Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Venezuela aid to Latin America

Posted on Sun, Aug. 26, 2007
Venezuelan funding to Latin America

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's government has pledged more than $8.8 billion in aid, financing and energy funding in Latin America and the Caribbean so far in 2007. Bandes is a Venezuelan state development bank. Below is a list of pledges sorted by type.

- $3.55 billion. Nicaragua: To build 150,000 barrel-a-day oil refinery. (Source: Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, April 30)

- $1.6 billion. Estimated financing per year under preferential oil deals to at least 17 countries. (Source: Chavez, March 15)

- $340 million. Nicaragua: Grants and loans to supply oil, nine electricity generators. (Source: Venezuela government statement, March 7)

- $240 million. Bolivia: Exploration of gas and oil fields. (Source: Bolivian Hydrocarbons Ministry, Aug. 8)

- $170 million. Bolivia: To build two liquid natural gas extraction plants. (Source: Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, April 30)

- $100 million. Nicaragua: To supply 32 electricity generators. (Source: Chavez, Jan. 10)

- $89 million. Nicaragua: To build 120 megawatt electricity plant. (Source: Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, April 30)

- $80 million. Haiti: To build 10,000 barrel-a-day oil refinery. (Source: Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, April 30)

- $63.7 million. Jamaica: For state oil company to buy 49-percent stake in Jamaican refinery. (Source: Jamaican Energy Ministry, May 18)

- $56 million. Haiti: To build 60-megawatt electricity plant. (Source: Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, April 30)

- $30 million. Bolivia: To build diesel electricity generation plant. (Source: Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, April 30)

- $28 million. Bolivia: To build thermoelectric plant. (Source: Bolivian Hydrocarbons Ministry, Aug. 8)

- $8 million. Cuba: To build liquefied natural gas re-gasification plant. (Source: Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, April 30)

- $5 million. Bolivia: Electricity-saving project. (Source: Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, April 30)

- $4.7 million. Bolivia: To set up 15 service stations to distribute fuel. (Source: Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, April 30)

- $4 million. Haiti: To build LNG re-gasification plant. (Source: Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, April 30)

- $200,000. Ecuador: Donation of two drills for oil exploration. (Source: Chavez, Aug. 9)

ENERGY FUNDING TOTAL: $6.369 billion


- $1 billion. Argentina: Planned bond purchases, including $500 million in bonds purchased in August. (Source: Chavez, Aug. 7)

- $100 million. Bolivia: Planned purchase of Bolivian government bonds. (Source: Cabezas, Aug. 2)

- $30 million. Nicaragua: Debt forgiveness. (Source: Chavez, Jan 10)

- $8 million. Guyana: Debt forgiveness. (Source: Rodolfo Sanz, Venezuela's deputy foreign minister for Latin America and the Caribbean, Aug. 9)

FINANCING TOTAL: $1.138 billion


- $250 million. Fund to finance joint economic projects in region's socialist-oriented countries. (Source: Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, April 30)

- $150 million. Dominica: Funding for housing, airport upgrade, scholarships. (Source: Chavez, Feb. 15)

- $135 million. Argentina: Bandes loan for Sancor dairy cooperative. (Source: Venezuelan Finance Minister Rodrigo Cabezas, Feb. 22)

- $88 million. Nicaragua: Grants and loans for tractors, AIDS treatment, sending 86 Nicaraguan athletes to sports tournament, 100,000 Hepatitis B vaccines, etc. An additional $2 million listed below under humanitarian aid. (Source: Venezuelan government statement, March 7)

- $30 million. Bolivia: Bandes capital for low-interest loans. (Source: Bandes president, May 7)

- $25 million. Ecuador: Bandes capital for new branch to offer low-interest loans. (Source: Bandes President Rafael Isea Romero, May 24)

- $21 million. Haiti: Fund to build homes, acquire unspecified equipment and provide medical aid by supporting the work of Cuban specialists offering health care to Haitians. (Source: Venezuelan government statement, March 3)

- $20 million. Bolivia: Grants for local infrastructure projects in health, schools, sports and other areas. (Source: Bolivian Public Finance Minister Luis Arce, April 12).

- $20 million. Nicaragua: Loans for rural poor, health care and education. (Source: Chavez, Jan. 10)

- $20 million. Nicaragua: Capital for Bandes branch for low-interest agricultural loans. (Source: Bandes president, May 24)

- $10 million. Nicaragua: Funding for social projects. (Source: Chavez, Jan. 10)

- $2 million. Guyana: Donation to build a homeless shelter. (Source: Guyanese Foreign Minister Rudy Insanally, Aug. 2)

- $875,000. Bolivia: Computers to digitalize Bolivia's national identification card system. (Source: Bolivian government announcement, April 13.)



- $350 million. Nicaragua: Donation to build Pacific-Atlantic highway. (Source: Nicaragua Infrastructure Minister Pablo Fernando Martinez, Jan. 22)

- $150 million. Bolivia: Asphalt plant. (Source: Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, April 30)

- $57 million. Haiti: Funding to expand Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien airports. (Source: Venezuelan government statement, March 3)

- $5.5 million. Bolivia: Funding for paving streets and other improvements to poor neighborhoods in La Paz. (Source: Bolivian government statement, July 14)

- $3 million. Haiti: Donation for garbage trucks. (Source: Chavez, March 13)



- $15 million. Bolivia: Donation for flood victims. (Source: Chavez, Feb. 26 and March 2)

- $2 million. Nicaragua: Free medicine. Announced as part of larger $90 million in grants and loans. (Source: Venezuelan government statement, March 7)

- $1.5 million. Peru: Two planeloads of earthquake relief supplies, with more planned. (Armando Laguna, Venezuelan ambassador to Peru, Aug. 22)



- $10 million. Bolivia: Funding to fix military barracks. (Source: Bolivian Defense Minister Walker San Miguel, May 21 and 22).

MILITARY TOTAL: $10 million


© 2007 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fr. Jean Juste Returns

Good News From Haiti

Father Jean Juste returns:
Pere Gerard Jean-Juste, an outspoken Haitian voice for human rights, economic justice and democracy, returned to Haiti last weekend for the first time since being hustled out of a prison cell by heavily armed guards and put on a waiting plane to Miami in January of 2006. Pere Jean-Juste, a Catholic priest, had spent nearly six months in a series of Haitian prisons for refusing to stop his public criticisms of human rights abuses by the coup government which overthrew elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Once in Miami, Father Jean-Juste was immediately hospitalized for treatment of leukemia by Dr. Paul Farmer, a long-time friend, who had secretly performed a biopsy on Jean-Juste in his prison cell.

Now, a year and a half later, Pere Jean-Juste was coming home, not knowing how he would be received. As the plane landed in Port au Prince, Father Jean-Juste quietly blessed himself as he saw his home parish, St. Claire, from the window.

As he walked towards the entrance to the Toussaint L'Ouverture airport, dozens of people waved and clapped from the balconies overlooking the landing space. Inside, airport officials, police officers, media and church members crushed in on him. Patting his back, shaking his hands, giving him hugs, the crowds pressed in and called out "Mon Pere!"

A new Haiti greeted him. The unelected coup government had finally left the country. The people elected President Rene Preval. Democracy had returned.

Inside, TV cameras, microphones, and tape recorders were thrust in his face. Many wanted to know if he was going to be a candidate for Presidency of Haiti in the next election. Father Jean-Juste laughed and said, "The only election in the Catholic Church is for Pope and since the Pope is in good health, I do not see an election anytime soon."

Father Jean-Juste spoke of the disappearance of the human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, called for the return of President Aristide, and urged people interested in human rights in Haiti to keep the pressure on nonviolently. He was returning to Haiti on a pilgrimage. Was he afraid of death he was asked? "I am a Christian," he replied. "I know where I am going. If I die, I know the struggle will continue. The struggle must continue for human rights and democratic principles."

Someday, the United States and its surrogates in the UN will allow the Haitian people to chart their own course. Must they be forever punished for one of the most successful revolutions in history against imperialism and white supremacy?
Posted from American Left Blog
Labels: American Empire, Haiti, Neoliberalism

Friday, August 24, 2007

Tell Bush: Stop the Immigration Raids

Tell Bush: Stop the Raids Now!
Instead of doing the hard work of immigration reform, the Bush administration has bowed to pressure from anti-immigrant groups and has pushed to conduct middle-of-the-night-raids in immigrant communities and in workplaces.
The consequences of these raids are cruel and mean-spirited. The raids do nothing to further immigration reform; they only wreak havoc on workers lives, separate children from their parents, tear apart communities, and damage businesses.
Tell President Bush and Julie Myers, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), that we want REAL immigration reform with a path to citizenship and an IMMEDIATE END to the ICE raids.
Go here for information and a response form.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Kurt Stand

Kurt was a strong ally in our work.
To read of his present position see:
Kurt’s recent Letter to Friends, quoted above, can be
found at Visit this site also to
read more of Kurt’s recent writings or for updates on
his case.

The old Iran-Contra death squad gang is desperate

Democracy and hope in Latin America have been revived by Venezuela's leader. But the forces allied against him are formidable

John Pilger
Friday August 17, 2007

I walked with Roberto Navarrete into the national
stadium in Santiago, Chile. With the southern winter's
wind skating down from the Andes, it was empty and
ghostly. Little had changed, he said: the chicken wire,
the broken seats, the tunnel to the changing rooms from
which the screams echoed. We stopped at a large number
28. "This is where I was, facing the scoreboard. This is
where I was called to be tortured."

Thousands of "the detained and the disappeared" were
imprisoned in the stadium following the Washington-
backed coup by General Pinochet against the democracy of
Salvador Allende on September 11 1973. For the majority
people of Latin America, the abandonados, the infamy and
historical lesson of the first "9/11" have never been
forgotten. "In the Allende years, we had a hope the
human spirit would triumph," said Roberto. "But in Latin
America those believing they are born to rule behave
with such brutality to defend their rights, their
property, their hold over society that they approach
true fascism. People who are well-dressed, whose houses
are full of food, bang pots in the streets in protest as
though they don't have anything. This is what we had in
Chile 36 years ago. This is what we see in Venezuela
today. It is as if Chávez is Allende. It is so evocative
for me."

In making my film The War on Democracy, I sought the
help of Chileans like Roberto and his family, and Sara
de Witt, who courageously returned with me to the
torture chambers at Villa Grimaldi, which she somehow
survived. Together with other Latin Americans who knew
the tyrannies, they bear witness to the pattern and
meaning of the propaganda and lies now aimed at
undermining another epic bid to renew both democracy and
freedom on the continent.

The disinformation that helped destroy Allende and give
rise to Pinochet's horrors worked the same in Nicaragua,
where the Sandinistas had the temerity to implement
modest, popular reforms. In both countries, the CIA
funded the leading opposition media, although they need
not have bothered. In Nicaragua, the fake martyrdom of
La Prensa became a cause for North America's leading
liberal journalists, who seriously debated whether a
poverty-stricken country of 3 million peasants posed a
"threat" to the United States. Ronald Reagan agreed and
declared a state of emergency to combat the monster at
the gates. In Britain, whose Thatcher government
"absolutely endorsed" US policy, the standard censorship
by omission applied. In examining 500 articles that
dealt with Nicaragua in the early 1980s, the historian
Mark Curtis found an almost universal suppression of the
achievements of the Sandinista government - "remarkable
by any standards" - in favour of the falsehood of "the
threat of a communist takeover".

The similarities in the campaign against the phenomenal
rise of popular democratic movements today are striking.
Aimed principally at Venezuela, especially Chávez, the
virulence of the attacks suggests that something
exciting is taking place; and it is. Thousands of poor
Venezuelans are seeing a doctor for the first time in
their lives, having their children immunised and
drinking clean water. New universities have opened their
doors to the poor, breaking the privilege of competitive
institutions effectively controlled by a "middle class"
in a country where there is no middle. In barrio La
Línea, Beatrice Balazo told me her children were the
first generation of the poor to attend a full day's
school. "I have seen their confidence blossom like
flowers," she said. One night in barrio La Vega, in a
bare room beneath a single lightbulb, I watched Mavis
Mendez, aged 94, learn to write her own name for the
first time.

More than 25,000 communal councils have been set up in
parallel to the old, corrupt local bureaucracies. Many
are spectacles of raw grassroots democracy. Spokespeople
are elected, yet all decisions, ideas and spending have
to be approved by a community assembly. In towns long
controlled by oligarchs and their servile media, this
explosion of popular power has begun to change lives in
the way Beatrice described.

It is this new confidence of Venezuela's "invisible
people" that has so inflamed those who live in suburbs
called country club. Behind their walls and dogs, they
remind me of white South Africans. Venezuela's wild west
media is mostly theirs; 80% of broadcasting and almost
all the 118 newspaper companies are privately owned.
Until recently one television shock jock liked to call
Chávez, who is mixed race, a "monkey". Front pages
depict the president as Hitler, or as Stalin (the
connection being that both like babies). Among
broadcasters crying censorship loudest are those
bankrolled by the National Endowment for Democracy, the
CIA in spirit if not name. "We had a deadly weapon, the
media," said an admiral who was one of the coup plotters
in 2002. The TV station, RCTV, never prosecuted for its
part in the attempt to overthrow the elected government,
lost only its terrestrial licence and is still
broadcasting on satellite and cable.

Yet, as in Nicaragua, the "treatment" of RCTV is a cause
celebre for those in Britain and the US affronted by the
sheer audacity and popularity of Chávez, whom they smear
as "power crazed" and a "tyrant". That he is the
authentic product of a popular awakening is suppressed.
Even the description of him as a "radical socialist",
usually in the pejorative, wilfully ignores the fact
that he is a nationalist and social democrat, a label
many in Britain's Labour party were once proud to wear.

In Washington, the old Iran-Contra death squad gang,
back in power under Bush, fear the economic bridges
Chávez is building in the region, such as the use of
Venezuela's oil revenue to end IMF slavery. That he
maintains a neoliberal economy, described by the
American Banker as "the envy of the banking world" is
seldom raised as valid criticism of his limited reforms.
These days, of course, any true reforms are exotic. And
as liberal elites under Blair and Bush fail to defend
their own basic liberties, they watch the very concept
of democracy as a liberal preserve challenged on a
continent about which Richard Nixon once said "people
don't give a shit". However much they play the man,
Chávez, their arrogance cannot accept that the seed of
Rousseau's idea of direct popular sovereignty may have
been planted among the poorest, yet again, and "the hope
of the human spirit", of which Roberto spoke in the
stadium, has returned.

* The War on Democracy, directed by Christopher Martin
and John Pilger, will be shown on ITV on Monday at 11pm.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Missing Human Rights Worker: Haiti

Haiti Action Committee Alert
Where is Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine?

Leading Human Rights Activist in Haiti Disappears

Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine is a tireless fighter for the Haitian people: a grassroots leader, member of the Lavalas Party, and the head of Fondayson Tran Septanm, a Haitian human rights organization that advocates for victims of the 1991 and 2004 coups against the democratically-elected governments of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Lovinsky has not been seen since the evening of Sunday, August 12, 2007 after meeting with a U.S. human rights delegation currently in Haiti. He usually keeps his family posted on his whereabouts. His car was found on Delmas 10 in Port au Prince. His friends and associates in Haiti and around the world are deeply concerned about his safety and well-being.

As a young psychologist working in Port au Prince, Lovinsky helped establish Fondsayon Kore Timoun Yo (Foundation for the Support of Children) for young street children in Port au Prince ; FAM (Foyer pour Adolescentes Mères), a center for teenage mothers ; and Map Viv ("I Live"), a program designed to give psychological and medical aid to the victims of the first coup against Aristide in 1991. The September 30th Foundation, named for the date of the first coup against President Aristide in 1991, emerged out of this work.

Similar to the work of Mothers of the Disappeared in Central and South America, September 30th Foundation held weekly vigils demanding justice for victims of human rights violations and the release of political prisoners.

Forced to leave Haiti after the 2004 coup, Lovinsky returned to the country in April 2006. Since that time, he has helped center the campaign for the return of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Haiti, an end to the UN occupation, economic and social justice, and the freeing of all political prisoners. His work helped bring 10,000 people into the streets of Port-au-Prince on July 15th, commemorating Aristide’s birthday. He has been outspoken in denouncing the continued presence of coup participants and supporters within the current government.

A delegation of activists with the Haiti Action Committee had the privilege of meeting with Lovinsky in his home last month. We later saw him lead a spirited protest on July 28th across from UN headquarters on Avenue John Brown in Port-au-Prince, marking the 92nd anniversary of the 1915 U.S. Marine invasion of Haiti.

We are concerned and outraged over the disappearance of this valiant fighter for human rights and dignity. We call on the UN occupation authorities in Haiti, the government of President Rene Preval, and the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince to account for the whereabouts of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine.

Children's Hope
c/o Leisa Faulkner
3025A Cambridge Road
Cameron Park, CA 95682

Monday, August 13, 2007

Linda Chavez: Right Wing Hack, but rich

Linda Chavez and Family: It Sure Pays To Be Rightwing Hacks!

By M.J. Rosenberg | bio
This page one article from the Washington Post is worth a read.
It turns out that one Linda Chavez -- the rightwinger whose bread-and-butter is using her Hispanic last name to bash liberal Latino organization, liberals, and labor unions -- has been raising tons of political money for her own (and her family's) personal use.
I knew Chavez in the 1980's. Her husband Chris Gersten was the AIPAC political director and a key player in moving the organization to the right. Gersten's game was using his labor union background to gain him cred for union bashing while Linda's was to use her union background and her surname for similar purposes.
Both were pretty standard Jewish neocons, at the far right of the Jewish community. Gersten's tenure at AIPAC was short. When he was discovered shilling too blatantly for Republicans, he disappeared.
I always thought that rightwing politics was the Gersten family's racket. Now, according to the Post, it was -- quite literally. What an easy way to make money! Send out fundraising appeals for various causes and do, God knows what, with the money!
Oh those neocons. But better this than dragging America off to war.

In Fundraising's Murky Corners
Candidates See Little of Millions Collected by Linda Chavez's Family
By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 13, 2007; A01

Linda Chavez rose to prominence in the 1980s as a tart-tongued Reagan administration official and candidate for the Senate, eventually becoming a well-known Latina voice on social issues and President Bush's choice to lead the Labor Department. With her conservative celebrity came book deals, a syndicated column, regular appearances on the Fox News Channel -- and a striking but little-known success at political fundraising.
In the years since she was forced to pull her nomination as Bush's labor secretary after admitting payments to an illegal immigrant, Chavez and her immediate family members have used phone banks and direct-mail solicitations to raise tens of millions of dollars, founding several political action committees with bankable names: the Republican Issues Committee, the Latino Alliance, Stop Union Political Abuse and the Pro-Life Campaign Committee. Their solicitations promise direct action in the "fight to save unborn lives," a vigorous struggle against "big labor bosses" and a crippling of "liberal politics in the country."
That's not where the bulk of the money wound up being spent, however. Of the $24.5 million raised by the PACs from January 2003 to December 2006, $242,000 -- or 1 percent -- was passed on to politicians, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal election reports. The PACs spent even less -- $151,236 -- on independent political activity, such as mailing pamphlets.
Instead, most of the donations were channeled back into new fundraising efforts, and some were used to provide a modest but steady source of income for Chavez and four family members, who served as treasurers and consultants to the committees. Much of the remaining funds went to pay for expenses such as furniture, auto repairs and insurance, and rent for the Sterling office the groups share. Even Chavez's health insurance was paid for a time from political donations.
"I guess you could call it the family business," Chavez said in an interview.
There is nothing illegal about running political committees the way she and her family have done, and Chavez said that none of the money has been spent for personal items and that she has done nothing wrong.
Still, Chavez Inc. offers a revealing window into a largely unregulated corner of the world of political money, where few constraints exist on spending, candidates often benefit hardly at all and groups face little accountability from donors who remain largely unaware of where their money goes.
More than 2,700 "multi-candidate committees" such as those run by Chavez and her family members are registered with the Federal Election Commission, and unlike the more conventional committees used by candidates to fuel their campaigns, the multi-candidate groups face few rules governing how they can spend money. Only about a dozen are audited each year. And they face little of the public scrutiny that confronts candidate-run committees because no opponent scours their spending reports for irregularities.
"Nobody is looking at these," said Melanie Sloan of the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "It would be nice to know if other people are doing what Ms. Chavez is doing."
Even less information is publicly available about spending by politically oriented nonprofit foundations -- such as those established separately by Chavez and her family members. The four foundations collected $1.4 million from 2003 to 2006 and paid many Chavez family members a steady salary, according to tax records.
Chavez said the goal of her fundraising committees has been to advance her political agenda and nothing more. "I have never tried to enrich myself or my family and have consistently taken salaries from my organizations that were lower than the market, with very few benefits," she said.
But the spending by Chavez PACs appears to depart from standard practices by some other issue-oriented groups, according to lawyers and ethics experts. The National Rifle Association's political committee, for instance, spent nearly a third of the $11 million it raised in the 2006 cycle on political activities, including $1.2 million in direct donations to candidates.
In the 2004 and 2006 election cycles, Chavez's anti-union PAC raised $913,469 and spent less than a fifth on political activity. The Latino Alliance raised $1.2 million and spent 3 percent on political activity. The Pro-Life Campaign Committee raised $7.7 million and spent less than 1 percent on political activity, as did the Republican Issues Committee, which raised $14.6 million, the analysis found. Most of the money came from small donors.
The amounts the PACs spent on telemarketing could not be readily tallied. But an FEC investigation of the Pro-Life Campaign Committee turned up documents showing that the Arizona telemarketing firm Capitol Communications regularly retained as much as 95 percent of the money it collected, to cover its fundraising expenses. Chavez's husband, Christopher Gersten, said the firm handled fundraising for the Republican Issues PAC in the same manner.
Over the past five years, Chavez's family members have been directly paid $261,237 from the PACs, according to FEC reports. In 2001, the PACs paid Christopher Gersten $77,190, her son Pablo $25,344 and her son David $9,687.
Chavez and her immediate family members also earned income from executive positions they held in their nonprofit foundations, such as One Nation Indivisible and Stop Union Political Abuse. Her salary from her Center for Equal Opportunity foundation ranged from $125,000 to $136,250 between 1997 and 2003 and was $70,313 in 2004, the last year for which records are available.
The foundation paid her son David $83,200 in 2004 as its vice president for development. From 1998 to 2001, Christopher Gersten was paid $64,000 a year from another family foundation, the Institute for Religious Values.
Donors Unaware
Several of those who donated to the Pro-Life Campaign Committee, run by Pablo Gersten, said they were surprised to learn how little of the money was spent where they expected. David Barnes, 45, a typesetter from Williston, Tenn., gave the group $500 in February 2006, figuring "the money would go to back candidates who are pro-life."
"I'm appalled," Barnes said. "I try to be a responsible giver. I'm aware that with many charities you have to be careful. I knew better. I contributed based on an outward appearance and didn't do my homework."
Chavez and her husband began operating their first political organizations in the 1980s. They had met in college and moved to Washington, where Chavez worked for the House Judiciary Committee and Gersten was an intern and then the national director of the voter registration arm of the AFL-CIO. At 29, Gersten became the political director of the Operating Engineers International Union and helped build it into a powerhouse.
"I wrote the book on unions using the 'check-off' so their dues could be directed to political giving," he said in an interview.
Chavez was the staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights under President Ronald Reagan from 1983 to 1985, giving her a prominent platform to talk up traditional family values, to criticize affirmative action and to debate comparable pay for men and women. Gersten, meanwhile, became political director of AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel political committee.
In 1986, Chavez unsuccessfully ran for the Senate on the Republican ticket in Maryland. By then, Gersten had launched a nonprofit group to build ties between Republicans and Jews and a second one to promote reform of the criminal justice system. The latter failed, Gersten said. "I was very amateurish."
A Religious Turn
The family took a break from politics when Bill Clinton was elected president, briefly operating a Mexican restaurant in Gaithersburg called the Santa Fe Express, with Chavez taping television interviews on politics during the day and working the cash register at night. The restaurant went broke. As Gersten recalls it, that was around the time the "partial birth" abortion issue attracted attention.
"I became a point man to organize the Jewish community on that issue," he said. "I knew enough about the Jewish law to understand that it does not allow for a late-term abortion. I got 250 rabbis to sign statements to support the ban on partial-birth abortion and made a lot of good friends in the pro-life movement."
This led him to launch the Institute for Religious Values. Soon after, Pablo Gersten started the Pro-Life Campaign Committee. Christopher Gersten said he drafted solicitations in his kitchen and then, using a small vendor in Purcellville, experimented with mailings. "I couldn't afford to rent lists of 5,000 names, so I got the list vendors to send lists of 2,000 names. I realized I could do this," he said.
Gersten was appointed as a mid-level official in President Bush's Health and Human Services Department and paused his political work. But in 2001, during the period after Chavez's failed nomination to be Bush's labor secretary, the family's political activity thrived. It founded three more PACs -- the Republican Issues Committee, Stop Union Political Abuse and the Latino Alliance -- all to pursue political agendas that had become the foundation of the family members' advocacy careers.
The groups hired direct-mail and telemarketing firms based in Mesa, Ariz., and made solicitations nationwide for each of the PACs. The letters were often strident in tone. One that Chavez sent in 2003 seeking contributions for the Stop Union committee promised that the group would help pass the "Workers' Freedom of Choice Act."
"If we stop now," she wrote, "the terrorists win."
Prospecting on such a scale can be expensive. Lawrence M. Noble, a former general counsel of the FEC, said a new organization looking for donors might choose to plow most of its money back into the fundraising operation but more established ones would not. "Generally the way it works is your initial costs are very high. You're developing a donor base. But as that stabilizes, your costs are supposed to go down," he said.
Authorities' Scrutiny
Over the past two years, the FEC has fined three of the Chavez family PACs a total of $262,500 for repeatedly failing to file timely reports and for not promptly disclosing all the money raised and spent. Chavez notes that the FEC found no intentional wrongdoing.
The Pro-Life Campaign Committee also briefly attracted the attention of state authorities. In 2003, recipients of its phone solicitations in Kansas complained about pushy telemarketers. "They were very aggressive -- pushing for automatic withdrawals from a credit card," said Mary Kay Culp, executive director of the group Kansans for Life, which received complaints from its members.
The Kansas attorney general brought a civil case against Pablo Gersten and the group, alleging that it had engaged in "deceptive solicitation." Gersten denied the allegations, and the case was dismissed three months later. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Paul J. Morrison declined to comment.
Chavez and her husband said the fundraising committees have been productive for their political causes. The Latino Alliance, for instance, "did lots of telephone calls in the 2004 elections," she said. "I believe we did some radio ads. We did outreach into the Latino communities to try and mobilize more pro-Republican votes."
That's the whole point, Christopher Gersten said in a separate interview. "The PACs help Linda and me have a voice. To have a voice in politics in today's world, you really want to be able to leverage the money that you give," he said.
As for why so little of the money wound up with candidates, Chavez said that is simply a reality of the fundraising business. The groups were not formed to make her family wealthy, she said, adding that if she or her husband were to join a K Street firm "to do some of what we have been doing on our own, we would make far more money."
Staff researchers Madonna Lebling and Derek Willis and staff writer Jonathan Mummolo contributed to this report.

Jena Louisiana and Racism

Dear friend,
I just learned about a case of segregation-era oppression happening today in Jena, Louisiana. I signed onto's campaign for justice in Jena, and wanted to invite you to do the same.

Last fall in Jena, the day after two Black high school students sat beneath the "white tree" on their campus, nooses were hung from the tree. When the superintendent dismissed the nooses as a "prank," more Black students sat under the tree in protest. The District Attorney then came to the school accompanied by the town's police and demanded that the students end their protest, telling them, "I can be your best friend or your worst enemy... I can take away your lives with a stroke of my pen."

A series of white-on-black incidents of violence followed, and the DA did nothing. But when a white student was beaten up in a schoolyard fight, the DA responded by charging six black students with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

It's a story that reads like one from the Jim Crow era, when judges, lawyers and all-white juries used the justice system to keep blacks in "their place." But it's happening today. The families of these young men are fighting back, but the story has gotten minimal press. Together, we can make sure their story is told and that the Governor of Louisiana intervenes and provides justice for the Jena 6. It starts now. Please join me:

The noose-hanging incident and the DA's visit to the school set the stage for everything that followed. Racial tension escalated over the next couple of months, and on November 30, the main academic building of Jena High School was burned down in an unsolved fire. Later the same weekend, a black student was beaten up by white students at a party. The next day, black students at a convenience store were threatened by a young white man with a shotgun. They wrestled the gun from him and ran away. While no charges were filed against the white man, the students were later arrested for the theft of the gun.

That Monday at school, a white student, who had been a vocal supporter of the students who hung the nooses, taunted the black student who was beaten up at the off-campus party and allegedly called several black students "nigger." After lunch, he was knocked down, punched and kicked by black students. He was taken to the hospital, but was released and was well enough to go to a social event that evening.

Six Black Jena High students, Robert Bailey (17), Theo Shaw (17), Carwin Jones (18), Bryant Purvis (17), Mychal Bell (16) and an unidentified minor, were expelled from school, arrested and charged with second-degree attempted murder. The first trial ended last month, and Mychal Bell, who has been in prison since December, was convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery (both felonies) by an all-white jury in a trial where his public defender called no witnesses. During his trial, Mychal's parents were ordered not to speak to the media and the court prohibited protests from taking place near the courtroom or where the judge could see them.

Mychal is scheduled to be sentenced on July 31st, and could go to jail for 22 years. Theo Shaw's trial is next. He will finally make bail this week.

The Jena Six are lucky to have parents and loved ones who are fighting tooth and nail to free them. They have been threatened but they are standing strong. We know that if the families have to go it alone, their sons will be a long time coming home. But if we act now, we can make a difference.

Join me in demanding that Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco get involved to make sure that justice is served for Mychal Bell, and that DA Reed Walters drop the charges against the 5 boys who have not yet gone to trial.


Police attack immigrant rights march: Rhode Island

Apparently, North Providence police officers have some serious, serious issues in their Department. In a peaceful labor march yesterday, they broke the knee of a young 22 year old woman, Alex Svododa. This kind of gross and excessive police brutality should not be tolerated and the Attorney General should immediately commence an investigation. Further, the North Providence police should immediately drop their baseless charges against these peaceful protesters.

After the march - targeting Jacky’s Galaxie restaruant - started in the right lane of Mineral Spring Ave, the police ordered the march to move to the side. The protesters, numbering about 60, complied in an orderly and peaceful fashion. As the march was complying, several officers took the opportunity to make a vicious example of a peaceful protester by beating her, breaking her left leg, pepper spraying her, and then having the nerve to charge her with the triangle of charges that police always do when they are covering up their brutality: assaulting an officer, resisting arrest and obstructing “justice”.

While the BeloJo has a very sympathetic “pro-police” headline for their story, here are real pictures of the brutality. Click on each picture to see a blown up version.

Here are the protesters obeying police orders on where to march:

Here are the police beginning their assault:

Here are the police attacking Svoboda (notice her knee bending in an unnatural way):

The BeloJo story did include this quote:

When Deputy Police Chief Paul Marino approached to tell the protesters they needed to move onto the sidewalk instead of standing in the parking lot, one responded, “Hell of a day to be an officer, breaking a young girl’s leg!”

Indeed. They must be so proud.

Click here to see more pictures. Also, the protesters are accepting donations to help defray Alex’s medical costs. You can call Mark Bray at 201-669-0714 for more info or mail your donations to

Providence GMB
PO Box 5795
Providence RI 02903

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Conyers controversy

Que vergüenza..

The Conyers Controversy and Progressive Unity

Mark Solomon
August 12, 2007

Perhaps the moment has arrived for reflective reconsideration of the conflict on the left over the recent sit-in at the office of Rep. John Conyers, Jr.

In contesting Rep. Conyers' decision not to offer a
resolution to impeach George W. Bush, protesters and
some of their supporters invariably described the
congressman as another "good guy" Democrat. Given the
quality and reach of Conyers' record and his distinctive
political roots, that borders on willful ignorance.

From an auto worker family (John Conyers, Sr. worked at
the Ford plant), Conyers embodies and represents the
twin pillars of Detroit -- the African American
community and the labor movement -- that historically
have driven the radical and progressive dynamics of the
Motor City and constitute the foundation for a resurgent
progressive movement in the entire country. (Full
disclosure: I have known Rep. Conyers for nearly a half
century dating back to the first picketing of
Woolworth's in Detroit to protest the chain's jim crow
policies in the South.)

The second most senior member of the House, Rep.
Conyers' congressional service stretches from before the
Watergate impeachment process to recent efforts to
convene a commission to investigate impeachable offenses
by the Bush administration. Conyers was a founding
member of the Congressional Black Caucus and is
considered its dean. His major contributions to a
progressive agenda include the Violence Against Women
Act of 1994, the Motor Voter Bill of 1993, the Martin
Luther King Holiday Act of 1983, the Alcohol Warning
Label Act of 1988, and the Jazz Preservation Act of
1987. He is a principal author of the Help America Vote
Act of 2002 to protect voting rights of oppressed
nationalities and citizens with disabilities. He is also
the leading congressional voice for institutional
reparations to the nation's African American community
for the crime of slavery.

As a member of the Judiciary Committee, Conyers
introduced the "Military Tribunal Authorization Act of
2002" to limit Bush's efforts to define military
tribunals and proposed legislation to protect
whistleblowers who report FBI malfeasance. He is the
primary author of "End Racial Profiling Act" that bans
racial profiling nationwide and introduced the "Hate
Crimes Prevention Act" to place a range of hate crimes
under federal investigative and prosecutorial

Fighting for constituents under economic siege, Conyers
has challenged Bush administration attempts to undermine
worker safety standards, substitute flextime for
overtime and virtually eliminate collective bargaining.
He is currently formulating legislation to protect
workers' pensions and health care from Enron and
Worldcomm type bankruptcies. He is founder and chair of
the Congressional Universal Health Care Task Force and
under its banner has introduced HR 676, the Medicare for
All Single Payer Health Care bill that is the
legislative standard for the rapidly growing movement to
provide medical services for all and take the profit out
of health care.

In the global arena, Rep. Conyers has been an
inseparable participant in the movement to end the Iraq
war and bring US forces home now. Among a handful of
House members he has spoken forcefully against the war
at major peace rallies. He was signatory as a plaintiff
in a lawsuit that challenged the House resolution
authorizing the invasion of Iraq as unconstitutional.
Conyers has fought for fair US trade with Haiti and has
worked hard to secure multilaterally funded economic aid
for that nation severely victimized by the global

While Conyers has been justly criticized for questioning
Jimmy Carter's characterization of Israeli actions
towards the Palestinians as apartheid, Conyers
practically alone has resisted the Israeli lobby's
attempts to force Congress to march in lockstep in
support of Israel and in implacable hostility to the
Palestinians. Glen Ford, the prominent progressive
African American journalist, recently stated that in the
last few years a corporate-AIPAC offensive has
intimidated a major segment of the Congressional Black
Caucus. Ford went on to note that a recent AIPAC
inspired bellicose resolution denouncing Iran was voted
favorably by the entire caucus with only Conyers
declining to vote for it.

Conyers, of course, is not purely above the hard
political world of vote counting and deals. Neither he
nor any other member of Congress could survive
politically or achieve any meaningful legislative
advances if oblivious at all times to the realities of
partisan politics and the demands of party leaders. At
times compromises and accommodations merit sharp
criticism. But that cannot diminish the significance of
Conyers' congressional role. He and Rep. Barbara Lee,
represent the crucial conjunction of the movements for
racial justice and peace, movements whose unity is
absolutely essential to building a progressive majority.

More than a year ago, Conyers joined with 28 other House
members to call for launching an impeachment process
against George W. Bush. That stemmed from hearings on
impeachable crimes that Conyers was forced by the then
Republican controlled House leadership to conduct in a
crowded basement room. As Rev. Lennox Yearwood (one of
the sit-in protesters) noted: Conyers and his staff
"wrote the book" on impeachment. With that awareness,
one can reasonably question why the protesters did not
ascribe some weight to Conyers' assessment that the
current positioning of various forces in Congress would
frustrate the chances for advancing impeachment.

Some on the left have contended that Conyers should have
placed an impeachment resolution before the Judiciary
Committee despite substantial obstacles and that such an
act itself would focus a strong, inhibiting spotlight on
Bush and his accomplices. That is a weighty argument but
it does not account for the potential damage stemming
from failure of the chair to win the support for
impeachment by a majority of his own committee. Such a
defeat would constitute a setback for a range of efforts
to resist the unconstitutional acts of the Bush
administration. Before the showdown on impeachment,
Conyers pleaded for "three more votes" to advance the
resolution. There is merit to the claims of critics of
the sit-in that the protesters should have focused their
efforts on attaining those three votes.

One of the most controversial aspects of the debate over
the Conyers sit-in is the charge of racism directed at
the protesters. The existence of racism is inseparable
from its historical roots exemplified by the ideology
and practice of institutional oppression. A protest
directed against a relatively empowered African American
politician is arguably not racist. But a statement by a
prominent leader of the protest that Conyers "is no
Martin Luther King" is racist. As many have noted, that
statement is a crude reflection of the historic practice
of empowered whites to arrogantly select and define
Black leadership. By linking Conyers to King, the
impeachment controversy was framed in racist terms --
terms that insulted both Conyers and King. The statement
by another protest leader that Conyers "betrayed the
American people" is more subtle in its negative
implications, but perhaps no less racist. It reflects a
historic posture of dominant white entitlement in
commanding prescribed behavior from African Americans.
The author of this declaration apparently had no
interest in respecting or considering Conyers' estimate
of the positioning of various forces on the impeachment
issue nor did she fully consider the congressman's
record as a leading progressive voice on the issue
before leveling the charge of "betrayal."

Reverend Lennox Yearwood has eloquently explained his
decision to sit in and court arrest at Rep. Conyers'
office in terms of a moral compassion to demand
impeachment of this immoral administration. There comes
a time, Yearwood argues, when one must stand up to the
best of friends and allies such as Conyers in advancing
a vital cause. That viewpoint, represented also by
others, is worthy of respect. Yet it is not fully immune
to questions and reservations. Few if any progressives
would argue against impeachment (nearly all would like
to see the impeachment of the entire Bush crowd
immediately), but on a tactical level, there is no
consensus for it in the peace movement and among a broad
range of progressives. The major antiwar coalitions have
not prioritized impeachment, choosing instead to focus
on efforts to end the war and occupation of Iraq and to
prevent a war on Iran. The protest at Conyers' office
represented the tactical priority of a segment at best
of the antiwar and progressive movements, therefore
limiting its moral authority.

The sit-in had to be weighed in moral and practical
terms against the damage in relations, potential and
real, among diverse progressive forces. Efforts to
obliterate the divisions, cast along racial and ethnic
lines, between peace and justice movements have been
weakened. The image of predominantly white activists
assailing a leader of antiracist legislation to
eliminate racial profiling and hate crimes, to advance
universal health care, to bring the troops home from
Iraq -- has doubtlessly widened racial fissures as well
as disagreements among left and progressive forces of
varying racial and social backgrounds.

However, the Conyers controversy can be a catalyst for
renewed determination to forge a progressive majority by
uniting various movements. It can spark a heightened
awareness of the need for peace and justice activists to
not only speak to each others' concerns, but to act
forcefully upon them. By building upon the conjunction
of peace and justice exemplified by political leaders
like John Conyers and Barbara Lee, by recognizing and
acting upon the reality that rebuilding areas devastated
by Katrina is inseparably linked to ending the Iraq war,
by demanding justice for immigrants and for all working
people, by working to prevent environmental catastrophe,
by fighting the attempted legal assault on six Black
teen agers in Jena, Louisiana, activists in all
political arenas will be advancing a just, sustainable
world. Such actions and commitments point the way to
unity of all progressive forces that can in the coming
weeks and months crystallize, consolidate and advance at
the grass roots the demand for impeachment -- the arena
where all progress begins and where all who work for
justice and peace should be engaged.


Portside aims to provide material of interest
to people on the left that will help them to
interpret the world and to change it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

ICE Raids

Update on Smash ICE Project
To Everyone Concerned,

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) branch of the National
Security Agency continues to aggressively conduct raids against immigrant
communities, both in the Pacific Northwest and nationwide. The detentions
and deportations that come as a result effect more than just the families
that are broken within the process, they are of concern to every person that
knows feelings of compassion and empathy.

There is a network of groups forming in the region attempting to address the
issue of immigrant rights (basic human rights) rapidly and thoroughly. If
you or your organization would like to be contacted to help mobilize a
response in the event of a raid, please send an email to
with your contact information. The informal group behind this project
currently resides in the Puget Sound area. While each of us differ in our
politics, we all agree that what ICE is doing, what the government is doing,
and what the system is doing must stop immediately.

Currently a tentative meeting is planned for the Saturday following a raid
at 2:00pm at the Tacoma Federal Building*. This location has been chosen
because Tacoma is the location of northwest regional detention center.
Thanks for your efforts!



Tacoma Federal Building, on Pacific Avenue between South 17th Street and
South 19th Street.


National meeting on ICE Misconduct

National Meeting on ICE Misconduct and
Violations of 4th Amendment Rights

Sponsored by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union

Thursday, August 16, 2007
9 AM – 4 PM
Westside Community Conference Center
3534 South 108th Street
Omaha, NE 68144


8:30 Continental Breakfast
Check In

9:30 Welcome – Omaha Together One Community (OTOC)

10 Remarks on ICE Raids and the Swift Workers
Joe Hansen, UFCW International President

National meeting on ICE Misconduct

National Meeting on ICE Misconduct and
Violations of 4th Amendment Rights

Sponsored by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union

Thursday, August 16, 2007
9 AM – 4 PM
Westside Community Conference Center
3534 South 108th Street
Omaha, NE 68144


8:30 Continental Breakfast
Check In

9:30 Welcome – Omaha Together One Community (OTOC)

10 Remarks on ICE Raids and the Swift Workers
Joe Hansen, UFCW International President