Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Obama: Not a Socialist

Socialists: Obama no socialist

By Rex W. Huppke

Tribune staff reporter

October 20, 2008

These are hard times to be a socialist in America. And not just because there's a bourgeois-bloated Starbucks on every other corner, thumbing its capitalist nose at the proletariat.

No, it's tough these days because you've got politicians on the right, the same guys who just helped nationalize the banking system, derisively and inaccurately calling the presidential candidate on the left a socialist. That's enough to make Karl Marx harumph in his grave.

Local communists, rarely tapped as campaign pundits, say Sen. Barack Obama and his policies stand far afield from any form of socialism they know.

John Bachtell, the Illinois organizer for Communist Party USA, sees attempts by Sen. John McCain's campaign to label Obama a socialist as both offensive to socialists and a desperate ploy to tap into fears of voters who haven't forgotten their Cold War rhetoric.

"Red baiting is really the last refuge of scoundrels," Bachtell said. "It has nothing to do with the issues that are confronting the American people right now. It's just a big diversion."

Of course that's just one man's opinion. (And everyone knows you can't trust a communist.)

The "s-word" bubbled up from the McCain campaign after Obama said, in his chat with Joe the Plumber, that he thinks "when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

Well, that certainly sounds like the words of a Red Menace. But is it socialist?

There are about as many definitions for socialism as comedian Jeff Foxworthy has for the term "redneck."

So, how do you know if you're a socailist?

Generally, it involves espousing government control over a country's basic industries, like transportation, communication and energy, while also allowing some government regulation of private industries.

"Obama is about as far from being a socialist as Joe The Plumber is from being a rocket scientist," said Darrell West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution. "I think it's hard for McCain to call Obama a socialist when George Bush is nationalizing banks."

And this from Bruce Carruthers, a sociology professor at Northwestern University: "Obama is like a center-liberal Democrat, and he is certainly not looking to overthrow capitalism. My goodness, he wouldn't have the support of someone like The Wizard of Omaha, Warren Buffet, if he truly was going to overthrow capitalism."

Bottom line: pure capitalism and socialism can be a difficult mix.

Which hits at the heart of the problem. Right now, with the economy in the tank, the idea of a little wealth sharing doesn't sound so bad to people whose 401k plans are worth less than the contents of their coin jars.

"The idea of closing that wealth gap, I think, is a concern for many, many Americans," said Teresa Albano, editor of the Chicago-based People's Weekly World, a communist newspaper. "I don't think people are going to respond negatively to the idea of spreading around the wealth."

Which is not to say that, by electing Obama, the country will gamely head down the path of socialism.

"The whole point of his policies don't really represent the political economy of the working class," said Robert Roman, who edits the newsletter of the roughly 250-member Chicago chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. "Obama's going to be a person who represents all of us, he's going to be representing the interest of the capitalists as well as the working people. He's not really talking about transforming society beyond capitalism."

But don't worry, Sen. Obama. You're still likely to win the vote of avowed socialists.

"Having Obama as president would be greatly superior, from our point of view, than having McCain as president," Roman said.

And you can expect to see that quote in a McCain ad in 5, 4, 3, 2....


Copyright © 2008, Chicago Tribune

Monday, October 27, 2008

McCain and Pinochet

John McCain, who has harshly criticized the idea of sitting down with dictators without pre-conditions, appears to have done just that. In 1985, McCain traveled to Chile for a friendly meeting with Chile's military ruler, General Augusto Pinochet, one of the world's most notorious violators of human rights credited with killing more than 3,000 civilians and jailing tens of thousands of others.

The private meeting between McCain and dictator Pinochet has gone previously un-reported anywhere.

According to a declassified U.S. Embassy cable secured by The Huffington Post, McCain described the meeting with Pinochet "as friendly and at times warm, but noted that Pinochet does seem obsessed with the threat of communism." McCain, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee at the time, made no public or private statements critical of the dictatorship, nor did he meet with members of the democratic opposition in Chile, as far as could be determined from a thorough check of U.S. and Chilean newspaper records and interviews with top opposition leaders.

At the time of the meeting, in the late afternoon of December 30, the U.S. Justice Department was seeking the extradition of two close Pinochet associates for an act of terrorism in Washington DC, the 1976 assassination of former ambassador to the U.S. and former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier. The car bombing on Sheridan Circle in the U.S. capital was widely described at the time as the most egregious act of international terrorism perpetrated on U.S. soil by a foreign power.

At the time of McCain's meeting with Pinochet, Chile's democratic opposition was desperately seeking support from democratic leaders around the world in an attempt to pressure Pinochet to allow a return to democracy and force a peaceful end to the dictatorship, already in its 12th year. Other U.S. congressional leaders who visited Chile made public statements against the dictatorship and in support of a return to democracy, at times becoming the target of violent pro-Pinochet demonstrations.

Senator Edward Kennedy arrived only 12 days after McCain in a highly public show of support for democracy. Demonstrators pelted his entourage with eggs and blocked the road from the airport, so that the Senator had to be transported by helicopter to the city, where he met with Catholic church and human rights leaders and large groups of opposition activists.

Mark Schneider, a foreign policy aide and former State Department human rights official who organized Kennedy's trip, said he had no idea McCain had been there only days before. "It would be very surprising and disappointing if Senator McCain went to Chile to meet with a dictator and did not forcefully demand a return to democracy and then to publicly call for a return to democracy," Schneider said.

McCain's visit with Pinochet took place at a moment when the Chilean strongman held virtually unrestricted dictatorial power and those involved in public, democratic opposition were exposed to great risk.

McCain's presence in Chile was apparently kept as quiet as possible. He and his wife Cindy arrived December 27 and traveled immediately to the scenic Puyehue area of southern Chile to spend several days as the guest of a prominent Pinochet backer, Marco Cariola, who later was elected senator for the conservative UDI party.

The trip was arranged by Chile's ambassador to the United States, Hernan Felipe Errazuriz. According to a contemporary government document obtained from Chile, Errazuriz arranged for a special government liaison to help McCain while in Chile for the "strictly private" visit, and described him as "one of the conservative congressmen who is closest to our embassy."

Errazuriz also arranged the invitation for the McCains to stay at the farm of his wealthy friend, Marco Cariola, according to Cariola, who did not know McCain previously. The McCains spent the three and a half days fishing for salmon and trout and riding horses. The area is one of Chile's most beautiful tourist attractions, with dozens of crystal clear lakes and rivers surrounded by luxurious estates such as the Cariola farm where the McCains were staying.

On December 30, McCain traveled back to Santiago for a 5 pm meeting with dictator Pinochet, followed by a meeting with Admiral Jose Toribio Merino, a member of the country's ruling military junta.

McCain's meeting with Pinochet in 1985 are described in a U.S. embassy cable, based on McCain's debriefing with embassy officials:

"Most of his 30-minute meeting with the president, at which foreign minister [Jaime] Del Valle and a ministry staff member were present, was spent in discussing the dangers of communism, a subject about which the president seems obsessed. The President described Chile's recent history in the fight against communism and displayed considerable pride in the fact that the communist menace had been defeated in Chile. The President stressed that Chile had stood alone in this battle, and complained that United States Foreign Policy had left them stranded. The congressman added that talking to Pinochet was somewhat similar to talking with the head of the John Birch Society."

Other than to describe the warmth of the encounter, the cable does not contain any account of what McCain said to Pinochet. There is no indication that the subject of human rights or return to democracy was raised with Pinochet. At this time in history, Pinochet was overtly ostracized by most world democratic leaders because of his refusal to move toward a restoration of democratic, civilian rule.

A second declassified U.S. diplomatic cable refers to a letter from then-U.S. Ambassador Harry Barnes giving further detail of McCain's meeting with Pinochet.

From his meeting with junta member Merino, however, McCain passed on an tidbit of political intelligence that the embassy found useful. "The most interesting part of the conversation, according to the congressman, was Merino's statement that he and other members of the Junta had recently told Pinochet that he should not expect any support from the junta if he should decide to be a candidate for president in 1989."

In fact, three years later Pinochet was defeated in a plebiscite in which he was the only candidate, and free elections a year later restored democratic government. A healthy list of U.S. congressmen traveled to Chile in support of the transition to democracy, including Republican Senator Richard Lugar. McCain, by then a first term senator, did not return to Chile.
In addition to the Chilean document and the U.S. cable cited above, at least four other declassified documents refer to McCain's meeting with Pinochet and his interest in Chile.

McCain campaign press office said no one was available to comment on the story.

Former ambassador Errazuriz, reached by phone, said repeatedly "it is not true" that McCain met with Pinochet, that he would have known about it if it had, and that the state Department cable was possibly a fabrication.

On September 11, 1973, Army General Pinochet led a bloody coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of President Salvador Allende. The four-man military junta that seized power bombed the presidential palace, padlocked the congress, outlawed all political activity and actively persecuted its opponents. Pinochet remained in power until 1990 and in 2006 he was charged with 36 counts of kidnapping, 23 counts of torture and one count of murder. He was spared a trial for health reasons and died at age 91 in December 2006.

(Esta nota se publica simultaneamente en CIPER y en el Huffington Post en Estados Unidos.)
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More in Off The Bus...

From: The Huffington Post. Off the Bus. John Dinges

Sunday, October 26, 2008

President Bush's Plan to Put 20,000 Bolivians Out of Work

President Bush's Plan to Put 20,000 Bolivians Out of Work

For a month, since the U.S. and Bolivia took turns expelling one another's ambassadors (Bolivia went first), the diplomatic war between Washington and La Paz has continued unabated.

Now President Bush, in his efforts to strike out against Bolivian President Evo Morales, has decided to take economic hostages. Last month, and again in Washington yesterday, Mr. Bush declared his intention to destroy the jobs of more than 20,000 innocent Bolivian workers, by axing Bolivia out of a trade plan originally developed under his father. To do so would be a mistake – morally, diplomatically and economically.

Some Background

Nearly two decades ago, under the first President Bush, the U.S. began the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPDEA). That program offers Bolivia and a handful of other Latin American nations reduced U.S. tarriffs, allowing them to develop new industries and jobs exporting products such as textiles and handmade furniture. For the U.S., the aim is to create opportunities for employment as an to alternative to growing coca for the illegal drug market.

In September, as part of the Bush administration's diplomatic battles with Bolivian President Evo Morales, President Bush announced that he will use his executive authority eliminate Bolivia's participation in those trade preferences.

The actual victims of President Bush’s move, however, won't be President Morales, but women and men who eke out modest livings as weavers, jewelry-makers and carpenters, creating products for U.S. markets. The U.S. Congress knows that, and just two weeks ago approved a six-month extension for Bolivia. But yesterday in Washington President Bush repeated his intent to sidestep Congress and use his powers to cut Bolivian workers out of the program.

Listen to the Voices of the People who Will be Affected by Bush's Plan

We profiled some of these workers for our new book, Dignity and Defiance, and after President Bush’s announcement last month we traveled out across Bolivia to ask them how his threat would affect their lives.

Today we have posted a five-minute video of their own words here on the Blog. Take a moment now and hear what they have to say by clicking on the screen above.

The Democracy Center also demanded and won the right to have their video testimony from Bolivia played next week in Washington when the Bush administation holds the public hearing required by law before he implements his plan. Administration officials told us that this will be the first time that video testimony like this has been played in such a proceeding.

On October 23 in Washington, those officials will hear directly from people like Joaquín Aquino, a carpenter in his 50s who hand-makes furniture for the U.S. market and Natalia Alanoca Condori, a 28-year-old mother who makes clothing sold in American stores. These are the people, along with thousands others like them, who will be the real victims of President Bush's actions against Bolivia.

What You Can Do to Help

We have an opportunity and an obligation to these workers to take action and help stop President Bush's plan. Here are three simple ways that you can help:

1. Share this request for action with others

All across the United States there are people and organizations that care about making U.S. policy in Latin America more just. Help us spread the word about the need to act on this now, by forwarding this Blog post to others.

2. Sign the Democracy Center's Online Petition

You can directly add your voice to the campaign to stop President Bush's threat against Bolivian workers. In less than sixty seconds right now you can add your name to an online petition that the Democracy Center will be submitting as part of the formal public record against Bush's anti-Bolivia policy. Sign that petition here. If your organization wants to join the petition please send us an email telling us so at: Bolivia@democracyctr.org.

We need your petition endorsements no later than midnight October 30.

3. Submit Formal Comments to the Bush Administration

If you or your organization want to do more, federal law guarantees the right to submit formal comments to the Bush administration's Trade Representative. To do that you must submit your comments by e-mail no later than 5pm on October 31. Those comments must be sent in the form of an attachment and must include the subject line, “Review of Bolivia’s Designation as a Beneficiary Country Under the ATPA and ATPDEA.” The address is: FR0812@ustr.eop.gov. You must also include in the attachment a cover letter with your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address.

Even if we can't make President Bush back down on his plan to put Bolivians out of work, taking action now helps build the case for Congress and the new President to reverse it. Those leaders need to see that people in the U.S. care about this issue.

Raising Up Voices from Latin America

President Bush's move against the Bolivian people is just one more example of how we, as citizens, need to not only change leaders but also change the political winds that drive U.S. policy toward Latin America. To help do that the Democracy Center is launching a new campaign – Voices from Latin America.

Voices from Latin America marries new technology and old-fashioned organizing to build a bridge between citizens in the U.S. and Latin America. It is a platform from which we can work together to help educate one another and take joint action, like the one we are starting today on Bush's assault on Bolivian workers. On the website you will find:

Briefing papers (in English and Spanish) on some of the main issues in U.S./Latin America relations, on topics such as trade, the 'U.S. war on drugs', and immigration.

Video testimonies from across the region in which people tell how U.S. policy affects their lives and their nations.

How to get involved, and real examples from people who have.

As citizens we have to be educated and involved in U.S foreign policy in ways that we never have before. That includes making sure that the people in other countries who are so affected by what the U.S. does have their voices heard in the U.S. Help us do that by visiting the Voices from Latin America web site here.

Jim Schultz.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dolores Huerta assists Immigrants Rights

From the Los Angeles Times
Veteran activist shows support for immigrant rights protesters
Dolores Huerta tells group fasting in Olvera Plaza that they are fighting for the future of their children, immigrants, California and the nation.
By Anna Gorman

October 22, 2008

As the immigrant rights protesters finished their first week of fasting, longtime activist Dolores Huerta on Tuesday came to Olvera Plaza to show her support.

She told the crowd that they were fasting for the future of immigrants and their children, but also for the future of California and the nation.

"Let's all join in this spiritual movement, the movement for justice for our immigrants," she said.

Then she reminded them to drink lots of water and led them in a chant: "¡Que viva los immigrantes! ¡Que viva Cesar Chavez!"

About 30 people are camping out in downtown Los Angeles to mobilize 1 million Latinos to vote and to call upon the new administration to stop the raids and legalize the nation's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. Some are fasting only for a day, while others have pledged to participate for 21 days, until the presidential election. The crowd swelled during the weekend, but many returned to school and work Monday.

Though some of the fasters are undocumented, others are legal residents and U.S. citizens.

During the day, the protesters pray, sing, read and organize. At night, they bed down in tents across the street from Union Station.

They also staged a mock raid and are planning a march to a downtown detention center.

Organizers said that with the election approaching, they wanted to re-energize the movement that brought hundreds of thousands to the streets in 2006.

One of the fasters, Elvis Prado, 21, said he hopes that the fast will encourage people to vote with immigrant rights in mind. Illegal immigrants worry about being detained, deported and separated from their families.

"People deserve to not live in fear," said Prado, a UCLA student who was born in the United States.

Prado said his family and friends are surprised about his involvement but that they have been supportive.

"I've never been part of something like this," he said.

Antonio Beltran, 27, who gave only his second last name, said he graduated from Cal State Northridge and owns a furniture design business but is in the United States illegally. Beltran said he has been disappointed during this presidential campaign.

"Neither candidate is talking about immigration," he said. "We need to fast to bring awareness and to bring the discussion again to immigration."

Beltran said he plans to only drink water until the end, but that he is already thinking about what he will eat after the election -- mole poblano and handmade tortillas.

Gorman is a Times staff writer.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rigoberta Menchú to speak Oct.22.

Rigoberta Menchú to Speak at Delta College Oct. 22, 11 a.m.

Rigoberta Menchú, Nobel Prize winner and outspoken advocate for human rights in Guatemala and elsewhere in Las Americas, will speak at Delta College's Tillie Lewis Theater in Stockton on October 22 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. She is a survivor of the Reagan administration-engineered genocide of the Mayan people in Guatemala.

The genocide occurred under the "scorched earth" policy of the "born again butcher," Jose Efrain Rios Montt. One of the most vicious tyrants in recent Guatemalan history, Rios Montt was the U.S. backed general, dictator, and a former president from 1982-83. A graduate of the U.S. Army School of the Americas, he was proud of his political philosophy of "beans for the obedient; bullets for the rest."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Teachers Strike in Mexico


As the teachers' strike in Morelos, south of Mexico City, nears the
two-month mark, supporters in the Coordinadora Nacional de
Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE), the best-organized dissident
faction of the national union, the SNTE, installed a human blockade in
front of the national office of the Department of Education in Mexico

CNTE spokesperson Artemio Ortiz Hurtado said:
"Not even with force can they convince us that their reforms are to
improve the quality of education. What this is about is open
privatization, where neither teachers nor parents are considered." He
went to state the the CNTE will denounce "all repressive acts against
Mexican teachers, but especially those of Morelos. Toward this end, we
will look for contact with various social organizations and groups of
intellectuals and ask that they join with us in international
expressions of protest."

Ortiz Hurtado spoke in the aftermath of an attack on Thursday, October
9 by two thousand forces including state, federal and local military
and police forces with tanks, against parents who had blocked a
highway in Xoxocotla, 40 miles south of Cuernavaca, for 11 days in
support of striking teachers. There were 16 arrests, ten injuries, and
reports of warrantless house-to-house searches (Twin Cities style) and
the disappearance of at least five residents. This was the third such
police-military action in Morelos during the week.

Teachers in Cuernavaca and other communities remain camped out in the
plazas of their communities, though there is talk of a negociated
settlement to unblock certain Cuernavaca streets and sidewalks at the
request of storekeepers.


Twenty thousand of the 25,000 of the teachers in the state of Morelos,
an hour south of Mexico City, have been on strike since the school
year started August 18. According to La Jornada de Morelos, a local
outlet of the national left newspaper La Jornada, the decision to walk
out came spontaneously. Teachers in Morelos are members of Section 19
of the Sindicato National de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE). They
argue that the general secretary of the section was imposed by the
national union leadership and doesn't represent them. (SNTE president
Elba Esther Gordillo imposed new directors on the dissident Section 9
in Mexico City just before the strike in Morelos started. She changed
the site of the convention so many times that the real delegates
couldn't arrive, and a group of non-teachers hastily "elected" a
non-representative slate.)

Teachers were asked to attend assemblies in their towns and regions
for a presentation of the Alianza por la Calidad Educativa
(ACE—alliance for quality in education), a deal that had just been
announced by the "illegitimate" president, Felipe Calderón, his
secretary of education, self-help book author Josefina Vázquez Mota,
and Gordillo. (Many of us criticized the late American Federation of
Teachers president Al Shanker for racebaiting, for redbaiting, for
perpetuating himself in power; Gordillo makes Shanker look like Mr.

The ACE, which is an "agreement," not a law, mandates testing of
teachers, a new, more all-enc Teachers in Morelos attended the
assemblies in August to be informed about the ACE, but they began to
walk out of the assemblies and organize, and soon they were camping
out in the plazas of most cities and towns in the state, blocking
highways and, conversely, occupying toll booths from time to time and
letting people pass free. (The highway from Mexico City to Acapulco
passes through Morelos.) In Cuernavaca, capital and biggest city of
the state, the state house is on the main plaza, now occupied at any
given moment by hundreds or thousands of teachers. They are subject to
a negative campaign on the part of the state and federal governments
and most news media. One tactic is to call them lazy and selfish, to
which they reply that it would be easier to be at home and at school
than to be camping on the street during the rainy season.

The ACE is an "agreement", not a law, encompassing standardized test
for students, punishment for schools whose students don't attain high
scores, and various other "reforms" modeled after the ones that are
working so well in U.S. urban schools. It also contains some changes
in hiring procedures that on the surface would seem like progress,
like eliminating the practice of teachers' transferring their
positions to their children or even selling them. (These practices
were invented by people like Gordillo, who now denounce them as
aberrant and the work of amateurs. Some teachers, beat down by low
salaries, cling to any "benefit" they have.) Normal school graduates,
who historically have been guaranteed jobs, now will be hired only if
they score well on the new test.

When teacher test results were announced, normal school graduates had
generally scored lower than private school graduates. This prompted
Gordillo to announce, with the president and secretary of education
standing by subserviently, a plan to close normal schools and convert
them into vocational schools that would train the same students to
work in tourism. After the protests began, she denied having said
this, in an apparent attempt to pacify the dissidents.

Unlike their comrades in Oaxaca in 2006, the teachers of Morelos had,
until last week, escaped police repression but, also unlike their
counterparts in Oaxaca, they've made few alliances with parents,
students or the public at large, with the notable exception of
communities like Xoxocotla. One of the reasons appears to be that they
are unable or unwilling to rebut the claim of some news media that
their principal or only demand is to keep the right to will their
positions to their children. A tour of the tent city in Cuernavaca on
September 15, when there were about 2,000 teachers on the streets in a
six-to-eight-block area, turned up a few signs claiming this "right,"
many opposing the ACE in general terms, many demanding recognition of
the economic rights of teachers, many attacking Gordillo and her local
counterpart, a few invoking the revolutionary legacy of Emiliano
Zapata and thus of the state of Morelos (rural teacher Otilio Montaño
helped Zapata write the Plan de Ayala in 1911). The banners that spoke
directly about education attacked the latent privatization of
children's education and of teacher training that the ACE represents.

Teachers in Mexico City and various other states, especially
Michoacán, Baja California Sur, Yucatán, and Guerrero, are engaging in
similar battles in their regions.

Elba Esther Gordillo, SNTE president, is a special case. In 2003, she
was elected Secretary General of the Partido de la Revolución
Institucional (PRI), while retaining the leadership of the union. She
was then elected to the Congress where she became the coordinator of
the PRI, a position akin to that of majority leader. (The PRI was the
ruling party for many years until the election of Vicente Fox of the
PAN in 2000 and still wields enormous power in many states.) An
internal PRI conflict forced Gordillo out of the congressional
leadership. She disappeared for awhile to her multi-million dollar
home in San Diego (bought with guess who's dues?) and later emerged as
the founder of a new party, PANAL, whose voters and candidates tend to
be teachers still loyal to hack unionism.

In the 2006 presidential elections, Gordillo forged an alliance
between the PANAL and the PAN to oppose her old PRI rival Roberto
Madrazo and the left populist candidacy of Andrés Manuel López
Obrador. The film Fraude: México 2006, directed by Luis Mandoki and
released this month in the U.S. (possibly under another name),
documents how Gordillo called PRI governors during the final hours of
open polling centers on election day and told them things like: "The
PRI is finished I suggest that you call Felipe (Calderón) and sell him
what you've got."


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Open Letter to Barack Obama: Latin America

October 12, 2008

Dear Senator Obama:

We write to offer our congratulations on your campaign and to express our hope that as the next president of the United States you will take advantage of an historic opportunity to improve relations with Latin America. As scholars of the region, we also wish to convey our analysis regarding the process of change now underway in Latin America.

Just as the people of the United States have begun to debate basic questions regarding the sort of society they want-- thanks in part to your own candidacy but also owing to the magnitude of the current financial crisis-- so too have the people of Latin America. In fact, a recent round of intense debate about a just and fair society has been going on in Latin America for more than a decade, and the majority are opting, like you and so many of us in the United States, for hope and change. As academics personally and professionally committed to development and democracy in Latin America, we are hopeful that during your presidency the United States can become a partner rather than an adversary to the positive changes already under way in the hemisphere.

The current impetus for change in Latin America is a rejection of the model of economic growth that has been imposed in most countries since the early 1980s, a model that has concentrated wealth, relied unsuccessfully on unrestricted market forces to solve deep social problems and undermined human welfare. The current rejection of this model is broad-based and democratic. In fact, contemporary movements for change in Latin America reveal significantly increased participation by workers and peasants, women, Afro-descendants and indigenous peoples-- in a word, the grassroots. Such movements are coming to power in country after country. They are neither puppets, nor blinded by fanaticism and ideology, as caricatured by some mainstream pundits. To the contrary, these movements deserve our respect, friendship and support.

Latin Americans have often viewed the United States not as a friend but as an oppressor, the guarantor of an international economic system that works against them, rather than for them-- the very antithesis of hope and change. The Bush Administration has made matters much worse, and U.S. prestige in the region is now at a historic low. Washington's tendency to fight against hope and change has been especially prominent in recent U.S. responses to the democratically elected governments of Venezuela and Bolivia. While anti-American feelings run deep, history demonstrates that these feelings can change. In the 1930s, after two decades of conflict with the region, the United States swore off intervention and adopted a Good Neighbor Policy. Not coincidentally, it was the most harmonious time in the history of U.S.-Latin American relations. In the 1940s, every country in the region became our ally in World War Two. It can happen again.

There are many other challenges, too. Colombia, the main focus of the Bush Administration's policy, is currently the scene of the second largest humanitarian crisis in the world, with four million internally displaced people. Its government, which criminalizes even peaceful protest, seeks an extension of the free trade policies that much of the hemisphere is already reacting against. Cuba has begun a process of transition that should be supported in positive ways, such as through the dialogue you advocate. Mexicans and Central Americans migrate by the tens of thousands to seek work in the United States, where their labor power is much needed but their presence is denigrated by a public that has, since the development of opinion polling in the 1930s, always opposed immigration from anywhere. The way to manage immigration is not by building a giant wall, but rather, the United States should support more equitable economic development in Mexico and Central America and, indeed, throughout the region. In addition, the U.S. must reconsider drug control policies that have simply not worked and have been part of the problem of political violence, especially in Mexico, Colombia and Peru. And the U.S. must renew its active support for human rights throughout the region. Unfortunately, in the eyes of many Latin Americans, the United States has come to stand for the support of inequitable regimes.

Finally, we implore you to commit your administration to the firm support of constitutional rights, including academic and intellectual freedom. Most of us are members of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), the largest professional association of experts on the region, and we have experienced first-hand how the Bush administration's attempt to restrict academic exchange with Cuba is counter-productive and self-defeating. We hope for an early opportunity to discuss this and other issues regarding Latin America with your administration.

Our hope is that you will embrace the opportunity to inaugurate a new period of hemispheric understanding and collaboration for the common welfare. We ask for change and not only in the United States.



Eric Hershberg, LASA President 2007-09, Professor of Politics and
Director of Latin American Studies, Simon Fraser University

Sonia E. Alvarez, LASA Past President (2004-2006), Leonard J. Horwitz
Professor of Politics, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Charles R. Hale, LASA Past President (2003-2004), Professor of
Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin

Marysa Navarro-Aranguren, LASA Past President (2003-2004), Charles
Collis Professor of History, Dartmouth College

Arturo Arias, LASA Past President, (2001-2003), Professor of Spanish
and Portuguese University of Texas, Austin.

Susan Eckstein, LASA Past President (1997-98), Professor of Sociology &
International Relations, Boston University, Cynthia McClintock, LASA
Past President (1994-95), Professor of Political Science and
International Affairs, George Washington University
Carmen Diana Deere, LASA Past President (1992-94), Professor of Food
and Resource Economics and Director, Center for Latin American Studies,
University of Florida

Lars Schoultz, LASA Past President (1991-92), William Rand Kenan, Jr.,
Professor of Political Science, UNC, Chapel Hill

Jean Franco, LASA Past President (1990-91), Emeritus Professor,
Columbia University

Helen I. Safa, LASA Past President (1983-85), Emeritus Professor of
Anthropology and Latin American Studies, University of Florida.

Paul L. Doughty, LASA Past President (1974-75), Distinguished Service
Professor, Emeritus of Anthropology and Latin American Studies,
University of Florida

Cristina Rojas, School of International Affairs, Carleton University, Ottawa

Marisol de la Cadena, Associate Professor of Anthropology, UC Davis

John C. Chasteen, Distinguished Professor of History, UNC Chapel Hill

Mario Blaser, Assistant Professor of International Development, York
University, Toronto.

Arturo Escobar, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, UNC,
Chapel Hill.

Indigenous People gather to plan

International Indigenous Solidarity Gathering

Latin America, Asia & the Pacific

23-26 October 2008, Melbourne - Australia


Protecting our planet, defending our communities!

Attending The Gathering

From Latin America:

Eduardo Issa from Social and Indigenous Organisations Coalition of Bolivia

Mery Mollar Coalition in Defense of Water and Life from Cochabamba Bolivia

Marcelo Chimbolema, From CONAIE Ecuador

Representative from Mapuche Communities from Chile

Representative from Colombia

From Asia Pacific:

Maori Communities

West Papua

Papua New Guinea



From Australia:

From Northern Territory, South Australia,`New South Wales and Victorian Communities


Our Call

The Latin American Solidarity Network (LASNET), Friends of the Earth (FOE) in conjunction with other solidarity organisations will be hosting a gathering for Indigenous and non-Indigenous activists who are supporting Indigenous and popular graassroots organisations resistances and struggles against dominant elites.

We hope to bring together activists, indigenous leaders and communities from Aotearoa (New Zealand), Great Turtle Island (North America), Melanesia and the Pacific Islands, and our Indigenous brothers and sisters from Latin America, as well as from the Aboriginal nations of Australia.

This is a time of great struggle for Indigenous peoples. On September 13th 2007, the governments of Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Australia voted against the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which calls on countries to give more control to tribal peoples over the land and resources they traditionally possessed, and to return confiscated territory, pay compensation, or at least say “sorry” for all the abuses.

It is not hard to see why. New Zealand’s government has just unleashed its anti-terror security forces on Maori activists in New Zealand, while the Australian government reinvaded Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory under the guise of “child” protection. Both these governments use their influence in the Pacific, Melanesia and the Pacific islands to open up Aboriginal lands to Multinationals mining interests.

Throughout the Americas, from Great Turtle Island down through Latin America, from the Tahltan of Canada to the Mapuche of Chile/Argentina, from the Quechua /Aymara to the Kulin, Wotjobaluk, Mara and Kurnai Nations of Australia in the south, Indigenous peoples are under greater pressure than ever from multinational corporations’ interests (including mining, forestry, fuel), free trade agreements and the security apparatus of settler governments, determined to finally put an end to centuries of struggle against dominant elites and against economic rationalism in the form of neoliberal capital policies.

Indigenous peoples and popular organisations are fighting back, organising, and teaching new generations what they have learned from hundreds of years of unending struggle against land expropriation, exploitation, assimilation and the various attempts to wipe them out from our planet.

Gathering (Encuentro)/Conference Contents:

The Gathering (Encuentro) aims to build bridges of struggle, friendship and collaboration between Indigenous and grassroots organisations throughout Latin America and Australasia.

During the first two days of the Gathering (October 23 and 24) there will be a welcome to country and a public meeting. The second two days (October 25 and 26) will feature plenary sessions, workshops, documentary films, photo exhibitions, stalls and other activities.

Participants from Australia and overseas will explore the questions of WHY and HOW we resist and struggle to protect our planet and defend our communities, and WHAT we propose as Indigenous people and supporters from grassroots and community organisations to achieve social transformation..

Topics to be discussed include:

Genocide suffered by Aboriginal nations

Autonomous struggles

Ancestral rights to land and culture

Sovereignty and the global order

Sovereignty and neo-liberal policies

Land sovereignty and nation

Aboriginal control of Aboriginal affairs

Human rights/Aboriginal rights

Fighting racism


Treaty or/and reconciliation, and

Other topics presented by Gathering participants.

Our idea is to be open and inclusive to ideas and discourses supporting Indigenous peoples’ self-determination and grassroots struggles for justice, peace, dignity and democracy from below. We would like to develop the concept of an alliance between Indigenous and non- Indigenous marginalised people as they share similar problems of exclusion, exploitation, racism, repression.

We are inviting individuals and organisations to support this initiative by contributing to our organising fund, and by supporting the Gathering itself when it takes place October 2008.

Costs are significant as there are several international airfares to cover, and therefore any contributions would be appreciated.

If your organisation be able to provide some assistance or be interested to becoming a Gathering supporter or sponsor write to us to P.OBOX 813 North Melbourne, VIC. 3051 or to infogathering@latinlasnet.org

Solidarity Gathering/Encuentro presented by: Latin American Solidarity Network (LASNET) & Friends of the Earth (FOE) In conjunction with: Aboriginal organisations from Victoria and other cities, ANTAR, Union Solidarity, Community Radio 3CR, AISD, MASN, FREE WEST PAPUA, FAIRWEAR CAMPAIGN, Pro-Bolivia Sydney, Chilean popular and Indigenous Network, Colombia Solidarity Network, Colombia demand Justice Campaign and Others...

Contacts and further information:



General Information Marisol 0413 597 315

Program and Logistic Sub-committee: Lucho 0400 914 944

Media and Communication Sub-Committee: Natalie 0421 226 200

Volunteer Coordinator: Rodrigo 0414 970 418 or Juliet 0413 893 495

Stall Coordinator: Anna 0439 891 832

Donations and Registration

Your contributions and donation are Tax deductible:

Please send Cheque or Money Order made out to FOE - Indigenous Gathering and posted to P.O BOX 813 North Melbourne, VIC. 3051 or online through Foe webpage www.foe.org.au


Whole Gathering

2 days weekend
1 day/session

Solidarity $80

Waged $60

Unwaged $40

Solidarity $60

Waged $40

Unwaged $20
Solidarity $30

Waged $25

Unwaged $15

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Defend Bolivia's Democracy

Respect Bolivia's Democracy
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.- BlackCommentator.com Executive Editor
October 2, 2008


There is a struggle underway in Bolivia which has been
largely overlooked or misrepresented in the mainstream
circles in the USA. For the first time ever in Bolivia,
the majority of the population exercises its rights as
fully recognized citizens through electoral and civic
participation. Efforts to battle poverty and
illiteracy, the largest societal ills, are underway.
Indian families, who for centuries suffered the
consequences of racist policies, including economic
deprivation, and physical violence, (much like African
Americans, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans in the
USA) are finally respected and recovering their

While one would have hoped for enthusiasm here at home,
the response to Bolivia's efforts within establishment
political circles in the USA has been less than
welcoming. Under the leadership of Evo Morales, that
country's first Indian president, Bolivia is pursuing a
national economic development plan to uplift all of its
citizens. According to a 2005 United Nation Development
Programme report, at least six out of ten Bolivians
have incomes below the poverty line, and wealth
polarization is very significant between those at the
bottom, and the rich elite which has traditionally
dominated Bolivian society. The infant mortality rate
fares no better and is one of the worst in the region.
Faced with this reality, the Bolivian government
understands that rectifying its historical inequalities
is no small feat, but nevertheless, a necessary one for
the nation to advance.

In North America in the late 1800's, the Confederate
States of America seceded from the United States of
America and waged a bloody civil war against the North.
Wealthy landowners plotted to keep the wealth of the
South to themselves and out of the hands of Northern
industrialists who were developing the nation at a
rapid pace. While the retention of economic and
political power by Southern elites was the real issue
at hand, racist arguments and slavery (the basis for
their wealth) were used to justify their treasonous
actions to the world.

Today, an analogous secessionist movement is underway
in Bolivia's wealthiest region, Santa Cruz. After a
referendum vote recently ratified Evo Morales as
Bolivia's democratically elected president by an
overwhelming majority, there should be no more support
given to such illegal measures. This province holds
abundant natural resources and much of Bolivia's wealth
is derived from its natural gas, farmland, iron ore,
water and forests. As their constitution reads, these
riches should be used for the development of the entire
society, not for the benefit of a few.

Currently, democracy is on the line as a small sector
of opposition actors known to use racist violence
against the poor, have called for the overthrow of the
president and for secession. They have done so by
utilizing the national media which has mobilized the
most radical right-wing sectors to take to the streets
and engage in civil disobedience. Unfortunately, these
actions have been all but civil, including the
instigation of violence. Although the Bush
Administration has chosen to stand by those calling to
secede and in so doing support the most racist and
backward elements of Bolivian society, it is the hope
of fair and genuinely democratic-minded people that
Bolivia's right to sovereignty and respect for its
constitution will be honored by the United States.

Secession, and the balkanization of Bolivia would be a
disaster for the people of Bolivia (and the region),
just as such processes have been disasters in Eastern
and Central Europe, Africa and Central Asia. The
nation-state is tasked with helping to redistribute the
wealth of a country. In those countries with
enlightened leaders, such redistribution pays attention
to historic injustices that must be repaired. For this
reason, we in the USA should be very careful before
responding favorably to abstract calls for democracy
that actually hide the ambitions of the wealthy elites.
After all, in our own history the Confederate States of
America claimed that they were fighting a war against
Northern alleged aggression and oppression. Most
histories, however, tell a very different story.

We in the USA should respect Bolivia's right to self-
determination and refrain from unhelpful interference.
Just as the struggle against secession in North America
between 1861-65 was an internal matter for the people
of the USA to settle, so too is it for the people of
Bolivia today.

BlackCommentator.com Executive Editor, Bill Fletcher,
Jr., is the Executive Editor of BlackCommentator.com, a
Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies,
the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and
co-author of the book, Solidarity Divided: The Crisis
in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice
(University of California Press), which examines the
crisis of organized labor in the USA.

Social Summit for Latin America: Chomsky

VII Social Summit for the Latin American & Caribbean

By Noam Chomsky
Septmber 30, 2008



During the past decade, Latin America has become the
most exciting region of the world. The dynamic has very
largely flowed from right where you are meeting, in
Caracas, with the election of a leftist president
dedicated to using Venezuela's rich resources for the
benefit of the population rather than for wealth and
privilege at home and abroad, and to promote the
regional integration that is so desperately needed as a
prerequisite for independence, for democracy, and for
meaningful development. The initiatives taken in
Venezuela have had a significant impact throughout the
subcontinent, what has now come to be called "the pink
tide." The impact is revealed within the individual
countries, most recently Paraguay, and in the regional
institutions that are in the process of formation.
Among these are the Banco del Sur, an initiative that
was endorsed here in Caracas a year ago by Nobel
laureate in economics Joseph Stiglitz; and the ALBA,
the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the
Caribbean, which might prove to be a true dawn if its
initial promise can be realized.

The ALBA is often described as an alternative to the
US-sponsored "Free Trade Area of the Americas," though
the terms are misleading. It should be understood to be
an independent development, not an alternative. And,
furthermore, the so-called "free trade agreements" have
only a limited relation to free trade, or even to trade
in any serious sense of that term; and they are
certainly not agreements, at least if people are part
of their countries. A more accurate term would be
"investor-rights arrangements," designed by
multinational corporations and banks and the powerful
states that cater to their interests, established
mostly in secret, without public participation or
awareness. That is why the US executive regularly calls
for "fast-track authority" for these agreements -
essentially, Kremlin-style authority.

Another regional organization that is beginning to take
shape is UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations.
This continental bloc, modeled on the European Union,
aims to establish a South American parliament in
Cochabamba, a fitting site for the UNASUR parliament.
Cochabamba was not well known internationally before
the water wars of 2000. But in that year events in
Cochabamba became an inspiration for people throughout
the world who are concerned with freedom and justice,
as a result of the courageous and successful struggle
against privatization of water, which awakened
international solidarity and was a fine and encouraging
demonstration of what can be achieved by committed

The aftermath has been even more remarkable. Inspired
in part by developments in Venezuela, Bolivia has
forged an impressive path to true democratization in
the hemisphere, with large-scale popular initiatives
and meaningful participation of the organized majority
of the population in establishing a government and
shaping its programs on issues of great importance and
popular concern, an ideal that is rarely approached
elsewhere, surely not in the Colossus of the North,
despite much inflated rhetoric by doctrinal managers.

Much the same had been true 15 years earlier in Haiti,
the only country in the hemisphere that surpasses
Bolivia in poverty - and like Bolivia, was the source
of much of the wealth of Europe, later the United
States. In 1990, Haiti's first free election took
place. It was taken for granted in the West that the US
candidate, a former World Bank official who monopolized
resources, would easily win. No one was paying
attention to the extensive grass-roots organizing in
the slums and hills, which swept into power the
populist priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Washington
turned at once to undermining the feared and hated
democratic government. It took only a few months for a
US-backed military coup to reverse this stunning
victory for democracy, and to place in power a regime
that terrorized the population with the direct support
of the US government, first under president Bush I,
then Clinton. Washington finally permitted the elected
president to return, but only on the condition that he
adhere to harsh neoliberal rules that were guaranteed
to crush what remained of the economy, as they did. And
in 2004, the traditional torturers of Haiti, France and
the US, joined to remove the elected president from
office once again, launching a new regime of terror,
though the people remain unvanquished, and the popular
struggle continues despite extreme adversity.

All of this is familiar in Latin America, not least in
Bolivia, the scene of today's most intense and
dangerous confrontation between popular democracy and
traditional US-backed elites. Archaeologists are now
discovering that before the European conquest, Bolivia
had a wealthy, sophisticated and complex society - to
quote their words, "one of the largest, strangest, and
most ecologically rich artificial environments on the
face of the planet, with causeways and canals, spacious
and formal towns and considerable wealth," creating a
landscape that was "one of humankind's greatest works
of art, a masterpiece." And of course Bolivia's vast
mineral wealth enriched Spain and indirectly northern
Europe, contributing massively to its economic and
cultural development, including the industrial and
scientific revolutions. Then followed a bitter history
of imperial savagery with the crucial connivance of
rapacious domestic elites, factors that are very much
alive today.

Sixty years ago, US planners regarded Bolivia and
Guatemala as the greatest threats to its domination of
the hemisphere. In both cases, Washington succeeded in
overthrowing the popular governments, but in different
ways. In Guatemala, Washington resorted to the standard
technique of violence, installing one of the world's
most brutal and vicious regimes, which extended its
criminality to virtual genocide in the highlands during
Reagan's murderous terrorist wars of the 1980s - and we
might bear in mind that these horrendous atrocities
were carried out under the guise of a "war on terror,"
a war that was re-declared by George Bush in September
2001, not declared, a revealing distinction when we
recall the implementation of Reagan's "war on terror"
and its grim human consequences.

In Guatemala, the Eisenhower administration overcame
the threat of democracy and independent development by
violence. In Bolivia, it achieved much the same
results by exploiting Bolivia's economic dependence on
the US, particularly for processing Bolivia's tin
exports. Latin America scholar Stephen Zunes points out
that "At a critical point in the nation's effort to
become more self-sufficient [in the early 1950s], the
U.S. government forced Bolivia to use its scarce
capital not for its own development, but to compensate
the former mine owners and repay its foreign debts."

The economic policies forced on Bolivia in those years
were a precursor of the structural adjustment programs
imposed on the continent thirty years later, under the
terms of the neoliberal "Washington consensus," which
has generally had disastrous effects wherever its
strictures have been observed. By now, the victims of
neoliberal market fundamentalism are coming to include
the rich countries, where the curse of financial
liberalization is bringing about the worst financial
crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s and
leading to massive state intervention in a desperate
effort to rescue collapsing financial institutions.

More: http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/18958

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Brazil's Lula calls US bailout plan unfair to poor

Sun Sep 28, 2008 8:58am EDT
BRASILIA, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva blamed the United States for the global financial crisis and said its financial bailout plan was unfair to poor people.

U.S. lawmakers on Sunday were set to sign off on a deal to create a $700 billion government fund to buy bad debt from ailing banks in a bid to stem a credit crisis threatening the global economy.

"They want to help the banks and not help the poor," Lula said late on Saturday in Sao Paulo during a campaign rally ahead of Oct. 5 municipal elections.

"Why give $700 billion to the banks and no money to the poor guys who lost their houses," Lula asked, according to local media. He referred to the troubled U.S. housing market.

Brazil's economy is growing by more than 5 percent annually but is expected to slow to around 4 percent growth next year. A few Brazilian exporters announced last week large derivatives losses related to currency fluctuations caused by the global financial crisis. (Reporting by Raymond Colitt; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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