U.S. government after he announced plans to nationalize major industries in his country and to pursue a path of nonalignment in the then raging cold war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Author Ludo De Witte wrote: “On 18 August 1960, during [a] National Security Council meeting, [President Dwight] Eisenhower had made it clear, without explicitly saying so, that he favored Lumumba’s elimination. An assassination operation was planned with the support of CIA chief [Allen] Dulles.” Thereafter, the CIA concocted elaborate schemes to kill Lumumba by, among other things, putting poison in his toothpaste.

Ultimately, the CIA saw its objectives accomplished by henchmen of the agency’s stooge, Joseph Mobutu. After Lumumba was killed, Mobutu went on to become head of state in Congo, and his more than three decades of tyrannical reign was one of the bloodiest Africa has ever seen.

John Perkins, a former operative of the National Security Agency, has explained that the U.S. has routinely resorted to everything from bribery to cleverly-disguised assassinations in cases where heads of state have in some way threatened the profit-making potential of U.S.-based corporations.

This raises special concerns because the threat to Africa’s political and economic integrity comes not only from the U.S. government, but also from the multi-national corporations that are the beneficiaries of government policies.

In recent years, this is seen most dramatically in Congo. In 2005, Human Rights Watch issued a report that from 1998 to 2003, a war to control gold fields in northeast Congo resulted in the deaths of more than 60,000 persons along with “ethnic slaughter, executions, torture, rape and arbitrary arrest…”

The report goes on to attribute significant responsibility for this carnage to two foreign corporations that financed and fueled the conflict. They were Metalor Technologies, a Swiss refinery; and AngloGold Ashanti, a multinational corporation that, notwithstanding its name, is overwhelmingly directed and managed by non-Africans.

All of this raises critical questions of whether, with Africom, the U.S. is now positioning itself to become more directly involved – with or without proxies – in protecting corporate access to Africa’s resources. In many other parts of the world, the U.S. has engaged in “regime change” as a matter of course for more than a century as a method of protecting the interests of the corporate world.

What’s Really At Stake?

The list of Africa’s valuable mineral resources is endless: gold, diamonds, chromium, copper, etc. However, the continent’s vast oil reserves have attracted perhaps the most attention from the U.S. government. In 2002, Walter Kansteiner, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for Africa, declared: “African oil is of strategic national interest to us and it will increase and become more important to us as we go forward.”

It is easy to understand why that perception exists.
Currently, the amount of oil imported by the U.S. from the Persian Gulf is about 16 percent of its total imports. By the year 2015, it is projected that 25 percent of U.S. oil imports will be from West Africa.

It is clear that, on this issue, the U.S. puts its money where its mouth is. There is a stark correlation between U.S. aid to African countries and the oil producing potential of recipient African states. To be more concrete, as the two largest oil producers on the continent, Nigeria and Angola receive the most U.S. aid.

More disturbing however (particularly for purposes of this discussion) is the level of U.S. military involvement in the protection of access to Africa’s oil. The U.S. spends about $250 million a year on military assistance programs in Africa.

This assistance is not only in the form of “peacekeeping training” but it also involves direct arms sales. As a major oil and natural gas supplier Algeria has been allowed to acquire large quantities of counter-insurgency weapons.

Why the U.S. concern with “security” for Africa’s oil? U.S. access is threatened for various reasons, but one that has been of great concern is guerrilla activity in the Niger Delta.

An organization calling itself the Movement to Emancipate the Niger Delta (MEND) has, in recent times, been accused of destroying oil pipelines, kidnapping oil company personnel, stealing oil and assorted other acts. MEND has complained of oil industry economic exploitation and environmental destruction. It was reported that during the last year, many oil fields were shut down because of the attacks, and oil production fell short by more than 340 million barrels.

All of this prompts NCBL to view with great suspicion U.S. military statements that imply that the security objectives of Africom will be focused on Al Qaeda or other organizations that fit popular contemporary notions of terrorism. It will be all too easy for Africom to target groups like MEND, or even other political formations in Africa that pose no direct threat to oil operations, but which in a broader sense threaten corporate hegemony in Africa.

NCBL has been quite clear about its interest in eliminating the domination of Africa’s natural resources by foreign corporations, and the idea that organizations that may engage in political work to bring about that objective might somehow become the targets of U.S. military operations is
unacceptable.

The Legal Concerns

As an association of lawyers and legal activists, NCBL is particularly concerned about the potential Africom presents for routine and ongoing violations of international law.

With disturbing frequency, the U.S. has in recent decades launched unprovoked military attacks on other countries, or intervened in the internal affairs of other countries through the use of mercenaries or covert action designed to destabilize foreign governments or the economic, political or social order.

Notions of self-determination and sovereign integrity are closely intertwined, and international law has attempted to protect both by proscribing military aggression and other actions that constitute crimes against peace. In fact, the treaty that governs the International Criminal Court has designated aggression as one of “…the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole.”

Nevertheless, the International Criminal Court is currently unable to punish the international law crimes committed by the U.S. because the Bush Administration has steadfastly refused to submit to that court’s jurisdiction.

The absence of a method of prosecuting such crimes only heightens NCBL’s concerns about the likelihood that Africom will engage in criminal acts with impunity.

The United Nations Charter is one of the most authoritative sources of international law, and it explicitly acknowledges the sovereign equality of all countries and provides that aggression which threatens international peace and the territorial integrity and independence of sovereign states is prohibited.

So strong is this concern about respect for independence that the United Nations even prohibits itself from injecting the U.N. into the internal affairs of member states unless very specific circumstances are present.

However, even with those purported safeguards in the U.N. Charter, serious questions have been raised about the legality and usefulness of certain U.N. interventions over the years, providing additional reasons for the acute concerns about Africom, a far less restricted entity.

The U.S. claims that Africom is a response to African countries’ continuing requests for assistance with security. However, this is at best a distortion given the cold shoulder that Africom has been given by most African countries.

If assistance has been requested, there is apparently little interest in such assistance coming in the form of Africom. This means that if the U.S. goes forward with Africom, even without malicious intent, it will essentially become an unsolicited, unwelcome intrusion that threatens the ability of African states to exercise rights to self-determination.

It is more likely however that the ulterior motives of the U.S. that have been suggested by various commentators are the driving force behind Africom, and it will be difficult for that agenda to be carried out without military action, either by U.S. troops, or by surrogates.

This threat to the peace, independence and stability of Africa is inconsistent with both the letter and spirit of applicable provisions of the U.N. Charter, and NCBL is therefore compelled to oppose Africom on legal as well as policy grounds.

What is to be done?

While NCBL will continue to call upon all people of good will to voice their strongest opposition to Africom, there is also a practical realization that the Africom train has already traveled a good distance down the track and the chances of it being voluntarily recalled are somewhat remote.

It is with that fact in mind that NCBL assumes a posture comparable to that which it assumed with respect to the Iraq war. NCBL strongly encourages Black youth to decline any recruiters’ requests to enlist in the U.S. military. If Africom cannot be stopped at the outset, then certainly there is no reason for Africans born in America to participate in the destabilization and exploitation of a continent from whence their ancestors were kidnapped for purposes of enslavement.

The call for Black youth to boycott the military has been raised not only by NCBL, but also by countless unnamed ministers, educators, youth counselors and other leaders in the Black community. There is also evidence that these pleas have not fallen on deaf ears. Whereas, Blacks constituted approximately 25 percent of Army personnel until the year 2000, by 2004, less than 16 percent of the Army’s recruits were of African ancestry.

In a study conducted by the Army itself, the conclusion was reached that the continuing decline can be largely attributed to the unpopularity of the Iraq war among members of the Black community who are respected by the youths. This has had a significant impact on the military’s ability to maintain troop levels in Iraq.

Finally, for those persons of African descent who are potential recruits, or who are already members of the U.S. armed forces, NCBL pledges to make its best efforts to arrange for pro bono legal representation if they are threatened, disciplined or prosecuted for refusing Africom assignments, or for exercising their right to conscientiously object to military service.

———————————————————– afr
Distributed By: THE PAN-AFRICAN RESEARCH AND DOCUMENTATION CENTER
50 SCB BOX 47, WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY
DETROIT, MI 48202– E MAIL: ac6123@wayne.edu
============
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********* Related Web Sites ************
**
http://panafricannews.blogspot.com
http://mecawi.org
http://www.world-newspapers.com/africa.html
http://www.africadaily.com
http://www.africa-union.org
http://english.aljazeera.net/HomePage
http://www.freemumia.org
http://www.herald.co.zw/
http://www.anc.org.za/index.html
http://www.caribbeannewspapers.com
http://www.wbai.org

January 17, 2008 Posted by | Africa, AFRICOM, CIA, Guinea, Imperialism, Senegal, South Africa, US | , | Leave a comment

AFRICA/CUBA: Trade Unions Recognize Cuba’s Solidarity with Africa

Trade Unions Recognize Cuba’s Solidarity with Africa

Havana, Jan 15 (acn) The World Trade Union Federation and African workers’
leaders thanked Cuba for its support and solidarity with the peoples of
Africa in the areas of health, education and training of professionals
during the Second Presidential Council of this international organization
that concludes today in Khartoum, Sudan.

Participating in the event are the vice presidents of this world trade union
body as well as the top representatives of its secretariats in all
continents.

During his speech, Salvador Valdes Mesa, General Secretary of the Cuban
Workers’ Confederation (CTC), said that CTC members as well as the Cuban
people and Revolution have historic and many other reasons to continue
supporting the African people.

He also thanked African trade unions and governments for their support in
the Cuban struggle against the US economic blockade of the island and in
favor of the release of five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters who remain
unjustly imprisoned in the United States.

Participants in this meeting in Khartoum have discussed topics such as the
drawing up of common actions against neoliberal globalization. They have
also stressed that African peoples should not only have political
discussions but they should also fight for their rights in the fields of
health, education and other basic rights.

January 15, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Cuba | , | Leave a comment

VENEZUELA SOLIDARITY NETWORK Demands Records of US Payments to Argentine Groups and Politicians

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE For Information Contact

January 12, 2008 Chuck Kaufman

202-544-9355

vsn@AFGJ.org

VSN Demands Records of US Payments to Argentine Groups and Politicians

The independent US Venezuela Solidarity Network (VSN) on Friday January 11, 2008 filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) demands to US government agencies for “all records” of “all grants, payments and/or funds transfers to individuals, groups or political parties in Argentina from January 1, 2006 to date.”

FOIA requests were submitted to the US Agency of International Development (USAID), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Included in the request to the NED was the demand for records from its core groups, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, the AFL-CIO’s American Center for International Labor Solidarity, and the Chamber of Commerce’s Center for International Private Enterprise.

VSN’s Interim National Coordinator Chuck Kaufman explained, “When the US government arrested several people in Miami and attacked the Venezuelan government for allegedly sending nearly $800,000 to Argentina for President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s campaign, we were struck not only by the flimsy evidence, but by the sheer level of hypocrisy involved. We decided to make public how much money the US government spent on the presidential election in Argentina and who received it.”

In 2006 Kaufman led delegations to Nicaragua and Venezuela to investigate US involvement in those countries’ presidential elections that year. In Nicaragua US ambassador Paul Trivelli admitted that he had $12 million to spend on the election and an IRI official bragged that “we started” a supposedly independent group that opposed Sandinista candidate Daniel Ortega’s candidacy. In Venezuela an embassy official confirmed press reports that USAID was spending $23 million and the NED another $3 million for groups opposed to President Hugo Chavez’ candidacy.

“The Bush Administration is extremely worried about the growing rejection of US political and economic hegemony in Latin America,” Kaufman said. “They were surely up to their eyeballs in the Argentine election. Argentina, after all, was the first country in Latin America to kick out the International Monetary Fund which enforces US economic policy,” he noted.

So-called “democracy building” programs are an ever larger portion of foreign aid money administered by USAID. In Venezuela the funds pass though a US embassy office named the Office of Transition Initiatives. Purported to be non-partisan, US democracy building grants go preponderantly to groups and individuals aligned with US government and corporate policies.

“They are democracy manipulating programs pure and simple,” Kaufman said. “One of NED’s founders, Alan Weinstein, was quoted at the time as saying, ‘We do now overtly what the CIA did covertly 25 years ago.’”

The Venezuela Solidarity Network filed the FOIAs in an effort to educate US taxpayers about the fact that their money is being spent to manipulate other countries’ elections. It would be illegal if those countries spent money to influence elections in the US. “US citizens believe in free and fair elections and they would be outraged if they knew our government was trying to rig elections in other countries,” Kaufman said.

The FOIA’s were filed on behalf of the Venezuela Solidarity Network by the public interest law firm, Partnership for Civil Justice. The Partnership for Civil Justice just last week won a lawsuit against New York City for refusing to permit an anti-war demonstration in Central Park during the 2004 Republican convention.

The VSN is a network of US local and national organizations formed to expose and oppose US government intervention in Venezuela and to support Venezuela’s Bolivarian process to reduce poverty and increase economic justice in that country. Its web page is www.vensolidarity.org.

###

January 14, 2008 Posted by | Argentina, CIA, Coups, Imperialism, NED, US, USAID, Venezuela | Leave a comment

OBAMA: Who Do You Represent and What Are You Not Saying?

A while back, I wrote a post on another blog of mine, Haiti-Cuba-Venezuela Analysis about Senator Obama’s “Cuba Policy.” It’s predictable reactionary fare. I was thinking about writing another post on this blog about who Obama is and what he does or does not represent. Thank goodness, I was saved this task by this week’s issue of The Black Commentator, an intelligent, highly analytical publication. Before you contemplate Obama a second longer, PLEASE read the following two articles. Kudos to the authors!

OBAMA AND THE AMERICAN DREAM: REPRESENT OUR RESISTANCE by Dr. Lenore J. Daniels

DOUBLE-SPEAK, BARACK OBAMA AND CONTINUING U. S. HYPOCRISY by Larry Pinkney

The Black Commentator is published weekly on Thursdays and always offers an insightful look at our world.

January 10, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Cuba, US | , , | Leave a comment

CUBA: Philip Agee – The Nat’l. Comm. to Free the Cuban Five Pays Tribute

The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five issued the following bulletin regarding the death of Philip Agee, former CIA agent who left “The Company” and exposed the the US’ imperial destruction across the globe. In his later years, he moved to Cuba and ran a travel agency and was a prolific author. Most of all, he was a great friend to Cuba and a defender of the revolution and the cause of the Cuban Five.

At the bottom of the bulletin are links to articles written by and about Agee. If you are not familiar with him, I recommend you check them out.

Jan. 9, 2008

National Committee To Free The Cuban Five Bulletin Philip Agee, a long-time defender of Cuba and the Cuban Five, has died in Havana

“Freedom for the Cuban Five should be the cause of everyone for whom fairness, human rights and justice are important, both in the United States and around the world” – Philip Agee


Philip Agee We in the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five wish to express our profound sorrow at the passing of Philip Agee. He was a true friend of Cuba and will always be remembered for his love of the Cuban Revolution. Philip, as a former employee of the CIA, was in the best position to expose the unceasing war of the U.S. empire, particularly the role of the CIA, against Cuba and peoples struggling for justice everywhere.
When Cuba was under fire for defending itself against the spate of hijackings and violence in 2003, his in-depth article on the U.S. sabotage and destabilization campaigns that Cuba has had to endure was a major contribution, especially at a time when that situation needed clarity.

Philip’s interview in Mission Against Terror stands out and we will continue to cherish his presence in it. He made a powerful impact in showing the importance of the Cuban Five’s mission against terrorism, and he will be present with all of us as we continue to fight for the Five’s freedom.

For those of us fortunate to know him over the many years of his involvement in the progressive movement, we appreciated his great courage and commitment, and his kindness and personal warmth.

We are truly saddened, and extend our deepest condolences to his wife Giselle and all his family and friends.

Philip Agee, ¡Presente!

The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five

Or call: 415-821-6545
Free the Cuban Five Now!
Allow the families’ visits!
Grant entry visas to
Adriana Pérez and Olga Salanueva!

January 9, 2008 Posted by | CIA, Cuba, Imperialism, US | , | Leave a comment

Haiti-Cuba-Venezuela: Nothing Recent on Global Voices Online, But Maybe That’s Best

GVO has had almost no posts on these three countries since the end of last year. So, this gives me a chance to share a substantive article on each country rather than the usual GVO fare: recipes for the holiday, having hope at Christmas time, or right-wing rants about Cuba and Venezuela. Happy New Year all.

HAITI: “Disturbing the Peace in Haiti and New Orleans,” by Brian Concannon

Excerpt:

“Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, a Catholic priest from Haiti, just does not know when to shut up. In the 1970s he saw his people starved and persecuted while Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier lived in opulence, so he organized for change. The Duvalier regime responded as dictatorships do, and kicked him out of the country.

When he reached Miami, Fr. Gerry saw that the safety he found there did not extend to immigrants locked up in detention centers or sent back to face torture or worse in Haiti and countries like it. So he organized there for change. He founded Florida’s Haitian Refugee Center to bring the struggle for justice to the U.S. courts, and coordinated demonstrations to bring the struggle to the streets.

The United States responded as democracies should: It let Fr. Gerry do his work, as long as he did not break the law. He did not win all the battles here that he should have – our laws and our courts are not perfect. But he was at least able to criticize and mobilize without fear of persecution, and sometimes even win.

Bill Quigley, a Catholic law professor from New Orleans, cannot stop helping people organizing for change. He has been a leading advocate for the victims of Katrina since he weathered the storm in a New Orleans hospital where his wife Debbie, a nurse, works, trying to help. The hospital patients did not need a lawyer then, but the families still without homes and the kids still without good schools need one now, so Bill is busy. In 30 years of public interest lawyering, Bill has stood up for a whole spectrum of people fighting for social justice, including peace protestors, death-row inmates and advocates for fair education, healthcare and housing.”

CUBA: “Cuban Survivor of Guernica Massacre Tells the Story”

VENEZUELA: “Venezuela: A Dictionary of Euphemisms of the Liberal Opposition”

Venezuela: A Dictionary of Euphemisms of the Liberal Opposition


January 7, 2008 Posted by | Cuba, Haiti, Imperialism, Latin America, US, Venezuela | , , , , | Leave a comment

Pan-African Roots Establishes a Resourceful Blog for Activists

CHECK OUT A TERRIFIC NEW BLOG FROM PAN-AFRICAN ROOTS!

Pan-African Roots’ new blog, paroots.org Blog, is a great new resource on the web that will be of invaluable assistance to progressive and revolutionary activists across the globe. Please see the announcement of the new blog by its co-directors, Bob Brown and Banbose Shango. Then, check out the blog yourself!

“We are sending you this email to wish you and your family a Happy New Year, and to introduce you to paroots.org Blog, a new kid on the web. It is still under construction! Please excuse our rough edges. There is much, much, much more to come.
paroots.org Blog is a revolutionary, Pan-African and International network, an aggregator and distributor of commentary, news, information and features by and about progressive and revolutionary governments, movements, organizations, activities and events in every corner of Africa, the African Diaspora, and the World. It seeks to create strategic alliances and links with other progressive and revolutionary bloggers, websites and webportals worldwide, in order to expand it’s content and reach.
Check us out at http://www.paroots.org. If you like what you see, subscribe, link your blog, webpage or website to ours, and make a contribution via our secure, online donation page.
Pan-African Roots, the parent entity of paroots.org Blog, is a 501c3 tax-exempt project of the Alliance for Global Justice.”
Stay Strong!
Bob Brown and Banbose Shango, co-directors

January 6, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Cuba, Guinea, Imperialism, Latin America, Palestine, Venezuela, Zimbabwe | | Leave a comment

VENEZUELA: Chavez Grants Amnesty for 2002 Coup Participants Plus Video and Interview with Fidel

If you are not familiar with the 2002 coup in Venezuela, it is a fascinating story. Below is the You Tube version of the definitive documentary about the coup, “The Revolution Will Not be Televised” in Spanish with English subtitles and about 75 minutes in length. In addition, check out an utterly incredible interview with Fidel Castro in which he reveals that, with the help of Chavez’ daughter, he negotiated President Chavez’ release from the prison he was kept in during the coup!

Further below is an article on the amnesty decree.

Venezuelan President’s Amnesty for Coup Participants is Praised and Criticised
January 3rd 2008, by Kiraz Janicke – Venezuelanalysis.com
Coup president Pedro Carmona swears himself into office on April 12, 2002 (Archive)

Caracas, January 3, 2008, (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez granted amnesty on Monday to a number of opposition leaders connected to the shortlived military coup against his government in April 2002 and a two month oil industry shutdown which caused an estimated $10 billion dollars damage to the economy and ended in January 2003.

Chavez said he hoped the amnesty decree would “send a message to the country that we can live together despite our differences.”

However, he rejected opposition claims that those charged and convicted in relation to the coup are victims of political persecution, saying, “It is false that anyone in Venezuela is imprisoned for their political ideas.”
Among the beneficiaries of the amnesty are those who wrote and signed the infamous “Carmona decree” of the 48 hour coup government which dissolved a number of democratically elected public institutions such as the Supreme Court and the National Assembly.

The measure also covers those charged with the illegal arrest and detention of former Interior Minister, Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, the forced entry of the residence of National Assembly Deputy Iris Valera and the illegal takeover of the Governorships of Merida and Tachira, and the Court of Justice in Tachira, as well as those responsible for the closure of state owned VTV, the takeover of oil tankers during the oil industry shutdown, and those accused of inciting civil rebellion up to December 2, 2007.

Chavez made clear that the decree does not cover “those persons who have committed crimes against humanity, grave violations of human rights, and crimes of war,” or “those who are fugitives from justice, those who never wanted to recognize Venezuelan institutions.”

This rules out amnesty for businessman Pedro Carmona Estanga, who illegally declared himself president during the coup; union boss Carlos Ortega, who led the oil industry shutdown, and ex-governor of Miranda, Enrique Mondoza, who closed down VTV during the coup and went into hiding rather than face charges, ex-governor of Yaracuy, Eduardo Lapi, and a number of Generals and other military officials.

Also excluded from the amnesty are eleven Metropolitan police officers facing charges relating to the coup including crimes against humanity and violation of human rights.

In an attack that triggered the coup, Metropolitan police officers aligned with the oppostion, opened fire with long-range rifles, sub-machine guns, and other weapons, on groups of pro- and anti-government protesters in Avenida Baralt and Puente Llaguno, near the presidential palace on April 11, 2002. Nineteen people were shot dead and a futher 200 were injured during the confrontation.

Former director of the Metropolitian police, Henry Vivas and officers Lázaro Forero and Iván Simonovis are accused of co-ordinating the attack and a further eight Metropolitan police officers are also charged with participating in the shootings.

The decree has sparked a debate throughout the country, with sectors of the opposition, including the heirarchy of the Catholic Church, arguing that although the amnesty is a “positive step” it is also “discriminatory” and should broadened to cover the eleven police officers as well as third parties facing charges not directly related to the coup, such as 40 year old opposition student leader Nixon Moreno, who is wanted in relation to the attempted rape of a female police officer in Merida.

Cardenal Jorge Urosa said, “I believe that it is important that Siminovis, Vivas, and Forero, who have been imprisoned for three years, with trials that have not finished, can recuperate their liberty. The crimes of which they are accused are very confusing.”

Mónica Fernández, representative lawyers group, Foro Penal Venezolano, also called for the amnesty to be broadened to include “political exiles” such as Carmona Estanga and Ortega.
Fernández herself is a beneficiary of the decree. A former judge, Fernández was charged in December 2004

with the crimes of “illegal deprivation of liberty” and “abuse of authority” for having ordered the illegal arrest of ex-Interior Minister Ramón Rodríguez Chacín during the coup.

Sectors that support Chavez have also rejected the decree, arguing that the opposition sectors that carried out the coup and oil industry shutdown have not shown any remorse or will to rectify their actions.

Manuel Rodríguez, told ABN that the president should not have signed the decree. “Where were our human rights when they [the oppostion] paralyzed the country?” he asked.

David Alvarado agreed, the amnesty decree should take into account the rights of the people affected by the coup and oil industry shutdown, he argued.

However, other sectors have manifested their support for Chavez’s decision, saying he aims to maintain peace and promote coexistance and peaceful debate with the oppostion.

Yesenia Fuentes, a Chavez supporter who was shot in the face by a Metropolitan police unit during the coup, expressed relief that those charged with crimes against humanity and violations of human rights would not be granted amnesty.

“Our slogan since 2002 is ‘Without justice there will never be peace,’ and we will carry this banner until we see these eleven criminals, including Forero, Vivas and Simonovis, in a maximum security prison like common prisoners,” she said.

Antonio Molina, a lawyer representing the Association of Victims of the April 11, 2002 coup, condemned opposition calls to extend the amnesty to cover the eleven police officers.

The opposition campaign aims to convince public opinion that the police officers are being discriminated against, Molina said. Rather, he clarified, it is the serious nature of the charges, including crimes against humanity and violations of human rights, that impedes any amnesty.

“The Venezuelan state cannot, under any circumstance, grant any type of beneficial treatment to these people, because that would imply impunity,” Molina explained.

In a second decree Chavez also pardoned 36 prisoners convicted of various crimes, a number of prisoners diagnosed with AIDS were pardoned for humanitarian reasons and others for good behaviour and having completed more than half their sentence.

http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/3030

http://snipurl.com/1wlad

January 4, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Cuba, Imperialism, Latin America, US, Venezuela | , , | Leave a comment

Global Voices Online Misses Haitian Independence Day – January 1

GVO’s featured Haiti blog for the 1st day of January is Pwoje Espwa which offers a prayer for the new year. Haiti needs more than a prayer as it remains under occupation on the 204th anniversary of the country’s independence. In an attempt to bring to readers’ attention that this is Independence Day for Haiti and that all is not well, I posted the following note to the GVO website.

Today, January 1, is the 204th anniversary of Haitian independence. In late November 1803, Haitian slaves, led by Jean-Jacques Dessalines, achieved victory in a twelve year war for independence from the French and sent Napoleon’s army packing. The victory by the Haitian slaves resulted in the establishment of the first independent black republic. But, over the next 200 years, the international community interfered numerous times in Haiti’s internal affairs, especially France and the US.

Today, Haiti is under occupation by the United Nations, a force formed under the direction of the US, France and Canada. I am providing you with a URL for a two part photo essay/article by Wadner Pierre, a young Haitian freelance journalist in Haiti. The article, written in February 2007, chronicles the effects of the current occupation on one of the poorest neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince, Cite Soleil. The photos are incredible and the story is very compelling.

I couldn’t let January 1 pass without acknowledging Haiti’s Independence Day and encouraging everyone to learn more about Haiti.

Check out Wadner Pierre’s two-part story “Brutalized and Abandoned: Residents of Cite Soleil Speak Out”

If interested in checking out this young journalist’s blog:
http://wadnerpierre.blogspot.com

Also, for background on Haiti since the 2004 coup that resulted in the kidnapping of the president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, please go to: http://hcvanalysis.wordpress.com

January 1, 2008 Posted by | Canada, France, Haiti, Imperialism, US | , , , , | Leave a comment